Sunday, April 30, 2023

WMML Spring '23 Opener - Week of Apr. 24th

"Time spent with cats is never wasted." ~Sigmund Freud 

On Tuesday, April 25, we woke up to a light covering of snow on the grass.  Some may think it's a bit shocking, but in Michigan, we are used to the unexpected.  

While heading to the end of the driveway to meet the bus, the deer made their way across our road just in time.

The temps warmed up a bit throughout the week.  By Saturday morning, we were without coats and ready to head out to the WMML (West Michigan Miracle League) baseball field for the first day of the Spring 2023 season!  

Every spring, the WMML coaches choose the minor or major league to assign for their team.  Cam and his best bud, Brody are Tigers this year!  The parking lot was completely full when we arrived.  Since Cameron's game was second and scheduled for 11:05, the weather was a bit milder and we even saw the sun.  Cam was up to bat twice and for the first time ever, he rounded all of the bases without stopping!  The Home Depot volunteers were out in full force and our Cam Fan club consisted of Ms. Coleen from Renew Mobility and Chris and Jane.  It was great to be back on the field once again.  After the game and lunch, Ms. Ann and Cam headed to see Oma and Opa for the afternoon and early evening at Rosy Mound.  It was a wonderful day for everyone 😊

Sunday afternoon, we welcomed Coco, Max, Calla and Arthur for a late lunch.  It was so much fun to spend time with our cousins.  Calla even took a ride on the back of Cameron's chair.  Their time with us was a much-needed distraction.

Our Stella cat of 17 years passed away peacefully in her favorite bed, in her favorite spot Sunday evening after dinner.  She lived a good long life and selfishly, we say she had her best kitty life with us.  

The author, James Herriot is quoted as saying, "Cats are connoisseurs of comfort."  But we believe that Stella was one who gave us comfort.  Stella was born more than a year before Cam.  Chris and Jane were a bit nervous about her reaction when Cameron was brought home from the hospital after his stay in NICU.  Our cat adopted the role of security as Cam's protector.  When we started having babysitters over, Stella was very protective and in fact, held one "hostage" by hissing like a lion.  

We have many funny Stellie stories but we are heartbroken having to say goodbye.  Cam summed it up well..."I miss her so much and I am so sad. I wish I could see her again."  Thank you, Stella Bella, for being the best Cat Cam protector ever!

Camology Quotes:

We didn't know what a tough ending to the week it would be.  Perhaps that is why Cam's sweet comment Tuesday evening was all the more poignant.  During his nightly routine, Cameron was working very hard to assist his parents with his care and commented:

"You deserve a son that is a good helper. "

Sunday, April 23, 2023

An Inclusive Impact - Week of Apr. 17th

Cam in 1st grade- R side
of white shirt, Ben
“Each meeting occurs at the precise moment for which it was meant. Usually, when it will have the greatest impact on our lives.” ~Nadia Scrieva

When Cameron attended preschool, we felt protected in a bubble.  The teachers, the therapists and the other parents all felt like one big family.  As kindergarten approached, Chris and Jane were a bit apprehensive.  Cam began his kindergarten year at Meadowbrook Elementary and 
spent his first 5 years of elementary education there.  Cam's parents quickly saw their apprehension and hesitation fade away once their son's formal education began.

During that time, his K-2 teacher, Ms. Barbara, was a founding leader of the LINKS program at the school. LINKS is a peer-to-peer inclusion program where students support a same-aged peer from the cognitively impaired classroom at school. Meadowbrook is also a Unified Champion School.  This is an education and sports-based program that promotes acceptance, respect, and leadership for students of all abilities while creating an inclusive school environment. There are four components: a unified sport, a school-wide campaign to foster diversity and respect for all, a community service project, and a Youth Activation Committee (YAC).

Monday evening, Ms. Barbara asked if our family would attend the Forest Hills School Board meeting at Meadowbrook.  She also requested that Jane say a few words about being a parent of a child who had been a part of the LINKS program.  Even though it had been a long day of work and school and Cam even had swimming and PT, we rallied and made it.  We were so glad we did!  It felt like a reunion seeing former teachers, aides and friends.  Ms. Barbara and the principal gave a short presentation which included quite a few pictures of Cameron and his friends during their time at the elementary school.

