Saturday 11 August 2018

Summer holidays with PDA ~ Part 1

So I don't know if anyone noticed, but I went to all the effort of freshening up the design on my blog a few weeks ago. As soon as I did though, I found myself suddenly unable to blog.
That was partly because of precious little time in the run up to the end of school term, followed by preparing for a trip away for my older brother's wedding. The other reason was writer's block. Only in terms of my blog, strangely - over on my Instagram and Facebook page I've been keeping up with daily updates over the holiday period and haven't found myself short of a word or two there! I'm not sure I'm totally over the block yet, but I figured that my readers might forgive me if I did some kind of brain dump to get me going on the blog again.

There's plenty of posts in my head, waiting to be typed, and the first of those will probably be a summary of how the wedding went for us as a family. I won't spoil it by showing you all the photos, but I'm giving you a sneaky peek with the above shot.

For the rest of the post, I've decided to drop in all the reports of our holidays so far, exactly as I've shared them on my Facebook page. Hopefully it'll help to kickstart my typing! The idea of holiday sharing was a challenge started by a fab mum over on Instagram - her account is @kisscub so please do go follow her over there if you can!

Thought I’d try joining in with this summer holiday challenge from @kisscub. Already missed day 1 but as we did literally nothing, you haven’t missed anything!

Day 2 of our holidays.
Hair cut day! Both girls opted for just a little trim this time; Tamsin is thinking about donating her hair to the Little Princess Trust at some point but it may take her a while to build up the courage. 
The hairdresser asked Sasha if the shaping round the face had been cut in by her last hairdresser, at which point I had to interject that it was Sasha’s own handiwork, last time she was a bit bored in school and had found some scissors!
We’ve so rarely been to a hairdresser for either girl as it’s not an experience Sasha enjoys. Tamsin wasn’t much of a fan either but is enjoying the preening a bit more now she’s older. Sasha struggles to sit still and daydream while the hairdresser does her work - and I could see Sasha struggling with being told to put her head up and down several times. By the time it came to paying, her patience had pretty much gone, but I was proud of her for hanging on in there. Another good job done, tick! One thing a day is pretty much all we manage, but that’s fine by me in this heat.
Summer holidays day 3. 
This is as exciting as it got. A mid-week McDonalds trip was deemed necessary because a) there was some upset over a Nintendo Switch update and Minecraft (I still don’t fully understand what) and b) its the holidays. Plus it’s too hot to cook. I had salad, I don’t really do McDs. 3 Fries, Sasha’s standard. She doesn’t eat anything else from there; she has sliced turkey and cucumber to go with her oven chips every night, and the same to go with her McDonalds! 
Summer holidays day 4. 
Remember a few days ago, when I was saying how happy I was that our youngest daughter can communicate with me via text?!
Yeah, sometimes the texts aren’t such a pleasure to get. Today Sasha’s Dad was off work so he could lay the patio at our house. That meant that I was able to nip out alone to the shops, twice - a quick supermarket shop at lunch time and then an hour and a half to the next town to collect a parcel later this afternoon. As you can see, somebody wasn’t overly happy about that (despite being asked if she wanted to come with me, which obviously she didn’t). 
I think everyone is struggling a bit in this heat but it’s definitely affected Sasha a lot. Am relieved to hear there may be a bit of a break in it tomorrow, although Sasha is not a fan of storms either so fingers crossed it’s not too bad. Roll on next week when we will be up North and the weather should be a bit cooler!
 Summer holidays day 5. 
Yippeeee! It’s raining! At long last. We have needed this. There’s the odd rumble of thunder we could do without, and it’s still 31 degrees out there, but instantly it feels cooler.
It’s been another day of doing pretty much nothing as it was just too damn hot. I know folks in other warmer countries will think I’m a wimp, but we’re just not used to it here! Not that I want to go back to typical British summertime, but a happy medium would be nice. 
With my brother’s wedding approaching fast (next Wednesday!), all thoughts have been on that today. I went to collect an altered bridesmaid dress, and have since been researching the best way of collecting wedding photos from guests. For Sasha, it’s been a mixture of Minecraft, Roblox, Splatoon and YouTube, along with a new outfit for her American Girl doll who she’s enjoying taking care of. Tamsin had her best friend over for a sleepover last night, so has since been calming down.
