52 Family Adventures Halfway-ish Point Update

 

So, um. I am bad at timely blogging.  But my family and I have had some amazing adventures this year! At my count, we’ve had 28 adventures together so far.  We’re 28 weeks into the year, so we’re right on track to have 52 amazing experiences before 2020. Life has been a bit insane. Some of has it good, like my publishing contract. Some of it has been stressful, like multiple hospital says for my kiddos. But through it all, we’ve stayed positive and we’ve had a lot of fun.

I love that homeschooling has allowed us the freedom to do this. Our hands-0n approach t0 life and learning not only makes education fun, it makes it impactful as well. And the time we spend together is precious! We’ve seen and done so much. I am so happy we decided to make adventure a priority in 2019.

Here’s a fast rundown of our adventures so far this year. These are in no particular order.

#1- A bear program in a National Park (Shenandoah in VA)

#2- The Duke Lemur Center in Durham, NC

#3- Fishing at the KOA in Harriosnburg, VA

 

#4 Lake Gaston, VA

 

#5- Meeting a hungry groundhog while exploring Gatlinburg, TN

#6 Playing with goats and alpacas in Durham, NC

 

#7 Ripley’s Believe it or Not in Gatlinburg, TN

 

#8 Learning about history in Shenandoah National Park, VA

 

#9 Hiking Dark Hollow Falls in Shenandoah National Park, Va

 

#10 Exploring the wilderness near Harrisonburg, VA

 

#11 Embracing nature at The State Arboretum of Virginia

 

#12- Taking in the Great Smoky Mountains (and dancing, of course)

 

#13 Hiking to High Knob Tower in WV

 

#14 Climbing Stony Man in Shenandoah National Park

#15 – Dance nationals in Pigeon Forge, TN. And coming home a National Champion!

 

#16 Hiking the Appalachian Trail. Or as my six-year-old called it, the “Application Trail.”

#17 Finding our own private waterfall in Shenandoah National Park, VA.

 

#18 Hiking Mary’s Rock in Shenandoah National Park

 

#19 Exploring Durant Nature Preserve in Raleigh, NC

 

#20 Mountain Coaster in Pigeon Forge, TN

#21 Exploring Yate’s Mill Park in Raleigh, NC

 

#22 Loving Science at The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

 

#23 Meeting author Adam Rubin at Page 158 books in Wake Forest, NC

#24 Hiking in Raleigh, NC

 

#25 Trying out a drama class in Raleigh, NC

#27 Nature journaling  in Wendell, NC

 

#28 Exploring Luray Caverns in Luray, VA

Thanks for reading! I plan on giving a more detailed account of our time in Shenandoah National Park soon.

How is your year going? Has it been full of adventure?

 

Needles and X-rays and Poo. Oh My.

 

To say the past week has been insane is an understatement.

It was about 9:30 am. I was talking to my mom on the phone. My kids were supposed to me watching a documentary about Africa for their homeschool geography lesson. About five minutes into the call, I heard my boys stomp up the stairs, but I decided to let it go. We could watch the documentary later. Moms, we’ve all been there, right? Sometimes you just need a few minutes of peace.

Shortly after they came upstairs, a scream rang through the house. “Hold on,” I told my mom, thinking that my youngest son was being dramatic. He’s prone to scream at the drop of a hat, and I was sure it was nothing major.

He pounded his little fists into my door, screaming again. I flung it open and asked, “What’s up, buddy?”

Tears streamed down his round cheeks as he sobbed, “I don’t want to die! My brother shoved a needle down my throat.”

“I gotta go,” I told my mom, and hung up without waiting for a reply.

“He what?”

“He shoved a needle down my throat!”

“And you swallowed it?”

“Yes!” he wailed.

“Get your shoes on,” I shout so all three kids can hear. “We’re going to the hospital!”

The kids scrambled to find their shoes, and I called the pediatrician to confirm that the ER was the place to go. She urged us to get there ASAP. I sent a quick text to my husband before pulling out of the driveway letting him know what was going on and asking him to meet us at the ER.