Cam was proud to be a part of it all and although his mom could've talked for hours, she only took a few minutes to explain the impact of the program.  Jane also talked about the effect it has had on the community as a whole helping others to understand the importance of inclusion.
Mary Jo, a long time friend and a hang out buddy of Cam's, is now a senior at Grand Valley State University.  We couldn't resist snapping a pic of these two who were all smiles.

Our weather took a cooler turn this week.  At school, Cam and classmates headed to our local minor league baseball game on Wednesday.  One of the teachers sent us the photo of the two mascots hanging out with Cameron.

Ms. Ann has kept up tutoring with Cam, which we are so thankful for.  They also spent extra time together Friday evening so that Chris and Jane could have dinner out. 

The weekend projects were in full force and on Sunday afternoon, we drove north to see our cousins. It had been much too long since we'd seen them and we all agreed that Calla and her baby brother, Arthur, definitely grew in the past few months.  We met their new baby chicks too.
We also brought our leftover Thanksgiving dinner.  We had been attempting to thaw the turkey and all of the fixings a few times before but we'd been delayed for one reason or another.  Our freezer has quite a bit more empty space now. Coco made delicious brownies for dessert and we all agreed that sometimes eating things left over tastes even better than the day you have it.
According to Cam, it is always best to make fresh rolls or biscuits, of course.

We didn't get to see one of those colorful Lake Michigan sunsets, but it's always nice to gaze at the water and dream of summer.

Camology Quotes:

Details are a requirement for Cam as well as advanced planning.  We were talking through one of his upcoming appointments over the weekend.

"O.K. Mom and Dad, let's talk about what our course of action will be."

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Wheel Run - Week of Apr. 10th

“The secret to living well and longer is this: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure.” ~Tibetan Proverb

This was our first full week back in the swing of things.  We seemed to share the same sentiment as the deer in our backyard...feeling a bit sleepy.  Monday morning was full of lots of yawning in the Weatherford household.  A very curious deer wanted a closer look.

As the weather showed a milder side this week with climbing temperatures, the morning strolls to the end of the driveway felt a lot like Arizona to Cam and his mom.  They also commented how neat it is to see the rising sun and still peek at the moon while heading to the bus stop.

When Friday arrived, we were all ready for the weekend and relaxation.  While Cam's parents enjoyed a dinner out, Ms. Ann and her buddy finished their tutoring and had their evening meal together.  As much as we wanted to sleep in on Saturday, we couldn't linger too long.

We were on our way to the 28th Annual Wheel Run For Everyone 5k to benefit Renew Mobility where participants were encouraged to come out and walk, roll, jog, or wheel.  All the money raised supports the vital mobility equipment program. The Doctorate in Physical Therapy students at GVSU for the past 27 years have been raising to support Renew Mobility!  

Cam is an official Youth Ambassador for Renew Mobility, a local non-profit whose mission is to enhance independence through access to mobility equipment.  They've provided quite a bit of equipment to the Cameron over the years and Jane is on the board of directors.  The executive director requested that the Youth Ambassadors (Cam and Luke) ring the official starting bell for the 5k at the Grand Valley Allendale Campus.  

At exactly 9am, the Youth Ambassadors rang their bells after Ms. Coleen, the executive director, announced the beginning of the race!  Everyone was off for the 3.1 mile run/walk/jog/wheel/drive event.  It was perfect weather with a bit of sunshine, overhead clouds and mild temps in the high 60s.  GV grad students were stationed at about every half mile marker to cheer everyone on!  The milder weather this week prompted some early bloomage on campus.  The entire course was all on wide sidewalks and we told Cam it may have been the longest consecutive drive he has done yet.  After the race, sponsors had set up tables and tasty bagels were available any of the race participants.  Cameron thoroughly enjoyed a cinnamon bagel from Panera. There was also a table set up with the Renew Mobility brochures.  We thought we recognized a pretty cool kid on those cards 😉

The remainder of our weekend was a combo of indoor and outdoor projects.  The riding mower was inspected with a maintenance check completed by father and son.  They also deposited more rocks near the end of the driveway to offset the runoff that keeps happening during excessive rainfall.

