Sunday, August 27, 2017

A Camping We Will Go - Week of Aug. 21st

It's funny how a tradition begins and you don't even realize it until you are smack dab in the middle of it.

This was our second year trekking to Hungry Horse Campground, located in Dorr, MI, just 30 minutes south of our home.  Our stay was booked for two nights, Wednesday through Friday, and two cabins were reserved.  The cabin we stayed in last year, Tucson, has a ramp, small bathroom and mini refrigerator.  Auntie Karen and Oma were in their own cabin, Scottsdale, which included the same amenities, as well as an extra sink for doing dishes.  Our camping homes were approximately 50 yards apart and Cam enjoyed traveling between the two locales.

Upon arrival on Wednesday after unpacking, we headed to the pool. The solar-heated water was warm and inviting.  There weren't too many other kids and an added benefit for us was utilizing the pool lift to transport Cam in and out of the water easily.
After a delicious charcoal-grilled meal of burgers and hot dogs, we headed over to the office area to join in our first ever Hungry Horse hayride!
We didn't know what to expect.  Our first stop on the ride was the owner's farm where everyone had a chance to feed the horses and cows.  Cam and his mom also sat in the huge tractor tire pulling the hay wagon.  By far, the most surprising part of the venture was going over some steep hills and bumps in the trails behind the campground.  We were all taken aback by the rolling ride and our adventuresome kid could not stop laughing and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The evening was cool and the tasty s'mores and toasty campfire warmed our insides and outsides.

Thursday morning, we awoke to rain showers.  Oma and Cam played a family favorite, Yahtzee and both of them actually rolled a fairly high score.
Chris and his son had planned a short fishing expedition and the sprinkles were not going to stop them.  It turns out the first fish Cam caught wasn't a fish at was a turtle!  Since we didn't plan on turtle stew for dinner, the reptile was spared and released back to the lake.

The ladies drove into town to partake in a coffee stop.  After a delicious lunch and an afternoon movie viewing in the outdoor gazebo, the cloudy skies turned to bright sunshine and we were once again off to exploring.
New to the campground this year was the addition of pedal bikes in the shape of tractors.  For a small fee, you were able to ride around the area for 30 minutes.  Cam decided we should race and each time we went, a new leader was chosen.  Auntie Karen counted us down for takeoff.  Everyone had a turn on the bikes and the area residents of seasoned rv campers welcomed our free wheeling and cheered us on.
We realized that for once, Cam was able to see us at his own level while on his powerchair.  It may be why he didn't want to see our time expire on the fun cycles.
Besides two playgrounds, Hungry Horse also owns an inflatable jump pad. This larger than life platform feels like a buoyant trampoline.  We had a blast taking turns bouncing each other and Auntie Karen showed off her jumping skills as well.

The couple who runs the campground don't market their establishment as being accessible, but it is truly one of the most unrestricted places we've stayed.  The country feel of the atmosphere, the fellow campers, and the surrounding area have drawn us in.  Prior to checking out on Friday, we were already making our plans for summer 2018 and agreed that a three night stay would be better than two.

On Saturday, back in Grand Rapids, Cam and his dad found a perfect spot for fishing less than five minutes away.  The newly inspired fisherman is intent on catching an amphibian next time!

Camology Quotes:
Miss Amanda and Cam have enjoyed a weekly outing to Arby's for lunch.  They enjoyed the surprise of having the car in front of them purchase their meal in the drive thru.  Miss Amanda explained to Cam that it is called "Pay It Forward" when someone does that for you.  Each time we enter a drive thru, Cam happily exclaims,  
Mom, we should pay it forward! 

While helping his dad in the yard, Chris asked Cam what the name of his business should be.
Chris asked: "Do you have music service?"
Unfortunately, that is not available at this time, but we are working on it for the future.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Double Digits - Week of Aug. 14th

Surprise is the greatest gift which life can grant us. ~Boris Pasternak 

Has there ever been a time when you thought you knew what was going to happen, but it ended up being even better than you imagined?

It seemed as if each day held a treat this week, not necessarily to be eaten, but definitely one to be savored and enjoyed.

Cam and Amanda were chosen as professional painter assistants when Papa Ken insisted he paint our kitchen after receiving some technology help from Chris.  We now see bright blue where there once was 'boring' beige.  Lake Michigan water will surround us all year round.

On Tuesday, we welcomed 'Auntie' Leslie from North Carolina, and on Wednesday, her boyfriend, Mr. Jay from Georgia.  These two ascended for their 30th high school reunion with Jane.  They were forewarned that it was Cam's birthday week and surprises were in store.  We couldn't have guessed that they had hidden gems as well for Cam.  Auntie Leslie brought Crazy Forts, a kit of plastic rods and styrofoam inserts, an assembly for easily creating awesome forts inside the house.  The idea came from witnessing Emma and Cam enjoy many different fort creations over the years.
Mr. Jay is a master board game aficionado.  He presented Cam with the game, King of Tokyo.  It became an immediate family favorite and we were all a bit startled by Cam's ambitious, daring Tokyo plays.

