Sunday, September 5, 2021

Community Outreach - Week of Aug. 30th

"Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth." ~Muhammad Ali

"Volunteers don't get paid, not because they're worthless, but because they're priceless." ~Sherry Anderson

When Cameron was born, his parents weren't active volunteers in the community.  Because of Cam, Chris and Jane are now board members and helpers for different events and organizations.  One of the many we support as a family is Lori's Voice.  In their quarterly newsletter, Chris, their newest member of the Board of Directors, is featured on the front page with Cam.  The following is the article (along with pictures) that was posted:
 Life's a Beach: A Michigan beach is a gift enjoyed by many. The above photo says it all, our very own Board member Chris is having a blast with his son in their version of a beach wheelchair. As you may know Lori’s Voice has provided beach wheelchairs at many Lake Michigan parks and continues to add more as people and park management requests. Unfortunately they are not always available, so Chris and Cam, through trial and error, developed their very own – dubbed the “Cam-mobile”. Since not everyone is as creative as these two we continue to provide them for many to enjoy. In addition to the sand and surf some of our kids want to explore the forest or modest hiking trails. Well, we have begun to fill that need as well. Enter the all-terrain power chair. Pictured here, these chairs run on tracks rather than wheels so they are capable of handling a wide variety of surfaces, opening up a whole new world of adventure. Beach wheelchairs and all-terrain chairs give freedom and independence to our kids – a freedom made possible by our Lori’s Voice donors and dedicated volunteers.

It is always difficult to "say goodbye" to summer.  Labor Day weekend hints at the unofficial farewell.  Lake Michigan also seemed to sense the wind down with cooler water and bigger waves.  
It didn't deter us from having a nice time on the beach hanging out and watching the seagulls.  
The water flow appeared to be directly from the west, which is unusual.  
The waves arose to meet each other as the whitecaps greeted the inbound and outbound swells.
We are reminded how invaluable the Cam-mobile is for our son to experience Lake Michigan and the beach.  Now, as a fourteen year old, he is content with sitting and conversing versus the need to be constantly entertained.   A friendly seagull kept us all captivated as it edged closer and backed away over and over again.

On the cottage deck, the winds were strong and cool, but at the water's edge, the sunshine warmed the sand and all of us.  We dined on grilled kabobs, veggies and homemade applesauce as we watched the sun fade slowly towards the horizon.  We are always thankful for the time with family and that Oma and Opa can be on the beach with us too.

Back in Grand Rapids, Cam had a bike ride around the driveway to test out the repairs he and his dad had completed.  The adaptive bike is headed to Cam's school next week where he can ride it outside as well as inside the school gym during the colder months.

Ghandi said "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."  
If you're a fan of Cam, then you're definitely a fan of helping and giving back.  We hope this coming week leads you down both paths.

Camology Quotes:

On Friday, we decided our dinner would be chicken parmesan and pasta. Cam requested his chicken parm and pasta to be placed in a tortilla.  Jane told him she really didn't think this would be a great combination.  Her son replied: "It is good in my book!"

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Hey Hey 8th Grade - Week of Aug. 23rd

"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." ~John Dewey  

"The capacity to learn is a gift; the ability to learn is a skill; the willingness to learn is a choice." ~Brian Herbert

In the blink of an eye, summer is fading away. And just like that, it was the first day of school for Cam on Monday, August 23rd!  

He attends Forest Hills Northern Middle School which is a part of the Forest Hills School District. The Forest Hills Public School District was founded in 1956 when residents in 13 neighboring one-room schoolhouses consolidated into one district. Their goal was to build a high school for their children and provide a quality education to help children be successful. Today, the Forest Hills district has grown to serve over 9,500 students and includes 18 school buildings, a fine arts center, an aquatic building and senior center, and many more buildings to service residents, families, students, and staff. The Forest Hills district is one of the largest geographic districts in Michigan, as it encompasses approximately 68 square miles. 

It was a week of reconnecting for Cam, with teachers and friends.  Since 7th and 8th grade are in the same building, the familiarity was a welcome sight for our 8th grader.

We also had a surprise visit from Ms. Michelle, one of Cam's former caregivers.  These two chatted away like no time had passed even though it's been almost two years since we last saw Michelle.

During the week, we drove up to the cottage to have a family dinner with our Haroldson cousins to see Katie, Tyler and daughter Avery who had flown in from Philadelphia for a few days.  We had a great time, although a short visit since it was a school night for Cam.

The weekend took us northward once again on a picture perfect Saturday.  The waves were 3-5 feet high but the water was very warm.  Cam bounced around in the Cam-mobile in the choppy waters.  Chris and Jane had some quality time swimming too and declared it was the best lake day of the summer.

