Sunday, March 31, 2024

Spring Break Road Trip - Week of Mar. 25th

"It's not the destination, it's the journey." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson  

"People don't take trips, trips take people." ~John Steinbeck

We told Cam that any spring break trip would be his choice.  Over the summer, his cousins requested a visit to Philadelphia and New Jersey.  Cameron chose to head east for his sophomore spring vacation. Wednesday was the last day of school for Cam's week and the last day of work for his parents' week too. After Cameron finished tutoring with Ms. Ann, we all made our way over to JT's restaurant for the limited time cod dinner.  

Thursday morning, we removed the few remaining items from the cupboards in the kitchen.  Cam supervised checking and re-checking the packing list for our trip.  By 11am, we were finally on our way!  Our first day destination was Youngstown, Ohio.  It would take us 5.5 hours to drive there.  Chris rigged up Cam's iPad for easy viewing and maneuvering during the van ride.  We arrived at our hotel close to 5p.  Room service was ordered and we were all pretty tired.  The food was tasty so we decided to order one breakfast and have it delivered.  It was enough for 3 people!  

We were back on the highway by 10am.  Friday's final destination was Philadelphia.  Our trip was long but the scenery from Ohio to Pennsylvania was so interesting.  The sunny drive took us through 4 tunnels.  The service plazas were the coolest, according to Cam, since you could easily complete everything you needed in one stop.  The traffic became heavier as we made our way into downtown Philly.  We pulled into the Doubletree hotel right before 5pm.  The check-in process took some time.  Our spacious room was on the 26th floor, which was also the very top of the building.  Our view was spectacular.  Cousin Avery was very sad we couldn't visit that evening since she had dressed up for Cam, but was happy when we sent a short video.

Saturday morning, after a hotel breakfast, we ventured out to meet cousin Libby in downtown Philadelphia to see some sights.  We were pleasantly surprised that the sidewalks weren't crowded and Cam was able to navigate easily.  Our first stop was the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. The Liberty Bell, previously called the State House Bell or Old State House Bell, is an iconic symbol of American independence located in Philadelphia. Originally placed in the steeple of Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell today is located across the street from Independence Hall.  The line to see the bell inside was quite long, so we opted for an up-close look through the window.  
Our next stop with Libby was the "Rocky" statue located in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  An elaborate monument of George Washington from the Revolutionary War along with allegorical figures was located in front.  Cam liked hearing about the monument's history and we were all thankful for the mild, sunny weather.  The 72 steps leading up to the Museum of Art are known as the iconic "Rocky" steps.  Libby and Chris ran up the steps first and then Jane and Chris quickly ascended and descended.  We were on a bit of a time schedule.  

Next, we were slated to meet up with our extended family: cousins JJ & Jeffrey, Katie and Tyler and their daughters Avery and Olivia.  Our lunchtime destination was the Philadelphia Zoo where we would start off with a picnic feast right through the entrance.  The Philadelphia Zoo is the first true zoo in the United States. It was chartered by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on March 21, 1859, but its opening was delayed by the Civil War until July 1, 1874. The zoo opened with 1,000 animals and an admission price of 25 cents.  For a brief time, the zoo also housed animals brought to U.S. from safaris by the Smithsonian Institution, which had not yet built its National Zoo.  
The Philadelphia Zoo is one of the premier zoos in the world for breeding animals that are difficult to breed in captivity.  The zoo also works with many groups around the world to protect the natural habitats of the animals in their care. The zoo is 42 acres and the home of nearly 1,300 animals, many of which are rare and endangered.  Four-year-old cousin Avery pointed out all of the animals to Cam.  Jane's favorite were the monkeys running through suspended mesh tunnels.  Cameron's choice was the enormous tortoise that was over 100 years old.  Chris's top pick was the lion.  We spent over two hours seeing all of the different creatures and just beat the raindrops as we exited the zoo.  We ended our Saturday at Katie and Tyler's home in Fishtown where we devoured delicious appetizers and local pizza.