Thursday was Cam's actual 10th birthday.  Our inquisitive son had guessed that he was going to Craig's Cruisers.  After all, he had asked over a month ago and yes, he remembered the request. However, he had no idea what is in store.  Our first surprise was a morning of rain, actually a downpour.  Regardless, nothing was going to damper the day.  Oma and Opa arrived shortly after 10am marking the first official bday surprise.

As we all traveled to Craig's Cruisers, Cam had no idea what awaited him.  Upon arrival, we were all given a wristband/card for 3 attractions (go-karts/bumper boats) arcade games and buffet, due to a pre-purchased birthday package.  Cam didn't realize he had a birthday package and was also unaware that 3 of his best buddies would be in attendance as well.  Brody, Emma and Liam all arrived with a parent ready to celebrate!  Brody and Cam have been at Meadow Brook together since kindergarten.  Obviously, Brody nailed the iTunes gift card for his buddy.  Maybe Cam was beyond excited in this video because he's been aggravated by endless ads on one of his favorite games.  Jane kept commenting that he would need to earn money or ask for a gift card to purchase the no-ad version.  It was a wish come true for the birthday kid.  The rain stopped outside and that meant outdoor go-karts and bumper boats became available attractions.

Oma and Opa had picked up a delicious chocolate birthday cake from our favorite bakery, Ryke's, on their way into Grand Rapids.
When you have a celebration equally fun for adults and kids, it's tough to say who enjoyed the day more.  Cam's parents were told by the majority of adults present that it was the best birthday party they've been to.  As an added bonus, each and every person in our group gave their earned "tickets" from the arcade games to Cam as an extra added bonus.

Back at home, Oma and Opa graciously spent the night and their ten-year-old grandson enjoyed opening presents from his grandparents including a national park quarter album, school clothes, books and a toy ice cream truck.  Grandma Sue sent a homemade blanket and book of puzzles.
One of Jane's good friends and colleagues sent an NYPD baseball cap and stocking hat.

You would think once one's actual birthday has passed, the festivities have as well.  However, there was one more planned and it didn't involve Cam's parents.  On Saturday, the adult crew in the household were headed to the high school reunion.  Ms. Amanda arrived to spend the evening with Cam.   She and Cam ventured over to the Woltjer family home (Amanda's boyfriend's fam) to partake in a special party given in our 10-year old's honor.  A delicious dinner, homemade chocolate cake and balloons were more than enough to blow this kid (and his parents) away!
Brooke, pictured kneeling with Cam posted this awesome tribute: celebrated this dude's 10th birthday tonight! Cam, even though we have only known you for a short time, you have become so special to us and have brought us crazy amounts of joy! 💙🚔🍫

It was a week of renewed friendships, unexpected gifts and one sweet surprise after another.
Our infinite love and thanks to you all!

Camology Quotes:
Trying to keep Cam's birthday activities quiet was a challenge, especially when the questions kept coming and coming..  
Mom, are you going to get me a cake for my birthday? 
Do you want a cake? 
Yes, you should always have cake on your birthday. It is important. You had a cake, Mom.

With Cam's ticket winnings, he was able to pick out some wonderful, cheap gifts.  He asked what the whoopee cushion was.  Jane told him it was a cushion that tooted.  Upon arrival home...
Where is my Toot Pillow? 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Things You Catch at the Pier - Week of Aug. 7th

The charm of fishing is that it is the pursuit of what is elusive but attainable, a perpetual series of occasions for hope. ~John Buchan 

If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles. ~Doug Larson

It was a week of new experiences for Cameron Jackson.  His swimming lessons every Monday evening have increased his stamina with each session.
Ms. Laura has been working with him to incorporate more leg movement to strengthen his muscles since the hip surgery.  The Mary Free Bed therapy pool is virtually empty when their instruction takes place, so it's a targeted 45-minutes.

Cam and Ms. Amanda continued their daily walks, increasing their distance to almost two miles.  Their summer routine has consisted of morning Vizzle work (shout out to Ms. Kathy @ school!), reading practice and then their mid-morning trek for exercise.  Ms. Amanda always finds a way to wrap some fun activity into the day as well.

The weekend arrived and so did some rainy weather.  As we made our way to Holland State Park, we had no idea what awaited us.  Even though the skies were cloudy, we continued on, ready to teach Cam how to fish at the channel.
Chris and Jane both enjoy fishing and they hadn't had an opportunity to take their son.  Our family found a parking spot and the sunshine prevailed as we made our way to find the best spot.

