Haven Does it Again

Its been holiday time in our house, and again we decided to take a short
break (4 nights) at Haven Haggerston Castle in Northumberland, just south
of Berwick. Part of the reason we’ve gone there for the fourth time now is
tha its far enough away to seem like a proper break, but is close enough
that with breaking the journey up for the essential (with 2 ASD boys, this
is a big part of their holiday routine!) breakfast at Ikea Edinburgh, the
trip south seems relatively short. The boys had been looking forward to it
for ages, and after an up and down start to the year with Jane & Daniel’s
respective hospital stays for surgery, we were all ready for the time away.

The trip down was as it should be as far as the boys were concerned. We
arrived at Ikea just after 10am for breakfast. Jane & I wanted a quick look
round the store, and fortunately with Easter being upon us, there was an
Easter egg hunt for kids going on. It kept their attention walking through
the store, and they were rewarded with a freebie ice cream for finding the
eggs. We stayed long enough to have a decent stop, but short enough to make
sure we got to Haggerston Castle in plenty of time to get a trip to the
pool. Our check-in wasn’t until 4pm, so whiling away the time in the pool
was just the perfect way to relax after the journey down. Naturally,
playing some of the games in the amusement arcade was a must! A lot of the
machines give out tickets that can be exchanged for prizes, and the boys
love collecting them before their trip to the prize kiosk. For Daniel, it
started superbly with one of his favourite games, Doodle Jump. You get a
ticket for every 200 points scored, but if you can make it to the top,
there’s a jackpot of 1,000 tickets. Well this time – with onlookers too –
Daniel pulled it off and bagged his 1,000 tickets. I was so proud of him!

The caravan this time round was – as usual – very comfortable. We were
again lucky to be upgraded (last time we were upgraded to one of their
luxury lodges) to more luxurious accommodation. It was only 2 minutes walk
from the entertainment centre, so it meant that we could easily go back
without any real inconvenience if we’d forgotten anything. We were soon
settled in, and after a bit of winding down time, it was off to the
entertainment centre for games and the kids’ shows. The boys love the shows
put on by the Haven characters – the Seaside Squad (Rory the Tiger, Bradley
Bear, Anxious Elephant, Greedy the Gorilla, Polly and DJ Ned,) They’re
captivated during them, and Daniel always rushes to line up for the chance
to have his photo taken with the characters. Matthew hangs back, but
instead likes to take the picture of Daniel. The shows are long enough for
the boys, and finish about 730 – 745pm, which then allows them a chance to
play in the arcade afterwards before returning to the caravan with takeaway
for a late tea (there’s Pappa Johns, Burger King and fish & chips on site.)
Usually we fund the boys play, but this year, they’d saved their pocket
money for the holiday. We allowed them £10 a day to spend as they pleased,
and they had little purses with their change for games. Ok, I still put my
hand in my pocket for them, but it worked really well, and I think they
enjoyed the responsibility.

The routine of swim, show, games, takeaway, caravan was surprisingly broken
on the Tuesday. Matthew had spotted that their was a magician on in the
show bar at 930pm. In the end Matthew wasn’t keen. We weren’t bothered at
not having to go out again, but Daniel was keen, so off we went. The
magician in question was comic magician Martyn James. Going back out was
well rewarded with a hilarious half hour or so. It was a superb show that
had two ASD boys in fits of laughter. When you hear Matthew laugh out loud
– a sound not heard that often – you know he’s enjoying himself. They were
both buzzing!

The kids entertainments though were up to scratch. They boys still enjoy
some of the toddlers daytime activities, but they loved the traditional
morning arts and crafts, the punch & judy show, and a character “party”.
But what did catch their imagination was a new activity entitled “Nature
Rockz” – it was led by the park ranger, “Ranger Steve.” It focussed on
woodland nature, and to cap the week off, safely building a camp fire
before toasting marshmallows! I enjoyed that one too!

