Sunday, December 27, 2020

Festivity Focus - Week of Dec. 21st

Cam has always been a "glass half full" kind of kid.  Yes, his parents tend to be positive individuals, but each person makes a choice as to how they approach life.  Cam is accepting, empathetic and kind.

When we checked out the glass half empty vs. half full, we found the most credible reference of its origin from the Los Angeles Times, Feb. 26, 1933.
Two men were looking at a bottle of milk. Said one with a groan, "The bottle is half empty." Said the other with a grin, "The bottle is half full." The first belonged to the courters of disasters, forever bemoaning their losses; the second to the invincibles who win by counting their blessings.

For the first portion of the week, Cam was fortunate to have Ms. Amanda come over to hang out while Chris and Jane finished up full work days.  We all exchanged gifts.  Amanda knitted super soft scarves for both Cam and Jane!  She also gave her buddy all kinds of baking kits and a cooking utensil set complete with a hot pad.   Cam put together a sundae basket for Ms. Amanda with all of her favorites and we gave her some clothes and socks.
It's a different year for everyone this season and following our glass half full premise we were determined to remain positive.  Although many events were cancelled, our small family celebration persevered.   Oma and Opa arrived on Christmas Eve.  We watched the church service online and opened some fun surprises sent in the mail.  A Ghirardelli chocolate tin showed up from a work partner Jane does business with.  In addition, 
a huge basket from Jane's colleague filled with everything from New Jersey had the entire family exploring the contents.
Cam had a tough time getting to sleep Christmas Eve since he kept listening for Santa outside.  He understands there are many Santa's and that parents help the cause but the magic of the white-bearded man and its history still capture our son's imagination.  Christmas Day was relaxing and purposeful, enjoying each other's company and slowly revealing gifts.

Cam created a sundae basket for Opa and one of our favorite gifts this holiday was creating same-day photo puzzles (10x14) from Walgreens.  Jane and her son had fun scanning some old pictures and choosing which ones would appear.  Chris had the genius idea of gifting our family a bread maker, something Cam has been thinking about for awhile.
In the evening, our family took a tour of Lowell to check out some lighted buildings set to music and we enjoyed being cozy on the couch.
We were so thankful for gifts from Cam's grandparents as well as Oma's most delicious Christmas cookies, all from old recipes that stand the test of time.

From our family to yours, we send our love and virtual hugs.  The promise of a new year is just around the corner.  May your glass be half full on a daily basis.

Camology Quotes:
Our cousins surprised us with an invite to an online cooking class to make authentic Spanish Paella (pronounced pai-eh-uh) on Sunday afternoon.  The event was hosted by Helina, a chef in Barcelona, Spain.  
There were ingredients to prep and certain utensils and pans at the ready.  Cam was quite doubtful of his parent's skillset when he realized they had forgotten to boil their tomatoes in advance.  
It was an awesome experience and now our entire family knows how to cook paella and we all love it!  
For the majority of the 90-minute class, you could hear the following mantra could be being heard in our kitchen...
  "Mom, did you do that step?"  "Dad, she said to stop stirring.  Do not stir so much."  "She wants us to unmute."

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Christmas Card - Week of Dec. 14th

It turns out our cat, Stella, can be pretty entertaining.  Cam thinks it is hysterical that she is fascinated by water.  Because of this we did a little research as to why felines can be obsessed by H2O. 
The answer probably lies in survival instincts. Cats tend to seek out fresh, clean water over stagnant water, probably because fresh water is less likely to contain harmful bacteria than stagnant water is. Cats also don't need very much water. They descended from desert dwelling animals, and they take in much of their necessary water from their food. So, more than other domestic animals, cats can afford to be pickier about where they get their water from. Plus, running or moving water is just fun.
In the final week of school prior to the holiday break, Cam enjoyed a bit of outdoor time with his friends.  If the weather cooperates, his small class tries to do this at least once a day to have a break from masks and face shields while the kids remain distanced.  Fun activities were in full swing at school with two half days including a showing of the movie "Elf" and a memorized reading of "The Grinch" play.

