Monday, 1 September 2014

Summer, Autism and Westpoint!

I am so thankful to have had my husband off for 3 weeks of the summer holidays.  We have spent 2 of our weeks off, going on lots of day trips and making memories as a family together. It has flown by and its been so nice re-connecting together. 
Our last week together, we went to Westpoint, camping with our church family, as our holiday.    To someone who is not used to this, I would describe it like a festival, just under 4000 people gathering but with Jesus at the centre! There is lots going on to cater for a wide range of people and interests.  Morning and evening meetings with great teaching (you can select what you are interested in through the seminars) and worship times (big bands performing rock Christian songs).  The children are well catered for in their groups which are separated into age ranges, including a youth program as well as a special needs group (the ark).  The afternoons were filled with even more activities ie nature walks, street dancing, cooking etc or sports events or you could peruse the many stalls, inflatable parks or just chill out with friends. Our church catered for us, so we all ate together and for me it was a really nice break from cooking.  My husband has many talents but cooking is not one them. I have come back feeling really refreshed and ready to embrace the start of the next season. I can't believe I feel this way after being camping! I would say this is all down to God answering our prayers that Westpoint would be successful for us.
The last time we went to Westpoint was 2012 and it was a negative experience for us, so I was really nervous going back again. In fact just going on holiday for us is really hard.  My son really does not like the change in routines, so our last family holiday (also in 2012) was really negative and we haven't been away (just us) since. Last year, we went away for a couple of days at a theme park with my parents and my sister and her family and we enjoyed that so we are slowly healing from the 2012 experience and decided we would try Westpoint again.  I am also the type of character that doesn't like to be defeated so I wanted to go back and face it. Lots of prayers prayed :)
How we did each day - We didn't sign up to every organised event or try to attend every meeting.  If we had approached it this way I think we would have been frustrated with one another and perhaps been overwhelmed by it all.  We took a flexible approach to each day and it worked well for us.  I had 2 children attend the ark and they both loved it. Admittedly, one of them bolted over the fence as soon as I left the tent but the staff worked with him, there was no big panic (not on the outside of their faces) and all was well.  That was the first and last time he did that, as he enjoyed it so much.  That in itself, is quite an achievement for him.  My other child didn't want to leave all the sensory equipment and really enjoyed hanging off the big bouncy equipment.
The afternoons we kept flexible too.  My boys really enjoyed playing nerf gun wars or football with the other boys from our church. We did some scheduled activities but they also really liked meeting up with their old friends from our previous church. 
The evenings, we attended the worship together then would get the younger boys to bed.  The older boys could stay up a bit later and enjoyed playing uno/card games with their friends.  There was evening groups for the older children but by that point in the day my older ones were not up for that.  Once they were in bed, we chatted with friends.  The meetings I went too, I really appreciated.  The teaching was really good and inspiring. I found the evening meetings didn't work too well for me as I was too tired to concentrate but I really enjoyed the morning bible sessions and a choice of seminar or extra worship. I was really blessed by this. Doing less meetings helped me to focus on the messages I did hear.
I loved seeing the boys make their own entertainment and no minecraft/electronic games were played! I loved listening to my little boys in their sleeping pod discussing their day and what they had enjoyed, snuggling up to one another.  It wasn't all perfect happy families, but we expected that and would have either quiet time in our tent or take a child off for some space.  At the end of Westpoint the kids (and us) are really looking forward to going again next year!

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