Sunday, July 30, 2023

Wheeling Around at Sports Camp - Week of July 24th

"There are more things to alarm us than to harm us, and we suffer more often in apprehension than reality." ~Lucius Annaeus Seneca
"All camps are hard, that's what they're intended to be. They make you focus when you're tired, when you don't feel like doing things and to see how long you can retain and pay attention." ~Michael Strahan

In previous years, the months of July and a portion of August were spent in summer school for Cam. He had always qualified for three days a week and loved being with friends and teachers.  This summer it wasn't offered to him and we most definitely credit Ms. Ann for her expert tutoring.  Since the last week in July was open, we talked to Cameron about signing up for Mary Free Bed's Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp.  He agreed, but was definitely uncertain about how things would go...

Kids and teens age 7-18 'take over' Grand Valley State University’s campus playing sports like basketball, lacrosse and tennis. Every year camp provides the chance for kids to come together through adaptive sports to try new activities, enjoy a bit of healthy competition and make lifelong friends.

This marks the 39th year of the camp, which is hosted by the Mary Free Bed Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports program and welcomes campers from Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. The camp is led by instructors who are also competitive wheelchair athletes. Former campers return as volunteers to help mentor and encourage the younger campers. Junior Wheelchair Sports camp offers campers the chance to try a variety of sports – including basketball, cycling, dodgeball, handball, kayaking, lacrosse, sled hockey, softball and tennis. 
Monday morning, Cam woke up early to get ready to go.  To help ease him into things, Ms. Amanda met us at Grand Valley to hang out and grab some awesome pictures of Cam in action.  When Jane headed back to work that morning, she also wasn't certain how the day would progress for her son.  Just a couple of hours later, the photos appeared on her phone from Amanda with glowing reports about how much fun Cam was having.  He had already met a lot of new people.  His group leader was Mr. Dave who was also in a wheelchair.  April, one of Cam's longtime friends was in his group as well as other kids he knew.  Basketball, lacrosse and hand cycling were all on the agenda that day.  And, we had one tired teenager that evening.

On Tuesday during the drive over, Cam chatted the entire time about how much he liked camp.  Chris and Jane went together with him in the van and Ms. Amanda met us there.  Cam's parents headed to the cottage to check on things after dropping him off.  And we were pleasantly surprised when a joint decision was made for Cameron to handle things on his own, with help from the nurses at camp.  Ms. Amanda left after lunch. One of the nurse volunteers, Morgan, completed quite a few of the activities with Cam and even sent Jane some great pictures.

Each evening, Cam was spent and tired, but in a good mood and a chatterbox about everything that took place each day.  Jane and Amanda received messages from Morgan about how much fun Cam was having.  On Thursday afternoon, there was even a water fight with the Allendale Fire Dept and everyone looked completely soaked!  Upon pickup that day, mom and son headed to an family friend open house in Spring Lake they were invited to.  There was a food truck and an axe-throwing area.
Friday was only a half day for the conclusion of camp and after some morning sport activities, there was a lunch for everyone and an awards ceremony.  When it was all over, Cam was really sad.  He couldn't believe the week had gone by so quickly.  We promised to keep in touch with Morgan.  It was an emotional time saying goodbye, but Cam already indicated he definitely wanted to sign up for next year.

Oma and Opa arrived at our house early Friday evening to stay for the weekend.  As a group, we traveled to Stony Lake on Saturday afternoon.  We celebrated the life of Erica, a close family friend who Jane used to babysit.  We will miss her so much and Cam remembers all of the fun parties at Stony Lake that she organized.  

On Sunday, we all relaxed together and worked on a few projects.  After a busy week, the relaxation time was required and Cam's favorite houseguests are Oma and Opa!

Camology Quotes:

During all of the activities at camp this week, Cam had praise for every sport, except for dodgeball.  He also had lots of praise for Morgan, and in turn Morgan sent us this message about Cameron. "You have raised the kindest and sweetest kid in the world! Getting to know him this week has blessed me in so many ways."

