Sunday, December 31, 2023

Christmas Togetherness - Week of Dec. 25th

"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." ~Dr. Seuss

When Cameron was younger, waking up very early on Christmas morning was the norm.  With more family members with us on this special holiday, everyone slept in a bit and we enjoyed a leisurely day.  Each person opened one gift at a time.  Grandma Sue and Jalayna had never celebrated in our home, so it was fun to add them to our traditions.  We have always seen Oma and Opa for the holiday and we all agreed that it was so special to bring our families together.

Jane created two challenges for the cousins, Cam and Layna.  Cameron was presented with a chicken tender one and Layna read her donut challenge.  Each indicated that their cousin would be their consultant to test and then rate establishments in the area to determine which was best.  Each one read "This is your Christmas challenge, should you choose to accept it. Please rate the best (chicken tenders or donuts) in Grand Rapids! Your cousin is your partner in this challenge to consult with about your rating. Your rating of each location will be the final score!"

Grandma Sue was busy sewing and gave each of us something she had made.  Oma and Opa made a trip to the Marushka store in Grand Haven to give everyone a unique piece of clothing only found in their city. Cam opened a heated vest to use for skiing and Jane unwrapped a temperature controlled mug to allow her to continue work in her office instead of heading to the microwave for multiple reheats! Chris received a new camo jacket for snowboarding and Cam opened tickets to accompany his parents to a Griffins hockey game in February.

Chris and Jane decided to invest in a family membership to Frederick Meijer Gardens.  Our gift to our collective family was to treat everyone to a trip to the botanical garden on Tuesday to see "Christmas Around the World."  The holiday exhibition honors cultures across the globe with more than 40 unique displays depicting fact and folklore, past and present.  Some of our favorites were Germany and Lithuania.  After perusing the decorations and seeing a short film about the history of the displays, we ventured to the Garden cafe for cocoa, coffee and tea.

Over the course of the week, we relaxed and watched Christmas movies including Home Alone, Arthur Christmas and Christmas with the Kranks. Cam and Layna started their quest to find the tastiest donuts and chicken tenders.  Games were played and it was fun to see the grandmas together, chatting and catching up.

Jane drove Oma and Opa back on Wednesday afternoon and told them it would only be a couple of weeks until we'd see them again.  Amanda joined us for a couple of days and the cousins enjoyed taking her dog Otis for a walk.

Layna was intrigued by the frosty ground one morning and had to go outside and touch the pine tree just to see what it was all about.

We welcomed Jalayna's dad, Cam's Uncle John, very late Friday.  We were so happy to have him with us from Arizona.  John had a chance to relax on Saturday.

Chris and his older brother had some time to themselves while Jane and Grandma Sue hung out with the kids.  

Sunday afternoon, we prepared for our New Year's Eve celebration after a trip to the grocery store.  Dips, chicken wings, side dishes and fruit made up our menu.  We toasted each other with sparkling cider, which we all declared quite tasty.  We all talked about things we would stop doing in 2024, instead of making promises to start something else.  After all, Tennyson said "Ring out the false, ring in the true."

Camology Quotes:

Cameron often sees things differently than some.  After discussing a difficult situation between two individuals, Cam offered up the most simplistic, straightforward solution:
"Maybe they just need to say 'I'm sorry'."

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Family Festivities - Week of Dec. 18th

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” ~Hamilton Wright Mabie
“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” ~Clarence, It’s a Wonderful Life 

For the first time in Cameron's 16 years, we would welcome both grandmothers for the Christmas holiday!
Grandma Sue and cousin Jalayna arrived Monday evening from Arizona.  We were so excited to have them with us for an extended timeframe.  The first activity began Wednesday for the cousins.  Layna accompanied Cameron and his dad to the power soccer practice.  Afterwards, they all enjoyed a pizza party with the entire group.

On Thursday, Jane helped prepare her son and niece for cookie decorating, complete with three frosting colors, sparkles and sprinkles.  The kitchen looked very festive upon completion and the taste-testers declared their Christmas cookies most delicious!

