Sunday, June 28, 2020

Jamming Cam - Week of June 22nd

"It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving." ~Mother Teresa
"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." ~Winston S. Churchill

Many have asked us over the years why we don't have a dog.  Perhaps because Stella, our cat, seemed to make her claim as Cam's protector soon after we brought him home from the hospital.  She still follows him around and has complete trust that he will not run her over with his power wheelchair.
Cam is definitely a dog magnet of sorts, though.  Ms. Amanda was pet-sitting this week and her trusty sidekick, Cam, was happy to help her out with check-ins.  Roxie, the boxer, and Cam were introduced a few years ago.  Roxie loves jumping into the van and saddling up right next to her buddy.  Lola is Roxie's new sister and eagerly hopped in as well to meet the new guy.

We always await Michigan's strawberry season with eager anticipation.  It's one of the most popular fruits of the summer and has quite an interesting history.
Today’s cultivated strawberries came from an accidental cross between two wild strawberry varieties in France around the 1700s. In Ancient Rome, wild strawberries were seen as more than just a simple snack, but as a symbol for the goddess of love, Venus, due to its heart shape and red color. Medieval stonemasons would actually carve strawberries into their altars and pillars of cathedrals to symbolize “perfection and righteousness.” One of the oldest varieties of strawberries in France was known as “la princesse royale” or royal princess. The symbolism of strawberries is almost as sweet as their taste.

We reserved a flat at our favorite Heidi's Farmstand and came back with 8 quarts of the hand-picked red berries.  Now that we've made the jam for a few years, we have a solid process in place.  We used over 10 pounds of sugar, 9 packs of sure-jel and 48 containers to finish our freezer jam.  And if you pay us a surprise visit, you'll be taking home a container for yourself!

Once in awhile, an opportunity comes along that was just meant to be.
Alternatives in Motion is a non-profit organization whose mission is "To enhance independence through access to mobility equipment." Their vision is to be the central hub in West Michigan for recycling, distributing, and maintaining mobility equipment for those in need. They believe that access to mobility equipment is the path to independence. They respect and appreciate each person’s unique abilities and contributions.  Alternatives in Motion serves persons with disabilities and bring together people, ideas and resources to break down barriers to sustain a healthy community.
This organization was responsible for providing Cam with his first power wheelchair to practice with.  The wheelchair was free of charge and we still use it as a spare when needed.
This week we "gifted" our old handicap-accessible van to Alternatives in Motion.  They are so excited to have another vehicle to use for transporting people and delivering equipment to others in our community.  Cam met one of the board members, Matt, while we were there.   The old Dodge Caravan fulfilled our transportation needs for more than 6 years.  It was our first accessible vehicle.  When we asked Cam if he would miss it, his response was one we were all in agreement with.  "I will not miss that old van.  I like our newer one better because I can hear you when you are talking in it!"

Camology Quotes:
Even though school is on summer break, Cam can still send video messages to his teachers through an app they use.  Each and every video contains almost the exact same sign-off from our son. 
"I hope you have a great day!  Peace out!"

Sunday, June 21, 2020

My Hero, My Dad - Week of June 15th

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.” ~Umberto Eco

“Every father should remember one day his son will follow his example, not his advice.” ~Charles Kettering

With virtual school officially over, Cam still maintains his daily routine of walking and homework in the morning.
Ms. Amanda hangs out with Cam each day and if the weather cooperates, they usually head out on a two-mile trek every morning.
As a nature and science fan, a hike through the woods can always provide a bit of excitement.  This friendly creature took a liking to Cam.

People are recognized for their accomplishments in different ways- an accolade, award, formal speech or some other verbose distinction.
There isn't a high enough honor in the universe that could be bestowed on Chris for his role as a father to his son.  His amazing skill set continues to expand as noted by every accessible ramp, tray, mobile beach chair and Halloween costume he has created for his boy.
The father and son team have filled our home with an illuminated digital picture frame in motion, the lighted wall scrabble board and countless projects.
But here's the difference between Cam's dad and others... he expects no recognition and is very humble about his talents.  Many have told him he could sell his ideas but he prefers to share the details online for others to make.  He loves unconditionally and celebrates his boy in every way.
For Father's Day, Jane and Cam headed to Chris' favorite breakfast spot, Sundance Grill, to pick up takeout to surprise him.  His biggest shock, though, was that Cam waited to eat his morning meal until we returned home at 8:30a, a true record for our son.
Chris and Cam opened matching shirts adorned with "Weatherford Wood Shop, Hand-Crafted, Custom-Made" so they now have garage uniforms while they work together.
We salute fathers everywhere and we certainly feel that Chris far exceeds his role.  The definition of a hero is a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.  To Cam, the word "hero" simply means his dad.

Camology Quotes:
On Sunday, Cam was anticipating being able to wish Chris a Happy Father's Day. 
""Happy Dad Day! You are awesome, Dad. Are you honored?"

Sunday, June 14, 2020

My New Wheels - Week of June 8th

“Abled does not mean enabled. Disabled does not mean less abled.” ~Khang Kijarro Nguyen
"My disability exists not because I use a wheelchair, but because the broader environment isn't accessible." ~Stella Young 
Cam is very inquisitive and realistic.  He has been asking his parents lately why he has to use a wheelchair.  We tell him that his muscles don't work the same way as others and we talk about what his cerebral palsy diagnosis means.  His response is not one of sorrow or depression.  He accepts the fact that he is different, but we always also talk about the things he can do that no one else can.  He teaches others not to make assumptions about what abilities a person has.

