Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Big Mac - Week of May 23rd

"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best," and then he had to stop and think. Because although Eating Honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.” ~A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

For more than a year, Cam had been anticipating the 8th grade class trip.  His teacher told Chris and Jane during his 7th grade conferences.  We had decided then that the farewell to 8th grade event would become a Weatherford family vacation.  The class was scheduled to spend a full day on Mackinac Island.

Thursday morning, Chris and Jane volunteered to be chaperones and drive Brody and Cam in their van so they could sleep a bit longer.  The 220+ eighth graders were scheduled to be at school at 5:10am on Thursday, and our van departed with two of those students at 6:00am. We arrived in Mackinaw City at the same time and promptly entered the line for the 10am ferry ride to Mackinac Island. Mackinac Island sits in Lake Huron, between Michigan’s Upper and Lower peninsulas. For centuries, visitors have found this national landmark to be the ideal vacation spot. No cars. No chain hotels. Just world-famous Mackinac Island Fudge, historic Fort Mackinac, unique shopping and diverse dining. 

Upon exiting our ferry ride, we made our way to the horse and carriage tour, which had been pre-planned.  Our carriage had a ramp on the back for Cam and our tour guide was Cheyenne.  The weather was cooler and cloudy, but the rain stayed away.  During our hour+ long ride, we learned about the history of Mackinac Island and had a stop at the Arch Rock to take pictures.  Around 12:30pm, we disembarked at the famous Grand Hotel, built in 1887 with the largest porch at 660 feet in length.  We all dined at the lunch buffet in the five-star hotel, which was elegant and extravagant.  Afterward, our small group with Cam's teacher and three classmates, browsed the hotel and made our way back into town exploring Main St.  
At one of the fudge shops, a young man named Apollo noticed Cam watching him craft the fudge through the window. He offered Cam a huge chunk of warm fudge which was packaged up and given to him.  A little after 4p, we made our way back to the ferry to ride to St. Ignace.  Chris had gotten the van back in Mackinaw City and met us in St. Ignace. 
We said goodbye to Cam's classmates and teacher and found our hotel, Breaker's Resort.  Luckily for us, a restaurant was located on the resort grounds and we were thankful to be so close to our beds.  Sleep came easily that evening.  

Breakfast was included and after packing a lunch, we made our way to Tahquamenon Falls, roughly 90 minutes from St. Ignace. The Tahquamenon Falls are a series of waterfalls on the Tahquamenon River, shortly before it empties into Lake Superior, in the northeastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They are the largest waterfalls in Michigan, and one of the largest in the eastern half of North America.  We were so excited that both the Lower and Upper Falls were completely accessible!  Our packed lunch was eaten at a picnic table and then we were on the road again.  Back by the hotel, we checked out the Mackinac Bridge viewing spot and had dinner at a local pizza place.  At our resort, a big bonus was the pool lift that also reached over into the hot tub.  It was a perfect ending to a great sightseeing Friday.

On Saturday, we planned to head back to Mackinac Island and we were greeted with plenty of sunshine in the morning.  This time, we took a ferry ride that went under the bridge.
Mackinac Bridge, a long-span suspension bridge, spans the Mackinac Straits from the Upper to the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. It is the third longest suspension bridge in the United States, after the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge; it is the 25th longest in the world. The Mackinac Bridge was not constructed until the 1950s because of World War II. It was opened to vehicle traffic in 1957.  

The longer ferry ride over gave us an opportunity to chat with some crew members and hear recommendations for our day.  Upon arrival, we promptly put our name in at The Pink Pony restaurant for lunch.  It is one of the most famous places on the island and was established in 1948.  We were able to eat outside among the pink table umbrellas.  Cam and his mom split the beer battered whitefish and cauliflower crust margarita flatbread and Chris opted for the whitefish sandwich. The food did not disappoint and we were off to explore the view from the Grand Hotel once again. We made our back to Main St. to browse the stores, witness the fudge making craft and purchase some treats.

When we boarded the ferry for our return trip, the same crew members we had talked to were there once again.  They were eager to hear about our day and happy that we followed their recommended spots.  We dined at another local spot in St. Ignace that evening. After asking where we were from and where Cam attended school, our waitress shared that she used to be a substitute teacher for Cam's school district.

Sunday morning, we packed our belongings and enjoyed the continental breakfast one last time.  We actually witnessed a seagull almost successfully lift a waffle from it's plate on the outdoor picnic table left by a parent in a big hurry.  
The sliding door from our room at Breaker's Resort had a picture perfect view of Lake Huron.
On our drive back to Grand Rapids, we talked about the experiences we had.  Cam's highlights were the ferry rides and the carriage tour on Mackinac Island.  He also talked about the unexpected kindness we experienced.  Shepler's Ferry service asked if we could please wait an extra 15 minutes for a larger ferry so that Cam would have more room.  They went out of their way to be certain Cam had plenty of space to board and disembark.
Due to the nice man, Apollo, at Joann's Fudge Shop and the interaction with Cam, our son decided we should purchase all of our fudge from them.  There are different options for both ferry rides and fudge, but these two businesses made an impact with their kind gestures and now we are loyal customers!

