Sunday, December 29, 2019

A Family First - Week of Dec. 23rd

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” ~Plato

A tradition can begin when we least expect it.  The best traditions can be the ones that change and grow right along with us.

The week started off with a Christmas gift from the Raisch fam😀  Monday night, Cam and his mom were treated to movie tickets and popcorn for Frozen 2.  We were seated with the girls and Patti and we all agreed it was a good show!

Tuesday was Christmas Eve and we made last minute preparations for our family.  Oma and Opa arrived around lunchtime with a car full of delicious cookies and presents.  Next up for arrival, cousin David Jellema, in Michigan for Christmas for the first time ever! 

Everyone settled in quickly and we were off to church for the early 4p service.  Cam loves hearing the live band and traditional carols.  David is a professional musician so it was a treat for him as well.  After an hour of fellowship, we all headed to the Raisch home for our traditional Christmas Eve meal of delicious homemade chicken noodle soup and bread.  Holiday cookies and the scrumptious caramel corn from Mr. Steve rounded out our dessert.  We played a new game called "Fishbowl" which essentially combines three games together- catch phrase, taboo and charades. The crew assembled around the dinner table couldn't help but laugh and smile when we all attempted to have our teams guess the word or phrase written down. 
With our bellies full, we headed back home where David treated us to a mini concert on his recorder.  To Cam's utter delight, David can play music by ear and once a song is requested as long as he knows the tune, the melodic sounds begin.
The next morning, Cam slept a little later than usual and insisted that everyone have breakfast together.  As we waited for Oma and Opa and David, we prepared a tasty meal.  After Cam's grandparents headed up the stairs, we soon heard a trumpet playing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" from the stairwell.  What an amazing start to Christmas morning.  Jane was a bit too sleepy to realize she should have been recording...
After breakfast and a bit of present opening, we bid David farewell as he headed off to see more family.
Each year, we all seem to have a favorite gifts to give and ones we receive.  Cam only requested one gift- a hug boat like he has at school for sitting in and stretching.  But Chris and Jane knew he needed a new iPad for his daily homework.  Because it was a total surprise, it was so satisfying to see Cam open it and realize what it was.  As a family, we also have tickets to go see our local Grand Rapids Griffins ice hockey team in February.  Oma and Opa always find us all perfect gifts and a s'mores checkers game will be a new family favorite.

Later that day, Cam's parents enjoyed a rare nap while their son was occupied by his grandparents.
Thursday was our day to prepare for the next holiday event- the extended family Christmas party. 

On Friday afternoon, we welcomed more than 40 family members including Aunts, Uncles and many cousins.  We feasted on a potluck supper and endless Christmas cookies. 
Santa makes a special scheduled appearance and the younger family members are all squealing when he arrives.  Cam is actually one of the loudest in the bunch super excited to see Mr. Claus.  This family tradition has been in existence for more than 50 years!
We were also able to spend some quality time with one of our youngest family members, James.  James and Cam are first cousins and James' mom, Steffanie is Jane's niece.  This little guy seemed enthralled listening to David play and giggled at the clic reader glasses his Great Aunt Jane was wearing.👓

As we said our goodbyes and thanks to Oma and Opa on Saturday, we realized once again, how much they do and assist with during the active holiday time.  As Oma told us, it was busy but relaxing and nothing was rushed.  This is always our goal.
We were blessed by so many this Christmas season.  We also know what a blessing it is to be able to give and receive, not just physical gifts, but the present of each other's company.

Camology Quotes:
Cam is so aware of other people's feelings.
He sees many of his cousin only a handful of times each year.  
Jane asked him who he was most excited to see at the big family party. 
"Did one of my cousins ask you that question?  
Jane indicated that no one had asked specifically, she was just asking.
"Oh, ok.  Then I am very excited to see James! 