Sunday, July 23, 2023

See You Later - Week of July 17th

“Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.” ~Garrison Keillor 
"How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." ~A.A. Milne

Our Arizona family headed to the airport Monday afternoon. It is always tough to see them go.  It is especially difficult for Grandma Sue.  Cam commented a few times that afternoon how much he missed everyone.  The house definitely seemed abnormally quiet without all of the activity.  Fortunately, there were quite a few things on the agenda for the rest of the week.

We had to delay Cam's work day at the cafe until Wednesday.  But Tuesday after dinner, Chris decided to see if he could still rollerblade.  He was a bit hesitant and asked his son if he would provide assistance while he reacclimated to the blades.  Of course, Cameron couldn't wait to help out.  He cautiously drove his dad around the driveway and thankfully, they both decided not to tackle the steep hill.

Wednesday afternoon, Amanda drove Cam to Brody's Be Cafe.  Cameron wasn't certain he would have much to do.  He couldn't have been more wrong.  

Cam was busy delivering drinks to customers since his cool carrier can handle multiple beverages.  He also drove a load of garbage to the dumpster via his powerchair.  The weekly engagement with customers and staff definitely seem to be improving his confidence and ability to understand that he can be a valued employee.  The Cafe's program director declared his delivery service a 10/10!

For the remainder of the week, Ms. Amanda was on vacation.  Thursday began with a trip out to Heidi's Farmstand for Jane and her son.  Their favorite worker there, Ms. Pat, was excited to greet them and see her buddy.

As a surprise for Cam, we welcomed Ms. Michelle (a former summer nanny) and her granddaughter, Ada, for lunch. Michelle had recently traveled to Lithuania and Latvia to learn about her ancestry.  She brought Cameron some chocolate in the shape of the country and shared so many stories.  Our favorite was about the Lithuanian language.  "Achoo" in Lithuania means "Thank You!"

That same evening, Ms. Ann stayed with Cam while his parents attended an outdoor concert at Fredrick Meijer Gardens. Fortunately, the rain showers had subsided and it was a beautiful evening to see Ben Folds Five performing with the Grand Rapids Symphony.

Friday, we were on the go again... Cameron was scheduled for two sessions with the Grand Valley State University PT graduate students.  The time is a win-win since Cam is able to explain how his muscles feel with different exercises and he appreciates the opportunity to be a teacher.  The students work with a real 'patient' that they can question and begin to understand how muscle tone and spasticity are different in certain individuals.  Cam also saw his friend, Onji, who is always happy to see him.

After leaving GVSU and heading back home, we were quickly on the road again after grabbing Chris. Plainwell was our destination and a birthday dinner party for Auntie Roe was the reason.  It had been a very long time since we'd seen her and surprising her on her special day seemed like a great occasion.  Her husband, Mike, planned the entire event reserving a room at a Mexican restaurant.  Our dinners were delicious and the waiters brought a sparkler out to the table while singing.  Cam wasn't too certain of its fiery safety and told his parents that he would not want that for his own birthday.  It was such a fun evening and we were all happy to catch some extra zzz's that night.

Saturday afternoon, we gathered up our things and drove north to spend time on the beach.  Oma and Opa met us there and enjoyed the sunshine too. It was the first time they were able to see Cam's new beach chair in action.  We shared a delicious dinner and some delectable dessert with our family and friends. 

These summer days seem endless.  We know all too well, the season goes by much too quickly.  Our goal is to squeeze in as much beach time as possible!

Camology Quotes:

Cam is a pretty observant person. He will notice if Jane has moved any furniture or if something isn't placed where it normally is. Our family shares an inside joke about his observance perhaps being a bit more astute than his dad's, at times.

"Mom, did you get your hair cut today?"

Yes, I did. Thanks for noticing!

"Cam, you need to give your dad a heads up first!"