Sunday morning after our buffet hotel breakfast, we decided to take a family stroll just 20 minutes from our hotel to check out City Hall and the famous "Love" sign.
Philadelphia City Hall is the world's largest free-standing masonry building and was the world's tallest habitable building upon its completion in 1894. It was built using brick, white marble and limestone.  We didn't even realize until we were upon the entrance that you can actually walk directly through the middle of the building.  Cam was amazed by how tall it was and all of the history.
Upon exiting City Hall, we could see our next stop.
The famous Robert Indiana sculpture is in John F. Kennedy Plaza — better known as LOVE Park — just northwest of City Hall. It was installed in 1976.
We were back to our hotel by 10am and then promptly headed out in our van to Lebanon, New Jersey.  The ride was close to 90 minutes for the short journey to spend Easter with our cousins at their home, known as The Tory House.  
JJ and Jeffrey's house was built in 1760.  This is truly the oldest home we had ever been in.  Cam was transferred to his manual wheelchair so we could navigate in their home.  First up, though, was an Easter egg hunt with the little cousins.  Cameron was also included to partake in the search for plastic eggs filled with chocolate.  The property overlooks a stream and woods with a carriage house, bridge over the water and a sugar shack where maple syrup is made.  A scavenger hunt began and the kids collected their goodies.  We heard the history of the house and Jeffrey took us on a tour.  A toasty fire outside kept us all warm while we munched on appetizers.  Easter dinner was an unbelievable feast of lamb, mashed potatoes and vegetables.  It was the first time Cam had tasted lamb and he loved it!  Dessert options included our homemade Michigan apple pie and homemade cheesecake with a delectable chocolate crust.  Afterwards, JJ presented an Easter basket to all of us.  Their tradition is to give underwear to the adults, toys to the kids and chocolate eggs and jellybeans for everyone.  Cam was the proud recipient of a U of M champions shirt with "We Beat Everyone" emblazoned on the front.  With full bellies, we thanked our cousins for a most memorable Easter. Chris, Jane and their son talked about the awesome day on their drive back to their Philadelphia hotel.  More adventures were just around the corner...

Camology Quotes:

Cam is typically open to try new things. He was a bit hesitant when he heard we'd be having lamb for Easter. Upon his first bite, though, he was pleasantly surprised.
"Mom, it tastes like really good steak!"

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Packing Away - Week of Mar. 18th

"If I'd known how much packing I'd have to do, I'd have run again." ~Harry S Truman

Nelson Mandela said "It always seems impossible until it's done."  While he was referencing overcoming adversity, we attributed the phrase to taxes and packing this week.

We finally decided to have some kitchen remodeling completed by a local contractor.  While it isn't extensive, there is a still a hefty list that will be tackled.  Repainting all kitchen, laundry room and  bathroom cupboards, new kitchen countertops, backsplash and sink as well as a revamped shower downstairs all need to be checked off.  Leading up to the first portion of the work, all cupboards needed to be emptied and contents packed away.  Since Cameron knew what our responsibilities were, he continued to request packing activity every evening, which his parents avoided until the weekend.

Most of western Michigan was in a winter weather advisory beginning early Friday morning.  Much to everyone's surprise, schools were cancelled on Friday.  Unfortunately for Cam, his parents had very full work schedules that day so he managed to occupy his time.  We didn't think to take any snow pictures since we were all in a bit of disbelief.
Cam continued to ask his parents when they would all complete their taxes.  That task was finally crossed off the list during the day on Saturday.  The snow was nearly gone and we left late in the afternoon to meet our cousins for dinner in Muskegon. We met at Fricano's on Muskegon Lake.  Fricano Place was built in 1885 as the Hartshorn Curtain Roll Factory. It was the only manufacturer of window roller shades in the world and operated as a factory until the early 1980s.  It was the Hartshorn Centre for years and was purchased by Ted and Jennifer Fricano in 2009.

We were all seated by the windows with a nice view of the lake and the sunshine.  Eating Fricano's pizza is an extended family tradition.  Chris refers to it as "cracker pizza" since the crust is so thin.  We all love the flavor of the sauce and the fresh ingredients.