On Saturday evening, we gathered at the Haroldson cottage to say goodbye to Libby who is headed to nursing school next week.
The scrumptious flank steak dinner was enjoyed by all, especially Cam.  Typically, we always drive back right after eating, but we were thankful for our son's flexibility to stay later.  It is a rarity for us to remain to watch the sunset and it really capped off such a great day.

Sunday was spent catching up on things at home and playing a game we like to call "Where's Stella?"  She blends in so well with her surroundings and unless we hear a meow, it's not so easy to spot her.

It seems Cam handles the transition to waking up early again much better than his parents.  Perhaps the older we are, the more we long for daily naps again.

Camology Quotes:

On Friday, Cam had the opportunity to sleep in since it was a full day off of school  When he slept an hour past his school morning wake-up time, his parents told him it was pretty cool to be able to sleep in.  Cam's response: 

"It is nice to sleep in but I would rather be going to school.  It is awesome!"

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Fantastic @ 14 - Week of Aug. 16th

"Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." ~Albert Einstein

"Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Cam appreciates tradition.  Perhaps because he enjoys routine, an annual event is something he not only looks forward to, but eagerly anticipates.  

On Monday morning, we began the arduous task of packing the van and truck to embark on our week long family vacation to Dorr, Michigan.  Just 30 minutes from our home, the Hungry Horse Campground sits on 90 acres and has 96 sites.  For the sixth consecutive year, we reserved a cabin.  There are only 4 cabins at the campground and the Sedona cabin has a removable metal ramp that the Hungry Horse owners had made just for Cam.  We're certain others have taken advantage of it since its arrival, but the gesture will always hold a very special place in our hearts.

We arrived at 2p on Monday to take advantage of an early check-in.  Auntie Karen was already settled into her Scottsdale cabin since she had unpacked a day before.  The cabins include many home comforts including a refrigerator, sink, bathroom, beds and working a.c.  With the unusually warm weather, the air conditioning was most welcome.

Tuesday was Cam's 14th birthday and our first full day at the campground!  Cam took part in a morning stroll with Auntie Karen and we all headed to the pool right when it opened at 10am.  The definite advantage to being there early is the sparse crowd in the water.  Swimming daily at the campground is one of the highlights for Cam.  He feels weightless in the water and loves to walk with assistance, sit on the raft or hang onto the pool noodle.  

Our evening dinner for Cam's bday was outside cooked on the fire.  He requested "pizza pies" created in pie irons and placed directly on the campfire.  Homemade bread on the outside with your choice of toppings on the inside created a grilled, tasty pizza.  Fresh sweet corn and fruit rounded out our meal with birthday cupcakes sent from Oma for dessert!  Cam opened presents from his parents and Auntie Karen and declared his birthday was awesome!!

The Wednesday evening activity schedule included a hayride on the wagon which takes passengers along the outskirts of the campground.  The tractor speeds up down the hills and it is pretty exciting.

Most afternoons, we would all enjoy some down time, settled in the cooler air of the cabin.  With the new iPad stand Cam received as a bday present from Auntie Leslie, he can sit up better and look straight ahead versus always looking in a downward position.

On a morning field trip, Cam and Auntie Karen embarked on an adventure to find the nearest Starbucks.  What they assumed was a drive-thru ended up being Starbucks in the grocery store.  They had a good laugh over that one.

Each year at Hungry Horse Campground, we've welcomed the opportunity to relax as a family and hang out with Auntie Karen during our stay.  With the two separate cabins, Cam loves his independence of traveling between the vacation homes. Evening campfire dinners followed by tasty s'mores is all part of the experience too. Another bonus is meeting new campers as well.  A couple of years ago, we met Rachel and her dog, Moose.  Now, we look forward to checking back in with them to hear about the year's happenings.  Sitting outside in the evening is a social activity in itself as we regularly chatted with walkers and kids and petting dogs when invited.  Once again, the familiarity and new experiences made for a great week!

Saturday's trek to Oma and Opa's found us at the beach for the afternoon.  The waves were strong and the warm water felt refreshing.  Dinner on the deck overlooking Lake Michigan is always a welcome treat.

We stayed in Grand Rapids on Sunday to attend a work outing with the company Chris works for, Fishbeck.  They had reserved the rooftop deck to watch our minor league baseball team, the West Michigan Whitecaps.  Although it was a steamy day, Cam was a trooper.  Complimentary food and refreshments kept us all hydrated.  

This week kept us smiling, reconnecting with others and each other.  Dr. Brene Brown once said: "I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard and valued; when they give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship."  