The week just flew in, and we all enjoyed it although with the Scottish and
English school hols seemingly coinciding, it was incredibly busy – a good
buzz really – with the pool being mobbed on occasion, and the show bar
being very busy. I think it maybe got to Daniel a bit, and he had several
little meltdowns. It gave us the opportunity to talk about time outs with
him when he felt things were getting to him. The noise and bright lights of
the amusements, along with the daily swimming in a noisy pool, and the
character shows (all led by the fabulous Funstars) was just sensory
overload for our little guy – and Matthew. But, they coped with it
reasonably well, and yet again it seemed that Haven is just the perfect
destination for them still.

This Week in The Archers – Week Ending 18 April 2014

The week starts in chaos at St Stephens, with a guest appearance from Coco the Donkey. Its certainly not Belinda, and it tells. Shula’s world is a haze of donkeys and horses. All first world problems! Coco certainly has taken centre stage on Palm Sunday! Easter certainly is in full swing, and its fired up Kenton, but perhaps Alan may well remind Kenton of the money lenders being kicked out of the temple when he hears of his plans to sell hot crossed buns at the celebrations on Lakey Hill.

Jill is settling in for good at Brookfield. Back where she belongs, in front of her beloved Aga. Indeed its like she has never been away. Glebe is just a collection of bricks and won’t take away her memories of Phil, but it hasn’t sat well with Elizabeth although what it has to do with her is anyone’s guess. Is she miffed at missing out on a free housekeeper? Lizzie didn’t quite come out and say it, but it looks fairly obvious. She could have asked – but why she was surprised is anyone’s guess. Lizzie gets right to the point though – Ruth is dire in the kitchen, and it was a no-brainer on Ruth’s part to get Jill back to Brookfield. Amazingly, its Kenton who helps Lizzie see it all clearly. Jill is back where she belongs, and she’s happy. Its given a sense of closure at last from Phil’s death. Kenton’s sage advice has ensured peace continues within the Archers clan.

Having Jill on hand though doesn’t take much time to bear fruit. Its an afternoon off for Ruth and David. Its back to Utopia for the Brookfield Archers. Is Ruth sure she’s happy having Jill around? Anything that gets Ruth away from their Aga can only be a good thing! It does seem incredible than just having Jill in the kitchen that David and Ruth have gone from being full on, unable to cope to having so much time on their hands. Just what will they do with all that time? Is Ruth going to have second thoughts about another baby?

Shula is still fighting to keep Dan from an Army life, even though practically everyone else is supportive of Dan. Mind you, if it was their son, they’d all think differently. Naturally all she can focus on is deployment to war zones. Has she looked at the humanitarian efforts that the Armed Forces are involved in? Making that difference is more Christian than anything Shula will become involved in. Jennifer is hardly much help for Shula. I don’t suppose anyone can understand how Shula feels but “You’re son is off to war zones, but look at my tiles brochure!” Shula needs to support Dan’s choices rather than risk alienating him. He needs to live the life he needs to, not the life Shula and Alistair do. Shula manages to stick to the plan on talking to Dan – oh wait, she didn’t, most predictably.

Wedding countdown continues but Tom has no chance to make them a priority. He’s getting good news on the business front, but its hardly good news for Tony. The explosive atmosphere at Bridge Farm really is getting beyond dull. In all seriousness, will Tony’s heart cope? Its all consuming for Tom right now and the wedding plans aren’t on his radar at all. Kirsty is full of excitement – but it never seems that they can be excited at the same time. It actually is starting to look like it might happen after all. All of Tom’s sausage and wedding plans have landed Tony right in it – he’s going to have to take Susan up the poly tunnel. The mind boggles. New Tony is certainly sounding more and more like Old Tony! At least Pat is making all the right noises over the wedding and mending the bridges Tony is tearing down. Pat is certainly putting the hours in to make it all right for Kirsty. Alice of course has had her imagination well and truly fired up, at its fill steam ahead. Still, in the back of the mind, it seems like its been no time at all since Tom and Brenda split. Are they sure its time? With Alice and Helen on hand, will Kirsty have any other option than going through with it all? But Joe’s skylarks are flying, and its all putting Brenda’s mind at rest. Will Joe’s weather lore save the day? At least Tom says the right things at times, but its Peggy’s seal of approval that does it for Kirsty. She’s ready to become the latest Mrs Archer.