When we arrived at Mary Free Bed Orthotics to pick up Cam's new power wheelchair this week, we were anticipating his reaction.  It was quite a bit of  time adjusting and working things out, but after two hours, we were on our way back home.  Cam declared, "I love my new chair!" 

This is his second power wheelchair and although both are by the same manufacturer, the functionality is quite different.  The new Permobil F5 has advanced controls, including an app controlled by bluetooth connection.  Cam was quite pleased with this upgrade as you can imagine.  He controls the sit to stand ability on his own and when in standing mode, he is eye level with Jane.
There is an adjustment period as Cam re-learns how much area he needs for turning and maneuvering.  We equate it to someone driving a car and then buying a truck as their new vehicle.  Everything is just a little bit different.
It was a celebration kind of week as Chris and Cam gave Jane the ultimate surprise for her birthday.  It can only be described as a larger-than-life illuminated Scrabble board representing our family.  The boys really outdid themselves by using the CNC machine to cut out each "letter" individually, sanding and painting the pieces, then they glued the entire board together, added lights and painted the outline on the wall in white so the lighting would really pop.  Of course, the lighting can be changed via an app that anyone in the household can control!
As a family, we headed out to the hot tub on the weekend at Cam's request.  Although it was warm outside, it was later in the day with a cool breeze and the water felt refreshing.  Cam likes to practice kicking his legs to increase movement.  Just like all of us, he absolutely enjoys the relaxation aspect.

At the end of the weekend, we were all pretty beat from all of the activity and excitement.  Not only did Cam receive new wheels, but our family was awaiting the arrival of our new 'used' van used to transport Cam and his powerchair.
As we looked out the window Sunday evening, we noticed some friendly wildlife was taking a much needed break as well.

Camology Quotes:
Humor, smiles and laughter are a daily requirement in our household.
Cam has become keenly aware of his dad's jokes and sarcasm.  At dinner one evening, Chris indicated that dinner was 'explanariousfantabulouishness babelbomtagerment' and his son had the perfect response.
For 1, I do not even know what that word is and 
For 2, I do not think it is a word!"

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Sixth Grade Graduate - Week of June 1st

"It is time to say goodbye, but I think goodbyes are sad and I will rather say hello. Hello to a new adventure."  ~Ernie Harwell

This week, as Cam's 6th grade school year came to an end, we talked about how the entire world had experienced more changes and adjustments in the past few months than most people experience in a lifetime.  The Forest Hills Northern Trails 5/6 school created a send off video for those heading into 7th grade this fall.
Class of 2026 - 6th Grade Sendoff Video
There is typically an all-school assembly to honor and recognize the sixth graders.  This year it was broadcast as a live Facebook event.
Instead of just one sixth grade boy and girl, by unanimous vote, the entire 6th grade "Class of 2026" has received the Mr. Craig Mears Award for demonstrating acceptance for one another, accepting personal responsibility for learning and putting forward their best efforts.  In the live event, the principal showed that there was a picture of every student taped to a chair so it felt like they were all there together.  One final official zoom call with Cam's small school group included a fun game of holding up the "person" in answer to different questions about the school year.  The pics of classmates on popsicle sticks were supplied by Cam's awesome teacher, Ms. Konkle.
With restrictions beginning to lift in the state of Michigan, we happily welcomed back Ms. Amanda to our daily routine! We are so thankful for her commitment and friendship.
Cam is super excited to be able to go on walks during the day, continue his homework and try out some new recipes while his parents endure their "boring" work days.

Over the weekend, it was work and then play.  Our family can get pretty creative when it comes to finding ways for Cam to help out.  Each and every Saturday after he has breakfast and completed his morning routine, Cam announces "It is time for helping! What is our first project?"
Cleaning the floors is an excellent job for someone with a good driving record.  We were excited to finish our chores because we had been invited to 'Aunt' Carol and 'Uncle' Jim's house.
Carol and Jim are Ms. Amanda's aunt and uncle and we've known them since before Cam was born.  Jim owns a building company and they have the only truly accessible home we have ever been in.  The doorways are incredibly wide without any thresholds.  Straight through the garage is the backyard area with the nicest fresh saltwater pool we have ever been in.  The abundance of different rafts to choose from and water squirt guns made for a very entertaining afternoon.  Uncle Jim even created a raft shield for Cam as the water wars ensued.  We thought we would only stay for a couple of hours.  Four hours later, we were headed home after a most relaxing time.  The water is one of the best therapies for Cam's muscles and because he is seemingly weightless in the pool, it is a huge advantage for his parents!

Camology Quotes:
Now that Cam is approaching his teen years, he has become very interested in what constitutes a "bad word" if he hears it on tv or from someone else.  He always asks what a word means so he can use it again in context.  We try to be cautious about what is appropriate as it relates to language.
Some phrases, though, we truly have no idea where he has heard them before.

"Mom, is 'dang tootin' a bad word?"
"Well, it is isn't the best phase to use unless you're in a western movie."