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Standing Tall - Week of Dec. 16th

 "My disability exists not because I use a wheelchair, but because the broader environment isn't accessible." ~Stella Young, comedian and disability rights activist

It was a big week in the land of accessibility for Cam.  We arrived at Mary Free Bed anxious to see how a standing wheelchair may work out.  The process is a lengthy one.  An accessible power wheelchair is only approved by insurance every 7 years.  Once you are evaluated, the occupational therapist and wheelchair provider begin the laborious documentation process to be sent off to the insurance company.  Six months is the absolute soonest a chair will be received.  Two chairs were available for Cam to try driving and standing.  The Rovi and Permobil manufacturers offered different advantages and after testing both, Cam chose the Permobil, which is the same manufacturer as his current chair.  We all left the appointment very excited about the choice and future accessibility.

Ms. Amanda arrived early Friday evening to celebrate an early Christmas with us and also to present Cam with a surprise box.  Inside was a nerf gun, shaded sunglasses and a ring pop.  The note attached had a special request from Amanda and Nick...they asked Cam if he would be Ring Security for their wedding in April 2020!  He excitedly yelled "yes!"

Saturday's forecast was fairly mild so we ventured northward towards the cottage.  We hadn't seen the big lake since all of the fall storms that caused quite a big erosion due to large waves and rainfall.
We brought Panera Bread soup and shared a delicious lunch with Cam's grandparents.
Oma and Cam got busy frosting cookies while Chris and Jane ventured down to the beach, or lack thereof.  Back in 2003 when Cam parents were married on this very lake shore, there was more than 100 feet of beach, compared to today of roughly 20 feet.  Thankfully, as the colder weather sets in, the inevitable freezing of Lake Michigan will begin, subsiding more erosion as least for a bit.

Back in Grand Rapids, Sunday evening welcomed our traditional Raisch fam dinner.  These girls are like Cam's older sisters and a green sweatshirt made this kiddo into a funny looking Grinch character of sorts which made everyone giggle. 
As we headed into the countdown for the holiday, we are reminded of a Dr. Suess quote, "Maybe Christmas, he thought doesn't come from a store.  Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!"

Camology Quotes:
As we were nearing the end of holiday shopping, Jane took Cam on a secret errand.  When they got in the van Cam asked where they were headed and Jane indicated a store called Carhartt.  They entered the store and Cam (quite loudly) announced: 
"Mom, there are no car parts in here!  

Sunday, December 15, 2019

This Kid - Week of Dec. 9th

"As human beings, our job in life is to help people realize how rare and valuable each one of us really is, that each of us has something that no one else has- or ever will have- something inside that is unique to all time. It's our job to encourage each other to discover that uniqueness and to provide ways of developing its expression." ~Mister Rogers

Everyone in some way, shape or form knows their child has special attributes and unique abilities.
We have watched others over the years meet our son for the first time and immediately assume he cannot do certain things.  He has continuously overcome misconceptions and often surprised others.
Those closest to Cam have said "he is magical" and "when I'm having a bad day, I know Cam will make it better" and "he is pure joy!"

One of his aides at school told us Cam readily accepts every challenge he is presented.  It has been a long road regaining his strength since his second hip surgery.  His weekly PT work is definitely moving him in the right direction.  These two videos that were sent to us show how far he's come.  It's also very difficult to do something when you're completely cracking up.

Projects filled our evenings keeping us all busy with Christmas card envelope stuffing, addressing, outdoor lighting, baking, and a little shopping.

Sunday afternoon, Oma and Opa arrived to finish up holiday purchases and spend the night with us.
After our annual Sunday dinner with the Raisch family, it was time to try out the new game Cam had picked from the Mary Free Bed Santa party.  The Headrush Headbandz box consists of picture cards that each person has to guess by only asking questions that can be responded to with yes or no.  To add to the fun, a headband is worn to hold each card.
Right off the bat, Cam beat Oma in the first two games guessing his cards almost immediately! 
He was trying to help his grandma guess the word "popcorn" by giving her what he thought was the biggest hint: "Oma, you know mom cannot resist eating this!"