Camology Quotes:

Oma and Opa stayed with us Monday and left Tuesday morning. We were having a family discussion about our upcoming trip on Tuesday evening.  Jane told her husband and son that they needed to help her remember to pick up pasties for Oma and Opa.  The following conversation then took place:

"Mom, Oma and Opa are not babies!" 

"What do you think I am talking about?" 

"They don't need "pacies" Mom!"

"Cam, I was talking about pasties, which are a meat or chicken or vegetable filled pastry, not a pacifier!" 😆

Sunday, May 22, 2022

A Working Lunch - Week of May 16th

"It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like 'what about lunch?' " ~A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh 

It was a wild week, so sharing the wildlife from our own backyard seemed appropriate.

Thursday was the Alternatives in Motion (AIM) fundraising luncheon.  This marked the first year it was held in person since 2019.  It was a mild, sunny day and attendees were personally and privately invited by the Board of Directors, of which Jane is a member.  The invitation was sent in email and featured the AIM Youth Ambassador, Cam!

Our family was asked to speak about our history and interaction with Alternatives in Motion. 

As a quick reminder, Cam used his very first powered wheelchair due to the non-profit AIM organization when he was only 5 years old.  As an organization, they strive to develop, sustain, and enhance independence for persons with disabilities, diversity, equity, and inclusion.  

At the luncheon, we provided the analogy of when you repeatedly practiced before taking your driving test to obtain your official driver's license.  Can you imagine taking that test without ever having driven once?  Without AIM, that would have been Cam's conundrum.  Because of Alternatives in Motion, the "extra" powered chair he was given at age 5 is still used by our family for other locations we take him that don't provide maneuverability for a 450-pound chair like he uses now.  The equipment is provided at no charge and you retain it until it is no longer needed.  The only request is to return the equipment so it may be used by others.  

At our lunch tables, we had friends from the Mary Free Bed Guild, Brody's Be Café and Lori's Voice as well as the owner of Lakeshore Barrier Free, who has completed two remodels for our family.  A local news anchor, Tessa DiTirro, was the MC and Cam treats her like a celebrity, shyly looking away.  At the close of our brief presentation, Jane asked Cam if there was anything else he wanted to add.  He clearly spoke into the mic and said, "I want to thank everyone for coming and I want to thank all our sponsors."  We were pretty impressed with our son and informed the audience that he had not been "coached" to state that, it was all from his heart.  As an added bonus, our friend Ms. Molly gave Cam a cool new pair of shades and Dove chocolates as a reminder of his first professional speaking engagement!

On Friday, Jane drove to Cam's school and picked him up at 2pm, right before the official end of the school day.  They traveled downtown to GVSU to work with the graduate PT students.  It was two separate sessions, which Cam is compensated for, as he "teaches" the students about his muscles and how to work with him as it relates to stretching, positioning and more.  Dr. Lisa, a professor at GVSU, who started the program always tells Cam to be tough on the students and make them brainstorm how to conduct the physical therapy session and how to help.  Cam gave all of the students an "A" for the day.

Saturday morning, the fourth WMML spring season baseball game was on the docket with Cam as a Mud Hen player and his dad, Chris, acting as substitute coach for his son's team.  The rain held off for the WMML teams games to play ball and our "Cam Fan" section included Coleen, the executive director of AIM, as well as Uncle Jon and Aunt Betsy.  It is awesome they all came to cheer on Cam.  Coleen mentioned that next season we may need to "step up" our Cam Fan section with pom poms or some other fanfare.📣

Camology Quotes:

Our cat, Stella, is slightly obsessed with water.  At the mature age of 16, she meows to be placed on Cam's bathroom countertop to drink water out of his sink.  Just recently, she has taken the bold move of walking in and out of his shower when it's on!  The first time she did it this week, Jane gasped and Cam asked her what was wrong.  When his mom explained what she had just seen Stella do, Cam commented:

"Since Stella is older, she is getting outside her comfort zone, Mom."

Sunday, May 15, 2022

The "Cam Effect" - Week of May 9th

"Cam Effect" - noun. Representative of something that denotes different abilities or accepting challenges. Something that reminds the person of Cam W.

It happens more often than not...a family member, friend, or even acquaintance will tell us about a story they heard or experienced, or something that occurred in the past or present that made them think of Cam.

