We were at the convention "in session" for three days. Each day consisted of a morning keynote speaker then three information sessions (with multiple sessions to choose from for each time slot). Day One, we did everything. This is what the day consisted of:
Get everyone up, dressed, and to the continental breakfast. Drop Jamie off at the bus area for his school-age day camp. Drop Clare and Simon off at a different room for the preschool day camp, Shawn drop Violet off at another room for the baby camp (with me staying well out of the way so Violet would fuss just a teeny bit instead of a WHOLE LOT). Grab a second cup of coffee before securing seats for the keynote speaker. After the speaker, 15-minute break (with the familiar ladies room line that lasts the entire break), then off to Session One. Mad dash to the childcare rooms to pick up the three younger ones (Jamie stayed at the day camp off site and joined us again before dinner). Find somewhere to eat lunch, order lunch, coax the children to eat quickly because we only had an hour total to pick them up, eat lunch, and drop them back off. Which is not a lot of time in a big hotel with hundreds of other people trying to do the same thing (poor planning, convention people)! This time, Shawn and I divide and conquer - I bring Simon and Clare back to their room, Shawn is on Violet-duty. (More fussing from Violet than in the morning, but she still goes into childcare fairly well for a 18-month old who has never been in daycare, with a "strange" babysitter only once, and usually won't even hang out with the grandparents without looking around for mom). Arrive at Session Two a little late because the session starts at 1 pm, but the childcare rooms do not reopen until 1 pm (again poor planning, convention-people!). Session Two, 15-minute break, Session Three. Keynote speakers are incredible (made me cry two mornings in a row, dang it!). Sessions are chock full of good information, but now I am on brain overload - mentally-, emotionally-, and physically-exhausted. After Session Three, breathe a big sigh of relief, have about 10 minutes to do nothing, then it's pick-up time for all four children. Four children are extremely excited, wound-up, overtired, and fussy (all at the same time!) about their days. Enjoy about 30 minutes together before it's time to get ready for the evening event (which everyone is eager for because it not only includes horses, carousel, zoo, train ride, dinner, and banjo music, but also Auntie Erin!!), but everyone is also very tired and a little high-strung.
When Day Two dawned, I was already done. The sessions were so helpful and informative that I hated to miss any, but by the afternoon of Day Two, I needed a break. I went with Shawn to the keynote speaker and sessions one and two, but skipped the third session. I went back to the hotel room and took a nap (Shawn went on to his "dads only" session and the kids were all still at camp). By Day Three, Shawn was done, too. Since it was a Saturday, we had already planned months ago to only put Violet in childcare that day, and Erin would take the other three for the day. Erin picked them up for the Science Museum, but we did not put Violet in childcare. She had successfully lasted the first two days, but I think Violet was done with the whole childcare scene and was extremely fussy and clingy. Shawn and I agreed to skip all sessions on Day Three. Instead, we took Violet with us to the Vatican Splendors exhibit at the Missouri History Museum. Incredible! I am so glad we did this. The exhibit showcased art and artifacts from the Vatican's collection. Many pieces have never been outside the Vatican before. We saw amazing items, such as relics from Sts. Peter and Paul (actual pieces of their bones), Michelangelo's art and tools used in work on the Sistene Chapel, Pope John Paul II's chalice and patten, and the 16th century red cope worn by St. Charles Borromeo. We spent two peaceful hours at the exhibit (Violet cooperated by taking a nap in the stroller during the majority of this), ate lunch at a great little Mexican place, then found Gooey Louie's, a St. Louis bakery devoted solely to gooey butter cake. If you know me and my family well, you know that gooey butter cake is a staple in our diet! We were able to recharge during the day, then in the evening, Erin generously babysat in our hotel room (with pizza and a movie), and Shawn and I enjoyed the ending convention banquet minus children.
The keynote speakers we heard were Dr. Ray Guarendi (parenting "expert" - although he scoffs at that title - and father of ten children) and Gary Guller, the first man to climb Mt. Everest with only one arm. Not only did he reach the summit, he led an expedition of the largest ever cross-disability group to reach Mt. Everest Base Camp. Both men were exceptional speakers. Dr Ray had lots of good advice when it comes to parenting and discipline, but Gary Guller made me realize that we can't give up on our dreams no matter what life throws our way. That our kids CAN do anything, and it's not up to us or anyone else to tell them they cannot. Gary Guller was beyond amazing when it comes to being inspirational.
As I stated, the convention was overwhelming, but it was worth the trip. I still have not re-read and digested my notes and the binder of slides from the sessions we attended. I have a list of potential "issues" to look into and check off my list. We gained some insight into what's going on in Clare's brain, learned new techniques to help her cope with stress and anxiety, discussed ideas for a sensory diet, and added goals to her IEP, to name a few. We are very glad we made the trip to St. Louis (both in visiting family and for the Williams Syndrome Convention), but it always sweet to be home again!