Shortly after we arrived, Mr. Steve appeared indicating his girls would be along soon.  We switched locations and settled in at a bench alcove adjacent to the boardwalk.
All of a sudden, the fishing line bent over and Chris worked to haul in the catch.  We weren't sure how big the fish would be and Cam's dad almost toppled over his son bringing the sheepshead fish in for a photo shoot.  The swimmer wasn't the type you would keep or even eat, but it was a big one and hilarious to see Cam's excitement watching one be captured and then released.

Ms. Amanda, her boyfriend, Nick and his sister, Brooke, parents Mary and Dan and dog Gizmo all showed up at the boardwalk as well.  And they arrived with a huge early birthday present from Ms. Amanda and Nick's entire family.  Cam couldn't believe it! The beautifully wrapped present was adorned with his favorite chocolate coins, and a card from everyone.
Luckily, Mary captured the moment of Cam opening the awesome gift on video.

The day was filled with the bright sunshine of a perfect Michigan summer afternoon, the warmth of meeting new friends you feel like you've known for a long time, the goodness of seeing your close friends/neighbors in a different location, and a whopper of a fish story to share over and over again.

Camology Quotes:
This week, Cam's parents celebrated their 14th wedding anniversary.  Chris had to stay overnight for work on the east side of the state and set up a surprise for Jane since he would be absent.  He conspired with neighbor Sarah to have her hand-deliver a present, card, bouquet and Starbucks on the anniversary morning.  

"Mom, how did Dad do that?"
He asked Sarah before he left.  Your dad is the sweetest.
"That is so cool, Mom!

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sandy Candles - Week of July 31st

"The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it."  ~Jean Paul

Summer's timer keeps on ticking and we keep soaking it up.
The unexpected invite to a backyard pool on a weeknight is a summer treat for our family.
Emma and her dad popped over to ask if we all wanted to take an evening swim at their family friend's pool.  Although most things solar-heated in Michigan take a temperature dip after dinnertime, it is still refreshing.  Cam and Emma seemed impervious to the coolness, wanting to continue water games for quite some time.

Emma and her creative mind designed a makeshift restaurant and provided play money for Cam to order from her extensive menu.  As she cooked, she pretended all sorts of creative disasters took place in her kitchen and even had to interview new employees, aka stuffed animals.

Our awesome friends and neighbors are always present since they're just a backyard path away.  Whether we share dinners, evening walks, ice cream treats or playtime, these lifelong buddies bring smiles every time we're together.

Summer time also means some work effort needs to be put forth and Cam is always willing to help out.  His dad expertly rigged up a fastener for the wheelbarrow saving his father lugging the weeds across the yard to the woods.

The best laid plans sometimes don't go as expected.  Friday afternoon was reserved for a trip to Stony Lake to see our close family friends, the Hueys.  A rainy day squashed our intentions to swim, boat and waterski.  However, we did love the opportunity to really chat, catch up and share a most delicious meal complete with freshly husked corn, thanks to Oma and Cam.  And Oma's homemade pies were a bit hit.  Since Stony is only 15 minutes from the cottage, our evening ride 'home' was a quick one.  We caught a nice sunset back at Oma & Opa's deck since it decided to clear up about 8pm.
Sunday, though, was a picture perfect beach day.  When Jane was younger and spent her summers on Lake Michigan, a favorite craft was making sand candles with her mom.  Oma had talked to Cam about this in May and he hadn't forgotten, reminding her nearly every time they were together it would need to be an upcoming activity.  Thank goodness for Amazon and internet instructions providing a candle making kit with directions and online videos.  The best part of sand candles is making your own mold to pour the wax into.  Such a fun technique and great way to spend our morning.

Even though big lake waters hadn't made it to the 70 degree mark, Chris and his son still went swimming with the Cam mobile.  On days like this, we forget how cold our winters will be and soak up every ounce of pure Michigan summer goodness.

Upon arrival back in Grand Rapids, a family of deer were slowly making their way through our yard.  Traveling from the rural area of Cam's grandparents back to city isn't quite as shocking when you have this kind of greeting awaiting you.

Camology Quotes:
Cam is an intuitive kid.  He seems keenly aware of when to play up a joke or offer a hug when needed most.  Sometimes, juggling a full-time job and personal business is tough during a work day for Jane.  There were some parts in need of repair on Cam's powerchair and a 'quick' call to rattle off the list turned into a twenty minute conversation figuring out an appointment time.  After the 'go-fish- session, Jane finally disconnected and Cam came over to her.

"I know it's a lot to do, Mom but it is important that we get it done."

And with that simple phrase, frustration melts into a smile.  A later game of finding father and son hiding in the bathroom completely turned the day around!