One our favorite trees in the backyard showed off its blooms, which only last about a week.  While we reviewed the weekend events on Sunday, even though Cam had to wake up a bit earlier on Saturday, he declared "it was really worth it!"

Camology Quotes:

Jane and her son worked on some indoor projects over the weekend.  We sorted through some old pictures of Chris and his family and read about Grandma Sue's history that she sent us last year.  Now that Cameron is older and we've met all of Chris's siblings, the stories had more relevance.  They also sparked more interest in our son.

"Mom, can we ask Oma and Opa for old pictures and their stories? We should put them all together in a book!"

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Family Far and Near - Week of Apr. 3rd

"We didn't realize we were making memories.  We just knew we were having fun." ~AA. Milne

The author of Winnie the Pooh was spot on.  The remaining two days we had in Arizona were definitely fun-filled.  I do believe, though, we all knew it would be memorable.

After the amazing breakfast buffet on Monday morning, Jane wanted to do a bit of shopping in Old Scottsdale.  Much to her surprise, Chris, Cam, Nate, Zac and Ulysses all tagged along.  As an experienced shopper, Jane only needed one store to complete her list.  After 30 minutes and asking a friendly store owner, a single location fulfilled all items.  

Late in the afternoon, we met up with John and his daughter Layna, and Grandma Sue at The Organ Stop in Mesa, Arizona. 

In 1972, the original Organ Stop Pizza restaurant premiered in Phoenix, Arizona at the corner of 7th Street and Missouri Avenue with a Wurlitzer pipe organ which was originally built for Grauman’s Hollywood Egyptian Theater. This unique concept of a pizza parlor with a pipe organ was envisioned by William P. Brown, a Phoenix real estate developer whose enthusiasm for the theater pipe organ and its music led to the creation of this landmark attraction. The phenomenal success of the Phoenix restaurant prompted plans to open another Organ Stop in Mesa. It opened in 1975 near the corner of Dobson and Southern Avenue with a Wurlitzer organ from the Denver Theater in Denver, Colorado. In the theater, the Denver instrument had 15 ranks, or sets of pipes. The instrument was totally rebuilt, and the decision was made to enlarge the organ to 23 ranks for its debut in the new Mesa Organ Stop. In its new and improved location, Organ Stop Pizza and its Mighty Wurlitzer have come to be known as the biggest and best in the world as attested to by many of the world’s finest theater organists and, more importantly, the hundreds of thousands of patrons who visit each year. There are continuing efforts to make additions and improvements to the organ, endeavoring to fine tune the instrument closer and closer to perfection. 

Following our fun at The Organ Stop, our caravan of 3 vehicles made its way up South Mountain.

South Mountain Park in Phoenix, Arizona is the largest municipal park in the United States, and one of the largest urban parks in North America and in the world. It has been designated as a Phoenix Point of Pride. The park's lookout point rises over 1000 feet above the desert floor. Beyond the roads leading to ramadas and the summit, the park features 58 miles of trails for cycling, hiking and horseback riding. It took us almost 30 minutes to drive up the mountain from its base.  We all watched the sunset together before making our way back down the mountain.

Tuesday was our busiest day yet and our last full day in Arizona.  We certainly did pack a lot in.  After breakfast, Cam and his mom and dad, along with three of his uncles and their mom ventured over to see Cam's great Grandma Mary once again.  We chatted, looked at more pictures and had a nice visit.

Our next stop was Cam's Uncle John's workplace.  He runs a treatment center in Mesa for individuals trying to better themselves in different ways.  He introduced all of us to his clients that were present and talked about how it's never too late to bring family together.  As a family, we had the honor of serving lunch to the clients.  We then dined together right there in the office.

Cam and his dad, along with Ulysses and Grandma Sue all picked up Layna at school that afternoon. We then had a bit of respite prior to heading out again. Cam's Uncle John hosts a weekly video podcast.  He is inspirational, working to help others find their meaning and their full potential.  John asked his brothers to be his guests for the podcast taping at the studio.  He also requested Jane, Cam, Layna and Grandma Sue to be in the audience.