Over at Home Farm, its not just Brian who’s getting bad news. Adam is in for a big shock when the new man at BL arrives. Charlie Thomas doesn’t exactly sound like Adam’s ideal working partner. He’s certainly been out of the loop with Charlie and Debbie but it looks like the winds of change of blowing through Home Farm and Adam isn’t happy. The battle has been joined, and Adam and Brian are ready to team up. Neither are happy and its either time to focus on Home Farm or fight their corner with BL and Justin. Its strategy time for Adam with Charlie, but the important strategy has been laid down by Brian. Definitely game on. Come on Brian! Charlie is full of ideas, and Adam isn’t liking them although Charlie is saying all the right things to get Adam onside. Will Adam enjoying putting Rob on the spot? I doubt he’ll be in the mood for Jennifer’s kitchen replacement woes. Brian is right though – its time to keep onside just now, and Home Farm’s future is at stake. Brian is looking at the long game – all things come to he who waits. Adam is feeling the pressure from Charlie. Will he maintain his laid back approach he’s shown over Helen and Rob, or will he go like Ian? There’s no rest for Adam though and his relationship with Charlie look set for troubled waters.

Easter time is coming to the Bull though, and Kenton can’t wait to reward Jolene to sticking to her Lent promise. Kenton’s nature is such that its impossible not to get wound up with him from time to time, but his heart is in the right place – although not as far as hot cross buns are concerned. Fallon saves the day though! But Fallon’s criminal record may be extended – but oddly enough she’s been “caught” by PC Burns. What a coincidence! The most inevitable coupling in Ambridge we’ve seen so far this year. PC Burns has done his ground work though, and knows just what to say to get Fallon on side. I wonder how she’ll get the plant stand back to Ambridge? With PC Burns being on hand?

The week ends with the big day for Ambridge and St Stephens with the Passion Play at hand at last. Chris “Jesus” Carter is ready for his big day. Will all the womenfolk of Ambridge be on hand to ogle Chris, and will Jazzer complete a miracle and get it on with Aleisha? Jazzer manages to surprise them all with his efforts, even though he’s had ulterior motives. Jazzer might not be community spirited in the way Lynda is, but he does his thing for Ambridge in his own way. Chris and Jazzer put on a show though, and the Passion Play is a huge success but not for Jazz as Dan beats him to the punch over Aleisha.

Shula though just can’t help herself. Why wait for the “right moment” though? Support Dan, or alienate him. Its your choice.

Week Ending 11 April 2014

Lost in phone purgatory


Always good to remember that the customer is always right!

Originally posted on Mom Goes On:

We are experiencing one of Dante’s lesser known rings of hell – cell phone purgatory.

It started last night. Middle Sister went to a VERY unsavory part of town to attend the Good Friday service at a friend’s church. While there she left her purse unattended (two times, no less, and she knows what a careless thing that was to do…) and her phone was stolen. After much discussion, we called to have it de-activated late last night.

imageIn the light of day, we re-evaluated. Assuming her phone will never be seen again, here was the plan: I get an iPhone (which I’ve been considering for a while, for the sake of synching with my all-important iPad), and Middle Sister would take over my Galaxy, which was the exact same model as her lost phone.

Good so far. But it had to be done today – tomorrow’s Easter and the…

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Getting dirty.

Originally posted on ASD Mummy with issues.:

The boys have always enjoyed being outside.      In fact I would say that while both of them love their computers and video games, there is nothing they enjoy more than messing about in the great outdoors.      As far as M is concerned, since he started nursery, and has continued through school, it has often been commented about that he is much happier when he is outdoors.

We have been to Haven many times over the past few years, and one of the things the boys have always enjoyed is the nature walk.    It has previously always been a session taken by one of the play leaders, and they wander a group of children around the park, looking for birds, and plants, and marking them down on a work sheet.    It has always been interesting and one thing the boys expect to do.

