Newsletters as a “home ed project”

Finding therapeutic parenting strategies that work is so imperative to life with adopted children, not least because they need to not feel like they are “bad” or “naughty”; you’ll likely find that most adopted children have at some point felt like they are inherently “bad” and that it’s their fault that they can’t live with their birth parents. And that certainly is the case in our house!

Logan in particular struggles to see the good in himself, I mean, Caitlin does struggle with it but she does have rational moments where she can see her try self. Logan is barely able to see anything good about himself at all. And if you can’t see the good in yourself, you surely cannot value the good of other people. And if you cannot value the good of other people, you cannot feel the love given to you and accept that good things happen to you at the hands of other people.

This causes us no end of battles, we do lots of positive things with Logan and Caitlin. And so we have (read “I”) have been thinking of ways to reiterate the positives with him. And as we don’t see the Grandparents often and the children love having pen pals, we decided to make it so that the children write a newsletter of the things they have been up to each month to the Grandparents.

They have to look through the photos of what they have been up to in a month, and then select their favourites and provide a caption for each one. The selection process really forces him to be faced with a concentrated whack of “Wow! Mumma sure has arranged a lot of fun stuff for us this month…” and it’s hoped that the reiteration if that message in his brain will allow him to remember that positives are occurring from outside sources. They then write a “paragraph” in the cover letter (literally a sentence or two) on the laptop so are getting familiar with the keyboard. And if we have done something special in the month (Halloween being the last one) we do a “special” on it together.

On top of this, the grandparents send the kids a challenge each month. It could be something academic (like a book review), something craft-based (making a dream catcher), something physical (going for a walk), something nature based (counting bugs/birds), research based (finding out who the Wombles are). Anything, in short.

And everyone wins. The kids get a lot of therapeutic feedback, and reminders of how good things are now. Despite the stress of actually getting the task done, I get a lot of positive back from the children and I inadvertently get to see how they are coming along (caption creativity, spelling, memor). And the Grandparents, who see us infrequently get some insight as to what we are up to.

Below are some examples of challenges they have had to get up to.

Advent 2018

I know that it’s super late to be talking about what we got up to over advent, but as I have said in some previous posts, we haven’t had the best of Winters… not that Winter is easy for anyone, but anxiety is especially high in our house from approximately October through to mid January here. And then we had loads of things happen like flooded house, car accident, emergency vets, a 3 am trip to A&E… on top of building works, it’s been quite a time. And this blog is primarily for me to keep a track of what’s occurred so I need to go through it all… no matter how late!

As we do every year, we arranged a calendar which gives the children a bit more focus and reduces the anxiety somewhat (well… it doesn’t reduce it, but it makes each day more manageable). The calendar is presented differently each year – sometimes in a series of envelopes, sometimes in little glass bottles. And in each one is a little message that says what today’s theme is.

There are days and activities that occur annually: Letters to Santa on Day 1, putting up the decorations on the first Sunday, Christmas Eve box .The rest generally follows this pattern (unless the above falls on one of those days:
Monday: Charity day
Tuesday: Craft/Challenge
Wednesday: Christmas food
Thursday: small gift day (basically, something we would have given for Christmas but they can’t cope with much so we spread it out).
Friday: Family movie day
Weekends – family related activities (such as visiting Santa, baking Christmas goodies etc.)

This year, as they are loving the whole West Midlands Safari Park idea, we did the Santa Safari for their annual Santa visit. We got an early slot, so that the kids could beat the busy atmosphere – we won’t usually go somewhere like this on a weekend at a “normal” time of year, let alone a busy one. We got there a little early, and they were first in to see Santa. It was definitely well thought out; they had the normal safari park stuff (no theme park during Winter) so access to the safari drive through, access to the walk around bits and sea lion show etc. but with an area setup for Santa. The kids go went through these little sections to break up the queue; a “sleigh ride” to the North Pole, a walk through a little winter Wonderland to Santa’s little lodge, where they get a photo with Santa and then through to the workshop to choose their toy. The ticket also included a visit to get one of Mrs Claus’ cookies and a hot chocolate. The kids thought it was amazing. Because we have done the safari park and the bits around, we didn’t stick around for the festivities as they really cannot handle it, so we leave on a positive note before they get too overwhelmed and have a meltdown. They loved every second of it.