On Tuesday, Chris and Jane had the day off of work to travel to Oma and Opa's.  The Michigan winters are typically very cold and right on Lake Michigan, the wind combined with snow and ice makes walking back and forth to the parking lot a bit treacherous.  A half cord of firewood was dropped off and new walking stones were laid next to the back door for ease and safety.  Although Cam was bummed he couldn't make the trek, he is very thankful to be in school.
After school and in the evenings, our entire family worked to fold Christmas cards, add the address labels and postage.  Each of us has a list of people we cannot forget.  The card is a family operation every year.  It is a labor of love and one of our traditions.
Another tradition is the Elf on the Shelf.  Although Cam is aware of some parental involvement, he still laughs hysterically each morning to see where the elf may end up.  On this particular a.m., cousin James and Santa's helper smiled all day being next to one another.

Camology Quotes: 

We typically receive emails from Mary Free Bed Adaptive Sports.  Chris was reading his email to Cam one evening and shared that in the email the following was stated about Laura, Cam's swim instructor:
"Miss Laura is really nice. I just love her and she always cares about me. I like the relaxing pool and she is a great teacher. She is awesome!!" - Adaptive Swim Participant 
  Cam said: "Dad, I said that about Miss Laura!"
Chris was in a bit of disbelief until Jane confirmed that in fact, Cam had asked to send an unsolicited email to Laura's boss.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

First Virtual Conference - Week of Dec 7th

"There is no such thing as an attention span.  There is only the quality of what you are viewing.  The whole idea of an attention span, I think, is a misnomer.  People have an infinite attention span if you are entertaining them."  ~Jerry Seinfeld

As every one of us can attest to, this year of 2020 has been a very different one.  Amidst all of the loss, there have been a few gains.  

Everything that was scheduled to be in person has become a virtual event.  Hosting anything 'not in person' has increased 1000%.   While this has been extremely unfortunate for conference centers, the hospitality industry and others, it has meant that many individuals who may not have been able to attend in person could now attend remotely. 

Chris and his son have been using Home Assistant software on a regular basis.  Home Assistant is a free and open-source home automation software designed to be the central home automation control system for controlling smart home technology.  As an example, the boys set up the lighting in the laundry room to turn on when someone enters.  Cam's bathroom is set up the same way and the list goes on.  As with most software, there are continuous updates.  The boys received information about a live Home Assistant Conference 2020.  You had to register and pay $1.  Cam declared it was worth it.

When the guys logged in, you had a few minutes to introduce yourself "virtually" to others.  Within a short amount of time, Chris and Cam said hello to people in South Africa, Germany, Australia and the U.S.  The agenda was fast-paced with speakers providing live demonstrations and breaks in between.  In total, the event lasted 4.5 hours.  Cam's dad set up the live conference on the main tv so that they both wouldn't need to sit in front of the computer.  Jane could hear her son repeating the following phrase more than once..."Dad, it's starting.  The next speaker is coming on.  Dad, are you listening?"  It turns out that what may be captivating for some, may be a bit too relaxing for others.

Camology Quotes: 

Ms. Amanda asked if she could hang out with her buddy Friday evening for a few hours so Chris and Jane could finish some Christmas shopping.  Cam was super excited.  After a dinner delivery, they were busy making one of their favorite baking treats.
  "We made the brownies and chocolate chip cookie mix.
They both have to go together.  It is too hard to choose."

Sunday, December 6, 2020

You Rock - Week of Nov. 30th

The moments of happiness we enjoy take us by surprise. It is not that we seize them, but that they seize us.  ~Ashley Montagu

True surprises seem far and few between.  The meaning of surprise as "something unexpected" was first recorded in the 1590s, that "feeling of astonishment caused by something unexpected" is circa 1600.  

When Jane received a text message from Coleen at Alternatives in Motion, it seemed a bit cryptic.  She asked if we could bring our son to the AIM building on Wednesday.  Fortunately, Wednesday is a virtual school day for Cam.  After checking Chris and Jane's work schedules, we all decided that 1pm would be our magic time slot.