Recently, cousin Liz sent us an article she read about the organization Wheel the World.  It was launched in South America to provide accessible vacations and destination information.  And while at a physical therapy appointment, Aunt Betsy's PT was talking about a pediatric PT graduate class he had at Grand Valley.  Aunt Betsy mentioned her nephew Cam working with that program over the years.  Her physical therapist told her Cam was a celebrity there!  

Cam's last choir concert of the year was scheduled for Thursday. Unbelievably, the western Michigan temps were in the high 80's most of the week.  The eighth graders all wore their Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat shirts, which made for a very colorful stage. For the last song of the evening, Cam activated the standing mode on his chair.  Brody's mom, Jenn, gave him a big hug after the concert.

Friday's school day was spent at the local minor league baseball team's field to watch a game played by the West Michigan Whitecaps. The temp was unseasonably warm, but the kids were there in the morning and stayed just past lunchtime.  By the end of the day, Cam's seasonal allergies had really kicked in due to a combination of the blooming landscape and high pollen.  He arrived home with watery eyes and running nose.  After a dose of Benadryl and a good rest, he declared he felt "150% better" in the morning.

That was a big relief since Saturday was another WMML game.  Cam's best bud, Brody, was dropped off at our house prior to the game and we all rode together to the Rockford field.  Not only did Ms. Stephanie, fabulous aide, hang out with the boys on Friday at the baseball game, she also made it to the West Michigan Miracle League for Saturday's Mud Hens game.  It was a beautiful morning for our 10am start time.  Afterwards, we met up with Brody's dad and then made our way northward towards the cottage.

We arrived at Lake Michigan a little after 1pm and commenced grilling our lunch.  Oma and Opa, Max, Coco, Calla and Max's brother, Eric and our family shared a delicious meal and dessert.  The lake looked inviting but it's still much too cold to swim (~50 degrees F).  

The afternoon was spent watching Max and Eric assemble a climbing apparatus for Calla.  Luckily, Cam was providing supervision and assisted the guys along the way.  

The power wheelchair Cam uses inside the cottage is definitely too small for him.  The adult chair was provided by Alternatives in Motion when Cam was just 6 years old.  Stay tuned for an Alternatives in Motion event next week where Cam will be featured as one of the "highlights."  We just have to be certain this local "celebrity status" doesn't go to his head 😉

Camology Quotes:

Once again, we realized the importance of listening to our son's wise advice.  After our first week with the new ceiling track/lift, the remote suddenly stopped working Wednesday night.  After some collective frustration, Chris was able to use the buttons on the motor to maneuver but wasn't able to fully guide it where it needed to go.  Cam remained calm and after troubleshooting with the installer, a new remote was on order.  In the meantime, Cam had a suggestion:

"Dad, pull the emergency power cord and leave it off all night, please."

The next morning, not expecting any change, Chris grabbed the remote and... it worked!

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Husky of the Month - Week of May 2nd

Cam has been a part of the Forest Hills Northern school district since kindergarten.  In the 7/8 middle school building, every school day begins with CREW.

The CREW experience:
  • Our Husky CREW encourages all members of our school community to work together to build meaningful relationships, reflect on and monitor academic progress, and to focus on character development.  CREW is a place where all students feel like they belong and can succeed.
  • Positively CONNECT to the Husky CREW Community
  • Be Respectful - RESPECT yourself, others and our community
  • Show EMPATHY -Understand and appropriately respond to the feelings/actions of others
  • WORK Hard - Always Be your best! No exceptions, No excuses!
Proud Parents!

When departing the bus last Monday, our 8th grader announced there was a letter from school in his backpack that Jane had to read.  He was so excited to share the news that he had been selected as one of the Students of the Month!  Cam and his parents were invited to attend a short ceremony before school on Thursday.  The principal read a slide depicting the student's picture and a paragraph of the teacher's nomination sent in.  The following was read by Dr. Simpson and written by his teacher, Mrs. Wells.

"Cam displays the CREW principles of Connect, Respect, Empathy and Work.  Cam is very respectful, organized and empathetic to all of his classmates and teachers.  Cam has displayed a positive attitude towards all of his daily activities and work even when the work is challenging.  He thinks of others' feelings and makes efforts to praise and include his classmates daily.  Cam has many gifts but one of the most important is that he is able to see and empathize with his classmates in a sincere and kind manner.  Cam is mature beyond his years and is always prepared for his classes and thinks ahead about upcoming assignments and activities.  We are really proud of the learning that Cam has had over the past two years."

Mrs. Wells was able to see Cam's part in the ceremony and we snapped a picture of the two of them before classes began. The honored students even had the opportunity to grab some tasty bakery treats and drinks before they headed back down the hallway.

Saturday marked the second WMML game of the season and picture day for the players.  Best buds, Brody and Cam, were scheduled to play at 12:10pm.  It was windy but not as cold as the first gathering a week before.

