Sunday, August 27, 2023

School Again, Welcome to Grade 10 - Week of Aug. 21st

"A well-educated mind will always have more questions than answers." ~Helen Keller

5:30am seemed extra early on Monday, August 21.  It also marked the earliest date for the first day of learning in all of Cam's past schooling.  Our son was ready to begin his sophomore year.

Change is inevitable... new students, new bus driver, new schedule.  For Cameron, questions arise.  With each different factor, though, his acceptance seems to come more readily.

As the week progressed, the nerves subsided and we all started to become accustomed to our new routine.  High school students were able to enter through the enormous Huskies mascot tunnel.  Cam's former bus driver, Ms. Christy was able to capture the moment.

Thursday evening, a heavy thunderstorm came through our area.  Chris and Jane couldn't recall if they'd ever received a tornado text alert, so this one was a bit surprising.  The power flickered but we remained intact.  The damage in our surrounding neighborhood included downed trees and loss of electricity on other streets.  The tornado destruction was roughly 30 minutes away.  We were very fortunate.

Friday evening and most of the day Saturday, we were without internet service.  We quickly figured out how to improvise.  After connecting to a wifi hotspot, we accessed our streaming services from the laptop and projected it to the tv.  Cam was instrumental making certain all of the steps were followed.

Sunday was our beach day!  It was windy and wavy and the sunshine was abundant.  We had a picnic lunch on the deck and remained by the shoreline for the afternoon.

The water was warm enough to venture in.  Cam is more accustomed to his new beach mobile and is much more comfortable.

With our beach days winding down, these lakeside moments seem that much more precious.

Camology Quotes:

Cameron is used to dealing with change, but at times, he is frustrated by it. Cam was relaying to his mom that there was a new student who was quite loud.  Unexpected noise is typically jarring for Cam.  Jane was pleasantly surprised by his follow-up comment:

"I will give him grace, Mom. I'm sure he's probably nervous about being in a new place."

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Sweet! I'm 16! - Week of Aug. 14th

16 years= 192 months, 5844 days, 140.256 hours, 8,415,360 minutes, 504,921,600 seconds of being awesome.

This was the last week before the start of the new school year.  Cameron was patient with his parents while they attended to their jobs.  
However, Thursday was the BIG day...  August 17th was Cam's 16th birthday!
We asked him to request a special breakfast so his day started with a Starbuck's bacon, egg and gouda sandwich.  Chris and Jane finished up work a little early for their son to open his birthday presents.  Cam's dad found him the coolest drink cup for the back of his powerchair with the longest flexible straw.  Cam's mom reserved a pontoon boat for the family for Labor Day weekend and gave him an accessible lifejacket to use on the future trip. 

We were scheduled to meet Oma and Opa in Muskegon for dinner at Cam's chosen birthday restaurant, Red Lobster.  Cameron is a huge fan of their delicious cheddar biscuits and we all love fish.  Cam's grandparents gave him a new personalized backpack and Maruska shirts.  After ordering and finishing our meals, a manager came over and shared a big surprise.  Jane's work buddy, Ms. Cyndi in New Jersey called ahead and pre-paid for our entire meal!  She had asked Jane earlier that day where they were going, etc. and we were all completely blown away.  Cam and his mom were especially touched.  Ms. Cyndi made certain that they even put a candle on Cameron's birthday brownie overload dessert- we were excited there were five spoons since we all had multiple bites.

Friday evening, we headed up north for a double birthday celebration for cousin James and Cameron.  A scrumptious meal of smoked fish, chicken and pork accompanied by lots of sides was the perfect meal! Dessert included a tasting contest between a homemade chocolate peanut butter pie created by Coco and the Costco chocolate peanut butter pie.  We all agreed Coco's crust and toppings were best and the Costco filling was delicious.  Afterward, we were all pretty stuffed so a dance party was in order!  We said goodbye to James and Ally since they were leaving the next morning. It was a later night and by the time Cam made it into bed, it was almost 11pm.

