Sunday, December 25, 2022

A Very, Very White Christmas - Week of Dec. 19th

"A balanced diet is a Christmas cookie in each hand."

The First Christmas Cookies 
Those who would like to take credit for the invention of the Christmas cookie will have to arm wrestle the Germans for it. They believe that Weihnachtspl├Ątzchen, a term that refers specifically to cookies and broadly to holiday treats, encompasses the origin of Christmas baking. The tradition goes back to the monasteries of the middle ages where monks had access to sugar and the spices we now associate with Christmas cookies: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and cardamom. It’s interesting that the word “cookie” comes from the Dutch word “koeptje” because the Dutch brought the first Christmas cookies to the new world in the 1600s. Four hundred years later we live in a country that can’t imagine Christmas without cookies. In fact, cookies may have become popular at this time of year because, unlike pies and cakes, they can be stored for longer periods of time. Before refrigeration, it was possible for cookies to be baked in advance and kept on hand for visitors or given away as gifts. 

Modern Christmas Cookies 
In the average American household at the beginning of the 20th century, sugar was a luxury, iceboxes were used to keep food cold, and cooking was done on coal or wood stoves. As the gas range was introduced, cookies became more sophisticated because temperatures could be precisely maintained. Refrigeration allowed for the use of chilled doughs. When the Great Depression of the 1930s ended, buttery, sugary cookies took America by storm.

In preparation for the Christmas holiday, our cousins made their way to Grand Rapids on Wednesday for some holiday baking. Coco, Libby and Coco's kids Calla and baby Arthur arrived in the afternoon.  Amanda was hanging out with Cam and ready to join in.  This was the first time Cameron met his newest cousin, Arthur.  He is very excited to have a fellow boy cousin.  After frosting sugar cookies, dipping oreos in chocolate topped with andes mints, and baking peanut butter thumbprints with hershey kisses, we declared our afternoon a success!
Everyone in our Grand Rapids area and along the surrounding lakeshore kicked their activities into high gear with a confirmed blizzard warning beginning Thursday at 4pm and lasting through Christmas Eve/Saturday at 7pm.  
We were relieved to welcome Oma and Opa early in the afternoon on Thursday.
The snow machine began and didn't show any signs of stopping.
Chris went outside to snowplow twice daily.  A barely visible owl appeared in our treeline.

Our activities for both Friday and Saturday consisted of staying inside, gathering a few presents, cooking and choosing movies to watch.  Our theatrical list included the sequel to A Christmas Story entitled "A Christmas Story Christmas" as well as National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and Noelle, a Disney movie.  Our dinner menus were comprised of salmon, flank steak and honeybaked ham.
Cam was acutely aware of the tasks needing to be accomplished on Christmas Eve- stockings to be hung, any presents still needing placement and a couple of surprises he had worked on with both of his parents individually.  He provided ongoing reminders throughout the day.

Cameron, as a 15-year-old, enjoys sleeping in on weekends and during school breaks.  Christmas morning was no exception.  Chris and Jane, along with their son, weren't awake until 8am.  Oma and Opa soon followed.  As we leisurely took our time with stockings and presents, it was joyful but serene.  The personalized gifts and experiences given were favorites.  The afternoon and evening was relaxing as we talked about the morning activities.  We all found ourselves in the living room enjoying a show.  Well, some of us (namely Opa) may have been so relaxed that the time incorporated a nap.  Even though the weather outside was truly frightful, inside our home was indeed delightful!

Camology Quotes:

As our teenager continues to figure out life, he came upon an important life lesson.  Prior to Christmas, Cam was very happy creating a personalized water cup for his mom with Chris ("Love My Mom" inscribed) and choosing an experience for his dad with Jane (Muskegon Luge lesson).  During the day on Christmas Eve, Cam said to his mom.

"I'm so excited for you and dad to open your presents.  I think I like giving more than receiving!"