Sunday continued the kitchen packing festivities.  We did have a nice break relaxing and watching a family movie, "Mitchells vs. the Machines" following a quirky group coming together.

The deer outdoors must have taken a cue from us all!

Camology Quotes:

Sometimes, it is difficult for Cam to make a decision between things.  Chris and Jane do try to encourage him to choose and most importantly, remain with his chosen outcome.  After debating with himself for quite some time, Cam declared: 
"I don't like this 'it's your choice' thing!"

Sunday, March 17, 2024

Never Have I Ever - Week of Mar. 11th

"Look at everything as though you were seeing it for the first time or the last time. Then your time on earth will be filled with glory." ~Betty Smith 

"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." ~T. S. Eliot 

"The first time you say something, it's heard. The second time, it's recognized, and the third time it's learned." ~John C. Maxwell

Cameron experienced some firsts this week...and his parents did too.

Tuesday morning, Cam and a few of his classmates appeared on the Forest Hills Northern TV (FHNTV) program.  The local production is broadcast only for the high school student body and teachers.  This group was featured because they were all volunteering to work at the Brody's Be Cafe Coffee Cart.  The Coffee Cart was scheduled to be available for the Special Olympics basketball tournament the next day.

That afternoon, Jane picked up her son at school since they were both scheduled to be at Renew Mobility.  Cam's mom was interviewed that morning as a board member.  Cameron was confirmed for his video time Tuesday later in the day.  Renew Mobility was the honored recipient of complimentary video work by a local videographer.  Cam and Jane chatted with fellow board members Matt and Jill.  A good friend, Ongie, was also there to be filmed.  

These were just a few of the questions posed to Jane and Cam for their non-profit interview:  How does it make you feel to know that your equipment will go to someone with a disability? How has the equipment from Renew Mobility impacted your life? Can you share a specific example of something that was made possible because of this equipment?  Links to the videos will be posted in a future blog!

Wednesday morning, Cam was stationed near the gym at Forest Hills Northern High School.  The group assembled volunteered to greet, serve coffee and collect payment.  Both Chris and Jane stopped in to see their son.  Unfortunately, work schedules didn't permit them to be there at the same time, but Cam was excited they both showed up.  Our son looked very official with the cafe apron and visor.  

That evening, power soccer practice was on the agenda.  Even though it was a busy day, Cam rallied to attend.  One of his friends who he hadn't seen in a few weeks was also there.  Coach had them run drills and practice driving skills. 

A big weekend was on the horizon for Cameron.  His first overnight camping adventure was scheduled for Friday - Sunday at Indian Trails Camp.  The session was centered around St. Patrick's Day.  Cam was nervous but excited.  Jane picked him up from school so he would have a little extra time before heading out around 4pm.  Drop off was slated for 4-5pm.  Everything was incredibly organized and we met three counselors upon our arrival.  This would be the first two nights Cameron would spend away from family and friends.  After a few big hugs with his parents, we all said our goodbyes with smiles.  Chris and Jane were then on their way to the cottage.

Sunday morning pickup at Indian Trails was between 10am and 11am.  Cam's parents arrived a little bit after 10 o'clock.  According to their son, the weekend was pretty good but a couple of the kids were "screamers" as reported by Cam and the counselors.  With Cameron's aversion to loud noise, it was difficult for him to deal with.  However, he loved the activities and really liked his counselors.  After processing and reflecting, he told us later that day that he thought summer camp might be fun!  He is currently on the waiting list.

Upon returning home, our camper was truly worn out.  For the first time in a very long time, Cam dozed a bit in the afternoon while watching a movie.  A visit from our cousins was the perfect ending to the weekend.  And to make that visit even more special, Cameron was treated to the famous shamrock shake from McDonald's!

Camology Quotes:

Cam met some new friends at camp and definitely liked the staff.  Jess was his favorite counselor and had a great sense of humor.  She told us that she and Cam thought similar things were funny.  When she commented on something, Cam chimed in:
"Ms. Jess, you're being sarcastic, right?!"