Summer holidays day 6.
Eldest daughter went to town with some friends and after an osteopath session for me (where the guy stuck needles in my back - I was NOT expecting that!) I joined her to help her make some tricky decisions over new school supplies and reading material (aka my turning up with the credit card). Oh, and we did some shoe trying on too, but the less said about that the better! She now takes a bigger shoe size than me, and is at a half size currently. Which we all know is a fate worse than death.
Meanwhile, back home, Sasha got angry about having been left with her dad AGAIN (ie for the second time this holidays, sigh). We were pretty close to a full on meltdown when I suggested she needed to get outside for some fresh air now the temperature has dropped. Luckily, given a bit of time to consider it, and a bit of help with me fetching her some clothes to wear, she managed all of about 3 minutes in the garden with me. We threw the frisbee to each other about eight times, and that counts as a success in my book given that she said she couldn’t do it after the first time (she was flipping it up rather than throw it sideways). She’s not great at listening to instructions and wanting to learn from someone else. But on the 5th throw, she got it. So it was once more for good luck then she was done and wanting to be back inside to her beloved technology. 
I’ll be trying for a longer outing tomorrow (walk to the local petrol station, ooh get me and my optimism) so wish me luck! 
Summer holidays day 7. 
Do you think we made it out today?! No, we did not. None of us girls in the house did. It’s been grey and drizzly all day, which was a welcome change from all the heat. I’ve cracked on with some online stuff, and some more prep for my brother’s wedding, and the girls chilled indoors as per usual. 
This afternoon, I suggested a family Nintendo session, and we had great fun playing ‘the old classics’ on the WiiU (as Sasha calls them). Sasha’s favourites are Mario Chase and Luigi’s Ghost mansion. She always plays the main character, of course; we always have to chase her and we have to NEVER catch her. Or all hell breaks loose.
She’s a poor loser. Yes, we let her win. The alternative is that she would never play. We’ve tried teaching her that she can’t always be first, but it just doesn’t work. She knows that it’s something she needs to change about herself, but she just finds it impossible. It leads to much upset and internal grief on her part. So if we want to enjoy fun family time, we have to let her win. It’s not how a traditional family works, but it works for us.
Summer holidays day 8 (Monday).
I forced Sasha out of the house for a walk and some fresh air. Actually I didn’t force her, I gently persuaded her. It took a while; it was about 4pm when we went out. This photo was taken on our way back, when she had started screaming at me, saying it was taking an hour (we were out 15 minutes). She stormed off and was very angry. When we got home, she screamed that she hated her life, she was going to her room and never coming out, never eating again and never taking to us again. Her life wasn’t worth anything, apparently. Still, I got some fresh air into her after a week of being indoors. It was worth it.
Summer holidays Day 9.
The one where the girls and I did a four-and-a-half hour car journey and lived to tell the tale! Honestly, I was so proud of them both for handling it so well. I’m not going to lie, there was a bit of stress before we made it out of the house this morning, but the girls were waiting for me in the car when I finally pulled the door shut.
We stopped 3 times en route, once for Costa, once for McDonalds and once for Krispy Kreme (ok, it was for the toilet all 3 times but evenly spaced an hour-ish apart so the girls did well and deserved a reward!). 
I’ve spent the evening in the hotel room with them, with my baguette meal while they had McDonalds (yes, again, anybody with judgey-pants on can leave right now). But I was allowed out for good behaviour when Sasha decided she would like to play in the gorgeous grounds opposite our bedroom. We went down, via the restaurant to say a quick hello to some other family members here for the wedding (my brother’s, eek!), and the girls had such fun playing together, making up little sketches. It was gorgeous and funny to watch. 
So I’d call day 9 a surprising success... keep your fingers crossed for us folks, tomorrow is the day of bridesmaid duties (eek again!).
Summer holidays day 10.
This is Sasha, who sat and had her hair done, despite not liking it. She didn’t want to stand out and look any different to the other 5 bridesmaids. She drew a line at the make-up though and I loved her reason for not wanting any; she didn’t want to outshine anyone else.

