Well, we're back :) Time to get life back on track and re-embrace our "normal".
Last week we were at one of our favourite places - ConCeption, a gaming convention on the south coast. It was awesome :) As with everything in our lives, this particular chunk of awesomness was coloured by the children's quirks and additional needs, but not always in a negative way.
When we go away M and J feel a need to plan. That's pretty normal, but M in particular takes normal and magnifies it about 100X. M's planning started back in October, and he has been telling friends about what would happen for a very long time. In order to try and get this under control at the very start of January we wrote lists - what they both wanted to pack, what they wanted to play, even (in J's case) what they would wear on the way down. Since there was some writing involved A decided to hop onto the band waggon - although her list was much shorter, and didn't actually get looked at once she had written it.
When it came to the time we wanted to pack, this was the easiest year yet. We have now fully embraced M's sensory issues, so most of his clothes are ones he is happy to wear (this does change depending on his stress levels, but now we never buy something for him without his trying it on and approving it.) So I was able to say things like "six pairs of trousers! Go!" and they did! It was a bit chaotic, lots of clothes everywhere, I had to go through and fold things, quietly checking for holes in knees of trousers as I went, but all four children managed to sort things themselves.
The biggest issue we had was space - with six of us, a weeks clothing, and *lots* of games, the car felt far too small. There was quite a bit of negotiating about which games would be taken, which could fit into the same box and how we could keep them from getting damaged en route. In the end we took far more games than we played, but far less than M wanted to.
For the first time in years not only Uncle N, but also Uncle M were there. Uncle N always comes, staying in the same lodge as us, but having another adult about really changed the dynamic, and made for an almost stress free week :)
This is the perfect convention for us - for the first half there are very few children older than about 3 around, and those that are there we have known all their lives. We often have the pool to ourselves, and the soft play is similarly exclusive. That means that M, J and A get to relax when it's not at all busy, they get to do things without having to wait or take turns, they get to be in control. From the Friday night onwards more children arrive - again mostly ones we have known forever - and the kids play well in groups, having already explored and done most of the things they wanted to do. It's very interesting to see that all four of the offspring slot back into the social groups naturally, they know the other children well enough despite only spending one week of the year together, there is a tolerance of each others differences and very rarely any upsets at all. We had no tears / complaints / grumps this year, not from our guys or any of the other children. It really is a very relaxing place to be.
J and A played their first convention games that were not run by one of "us" this year - they played the Pathfinder Kids Track - and they both loved it. There were two games, each lasted four hours, but had several breaks. The guys running it were well prepared, very enthusiastic, and there were three of them to the two kids :) It was great to see both of the littlies really getting into things, and one way or another they both played every day we were there :)
M and L played standard Pathfinder games with their dad and Uncle N. They both cope fairly well at a table with random adults, and had a blast.
For M gaming like this is perfect - there are rules, which give his socialisation shape and form, he knows his character well, which makes him relax and feel able to contribute, and he is actually a very good tactician, which makes him an asset to the table. L is shyer, finds it harder to speak up to strangers, but once he relaxes he shines. Playing games like this helps both boys with reading / maths / writing, because there is a need to do all of those things quickly and independently. It's good practise, even though neither of them are learning anything new.
L sometimes finds M too much (he's not alone there, TBH) so we organised a game with Uncle M running, and L, Uncle N, My husband and I playing. L came out of his shell, and really enjoyed himself. It helps that Uncle M is a really good GM, and that we were all having fun too. One of those games where everyone hits the perfect notes and it just takes off.
On the Saturday morning M played a solo game with uncle N, using the Savage Worlds rules set, then in the afternoon I ran a game called "Little Wizards" aimed at children, and it was chaotic! I'll write up the story and post it later. J and A both played, as did 6 other children.
On the Sunday I ran an interactive game (again for children. Do you see a pattern!) These games are generally called LRP's, and instead of saying "my character will do XX" you go and do it. Mostly they are based around "talky" situations, and it is a great opportunity to get into a character and have fun. Again J and A played this whilst the other two played Pathfinder with their dad and uncle.
Sunday afternoon J played a very old game called Star Wars D6, based in the Star Wars universe, with a very simple rules mechanic, I played with him as uncle N ran the game. It took him a little while to settle, but he had a blast.
At some point M bought a new game - Cosmic patrol - and read most of the rule book in the down time between games. As with most RPG rule books this one was pretty long - novel sized - and needed to be concentrated on. M was his usual dedicated (obsessive?) self, and determined to read it before we left, I don't think I could have convinced him to read that much, even with the best novels we have here.
Monday morning came around too soon, and we had to say goodbye not only to the uncles, but also to the holiday park. Both M and J cried, but that was to be expected, they hate leaving places / people.
On the way home we stopped at Marwel Zoo, but that is another post (with pictures!)
There is so much more to say, but I'll have to cogitate on it a bit longer, however -
we are back.
J is off to the hospital tomorrow for an outpatients appointment . . .