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Brother Birthdays - Week of July 10th

"The measure of intelligence is the ability to change." ~Albert Einstein 
"Blessed are the flexible, for they will not be bent out of shape." ~Unknown

We celebrated Cam's dad on Monday for his birthday!  After he opened presents, Jane and Chris went out to dinner while Ms. Amanda, Grandma Sue and Layna had fun at the house.

Tuesday was our big outing to Boulder Ridge Wild Animal Park in Alto, MI.  Coco met us there with her two kiddos.  It was the first time for Grandma Sue and Layna and they loved being up close with the animals.  The sidewalks at the park are very wide and it is a walking/wheelchair campus.  Cam's grandma requested chair use which her grandson was very excited about!  

As we made our way through the park, we purchased lettuce leaves
and carrot sticks to feed some of the animals.  As a group, we also had some of our own snacks to digest.  Favorite animals included the giraffe, tropical "talking" birds, an owl and the large porcupines.  The ostriches recently had babies and it was interesting to see them nestled on top of their parent.  Boulder Ridge is a very relaxing experience moving along at our own pace and it also wasn't overcrowded which made our afternoon outing that much better.  We were all pretty worn out at the end of our adventure and happy to relax at home that evening.

On Wednesday, Amanda took Cam and Layna to visit her dog, Otis, and take him for a walk.  They also baked some soft chocolate chip cookies that afternoon.  The two cousins definitely enjoy the batter tasting process of licking the beaters.

We had planned our visit so that we had a day of activities and a day of rest whenever possible.  Thursday afternoon, we anticipated the arrival of Layna's dad, John, his girlfriend Jaleaa and her two daughters, Alayah and Ameena.  On Friday, we all met for lunch at Anna's House and sat outside in our backyard that afternoon.  The adult couples had dinner out downtown while the remaining crew, along with Amanda, dined on pizza and salad.

Saturday was John's birthday and his brother, Chris had picked up a cake from our favorite bakery, Rykes.  Cam's Uncle John loves chocolate which his nephew is very appreciative of.  That evening, we grilled shrimp, veggie burgers, chicken kabobs and lots of different vegetables.  After celebrating birthdays, we played games until late into the night.

Sunday, we all roused a bit later than our typical wake-up time.  We had a quick lunch at home and then headed for the beach.  Coco and fam graciously welcomed us and the water was finally perfect for swimming!  It was our last full day with everyone.  We all agreed that the shoreline of Lake Michigan was by far the best way to spend it!

Camology Quotes:

Cam can be quite tied to his routine. So, when a later than normal stop for dinner on the drive home Sunday resulted in a 25 minute wait, we expected a very inpatient person.  To make matters worse, the main part of Cam's meal wasn't even in the bag.  While Jane contemplated heading back into the chaotic restaurant, her son spoke up. "Mom, I can just split your salad with you if that's ok."

P.S. We tried to accomplish everything in a single stop by heading to McD's. However, this particular one didn't have salads.  Cam wisely said afterwards, "That doesn't even make any sense!  They have chicken, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. How can they not make a salad?!"

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Fam Fun - Week of July 3rd

"I sustain myself with the love of family." ~Maya Angelou
"To us, family means putting your arms around each other and being there." ~Barbara Bush

We were all anticipating the week ahead filled with major family time.

With a sunny forecast for the 4th of July, we traveled northward to hang out with cousins at the beach.  It was a great day by the lakeside.  We had our first corn on the cob for dinner and we even saw some fireworks on the drive home that evening.

Ms. Amanda and Cam decided to make some homemade banana bread with chocolate chips. It is a favorite recipe in our household.  The baking duo highly recommend licking the beaters upon completion of pouring the batter into the bread pans.

On Thursday, Cam and his mom made cornbread and packed up some tasty snacks in preparation for visiting cousins at Maple Beach in Holland.  

Once a year, we try to gather together to see our cousins, catch up and share some laughs. We talked about how all of the couples met each other and early years. 

