Tuesday 4 September 2018

Summer holidays with PDA - Part 2

A while back I posted about the first part of our summer holidays so I feel it's only right that I update my blog with the second half. More for our own memories really; I'm going to do the same as before and tranpose all the daily updates I've been adding to Instagram and my Facebook page and just leave them as diary entries for this post. 
collage of stephs two girls summer holidays

Looking back, it was quite a busy few weeks, with a family wedding, a seaside visit to grandparents, a seven hour car journey for a Disney short stay and a Center Parcs weekend abroad. Phew! Hopefully life will fall back into some sort of school routine and we can all have a breather now. There have been ups and downs of course, but I hope the girls will look back on the holidays and remember them with fondness.

Apologies now for the length of these ramblings and the lack of any great format - my plan is to come back to this post over time and add in all the relevant photos to remind us of our adventures.

Summer holidays day 20.
 Not very exciting pics for me today... eldest went off to watch the cricket at Lords with her Dad and I’ve been stuck home with Sasha, who, surprise surprise, refused to go anywhere. So I’ve been doing computer stuff (sorting photos) and house stuff like cleaning, hoovering and trying to teach the kitten how to use the cat flap. I wouldn’t say that bit has been a huge success, but he has been through it more than our 4 year old cat ever has so maybe we’re doing fine for now. He was allowed out yesterday for the first time but has not strayed too far yet thankfully - I think he likes my lap too much to go far. What I did manage to do today however, was finally blog again. I’ve been feeling guilty about neglecting my blog, especially just after I had a design refresh applied to it (forgot to make a song and dance about that, oops!). There’s been a fair bit going on, in my defence, but I also felt like I had writer’s block - it had become a hurdle to jump. So I basically did a brain dump and put together all of my holiday notes so that I’d have them in one place. Happy days.

Summer holidays day 21.
 Have just realised that I have taken literally NO photos today, for the first time ever. Could be something to do with the fact that pretty much nothing has gone on... meaning that Sasha has barely stepped outside her two rooms (bedroom and playroom) as per the last two days. But she’s happy, and I honestly think she needed this time to de-stress, so I’m not feeling guilty about it at all, despite seeing comments from others about having to ‘force children out of their comfort zones’ and not ‘letting them pick and choose’ or ‘giving into whims’ etc. Am sure there’s a blog post in there somewhere, when I’ve got the energy. Big girl had a quiet day too, after her day out at the cricket followed by evening out at the theatre watching her best friend in a show. I popped out to do the supermarket shop and managed to meet up and have lunch with an old friend who is having a much tougher time than me in life generally. I wish I could help more but sometimes all you can do is be a listening ear. 
 My photo today is cheating slightly; it was taken 3 days ago just before we left my parents’ home after a week long stay. I don’t say it enough I’m sure, but I love them very much and am so thankful for how they raised me and my brothers- of course I think they did a pretty good job. Not everything was easy, because it isn’t for everyone, but I want them to know that I love and appreciate them very much. My girls are so lucky to have 4 fantastic grandparents; I just wish they lived nearer so we could see them more often! But that’s life, it was our choice to move away as we’ve been reminded occasionally. So here’s a big cheer for grandparents near and far; the ones who step up and offer support and who are understanding of different situations. I salute you all!  

Summer holidays day 22. 
 A good one! Despite the grey skies, and a couple of rain showers, Sasha decided we should head to the local outdoor pool. We’re very lucky because it’s less than a minute walk from our house, which meant I was ok to run back and get the inflatables once we’d realised that barely nobody else was as crazy as us to be swimming in the rain. Sasha hadn’t left the house for the past 3 days since returning home from our seaside stay. In fact she’d barely left her bedroom or her playroom, often preferring to play alone even when I offered her company. But today she enjoyed herself and got a great workout session too, messing about with her sister on the inflatables, doing handstands and trying to do synchronised swimming (inspired by what’s been on TV lately!). There was only one other girl in the pool when we got there; when she left after 45 minutes my two had the whole pool to themselves for about half an hour before a family of three got in. Perfect conditions for Sasha, lots of space and no noise coming from others. She was in her element! Tamsin also got plenty of exercise, and I managed a few lengths myself, so that’s a winner. Going to put my feet up and relax this evening.... apart from having to supervise Sasha’s bath time and give her a hair cut (yes, we only paid for a hairdresser 3 weeks ago, but now she’s decided she wants it shorter). Hope everyone else’s day went as well as mine? 

Summer holidays Day 23. 
 Another day where the girls haven’t left the house... and I only made it as far as the vets, 5 mins away, to get updated vaccination certificates for the cats. Staying in is the new going out, don’t you know?! Actually today has been exciting in some kind of way - I finally let myself start thinking about our trip to Disneyland Paris which is coming up soon! Whoop! Exciting in some small way, but actually quite nerve wracking as I start to think about what we may be able to do at Disney with Sasha, given that she’d rather be cooped up in a room with her electronics. I’m panicking slightly that I’ll just see the inside of a hotel room for four days while Tamsin and her Dad enjoy the rides in the parks. I did a few Insta Stories about this earlier today - I definitely don’t want people to think I’m complaining, because I do know how lucky we are to be able to go at all. However it definitely won’t be a walk in the park (excuse the pun) with Sasha, whose anxieties seem to be increasing by the second. We’ve got to conquer the travelling part first, waiting for the Eurotunnel and being cooped up in a car for what will feel like ages to her. Then we’ll see if she feels up to anything - luckily this big McDonalds is between our hotel and the Disney parks, so I reckon I’ll get her that far out at least! So many other considerations though; I’ve been doing lots of research today to see what I can half plan (because of course, I can’t tell her what we are doing, because that would be a Demand). Then it’s a case of trying to leave some info and ideas lying around somewhere to see if anything grabs her attention... if I’m lucky she will agree to go in and do the maze at least! But I’m not holding my breath. Hopefully, Tamsin will manage to have a brilliant time no matter what, and at the end of the week we are going to stay at the French version of @centerparcsuk (@villagesnatureparis) for the weekend - so fingers crossed that place will be close enough in appearance to the U.K. ones to enable Sasha to enjoy the water park at least!