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Rolling into Break - Week of Dec. 12th

"I like to compare the holiday season with the way a child listens to a favorite story. The pleasure is in the familiar way the story begins, the anticipation of familiar turns it takes, the familiar moments of suspense, and the familiar climax and ending." ~Fred Rogers

This week seems to bring on the phrase "fast forward" as we realize it is only two weeks before Christmas. Cam was scheduled for three half days on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday for school.

On Tuesday, Jane received a message we'd all been anticipating- we would soon be welcoming another cousin into the world.  Our new cousin, Arthur, was born Wednesday morning and we were all super excited!

Friday evening, Jane & Chris went out to dinner while Amanda and Cam hung out together and enjoyed Culver's delicious meals and the customary dessert of ice cream custard.

As we worked to finish Christmas projects, Saturday was filled with activity.  Cam assisted both of his parents independently, keeping each of them on task. Chris and his son made chocolate covered cherries and pretzels for Chris to bring into work for a holiday luncheon. Cam helped his mom with packages to mail out to Arizona, California and the east coast.

On Sunday, we planned a trip to see Oma and Opa in Grand Haven. The decorations at Rosy Mound were so festive and they wanted us to enjoy them as well.  Cam still loves making the trip knowing that he'll be able to see them and also push every door button for entry and exit.

Oma had completed quite a bit of Christmas cookie baking so of course, everyone sampled.  We brought Cam's grandparents an early gift of an Amazon fire stick so that Chris and Cam could configure it for Oma and Opa to watch the Disney + programming.

It was easy to say goodbye this time knowing that Jane's parents are headed to Grand Rapids a few days prior to Christmas.  We were also entrusted to transport the delectable holiday cookies back to our home.  Oma appeared a bit nervous and Opa a bit sad that he wouldn't be able to sneak any more cookies for a few days.  Jane promptly put them away upon arrival as they await our family gathering. Let the willpower begin!

Camology Quotes:

On Friday evening, Chris was teasing Cam as he was getting ready for bed indicating he was certain his son had saved him some delicious frozen custard from his dessert.  Without missing a beat, Cam responded with:

"Have fun checking the freezer, Dad!"

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Picturing the Story - Week of Dec. 5th

“Every picture tells a story. But sometimes it's hard to know what story is actually being told.” ~Anastasia Hollings

Without pictures, you would simply being reading words instead of seeing visuals in Cameron's blog. Steven Sasson invented the self-contained digital camera at Kodak in 1975. It weighed 8 pounds and had only 100 × 100 resolution (0.01 megapixels). The image was recorded onto a cassette tape and this process took 23 seconds. His camera took images in black-and-white and was the size of a toaster!

We recently found a picture dated 1903 of Jane's great grandmother sitting in a loveseat that was made by Jane's great great grandfather.  The loveseat is more than 120 years old!  It's been recovered and is now a favorite perch for our cat, Stella.  The original photo was scanned, uploaded to Walgreens and made into a canvas print where it is now displayed.

This week we received our Christmas cards from Shutterfly and went to work sorting, stuffing and addressing.  It is a family tradition with an assembly line concept.  
Each year, we have a mini photo shoot to use the pics in our cards. The Gaupers have taken our family pictures since 2014 and we always marvel at their ability to capture their subjects so well.  A sampling shown here is just a fraction of what they send with the release rights in addition to web size and full resolution, all digitally.

On Saturday, Chris and Jane were scheduled for two holiday parties and Ms. Ann had committed her afternoon and evening to hang out with Cam.  
In the morning, Chris and son made two loaves of homemade bread in preparation for the afternoon gathering for the Lori's Voice board of directors holiday party.  Taste-testing followed and it was approved.

After Cam's parents left the late luncheon, they picked up dinner for Cam and Ann and arrived home before 5:30p.  

Following a quick wardrobe change, they were off again for the Fishbeck holiday party. Since Chris is the IT Director, the expectation was an on-time arrival and a later stay.
While the couple had a great time chatting with everyone and eating dinner, Cam and Ann watched the Beethoven dog movies and ranked them accordingly.