That evening, Grandma Sue, Jane, Cam and Layna headed to the Christmas Lite Show set up in the ballpark parking lot. 
William (Bill) Schrader is a hero- an American hero after his service to the country, and a hero to the thousands of children who come to experience his bright vision of Christmas each year. After completing a successful military career, returning to West Michigan as a wounded war veteran, he began lighting the way to creating a West Michigan Christmas Tradition. Bill and his family spent the days leading up to Christmas each year driving through West Michigan 
neighborhoods that were elaborately decked in lights. These memories were so cherished by both Bill and his wife, as well as their 3 children. 
One night, sitting around a campfire, Bill shared these memories with family friends who held the same passion for Christmas and family fun. The next day, Bill went to the LMCU Ballpark office and asked to lease the parking lot so that he could bring this fun attraction to West Michigan. 
In the last 25 years, the Christmas Lite Show team of mostly Veterans has grown from 5 to over 30. It has also grown from generators, gas cans, and mile-long extension cords to transformers, power boxes, and 100% LEDs, and from 1 semi trailer full of lights to 8! Today, the Christmas Lite Show is a family business, known as the largest light show display in West Michigan. Bill’s team of family and friends work hard year-round to bring new and exciting displays and experiences every year during the 40-night season. The Christmas Lite Show has become a Christmas tradition for over 50,000 visitors each year. The spirit of Christmas, to Bill and the team, is about spreading joy and good fortune to our community. They carry out this spirit by supporting and donating to local organizations like the Grand Rapids Veterans Home. 

Friday was filled with togetherness, games and general silliness.  It was Cam's last half day of school before beginning his official winter break.  Layna and Chris ran down the driveway to meet Cameron and then they all proceeded to race up to the house.
Cam and his cousin, Layna, love choosing different activities that everyone can take part in.  Guesstures became a favorite game.

On Saturday, Jane made her way to Grand Haven to pick up Oma and Opa.  The mild weather made for an easy trip.  Our flank steak dinner that evening was a hit.  It was hard to believe that Christmas Eve was already here on Sunday.  
We made our way to the church service at 4pm at Thornapple Covenant.  We sat with our dear friends, the Raisch fam.
Silent Night and Go Tell It on the Mountain were the last two hymns.  LED lights were passed out to everyone to bring light from the church into your home.  It was a powerful message.
Upon arrival back at the house, we prepared our meal of seven fishes.  We welcomed cousins Max and Coco and the kiddos shortly after.  They brought perch from Old Channel Inn and the largest container of tartar sauce we had ever seen!  It was such a special evening with all of the cousins playing together, grandparents watching over everyone and feasting on all of the different types of fish.  Before Chris and Jane headed to bed, the stockings were hung by the chimney with care and we all settled in for a good night's rest!  

Camology Quotes:
Cam likes to provide his point of view. After discussing a family matter, Cam indicated a way to deal with something and stated, 
"It may give her a different perspective."

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Wrap It Up - Week of Dec. 11th

Around 336 CE, the date December 25 appears to have become established as the day of Jesus's birth, and the tradition of gift-giving was tied to the story of the Biblical Magi giving gifts to baby Jesus.
Together with another story, that of Saint Nicholas, a fourth-century Christian bishop and gift-giver, it slowly became a part of Christmas celebrations in countries such as the United Kingdom. In other Christian countries, the practice of gift-giving occurs early in Advent, on Saint Nicholas Day.

We do ask Cam every year if there is anything special he would like for Christmas.  It does seem more difficult for him to choose for himself versus other family members.  The older Cameron becomes, he does appreciate experiences.  We've chosen to lean more in that direction instead of tangible items.

Tuesday after school, we were prepared for a divide and conquer evening.  Jane drove Cam to his haircut which Chris normally does.  While her son was getting settled, the stylist asked what guard number to use for the top of his head.  
Guard number is a very foreign term for Jane so she texted Cam's dad.  He responded with "2" which was relayed to the stylist.  Needless to say, what she didn't realize (and does now) is that it was supposed to be "2 with a fade."  Luckily for Cam's mom, he had many compliments about his "cool haircut" the next day at school.

Jane actually heard some of those comments firsthand on Wednesday.  It was the digital media open house, so Cam's mom made an appearance to see all of Cam's creations.  Digital media class is based on creating art digitally on the computer using different applications.  There were many displays to see and refreshments for all of the guests.  When Cam was asked if he wanted to see his friends' artwork, he indicated he needed to stay "at his station" to answer any questions and greet people.

Jane is hopeful the artwork makes it home before the holiday because there were some really cool pieces.

Saturday evening, we welcomed Kaylee once again.  Cam recommended his stand-by favorite for din... Culver's.  They completed a curbside pickup after Cameron's expert navigation directions.  Chris and Jane enjoyed the evening out.

We headed up north for lunchtime on Sunday to see cousins and pick up some cottage items.  Then, we were off to visit Oma and Opa to bring them things and pick up some things.  