Cam liked listening to the stories and always cracks up hearing tidbits about his own parents.  As is our tradition, we dined outside on a beautiful, breezy afternoon.  The shrimp boil consisted of potatoes, corn, shrimp and sausage.  Cornbread and biscuits rounded out our meal with mini assorted bundt cakes for dessert.  We always chuckle when we say "goodbye" as another half hour of conversation continues.  We were also sent home with all of the delicious leftovers.

On Friday, we prepared for the arrival of Cameron's Grandma Sue and cousin Layna.  Their flight landed a little before 7p in the evening.  To say we were all excited was an understatement!  The minute our two relatives from Arizona made it into the house, it was a hug party.  

Saturday was our day of rest after the travel time for our family.  It was good to relax and hear stories about each other's lives.  We had a fun dinner of surf and turf on the grill.

Sunday after an early lunch, we made our way to the cottage for a beach day!  The water was still a bit chilly, but the sand was pretty hot.  We played on the beach with cousins and soaked up the sunshine.

Early in the evening, we made plans to stop and visit Oma and Opa in Grand Haven.  Layna fell asleep in the van as we made our way.  We stopped at Culver's to pick up our dinner and then enjoyed an outdoor picnic in the courtyard at Rosy Mound.

Cam, Layna and Chris played games in the courtyard while Grandma Sue, Jane and Cam's grandparents visited with each other.

We certainly packed in a lot this week and we're thankful that Grandma Sue and Layna will remain will us for a full week!  And they are thankful it isn't over 110 degrees in Michigan like it is in Arizona!

Camology Quotes:

While sharing stories at Maple Beach, Cam was very interested in tales about different times the adults had some trouble when younger.  In fact, Jane posed the following question to her son.

"Do you think I got into trouble, Cam?”

"Oh, I'm sure you did, Mom!"

Sunday, July 2, 2023

The CamMobile + - Week of June 26th

"Every person that comes into our life comes for a reason; some come to learn and others come to teach.”  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Ms. Ann has been tutoring Cameron for more than two years now and has known him since he was little. As a former teacher and recipient of multiple degrees, she is truly beyond qualified for the role.  An added bonus is that Ann is a very close friend and considered extended family.  She and Cam traveled to Grand Haven to visit with Oma and Opa.  They all ate at a local favorite restaurant, Russ' and Cam treated the group by paying for everyone.

Prior to the weekend, Cam is always willing to help with household chores.  Carting the laundry basket from one end of the house to the other is something that makes life easier for his mom.

Both Saturday and Sunday were spent at the cottage with cousins.  Playing with the new puppy, Hildie, was a fun experience for Cam.  We shared meals both days. 

Cameron's cousin attempted to avoid being tagged while running and while picking up blocks, they proceeded to make up their own fun! 

One of our true highlights was the introduction of a brand-new beach chair for our son.

Aristotle is quoted as saying that everything happens for a reason.  

At times, it is difficult to understand and fathom why certain things transpire.  Such was the case for Mike Deming and his wife, Karen.  After eight months of being married, Karen was in a car accident that left her paralyzed and a quadriplegic. Living in Florida, she always loved the beach and the water.  Her husband, Mike, was determined to create a beach wheelchair that could be used in the water for his wife. In the past 30 years, the Demings founded Debug Mobility and made it their mission to keep improving the experience for accessible beach lovers everywhere.

Chris and his son designed and built several beach wheelchairs we named "Cam-mobile" to provide transport on the Lake Michigan shoreline.  Due to Cam's continued growth, it has become more difficult to build in comfort.  Earlier in the year, Jane reached out to Debug Mobility.  When we ordered the chair two months ago, the company was uncertain they would be able to make our requested arrival by the 4th of July holiday.  After continued conversations and a team effort, the big box arrived on Friday!  And now, our beach time can truly begin 😎

Camology Quotes:

While driving to the cottage, Chris realized he had forgotten his sunglasses.  We do keep random extra ones in the vehicle and he found an old "cheap" pair provided as a free giveaway.  Once Chris put them on and showed Cam, his son laughed hysterically and noted:

"Dad, those look like senior glasses!"