This year, we added a new event to our advent setup that we think we will continue to factor into our yearly plans; we arranged a Christmas coffee afternoon. You can read more about it in our Christmas and New Year 2018 post… but this meant that one of our days was spent baking in preparation.

Christmas and New Year 2018

A Christmas decision

Logan and Caitlin were very insistent that we have Christmas at home, which in some ways is great – it’s so expensive to go away and not be able to join in with anything for Christmas, due to the sheer volume of other people being about. However, being at home for Christmas has never been successful (we had had 3 Christmas days with the children before this one; the first two at home, the third at Bluestone). The only one successful in that time frame was the one spent at Bluestone. So we had to figure out what was different about being at Bluestone (aside from, you know, the obvious of being on holiday) that we could influence from the perspective of being at home. We came up with a couple:


People and expectations: In going away we had taken them away from family and friends and as a consequence lowered their social commitments and expectations. “Ok. We need to replicate that” we thought, so we arranged to have a Christmas Coffee afternoon – mid December. We would have our presents ready for everyone, if people wanted to exchange presents with us (which we discourage as the kids are easily overwhelmed, can’t let go of the stuf they have and don’t have room for more, and frankly, they don’t need presents, they need presence). We would bake a load of goodies and take them with us, setup mulled wine and mulled apple juice, and other drinks. People could just drop in and go off as they please, but we’d be there for like 4 hours. some activities for the kids and it’d all be great. So. That’s what we did.

Presents: Presents were spread out, family had given us presents before we left for Bluestone, we couldn’t take them with us, nor could we fit in ours from one another so we did that exchange before we went away. So Christmas Day was just presents from Santa only and was VERY low key. So we had to aim for that. So we arranged that any presents we had been given before Christmas would be opened prior to Christmas Eve. Then Christmas Eve we would exchange our household’s presents so that by bed time the only thing left would be Santa.

Christmas Eve

And actually – those two things were the only significant differences we could identify. So we did our Coffee afternoon, exchanged presents there. Then opened anything the children got there slowly over the course of the week that followed. We had a special early Christmas planned for Christmas Eve, whereby they’d wake up and get their usual Christmas Eve box (new PJs or an outfit, some new underwear and some hot chocolate ready for bed time routine). Then had a normal morning, followed by a special lunch and a treasure hunt (with picture maps) around our house to find presents that we had bought (and hid) for them – they would open each present in between the search meaning that they had time to run around looking for the next one reducing their anxiety and emotional behaviour. It really worked.

After exchanging presents, the children had a bit of free play time to burn off some energy and emotion. Then as they know I love Harry POtter and had bought me the Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit game, we play that and some other games until it was time to have PJs, get Santa’s treats ready and get up to bed. Every Christmas Eve we hide a new book under their pillows (a tradition we had arranged to hopefully have a little fun)… this year it was a tradition that was finally remembered by them and they were so excited to get through pre-bed time routine to get to their beds . Bed time went smoothly (with the exception of Caitlin feeling a little worried about someone coming into our house whilst she is sleeping… we reassured her that no one apart from us would be in the house. We reminded her that Mumma frequently does things like magic-ing things into a room and she has no idea how they are done, in a similar way her presents would be magic-ed into the living room but offered her the opporunity to sleep in Logan’s room on a mattress. This worked.

Christmas Day

Christmas Eve I had made it very clear to the kids, excitement trumps everything. So no time was too early to ask if it was time to get up on Christmas Day. They would either be told “no, not yet, a bit longer” or in most likelihood “hell yes!”. As I child I was always up at 4am persuading the youngest child in the house to go badger the grown ups to let us get up for Santa’s deliveries. And, anxiety was low enough. For the first year ever I didn’t give up at 8 and go and get them (already awake but too scared to say anything) up myself. They called up at 6am “Mumma, has Santa been?” my heart beated joy “Oh, um… I dunno, why don’t you go down and take a look?”

Santa had been, and he hadn’t left much of his treats on the plate…

The excited screams sounded their way up the staircase. I was worn out, but very VERY happy. I could have cried happy tears in fact “they are doing ‘normal’ kid stuff… what is this?”