Saturday afternoon, we decided to do it all over again.  Oma and Opa arrived later in the day to stay for dinner too.  We spent most of our time on the lower deck, now accessible via the coolest ramp, visiting with family and chatting with everyone.
The new table that Max and Jeffrey built fit everyone, which was pretty incredible.
We watched the sun fade as we left that night to make our way back home.

Sunday was just as beautiful and we decided it would be a great beach day!  Once again, we loaded up the van to make our trek.  We were all very happy we chose to be lake side.  The water was refreshing, the sand very warm and it was the perfect way to close out our week.  We had to say goodbye to Katie, Tyler, Avery and Olivia since they would be heading back east while Cam was in school the next week.  Jane told her son how difficult it always was to say goodbye to our cousins. We left before dinner since Cameron (and his parents) would be waking up a little after 5:30 the next morning.

One of our favorite memories from the week was watching the younger cousins run to help Cam.  The van ramp is very unique to them.  They all wanted to assist with every aspect of buckling Cameron into the vehicle and making certain he was absolutely safe!
These family members are so sweet with their older cousin and do not have any fear concerning his mobility.  
In some ways, they teach those who are much older about inclusion and acceptance. 😉

Camology Quotes:

Jane and son made a Costco run this week and happened on quite a few samples.  Cam tried a new beef stick and liked it so much, he requested they purchase it.  Next up were sea salt caramels and freshly baked brownies.  This was his response to the "sampler" people:

"No thank you.  We have that at home."

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Winding Down - Week of Aug. 7th

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but a memory is priceless. 

The beginning of the week was spent talking about all of the stories behind the planning of the B.S.E. "biggest surprise ever" as we're now referring to it.  All of the collaboration between Cam, Ms. Ann, Oma and Auntie Karen was unbelievable to hear about.

It was Ms. Amanda's last full week with us and none of could believe the school start date of Aug. 21 that we received at the beginning of the week!  Cam concentrated on helping Amanda with setting up her kindergarten class.  Monday evening, Cam's parents went out to dinner with Auntie Leslie and Wes while Amanda and her buddy hung out together at the house.

Tuesday was a work day for Cam at the Cafe and we all headed over during the lunch hour to see him in action.  He's much more comfortable now, a bit more assertive and has greater confidence due to his summer job.  With fresh fish and sweet corn from the market that day, Wes and Cam took on the task of husking the corn.  Our dinner of the market fish and fresh veggies hit the spot.

Wednesday morning, Cam and Ms. Amanda arrived at Brody's Be Cafe to provide special delivery service to nearby businesses.  The complimentary smoothies were a hit!

Wednesday afternoon, we had to say "see you later" to Auntie Leslie and Wes as they headed back to North Carolina.  We were so thankful for their company, their help and most importantly, their laughter and love.  Since it was the actual day of Chris and Jane's wedding anniversary, they had planned to go out that evening while Ms. Ann stayed with Cam.  But it was Cam's parents turn to be sneaky.  When Ms. Ann arrived, we announced to her and Cam that we were taking them out to dinner!

Our weekend plans included family time.  Saturday afternoon, Cam and Jane dropped off Chris in Coopersville at a non-profit event for Lori's Voice.  Then, Mom and son headed to Grand Haven to visit Oma and Opa. 
We had some technology issues to address which Cam and Jane completed.  It was a windy day, but nice outside so we decided to take a stroll around the grounds.  After a couple of hours, we headed back to pick up Chris in Coopersville.  Cousin Libby had given Cam a U of M football jersey which he wore that day.  It was a big hit and quite a few people commented.

Sunday afternoon we made our way northward again to see our cousins and have some beach time.  The new Cammobile+ had some water time.  With the new ramp at the Haroldsons, Cam can easily drive all the way to the lower deck.  His younger cousins really love the ramp too.

We all dined together on the beach deck. It was so awesome to see Cameron comfortable in his own chair so close to the shoreline.  There is so much we take for granted.  We are beyond thankful for our family!