This year however it has all change.   When…

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Magic Moments

Originally posted on ASD Mummy with issues.:

When on holiday our evenings usually follow a very set pattern. We go to the early character shows, which while billed as for the younger kids are still loved by my boys. We then spend too much money in the arcade before getting a take away which we return to the caravan to eat. However for just one evening we were allowed to change this routine. During one of the entertainment sessions during the day, M heard the announcement that during the evening there would be a magician performing. M has always been fascinated whenever we have seen magic shows in the past, and so was desperate to go. D wasn’t so keen, but agreed we would go, after a lot of huffing and puffing. We therefore decided, if we had our tea after the early show, we could be back in time for the magician. Of course, once they…

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When You Realise Your Kid is Different

As parents of SEN children, being with them every day we get used to their at times quirky behaviour and to us it soon becomes “normal” – whatever that really means. Whether its Matthew’s flapping, Daniel’s spinning, its just part of what makes them the children they are. I guess we become blind to all the little things that they do.

With that in mind, it often comes as a little shock when any stranger takes notice of their behaviour from a position of ignorance. Maybe seeing a behaviour in isolation, its easier for them to leap to a conclusion and make a judgement without considering any potential root causes. We all do it I suppose, although with having ha to deal with Matthew and Daniel for 6+ years, we’ve become a bit more sensitive about it all.

Yesterday I had a little reminder about how it can be. As I said the other day, we’re at Haven at Haggerston Castle near Berwick. Its great for the boys and has a fabulous amusement arcade that can often lead to sensory overload with all the bright lights and loud noise. The boys are often so anxious that they can seem impatient to get to all the games they want to play. The ability to wait patiently just isn’t in an ASD kid’s DNA. Waiting in itself can be very stressful. On top of that is Matthew and Daniel’s inability to interpret social norms such as giving others personal space and for example time to fully complete an activity and get clear of it all.

On top of that is Matthew’s excitement of seeing others being involved in an activity he enjoys. Whether or not he knows the participant is irrelevant. He just gets right into it. Like yesterday when the boys were waiting to use a virtual ride game in the arcade. Matthew was right at the side jumping on the spot in anticipation. The second the ride was over for the kids on it, Matthew tried to get on. He can’t tell its “normal” behaviour to step back for a few seconds. Its usual behaviour for him though and I don’t really give it a second thought other than to remind him to wait a second. Well, the mum of the kids on the ride didn’t see it that way. She glared at Matthew then looked right down her nose at me and said, “They’re eager beavers, aren’t they?” An innocent comment perhaps, but indicative of a lack of consideration and understanding. To this lady, they were just impatient boys who would give her kids the chance to get off the ride. I could have explained about why autism means they don’t understand about patience, but decided to shrug it off and said, “aren’t they?”

Perhaps she didn’t mean anything by it but you can get used to that lack of consideration from people on the outside looking in. As parents of ASD children, we’ve all been there. Its a hidden disability and people tend to see only physical disability and don’t consider mental health issues. Our kids look “normal” so any unusual behaviour is put down as bad behaviour. Its times like those when you are reminded how different your children really are.

ASD Boys Seem Younger Than They Are

We’re on holiday at Haven Haggerston Castle. Its perfect for the boys as they have the freedom to (almost) run riot in a safe environment. There’s a swimming pool, amusements and entertainment all on hand. I sometimes wonder if the boys will get too old for this sort of holiday but then all thanks to their ASD brains, it seems unlikely that day will come anytime soon.

This lunchtime there was a puppet show – Punch and Judy – for the kids. The boys have loved those in the past, so we thought we’d go along. There was no fear of them not being interested. As soon as it began they were both enraptured. Daniel was glued, bursting into occasional giggles. Matthew was soon on his feet, his arms flapping for Britain. From Matthew, that’s a sure sign that he’s taking in so much sensory stimuli that his brain needs to shut down for a while to allow for it to catch up and process the signals its receiving.

That aside, once again it struck me how young the boys are. Much younger than they sometimes seem. Matthew is in his 9th year yet he can still be thrilled by a simple puppet show he’s seen over and over at Haven. Daniel too. He seems much older than his years and often displays a mature attitude. As a result, its easy to forget how young he is and it takes days like today to remind us of that.

Its a timely reminder of how innocent they still are and how unready for the big world they still are. ASD children don’t see the world the way we do. We see some kids the same age as our two who are confident and self-assured. They’re able to assess tricky situations and work a way out of them. But I think that our boys are lucky (in a way) that their ASD brains allow them to still see such wonder in simple things. I hope they hold on to that for a while longer. They’re only young once!