Summer holidays Day 24. 
 It’s that time of the month again, where I bribe the girls to pose together for a #siblings photo! I couldn’t possibly say how much it cost this time... but as you can see, the girls were delighted about it. I took a few snaps as per usual - funny face shots are much more fun of course! Top marks to anyone who can tell me which photos (in the blog) were taken on an iphone and which with a DSLR...? 
 Other than this, it’s actually been a pretty good day. We made it out to the shops this morning! Now that’s not a phrase that I thought I’d be typing. We went to the next town along, partly to make a return to Primark but also to see if there were any news clothes which Sasha would like. She’s been telling me for a while that she’s a bit bored of her wardrobe and doesn’t like much of it any more. We’ve had success in Primark before (ie this top she’s wearing in the photos here, she wears nearly every day!) so I figured it was worth a go again. 
First though, we popped into Debenhams and she tried 5 dresses on in there (luckily we were shown to a separate changing room for disabled people which really helped!). She wanted them all, even though she wasn’t sure they were comfy - ‘they feel a bit strange’ she said of the rara type skirt on the dress, ‘but I think I just need to get used to it’. So that was it, and by the time we got to Primark she was bored and had had enough, but was good about letting her big sis have a quick browse. Then (I’d almost forgotten this bit!) we had another new experience, when Sasha suggested she would like to try Subway for lunch. This is a girl who has eaten the same dairylea sandwiches on white bread for about, ooh, 6 years at least. The difficult part came when she had to decide what she wanted and so it nearly didn’t happen.. but eventually she picked chicken and cheese, with lettuce, tomato and cucumber! 
 When we got home, she ate all the chicken straight away and declared it delicious, then she picked some holes in the bread and nibbles a tiny bit of the cheese but wasn’t such a big fan. The rest was left... but to me that’s still a huge achievement. Then this afternoon we had a classmate from Sasha’s new school over for a little play; they bounced then painted stones together. So a pretty exciting day.  

Summer holidays day 25. 
 The one where my lovely parents came to sit in with my girls so that I could escape to do a bit of shopping... and I somehow managed to treat myself to lunch out sitting down for a change (the third pic!). Even better, it was free thanks to John Lewis and a voucher given with their my John Lewis card. I love a bargain (that I don’t have to go rifling the rails for). That was pretty much the sum of the excitement for the day, for me anyhow - later on, the girls managed to persuade me to get their favourite tea. One likes McD, one BK. Luckily we have them next door to each other not too far away! What you can see in the first pic is Sasha’s regular tea - as in, switch the Mc Fries for oven chips, and that’s what she has. Every. Single. Night. To be honest it’s nice to get the fries to break up the monotony! So anyhow I have a question for you, which would you choose, McD or Burger King? Tamsin and I reckon the chips at BK are miles better, but Sasha doesn’t agree! 

Summer holidays Day 26. 
 It feels like it’s been a busy one. At Sasha’s request, I took the girls to the Hobbycraft megastore this morning. She was on a mission to buy some craft materials to make a bed for her Our American Girl doll. We’d only got to the second aisle before I’d had enough of the desperate attempts to put the entire shop in my basket (and that was my eldest, not Sasha!). I can understand it, I love the idea of crafting and all the pretty things myself. I’m just not very good at having ideas of what to do with it! It was a fairly successful shopping trip overall; although Sasha had made me promise that we would just go in that one store, I was a bit sneaky on the way back to the car and managed to divert her into Debenhams so we could look for some shorts for Tamsin. The extra store was only possible because Sasha was in a good mood after Hobbycraft! 
 The dress that Sasha is modelling today was one of the new ones which she chose from Debenhams earlier this week - it’s so lovely to see her in something different for a change. I managed to get out for myself later in the afternoon as their Dad was working from home - I say for myself, really it was to collect some bigger dresses ordered for Sasha! But ssshhh, I did manage to grab myself a new top too. On my way back to the car, walking through the middle of the town centre, I noticed a big screen where they were having an outdoor viewing of Back to the Future. All of a sudden, a rat jumped out of the bushes to cross the path and ran straight into my ankle. It was huge (in that way that fishermen always boast about their catch..). Someone tell me it’s a lucky omen to be hit by a rat?? The last pic is of Sasha’s hair. I’m not sure if you remember at the start of the hols I took both girls for a haircut at the hairdresser, a very rare event? Well Sasha decided hers was too long as it kept getting extra knotty, so I had to turn by hand to a bit of hairdressing at 930pm, while Sasha knelt on the edge of her bed. There’s nothing I can’t do, I tell ya! 