The Logan and Caitlin don’t like anyone being left out so Bruce and I have to make each other a stocking and the children had won a stocking at a Christmas Fair so we “had” to fill it for the dog… of course.

The day was very low key, after opening presents, we pulled out the sofa bed and chilled watching the 1940’s version of A Christmas Carol. Then had some breakfast and mostly did a lot of nothing. It was perfect. And ate some glorious food in between. It was perfect. We pulled off a Christmas at home. We know what we need to do now.

New Year

Normally for New Year’s Eve, we have an evening all prepared, we put the clocks forward 3 hours so midnight arrives at 9pm (much more manageable in this house). But actually, some friends were going through a hard time. They came and stayed over. The kids all played together. The adults all played board games and laughed. The kids fell asleep early. We got no photos. It was just immensely fun. A welcome break in the midst of a very stressful time. We loved it.

Review: Sea Legs Puppet Theatre

We are a bit late reviewing this as, well…. Winter in this house is just so difficult… but it’s important to me that we do this. So here it is, better late than never hey?

The children were absolutely desperate to have a birthday party, but it just wasn’t feasible; they are coping better with parties, but not with being centre of attention in groups. So I was trying to come up with a SEN/sensory friendly alternative. I came up with the idea that a story teller/puppet show would be a great alternative. A little bit of research and some questions asked in the correct direction, and Sea Legs Puppet Theatre was one of the companies shortlisted. A brief email exchange filled me with the confidence I needed to decide “yes, this is it!” So, it was decided that they would come to our gathering to perform “The Selfish Giant”.

Rob was very approachable from the outset and was understanding and accepting of the needs any of the children may have. And very clear about what we could expect on the day, 2 hours to setup, 45 minute show, 15 minutes to meet the puppets afterwards and then up to an hour for take down. He brought along some rugs, and had already suggested we setup some chairs for the adults. We brought along a load of scatter cushions too for added comfort.

The set was really quite spectacular, the puppets were exceedingly intricate and the show was very well thought out. Everyone loved it, adults and children alike. Since the party, we have had so many comments over how different, but great, it was to attend a birthday celebration where even the adults were able to be involved, entertained and happy to go back and repeat the experience. 25 3-14 year olds, all of whom were fully engaged for the entirety of the performance. They were all very excited to have the opportunity to meet the puppets at the end. All the children have since expressed how they loved it (all of them), and several have asked when the next show is. Which is entirely a possibility for the coming year.

Review: Our pre-holiday adventure in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire – the hotels

Prior to a recent midweek break to Center Parcs Sherwood Forest, we went on an adventure in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, which meant we stayed in a few hotels. So here’s a bit about our experiences at each of those.

Premier Inn Derby East.

The first night of our adventure was at the Premier Inn Derby East. The approach to the hotel was a bit dodgy as the roadworks were a bit confusing. But once we got through it all, it was ok. Parking was fairly easy (plenty of space, late on Friday night). Check in was very quick and the staff friendly. We got sorted quickly, and got the kids to bed (having arrived close to 10pm. Once we sorted the kids, I quickly nipped to the bar for a reasonably priced bottle of wine so that me and Bruce could watch a bit of TV and drink a bit of wine and feel that the holiday had started (wine and/or TV doesn’t normally happen so wine, TV and a chill in bed… mega luxury hehehe). When I got back to the room Bruce was just about ready for bed, I quicly got in my PJs and we were away. But as Bruce sat on the bed it flew forward… it was quite weird… he pushed it back and then sat down again. At which point the back of the bed completely collapsed on the and I went sliding and Bruce ende up in a pile on the floor (I had saved my glass of wine in hand though… have no fear). I went out to the reception who were very apologetic and moved us instantly to a new room.

As far as the hotel and its facilities are concerned. If you are familiar with the brand, it was the same standard as you’d expect. If you are not, Premier Inn is a budget/comfort brand, where you get the basics covered: bed, linens, towels, a private bathroom/shower room and a medium sized TV with standard free channels. Comfort, clean and practical. It’s not luxury by any means, but it does the job and you know the standards you can expect once you have been to one.

