Sunday, October 29, 2017

H4RUs 2nd Annual Parade! - Week of Oct. 23rd

"Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart." ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

This was the week we had been waiting for, anticipating, working towards.  It just so happened that some other appointments made for an extra busy schedule.  On Tuesday morning, Cam had a powerchair "checkup" to be certain everything was in working order since he'd had some battery issues.  Everything passed inspection. 

eightWest TV Interview (Click on eightWest TV Interview, then press the play button to see the story)
Early Wednesday, we were invited to a local tv program, eightWest, for an interview regarding our Halloween project with Mary Free Bed.  Chris transported two costumes to the station, Cam's and April's so Lightning McQueen and Skye from Paw Patrol could make an appearance.  This was the same place our son had been last year, so he knew exactly what to do.  During the segment, you'll notice Cam nod his head and slightly bump it on his costume.  When we asked him afterward what happened, he commented, "Mom, I was bored."  To which Chris replied, "Same things happens to me in meetings, Cam."

In our family, we have talked about all of these different volunteers who have come together to help with the Halloween For The Rest of Us project.  What began as an idea Molly Krauss had because of our Christmas card pictures, has turned into an event led by Mary Free Bed Guild members, Owen-Ames-Kimball construction company and Grand Valley State University Engineering and PT students.  Most often, people volunteer for something because of a connection to a cause, an effort, a program or person.  To see all of these people volunteer their time on multiple sunny Fridays and Saturdays (a rare occurrence in Michigan's fall weather) was unreal. 

And it seems once people get involved, they want to stay involved.  Jake Stephens, a engineering student, volunteered with us last year and again this year for 3 entire days.  He not only constructed, but also designed, painted and embellished.  He told us he loves seeing the kids smile and made every effort to recruit fellow students.  The powered helicopter blade on April's Skye costume was created by three female engineering students determined to create the real deal for Miss April.  There were many moments during the creation of the costumes that made us all stand back as we watched the process take shape.

On Thursday, Cam had an appointment at MFB to pick up his new AFO's.  When we walked in, some Mary Free Bed employees actually recognized Cam from the tv show!  Friday was our last costume building day with 4 costumes on the schedule.  We recruited helpers last minute and Jane even picked up Cam due to a half day of school.  He was happy to lend his assistance and eat pizza for lunch just like all of our other volunteers.

Saturday marked the official parade day!  The weather didn't cooperate and we had to enact the backup plan of stay indoors.  Originally, the intention was to be led by the Forest Hills Central Marching Band.  Since it was a bit difficult to bring a 100+member band into a rehabilitation hospital, the band director asked for a couple of volunteers to play quietly as the parade traversed the halls.  Even though we had never planned for 18 costumes to go up and down elevators, it all came together.  The 3rd and 4th floors were a part of our route and then the 5th floor requested a sighting as well. 

Therapy dog w/shoes!
What struck us was that our 18 kiddos using power mobility or manual mobility were able to see adults in similar situations.  18 therapy dogs joined us too so there was a dog for every costume!  And the smiles...the smiles and laughter were everywhere! 
And our Cam fans were out in full force too- Oma and Opa, Aunt Mary, Uncle Ray and their sons Tom and Mike along with spouses Sam and Cheri.  And the younger cousins, Harry and Ollie and Wendell were there to cheer on Lightning McQueen.  Cousins Coco and Libby as well as Cam's teacher Ms. Kathy and aide Nancy showed up too.  Patti, Emma, Sarah and Megan were right up front to see the lineup.  Ms. Amanda even wore a costume accompanied by her boyfriend Nick, his mom, Mary and sister Brooke.  Mary had a Lightning McQueen bucket full of things for one lucky boy!

Oma and Opa spent the night with us and were a tremendous help keeping things in check and staying with Cam as the busy atmosphere was a little crazy at times.  We were most thankful for all of the support from our family, extended family and special friends.

Chris, Jane and Cam met Molly at Mary Free Bed on Sunday for final cleanup duty.  Jane was teary-eyed remembering every person, all of the activity and special moments that took place.  Cam was happy there was still some twizzlers left from our building fun.

One day, our son may realize the enormity of how his Halloween costumes which began 7 years ago, have started a tradition in our Grand Rapids community, one we hope will continue for many, many years to come.

Camology Quotes:

Our ten-year-old is a compassionate soul.  During the building process, Jane created idea boards with Cam's help for each kiddo.  For Carson's board, his mom indicated her son couldn't have anything on his head.  On parade day, with the planning changed to indoors, there were many questions from Cam.

"Mom, will the band still play inside?"
Just a few people are going to play, I think.
"What if it is too loud?"
Well, you could wear headphones.
"But Carson can't wear headphones, Mom, he can't have anything on his head."