Everything looks so festive where they live and Cam's grandma wanted to show us the holiday decorations. There isn't just one tree, there are several and each had its own personality. Oma let her grandson know that the presents displayed were only empty boxes and not designated for anyone specifically.  Cam assumed as much and Jane reminded him they had some wrapping to finish up upon arrival home.

Back in Grand Rapids, Cameron assisted his mom with presents.  No matter what the activity, it's always more fun to have a helper at your side!

Camology Quotes:

Cameron seems to be picking up additional words that are not commonly used.  It's always funny to hear him use them correctly and in the proper context.  During an evening routine, Cam and his dad were joking about being crazy silly and causing trouble.  Cam laughed and said to Chris, 
"I am not a hooligan!"

Sunday, December 10, 2023

The Present of Gifting - Week of Dec. 4th

When we see something that brings a smile to our face, it's very similar to receiving a gift.  Watching someone engage in an act of kindness is one of the simple presents in life.
This poster in Brody's Be Cafe also reminds us to celebrate everyone and find outstanding qualities in those individuals who do things a bit differently. 
"Some kids are smarter than you, some kids have cooler clothes than you, some kids are better at sports than you.  It doesn't matter.  You have your thing too.  Be the kid who can get along.  Be the kid who is generous.  Be the kid who is happy for other people. Be the kid who does the right thing.  Be the nice kid." ~Bryan Skavnak

Our family has been busy creating our annual Christmas card.  We tell people "it's our thing" and something that takes time, but also provides smiles, laughter and even joy...especially when they are finally ordered!

We had Oma and Opa overnight to complete some holiday shopping late Friday afternoon.  After a relaxing dinner at home, we watched the Amazing Race and then slept in on Saturday.  Chris and Jane enjoyed an evening downtown, while Cam and Kaylee tried out Potbelly sandwiches and had fun themselves. 

Our Sunday was dedicated to errands and indoor projects.  Cameron, always the diligent supervisor, told his parents they needed to begin the process of stuffing envelopes and addressing for sending out our holiday cards. Without his insistence, it's questionable if they would be on time every year.
The running joke is that Jane writes such a lengthy poem that you need a magnifier to read it. For your easier reading, we have included it here 😉

2023 was a year of beginnings and ends, travel and welcoming family and friends. Grandma Sue and Layna helped us ring in the New Year, a weeklong visit filled with fun and cheer. 
Cam tackled adaptive skiing on the Cannonsburg hills, while his parents skied and boarded trying to avoid any spills. 

In the winter months to keep ourselves on the move, visits to Oma and Opa and cousins up north kept us in the groove. 
March brought in sports for Cam, attending power soccer practice and WMML baseball, always his jam. 
Spring break we boarded the plane for our trek to Arizona in the sun 
A week spent with Chris’ fam, meeting his brothers, and the hope that new traditions had begun. 
As April came to a close, we lost a dear family friend and our cat Stella passed away, 
It’s so hard to say goodbye when we want them so very much to stay. 
Summer is our favorite time and Cam started working at Brody’s Be Cafe, 
Delivering hot dogs and drinks and figuring out customer interaction and what to say. 
Chris ventured to Canada, fishing for walleye and bringing home his big catch 
Jane and Cam worked on strawberry jam and applesauce, completing batch after batch. 
Lake Michigan called us northward every sunny weekend, and the new Haroldson walkway ramp allowed our fam beach time, which we highly recommend. 
Chris & Jane attended two outdoor music concerts, both a perfect sounding blend. 
July, a busy month, with Chris’ brother, John and his crew ascending 
The Boulder Ridge Zoo, birthday celebrations and a cottage visit made for a great ending. 
Ms. Amanda makes our summer complete hanging out with Cam, along with tutoring from Ms. Ann, 
Cam attended his first Wheelchair Sports Camp and he’s definitely a big fan! 
Our annual Maple Beach shrimp boil and a new beach wheelchair for our teen, 
Leading up to the biggest surprise of our lifetime, a 20th surprise wedding anniversary party for Chris & Jane, with the largest crowd gathered they’d seen. 
Leslie and Wes flew in to celebrate with us and others traveled from far and near, 
We were overwhelmed to see everyone, continually finding happy tears. 
Cameron celebrated turning 16 and we headed out on a pontoon cruise, 
In his power chair on the boat with Oma and Opa, we saw the White Lake views. 
School began for our sophomore son, WMML baseball and a Homecoming dance, 
Steve & Patti gave Chris & Jane the priceless gift of an overnight stay for romance. 
Our volunteer activities fill our buckets each and every day, Mary Free Bed, Lori’s Voice, Renew Mobility and Brody’s Be Cafe. 
Our thankfulness makes us smile and think of a memory or two, may 2024 bring goodness and time to share with each of you.

