Sunday, July 29, 2018

Enjoy the Ride - Week of July 23rd

"Look around you--look up here--Take time to make time--Make time to be there" ~ Little River Band
Life is, school, appointments, activities and all the rest.  It's tough to slow down sometimes.  But if you're able to and lucky enough to find some friends to relax with, try to enjoy the ride.

'Auntie' Leslie and Mr. Jay became a part of our everyday life this week.  Leslie encouraged Cam to eat solo and we engaged in strategic game play daily.  Camel Up (or is it Cup) proved to be one of Cam's favorites.  It is a game of options, decisions and luck.  Our gaming son even scored big and won a round.  The high-fives commenced and Cam was, well, a little excited.

On Friday, a surprise was planned.  We talked about it during the week but did not reveal what it was.  Cam wanted to be really astounded and one of his many questions- "is it appropriate for me" had 'Auntie' Leslie retorting, "What?! You don't think I'm appropriate?"  When the big day arrived, we all piled into the van and headed southwest.  Duty called for Chris and as much as we begged, he had to go into work that day.  Our destination was the Saugatuck Dune Rides.
History: The dune rides date back to 1954 when Ron Jousma, then 21 and home from the Army, decided Saugatuck needed a dune ride similar to those at Silver Lake near Hart. He bought the present dune property west of Goshorn Lake from a Chicago man and turned his 1942 Ford convertible into a dune buggy with seats in the rumble seat. He added a 1946 and 1947 Ford coupe, cut off the tops, outfitted the cars with super-wide tires and cut trails in the dunes. 
In 1961, Jousma and a friend picked up two half-ton Ford truck chassis and drove them back from Kansas City sitting on wooden boxes. They were outfitted with steel beds and seats and joined the fleet. Still later Dodge Power Wagons were added and equipped with aircraft tires to operate in the sand. In 1971 Jousma opened a dune ride in Great Sand Dunes National Monument, Colorado and operated both rides until selling them in 1978 to an Indiana family. In 1981, Linus and Janice Starring purchased the business. The two never had ridden on the schooners until they inspected them prior to purchasing the business. Saugatuck Dune Rides remains a part-time job for the Starring family. Linus, with a degree in heavy equipment, is a railroad engineer for two small freight lines in Michigan during the off-season. Janice manages the office and handles all booking and scheduling. Even as a part time business, there's plenty of maintenance to do. Shifting sands require daily grading of the trails in the dunes. Driving in sand dunes means the schooners need oil changes and engine maintenance every 100 miles. During the off season, equipment is fabricated and updated for the following season.

Cam had ridden the dune scooters about 4 years ago but didn't seem to really recall the ride.  He was all smiles and screams once we started out, though.  Our driver was Scott and he volunteered to carry Cam over to the log for a photo of our group!  The weather was perfect for the adventure- not too hot and not too cool.  It turned out to be an "awesome surprise" according to Cam!!
Saturday was a divide and conquer day.
Chris and Cam enjoyed a pool party at Mr. Brent's, a mutual friend of Jay, Leslie and Jane's.  Simultaneously, Jane headed north to attend a memorial service for Uncle Rod Jellema.

By early
evening the boys
met Jane at Stony Lake for a 50th wedding celebration of family friends, the Vincents.  At Stony Lake, Jane spent 7 summers caring for the Vincent kids and their cousins.  Now they all have kids of their own and the party was not only a fun festivity, but it was also a reunion.  More than 30 years ago, Jane had a picture with all of these 'older' kids so it was only fitting to snap one with the next gen crew.  You may be wondering why the younger set of kids is cracking up in the picture.  Well, they are all saying "farts!"
Cam, Chris & Umpy
It just so happens that one of the early birthday presents Cam received from Auntie Leslie and Mr. Jay was a fart machine, complete with a remote control to make others think they may be experiencing a sudden bout of flatulence.  Let's just say it was a bit hit with the Stony Lake kids.

After a very late arrival back home, sleep came quickly and the morning too soon.  We drove Mr. Jay and Auntie Leslie to the airport and they showered Cam with more early birthday presents including a Pranklopedia book full of "not mean pranks" which Chris and Cam quickly began researching.

With each goodbye, we seem to say a hello.
Sunday evening we shared dinner with the Raisch family for the first time in quite a few weeks.  After a yummy meal, we headed out for our annual summer ice cream trek, less than a mile away.  The girls all surprised Cam on the way back with a tickle attack!

Camology Quotes:
If you're wondering what pure joy looks like, just watch this video!

(Quick clip and a little cut off)
"This is awesome! I am having so much fun!"

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Friends are the Family We Choose for Ourselves - Week of July 16th

"In life the only thing that you can expect is the unexpected; the only surprise is a day that has none." ~Joan Rivers

Close friends of Cam's parents have become 'Aunties' and 'Uncles' over the years.  On Friday, we had the opportunity to help surprise 'Auntie' Roe for her birthday.  Ronda's husband worked out a plan with Chris to meet for dinner and we arrived a little early to be certain we were ready before they showed up.  Due to a very unexpected flat tire, they were a little delayed, but Auntie Roe was oh so shocked when she saw Cam, Jane & Chris and Amanda at the restaurant.  It's always a treat to see Ronda with Cam and he even remembered some of the Portuguese language his Auntie Roe taught him quite a few years ago.