As we headed over, Cam kept asking why we were going and what it was for.  
When we arrived, Jane went in first to check in with Coleen.  She requested to have Cam come into the building.  Coleen explained to the Youth Ambassador, Mr. Cameron, that one of their longtime partners, Creative Studio, reached out to Coleen after seeing Cam receive the framed award on the Facebook Live event.
This was the correspondence they sent in email: "I noticed a picture for the Youth Ambassador award and talked with Ann (CFO of Creative Studio). After talking we decided he needed a nice award, so we wanted to donate this.😊"
The square is a large magnet and the "You Rock" letters magnetically connect on the left side.  The flame is also magnetic and has the words "You're on fire!"  It's quite obvious that the company name "Creative Studio" certainly shows its creativity.  We were all beyond impressed and thankful.

There are moments when a video message of gratitude captures how much something means possibly even more than the written word.

Camology Quotes: 

At school, Cam had to come up with a Christmas list.  The result made his parents laugh and most likely puzzled his teachers...
  1. Underwear
  2. A new coat
  3. A new pair of shorts
  4. New wrapping paper with toys on it

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Always Thankful - Week of Nov. 23rd

"Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: It must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all." ~William Faulkner 

"Rest and be thankful." ~William Wordsworth 

Every day is like a reset button.  We get to start over.  Regardless of what happened yesterday or last night, it's the opportunity to begin again.  

With the upcoming holiday, our school district opted to cancel classes for Monday and Tuesday, along with the planned closure of Wednesday - Friday for the Thanksgiving holiday.  It meant re-juggling work meetings for Cam's parents, but it also led to more quality time with Cam.  Our son seems to have an uncanny ability to keep his mom and dad on task better than they are able to.

On Wednesday, we were excited to welcome Oma and Opa.  Since we have only visited in person between our two homes the past couple of months, we all concurred we would be safe in each other's company.  Cam's grandparents arrived with a beautiful fruit basket.

We made a home-cooked meal for Wednesday dinner and settled in for the evening.  Cam had a tough time sleeping and woke up extra early on Thursday, anticipating his favorite turkey dinner.

It turns out Cameron loves tradition.  It is a comfort to be grounded in the known entity of something taking place over and over again.  Every Thanksgiving, Cam has been given the task of making homemade stuffing with Opa and homemade pies with Oma.  The stuffing is made with herb roasted breadcrumbs, sautéed celery and onion, along with chicken broth.  First, though, the 'extras' in the turkey cavity are removed prior to adding the delicious mix.  Then a piece of bread is used to keep all of that delicious stuffing inside, along with a few toothpicks.  

While the bird was cooking in the oven, Oma and Cam made some homemade applesauce along with the apple pie filling for the mini pies.  Cam's grandma has always made pie crust from scratch and we can all attest to the fact that you can absolutely taste the difference.  

Speaking of taste, one of Cam's most important jobs is taste-testing.  He is particular about the applesauce not being too sweet and the same holds true for the pies.  With all of the freshly-made dishes, we did manage to support our local store by picking up the deli green bean casserole and sweet potatoes, along with the cherry pie filling.
Following a most delicious feast, we opted to put the miniature pies in for baking after we ate to give our bellies a bit of a rest.  The early dinner and dessert was topped off by watching the "Elf" movie as a family.

On Friday, we had a busy day.  First up was the Christmas tree decorating, led by Jane and her mom.  This was the first year Cam was able to get right up to the tree with his stand-up chair!

Chris and his son dropped off an enormous load of returnable cans and bottles to our local hardware store where they were collecting for veterans.  After that errand, they were off to Alternatives in Motion to donate Cam's old green powerchair along with a manual wheelchair we picked up at the beginning of summer that he's already outgrown.  It was a very successful day topped off with our evening meal from a family favorite, Culver's.