Sunday, we headed northward to bring lunch to Coco, Max and Calla.  It was a chilly day but toasty warm inside looking out at Lake Michigan.  We gifted our cousins the same new ornament we added to our own tree this year.  In honor of the University of Michigan Wolverines winning the Big 10 championship and headed to the Fiesta Bowl and hopefully, the National Championship, the handmade decoration seems very fitting. Go Blue!

Camology Quotes:

In Cam's class at school, they were creating positive messages about their families and each other.  One of his classmates provided the following message: "You are great at not running us over" which made us all chuckle.  Cam wrote the following about his parents:

"Dad, you are nice!" and "Mom, you are kind and helpful."

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Parading Around - Week of Nov. 28th

“Cats are unpredictable as they don't know what they're going to do next until they make it happen through nosiness, invention, acrobatics, and sheer force of will.” ~Stewart Stafford

Cam loves watching our cat, Stella.  They seem to have their own way of communicating.  The "adult kitty" as Cam sometimes refers to her, fully understands that if she wants something she should meow (incessantly) to our son which in turns leads him to ask/pester us until she is satisfied.  Stella also thoroughly enjoys the Christmas tree and being camouflaged underneath it.

On Wednesday, Chris and Jane were invited to attend the Adaptive Art Open House at the high school.  The principal, students and teachers were all in attendance.  Cam talked about his artwork and we especially liked his head vision pictures.

Thursday, Dec. 1st was Oma's birthday!  We had planned to meet Cam's grandparents at the Olive Garden restaurant in Fruitport to celebrate.  When we arrived, we were surprised to see the parking lot full at 5:15p.  Our scrumptious dinner was topped off by a free dessert for Oma.  She chose tiramisu and shared with us all.  It was Cam's first taste of the Italian classic and he really liked it.  He did ask about the taste of coffee and if it would keep him awake on a school night.  We won't disclose Cam's grandma's age, but we will say she seems ageless to us.

Friday evening, Ms. Amanda hung out with her buddy Cam while Chris and Jane enjoyed a date night at a retro arcade.  
Saturday morning was a chilly one with temperatures in the high 20's.  The brisk wind made it feel even colder.  We were expected to be a part of the Ada Village Santa Parade scheduled to commence at 11am.  Cam and his parents were lined up, holding the Brody's be Cafe spot at 10:15am.  The parade is always exciting, being a part of the festivities right in the middle of it all.  Jane and her son stopped off at the cafe to wait for Chris and thaw out a bit with some hot drinks.

Sunday afternoon, we made plans to meet up with Coco, Max and Calla at FMG. Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is a 158-acre botanical garden, art museum, and outdoor sculpture park located in Grand Rapids.  The Christmas Around the World exhibit features 46 trees and displays representing countries and cultures from across the globe. In addition to the trees, the botanical area is filled with fresh poinsettias, evergreens and amaryllis. Volunteers help decorate the trees and set up displays, including 350,000 lights inside and outside the park.  After viewing each and every display, we were all impressed and picked out our favorites.  Upon exiting, we headed to Buffalo Wild Wings for some tasty food.

As we relaxed at home that evening, Cam's dad was feeling quite tired.  He was so exhausted, in fact, that he decided to hitch a ride on the back of his son's powerchair! 

Camology Quotes:

Ms. Ann works with Cam daily as his tutor.  One of the writing assignments was to think of a food that you enjoy that some people may not have tried.  Write a persuasive paragraph in which you convince readers to try the food you have chosen.  The following was Cameron's entry:

"Fish is really delicious.  They have breaded fish, fried fish, or baked fish.  I like breaded fish the best.  I like to order perch or cod.  You can dip it in tartar sauce or ranch dressing.  The fish tastes mild.  You should try it!"

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Lots of Giving - Week of Nov. 21st

"Always give without remembering and always receive without forgetting." ~Brian Tracy                                                                                           
"It is not happy people who are thankful.  It is thankful people who are happy." ~Unknown

Friendsgiving is known as a Thanksgiving celebration with one's friends. In Cam's homeroom at Northern High School, experiencing Friendsgiving is a tradition.  Monday's lunch for Cameron was a literal feast.  Everyone contributed and Cam's teacher even sent Jane an email indicating how delicious his mashed potatoes were.

