Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Little People of America National Conference Week

Flying in from Idaho Falls we're back to California heat and on to the next thing.

We had about 12 hours to come home, unpack, do wash, sleep in our own beds, repack and get ready for a week in Anaheim at the Little People of America Conference.

Because I'm serving as co-president of the Orange County chapter of Little People of America I was there to work for the week. I was glad that we had an excuse to stay for the whole week because normally if we go to a national we piggy back it with a vacation and are only there for a day or so for the convention.

I was excited to try and be a part of it and be as helpful as I could.

Ohhhh we got to our room and it was nice to have one with some of the luxuries that make staying in a hotel nice! We had enough bed space that Ashley didn't have to sleep on the foot of our bed, and even two TV's (the kids were happy about that after a week without it).

Taylor showing of the living area with pull out couch...

Not to be outdone...

We even had a fridge and a microwave so we didn't have to live out of an ice-chest to have cereal in the morning.

Right after we checked in it was time to register and get ready for the teen pizza party.

They had a LP (little people) pizza party and I was in charge of the Sibling (siblings of LPs) pizza party. This week I was in charge of all the sibling events as well as being a co-facilitator in the morning parent meetings.

Our pizza party was in the arcade. They had rented games to put in one of the rooms to have as an arcade and hang out place through the entire conference. This was definitely a favorite hang out place for everyone. They even put pedal extensions on the racing games. Jeff was thrilled and came down to challenge the boys (usually he can't sit on the seat to play these games because he can't reach the pedals)

All the other games had stools so the LPs could play them along with everyone else.

Ashley's favorite was the air-hockey table and she made some new friends getting anyone she could to play with her. She even met another girl named Ashley that hung out with her during the pizza party.

I actually had planned some get to know you games but everyone seemed preoccupied with meeting each other and playing arcade stuff I didn't bother. I even met these two girls that flew all the way from Australia.

During the conference I found out that something like 25 countries were represented by people that wanted to come to the convention. Our LPA program is unique to the US so a lot of other places were interested in what we have here and trying to implement it in their countries.

After pizza we all came together and watched this hypnotist try and hypnotize the teens. He was great and had hypnotized celebrities and done shows all over...but trying to get teens to be hypnotized was a little harder  (he said they have a hard time staying focused).  He did get two of them really good and everyone in the audience love it!  It was nice to have a family friendly show to allow the kids to see what a hypnotist does.

That night we just hung out as a family and went to the night movies at the pool. The kids swam and Jeff and I snuggled with towels on the pool chairs (it was a little chilly) and watched UP.

The next day we signed Jacob up for the DAAA soccer tournament. Just when we thought he would be done playing soccer he had the chance to play for a day with soccer players his height.

The only down side was we hadn't brought his soccer gear so we had to go buy him some cleats and shin guards for one day of playing.

Afterwards we went to Del Taco for lunch and saw some of our LPA friends.

They found Jack (Joanna the other co-president's son) and soon to be best friend of Taylor. These two hung out as much as possible the rest of the week. Jack and Taylor have attended LPA events ever since they were little so every time we go to one we hope Jack will be there so Taylor will have someone to hang out with. Of course Jacob likes him too.

While I was running stuff at the hotel Jeff took Jacob and Ashley down to the soccer fields to play.

Jacob's team lost but he still had fun anyway.

So for the week Job number 1 was the parent meetings...

Every morning at 9:00 there were parent meetings geared for parents of LPs to come and ask questions and bounce ideas off each other about things like how to deal with schools, worries about their children, friends, educating and public and dealing with the negative that the public sometimes gives and so on...

I thought maybe I could bring some of my experience and what I had to offer to the meetings. I realized pretty quickly that I had much more to learn than I had to offer.

The first meeting was moderated by a doctor and was the most well attended. Jeff was available so I brought him with me and I think that his positive attitude and perspective was helpful. A lot of people loved Jeff and liked what he had to say. When I'm on my own its another thing I get a lot of "Where's your husband?", clearly we are more well liked as a pair.

I have to admit after a couple of days of these parent meetings it was hard emotionally for me. People have different opinions, some parents are overly anxious about their children, you start comparing what others are doing for their children and second guessing yourself, basically it's hard to micro-analyze your life and the challenging things in it when you are used to just living it and not thinking about it too much. My heart was sad when a first time mom who had a son going into Kindergarten and hadn't told him yet that he was an LP ran out of the room crying. It was great to see that two other moms went out after her and talked with her through the rest of the meeting and afterwards. Overall it was a positive experience and I was glad I went.

Someone made a comment that made sense it's hard coming to these things and be overwhelmed with lots of information and well meaning parents that want to give you advice for every step of your child's life but it's like going to Calculus when you are at a pre-algebra level. It's better to just take things a step at a time as they come and not try and worry too much about it all at once. Good advice.

Job number 2 was the Sibling Events

Most of them were for teenagers, and most of them were off-site which was being like a chaperone for a field trip. The only problem was that I was the only adult in charge (alone most of the time) and I was always going on little to no information.  I never knew who was going or what we were doing until I got there. I acted like the confident person in charge but inside I felt like I was shoved out of a plane without instructions on how to open the parachute.

I'm happy to say I got through the week without major incident but I also have to say I breathed a sigh of relief when the last outing was over.

The first teen outing was to ESPN zone in Downtown Disney for food and game playing.

The thing I really like was that I got to meet a lot of nice teens, some of which I would see most of the week.Taylor got to go on all the events with me so he was glad to meet everyone too.