Summer holidays Day 27. 
 Oops, nearly missed today! It’s not been boring; the girls’ grandparents have been visiting and it’s been lovely to see them again. There’s not been any great photo opportunities so not very Instagram friendly today sorry. The subscription to this magazine for children, The Week, was gifted to my children for Christmas last year. At the time, I’ll be honest I wasn’t sure it was going to work - eldest girl is very fussy about liking only Harry Potter or a certain type of fiction, and Sasha has never been very interested in reading anything. But actually, Sasha now looks forward to this coming through the letterbox. She skim reads a lot of it and only properly looks at the bits she wants to look at, but it’s still amazing that’s she reads it at all! Today is Saturday so that means McDonalds of course; I popped again for some last minute holiday supplies and brought the chips home, which was much appreciated. For the last hour, Sasha has been making up lyrics to a song and practising it before finally plucking up the courage to showcase it to me, then to her Dad and sister, then to her grandparents. This was a special moment, as she was scared none of us would like it. So regardless of how the song was (it was brilliant, obvs, I am her mum) I’m just over the moon that she overcame her anxiety enough to share it with us. A special moment for us. 

Summer holidays Day 28. 
 Exciting stuff today: packing. Charlie who blogs over at Our Altered Life is a real inspiration to me, and when I heard her talking earlier about how we should be living more in the moment and put more effort into not being distracted by social media, it rang true with what I've been thinking lately. It's very easy to get sucked into social media; I don't mean just posting and sharing our life on here, but also reading and commenting on many other people's lives. You've probably guessed, I'm quite a nosey person, but also genuinely interested in keeping in touch with people and seeing how their lives are going. I like to keep my online relationships going by interacting rather than just being a 'lurker' but it does take up an enormous amount of time. I don't begrudge that at all, but I have been wondering how much more I could achieve at home if I wasn't directing my energy there! 
 This coming week, you will probably guess where we are from my photos. I'm not great at keeping a secret! So I know I will want to share, but I also want to spend more of my time 'in the moment', enjoying my girls reactions rather than having my nose in my phone. That's why I have spent some time today scheduling posts to this page (it's a clever little Facebook feature!) - if you see something pop up, it doesn't mean I'm there at that moment but I'd still love you to read! I'm trying to share a variety of posts which I hope you'll read with interest. Must say a huge thanks to Anna, my friend who is house sitting for us, and also point out that although there will be some challenges in getting away and enjoying our time (there's been a fair bit of planning and prep), we don't really know how it will go until we get there (all very cryptic!). But I very much appreciate that we are able to get away at all, and for those for who life is more of a challenge right now, I send huge hugs. 

Summer holidays Day 29. 
 This little bear called Hope is going on an adventure today. She’s off to spread some autism awareness - watch out for a longer post later this week with more details, or search for Autism Aware Bears. 

Summer holidays Day 30. 
 We’ve been busy already this morning! Me and Tamsin that is... poor old Dad is stuck in the hotel room with Sasha. Although to be honest he didn’t exactly jump out of bed this morning, unlike our teen who was desperate to get into the park for Extra Magic Hours! Sasha struggled with the long journey yesterday, but was happy to finally arrive around teatime. I went to get her beloved chips but shock horror they didn’t taste the same as the English ones... let’s hope that was a one-off. After tea we wandered into the park briefly just to apply for the disabled ticket for Sasha; that done, she was keen to get back to the hotel and check out the swimming pool. So the girls had fun in there for an hour or so before we tried to get an early night. Not sure any of us slept all that well to be honest... but when my alarm went off at 7am (early breakfast to make best use of quiet hour for hotel guests in the park before general opening time), Sasha stayed fast asleep. Very unlike her, she is usually always up around 630 at home! She did wake before Tamsin and I went down for breakfast, but decided she would rather have a lazy morning than come into the parks. She’s hoping for another swim at lunchtime, so Tamsin and I are doing a morning here then we’ll have a swim before seeing if Sasha feels up to the parks this afternoon. The hotel pool is nice, if a little on the small side, and freezing! 
 So far we’ve done Ratatouille, Tower of Terror and the Rock n Roller Coaster. All pretty much walk straight on because there was little queuing in Extra Magic Hours, apart from Crush’s Coaster. There was already a huge queue for that when we got here, and there were technical difficulties which meant it didn’t get going first thing. We’ve come back to it now, and it’s 70 minutes long but that’s given me enough time to write this, so all is good! Love Disney.