After saying goodbye and sending leftovers home with Oma and Opa, Cam was ready to help with weekend projects.  
Due to our son's project management skillset, he and his mom finished holiday cards and ordered them, along with a few other surprises.  
Cam and his dad finished up some home automation. They added the Christmas tree lights to the Alexa request "Light up the living room" which illuminates the tree and all other lighted elements in the area including the picture frame, scrabble board and family photo sign.

We have so much to be thankful for and Cam's Thanksgiving blessing was truly a sign of current times.  "Thank you for my family, for Oma and Opa and my parents even though there is covid I hope we stay healthy.  And thank you for my turkey! Amen."

Camology Quotes: 
For the last few years, we have opted to purchase a local fresh turkey.  Jane started calling around just a week before Thanksgiving and was coming up short.  Heidi's Farmstand recommended Otto's Turkey Farm in Middleville.  Jane called and discovered they don't take reservations and "have never run out of turkeys, but they've never done this in a pandemic." Cam and Jane drove there on Tuesday morning.  Cam had never been to a turkey farm before which is why he may have asked this critical question while we were driving.
"Mom, we are picking up a dead turkey, right?!"

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Standing Success! - Week of Nov. 16th

Like many of the famous sayings we recite today, the original author of "Patience is a virtue" is hard to pin down. Some date it back to Cato to the Elder in the third or fourth century. Others attribute it to The Canterbury Tales, written during the 14th century.  It’s most commonly believed that the line originated from the poem, Piers Plowman, said to have been written around 1360 by English poet William Langland, about a man in search of faith. One line in the poem states that “patience is a fair virtue.”  Whoever first coined the term also must have realized that it is so difficult to wait for something.

When Cam first picked up his new powerchair, we were all excited about the new standing element.  However, it became abundantly clear that something would need to change in the knee block apparatus - the portion that holds Cam's legs in position for standing.  They were too tight around his knees and it was apparent that it wouldn't work for him.
After a couple of months, we finally gathered as a group this week at Cam's house to test out different knee blocks.  Chris, Jane and their son were equally excited about the fact that Cam could now stand in his own chair.
Not only is this great for stretching, but also added independence.
By putting on his tray, he can help at the kitchen counter and also use his iPad while standing.  As he becomes accustomed to the new knee blocks, his ability to stretch taller will also be an added benefit.

Swimming lessons continue on Wednesday evenings for our teenager at Mary Free Bed.  This week he saw Ms. Jen, the Manager of Guest Services, who surprised him during his session.  
Ms. Jen has been a part of our Halloween Heroes parade every year and also coordinates the annual Christmas party.  There will not be a Santa celebration this December at the hospital so Cam was happy he was able to say hi to Ms. Jen.

We headed northward on Saturday to help Oma and Opa prepare for winter.  It was a bit chilly, but the sun was shining.  We all had a Panera Bread lunch, consisting of soup and sandwiches.  It's funny how good the medley of vegetables, sauce and broth tastes in the fall.  During recent high winds and rain, the beach had all but disappeared.  With calm waters in its place, the sandy beach could be seen once again bringing relief to Cam's grandparents.
We headed back home late in the afternoon as the sun was inching closer to the horizon.  The drive is always filled with different topics of conversation.  We chatted about all the things Cam could take advantage of while being able to stand. 

As Abraham Lincoln said: "Be sure to put your feet in the right place, then stand firm."
We also like this one..."Somebody has to stand when other people are sitting. Somebody has to speak when other people are quiet." 
~Bryan Stevenson 
Camology Quotes: 
At school, the kids had to write about why they are so thankful.  This was Cam's entry...
"Thanksgiving reminds me of all of the things I am thankful for.  I appreciate friends, family, and thanksgiving dinner.  I'm especially thankful for friends because they are helpful to me.  I also appreciate my family because they make dinner for me.  Finally, I'm grateful for Thanksgiving dinner because I love having turkey dinner.  As I enjoy this holiday season, I realize that I have many reasons to be thankful.  My friends, my family and Thanksgiving dinner are very important to me."

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Swimming Serenity - Week of Nov. 9th

 "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them." ~John F. Kennedy

Cam's dad is a veteran, having served four years in the Marine Corps.  Each year in school, it is always discussed and thank you letters are written.  Cam typed his own sentiment shown in the picture.