Novotel Nottingham Derby

One the second day (Saturday) of our pre-holiday adventure we stayed at the Novotel Nottingham Derby This was our second hotel on our weekend adventure. The hotel was one we (Bruce and I) had stayed in previously on the way to our honeymoon. So the kids were excited, they have heard tales of all of our adventures prior to their arrival and they so desperately want us to take them to revisit everything.

As a Novotel hotel, like with the Premier Inn, certain standards can be expected. Only, unlike the Premier Inn, the Novotel affords a tad more luxury and added comfort. The rooms are very comfortable, clean and modern with added extras such as a medium to large screen TV, a selection of teas and coffees and some luxury toiletries. The private bathroom and toilet are separate from one another, keeping cleaning and toileting separate from one another (and also keeping that age old “Muuuuuuum! I need a poo!” chant when you are mid shampoo at bay). And the parking and check in were very straightforward.

We had booked in on a half board basis, but the restaurant was closed to the public due to two conventions running whilst we were there. This didn’t stop them from honouring the half board – in fact it was slightly more fun, the one convention was in a private function room, the other was small, and so were sat around a cluster of tables at the bottom end of the restaurant, but they came to dinner as we were finishing up with our mains, so we really had an entire restaurant to ourselves for the majority of our meal. (Which of course for Caitlin and Logan was magical).

Our waitress was very helpful, and very friendly. The children adored her, and she couldn’t have done more for us. We had 3 courses included for our evening meal, which can be seen in the below gallery. Breakfast, which was a buffet was equally enjoyable, but slightly distracted by Caitlin (and her crazy, but entertaining, morning shenanigans, we got no photos).But it was all (evening and morning) very well presented, and very yummy.

Travelodge Markham Moor A1

On the final night before our actual holiday we stayed at the Travelodge Retford Markham Moor A1 Northbound. It was a little confusing to work out how to get to the car park (the answer to that is through the garage on the A1, turning immediately left to go to the Subway that is situated nxt to the hotel, and using that car park). But once we had worked that out, it was fairly straightforward. We checked in fine. The woman at reception wanted to make sure we had everything we needed and to make us aware that we had no options to get dinner at the hotel as aside from the Subway and garage and a small vending machine there was literally nowhere to get food from. We assured her we had arrived with sufficient snacks and drinks to accommodate us for the night and we able to check into our room.

Again, as a chain hotel, there is a certain standard that is met from these hotels, although I always tend to find Travelodge a little dated; though that could just be their colour and finish choices vs my preferences. Although I have to say, it was very clean and comfortable. And although it was situated directly on the A1, the grassy bank and trees directly outside of the ground floor rooms did afford a sort of noise protection, meaning that we were not really disturbed from road noise.

You can check out our pre holiday adventure trip to the Attenborough Nature Reserve here, and also all about our actual holiday at Center Parcs Sherwood Forest here.

Review: Center Parcs, Sherwood Forest

In this household we have 3 birthdays in as many weeks over the Winter period, with my birthday being in the middle. The only way I can manage to have an “ok” day for my birthday (as in one not entirely filled with tantrums or meltdowns, or even just excessively destructive behaviours) is to be on holiday. 2017 we did Disneyland Paris, but with the work and house purchase involved in 2018, something closer to home was in order. So, after much deliberation, we chose to go to Center Parcs Sherwood Forest, during the Winter Wonderland celebrations.

We arranged to stay in an Executive 3 bed lodge with private sauna and whirlpool bath, to pay for a specific lodge number No. 27 Maple Area (chose because of its almost direct access to the path along to the beach and lake area and Village Square. Meaning that we wouldn’t need to use Caitlin’s wheelchair as much. But also because we’d have the luxuries of the sauna and whirlpool bath at the accommodation if everything went to pot. We also paid for early check in so that we could avoid the rush (despite being able to be on site early, cars cannot be taken down to accommodation until check in time – and sitting in traffic in a one way system site is definitely worth paying to avoid with SEN children).

The accommodation was clean with a lovely welcome message from our designated cleaner for the week, Amy. And on the table, there were 2 bags, each containing a soft toy (Nutmeg and Clove) the deer from their Winter Wonderland story (we didn’t get the story or read it to the children as there seemed to be some implications about Nutmeg being responsible for his younger sister, Clove, but that’s a message we are definitely trying to not promote due to their history – children aren’t responsible for children, only adults are). They were super excited that they had a bedroom each and their own shower room each too. The lodge was well equipped with everything we could need from utensils through to coffee maker.

