This past weekend was a blast! We started Thursday night going to the theater and watching a performance of BLAST! They were a group of musicians and if they come to you neck or the woods do go see. The kids and us enjoyed the performance very much.
Friday with great excitement the kids helped to pack their suit cases and the car for our 3 hour + drive up to Palmdale, CA for our weekend at Painted Turtle Camp. This is a camp for kids with special needs. What is even more amazing is they not only engage the "special" kids but also the siblings who may seem left out because so much is done for or with the "special" kid.
We arrived and were greeted by our PAL Annie for the weekend. Annie like many of the PALs is a medical students and volunteers at the camp for experience hours. The camp puts a pal with each family to assist with getting around the camp. Shelby took to her right away. We had our picture taken and then had dinner. A relaxed start getting to know other people and signing up for activities for the next day.
Saturday was a busy and full day. We had the choice of sitting back and enjoying the quiet while Annie took the kids to and fro, but as this was a first for many things was wanted to be part of it all.
Also because we had 2 kids we were given another pal--one for each kid. Nick turned out to be a lot of fun for Josh--he could imitate Yoda's voice and knew a ton about Star Wars-Josh was excited.
Shelby was not older enough for some of the activities but had fun hanging with Annie and do a ton of crafts, walking, running and skipping all over the camp and just being silly with someone who gave her undivided attention.
In the end, between the various activities on Saturday and Sunday, the kids went fishing--but did not catch anything. Both go into a canoe with me and went around the lake. Shelby even got in a paddle boat with me around the lake; a first for all.
Josh rode a horse for the first time and climbed the ropes course and went down the zip-line--amazing to watch. They both had a lot of fun and tried many things for the first time.
Saturday evening we enjoyed skit night performed by all the kids. Ironically there was another Snyder family there with 2 boys who like Star Wars and who like to play music. And as we sat and ate breakfast their skit came to life. So for their skit, one played the drums, one guitar, Josh played lead and sang while Shelby danced. What did they sing you ask??? Only Josh's favorite song--thanks to dad: "Cheeseburger in Paradise" by Jimmy Buffet. They were saved for last as the finale'--Snyder Rock and rock it out they did.
Saturday night after dinner the pals came to our cabin and played with the kids while we went to the dining hall which the staff had transformed into a romantic hide-away. A fireplace and only candles lit the room. Rocking chairs were brought in and the cozy atmosphere gave couples a few hours of quiet. Something many have not had in several years.
One highlight, I enjoyed, was watching Shelby engage wholeheartedly. The first night as they kicked off, the grandpa type MC welcomed everyone to the "Tinted Poodle" and without regard Shelby blurted out "no! It's the Painted Turtle!" The MC said oh the "Tinted Poodle". And to my amazement, she stood up from her seat walked up to the MC who leaned down to her, took his face in her hands and looked him in the eye and corrected him once again that it was the "Painted Turtle." This banter continued throughout the weekend. I was surprised again on Saturday when the MC stopped by the art room and once again started the debate with Shelby and she again face in hands instructed him to repeat after her as she showed him phonetically how to say the words. He in turn repeated after her exactly and when instructed to repeat the whole thing again said it wrong. (But now I know she is listening in school.)
In the end, Jody and I came away feeling very blessed. We have been through some hard times, dealing with doctors and surgeries, insurance red tape and struggles finding people who can and will watch our children, but in spite of it all we have been very fortunate. We found many families have had to hire lawyers to help fight those battles, and many we felt did not have or did not know the hope that Jesus can bring. It is the one thing we seemed to be missing among many we encountered. It is our hope that as we make friends and return again we can bring that light and hope to those we touch--something Josh has been doing since he was born.