Sunday, March 10, 2024

Taxes Anyone? - Week of Mar. 4th

"The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax." ~Albert Einstein

Some people create memos, calendar events or notices, but they don't have a Cam.  Cameron is truly a walking reminder of any upcoming activity.  It is no surprise that when the month of March begins, Chris and Jane are asked about filing their taxes.  Cam's parents were able to successfully delay the arduous task for at least another week.

We finished a busy week of work and school and were all anticipating the weekend.  After a Saturday early lunch, Jane and her son ventured off to pick up Cam's grandparents.  Opa had a couple of bumps and bruises from a minor fall but was all checked out and cleared for take off to spend the night with us.  When we arrived back in GR, our cousins were waiting for us!  They had finished up a grocery shopping trip and stopped in to see everyone. We all shared tasty appetizers and played a fun card game called "Name 5" that each of us participated in.  It was an awesome afternoon.  After the cousins left, we dined on chicken pot pie paired with our collective favorite homemade applesauce.  Oma brought us some delectable Ryke's cookies for dessert.  
After dinner, we looked through an abundance of memorabilia with Cam's grandma as she sorted through pictures and mementos.  
Jane and her son asked her so many questions about her past.
We were all were surprised to find more photos never seen before as we started up the old slide projector.
We kept asking Cam to guess if he knew who was in the pics from so long ago.  He definitely improved his guessing game the more slides he viewed.

Sunday morning, we all felt a bit tired after moving the clocks forward an hour to begin Daylight Savings Time.  After a few errands and a bit more relaxing, it was time to bring Oma and Opa back to their home.
Cam wouldn't let his grandparents leave, though, before some extra tight hugs to last them for the next couple of weeks.

Camology Quotes:

We know Cam listens very carefully, that he will commonly use words or phrases he hears his parents say. After Jane was giving Chris a hard time about forgetting something, Cam quickly jumped to his defense, smiling and saying: 
"Mom, give my Dad some grace!"

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Weather Rollercoaster - Week of Feb. 26th

"It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.” ~Charles Dickens, Great Expectations

The end of February marking a 70+degree day is never an assumption in Michigan.  
On Tuesday, Feb. 27th, we experienced a 73℉ record!
And, the very next morning, it was snowing...our temperature dropped 50 degrees!  Fortunately, the white stuff didn't stay on the ground and the temps actually rebounded quite nicely.

Friday afternoon, Jane made plans to pick up her son from school instead of him riding the bus home.  Cam's grandma had invited them to Rosy Mound to have a fish dinner in the big dining room.  
Cameron and his mom arrived late in the afternoon and brought some mementos for his grandparents to look through.  We all arrived on time for our delicious meal.  There were quite a few full tables and we were introduced to all of Oma and Opa's friends.  The meal was topped off with a large brownie ala mode- a Cam favorite!  We were thankful for our time together and left with big smiles and full bellies.

Saturday evening, Cameron and Ms. Kaylee hung out together, shared Jimmy John's and played games while Chris and Jane enjoyed an evening with friends too.

After lunch on Sunday, we headed northward to see our cousins.  We couldn't believe how warm it was on March 3rd.  Typically, it can be 10+ degrees cooler on Lake Michigan, but it definitely didn't feel that way.  We all relaxed in the glorious sunshine for a couple of hours outside.  In fact, it felt so "balmy" that we decided to enjoy our dinner on the outdoor picnic table.  When we visit, the littlest cousins love seeing Cameron.  
In fact, they cannot wait to assist with buckling him into the van securely and making certain that all safety measures are taken.😉

Camology Quotes:

When Jane and her son were loading things back into the car, Cam was talking about how his nervous laughter reaction may not have been appropriate in a recent situation.

"Mom, you need to catch me in the act and then I'll remember."
"What did you say, Cam?"  (Cam repeats)
Cam, I literally thought you said, "Mom, you need to kick me in the a** and then I'll remember."
~insert uncontrollable laughter by Jane & Cam~