Summer holidays day 30 part 2. 
 Tamsin and I wandered back to the hotel for lunch, browsing the shops for Minnie ears en route. After lunch in the hotel room (we’ve brought bread and dairylea for Sasha so she can eat the same as she does everyday at home-otherwise she wouldn’t eat at all) we headed over to the hotel pool again. The girls loved being in there together; for 20 minutes, Tamsin carefully talked to her younger sister, trying to persuade her that it was ok to go on the small water slide. Sasha desperately wants to go on it, but is too scared. After all the talking, Tamsin managed to get Sasha as far as the top of the steps for the slide, but then Sasha got cold feet again and cane back down the steps. She was slightly frustrated with herself, because she does really want to do it, but just doesn’t seem to have the courage. She used the excuse that there were too many people in the pool (it was averagely busy I’d say) and I think if I could have asked them all to leave, she might have done it. Then again, she might not. I was so proud of how much effort Tamsin put in to helping Sasha today; it is hard work, it takes a lot of patience and the knowledge of what words to use. She really tried, bless her. 
After swimming, we had another hotel room rest (it was an early start for some of us!), another McDonalds fetching trip and then we headed out to the Disney parks, at around 645pm..... 
 ‘It seems like I have a fear of everything being dangerous’. ‘Everything’s a risk in my world, isn’t it?’ 
 Two of the later phrases uttered by Sasha tonight as we were almost back at our hotel, having left the Disney Park Studios at around 810pm. We had been waiting for her Dad and sister to come off the Tower of Terror ride, but the waiting on top of the disappointment and fear was all too much and I had to try to avoid a full on meltdown by leaving before our arranged meet time and sending a message instead. I’d been hopeful when we headed out this evening that Sasha might somehow fall in love with Disney. Two rides later, and she’d decided she hates it. We headed into the Studios for the Slinky Dog ride, as that seemed similar to the small pirate boat ride which she’s enjoyed at Blackpool Pleasure Beach before. It just goes round in a circle. Not super fast, but the issue with it (which I obviously hadn’t foreseen) was that it goes up and down. Sasha kept her head down the whole time and swore that she was never going on it again. ‘It was too intense’ she declared. Next we headed over to the magic flying carpets - a ride similar to Dumbo, where the carriages go up and down in the air (if you choose to make them), with one small exception. On this ride, the carpets tip forwards and backwards. I mean, almost imperceptibly, but enough to put the fear into Sasha. Her face at the start was happy; coming off, not so much. Slightly less bad than the slinky dog ride though, so after a few minutes of building up courage, she decided that she would try the Cars Rally ride with me while her Dad and Tamsin went off to Tower of Terror. The amazing Green Pass enabled us to enter via the disabled exit, where there was no queue (it was late in the park at this point), and Sasha was able to watch the ride in action. Which she wanted to see, to try to calm her fears. When it stopped, we went to get on. I snapped a quick selfie after putting the seatbelts on, and she seemed ok, just a little nervous. Less than a minute later, she panicked, tears in her eyes, and asked if we could get off straightaway. Luckily, they were checking the last car’s seatbelts, so I could be that annoying person to stand up right at the last minute to stop the ride from starting. We made a quick exit. And that was it really. 
 It’s all been too intense for her, she doesn’t like anything here, in fact she hates Disney, this part of the holiday is all for Tamsin and she’s upset. Extremely upset. She’s gone over and over it for the last hour since we got back to the hotel room (Dad and big Sis are out still enjoying the rides). I think the worst thing is that she knows it’s her own fears holding her back, and she knows that these fears have been getting worse and now seem to be taking over her life. She used to enjoy more rides at the Pleasure Beach when she was younger, and it just doesn’t seem possible for her any more. It’s frustrating for her, and makes her angry and sad. I wish I could help.

Summer holidays, day 31. 
 I wasn’t sure whether I would do this update; there seemed to be so much to write about very little happening, if that makes any sense. But as I have a little time to kill in a hotel room (again), I’ll give it a go. Yesterday, Tamsin and her Dad headed off into Disneyland Park in the morning, after I’d been down early for breakfast alone, then I headed back to Sasha to sit in the hotel room so the two of them could have breakfast and head off. Sasha and I went to the hotel swimming pool around 10am, and she was determined to have the courage to go on the small slide there. Sadly, the swimming pool slide has been the cause of more distress for Sasha. If only I’d known, but of course I couldn’t foresee this. She’s watched several people go down it, and wants to do it herself. She’s been up the steps a good fifty times I’d say, but every time she gets scared about the two water jets at the top of the slide, thinking they look too strong and fast. So every time we end up moving out of the way for other people then walking back down the steps. And then she is super upset with herself for not being brave enough to do it. When I get around to the day 32 update, you’ll see that exactly the same has happened this morning. I’ve tried incentivising her (as she wanted me too), but even the promise of many Robux hasn’t been able to help her get over the fear. I try to console her, but she’s upset with herself and nothing can help that. Sigh. 
 So I spent a couple more hours in the hotel room; Tamsin and Dad headed back around 2pm and Tamsin had a quick nap. Then around 430 Tamsin and I headed out to the Disney Village for a quick bit of shopping (she now has a new Disney backpack!). But yesterday was not a complete write-off. I had been brave, and decided to book the buffet in the hotel for all 4 of us at 6pm when it opened. I told Sasha she could bring her iPad and headphones, and I had a new sticker book in the bag as a surprise. She was reluctant, but agreed when I said it was what Tamsin wanted. I’d asked them for a quiet table, and they showed us to one towards the back. Sasha was OK, and I was amazed when she even got up to have a quick look around what was on the buffet (lots of gorgeous looking desserts!). She didn’t agree to eat anything, but she did sit there for 40 minutes with the headphones on, while Tamsin, her Dad and I all had a yummy meal - with a bottle of wine even (us adults, not Tamsin)! That was a huge achievement. 
After that, Tamsin and I celebrated by heading into the park to ride Thunder Mountain twice (def our fave ride) while Dad stayed in with Sasha (don’t feel sorry for him, he’d had a beer in the bar in the afternoon). We also managed to get front row on the Indiana Jones rollercoaster; it set off from the station... and then stopped just before the first big climb. After about a ten minute wait, Tamsin and I were evacuated. I think we were both just relieved that it didn’t start going again while we were still on it! Still considering whether we will ride it at some point... there do seem to have been quite a few technical issues over the 4 days we’ve been here. Then we got to watch the magical light show and fireworks by the castle before heading home to bed with smiles on our faces. There is definitely good in every day.