As our teen continues to grow, it seems his muscles are having trouble keeping up.  Recently, he has told us his lower back is sore and tight.  Fortunately, Mary Free Bed contacted us indicating they had an opening for private swim lessons.  As a bonus, the only instructor he has ever worked with, Ms. Laura, was slated to be his teacher.  

Cam and Ms. Laura haven't seen each for a few years so she was quite surprised by his growth.  Just like a friend you haven't seen in a long time, the two easily settled back into their routine.

The pool at Mary Free Bed is incredibly warm and the weightless, relaxing feeling brings a smile to Cam's face every time.

While at Mary Free Bed, Chris and his son saw one of the Board of Director members from Alternatives in Motion.  When Mr. Mark saw Cam he yelled "Hi Mr. Youth Ambassador!"  

For the seventh consecutive year, we reached out to our professional photographer friends, the Gaupers.  Holly and Ryan of Gauper Photo started out as professional wedding photographers and added family photos as part of their repertoire.  They are always creative and fun and definitely know how to make Cam laugh!

We met at Wildwood Farms in Alto a few weeks ago and our digital downloads arrived this week.  Oma and Opa have joined us for every photo shoot except for the second year.

Even though the adults have added a few more laugh lines and Cam won't stop growing, the pure happiness of being around each other seems always present in these pictures.

One of the funniest parts of that day was seeing the goats and the biggest one in particular certainly took a liking to Cam.  And although he does love all animals, this particular one looked just a bit too hungry and our son definitely kept his distance!

Camology Quotes: 

Cam is always keeping a close eye on the local news activity.  The governor held a press conference announcing new restrictions.  The next morning after Cam boarded the bus, his dad sent the following text message to Cam's teacher and Jane.

"There is a kid on the bus heading your way with about 12.5 million questions about the new orders...I saved them all for you!  Might want to get Mr. Behm (superintendent) on speed dial.  Maybe Mrs. Whitmer too just to be safe.  Good luck!"

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Ambassador Cameron - Week of Nov. 2nd

"Without community service, we would not have a strong quality of life.  It's important to the person who serves as well as the recipient.  It's the way in which we ourselves grow and develop." ~Dorothy Height

Over the years, Cameron has been asked to be interviewed for different organizations, events and activities.  Perhaps it is because he is such a willing participant.  We believe it's due to his winning smile and personality.  Whatever the reason, we are incredibly thankful for the opportunities it has provided Cam.  A few weeks ago, the Director of Alternatives in Motion (AIM) contacted Jane asking if Cam and his mom could be interviewed for their virtual Facebook Live event.  No one was quite sure what to expect since this would be the first time any of us participated in a FB event live streaming.  We arrived a little early since Cam never wants to be late, and met one of our local news reporters, Angeline McCall.  She would be interviewing us and asked a few questions prior.  Coleen, the Director of AIM, had also shared with Ms. McCall that it was Cam's idea to donate our old van to the non-profit organization.  Hugh, the board president, introduced us all and teed up the interview.
Angeline was very easy to talk to and asked us about our history with AIM.  The non-profit provides mobility equipment to those who need it, not as a loan, but for as long as it is needed.  They only request return when it is no longer required for the individual.  Before obtaining clearance to begin the ordering process for power mobility, each individual has to take a "driving test" to be able to ensure the equipment is appropriate.  Over 7 years ago, Cam's physical therapist filled out an application with AIM for a powered wheelchair.  Without that "driver's training" our son was able to take advantage of, we don't know how he could've passed that test to gain approval for his first power wheelchair.  

After the interview was over, Hugh announced that he had a surprise for us all.  He looked at Cam and told him that in honor of his efforts and contribution, AIM was presenting Cam with their very first "Youth Ambassador of the Year" award!  Our son's reaction was a generous shouting of "Wow, that's awesome!"  He did throw in a thank you as well and was pretty blown away by the accommodation.  One of AIM's employees and a physical therapist knows Cam through another therapist.  Kelsey couldn't wait to have her picture taken with the new Youth Ambassador.