It was a true professional setup and we were all impressed!  You can view the video podcast by clicking on this link.  Family Matters Video Podcast.  The five brothers are in full view and the audience was invited in at the close of the broadcast.  After the studio visit, we took our caravan to Portillo's for a fun, relaxing dinner.  We had to say goodbye to Layna and John that evening.  Wednesday morning, we enjoyed our last breakfast buffet with Grandma Sue, Nate, Zac and Ulysses.  Cam told his uncles and grandma how much he would miss them.  As we said our goodbyes and talked about how we would meet up again, the smiles and laughter continued for Chris and his brothers.  Our travels back home on Wednesday brought continued discussion, reliving our favorite outings and talks.  We didn't make it into our beds until almost midnight on Wednesday.

Thursday and Friday were still a part of Cam's spring break so we all enjoyed a bit of extra sleep.  Cam had a chipped tooth fixed on Friday and his parents reluctantly tried to get back into the swing of things at work.  On Saturday afternoon, we were so happy to welcome Oma and Opa!  They arrived early to spend Easter Sunday with us and were eager to hear about Arizona.  We watched "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" after our flank steak dinner.  Cam and his grandma could not stop laughing about all of the antics in the movie!  We attended church the next morning, sitting with our dear friends, the Raisch family.  Later in the afternoon, Mike and Eric arrived for Easter din.  It was fun catching up, swapping stories and eating a delicious ham meal.

We apparently brought the Phoenix weather back to Michigan as we enjoyed one of the nicest weather days for Easter.  Not only did the sun bring extra brightness and warmth, the recent memories certainly did as well!

Camology Quotes:

Cam's Uncle John always makes him laugh. Seeing him at his own workplace, though, gave Cameron a different perspective.  He was able to see how his uncle is helping others on a daily basis, providing inspiration and his own experiences.  Cam was also proud to be introduced as part of the family and after meeting Uncle John's clients, he quietly said to his mom:

"I loved seeing Uncle John's clients' faces light up when he was speaking."

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Up, Up and Away - Week of Mar. 27th

"Spring is a time to find out where you are, who you are, and move toward where you are going." ~Penelope Trunk

Many of Cameron's friends travel for spring break.  Our family typically doesn't take any trips during this timeframe annually.  However, this year was different.

Before embarking on our journey, Cam completed 3 days of school, healing from a double ear infection.  By Wednesday, he was back to 100% and attended the final power soccer practice of the season.  The coach allowed each player to retain their chair guard and borrow the power soccer ball for the off-season.  Cam plans to practice in our driveway this summer to acclimate himself to the rules and strategy of moving the ball down the court to the goalie area.

The high school official spring break began on Thursday, March 30.  We left our home at 7:30am to travel to the Detroit Metro Airport, approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes from our location.  We arrived in plenty of time for our 1pm departure.  Traveling with Cam's power wheelchair produces a bit of anxiety.  The 450lb chair is driven by an airline luggage representative who brings it to the underbelly of the plane for transport.  

Even though we had pre-checked our luggage, we were required to check in prior to security to review Cam's power chair information.  The Delta team was quite impressed we had pre-filled our paperwork and laminated it.  Shadon assisted us and loved chatting with Cam.  She asked if he could be featured in Delta's internal blog!  She mentioned they had recently completed a new training program for wheelchair transport.

The plane ride was 4 hours, 22 minutes long and Cam was an absolute champ.  This trip was extra special for us all.  We were headed to Phoenix, Arizona to see all 4 of Chris's brothers and family in the Scottsdale area.  Cam and his mom had never even met some of his siblings.  On Thursday evening, we finally made it to our hotel.  We were greeted by Chris's mom (Suzanne), his eldest brother, John with John's daughter Layna, and their youngest brother, Ulysses.