On Saturday, we were off to the local airport to pick up Jane's lifelong dearest friend, Auntie Leslie and her boyfriend, Mr. Jay.  Jane, Leslie and Jay all went to school together and they were settling in for a week-long visit in Michigan.

Mr. Jay is a huge fan of all strategic games.  He introduced Cam to King Tokyo last year and Cam couldn't wait to play it with Jay again.  Also due to Mr. Jay's influence, Chris made a dice roller for Cam allowing him to place the die in a tiered plastic box where they roll out. Watching Cam learn the strategy of a game and putting it into action has been thrilling.

On Sunday, we all entered  the van to embark on a ride up to the cottage.  Our first stop was Dog-n-Suds in Montague to partake in their delicious lunch selection. (Watch 2-minute history)
With our full bellies, we headed to Lake Michigan to play beach side and soak up the sun for a bit. 
Oma and Opa made us a delicious meal and we all enjoyed celebrating the birthday of Cam's cousin, Steffanie with awesome cake and ice cream.

The sun may have faded in and out that day, but these smiles certainly did not!

Camology Quotes:
Auntie Leslie always comments how much she loves Cam's sense of humor.  She was watching a t.v. program with Cam that he likes and she had never seen before:
Leslie- "Cam, you have great taste!"
"What do you mean?  I cannot eat a show!"

Speaking of Cam's sense of humor, Chris was whistling one evening as if he was talking to Cam...
"Dad, I cannot speak bird!"

Sunday, July 15, 2018

A Camping We Will Go - Week of July 9th

"Camping is nature's way of promoting the motel business." ~Dave Barry

We celebrated this guy on Tuesday, an awesome dad to Cam and superb husband to Jane.  After work, the plan was to meet Chris for a Cam haircut and then head out for birthday dinner.  However, Jane and her son encountered some car trouble and Cam announced "this is not going to make for a good day."  But we had someone to celebrate and places to be, so we made it to dinner and ate outside in the sunshine at JT's, located just around the corner from the car repair shop.

Cam started his short stint with summer school this week, attending Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings from 9am-12pm.  He couldn't wait to see his friends and teachers.  Interestingly enough, the theme for this session is "Let's Go to Summer Camp!"  Well, that's kind of what we were planning....

On Friday, the packing brigade began with Cam supervising progress.  Even though we had a list, our intuitive son remembered a few things we may have overlooked.   It was a 3-hour drive to Charlevoix, Michigan where our final destination for the next 4 days and 3 nights was Fisherman's Island State Park.
Fisherman’s Island State Park boasts over six miles of unspoiled Lake Michigan shoreline. The island in which the park was named no longer exists. Due to years of lower water levels in Lake Michigan the island has become a peninsula now lush with native wildflowers. There are 80 rustic campsites with 15 of those nestled in the dune area along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

"Rustic" in reference to camping means outhouses only and wells to pump fresh water.  Bathing, if necessary, is recommended in Lake Michigan.  This was our 3rd visit as a family to Fisherman's, but our first time staying at a campsite right on Lake Michigan.  Our extended family friends (who first introduced us to the campground), Katherine (Cam's former nanny) and her husband Paul and son, Bexley, along with Katherine's mom, Miss Ann, had already been on the campsite for five days before we arrived.  Other friends, Zach and Aubrey were staying two sites away.  Our first sunset was nothing short of spectacular and the others didn't disappoint.  Staying in a tent and walking right to the beach in a few steps was the only way to camp, we all determined.  The beautiful weather certainly made our stay that much more enjoyable.  Cam floated for a couple of hours on a new green raft, compliments of Auntie Karen.  Jane lounged on a blue chair, given to Cam by Miss Amanda's Aunt Carol.  With a small rope, Jane kept connected to Cam as we lazed in the big lake and soaked up the sun.   In the meantime, Chris found a spot in the shade and tried out his hammock for the first time.

Per a tradition for Jane and Cam, each morning, they took their 20 minute ride to Boyne City to pick up a Starbucks coffee for Jane.  Normally, this wouldn't be an exciting outing but Cam and his mom hop on a car ferry in Ironton!  The four-car cable ferry began operation in 1876.  In the early days, the Ironton ferry was powered by horses.  It's a quick 3 minute ride on the ferry, but the panoramic view right from car in the middle of the water seems surreal.
Another day, we all ventured to the creek, south of our campground, where the boys played in the creek.

Of course, we had s'mores at the campfire with square marshmallows (why did it take so long to come up with these?!) and Cam decided he likes them best with Reese's peanut butter cups.
Another fun campfire experience was making popcorn on the fire with the famous Jiffy Pop.