Summer holidays, day 32. 
 I’m still a day behind; so much has been happening that it’s difficult to keep up! Yesterday was our last full day at Disneyland Paris. Sasha was keen to go swimming in the hotel pool again to try to conquer the water slide, so I was on pool duty while Tamsin headed off with her Dad into the parks. They managed quite a few rides in the Disneyland Park before heading over to the Studios, but by then it was lunchtime and the queues were horrendous apparently - for both rides and for a hot dog and ice cream! The pool trip didn’t go all that well with Sasha (understatement). It was closed due to technical difficulties when we got there, although it thankfully opened soon after. We swam a bit, then Sasha desperately wanted to go down the small water slide. She just couldn’t though; we did the whole up and down the steps 50 times thing again (slight exaggeration but not much) and the whole process wasn’t helped by a young French boy telling her in English that it was a baby slide (I think he was trying to be helpful, but I still wanted to slap him). Then around 130, Sasha and I headed in to meet the other two in Disney Village. I’d had to persuade Sasha out of the hotel room; she wasn’t that keen but I was fairly determined that she should at least try going to the main Disneyland Park. I’d hope she would try maybe the Small World or Peter Pan rides - she’d looked at them beforehand and said maybe - or at the very least enjoy the Dumbo ride or looking at the magical castle. 
 Well, I’m glad we tried, but I’ll be honest, Disney is not a magical place for Sasha. By the time we’d got through the main gate, she was already mega stressed. You can clearly see that on her face in the photo of me and her which her Dad took (why do men never take photos unless they’re asked and then they don’t quite pick the right time?!) I took her up the side passages to the castle, away from the crowds, but by the time we passed through the castle I pretty much knew it was game over. Head down though, I carried on, ever hopeful that the sight of an attraction she might want to do would somehow bring her round. The Alice Maze, I thought, there can be no fear in that, it’s just a walk through.... there was no point, she was already way past her anxiety bucket overspill. I knew that was it. We’d tried at least, but Disney wasn’t for Sasha. She wanted to go back to the safety of the hotel, so she reluctantly agreed to go with her Dad so that I could stay out with Tamsin. Sasha was angry about it all, but just about held it together. Poor Tamsin, was such a stressful time for her too in what should be a happy place.
 Anyhow so Tamsin and I stayed out and did Small World and Star Tours then rode Big Thunder Mountain a couple of times. Then we returned to the hotel, and buoyed by our success of a meal out in the hotel buffet restaurant the night before, we decided to try again. Sasha was just about OK with her iPad and headphones but poor old Tamsin was gutted that the menu had changed slightly and there were no more chips. I’m hoping to write a review post of the hotel and parks at some point once home; there is much good to say about them despite the challenges we faced. And now at least we know for sure, that Disney just isn’t for Sasha. I thought it was worth a try; Disney will always be magical for me but it’s a great example of how we are not all the same. Everyone is different, and that’s a good thing! 

Summer holidays, day 33. 
 Friday - I’m still a day behind, but determined to catch up this evening now we are back to a slower pace of life. We woke up in the Disney hotel when the alarm went off at 7am. Tamsin and I scrambled out of bed, desperate to make the most of the last day of EMH (Extra Magic Hour). We ran to breakfast, and made it to the entrance of Disneyland Park at about 815, where we found the gates were already open (it’s supposed to open at 830!). We were one of the first few inside the park and soaked up a very quiet Main Street, taking the opportunity to get some photos which didn’t include someone else’s bum in them. Bit disappointed once we got there to discover that lots of the park and most rides don’t actually open until 930 or 10... typically that includes the bigger ones which Tamsin wanted to do again. So we decided to head over to the Disney Studios Park, where we managed to get on 4 rides before having to call it a day and head back to check out of our hotel room at 11. We packed the car up then went for a family swim in the hotel pool; Sasha still couldn’t bring herself to do the slide but my little chat with her beforehand about it not mattering helped I think and we didn’t have so much stress as the previous two days thankfully. After the swim, we headed to McDonalds for lunch for the kids (grabbing Earl of Sandwich food for us adults en route), and as we had no hotel room any more, Sasha reluctantly agreed to eat her chips inside the McDonalds. Hallelujah and praise be for the free WiFi! There’s probably a blog post in that alone... 
 After lunch, we headed on to our next stop for the weekend, via a stop at the Auchan supermarket where Sasha complained terribly of her legs and knees hurting, and wanting to go back to the car, even though we’d only been looking at the wine section for ten minutes. At exactly the right time, 3pm (Sasha had been stressing and anxious about that the whole day as she didn’t want to be too early - ie before we could get our villa keys - or too late), we arrived at Villages Nature. This is a very new Center Parcs which opened last year, just 10 minutes away from Disneyland Paris. This is the bit of the holiday I booked with Sasha in mind, as she loves CP in the UK. I’ll update more about what it’s like here later, but in short for now I’ll say that it was clear to see Sasha relaxing much more as soon as we got here. She appreciates having more space again - don’t we all, 4 in 2 double beds in a small hotel room wasn’t exactly fun 100% of the time and I’m not sure any of us slept well at Disney! We headed to the water park for the evening and had a good 2 hours swimming before flopping into bed. 