Tuesday was Cam's last day of school for the week and the sunrise was most spectacular.  An afternoon substitute bus driver misunderstood Cam's request to pull up close to the driveway.  Instead, he drove our high schooler all of the way up his driveway to drop him off.  Now that's front door service!

We welcomed Oma and Opa on Wednesday afternoon and with all of the upcoming prep work for turkey day, the family opted for a Culver's dinner that evening.

Thursday morning, we got to work straight away.  Max provided our fresh organic bird earlier in the week, which he raised and 'prepped' for the big day.  Cam and Opa busied themselves with the stuffing preparation.  Oma brought her homemade cranberry relish.  After Chris carried the ~27lb bird to the oven, we all took a break.  Next up was peeling and cutting potatoes, preparing the sweet potato casserole and green beans.  Everything was in progress when Coco, Max and Calla arrived with homemade carrot soup, our first course in the upcoming meal.  We enjoyed light appetizers as all of the items baked away.

Thanksgiving for our family is a reminder of everything we are thankful for.  At the top of this list is each other.  As we gathered around the table for our literal feast, we were all marveling at the spread.  We talked about our own traditions and favorite parts of the meal.  Coco, Max and Calla were the perfect addition to our day.  Dessert, which we had to eat well after dinner, consisted of homemade apple turnovers and peanut butter bars topped with chocolate.  Everyone enjoyed ice cream to round out the options.  We bid farewell to Coco, Max and Calla and then gravitated to the living room where we watched a Disney movie, "The Pacifier."

Friday was relaxing as we tackled some indoor projects, included finishing the Christmas tree decorations.  We did enjoy turkey day leftovers and watched another Disney movie, "Freaky Friday" which was apropos.  Oma's Christmas cards were completed and ordered and we knocked another item off the list.  Jane was also happy to be wearing a holiday sweater that Oma had given to her own mother.  After all of these years, it is still in great condition and very festive.

Oma and Opa packed up Saturday morning to head back to Grand Haven.  We thanked them for all of their help and company.  

The Raisch family arrived in time for the kickoff of the big rival football game, University of Michigan vs. Ohio State.  The game took a major turn in Michigan's favor in the second half.  The final score was 45-23 and although the game didn't turn out in our friends' favor, everyone maintained their sportsmanlike conduct.

That evening, Cam's parents told him they wanted to go out to dinner to celebrate U of M winning the game!  A new Mexican restaurant, El Centenario, was now open so we opted to support local.  The meal was delicious for each of us and we're happy to have another option close by.

As we continue to partake in our leftovers, we hope each of you enjoyed your own celebrations and know that our thankfulness includes you too!

Camology Quotes:

After our authentic meal on Saturday, Cam shared a very helpful suggestion with his tutor, Ms. Ann.  One of her grandchildren is named Bexley.

"Ms. Ann, Bexley should go to El Centenario since he is learning Spanish.  He could speak it there and order his dinner in Spanish!"

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Here Comes The...Snow - Week of Nov. 14th

 "There's nothing like that first snow.  Soft as a cat scruff and bleach white, so bright you can almost see your reflection in it." ~John David Anderson

Growing up in Michigan, Cameron knows the weather can change quickly.  We often talk about how local meteorologists anticipate the first big weather event of the season.  The excitement kept growing as did the expected totals of snowfall in Grand Rapids.  By mid-week, it looked as if the forecast may actually come to fruition.

Wednesday at school, Cam and his best bud Brody were fortunate to see their good friend, Mrs. Festian.  She was at the high school to see the dress rehearsal of the high school production, Shrek.

By the time school was finished on Thursday, the snow began to fall more quickly and with more purpose.  As we watched the local news that evening, schools were already closing.  A little after 11pm, Forest Hills Northern joined the others for Friday's snow day.  