Me and my two girls

Summer holidays day 11. 
So many happy memories of a fantastic day yesterday at my brother’s wedding - this is one of the bridesmaid’s bouquets, and in the background is the sea. That’s because today we have driven from where the wedding took place, near Durham, back to my old home town of St.Annes-on-sea. The girls and I are having a week here with my parents and we’ve already had a lovely day reminiscing about the fab wedding. 
I do love where we live now, but I wish we were nearer the sea. I was brought up in this town by the seaside and I really miss the fresh sea air! I’m looking forward to seeing my girls spend some happy time on the beach (hopefully). Tonight, I’m in the bottom bunk bed with Sasha above me as she was feeling quite tired and stressed. She was really looking forward to getting here and spending more time with her grandparents, and she loves that everything is so familiar, but of course it’s still different to how it is at home. Yesterday was a very challenging day for her with so many people and so much noise, and having to stay in a hotel for two nights was also unusual. The last time I stayed in a hotel room with the girls 3 years ago we were woken by a real fire alarm at 6am and had to go stand in the car park. As you can imagine, Sasha has not forgotten that, and so she wasn’t happy to be left alone in the hotel at any point. Anyhow more about the wedding some time I guess; for now let’s just say it was a huge success and that I’m delighted to be home by the sea!
Summer holidays day 12.
Gutted. Tamsin and Sasha are out there somewhere with their Dad while I’m indoors feeling sorry for myself. When I woke up this morning, it felt like I was swallowing razor blades and it’s not much better now. Think my body has done its usual thing of holding on to get through a big event and then crashing afterwards.
I did manage to get out at lunchtime though, to enjoy lunch in the train cafe (it’s a St.Annes thing) with Tamsin and Chris. Sasha stayed home with my parents because she doesn’t do eating out. Afterwards we walked on to the pier, which Sasha can just about cope with if it’s quiet (lots of noise and flashing lights etc). It’s been a grey and slightly drizzly day today, so it was packed in there and Sasha would have hated it.
Tamsin loved it though, throwing her 2ps in and collecting tickets. When we got back, I had to go to bed but was relieved that Sasha agreed to go out to the beach with her Dad - she’d said no to going without me originally and I’d worried she would end up spending the whole day inside again. So I’m sad they’re out without me but glad they’re out! Tomorrow we’ve planned a day out so I need you all to wish my throat better now - Blackpool Pleasure Beach and new ride Icon, here we come (Sasha will just be doing the Wallace and Gromit ride ten times as per usual though)!
Summer holidays day 13.
All ready for our first ride of the day! This is the only ride which Sasha wants to go on, and she says we’re going to do it ‘about a million’ times... Mummy, Daddy and Tamsin are all looking forward to trying out the new ride Icon.
Summer holidays day 13, part 2.
Almost first on the Wallace and Gromit ride! Sasha went on it another 4 times after this. The only other rides she agreed to this year were the mini pirate boats and the old (and not fully working!) Alice in Wonderland ride. We did get in the queue for the Dora boat ride which is an old favourite, but Sasha suddenly felt all self-conscious about being too old for it and we had to squeeze past a few people in the queue to get out.
After about an hour inside the park, Sasha was desperate for us all to leave so she could show everyone round the Ripley’s Believe it or Not just outside the Pleasure Beach entrance. I’d taken her in there last year as a respite from the Pleasure Beach and she wanted the others to see it this year! So it’s lucky that the Pleasure Beach allows passes out and re-entry.
My lovely parents have now taken Sasha home so that Chris and I can enjoy some time on (and queuing for!) the big rides.
Summer holidays day 13, part 3.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach, you did us proud, again. Love it there, we always have a fab day out. The new ride, Icon, is totally amazing! Especially when you get to ride in the front seat. So we did it 4 times! Also had a bucket of chips, hooked a few ducks for a fluffy toy, a bit of an Ice Blast, and finished it all off with some Kentucky Derby racing. 
Huge thanks to my parents who took Sasha home for the afternoon so that our big girl could stay out and have lots of fun on the big rides.
Summer holidays day 14.
Love this teenager so much. Even when she gets grumpy at me, like just now, when I asked her to find my phone for me...
Today has been a quiet day as her Dad returned home while we stay to spend a few extra days holiday with my parents. I spent a couple of hours in bed this afternoon; am still not well with some kind of throat virus which is annoying me lots now. The Pimms medicine is helping tonight though, as I sit out on the balcony with our teen.
Just before tea time, the two of us (Tamsin and I) went for a stroll out to the sea. We had a lovely peaceful time together and there were of course a few photos taken (a little aside, I’m loving this iPhone 8 Plus I’ve borrowed, the portrait photo function is AMAZING!).
As you can see from the pics, it’s some way out here, and sadly that’s about as far in as it will come the whole time we are here. I say sadly; it doesn’t bother me at all and I love a good stroll out to it, but Sasha is less than impressed as when we’ve been here in other years, the sea has come all the way in up the beach and she loves digging channels in it. So we picked the wrong time this year. Consequently, Sasha has barely made it out of her bedroom at all today. Being poorly didn’t give me enough energy to try harder to persuade her, but I’m hoping I’ll have better luck tomorrow.