Camology Quotes:

Cam loves school.  Since he didn't attend summer school this year, we tried to include some extra activities.  Every August, he has always noted that he can't wait to return.  At the end of this week, though, his thoughts were a bit different and definitely in line with how his parents felt 'back in the day' the closer it was to Labor Day.

"I'm going to miss this summer.  I'm not ready to go back to school."

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Biggest Surprise EVER! - Week of July 31st

 "A secret's worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept." ~Carlos Ruiz Zafon

"And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." ~Roald Dahl

Have you ever had to keep a secret? Most of us definitely have. However, not too many of us were ever required to keep a surprise party a secret for more than a year...

The week began with Cameron hanging out with Ms. Amanda and her dog, Otis.  They try to take Otis out at least once a day for a walk, whenever possible.  On Tuesday, Cam worked at the Cafe providing directions and talking to potential customers.  He also helped with some customer orders.

Wednesday was another work day for Cam.  From the Cafe, he and Ms. Amanda, along with the Program Director, Maddie, made their way to two nearby business.  Cam delivered the drinks and helped request a sponsorship for the Cafe's fundraiser coming up in October.

Friday morning, Jane wasn't feeling well at all.  She was able to work a bit, but settled into bed for much of the day and barely ate.  Little did she know there were many people behind the scenes very concerned about her recovery time.  

Saturday morning brought relief when Cam's mom woke up feeling much better!  She was scheduled to pick up Leslie and Wes flying in from North Carolina before 12p.  The afternoon was relaxing and we mentioned to our dear friends that we had been invited to a small cookout with Ms. Ann and her family at nearby Cascade Park.  We packed up the fruit and veggies we were designated to bring and made our way to the park shortly after 5p.  

Cam was laughing with Auntie Leslie and Wes and we just assumed they were joking around in the van.   Jane and Chris had no idea they were in for the Biggest Surprise Ever!  Upon arrival, Cam's parents saw what looked to be close to 100 people gathered and Chris immediately backed up the van as we all cracked up.  When we parked, Cam revealed the reason- a 20th wedding anniversary surprise party for his parents.  Apparently, Jane sparked the idea with Ms. Ann when she told her back in December 2021 that she wanted to fit into her wedding dress again by their 20th wedding anniversary in 2023!  Not only did the first discussions begin in early 2022 with Oma, but Cam kept a secret for that entire duration.  For a kid who never lies and confesses any wrongdoing, everyone was fairly shocked that it truly remained a hidden project.  

At the incredible gathering, the decorations, including the identical flowers from our wedding, the colors, Lake Michigan sand and even our wedding attire was all on display.  A feast of food, a speech from our best man, a prayer from Gordy and jazz music played by cousin David while surrounded by so many dear friends and family was so overwhelming!  For Cam's parents, it almost felt like their wedding day, complete with a professional photographer, Holly Gauper, whom we've known for the past 7 years since she and her husband have taken our family pics.  Ms. Ann and her amazing family even brought containers to store the leftovers in for us all to take some home.  

At the end of the evening, tears and thankfulness were in full view as Chris and Jane opened a special Shutterfly photo and letter book created by Ms. Ann to commemorate their anniversary.  It is a treasure and a labor of love.  Upon arrival home that evening, Cam's parents tried on their wedding garb and yes, it fit!

Cam's grandparents stayed overnight with us and made their way back to Grand Haven in the afternoon. Our crew with Leslie and Wes headed to the cottage to spend the afternoon with cousins. It wasn't the nicest beach day, but a dip in the water still took place.  We had such a great time on the beach, visiting the animals at the barn and dining on leftovers from the party.

Chris and Jane told Cam that they came to a wonderful realization during the surprise party.  The attendees consisted of family, extended family, friends they call family and the dearest people in their lives.  Many were with us on our wedding day, but just as many came into our lives solely due to our awesome son, Cameron!

Camology Quotes:

It seemed a wash of relief hit Cam knowing that he no longer had to keep the "big secret" or tell white lies to his parents.  During the recap of the festivities, Cam said to Auntie Leslie and Wes: 

"Thanks for following my lead!"