Camology Quotes:
There are days we definitely run out of time to complete projects prior to Cam's bedtime.  One evening this week, Chris was cooking chicken and vegetables for his weekly lunches.  Cam asked if his mom could come into his room after he was in bed.
He asked her with a smile on his face: 
"Can you turn the temptation level down? It smells so good it is making me want to eat!"   

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Festive Festivities - Week of Dec. 2nd

"If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person." ~Mister Rogers

When we talked about our upcoming schedule for the week, even Cam noted "wow, that is a lot!"
On Monday morning, Cam's  class headed out on a field trip to Meijer to purchase items for needy families.  On their way back to school, they made a stop at Brody's be Cafe!  Cam had been anticipating this visit since Ms. Konkle told the class they would be treated to hot chocolate.
Cam, Mrs. Festian
and Brody
Jane had missed seeing the group when she stopped in at lunchtime, but the manager, Rachel, couldn't stop telling Jane how Cam had completely made her day because he was so excited to see her and to be at the cafe!
Early that evening, we all headed over to the Fine Arts Center ready to hear the Winter Choir Concert.  The sixth graders were scheduled to be the last group to sing.  The eighth grade took the stage first, then seventh and then Cam's grade.  Chris and Jane were actually very impressed with all of the music and performances.  However, one that really stuck with us was sung by the sixth graders entitled "Don't Laugh at Me" centered around fitting in, acceptance and inclusion.  We told Cam we were very proud of him and he couldn't stop talking about the music all the way home that evening.
Liam, 'Buddy the Elf', Jane & Jason
A holiday party for the Mary Free Bed Guild left Amanda with Cam for Wednesday evening and after a PT session on Thursday, we were ready for Friday's fun.  In the afternoon, Cam had a half day and hung out with Ms. Ann and then headed back to the middle school for a movie afternoon with his class from 4p-6p, a special gift from the teachers.  Chris picked up Cam and Brody while Jane set up volunteering activities at the Ada Tinsel, Treats and Trolleys festival.  Cam, Brody and Liam had some hang out time eating pizza.  The Grinch character with dog Max and Buddy the Elf were sitting in the outdoor domes behind the cafe ready to greet people after they purchased coffee or hot cocoa.  And the Ada Historical Bridge showed off its bright lights for the first time this season.  Cam wanted a close-up look.

Saturday morning we ventured over to Ada to stroll in the Santa parade with Brody's be Cafe.  We had no idea we would be up in the front.  The gigantic coffee mug was made of chicken wire and stuffed with pieces of light material.  Dry ice and hot water made it look like a steaming mug!  As we went along the route we saw Ms. Kate, Cam's former speech pathologist and Mr. Jim, Cam & Brody's bus driver and his wife.  After the parade, we headed back to the cafe to help out for a bit before heading home for a late lunch.
Cam & long-time friend, April

Then we were off again, this time to check out the Mary Free Bed holiday party downtown. Cam has been attending this party for quite a few years and this was the first one we remembered being during the day, which was a nice change. We were a little late getting there, but Chris thought it was perfect timing.  Within 10 minutes of our arrival, Santa appeared!
Each kiddo has time with the white-bearded guy and then they pick out a present appropriate for their age group.  The presents just have pretty ribbon so the kids can choose.  Cam requested the Headbandz game for kids- such a great choice!
After leaving MFB, we arrived home and Chris and Jane prepared for one last holiday activity- the annual Fishbeck party downtown.

A very busy week indeed but we deemed it a "good busy" since every single thing we experienced meant we were with friends, smiling and laughing and enjoying the moments that become such special memories.

Camology Quotes:
Sometimes we don't think far enough ahead.  We have 3 smoke alarms in our home.  When the first one beeped quite loudly a few weeks ago, we should have purchased three right away.  We did not.  Early one evening this week, another one began chirping incessantly.  Cam didn't realize immediately that it was beeping to be replaced:   
"Mom and Dad- the fire alarm.  Hurry!  We have no time to lose!"