She definitely needs some fresh air now. It’s so difficult when she can’t find fun in doing anything outside - going for a simple stroll is not an option, and nor are many of the things we used to do here, like bungee trampolines, crazy golf, pier, funfair rides, the little blue train... none of it appealing to her any more. Makes me feel a bit sad, but there’s not a right lot I can do about it so I just have to enjoy my time with our eldest as much as I can while my fab parents help with Sasha. Thankfully Tamsin is a star, she’s growing into a gorgeous young lady (how did I make that?!) and is a pleasure to be around!
Summer holidays day 15.
Another quiet day; thankfully my throat is on the mend but still not quite 100%. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that neither of the girls or my parents catch whatever it was!
Anyhow today we just went swimming in the local pool. It was a brainwave of nana’s; somewhere that Sasha has been several times before and where she feels comfortable. She’s definitely a water baby! Luckily our eldest loves swimming too, so we spent over an hour in there with both girls having fun despite there not being all that much space. It was a little overcast this morning, which may have led to a few more holiday makers being in the smallish pool, but all went well thankfully.
Then Sasha retreated back to the bedroom in her grandparents’ flat for the afternoon. It seems to be the case that she can only cope with one activity a day. She’s promised that she will walk out to the sea with me tomorrow... we’ll see! Fingers crossed.
This is the ice cream by the train cafe; famous around these parts. I’ve got a few photos of my girls around it at different stages in their life - nice my mum could join in with this one.

I’m liking these daily holiday updates for my own sake - sorry if I’m boring anyone else! It kind of reminds me why I started blogging in the first place - the idea was that it was an online diary. I’ve had a bit of a blog block recently - in my defence, there’s been quite a bit going on! I’m not a super organised, strategic blogger, so I do worry a bit that I’ll lose folks along the way who have no idea what I’m on about.... oops!

Later that day....
‘Half of me doesn’t even feel like walking along the beach tomorrow’ Sasha says, ‘because at some point, it seems like you’re pressuring me to do it.’

Sigh. Inside I feel like screaming ‘but you need the fresh air’, but I know I need to reassure her. ‘That’s OK darling, you don’t have to’ I say.

