Hot bannocks for breakfast before the one we all look forward to, Zipwiring! This is the activity that seems to be everyone's favourite. Maybe its cos we never grow out of loving the thrill of it. For the parents of disabled children I know its a hugely emotional experience especially the first time, not because you are scared for them but because you never dreamed you would ever see your child do something like this.
This was Miss A at the age of 4 trying out the Zipwire for the first time.
I couldn't hold back in my tears, back then she was fearless and if I remember correctly she went first. She was beaming at the bottom and over the moon with what she had just done.
She likes to go down with an adult now that she is a bit older but she loves the experience not least of all because she is doing what everyone else is.
One of my own most cherished memories as a kid were the activity holidays we went on every year with another family. There was a zipwire open one evening a week and we loved it. This was basically a wire attached to a tree with a platform we climbed up to where the least drunk Dad lifted you up to hold a handle and launched you down toward the campsite owner, referred to always, as 'small brain' (long standing joke after our first meeting when he used this term about himself) The only thing stopping you ploughing into the massive tree the zipwire was anchored to was Small brain crouched with arms open ready to catch you. I seem to remember a sleeping bag being tied round the tree so at least if you did splat into it they could bag you up and continue with the fun, not sure what else that could have been for. He caught you, put you down to the side and would quickly face back up to the tower shouting 'GO' to the next one as you ran off back up for another turn until the least drunk Dad and Small Brain got knackered and said it was finished.
As a parent you have a yearning to share the best experiences from your childhood with your children. When you have a child with a disability, sometimes you have to accept the fact that is just not possible. I'm not sure how much whisky it would take for me to be willing to throw my kid down toward Small Brain (we are a far more fearful society now a days) but I do know that if my husband did managed to persuade me to let the dude have a turn, Miss A would miss out. We don't really ever like that to happen so if we can't all do it together we tend not to do it at all meaning I didn't think I would be able to take my family on an activity holiday.
Keilder activity park run by the Calvert trust is a really special place. Its full of fun and excitement but its really safe and relaxed at the same time. I mean you wouldn't imagine that in this day and age of Health and safety you would ever be allowed to just hoist a wheel chair to the top of a tower and fling a kid who can't walk down a really long zipwire over a river but YOU CAN and its totally safe (a lot bloody safer than Small Brain's version that's for sure). Iv'e never worried about safety when there, mainly because the staff are amazing. Now amazing is an over used word, I use it all the time time but these guys really really are AMAZING. They are always calm, always friendly and ready to join a joke. They are gentle, respectful, professional and thoughtful they are flippin fan freekin tastic! With loads of activities to try that everyone can join in its just ideal. Its no secret that Miss A doesn't travel well, she thrives on routine and familiarity but with this place being so accessible for her and comfortable my hope is that as the years go by she will become more and more comfortable here and eventually partake in the independent holidays one day with her friends.
I love meeting other families although there is never much time to chat because its such a jam packed holiday! I also really enjoy meeting the residents, chatting to adults with disabilities and watching them enjoy themselves and be independent makes me far less scared for our daughter's future. I also think its really important for Miss A to see adults with a disability like her, its not something that she bumps into very often but she met a man in a power chair like hers and asked him to peep his horn. She was utterly delighted, I love that she gets to see role models she can relate to. So the beauty of this place goes far beyond just the activities and scenery in my mind.
This picture was taken on our first Keilder Trip, the dude was 1 the day we arrived had only just learned to toddle and during boating activities I put him down on the floor of the boat for a nap. We have always managed to go at the same time as these families which makes it a little bit extra special. This first trip felt life changing for us.
This year, the dude absolutely LOVED his zipwire experience and said it was the best part of the holiday! Natalie and her colleagues looked after us all including catching eager little boys who weren't so willing to wait their turn! During the wait for turns I noticed that The dude and his sister were chatting to each other and cuddling I heard him say to her 'I really like you' this is his way of saying, 'I love you' its what he says to me and his dad. He never says love but he will kiss our faces and tell us that he 'just can't stop liking you!' I have never hear him say that to his sister before and it made my day. They had a cuddle and she pulled his hair, normality was resumed but just for that second it was beautiful!
In the afternoon the kids were less tired than usual and a few arguments were happening, so a big home made pot of broth followed by a bath was the answer. Worked a treat, I love the saying that when a kid misbehaves put it in water (Miss A spent most of my pregnancy with her brother in the bath or a paddling pool!)
I wasn't so impressed by my son using his 2 year advantage against his pal though. He kept telling him, 'no no you have to share!' I stuck my head in the door to catch him saying it whilst holding 5 out of 6 minions, eh him sharing isn't him giving you all of them dude! Give him back his ones and don't let me catch you at that again young man - not cool!