Winter Wonderland

There was evidence of Christmas pretty much anywhere you went on site in terms of decoration and lighting. However, the areas around the lake and central village, and from Guest Services down to the village were the main general areas lit up. The children thought it was amazing. Any lights at all are amazing, but the way they were placed lighting up the trees and the forest were particularly appealing to them. But the Winter Wonderland strip down from the Village Square to Santa’s Grotto was where the magic was. Everything lit up, loads of little cabins with different Christmas related themes all the way down. Decorations everywhere. And a certain degree of interactivity (sensors/buttons to make certain parts of the display work). Logan particularly loved the singing reindeer, Caitlin particularly loved the Christmas-y cabins.

The Park

The park was lovely. So much nature, so much beauty. And one very big draw to places like this, due majorly to the children’s lack of danger awareness is that it’s car free (apart from arrival and departure of course). The beach area is a really lovely space for parents and children anytime of year – the park is available, the shallow water at the edge of the beach, the sand, the beauty. It’s great. And with the music over the loudspeakers, if your children are anything like these two, the park will get minimal use because actually they’ll be too busy dancing in sand! (Not even joking, I have some crazy children, but tbf they didn’t arrive to us this way, it’s all my influence so… I can’t really comment). The pathways around the park are largely accessible, and it’s quite easy to get around (exception being when the Village Square gets busy, and that’s less to do with the layout and more to do with people and their ignorance). The wildlife

The pool

The pool was amazing, a huge tropical greenhouse effectively, complete with wave pool, outdoor pool, a wide variety of different types flumes, and and outdoor jacuzzi’s, a baby pool and a slightly older child pool, wild water rapids (if you have experienced flumes and lazy rivers, and like both, it’s kind of a cross between the two) cafe and seating areas and not forgetting the cabanas, which I’ll talk about below. Both building and water temperature was kept quite warm meaning that the babies and slightly colder feeling older ones amongst us are kept comfortable The pool was mid upgrade though, so areas were closed off during our visit, you can see about their update plans here.

After a day of chilling out, and eating food for my birthday, we had hired a cabana at the pool for 5:15 to 8:15. This is a cheaper time slot due to it being an off peak swimming time so instead of being around £50 for 3 hours, it was around £30. But it’s definitely worth splashing out at least once on it, especially if you are going as a group and perhaps have some adults who won’t be swimming who could use it as somewhere comfortable to be based whilst others are swimming for example, mums with young babies who don’t want to be in the pool. You get towels and a chiller with a variiety of about complimentary 8 soft drinks in, a large screen TV and lots ample comfy seating. Oh, and not forgetting the giant rubber ring and inflatable pool ball. We didn’t get masses off use sitting around in the cabana but we did use it, and the towels and definitely enjoyed having a sanctuary to take a break in mid swim. Our top tip would be, if you are getting one… head to the pool an hour or so before you will want the cabana, so you can then enjoy the pool area and then take a break at your cabana when it’s ready.

Foooooooooooood (Cause. Um. Food).

Whilst we did a bit of self catering, it was a holiday for a relax and respite (wherever it could be found) so naturally, a lot of eating out took place, especially on my actual birthday day – there was no way I was cooking a darn thing then. The eateries are all high street chains, which is something that I do feel is the slight let down – I do love a place that has its own independent restaurants with locally sourced produce. However, that doesn’t stop us from being able to enjoy what is on offer.

Dexter’s Kitchen
On our arrival day, after check in, we went to the pool… and then we were a bit hungry when we got out. Dexter’s Kitchen was reasonably priced, and allowed us to have a light meal (salad instead of chips) as we had eaten quite heavily over the weekend of adventuring so didn’t need a great deal. Although, the children saw the dessert tray on the menu and absolutely had to try it. The food was freshly cooked/prepared, without much of a wait. I wouldn’t go out of my way to call the food amazing – for fast food, it was pretty average, but definitely not bad.