Chris made it to work Friday morning, but was home by lunchtime.  For his first official snow day of November, Cam helped his mom make Oma's turkey tetrazzini recipe and we continued to see the white stuff drop from the sky.  That evening we watched the movie "Unaccompanied Minors" centered around a group of teenagers stuck in an airport on Christmas Eve due to a snowstorm... how ironic!  Cam loved all of the shenanigans and we enjoyed a good laugh.

Saturday's haircut for Cameron had to be rescheduled as the outdoor snow globe persisted in our local area.  It was impressive to witness layer after layer continue to climb.  The lawnmower Chris and his son converted into the snowblower saw plenty of action as Cam's dad cleared our driveway a few times.  The guys cooked up their famous homemade chili in the afternoon and we made cornbread to accompany the chili for dinner.  Being stuck at home was made better by choosing another movie that evening.  Cam had wanted to see "Gigi and Nate" when it arrived at theaters in September.  Since we hadn't seen it on the big screen, we found it for rental on a streaming service.  The flick is based on the true story of a quadriplegic and a capuchin monkey.  It was the first movie Cam had ever seen that depicted someone in a powerchair and using a ceiling track.  He couldn't believe it!  Throughout the viewing, Cam commented about similarities and differences.  Our conversations continued long after the movie ended.

Sunday morning, we busied ourselves peeling almost 20 potatoes, chopping them up and boiling them. Cam had signed up to make mashed potatoes for his class Friendsgiving, scheduled for Monday.

Grand Rapids/Montague: Sunday

After lunch, the snow had stopped falling and we decided our cabin fever had come to an end.  We drove to Montague and oddly enough, our 10 inches of snowfall in Grand Rapids amounted to less than 2 inches at the lakeshore.  The clear roads were welcome and after we gathered a few things at our cottage, we settled in at the Haroldsons.  Our turkey tetrazzini made the trip and our early dinner was accompanied by fresh fruit, warm bread and a salad.  Coco made the most delicious homemade peanut butter bars we had ever tasted.  The shining sun made for an impressive sunset.

We settled back into the van for our trip back to Grand Rapids since it was a school night.  During the drive, the conversation turned back to the movie once again.  We agreed it was refreshing to see the powerchair population represented.  One of our favorite quotes from "Gigi and Nate" was provided by the main character.  "We thought we were rescuing her.  The truth is, she gave us the one thing we needed most. Help."

Camology Quotes:

While eating our delicious turkey tetrazzini, Chris requested more "tetrazOnni" and Cam corrected him right away.

"It's tetrazzini, Dad.  I got you on that one!"

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Balmy to Brisk - Week of Nov. 7th

"How did it get so late so soon?" ~Dr. Suess

Time zones were first introduced in the United States in 1883 by railroad companies. In 1918, they were codified into federal law by the Standard Time Act, which also included a provision for nationwide daylight saving time modeled after European laws designed to save energy during World War I, but that component was repealed a year later due to protests by farmers. Many states subsequently introduced daylight saving time, and in 1966, the Uniform Time Act standardized the dates when it begins and ends. Hawaii, most of Arizona, and the U.S. territories have opted to observe permanent standard time, but the Uniform Time Act forbids observation of permanent daylight saving time. The Sunshine Protection Act would establish a permanent daylight saving time in the U.S., leading to later sunrises and sunsets during the four months in which most of the U.S. currently observes standard time, resulting in less sunlight in the morning hours and more sunlight in the evening ones. 

The fall time change of moving back an hour isn't as disruptive as the spring ahead one, but our family agreed that we are hopeful The Sunshine Protection Act becomes a federal standard.  In the meantime, Cam and his mom did enjoy the lighter mornings on their journey to the end of the driveway for the bus each morning.  With some milder temps this week, we opted to set up the igloo at Brody's be Cafe on Thursday early in the evening.  Our small crew worked quickly and the 70+degree weather felt amazing.

The weekend brought much cooler temps and also Cam's best bud, Brody, to our house for some hang out time.  The guys ate Culver's lunch, played some games, and watched a movie. 