This was at bedtime, Sasha out of the blue suddenly referring back to a conversation we’d had earlier in the day. I’d said she didn’t need to go out again this afternoon and could have  if she would come out to the beach with me tomorrow. Sigh.
So now we have to wait and see what tomorrow brings. It was a difficult evening, as I’d suggested that Sasha have a bath after our swimming earlier in the day. She doesn’t mind the bath, but she doesn’t like her hair being washed - she told me tonight that she only wants that to happen once a month. Trouble is, her thick hair gets so knotty and getting it wet is the only way to make it better - it would be totally matted after a month.
So I did manage the hair wash, but only with Sasha screaming through it and telling me I was taking time away from her being on her beloved electronics - at which point I snapped and suggested that maybe we shouldn’t have the electronics at all any more. Wrong thing to say. That led to a mixture of anger, anxiety and upset. And the statement that her life wasn’t worth living. I don’t think that will ever get easier to hear, even when it’s at this stage where she doesn’t properly mean it.

The day we arrived at my parents, Sasha seemed to be in a better mood, back in familiar surroundings after the stress of the wedding. Tonight she also said that she can’t wait to get back to her own things and own bed, so that she can feel more settled again and find getting to sleep easier. Which of course makes total sense, and I understand, but it makes me sad because of course I’d rather stay here with my parents for longer. It also means that any stop off on the way home is just too much for Sasha to take, even though of course it would be totally easy if it was just me and eldest girl.
At times like this, it may seem hard to see the positives, and to remember all that Sasha has been achieving, but of course there has been lots. I’m hoping to write about it all in a blog post soon!
Summer holidays day 16.
We did it! We got Sasha out of the bedroom! Not until 6pm in the evening, but hey, any time is a good time right?!
We walked for miles out to the sea, where the tide was coming in. Sasha’s joy was so lovely to see - there’s a video over on my Facebook page as I went live because she was having so much fun. I even managed to persuade her to pose for some photos without too much stress, a sure sigh that things were going well. We dug channels (well nana did most of the digging!) and the girls squealed as the water started rushing in - this is the best bit of a holiday by the seaside as far as I’m concerned, fresh sea air and smiles on the girls’ faces.
So yes, it took a bit, no, a LOT of effort and clever talking, and it nearly didn’t happen, but it was all worth it. I also got to pop onto the pier with Tamsin afterwards (Sasha went back with her grandparents) and we threw the 2ps in the slots for the last half hour the pier was open. Even though I’d rather be staying another day, I know when it’s time to call it a day and celebrate our successes.
Now Sasha is saying she’s nervous about leaving here to head home tomorrow. She’s developed big anxieties around leaving things behind, and it can be difficult to reassure her - even when she knows her grandparents could post anything on or even bring it with them when they visit soon. She’s also worried about the long car travel aspect too, and somehow I suspect that pointing out we did an equally long trip last week won’t help that much...
Summer holidays day 17.
I feel like a bit of a fraud today. Sounds weird, and it’s largely because today has been a success for us! Part of me only wants to whisper that because I know how many other families will have struggled through another day. I know that because of all the comments I’ve received on my previous days’ posts, when I’ve been honest about having some tough times... I’ve appreciated all those comments, and can understand how many get comfort from knowing that others are in a similar position, even though you don’t wish the difficult times on anyone else.