Summer holidays, day 34
 I’ve caught up, yay! Today is Saturday, and it’s been our first full day staying at Villages Nature, which is one of the French Center Parcs. It’s only 10 minutes drive from Disneyland Paris, which is the main reason we chose to stay here. Sasha struggles with car journeys so the less time in a car the better. It was a stretch coming to France last Monday, via the channel tunnel, but she did remarkably well especially considering the fact she doesn’t want to watch or do anything in the car because it makes her feel more sick, she can’t sleep in the car easily and she doesn’t like daydreaming! But we made it. Yesterday we checked into our cottage; it’s lovely and spacious, very new, with a twin room for the girls and double master room. I hope to get around to writing a full review of this place on my blog when we are back, as well as of our Disney hotel and Disney parks visits. This morning we headed back to the AquaLagon which is the big water park on site, similar to how they have good water facilities at most Center Parcs. Sasha loves Center Parcs in the UK, which is why I booked this part of the holiday when I really wasn’t sure that she would like Disney. We spend 3 hours at the water park every day, Fri-Sun, when we do our annual stay in the UK. 
The water park here is amazing; Sasha was slightly disappointed that there are no rapids like the ones she has recently conquered at the UK Center Parcs, but luckily the lazy river here and whole outdoor area have been good enough to keep her occupied. There are seven water slides here; Tamsin has enjoyed five of them a few times now (one hasn’t been open since we arrived and the other is a drop through the floor one which her Dad has done but which she is unlikely to!). 
 After lunch back in our accommodation (after watching his football match in the bar with a beer, the girls’ Dad found Sasha some fries which passed muster, yay!), we decided to try Bowling. It had caught Sasha’s eye on our way back from swimming; not cheap at €36 for 50 minutes but possibly it costs that much in the UK now too?! It’s been a long time, like years, since we last bowled as a family. We got over the stress of wearing different shoes that feel a bit funny and don’t fit quiet right, but then found we’d been assigned a lane sharing with a family who had already started on the other side. Sasha was instantly stressed, saying she didn’t want anyone to be watching her. So I went and asked the staff if it was possible to switch to the empty lane at the far end away from everyone (honestly, you have to lose all worries about being self-conscious when you are mum to a PDA child!). Thankfully, when I explained why, they were very understanding. Sasha was super excited to start, but when she’d had her first two bowls (because of course, she had to go first), she became very stressed about the fact that the scores were going up on the computer screen and that she might not be able to win. She wanted us to switch the scoring off and just ‘free bowl’. I had to explain that’s not possible because the technology doesn’t work like that, and of course most people enjoy the competitive aspect of the game... but it was all too much for her and she just couldn’t carry on. It’s a good job I was prepared for anything and had her iPad and headphones with me - and that there was free WiFi. She reluctantly sat out while we carried on playing, though calming her down from the near meltdown did of course spoil the happy mood somewhat. Once our game was done though, we realised that there were still 8 minutes left and we could reset the computer for it to be just Sasha. So then she got up to have a few throws, although the stress of being against the clock did mean she struggled at the end. A small win though, which meant we could come back to the house happy and I’d even got some photos while out; we’ll take that! 

Summer holidays, day 35. 
 A very rare family selfie to start the day! Followed by a couple of hours in the AquaLagon water park again. Tamsin and I rode the water slides first this time, while Dad went to the outdoor pools with Sasha, then we all swam in the waves in the main pool. Just before heading out, we got Dad to have a go on the tube ride above the main pool - will later try and share the video of him waving frantically! After heading back to the house for lunch, the girls decided they were too tired/lazy to go exploring, so we left Tamsin in charge of Sasha and went for a wander ourselves. It’s a gorgeous site here at Villages Nature Paris, I’ll definitely write it up in a blog post and share some more of the pics with everyone. Since then we’ve been chilling back at the ‘ranch’; it’s been a pretty laid back day and I guess we should start thinking about packing for our departure tomorrow. Sasha will be delighted to get home; I’ve noticed how much she has missed her own space and privacy to dance around and sing which she enjoys going at home. There will definitely be some long hard thinking about any future family holidays over the coming months; this trip has definitely highlighted some of the extra challenges we face. But of course, there have been good times, and we can always find some happy memories to keep.

Summer holidays, day 36. 
 The one where it took us 7 hours of travelling to get back home from France - and that was with no delays! Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I pretty much penned (i.e. typed in Notes on my phone) a whole blog post from the back of the car as we travelled... that might explain my slightly woozy feeling now, ahem. It's still the holidays though, Pimms is allowed on a Monday night, am I right?! Actually with the change in temperature now we're back maybe I'll go for a hot toddy instead... So, my latest blog post is a bit of a reflection on what this holiday meant to us. More of a ponder than a full match report, in it I'm asking the question 'is a family holiday really a holiday?' That might sound a bit extreme, but I have a feeling there will be others who agree with my thoughts on this. There will certainly be more discussion in this house before we plan any more trips.... whose bright idea was it to have children, I wonder?! Gone are the days where we could relax on a sunlounger on a beach in the Bahamas... or relax full stop. I'd love it if you would click through to read my post and answer my other question there about how you manage yours? 
In other news, I actually managed to get 4 family selfies!! That definitely deserves some sort of reward, don't you think?

Summer holidays, day 37. 
 There’s not a lot been happening today, apart from a few hundred laundry loads (only a slight exaggeration). Oh and we went to collect our two cats from the Cattery. They were pleased to see us and quickly settled themselves back in at home. So that’s the second photo; the first photo was actually taken yesterday evening, as a miraculous thing was happening. One of Sasha’s most recent obsessions is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. She has watched so many clips about both films on YouTube; she could tell you all about who wrote it and who stared in the two different versions, and which bits are CGI and how it was filmed etc. She even knows all the words to the songs. So when we saw that it was on television yesterday evening, we asked if she wanted to watch it, and she said yes, as long as the whole family would watch it with her. Now obviously we all had other things we could be doing, especially older teen sister who really dislikes tearing herself away from her phone screen, but we have never been able to all sit down and watch a movie together at home before. In fact Sasha has only ever seen about five or six films all the way through (Home, Inside Out and Trolls being the ones I remember off the top of my head); given the choice she would normally rewind scenes to watch them over and over. Yesterday we all sat together on her sofa and watched the film in one go. It was magical! Special moments are made at the most unexpected of times.