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Be Thankful - Week of Nov. 25th

Cam and classmates, Teacher & aides
The "why" questions still continue for Cam and in reality, we all continue to question things even as we grow older.  As a family, we got to wondering where the tradition of having Thanksgiving on the 4th Thursday came from.  We found the answer in an article from NPR...
In 1789, President George Washington declared Thursday, Nov. 26, as a "Day of Publick Thanksgivin," according to the National Archives. But in the years following, the date for the holiday was announced by presidential proclamation and was celebrated on various days and in different months. 
Delicious fruit basket
from Oma & Opa
When President Abraham Lincoln made his Thanksgiving proclamation in 1863, the last Thursday of November became standard. Then came the big date dispute of 1939, when two Thanksgiving holidays were observed. You see, according to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, a five-Thursday November fell in 1933, and some retailers asked President Roosevelt to move the holiday to a week earlier. The president denied the request, and Americans ate their turkey on the last Thursday as always in 1933. But Roosevelt was president for a long time, long enough for another five-Thursday November to roll around in 1939. Once again, some business leaders asked if the date for the holiday could be a week earlier to give people more time to shop for Christmas, and this time Roosevelt agreed to do it. This raised a hue and cry as many people felt that he was catering to large retailers so they could make more money. 
 Sixteen governors decided their states would have Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of the month as usual, and that's how some people ended up celebrating it a week earlier or later than others — for two years. Roosevelt stuck with the second-to-last-Thursday schedule, some states stuck with the last-Thursday-of-the-month schedule and finally on Dec. 26, 1941, Congress passed a law making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday of November.
This week, we were extra thankful for so many reasons.  On Tuesday, Ms. Michelle, a former nanny of Cam's, surprised us with a visit!  She lives in Florida now and was in Michigan for a short time.  Jane set up the date but wanted Cam to be completely unaware.
He could not believe his eyes when she popped around the corner!  She told us about her mission trip to Guatemala and had some festive Christmas lights for Cam to wear and a thankful chalkboard.  Ms. Michelle stayed for dinner and asked Cam if they could play one of his favorite games.  He chose "Guess Who" and they played quite a few rounds.
On Wednesday afternoon, Oma and Opa arrived to spend two nights with us. We are always grateful to have them with us for the holiday.  Always ready for a project, Cam and his helpers, Jane and Oma, decorated the Christmas tree.
Later in the morning on Thursday, Opa and Cam prepped the turkey with homemade stuffing and Jane and her mom headed over to Starbucks to grab coffee for everyone.  While they were there, Jane chatted with Rachel, one of the baristas she became friends with.  It turned out that Rachel wasn't planning on going anywhere for turkey dinner, so we invited her to our table.  She arrived later with a beautiful orchid and coffee.  It was such fun to have her and she was so appreciative of the homemade spread complete with our big bird, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, yams, green bean casserole, rolls, cranberry relish and then Oma's famous apple tarts.  Cam's blessing of our dinner was quite abbreviated, which may have had something to do with his hunger level.  After feasting, we were all thoroughly stuffed and ready for relaxation.
Friday morning, Oma wanted to see Brody's be Cafe before they headed back up north.  She and Jane chatted over delicious peppermint mochas and Oma loved the atmosphere and welcoming spirit.

It turned out the Weatherford family was due back at the Cafe later that afternoon.  Chris, Jane and Cam were signed up to volunteer with igloo setup at the back entrance.  It took well over 2 hours and Cam insisted on staying out in the cold with his dad to be sure it was connected properly.  The second dome installation was much faster than the first.  After the string lights went up, it all looked simply magical.
Seating was added for six with a heater and warm, cozy afghans in each igloo.

The set up seemed just in time since early Sunday morning, we awoke to a beautiful blanket of snow.

 Camology Quotes:
When Ms. Michelle arrived, Chris had an idea to get him to come to the door.  He called out to Cam and said there was a special delivery from Amazon just for him. Cam countered with:   "I cannot sign for Amazon.  I am just a boy, not an adult!"