The weekend was still full of other activities.
On Saturday, our family headed over to Brody's be Cafe in the afternoon to assist with igloo setup.
Last year, our group put the enclosures together in 20 degree weather.  This November, we enjoyed a balmy 70 degrees!  One of our fellow board members, Mrs. Webb, joined in the fun.  She is Cam's former occupational therapist from his elementary school.

Thankfully, the unseasonably warmer weather continued into Sunday.  Outdoor work ensued with Chris fighting the battle against the falling leaves.

Chris and his son set up the driveway markers to prepare for the upcoming winter snow plowing.
Cam was enlisted to assist with garbage and recycling container drop off at the end of the driveway.

Wearing t-shirts isn't the norm in November while living in Michigan.  It was a welcome surprise to be able to complete outdoor jobs in the mild weather.  As always, Cam keeps his parents on task.  We've started to think what an excellent project manager he could be in the future!

Camology Quotes: 

Cam was truly elated when he was presented with the Youth Ambassador Award.  As everyone continued to congratulate him, he politely said thank you.  When we were leaving the building and headed back to our van, Cam stopped driving and look at us .

"So, what is an Ambassador?"

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Virtual Virtuoso - Week of Oct. 26th

Zoom, used for videotelephony and online chat, was founded in April 2011.  Many would not have imagined how mainstream or popular it would become in 2020.  It is now the norm for remote learning and connecting friends and families around the world.

Due to the continued rise of cases, Cam's middle school and the high school were both restricted to virtual teaching this week.  The schedule became more regimented, which is definitely Cam's preference.  

After breakfast and morning duties, our studious seventh grader checked in at his desk right before 8am every day to see what his assignments were.  After journal typing, his first daily zoom class was Robotics at 8:45a.  After a 30 minute break, zoom #2 with his Language Arts small group began at 10am.  Next up: lunch at 11am, which seems early to most but in the middle school, Cam's group is assigned for their midday meal at 10:45a.  Zoom with choir at 11:15am, then math zoom at 12pm.  And to end the remote school day, zoom #5 included a science lesson from 1:30-2:15.  Each evening after dinner, a round of continued stretching and magical pillow positioning has improved Cam's sleeping dramatically.

On Wednesday in the late afternoon, we were fortunate to be able to carry on an annual tradition with Oma and Opa.  We met the amazing Gauper couple at Wildwood Farms in Alto, just 15 minutes from our home.  They spent 30 minutes taking our pictures in the glorious sunshine surrounded by corn fields, a silo and a few goats.  We are excited to receive the digital results in a few weeks.

Thursday evening, our family decided to figure out a Halloween costume for Cam.  Jane offered up the idea of Cam becoming a real-life Zoom call based on his recent experience.

Thankfully our son loved the idea and Chris began planning it out.  The entire project was completed in just a few hours.  We felt like quite the accomplished team!

Friday after lunch, Cam's teacher and aides stopped over with a treat bag as they did for each of Cam's classmates.

In the afternoon, Chris took his son over to Brody's be Café to model his costume and visit friends who work there.

Saturday was Halloween day.  With 2020 trick or treating looking very different this year, our cousins wanted to surprise Cam.  In the afternoon, they arrived and secretly hooked up a fog machine with lights in our garage and set up individual candy stations.  Cam couldn't believe how spooky his garage looked and he collected treats as he drove around.

Even though the typical events of the Mary Free Bed parade and trick or treating at Chris' company were sidelined this year, you can't take away Cam's smile or the ability for people to bond together to find  different ways to celebrate.

Camology Quotes: 

Cam makes good use of the accessibility features available on his iPad.  He utilizes Siri to ask questions, create meetings and notations.  Sometimes he is understood perfectly by the artificial intelligence, but other times, it falls short.
Cam was signed in through his school for zoom meetings and wanted to disconnect.

"Siri, how do I use you for Zoom?"
Siri's response: "I'm sorry, I cannot resume."