This night Jeff and kids were able to meet us there and sit near us and eat too :)  It was nice to have them there!

At the convention they had a vendor expo with all kind of products and gadgets for people of short stature. The biggest hits was these furniture designs.

Our family favorite was this lounge chair.

We thought about these dining chairs that are normal height but have a foot stool to rest your feet on...

Of course we would get a regular one for Taylor ;)

On the 4th of July I went with the teens to the Van's Skate Park and Orange mall. Some skaters did skate boarding (I was proud of Taylor for trying it) at the skate park. Others just hung out at the mall.

I ended up going to lunch with the girls so Taylor wouldn't have an audience :0) so this is the only picture I got of him.

After lunch some of the girls wanted to was wearing flip flops!

They all had fun hanging out with each other waiting until it was time for the bus to come (on this day it was an hour late and parked in the wrong spot)

That night was a great 4th of July party right outside the lobby of the hotel.

Ashley loved the petting zoo filled with animals that were shorter than her and not knocking her over.

She said "I've never pet a chicken before!"

They also had lots of free games where she won prizes.

At the convention we met the other families that we did the talk show in New York with, some of the kids have gotten big.

Ashley was also glad to meet some LP girls her own age (there aren't really any in our area)

Getting in the spirit of the evening

4th of July party girl.

We also talked to the Roloft family (little people big world) and met up with the cast of Pit Boss (my kids love that show).

For dinner we escaped the crowds and went to the Crab Shack to eat. Ashley hates fish... looking at fish...the smell of fish...luckly...

they had sliders. Here is her art work with the leftovers...(I love you)

Fireworks that night consisted of peering through trees to try and get a glimpse of Disneyland's can see some red sparks in the background...

Afterwards was the dance....OOooohhhh the dances I almost forgot. The boys discovered the nightly dances as soon as they started making more friends and wanted to go every night. Ashley and I would go for about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes and then they would be given a curfew and meet us back in the room.

I would watch them when we were there (I didn't dare embarrass them with a picture) and they basically were standing around in a circle, not dancing, barely talking even texting on the phone! How boring! (they said they would dance when I wasn't there)

Hanging out with the girls in the arcade...the "Aussies" and Maddie (who Jacob thought was cute ;)

While we were there we decided to go last minute to the Angel's game.

The kids all got rally monkeys when we got there.

Our seats were good and we even got to know a nice family from Canada that sat next to us.

Baseball games are great for all sorts of unhealthy snacks.

It was nice to not have any responsibilities and just hang out with Jeff.

Taylor gravitated to Jack's seat that was in front of Brooke and Taylor's seat (the Aussies again;) can see how thrilled Taylor was that we were taking his picture.

On the last day of my outings Jeff left early to go back to work and I brought the 3 kids with me to Scooter's jungle which was like bouncy house playground, geared for younger kids. 

When I woke up that morning I looked at the schedule and saw "All age sibling trip"....all age??? The rest of the week was teenagers...what ages was I going to get today??

Well I had 18 children mainly 6 to 9 with a couple of 14 years olds thrown in who thought it was still a teen outing (they were a little dissapointed)

All in all it still went OK even though...

I had to turn away one child whose mom gave me all kinds of warnings about her son, including multiple "danger to himself and others", and the fact that he needs 3 aids at school every day. 1 adult 18 kids, sorry couldn't do it.

There was an issue with the bill but with texting and some phone calls back to the LPA headquarters, and an agreement to leave earlier than planned it was all worked out.

And, then there was the fact that 3/4 of the kids were almost left behind on the bus. The bus driver had put a movie on and nobody wanted to get out. I thought I was leading them into the lobby to wait for parents and then realized I didn't have enough kids with me. We found them before the bus drove away hunkered down watching the movie. They said "I thought we were just at a stop light"

The huge slide was the favorite of the day.

I actually went on it multiple times because Ashley wouldn't go by herself but she loved it when I went with her.  It was pretty fun except for the fact I lost the skin on one elbow and one ankle...which is still not healed 4 weeks later :)

A sigh of relief after we got everyone back safely to parents. We met this family at the pool and then had plans for dinner. Their daughter's name is Chloe and shes about Ashley's age. We decided pool time was over when everyone scrambled out after rumors were going around someone threw up in it...(never saw it so I don't know if it was true or not)

As we were walking through the lobby I got a desperate request from Joanna to help in the kids room that night for the banquet dinner. I guess a lot of volunteers flaked on them. So our evening we unexpectedly ended up in the kids room.

Talk about crying and chaos! Wow I guess I really had the easy job the whole week. We helped as much as we could but took a break in the middle to keep our dinner date. We ate some Thai food and then I headed back into the kids room which had calmed down considerably.

That night the boys went to their last dance and the next day we drove over and crashed the LPA beach party.

We were at Balboa where the waves were crashing right against the shore. You could tell the people that weren't as familiar with the beach and would get knocked down by the waves when they came in.

You could tell when the next set was in because you could hear people screaming :)

Taylor and Jacob liked hanging out with their new friends one more time.

Ashley jumped in the waves with another girl her age from Canada (we met her and her dad at the Angel's game) I got to learn all about their life working at a National Park living with Inuits so high up that the sun never comes up 3 months of the year and they have to order their food a year in advance and have it flown in and store it. Nice family, crazy life!  They were liking the beach and the warm weather.

Saying good bye to friends.

I think after this week they will be excited to go to conventions in the future.