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Pressing Forward - Week of Oct. 16th

We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. ~Walt Disney 

Cam's inquisitive mind seems to be on overdrive some days.  His line of questioning when trying to understand something will, at times stump even his parents.
On Wednesday in the early evening, we were invited to partake in the old-fashioned art of cider production.  Our friends, the Flegels, know the Flannigan family who live on a farm not far from our home.  Cam and Jane made their way there not knowing what to expect.
The cider press itself is over 100 years old and looks quite different from the one featured in a Curious George cartoon we've seen.  Mr. Paul Flannigan explained the entire process step by step.  And the whole procedure from start to finish is serious manual labor.  The apples are poured into the "chopper" area where they are chopped into bits as a manual crank is turned.  The juicy bits are deposited into a barrel lined with a special burlap sack.  Then the sack is moved forward to sit in another barrel.  A very heavy press is then cranked downward to smash the bits into the delicious juicy cider.  After it's collected in a container, it is then strained into jugs.  Not only did Mr. Paul and his wife give us a full gallon of cider to take home, but they all gave us a whole bucket full of delicious apples...not to mention, an education in the art of cider making.

The end of the week brought another 2 days of costume building at Mary Free Bed.

On Saturday, Ms. Amanda stayed with Cam and they both wanted to volunteer for costume-building.  Cam timed it perfectly indicating to Ms. Amanda, "We should get there about an hour before lunch."  It was a Wellerwood reunion as these 4 preschool buddies lined up for a picture.  Just like when they were little, it seems darn near impossible for Cam, Mackenzie, Carson and Liam to look at the camera at the same time. 
Some friends, kids and moms included, create a bond that will be there for life.

Camology Quotes:

At school, Cam's PT is always working with him to try out new equipment.  This bike fits him well.  Ms. Michelle sent the pictures in email and Jane showed them to Cam.

"Mom, I would like to have that bike at home."
"Looks like you ride it well.  You know, though, you can't ride a bike inside the house."
"Mom, I know.  At school, they have a gym, silly."

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Start Your Engines - Week of Oct. 9th

Weatherford family...start your engines!

The dawn of a new day is full of promise and expectation.
We knew this week would be one filled with expected events and lasting effects.

At school, Cam's class attended a special arts festival at Forest Hills Eastern High School where each student is paired with an upper classman.  The younger students spent all morning and lunchtime at Eastern H.S.  Outdoor games and indoor activities wore these kids out.
A decorated pumpkin arrived home in our fourth-grader's backpack.

Miss Amanda asked Cam early in the week if he would be next to her for an event on Friday evening.  Cam told Amanda it would "be my honor" - (somewhere he has heard that phrase and most respectfully, used it in context.)

Grand Rapids South Christian High School and the South Christian Football Community hosted their “Purple-Out” football fundraiser Friday, October 13, 2017 to raise awareness for cancer research at Van Andel Institute (VAI). The event featured a varsity football game between South Christian and Middleville Thornapple-Kellogg. Both football communities asked that you come out to enjoy the game, balloon release, and other activities to honor those in your lives who have been affected by cancer.  Purple shirts could be purchased prior the event.

Since Amanda's mom passed away a few years ago from cancer, a cheerleader wore a purple shirt with Pam Kleinheksel printed on the back and Amanda was asked to stand next to her in memory of her mom.  Cam said he felt proud and very special to be next to Amanda during this event.  When they released all of the balloons in honor of those lost to cancer, Cam declared, "Wow, that's cool!"  Amanda's mom gave her the middle name of "Joy" and we cannot think of a more fitting description of what she brought to our family.

The commencement of work for our 2nd Annual Halloween For the Rest of Us project officially began on Friday.  Five building days are scheduled.  Mary Free Bed put together the short video of what took place over the first two days on Friday and Saturday.

Camology Quotes:

Engines are revving in the garage, but not from any of the Weatherford vehicles.  
Cam and his dad have been working on the Halloween costume this year....Lightning McQueen from "Cars."  

In between all of the construction, we had an appointment at Mary Free Bed to review some new equipment for Cam.   The experts were presenting many choices, ranging from color, size and even different types.  After choosing many things, Cam finally declared.

"You need to ask my Mom and Dad.  They are the parents and they make the decisions."

To which the physical therapist replied "Cam, would you please talk to my children!"

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Last Call for Fall Baseball - Week of Oct. 2nd

Cam's baseball medals
“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” ~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” ~ Albert Camus

Sometimes you want to hit a pause stay in a moment, to make it last.  That's how it felt on the final day of the West Michigan Miracle League Fall 2017 season.  One for the record books with the abundance of warm Saturdays for baseball. 
Cam receiving his medal

Each and every season, we see Cam gain more confidence and improve his skills.  His confidence is shown in the way he interacts with others, explaining what he needs and how things will work.  The bat box has helped in the skill level for our ten-year-old experiencing the thrill of the bat connecting with ball by his own force.
Best buds and a great season!