But yes, part of being honest is letting others know when things have gone well too. Of course, the day is not over yet... but I can still call it a success for what we’ve done so far. We were supposed to be on our way home today, but in a strange twist of events, Sasha suddenly decided she wanted to stay here at her grandparents’ place for an extra day. That was the plan originally anyhow; it had only switched to us leaving yesterday because she hadn’t felt like getting out. But because we had such fun walking out to the sea last night, when she saw it had been in further this morning, and I pointed out it would be in even further tomorrow, she decided that she’d like to wait and see that.
So who am I to deny her some extra fresh sea air?! Then, I had a brainwave. Rather than another day of electronics, I thought of something that might just tempt Sasha as she was in a good mood. Very spontaneously, I decided to take the girls and my mum to the Sandcastle Waterpark in Blackpool.
It’s not really an ideal place for Sasha on the face of it, as she doesn’t like slides of any sort, but it’s Tamsin’s idea of heaven. I’ll try to do a longer blog post about it sometime; we had a fantastic time thanks to the sensory room at their and their other inclusive policies. Sasha loved the lazy river and must have gone round that 40 times at least with Tamsin, as well as spending around 3 hours in the quiet room with her iPad while I did some great water rides with Tamsin. A brilliant day out, definitely a day to remember!
Summer holidays day 18.
At the last minute we’d stayed an extra day with my parents because I’d pointed out to Sasha that the sea would be coming further in so we wouldn’t have to walk so far out to get to it. That really is the only downside about my home town - when the sea goes out, it REALLY goes out!
So this morning we made it out early (ish) and started to dig channels as the sea rushed in. It’s a little difficult to judge how far it’s coming though, so Sasha was a little disappointed that it didn’t fill up the second pool which she’d dug nearer shore. However it was brilliant to see that she didn’t let it upset her too much, and we managed to leave the beach in a positive mood.

Tamsin and I headed back to the pier for another 2p throwing frenzy to round off our week holiday by the seaside, and we crossed the stepping stones for one last time this year. Then we had to pack, say goodbye to my parents and face the pain of the M6.
Just before we left, Sasha headed out onto my parents’ balcony for a moment of quiet reflection. She finds any kind of transition difficult, and she was quite wistful as she gazed out to sea. She pointed out that we had been there a week but not actually done very much; not as much as we usually do when we visit my parents in summertime. Of course the main reason we haven’t done very much is because of Sasha’s reluctance to leave the comfort/safety of her bedroom!
I do feel like we are seeing some progress as she gets older though; when reflecting, although there’s no great conversation or discussion, I know that she realises that it’s because of her own fears and anxiety that we’ve not done much - so at least she’s not blaming us for it!
Anyhow, one 5 hour car journey later (just 2 stops, one *might* have included some ), we arrived back home and Sasha was delighted to be back in her own space, with her own duvet. I can currently hear her running around her room next door, enjoying singing and role playing which she’s not really been able to do for the last week and a bit.
Now we’re back, expect the next week of holiday photos to be a bit boring before we go off on our next adventure.....
Summer holidays day 19.
I’m out out, for a meal at the local Harvester, with Tamsin. We’ve never done this before, so this is a real treat! A last minute idea from her dad, seeing as he’s taking her to the cricket all day tomorrow.
It’s such a joy to be out having an almost adult time with one of my own; I don’t think I ever dared to dream that I’d be eating out again, enjoying a leisurely large glass of wine along with a starter, main course AND dessert (well while the dad is at home we may as well make the most of it).

Sasha has barely made it out her room all day. She was so desperate to get home, back to her familiar surroundings, and has enjoyed her chill out time today, happy to be back on the sofa she loves.
She wasn’t happy about the idea of me coming out with Tamsin and leaving her behind (her Dad is home with her!), but she would not cope at all with eating out in a restaurant and it’s the last thing she would agree to do. We don’t even eat McDonalds in the restaurant (unless it’s in a service station and we’re too far from home)!
Just before I left, Sasha asked me to help her blow bubbles with bubblegum. It’s something she’s had her mind on doing for a while but it took me ages to find some in a shop. I used to do it as a girl, but realised tonight how difficult it is to explain to someone else how to do it! Luckily, Sasha saw the funny side. She gave up after the first 5 minutes, but after 10 minutes of watching me do it, she declared she was ‘not a quitter’ and she tried again! Which is amazing in itself. Sadly she didn’t quite get the hang of it... maybe tomorrow?!

So there you have it, one holiday brain dump. I haven't really edited it from what I put on my Facebook page, so apologies if any of it doesn't make sense. Reading back, it's a good reminder to me of just how much we have achieved, which helps especially on days like today when it feels like literally nothing has happened...!

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