In his true helping character, Cameron split his project time between his parents.  First up was a store run with his mom to our local D&W.  A new addition to the grocery aisles is a robot cleaner named "Callie" who roams the area cleaning the floors.  Cam thought it was pretty cool to watch the robot navigate around barriers, just like he does with his own powerchair.

The chillier temps meant it was also time to convert the lawnmower into the snowblower for the upcoming wintry weather.  

The best part of any mundane task is always a more positive and better experience with a cool kid named Cam!

Camology Quotes:

In his teen years, Cam seems to be honing in on his sense of humor.  Taking cues from both parents, he is learning to throw out funny and sarcastic bits.  When Chris announced one evening he had to exercise and wasn't necessarily looking forward to it, Cam threw out this piece of advice.

"Have fun to your heart's content, Dad!"

Sunday, November 6, 2022

All About the Spirit - Week of Oct. 31st

Spirit Week is a common tradition all over America but not many people know the origin of Spirit Week. In 1952, Palo Alto, CA had the first model of Spirit Week which was known as "Friendship Week" at Palo Alto High School. It was intended to welcome back students. However, this progressed into a half-week celebration, and in the 1960s, Friendship Week was renamed Spirit Week. Since the 1990s, 75% of American High Schools celebrate Spirit Week.
We received an announcement from Cam's school announcing Spirit Week.
  • Monday, Oct. 31: dress up for Halloween
  • Tuesday, Nov. 1: candy corn wear (freshman=brown, sophomore=orange, junior=yellow, senior=white)
  • Wednesday, Nov. 2: white lies (wear a white t-shirt with a "lie" written on it)
  • Thursday, Nov. 3: pajama day
  • Friday, Nov. 4: no school!
Cam rocked his Brody's be Cafe be-rista outfit once again at school to start off the week.  On Tuesday, Jane found a brown m&m shirt in her closet for the brown day.  
For the white lies day, we asked our ninth grader what "lie" he wanted on a white tee.  Without hesitation, he smartly said "I have never driven a wheelchair" and we all laughed.  Chris went a step above the sharpie marker and printed out letters on his cricut machine.  He only had the bright green color for the cutouts but it still looked great!
Pajama day is always a favorite.  Cam chose the frog jams and a Northern high school t-shirt for his Thursday outfit.  Showing school spirit is a positive aspect and rallies the student body together.  Cam is a big fan!

Friday's first order of action was to sleep in.  Cam stayed in bed until 8am and Jane had the morning off of work.  After a restful night, it was time for chores.  Jane's son helped her change the sheets on the beds and he also transported the laundry cart to the washing machine.  Afterwards, mom and son headed off to gas up the van and stop at the grocery store.  Cam loves to lead the way in the store since he knows where everything is and the aisles are nice and wide.  Even the checkout clerks know him by name.

Saturday's list included cleaning up the back deck and gearing up for a fun evening.  
Ms. Ann was scheduled to arrive around 4:30p.  The plan was for Cam and Ann to drive to Grand Haven and meet Oma and Opa for dinner at Russ'.  It was very windy with gusts over 50 mph.  After they arrived and were seated, the power went out!  They decided to leave Russ' and headed to Culver's where all electricity was working and in use. 
Meanwhile, Cam's parents were headed out for their own evening of excitement to attend the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital Gala. It was a roaring 20's theme and held downtown at the DeVos Place. Chris borrowed Cam's bow tie and suspenders that he's worn for multiple weddings.  Everyone was dressed in their best and following an inspirational program and delicious dinner, a live jazz band provided the evening entertainment.
It seems Cam enjoyed his Saturday night as much as his parents.  We were thankful for Ms. Ann staying so late and even more thankful to have the next day to relax together as a family!

Camology Quotes:

We sent Ms. Ann a few pictures throughout the evening to show Cam how we looked in the roaring 20s outfits since they left before we had finished getting ready.  Cam's response to the different attire:

Regarding Mom: "Ooooohhhhhh. She looks pretty."
Comments about Dad: "He looks like the dad from Mary Poppins."