Perhaps the best part of vacation is appreciating the time together without the noise of everything else.

Camology Quotes:

Even at the age of 14, Cam still appreciates hugs. He will even request them.  Father and son love to joke around with each other and as Chris was carrying Cam one morning, he asked for a hug to which his dad told him he had already received his quota.  Cam quickly responded: "Hey, I just snuck a backwards hug!  I got one past you."

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Somewhat Surprised - Week of Aug. 9th

During the week, Michigan dealt with very high winds and loud thunderstorms over two consecutive nights.  Although we didn't experience a power outage, neighboring streets did.  Around the corner from us, major damage was found in the form of toppled trees and twisted power lines.   The noisy nights didn't seem to bother Cam as it related to sleeping.  We have noticed over the years, though, that Cam seems to have super sonic hearing at times.  His parents will be talking very quietly in the other room and suddenly he will comment about something they are discussing.  
As August is approaching its mid-month point, we feel the pull of Lake Michigan as we try to soak up every last bit of summer while it's still here.  For both Saturday and Sunday, we made all-day trips to the cottage to see Oma and Opa and our cousins.  The weather continues to be picture-perfect on the weekends allowing us plenty of sunshine and swimming activities.  One sad casualty of the storms during the week was our Haroldson cousin's awesome raft.  The winds gusted to over 60mph and ripped it from its cinder block rope and left a gaping hole.  After multiple attempts at patching over the weekend, it seemed a lost cause.  As Libby commented, "the lake took a good one."  Thanks to the Cam-mobile, our son still had his share of water fun.

As an early birthday treat, the Haroldson family planned a bday luncheon for Cam on Sunday.  We thought it might be fun to surprise him but his keen ear caught on when we were chatting about the upcoming lunch during Saturday's beach day.  Instead of being surprised just on Sunday, he kept guessing about what was to come.  A delicious spread of burgers and hot dogs, homemade pasta salad, fresh fruit, pickles and all sorts of chips and dips were served consisting of Cam's favorites.  And for birthday dessert, an array of chocolate cupcakes topped with Reese's peanut butter cups made for a very tasty treat.  The Haroldson fam gave their cousin a very cool Grand Rapids Officer 2021 sweatshirt with "Cam" emblazoned on the back.  And family friends Molly and Jude presented the almost 14-year- old with a Himalaya salt lamp.  
Oma and Opa rounded out the birthday giving with a new swimsuit, shirt, an astronomy book and the game of Qwirkle. It seems Cam has always been surrounded by love and as each year passes, he continues to physically grow, but also mentally.  Thoughtfulness and empathy seem to remain at the forefront of his characteristics and for this, his parents are very thankful!
Camology Quotes:
When we are together as a family with Oma and Opa, Cam likes to say the blessing before eating dinner.  On Saturday, he announced this unique one. "I pray that everyone will have a good time with my surprise tomorrow and that it will be fun for everybody!"

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Lifelong Friends - Week of August 2nd

“Friends are those rare people who ask how we are and then wait to hear the answer.” ~ Ed Cunningham 
"Life is partly what we make it, and partly what it is made by the friends we choose.” ~Tennessee Williams

It's funny what a small world it really is.  We marvel at the way friendships form, the connections we make and the strength of their longevity.  It was a week filled with friends who truly feel like family.

Ms. Mary is Ms. Amanda's mother-in-law.  A while back, Ms. Amanda brought over a few pieces of the most delicious homemade chocolate peanut butter cake we had ever tasted.  Amanda wanted to make the cake as an early surprise for Cam's birthday coming up.  Mary indicated it is a secret recipe so she baked it and surprised us all on Wednesday.  The crushed Reese's peanut butter cups on top make it extra tasty, according to Cam. 

On Friday afternoon, Auntie Leslie and Wes arrived to stay with us for the weekend.  They drove from North Carolina and Wes had never been to the Great Lake state.  Leslie is Jane's first friend from the 4th grade and the two reconnected many years ago.  She couldn't believe how much Cam had grown since she hadn't seen him for two years.
Saturday's lunch was at the GR Downtown Market where we all enjoyed lake perch and fries.  

In the late afternoon, Chris, Jane and Cam were off to Anna's wedding while Leslie and Wes explored Grand Rapids.  
Cam & Anna
Anna was only four years old when Cam's parents moved in across the street from their family.  Cam wasn't even born yet.  We have watched Anna over the years experience joys and pain, all the while keeping her faith and positive attitude.  When she introduced us to Spencer, we all immediately felt a connection and could see why Anna was falling in love.   
One of the most poignant parts of the wedding day for all of us was the sisters giving a speech for Anna and Spencer.  Each of them had a portion to say and it was heartfelt and heartwarming and funny.  These four sisters have always been close even though there is a span of 8 years between oldest and youngest.  In many ways, they have been like Cam's siblings too.  It was a beautiful day to witness one of Cam's lifelong friends begin a new chapter.