The fun began on Friday morning when we met at the hotel breakfast buffet, a literal feast.  We ate at Jason's Deli for lunch where Suzanne's sister, Debbie, joined us.  Our dinner out was to The Angry Crab Shack and we all enjoyed some type of fish dinner.  Bibs were passed out to each of us and no one was hungry when we left.

That evening, back at our hotel, we enjoyed catching up with Cam's Uncle John and Uncle Ulysses. Although Cam knows Uncle John since he's visited us a few times in Michigan, it was the first time he met Ulysses.

Saturday morning was relaxing and we were adjusting to the 3 hour time difference.  Early in the afternoon, we ventured to the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park with Uncle John, Layna and Uncle Ulysses.  The park has an interesting history.
In 1967, the Fowler McCormick’s donated 100 acres of McCormick Ranch to the City of Scottsdale stipulating that it be used as a park for all to enjoy. At that time the land value was $1 million. Their hope was that the gift would encourage others to give as well as to make Scottsdale a better place to live for succeeding generations. The original location of the park was to be on 50 acres on the west side of Scottsdale Road. Complaints arose from the town of Paradise Valley so, to avoid difficulty, it was agreed to move across the street, wholly within, Scottsdale city limits. The land size of the park was cut from 50 to 30 acres. In 1971 Guy Stillman chartered the Scottsdale Railroad & Mechanical Society as part of the agreement with the city of Scottsdale to establish a Railroad Park on the donated land. The original purpose of the Society was to provide technical expertise to the McCormick Railroad Park. Later that year, Guy began to move his Paradise & Pacific steam railroad to the park land, donating two narrow gauge 5/12 scale locomotives. Residents celebrated the grand opening of the city of Scottsdale’s McCormick Railroad Park on Saturday, October 4, 1975 with free train rides, games, music and a Wild West Shootout. The facilities were a “bare minimum” and the one mile of track had been supplied by donations and laid by volunteers. The highlight of the event was a ride on the Paradise & Pacific Railroad. At the time of opening, approximately $1.25 million had been invested in the park and its facilities. Over the last 40 years the park has evolved into one of the most popular attractions in Scottsdale, with approximately 1 million visitors a year.

We all embarked on the Paradise & Pacific Railroad where we sat on top of the train for a tour around the park.  We were so excited Cam could ride too since they had wheelchair access.  Layna and Jane took a ride on the carousel.

Later that day, Chris's brother, Nate arrived from his Washington flight.  Cam and Jane had never met Nate and he is a younger brother to Chris by 2 years.  It had been more than 20 years since Cam's dad and his brother had seen each other.  We all settled in catching up on the past.  Dinner that evening was at our hotel restaurant.  Nate's arrival was unknown to Chris's mom, Sue and also to Chris's grandma, Mary.  The surprise was unbelievable.  Between the joyful screams and tears, everyone settled in for our meal.  That evening, we gathered in our spot to chat some more, getting to know Cam's Uncle Nate.

Sunday morning brought the next surprise, Chris's brother, Zac.  Zac is 8 years younger than Chris and they also hadn't seen each other for 20+ years.  Once again, John orchestrated the surprise for their mom.  At the hotel breakfast, Sue couldn't believe her eyes and the tears and hugs followed.  As we got to know Zac, it became apparent that all of the brothers had common traits.  

After the morning meal, we went to the gravesite of Sue's brother, Doug.  Chris and his brothers all looked up to their Uncle Doug and he passed away unexpectedly in 2005 and John was the only one of the nephews in attendance at his funeral.  Chris's grandma Mary lives just a few miles away.  We were able to witness the surprise one last time when Zac and his grandmother saw each other after many years.  The early afternoon was spent looking at old photographs and listening to the brothers relive memories.  That evening we ate the biggest Chinese buffet we had ever seen.  Afterward, we ventured over to the mountains to catch the last bit of the sunset.  It was the end of a memorable and the beginning of more memories.

Camology Quotes:

Cam is a great travel companion since he meticulously checks and remembers every aspect of the journey.  We also refer to him as a safety supervisor. While on the Arizona freeway in our rental van, he was acutely aware of the higher rate of speed and the additional number of lanes.

"Dad, I think I need all of the seatbelts available in this vehicle.  We are going fast!"