Summer holidays, day 38.
 Well. Today was shaping up to be a pretty average, stay at home kind of day. Me doing holiday washing still, eldest off out with a friend and Sasha on her electronics. She wouldn’t be tempted off them; said she wouldn’t get bored and that she needs to do ‘nothing’ for a bit longer after our holiday. Over the course of the day, two good things and one not-so-good happened. First, I managed to catch Sasha at a good time and suggested clearing some of the old toys out of her playroom in the hope of making some money to feed her next obsession. I went through a few boxes; most of it she wanted to keep, but there were a few small bits which she allowed me to take away. Sadly they won’t raise much. But, amazingly, she did agree that her Peppa Pig DVD collection could go. I feel a bit nostalgic about this - these were well loved DVDs which Sasha would watch on repeat for many years. Most parents only get that pain for one or two years at most! 
 Later in the afternoon, Sasha came to tell me that she wanted to make a mod for Sims 4. Do you ever feel inadequate as a parent, and does it sometimes seem as if your children are talking a different language?! Luckily, I remembered an advert I had seen recently for Code Kingdoms. OK so it’s not for Sims, but it is a ‘learn to code’ site for her two other favourite games, Minecraft and Roblox, so I thought it was worth a quick mention. Initially she wasn’t sure but after seeing the website, she said she’d go away and think about it. Half an hour later, she was back, wanting me to sit in her room and scribe while she paced and dictated all her ideas about a new Roblox world. I love the imagination this girl has! Autism myth busted right there. Two sides of A4 later (wish I’d learnt shorthand!) and she wanted a break. She still seemed excited, so I left her to it and got on with my mundane tasks. About an hour later, she called me back in. She was distraught, angry and upset. She was beating herself up (not literally, but it wasn’t far from that) because she couldn’t think of anything original to code a mod for that wasn’t too difficult to do. She’s not happy to settle for an idea which someone else has already had. She was almost screaming at me through gritted teeth when I tried to suggest anything, or tried to console her, or suggested she sleep on it. The anger turned to sobs after about 20 minutes, long after I’d realised there was nothing I could say to make her happier. It’s like she needs help and reassurance, but can’t let herself accept it. These times are tough. But tomorrow is a new day, we’ll see what it will bring. I’d just better not mention Code Kingdoms again and see if I can get away with it... 

Summer holidays, day 39. 
 Another quiet one here. I made it out briefly to be pummelled by an osteopath who is trying to make my back less sore, but the girls both stayed home all day. Chilling out, as per usual. I made some jam in the afternoon (we have 2 freezer drawers full of raspberries) and then went for a little chat with Sasha. She’s not talking to me now. She’s in her room, sulking. I had the audacity to point out that I would like some time off (ie away from her) to visit friends, get out of the house and have some fun. To say it didn’t go down well was an understatement. However, right now I’m feeling strong, and think I will have to do this for her own good (and mine!). It’s not as if I leave her with strangers; I’m lucky in that her Dad is here and is very supportive. She just wants me, that’s all. There’s always a price to be paid, a knock-on after effect, but the alternative of staying in and becoming a hermit isn’t all that appealing to me, I’ll be honest. Sasha has said a couple of times that she needs to get things ready for Back to School, but then doesn’t really know what she wants - and she definitely doesn’t want to go shopping for it! So for now, I’m not running with those conversations. I’m trying to keep the anxiety low for as long as possible. 
 Just realised I haven’t explained the first pic yet. This was my tea time, sitting eating at the table with my teen, and watching her one true love on the iPad. It’s an American group called Why Don’t We (*scream*) who she has been following for the last year. Not physically, although she would like to...! We have tickets to a concert of theirs in the U.K. in October and to be honest I’m very excited for her. I think we all remember the first group/artist we all fell in love with, don’t we?! Let me know, what or who was yours? If enough people comment, maybe I’ll share my faves.

Summer holidays, day 40. 
 I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to write a post today, because my day has been just so exciting....  Slight exaggeration. Actually it’s been a house cleaning and tidying around the cats sort of day, with the added excitement of a trip to the supermarket and to McDonalds. But it’s not Saturday! I hear you cry. That’s right, we’ve broken the routine. We’re having friends over for a BBQ here tomorrow so I bargained with Sasha that she could have her weekly chips a day early. Luckily, she didn’t complain much... although that’s no guarantee that she won’t tomorrow! She’s been happy today because I didn’t force her to leave the house. I did make her finally brush her teeth though, before I gave her the parcel which had arrived for her. In the parcel was the item which she has been desperate to have for the past few weeks, ever since she saw it on YouTube. It’s a Playdoh fun factory, a rare item, and she’s made good use of it today. Eldest's favourite group have released a new album today, and I’ve got Pimms and pizza tonight, so smiles all round.