Sunday was our day for playing in Lake Michigan.  We arrived at the cottage in time to have a tasty salad and fruit on the deck for lunch.  Leslie grew up near the big lake and for Wes, it was better than the ocean.  It was too rough to be on the floating raft, but the water was a nice temp for swimming.  The remainder of the day was spent on the beach, playing in the waves and hanging out with cousins.  At dinnertime, we built a small fire by the water's edge and roasted hot dogs followed by scrumptious s'mores for dessert.  Cam said he felt badly that his youngest cousin, Calla, couldn't try the gooey marshmallow and melting chocolate mashed in between the graham crackers.  At just over one month, it will be awhile yet.  We headed back to Grand Rapids later that evening with full bellies and even fuller hearts after a weekend filled with such sweet goodness.

Camology Quotes:

Cam's dad has a great sense of humor and is often joking with his son. At bedtime one evening Chris played a joke on his son and Cam had the following remark: "Oh, you are a very clever adult, you are.  Clever, clever Daddio."

Sunday, August 1, 2021

A Home Run Weekend - Week of July 26th

Home runs existed before outfield fences did. A player simply ran around the bases before the ball could be thrown home. Home runs became more special, though, when walls were built around ballfields in the late 1800s. (Historians can't pinpoint the date, as photos of ballparks then are scarce.) The fences were not to keep baseballs in, but to keep nonpaying spectators out. The National League was formed in 1876. That year, Ross Barnes of the Chicago White Stockings slugged the first big-league homer. Only 40 home runs total were hit in the 260 pro games played that year. (Part of the problem was that in parks with shallow fences, a baseball hit fair over a shallow fence was ruled a double.)
It was a weekend filled with literal home runs on the field and off...

Friday early evening held a big surprise for Cam.  It had been two years since he had seen Auntie Roe.  Ronda lived with us over the course of a few years when Cam was younger and he frequently asks how she and her husband, Mike are doing.  Ronda celebrated a "big" birthday in July and it seemed appropriate to set up a get-together.  Through some last-minute secret planning, Ronda's husband didn't tell her they were driving to our house for dinner and we told Cam we were having friends over he may not remember.
The laughter and hugs didn't stop for quite awhile.  We had a great visit and upon our goodbyes, promised we would all make an effort to gather together more often.

Saturday morning we collected our materials for a couple of quick cottage projects.  A new mailbox was installed for Oma and Opa as well as a stable pole for the internet dish.  It was a quick stay at the lake and then we were off to the Annual Cousin Baseball game in Whitehall.  Cam's older cousin, Harper, is a great baseball player and showed off his home run skills at the ballpark. Harper's dad, cousin Dirk also hit a homer.  Cam rounded the bases a few times.  With a combination of young and older, it was a stellar

game for everyone. 
Thanks to cousin Coco calling ahead to Old Channel Inn, we were able to bring Cam into the restaurant via their portable ramp at the back door.  He was routed through the secret kitchen entrance.  We had all worked up an appetite and our growing son downed 4 perch and french fries, along with some tasty appetizers we all shared.  Cam's youngest cousin, baby Calla, was a total trooper hanging out with everyone all afternoon and evening.

Sunday was yet another day to look forward to as we prepared for our trip to Stony Lake, just north of the cottage.  Our Stony Lake crew dates back to before Cam's mom was born.  Jane's parents were good friends with the Huey family and Jane was a nanny for the grandkids during her teen years.  Now, the kids she babysat have their own kids.  We met Oma and Opa there and shared a delicious brunch.  Cam was given some early birthday presents and then we had homemade apple pie, compliments of Oma.
In the afternoon, we all made it into the boat and enjoyed a leisurely trip around the entire lake, hearing about its history and recent events.  Stony Lake is 278 acres in size and about 43 feet at its deepest point.  The warm breeze was the perfect compliment to the day.
We packed a lot into the weekend and upon arrival home Sunday night, agreed that even though we were on the go, it was so awesome to reconnect with so many.

Camology Quotes:

As we were headed to a different baseball field for the annual cousin game, there was no "address" provided, only directions.  Cam is very accustomed to using the GPS on our phones for all navigation. His response to our predicament was probably comparable to most other young teens. "What do you mean there is no address?  That is crazy!  How will it tell us to get there?"