The Pancake House
We had arranged to go to the pancake ahead of time, the children were particularly excited by the idea that their main course could be pancakes (they couldn’t quite get their head around the idea of a savoury pancake). However, once seated and given their options they were very keen on the options in front of them; Caitlin especially had very, very definite ideas about what she wanted – as in, something that was on the menu… but with cheese, which our waitress really went out of her way to accommodate – having seen there was only a small amount of cheese cooked in with it, she went and got her a kids sundae pot and filled it with more cheese, just to be sure she had enough. The food was definitely “different” to what we would normally have, and I can’t rate it in terms of how good it was, because it’s not comparable to other places we frequent. But I would say, it was definitely loved by all, and we had no complaints about any of our food. And definitely none about service. The waitress again, very attentive, even ensured that the children were given a little gingerbread man each when our coffees arrived. Plus points for having fruit kebabs on the dessert menu, these two love fruit for pudding but get bored with having fruit salad on repeat. They like a bit of variety.

Huck’s American Bar and Grill
With Huck’s we paid for the “Early Dining Experience” which would cover our dinner, minus extra drinks and any required desserts. For the children this would include bottomless soft drinks and access immediately to the children’s buffet area where they can choose what they want from a varied selection of commonly accepted “children’s foods” like nuggets and hot dogs. The biggest hit with Logan and Caitlin was the fruit cups. Which they kept going back up for. For adult it means a single drink (including some selected alcoholic beverages) a sharing platter to start (nachos, jalapeño fritters and bbq wings) and all followed up with a choice of main from a set menu. It was average sort of american grill food, but it was most certainly not small portions. Bruce and I took the approach to share some Mexican dishes off the menu as we were already in the business of sharing anyhow, and we honestly were glad it was a flat walk back to the lodge… although rolling downhill would have also worked hehe.

There was a kids play area that was free for the kids to use, it was a bit of an indoor wooden den/park. The kids enjoyed running around it, it certainly broke up what could have been a mundane experience of waiting for us to finish our mountain of food. I didn’t get any photos of that as it was covered in children when we arrived and we are obviously very conscious of security issues with public photos.

Cafe Rouge
For breakfast on my actual birthday, it was always planned that we would not eat at the lodge, that instead every meal would be prepared by someone else. So. Breakfast was at Cafe Rouge. The boys did the traditional breakfast thing. Caitlin is very much a pastry and fruit kind of girl so she had a pain au chocolat and a fresh fruit salad and I had my fave avocado, tomatoes and sourdough. Everyone loved breakfast. It was highly rated.

Bella Italia
The big birthday lunch was Bella Italia. We pulled the stops out for this one. Nothing was boundaried for the children They had a 3 course kids menu with a variety of options available to them. And us adults had free reign over anything on the menu. Everything came out in a reasonable time (it wasn’t fast food by any means, but if food like this came out quick I would be worried about how fresh it was, that being said we weren’t kept waiting too long). The kids could have a trip to the ice cream cart for their pudding instead of a traditionally served pudding, which involved an ice cream of their choice with a sweet topping of their choice. The topping did not make it back to the table (or all of the ice cream for that matter) for a photograph.

The restaurant building is actually connected to the swimming pool, and our table was next to the window above the main pool area, which got the kids even more excited about the impending cabana experience. The waitress was very attentive, and didn’t even judge that, as birthday girl, I felt that my dilemma between two puddings (strawberry panacotta or tiramisu) could be solved by just having two puddings! hehehe The only thing that could be remotely complained about at was the lack of knowledge of what a babycino was (my daughter was literally served a cappucino in an espresso mug (effectively a reverse macchiato – switching the coffee to milk ratios). The look on her face as she went to neck it was priceless. Aside from that there were no complaints, everything was awesome.

Review: Kidz Barn

I won’t sit and debate my conflict of soft play here (you know that ugh! it’s useful, but ugh! headache…). Instead looking at soft play as a positive developmental tool I will review our experience of this particular establishment.

Initially, it was difficult to work out whether there’d be parking, as the establishment is down a little road past a car park for the football ground, which led to a residents only car park, and eventually a tiny car park for the soft play (enough for about 6 cars). However, as it was midweek term time we didn’t have a trouble with that.