Summer holidays, day 41. 
 The one where we had a BBQ, on the new patio which Mr C has laid himself, and the sun shone. We were so lucky with the weather, warm but not too hot. Perfect - apart from a few extra wasps but luckily nobody got stung! 
 This pic is Sasha; you’d be forgiven for thinking that she joined in and had a whale of a time, because that’s what the photo says, right?! Well, our friends were here for over 7 hours, and this snap was when Sasha graced us with her presence for about 10 minutes. She was on fine form, briefly, but then chose to go back up to her bedroom to hide out. She wanted to be away from the noise of us chatting and having fun. I know a part of her wanted to be with us having fun too; it’s all such a challenge for her though. The other four children all had fun with our eldest daughter; playing games on the Switch, looking at their phone screens and hide and seek in the garden once it was dark. Sasha could hear them and wanted to join in but she’s come to realise that she can’t. It’s not that they wouldn’t welcome her, because they would, they’d let her win games and do whatever was necessary I know. But now Sasha understands she just can’t change herself to play in the way they all do, she chooses to stay away. Any time I’ve seen a photo of the other children together, or the photos of my brother’s wedding with five bridesmaids in rather than six, I can’t help but see the missing piece, my gorgeous younger girl. As time has gone on, I still notice, but I dwell on it less and just accept that she was there, she is here, she just needs to do things her way. 
 The second photo is my two gorgeous friends. If I’d have written this last night, it might have been a bit more soppy and rambling because, I’ll be honest, a fair few Pimms had been sunk by the time I usually post. I’ll keep it short today and just say that I love these two ladies; they listen to me, support me, and understand Sasha, and I so appreciate their friendship. Everybody needs good friends, even if they are slimmer and more tanned.. 

Summer holidays, day 42. 
 By some sort of miracle I woke up this morning without any sign of a hangover, despite the jug or two of Pimms and bottle of Prosecco that was consumed mostly by me at our BBQ. I really must grow up. Today I had plans for an exciting day out into the big city with our eldest girl, Tamsin. I’d managed to get us some last minute tickets to see The Play That Goes Wrong, which I’ve been wanting to see for a while (always in need of a laugh). First though, I needed to break the news to Sasha that I was going out. She wasn’t happy (understatement) but I thought she’d taken it quite well until I got this text message from her as I was getting dressed. 
In case you can’t tell, it’s me on the right, saying to her ‘I shall stay’ and her on the left saying ‘yay!’ in response. Wishful thinking from Sasha. But a very cute sketch. At least we managed to book for an afternoon show, so that means I can be back in time for bedtime. Sasha is most upset when I can’t be there at bedtime; no-one else will do. We have quite a protracted bedtime and routine - it’s funny (not ha-ha) how these actions build up before you know it, and you wonder how they’ve come to be. For Sasha, bedtime involves a lot of trying to get ‘comfy’, with her toys and blankets in just the right position. I’m slightly scared that it’s moving towards an OCD state of affairs; everything is driven by high anxiety, as most of her life is. Anyhow, eldest and I had a lovely afternoon out, and a good old belly laugh at the show, which I heartily recommend! Tomorrow is our last day off before Back To School and Sasha has just decided she needs some new stationery.... oh joy! 

Summer holidays, day 43. 
 Our last day of the summer holidays, home together. I actually feel quite sad; it feels as if the six weeks have whizzed by for us. Of course we’ve had challenges (and I’ve written about them on a daily basis #keepingitreal) but I honestly love spending time with my girls. Whilst I’m a tiny bit excited about being able to start a brand new all-consuming fitness regime with my free time (ahem), I don’t love the stresses that school will bring. I hope there will be progress for both girls and then it will somehow all seem worth it... we’ll see. Anyhow today seemed like the perfect day to go Back to School shopping, given that Sasha hasn’t wanted to look ahead and think about it before now. She finally checked her school bag and decided that she needed a new pencil and new colouring pencils - despite the fact that the old ones are not even half used. Not wanting to dampen her enthusiasm or her surprising willingness to enter shops, I agree that we could go, as long as we avoided that awful Smiggle place. My job before having children involved buying stationery to sell in Asda, and so I rage internally at the mark-up prices if I have to enter this seemingly addictive retailer. Luckily, she agreed, and we trotted off to town early doors to avoid any busy-ness. We hit WHS, Tiger and Rymans, and only spent a small fortune rather than a large one. Honestly, it was worth it to see the smiles on their faces and to get my best photo of the week (in Tiger). We also managed a very unexpected quick tour round our local museum (not a phrase I thought I’d be saying!) where Sasha made a fine judge and sentenced me to more days in jail. Since coming home, Sasha has been glued to her iPad again, despite saying she wanted to play with some kinetic sand today. When I challenged her, she said that it was her last day of being able to do exactly as she chose (ie sit on the sofa) for a full day without having to deal with other people. I figured I couldn’t argue with that, and she’s had a happy day all round. In fact I had more ‘issues’ with our teen who was having a slight wobble about the changes to her school timetable and the new teachers who she’s not so sure about... year 9 definitely feels like it will be more of a challenge for her.
Meanwhile, Sasha appears to be nervous but excited about going back, so fingers crossed we will get there nice and early tomorrow as she wants. Everything also crossed that she doesn’t realise too quickly that she’s forgotten how much fun it isn’t... I’m relieved that she is starting Year 7 without a huge transition; not only the same classroom as before summer but the same teacher and some of the same children. So hopefully the lack of big change will be a huge help. I know that she will need to completely de-stress when she comes home tomorrow though, she’s already asked for ‘total chill-out’ when she comes home......

To find out more about our experiences, please check out our 'About Us' page. If you are looking or more information on Pathological Demand Avoidance, why not try some of these, my most popular posts?

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