We meet new volunteers and hear the impact of what being involved in this league with these players means to them.  We talk to other parents, friends and relatives and hear their stories and their journeys.  Each is unique and yet we all share a common bond, this place and the game that connects us all.  And truly, you cannot attend a WMML game without smiling and cheering. We certainly hope to see Brody and Cam on the field together for many years to come.

On this last game, Oma, Ms. Amanda and Ms. Brooke and her pup, Brynlee joined us to cheer on Cam.  Brooke made a sign with Cam's jersey number- "#24 on the field, #1 in my heart." 

Back on the home front, we continue to enjoy a gift given by 'Auntie' Leslie called Crazy Forts.  When Leslie has been to visit in the past, she's seen some of the awesome forts made by Emma and Cam.  It inspired her to give this building contraption to Cam for his tenth birthday.  This continues to be a weekly fun project since the fort only takes shape after you begin the building process.  One may make a tall rocket ship or even a spaceship that could carry Cam to another galaxy.

Camology Quotes:

During break time at school, Ms. Kathy let the boys have some fun.  We received an email that indicated the picture attached was Brody interviewing Cam.  I jokingly asked if we could have a copy of the transcript.  Ms. Kathy replied...

"Oh, I couldn't even keep up with their conversation!"

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Oodles of Oma - Week of Sept. 25th

A house needs a grandma in it. ~Louisa May Alcott
Grandmas are moms with lots of frosting. ~Author Unknown
Grandmother - a wonderful mother with lots of practice. ~Author Unknown

It was a privilege to have Cam's grandma stay with us while Chris was out of town all week.  Cam's dad traveled to Orlando on Sunday to attend the Microsoft conference with 30,000 other people.  Back in Michigan, Cam was treated to a daily dose of Oma.  Jane was beyond grateful for her mom's assistance, time and endless energy.

Crafting and playtime were the after-school activities of choice for Cam and his grandma.  A version of "The Price Is Right" became a hilarious evening game of guessing how much items in the house were worth and then punching them into the cash register.  Cam was asked to determine amounts, provide change and count money.

It's no secret that Oma is an wonderful cook. She and Cam made crepes which were eaten for breakfast nearly every morning during the week.  For dinner each evening, the trio of Oma, Mom and Cam figured out a delicious meal and we all had fun trying some new dishes.  Cam is shown here shaking cauliflower in a bag seasoned with olive oil and salt/pepper, ready for roasting.

On Friday, a half day of school equated to an afternoon of fun.  Following lunch, Miss Amanda, Cam and Oma trekked over to Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park where they enjoyed an uncrowded setting.  The giraffes are definitely one of Cam's favorites.  Getting up close and feeding the Boulder Ridge inhabitants makes the experience even better.
After the park, Jane was able to meet Oma, her grandson and Miss Amanda over at Spoonlickers in Ada to take a break for a tasty afternoon treat.  The homemade frozen yogurt dessert shop provides a self-serve experience for the yogurt and all of the toppings.  The only catch is that you pay by the weight of your dish so one must be mindful of what's being added.  The homemade cookie dough, brownies and other delectable delights are tough to resist, though.
Late that evening, Cam's dad arrived home (yeah!) and once again, we were thankful for Oma's presence to stay with Cam during Jane's airport run.
The next morning, our family enjoyed a delicious Dutch apple pancake for breakfast and then we made our way to the West Michigan Miracle League field.  Another picture perfect day awaited us for baseball.  The fan base was strong with our Oma and two of Cam's teachers, Ms. Barbara and Ms. Kathy and Ms. Kathy's husband, Kevin.  Brody and Cam, classmates, buddies and teammates were super excited to see their teachers outside of school!
Jane & Oma at Artprize Friday morning

We treated Oma to lunch after the game and arrived home for some afternoon relaxation.  We said goodbye to Cam's grandma late Saturday afternoon and truly thanks are not enough for all she did and continues to do for our family!

On Sunday, Chris, Cam and Jane made their way down to Artprize to check out a few entries.  We live in such a great community where this unique artistic contest represents traditional art, but also art in many different forms.

We found different sized metal poles with sticks for making music, orange inner tube floaters on the river and even concrete rocking chairs to sit in.

"Art is in the eye of the beholder" and there was much to behold in Cam's hometown of Grand Rapids.

3 Cam's at School!

Camology Quotes:

If a word or phrase is uttered that Cam has never heard before, he immediately questions what it is.  One morning the temperature had dropped and Oma looked at the lower temp and exclaimed,
"It's only 52 degrees.  Well, isn't that something!"

Why do you say that, Oma?
"Say what, Cam?"
You said, 'isn't that something!'
"Oh, well I meant that it's surprising, that all."
Why did you not say that then, silly?