On arrival we were greeted with a smile and the customer service was great; having established I wanted to pay by card and buy food too I was able to open a tab, instead of paying in small increments, and pay at the time we were preparing to leave. As someone who rarely carries cash (I spend and lose money waaaay too easily), this was perfect.

The cafe area and the soft play area appeared to be well cleaned and thoughtfully laid out. The staff were never idle, they were always busy serving, prepping or cleaning. All too often I find that staff in these places are busy gossiping whenever you need them. I don’t mind people being busy and not immediately available to me if they are working – I am someone with patience and respect, but it is a gripe of mine when the people are stood around gossiping. So bonus points always go to those soft plays where I am never subjected to it (and we’ve been a couple of times now so… can say this with some certainty).

The food wasn’t too bad either, the usual offenders and food stuffs generally associated with soft play. We were naughty and opted for chips with our meals… but hey! It was nice, wouldn’t shout from the rooftops and call it the most amazing food ever, but it definitely wasn’t bad! We would definitely order again.

Logan says “It’s fantastic”

Caitlin says “I loooooooooooove it”

Review: Avatar Bowling/Reel Cinema Kidderminster

Retrospective review… delayed due to Winter madness

Anyhow… back in October we found out that Avatar Bowling was opening in Kidderminster. So at the end of October we went to see what it was like (combined with a trip to the neighbouring Reel Cinema. I should note that the two establishments are completely separate but they are reviewed together as they happened in the same day.

I’ll start with the cinema, I won’t review the film, just the establishment. The cinema was small – just 4 screens. If you go in thinking luxury, modern cinema you may be disappointed. If you go in thinking small, independent cinema you will likely have your expectations met, or exceeded. The foyer was street level, where the tickets could be purchased alongside a reasonable selection of snacks (and actually as far as cinemas go, they had some offers that meant the food was slightly less expensive, still at a premium but slightly lower than prices you’d find at say Vue/Cineworld/Odeon). There was a wheelchair lift up to the screens (all upstairs), with toilets and a little area for children’s parties. The screening rooms were intimate and surprisingly comfortable. For a family of 4 with some snacks it came to just shy of £35. The staff were friendly, accommodating and knowledgeable. Overall, it was a great experience and we’d do it again.

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With regards to Avatar Bowling. The children had never been bowling before (well to our knowledge). So we just payed for them to bowl as we had no idea how long they’d take, especially considering their mobility/motor issues and such. The pricing was reasonable, and we had initially planned that if they got on with the first game that we’d play as a family for a round after and have food there and some drinks. However, the constant eyes on, and the suspicious looks as they were playing (even down to just getting a frame for Caitlin to use to roll the ball down as even the light ones were too heavy for her) was off putting and frankly uncomfortable. So we left, never to return. Funnily enough, not many weeks later they banned children from the establishment.

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Cogs ticking behind the scenes… still! :D

Hi guys,

I am seemingly absent, but I promise I am not. Things, once again, are rather complicated here. I mean, we had our normal winter chaos and anxiety and January is supposed to be our recovery time. But it has been relentless, I am unsure of what’s been disclosed previously, but fear I may once again not post if I don’t just write this now…. so this is a bit of what 2019 has had in store for us so far:

  • Renovation works (flooring, plumbing -repairs and additions – and landscaping)
  • Puppy seriously ill, suspected parvo but actually is likely he ate something he shouldn’t have. He is better now.
  • Caitlin (youngest child) getting rushed to A&E – Suspected meningitis – turns out it was 2 separate infections in her body causing a fever together and a bad reaction.
  • Our shower regurgitating toilet waste up through it (the person who sold this house had it as a doer upper… it appears they did the plumbing themselves with no understanding of gravity.
  • Bruce was involved in a minor traffic collision (new driver pulled out of junction, straight into the side of him – car written off she crashed into rear passenger door/wheel arch, he’s ok though and we have a new car
  • New car from previous point has stopped working (it’s under warranty and is in the garage being fixed, but it means we are down to one car, I am suffering with exhaustion and sciatica and having to either bit the bullet and carry a 87 year old in a toddler carrier, or push a wheelchair
  • A few family/friends are really suffering with health in some quite extreme ways at the moment: cancer, heart and lung problems, mobility issues that are causing serious disruption and upset

And that’s just a heavily summarised overview, with the more trivial things pulled out/overlooked. I have gotten myself way behind at uni (I was 8 weeks behind and have caught up to 4 weeks), but somehow managed to pull off some half decent essays and assignments (equivalent to 1st or 2:1).