You can take Cam out of his routine, but you can't take the routine out of Cam.  Our son insisted on completing his sight word tasks each morning, following his same usual activities of brushing his teeth and getting ready.  One of the best parts of camping, though, was the absence of electronics for our maturing boy.  Not once did he request use of the iPad to watch shows or play games.

We were thankful for the change of scenery, the renewal of close friendships, and the memorable time in nature along with countless bouts of laughter woven into every single day.
See you next year, Fishy Island- we can't wait!!

Camology Quotes:
In preparation, sometimes, Cam's parents lag behind their son's timeframe.  When we were finally ready for take off, Cam announced:
"Let's get this show on the road!"

Another choice quote from our weekend:
"What was camping like in the old days?"

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Celebrating Independence - Week of July 2nd

"And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow." ~Gilbert K. Chesterton

We started off the week on a low and high note in the same day.  Cam's van headed in for repairs and we were invited to a surprise party for Miss Ann completing a second Master's degree!   She was quite astonished to see so many gathered just for her.  Also in attendance was one of Ann's granddaughter's, Miss Ella.  Ella was so sweet with Cam and wanted to give him a big hug.

The 4th of July landed on Wednesday.  Cam eagerly planned to participate in the beginning of our Cascade parade.  Any kid can ride, walk or drive a powerchair in the bike parade.  Decorations are encouraged and Cam's ride was decked out with balloons and ribbons, all colored red, white and blue.
(Jane and her son found some pretty cool new editing software in Google photos to make the short video shown)

We kept a little surprise from Cam- Ms. Michelle was in town from Florida and couldn't wait to see her buddy!  She and her daughter Bekah were on stand by, anxious to see our parade participant round the corner.  Cam was totally shocked to see Michelle and we all had fun hanging out on the parade route.

The steamy weather pushed us northward for a day at the beach.  The waves were rolling but not too high. 
Cam chose to ride separately with Jane and Chris as they took turns on kayaking tours.

After a few lengthy rides, Oma was the chosen beach buddy to create some sand bakery items.  We were thankful for another delicious dinner on the deck again before departing for Grand Rapids.

On Sunday, Cam enjoyed indoor and outdoor activities.  Chris needed an office helper so Cam volunteered his services.  Equipped with a headset, Cam's dad kept in close communication checking things out.

We picked up a customized adaptive bike for Cam during the week and Sunday was his first opportunity to really test it out.  It's even equipped with a bell to announce his arrival.  We look forward to many hours of riding!

Guess what we're doing
next week?

Camology Quotes:
Using your manners has always been a staple in our household.  Cam is a trooper when it comes to remembering polite words and phrases.  Sometimes, though, his genuine kindness surprises even his parents.  When Jane was busy in the kitchen one evening, Cam asked:
"Would you be so kind as to stop what you're doing and help me?"

Sunday, July 1, 2018

In a Jam - Week of June 25th

Chris left some 'notes' on the sugar:)
“If you ever find yourself in a jam, just take a moment to sit and think; calculate things, look at every angle, and then wonder where all that jam came from.” ~ Melanie Kay Taylor

John Lennon said it best in his lyrics, "Strawberry fields forever."
"This takes a LOT of stirring!"

There is something about the delicious taste of homemade strawberry jam.  It is a labor of love and time consuming, but a task that Cam was anticipating with excitement.  Oma traveled in to spend a couple of nights to join in the sticky fun.  With two flats of the tasty red fruit and an abundance of sugar, the assembly line was in full force.  However, Jane (in haste) quickly misread the directions and the entire first batch had to be reconstituted, hence the look on Cam's face in the picture to the left.
THANKS to the "Jammers"- Amanda, Cam, Oma :)

When all was said and done, though, we ended up with more than 30 containers of jam and plenty of smiles at the finish line!

On Thursday evening, the annual Windcrest neighborhood picnic was held at the Raisch backyard and even though we've lived one street over for more than 5 years, we still feel a part of the Windcrest family.

All neighbors bring a dish to pass and with all that jam, we opted for angel food cake, strawberry jam and whip cream as our offering.
Ken (aka 'Papa') joined in some bubble making fun with Cam.

A new daily activity for Cam is working on head stretching by laying on his stomach and looking up.  The Grand Valley PT students gave him this homework for the summer.  It's easy to see our growing boy is getting longer these days.

The weekend brought humidity and steamy weather which prompted our crew to head north.  We also had to celebrate Oma and Opa's 40th wedding anniversary!

The breeze and warmer water were a perfect combination for a beach day.
Oma and Opa treated us to a delicious dinner from Old Channel Inn- we were most thankful for the awesome meal which Opa picked up for the family.

The best part was dining on our own deck with a scenic perspective of our favorite big lake.  No matter how often we see it, the view never gets old...

Camology Quotes:
It took some time, but Cam has become a great advocate for himself and in some cases, a leader taking charge.  One evening as he was getting ready for a shower, we didn't know where Chris had gone.
"Mom, let me take care of this.  I will get his attention.
'Alexa: broadcast - Dad where are you?' "