Read the first post in this series here.
(((I hope there's no spelling errors because I didn't really check, and where is the spellcheck on here blogger???)))
Before we get into the nuts and bolts of the travel here, I wanted to share more of our familyland experience. I wish I had written this earlier when things were more fresh in my poor old brain, but....that can't be helped now I guess. Please click on the link there to learn more about Familyland and their apostalate.
Here's how a general "day at the fest" unfolded for us.
-Mass is at 9am. So a couple of hours before that we were up and getting ready for the day. Each of us big people was assigned a little person to take to the showers. John had Jack, Maria had Tess, I had Henry. But I had breakfast to make and kiddos to get ready, so Henry and I saved our shower for evening. So, anyway, John/Jack and Maria/Tess would go to the showers while I got breakfast together, got kids fed and dressed, etc., and then we would drive down to mass. Mass was just at the bottom of the hill, so many walked. We walked once. Usually we were running too late to try to walk with all our little people. I have to tell you, it was a moving site, to see all these people flowing down the hill and into the church every day!
-After mass, Tess and Jack went their own way in the "Saints Under Construction" groups, each with their own age group. Maria went with the teenagers. They all *loved* their groups. Think vacation Bible school, but lots of great catechism worked in, especially for the teenagers. And one morning during the week each group gets to go down to the pool to swim with their friends. They have formation programs for the adults too. Of course, John and I still had Henry and newborn Mary Claire! They have a couple of nursery areas with the adult programs streamed in though, so you can go hang out with your little people and (try to) listen.
**Hanging in Noah's Nursery**
**The kids in their groups. See Tess there in the pink shirt, you know, participating? Then see the back of the big brown head in the green/blue striped shirt, ignoring everyone and staring off into space? Yeah, that's Jack. Just after this he sat in the grass, lol. He doesn't participate in stuff like this without a coach.
**This huge playscape is outside the auditorium where they have mass and the morning activities...the kids loved it of course!**
-Then we got back together with the big kids and went back up to the cabin for lunch. There is also a snack bar where you can buy lunch and other goodies. We did do this one day because it was Tess's name day. :)
***Eating lunch at Momma C's Snack Shack***
But otherwise I fixed lunch in the cabin. After lunch, John usually walked down the trail to Holy Family Park with Jack and Maria. This is where all the action is...the pool, sports, pony rides, etc. There are cabins in Holy Family Park too, as well as areas for tents and RV's. Our cabin was in St. James Field where mass and such were held in the morning. There is a trail connecting the two areas. Clear as mud? :)I stayed in the cabin with Tess, Henry, and Mary Claire and got them down for a nap. I know I had the better end of that deal, napping in the cool cabin in the afternoon. Such is the cross of breastfeeding. I considered it fair enough. John, after all, got to drink coffee and listen to talks with grown ups all morning while I hung out in the nursery! Plus, once they were both asleep I would clean up the cabin. It's a big enough place to sleep in, but that's about it, so we overwhelmed it with *stuff* pretty easily. It needed to be cleaned up daily, at least!
*At the pool*
-After naptime, I would load the babies up in the van and drive around the corner to Holy Family Park and try to find John and Jack. Usually they were in the pool or playing foosball. :) There's a nice little fenced in play area for little kids, and this is usually where I ended up.
**the St. Jacinta play area**
If there was time, I took Henry to the kiddie pool. It just kind of depended on how long they napped that particular day. Dinner was at 5:30 for those that paid for the catered dinner plan...we did.
**Dinner at Blessed Francesco's Shelter**
Keep in mind that I'm focusing on what we did with little kids. There's lots of stuff for older kids/adults too. Waterslides, frisbee golf, fishing, trail rides, tournaments for everything from softball to chess...
After dinner, there was always some kind of family activity, usually after a family rosary...a bonfire with marshmallow roasting, family banner night, family dance night, etc. Then we would head up to the cabin, totally wiped. I would put out a bedtime snack and go shower with Henry, then we'd get everyone in bed. Except Maria. The teenagers go out for more activities until after 11pm each night. Guess how much Maria liked that! This is where John got his reward for letting me nap earlier...I would wait up for Maria and let him go on to sleep.
**The bus that drives the kids around, and the shelter where the teens meet. They raise/lower those tarps as needed to warm/cool the place.**
**The teens show on banner night, and the little kids show on banner night. I wish I'd gotten a recording of the teens. I tried, but my camera didn't cooperate. Maria is in that teen group, though you'd never recognize here. See the girl bottom left in the blue shirt? Her head is behind her right shoulder, kinda turned...
**Here's MY little kid during the show. She wouldn't get up on stage. Sigh. Jack had already been taken out at that point because he was falling apart. So I didn't have anyone up there for that show! A friend warned me that the banner night was hard on the little kids...lots of sitting at the end of a long and tiring day. She was right. :)**
-All through the day there is always benediction/adoration, confessions with fantastic priests, a bookstore to peruse, etc. We did a little of each of these, though I suspect those without little kids make better use of those activities!
I have to add a note to say how friendly and warm everyone was...the staff, and the other families. The most remarkable thing we noticed was how....normal we were there, lol. Everywhere you looked were moms with nursing babies in slings, dads with several little kids hanging on their knees,,,,there was even a surprising number of special needs kids there. Not everyone had a large family, but many did. Not everyone homeschooled, but many did. Certainly, it was lovely to be in a place where no one batted an eye at our usual weirdness. :) Mass was full of fussy toddlers, dinner was full of loud kids, it was all good. They go out of their way to welcome new families. At one point, I was talking with this one dad, and I made a comment about Jack bothering people with something,,,I don't remember exactly, but Jack had a hard time with some things, especially the first day or two. And he looked me in the eye and said very seriously, "No one cares about that here. He's not going to bother anyone, not here. This isn't like everywhere else"
We left there so lifted up and recharged. We tried to take some of that peace with us, milk it for all we could. The whole time I was there, I thought, what would the world be like if everyone always treated each other this way? What would it be like if all of our lives centered so strongly around God and the sacraments and the rosary every day? And I looked hard at myself and at my family to see what we could bring back, what we could change in our own lives. And that, I think, is the whole idea of the apostolate and of the Family Fests, giving you grace to take home and spread around. John and I are reading the consecration this Lent (we have both started it a couple of times and didn't finish!It's very meaty). We plan to consecrate our family by Easter. We really, really loved our trip and have registered for this coming August already. If you are at all interested in going, some of the fests fill quickly, so don't wait!! If you are there for fest #5, I'll buy you an ice cream cone at Momma C's! :)
Coming next, the logistics of living in a one room cabin with 7 people, and then the actual rode trip. There are so many things I wish I had taken better pictures of! Ah well,,,next time!