It was a big "Cam Fan" day!  Ms. Barbara, Cam's K-2 teacher arrived along with Ms. Cris, former aide, and her daughter Mary Jo (a Cam-sitter).

Auntie Karen drove in all the way from the Chicago area, battling weekend festival traffic. She even brought Oma and Jane beautiful bouquets of tulips for Mother's Day. 

Friends from Hungry Horse camping, Lauren and Tyler found their way to the ballpark for the first time.  Oma and Opa joined us as well and we had planned a picnic lunch for our little group.  Karen brought the most delicious homemade chicken salad we had ever tasted!  Oma's homemade potato salad and some tasty treats from Cam's house completed our outdoor feast.

We were excited to have Oma and Opa with us Saturday night and we all watched a family movie together- "Remember the Titans," a personal favorite of Cam's parents.  

On Sunday, we celebrated Mother's Day with a delicious late brunch. Oma and her daughter exchanged cards and gifts.

Cam gave Jane a special card he had made at school along with a cookie jar filled with all of the dry ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies.  Jane told Cam what he wrote was a treasure to her. "Dear Mom, You are nice. You are kind. You are respectful. You are pretty. I love you very much. Cam."

Camology Quotes:

On Wednesday, the long-awaited ceiling track system was installed in 6 hours!  For our family, it is life-changing, allowing us to transport Cam from bed to bathroom.  We also discovered our son will be able to walk with assistance from the track.  Cam thanked the crew profusely for all of their hard work.  Chris and Jane realized it will take a few days to become acclimated to the new technology.  Cam came to this realization as well and once again, provided the most mature response.

"Mom, I need to start my bedtime routine 5 minutes early because you and Dad need extra time."

Sunday, May 1, 2022

WMML Spring Season Opener - Week of Apr. 25th

Mud hen: a marsh bird with short wings and long legs that inhabits swamps or marshes.

The Toledo Mud Hens officially came into existence in 1896.  The team adopted Mud Hens as its name in 1896, because the team played its games at Bay View Park. A nearby swamp was home to a large number of mud hens. Eventually, the Mud Hens joined the minor league International League, becoming a Triple-A ball club. Today, the Toledo Mud Hens are a farm team for the Detroit Tigers. The team's mascots are Muddy and Muddona, male and female mud hens. Fun fact: Actor Jamie Farr played a character on the sitcom M.A.S.H. Farr's character, Maxwell Klinger, from Toledo, Ohio, was a major fan of the Mud Hens. Klinger commonly wore Mud Hens gear, provided by Mud Hens General Manager Gene Cook, on the show. Because M.A.S.H. was one of the most popular television programs at this time, the demand for Toledo Mud Hens merchandise skyrocketed.   

Saturday marked the first game of 2022 for the West Michigan Miracle League.  This season, Cam was assigned to the Mud Hens team with his best bud, Brody.  In the spring, the WMML chooses minor league team names to represent the players.  
Oma and Opa arrived on Friday afternoon so they could ride with us for the early baseball event.
The chilly, windy morning had us all bundled up for the game.  Chris brought handmade quilts from Lori's Voice to hand out to the players and spectators.  Once again, the batting box pulley system that Cam uses to connect the bat to the ball was in full swing.  

The volunteers were called in just the previous evening due to a group cancellation and we profusely thanked Hannah and Kristi for supporting the players.  In the stands, we welcomed Ms. Kathy (Cam's 3rd/4th grade teacher) and her husband, Kevin as well as Ms. Michelle (Cam's former nanny) and her granddaughter, Ada.
Cam was so excited to be back on the field and our Cam Fan contingency cheered as loudly as we could!
It seemed to take a few hours before we all felt warm again and the rest of the day was spent relaxing.

On Sunday, we all slept in and Oma and Opa left Grand Rapids after lunchtime.  Jane and her son seemed to have a role reversal moment when he asked to have a picture taken with just his grandparents.  We are so thankful Jane's parents are willing and able to travel to Grand Rapids to spend time with us.

In the afternoon, Cam, Chris and Jane headed over to Brody's Be Café for operation igloo removal.  The weather had not been cooperating to allow for a larger group.  Cam insisted he be an active helper instead of a supervisor.  Chris loaded up the wagon with the heavy sandbags and Cam drove them into the garage.  As we took apart the poles and connectors, Cam placed them into the large bin.

The three team members were able to complete the dismantle effort in just 90 minutes.  Projects always seem to go faster when there is laughter, music and joking thrown in.  
We all felt a sense of accomplishment and that extra good feeling that can only come from helping others!

Camology Quotes:

Cam likes things the same way.  When something has changed, he notices right away.  He is also very truthful, sometimes maybe too truthful? 😉 One morning, Jane was running behind and hadn't "fixed" her hair yet.  Cam was looking at her rather oddly and said, 

"Mom, you look pretty no matter what your hair looks like."