But. And here’s the big but… As ever, I am determined to be on top of everything. I will get there. In the interim I am going to catch up with the blog reviews as I can (alongside my uni work of course). And then I will be on top of it all. The major stuff in the house will be mostly done and uni will break up for summer so. I will. I know I can. In the interim though, I have several drafts work in progress. Watch this space for more to follow.

The light never goes out…

… you know the one at the end of the tunnel. It’s still there, it’s just that the length of the pathway, the obstacles in my way and the stability of the road aren’t clear. And at the moment it feels very unstable and full of obstacles. Relentlessly so. I’m quite literally treading water with my energy, my body, my health. And I keep thinking “oooo, just gotta do x, y and z and then I can recover a little….” but then the list is scuppered by major dramas. Just to list a few to give an indication:

  • Major roof leak (on one section of the single-storey part of the house only)
  • Car drama – headlights stopped working, intermittently, couldn’t recreate scenario at the garage. Eventually got something sorted.
  • Logan’s sleep saga continues… although now we are back (begrudgingly) with Melatonin and this time we are actually seeing some more benefit than last time; it definitely hasn’t fixed the problem, but we are seeing more “good” nights (where there’s a more solid chunk of sleep).
  • Caitlin’s muscular issues have been fluctuating, and where we have had a more steady constant stream of physical activity, I am less able to predict what’s going to be too much (I am sure our super steep stairs do not help, some visitors actually get anxiety about coming down them).
  • Colds and Flu – I have SOOOOOOOOOOOO not been on top of our immunity routine. And although we have a very good diet, it just hasn’t been enough. Cue a series of colds, and what we think was the flu on the last batch.
  • Bank drama – 6 months after moving (5 months after no access to old house/address change) the bank decided to “accidentally” post some of our account details to an old address (I had been into the bank to change it personally as they wouldn’t do it over the phone/couldn’t online). So needless to say I am changing banks.
  • Therapy – each session seems to actually be leaving the kids feeling vulnerable afterwards and having an impact on behaviour for a week or two afterwards now. Which is good in some ways (it’s working, but it’s exhausting).
  • Uni – has started back up again, and I may have bitten off more than I can chew all things considered this year, but I’m the kind of person that makes things happen. I always have been.

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However, despite all the drama and exhaustion, we now have someone coming in to do the deeper clean of the bathroom, en suite and kitchen. And a volunteer from a wonderful charity called Home Start coming in to just give me a bit of human interaction once a week (and eventually we are hoping it’ll lead to respite for me, when the kids are able to trust her enough to listen to her whilst I am out of the room for long enough for me to just go read a bit, or soak a bit), and access to regular groups where the kids can just be themselves without me having to care.

AND on top of that, I actually got some me time. with a friend… a mini spa day (by mini I mean, no treatments just use of the facilities and a relax for a while). It was at the St Pierre Marriott Hotel and Country Club. I will not waste my time with a review – I will just say: we arrived to find staff talking about their desire to “get out of there” and travel and work cash in hand on the fly as they do, with little interest in us actually checking in/any queries. The facilities were tired and outdated. When we got in the jacuzzi, it was hard to relax for all the unregulated children running around screaming, and when they finally left I had a headache and couldn’t be bothered any longer. Got out to try and have lunch, and despite the bar being less than 25% seated, they told me food would be at least a 45 minute wait. Don’t even bother going. It wasn’t all to waste though, as I went by train so I got to enjoy listening to music on my MP3, whilst alternating between reading my Kindle and checking out the views!

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Regardless. I am here, plodding on, taking the obstacles as I come upon them. Some days life feels like it is moving forward. Some days it feels as if the weight of the world is against us (or rather me) and that I am fighting against it alone. But now it feels like we are balancing out a bit more, like the days moving forward are happening more. Still largely over shadowed by fighting and grief, but with a more constant presence of underlying peace and happiness.