This past weekend we attended our FIRST ever National Down Syndrome Congress meeting in Washington D.C. as a family. To say that our experience was a wonderful one would be a big understatement as it was filled with so many things including, but not limited to, friends, information, tears, smiles, music, and fun.
I was a bit nervous going into the weekend knowing that we would have the kids with us and wasn't entirely sure how all of the logistics would work out toting them around with us to talks and such. However, aside from the first night, I can honestly say that even though it was hard work having them with us, they were pretty good considering we lugged them all over and into different talks where we expected them to be well-behaved and quiet. They spent a lot of time in their strollers, but were also given the opportunity when we were in the bigger ballroom to run around.
One of the highlights of this trip for me was meeting so many of my friends in person that I have already "met" through the blog and facebook. It was so great seeing these people in "real life"! I am a bit disappointed in myself for not taking more pictures WITH others, however I was constantly looking to see where my kids were that it was hard to do that. Here is the one picture that I was able to get with some friends I finally got to meet in person!. There were so many other friends it was great to meet and see again and others that I wish I had so much more time to talk with than I did.
Another thing that was really neat for us was meeting so many new people that we would have otherwise not had the opportunity to meet. One thing that was so exciting as well was being in a place that was filled with so many people that all had some story to tell. It was neat walking around and seeing so many beautiful almond eyes together in one place. It felt nice to be with others of our community.
You know that one stereotype that people think about when they think about/talk about people with Down Syndrome? You know, the one that says that all people with Down Syndrome are so social and want to hug everyone they come across? I think Colin was able to prove that this is in fact a stereotype because there so many people that I WANTED him to hug and say hi and he was being incredibly shy or not interested in it.
We were able to attend all of the "bigger" talks in the ballroom that included self advocates, a mom speaking about raising her daughter, a best friend talking about his experiences with his best friend with Down Syndrome, musical performances and one of the best performances at the end of the weekend when all of the self advocates and siblings were up on the stage together singing and dancing to "Firework".
We did attend some of the smaller sessions, but we never quite made it all the way to the end of those because the kids always hit their limits in the last half hour (they were 90 minute sessions). I did get some valuable information at these though in the time that I was there. Through most of those sessions, we tried to sit in the back and the kids played with our phones and the ipad. I think I saw more episodes of Fresh Beat Band than I care to count!
We had some difficulties in our hotel the first night because even though the kids fell asleep on the drive over, they thought it was a big playroom once we got in. By 10pm we were walking around in the mall area below the hotel for an hour trying to get them back to sleep.
Saturday night we figured we could avoid the sleep disaster in the hotel room and walk around to see the monuments lit up at night. At worst, the kids would be awake but we figured that after the long day and swimming in the pool, they would fall asleep pretty quickly on our walk. We used the Metro all day on Saturday and Colin loved being on the TRAIN. He tried to stay awake on our ride to the monuments, he really did.
|Hey, wake up! We're at the Washington Monument!|
There were so many great things about this weekend and I was so happy I was able to attend. I think the next time we go, we will definitely decide and register early so that we can set the kids up with the Kids Camp. I figure they can only have more fun than they did in talks!
I also look forward to the future when the kids can attend the brothers/sisters conference because it was so great seeing so many of the siblings there supporting each other. Brought tears to my eyes!
Since the ride home took a little bit longer due to traffic, the kids were extremely grateful to be home which was evidenced by them running from room to room evaluating all of their things and then having a nice meal together...
|This picture cracks me up!|
I am so thankful that we had this experience together and for all of the new friends and old that we were able to meet. Looking forward to the next one!