Week one of the summer holidays means holiday club here, and of course for us this year it has begun here at home as our kitchen and dining room filled up with all the stage props and things needed to decorate the church space turning it into Ancora’s hall of memories. We took everything we’d got ready down to church on Sat last weekend, and then on the Sunday afternoon a group of us had a picnic lunch after the service and got to work decorating the space. I loved the way we found jobs for everyone there to work on, including quietly sorting out each group’s boxes with their resources in; the lifting and carrying jobs, fiddly things (threading firebugs onto cotton to hang up); and arranging all the props onto shelves (T & a friend did this together onto some shelves on the stage & did a great job); sorting out the technical side of things and problem solving how to get a parachute up high to make a rainbow promise sky for the hall… it looked great by the time we’d all got stuck in together
For the first time we were all going to be involved in the week, T now old enough to be part of a group, A joining the older extension group, B volunteering as a young leader, and Andrew & I both being group leaders. It has meant quite a tiring week, trying to get all of us there on time for the leader’s meeting every morning has been a challenge in itself, especially when the stress (good and bad) of the week has made for very difficult bedtimes and late nights! It has been great to share in it altogether though, great to have shared experiences to reflect on, laugh about and plan for together.
Some of the highlights for me of all doing this week together have been – watching B from the other side of the craft room, enjoying helping the kids in her group, and chatting with the group leader; being amazed this morning when B was the leader from her group to take part in a game on the stage – eating donuts without using hands! (who would have thought we would ever have a moment like that!); T sneaking away from her group to find me in the singing, singing and doing actions together while the kids in my group watched; hearing A’s laughter as he joined in with his group, especially when his group was competing with another for the highest tower; Andrew & I struggling and giggling through each day’s warm up exercises next to each other. I’ve loved the sense of teamwork I’ve glimpsed in us too, with A helping T spend her tokens every day while we were getting sorted at the end; shared ideas for leading our groups as we’ve chatted about the next day; willingness to lend some games for my group to use at the start of each day.
There has been a difficult side to the week of course too. The way my girls handle stressful situations (even good stress that comes hand in hand with doing something new and exciting, or that comes from being with so many people in one place) is to blend in as much as they can at the time (which means using up lots and lots of physical and emotional energy in order to achieve that), copying those around them to make sure they are keeping up, doing the right thing all the time, and being where they should be, and able to join in the conversations. Using this much energy exhausts them, and also the tension of that level of alertness to what is happening around them and worry about what they should be doing and saying builds up stress that has to be let out as soon as they are in a familiar safe place or group of people. Very like a bottle of fizzy that is shaken up all morning, and simply explodes when it gets the chance. So we have had a lot of irritable shouting; urgency about how things need to be; over the top resistance to demands; huge reliance on those focused topics and activities that bring focus and order and escape; a lot of anxiety about food and struggles with sleeping. We have done what we can to minimize the impact with visual timetables, fidget toys, immediate lunch on getting home, unlimited sims & my little pony, picking very few battles! But it’s been tiring for all of us.
Holiday club and home have at times felt like two different families in two different worlds. But I really want to bring the treasure we have been exploring at holiday club back home with us as we end the week. In some ways that’s easy – just continue with what we already try to do, intentionally nurturing and talking faith together as a family – but it’s also an opportunity to keep hold of the excitement of the learning done in a group of peers; all that has been modelled by others in the family of faith – an opportunity too good to pass by, it’s been a week rich in discussion and adventure in faith. Like many holiday clubs each child had a booklet which was filled in during the week so T has hers at home now, still with some activities to do and finish, and with the stories printed in too. We learnt songs and actions, a great way to keep holiday club adventures going back at home. The Ancora App that our week has been based around is also great, and means that T (who needs a fair amount of help to make progress in the game) will probably draw us all in from time to time to chase the light and hunt for more Bible stories. (http://guardiansofancora.com/)
But most pressing for now, is packing for next week – and catching up on a bit of sleep before New Wine (https://www.new-wine.org/events/national-gatherings-2016-week-2) and all the adventures that will bring us!