Camology Quotes:

We often joke about the fact that Cameron is appropriate with his language choices.  He had two instances this week where this was very appropriate.  During his swimming therapy, he asked his instructor: 
"Are my britches falling down?"

During his bedroom routine one evening, Cam was relaying a story about a large water cup accidentally falling on his foot at school.  He told his parents:
"It smarted, but I was ok!"

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Parading Around - Week of Nov. 27th

Santa Claus parades are most common in North America. One of the largest is the Toronto Santa Claus Parade, held annually in mid-November in Toronto, started in 1905 by the Eaton's department store. That year Santa arrived on a train and met Mr. and Mrs. Timothy Eaton, then walked to the Eaton's Downtown store. The first float was introduced in 1908 and consisted of one truck with a band to accompany Santa. The parade now has over 24 floats, 24 bands, and 1,700 participants, and is broadcast in several countries. 
Peoria, Illinois has the longest running Santa Claus Parade in the U.S. The parade celebrated its 131st edition on November 23, 2018. The first parade in 1887 consisted of boats and derricks sailing down the river as part of the new bridge construction. In 1888, Peoria held a parade through town, celebrating the completion of the new Upper Free Bridge. The following December, Frederick Block of the Schipper and Block Department Store (later Block & Kuhl's) sponsored a parade that followed the same route and featured Santa Claus. This created the concept of a department-store parade that was later emulated in larger cities. Various attractions in the parade through the years included fireworks, circus wagons, a calliope, live reindeer and numerous parade floats. The parade was first televised in 1958.

Heading into December, we enter the Michigan unpredictable weather phase.  On Tuesday morning, we woke up to see a dusting of snow on the ground.  It didn't stick around, but it was a reminder that the white stuff is imminent.
Wednesday evening, Cameron attended his power soccer practice.  His buddy, April, was happy to be back after missing the last few sessions.

The weekend was packed full of activities.  Friday evening, Ms. Amanda stayed with Cam while Chris hosted a work event downtown that Jane was invited to.

It was a later night for Cam's parents, but they were up bright and early the next morning.  The Weatherford fam was committed to participate in the Ada Village Santa Parade to support Brody's Be Cafe.  For over 25 years the annual parade, hosted by the Ada Firefighters, has ensured that Santa arrives in style.  We parked at the Ada library and made our way over to River Street for the line-up.  The Brody's Be Cafe crew was stationed directly behind the Forest Hills Northern Marching Band!  The band was leading the procession and we were all in place one hour prior to send off.

When 11am finally arrived, the marchers began their music.  We followed behind, passing out flyers and candy to all of the parade spectators.  Cam wore an apron to advertise the cafe.  The route took us by Brody's Be and we saw quite a few friends along the way.  The entire length of parade was just under a mile.  Fortunately, it wasn't unbearably cold and the movement and activity kept us motivated.  The fire station was the end of the line for the participants and we made our back to the cafe.  We were all offered a free hot cocoa with homemade whipped cream, which was readily accepted.  Ms. Rachel gave Cam a big hug, thanking him for being a part of the event and we snapped a pic of best buds, Brody and Cam, in front of the "mug tree" display.
That afternoon, we all warmed up and relaxed.  

Saturday evening, we welcomed back Kaylee.  She hung out with Cameron pre-pandemic and we hadn't seen her since 2020.  Even though it had been three years, the two friends picked up where they left off.  While Cam and Kaylee played games and watched a show, Chris and Jane spent their evening with Chris' coworkers celebrating the holiday.  A mobile photo booth captivated the techie group.

Sunday was a rainy day, but it didn't deter Jane and her son from continuing with their planned trip to Grand Haven to visit Oma and Opa.  After a drive-thru Panera Bread stop, they delivered brunch to Cam's grandparents.  We had a fun afternoon completing small projects, visiting the library and sitting by the fireplace.
When we arrived back in Grand Rapids, we all settled in for the evening.  Jane & Chris asked Cam about ordering pizza that night.  To their surprise, Cameron requested a "home-cooked" meal after weekend take-out two nights in a row!

Camology Quotes:

Cameron and his mom make the long trek down the driveway every weekday morning at 6:20 to meet the bus.  Upon wake-up, we hear the weather forecast from Alexa and the temperature.  Of course, it isn't until we actually look out our doorway that we are aware what it will be like when we go outside.  The grass and pavement had a very thin layer of snow.  Jane quickly indicated that she and Cam would be fine traversing the hill.  Her son quickly chimed in...

"I'll be the judge of that!"