I spent the 30 minute drive filled with a stomach-roiling combination of fear and anger. What in the world were the boys doing? Why would my oldest put a needle in his brother’s mouth? Would my attempt to talk on the phone in peace cost my six year old his life? Shouldn’t my eleven year old have known better? I attempted to keep these thoughts to my self. Some of them stayed inside. Some of them I shouted at my eleven year old. “What were you THINKING??!!”

We were whisked back to a room faster than I ever had been in an ER. About 15 minutes later, my husband arrived. The staff took my son to get an X-ray, which I hoped would prove that he only thought he’d swallowed it. He bravely held still for his “picture”as the tech called it. I stood behind a small wall next to a computer monitor, which lit up with the image almost instantly.

I have zero medical training, unless you count watching every episode of Scrubs (which you shouldn’t). But I knew the second that screen lit up that there was a needle in my six year old’s abdomen.

 

“Oh dang,” I said looking at the screen.

“What did he eat?” the tech asked, a hint of shock in her voice.

“A sewing needle.”

“Oh, wow.” The responses stayed like this the entire time we were at the hospital. Lots of shock from the people who’ve seen it all. Another tech later seemed excited to get a chance to meet “The boy who ate the needle.”

Gathered back in the small ER patient room, my husband sternly asked the boys to explain how on Earth a needle ended up in my youngest’s  abdomen. What they told us defies explanation.

Do y’all know what a stomp rocket is?  I posted a picture below in case you’ve never seen one. Basically, it’s a tube with a pedal on one end. You put a foam rocket ship on the other end and when you stomp on the pedal,  it shoots the rocket like 30 feet into the air. See those shocked little boys in the picture? They’re not amazed because their rocket went so high. No, no. They are flabbergasted that my boys removed the rocket from the end, shoved what turned out to be a sewing pin and not a needle (so one side is pointy, the other side has a plastic ball on the end) inside the tubing for the rocket. Then, they PUT THE TUBE IN MY SIX YEAR OLD’S MOUTH and my eleven year old stomped on it, launching it down his brother’s throat.

 

There just aren’t words for this. Why in the world did they do that? I’ll never know. To make it worse, they did it multiple times. The first few times, my six year old caught it in his mouth, spit it out, and handed it back to his brother to shoot in his mouth again. It was the third or fourth time that they misjudged and it flew down my son’s esophagus.

I asked my oldest what he was thinking. He responded, “He should know better than to trust me.” Ever the big brother.

The GI team tried to get the pin via endoscopy, but it moved out of their range before they could get it. Up to this point, I had stayed strong. We have medically complicated kids, so doctors and hospitals are not uncommon in our lives. When the surgeon walked way, I started to sob.

In the post-op room, my son woke up happy, thinking we were going to go home. The nurse sweetly explained that they couldn’t get the needle out of him. He looked at her and asked seriously, “Don’t you think it could damage my immune system to leave it in me?”

How can he be so smart and do something so dumb? I thought.

Then, for a horrifying 30-ish hours, it was stuck in the ileocecal valve, a valve between the small and large intestines that can be reached by neither endoscopy nor colonoscopy. We were told if it didn’t move, he would have to have invasive bowel surgery. Also, if/when it did move, it could perforate the bowels, in which case he would need to have surgery.

So we waited. And waited. And waited. My son was given a feeding tube that pumped massive amounts of something called “Go Lightly” into his stomach. And it made him go. Lightly would not describe how he went. I’ll leave that there. And we had to search though his poo. You know the expression, “looking for a needle in a haystack?” Yeah, I’ll take the haystack over the poostack any day.

He was unable to have anything but clear liquids, much to his chagrin. This boy loves to eat. I skipped as many meals as I could, not wanting to leave him alone to eat in the cafeteria and feeling too guilty to eat in front of him.

Eventually, the needle left the ileocecal valve and moved into the colon. Debate went back and forth for a day and a half about if he should pass it naturally or if the GI team should go back and get it via colonoscopy. I wanted them to take it out that moment, but they decided that it was best to keep him there, observe, and hope it came out. He had many, many x-rays tracking the pin’s movement. Finally, after four days, an x-ray showed that the pin had “evacuated,” and my son was allowed to go home.

In the middle of all of this chaos, something very major happened in my writing career. Stress and situation prevented me from being able to celebrate it, but I will share that news with you all soon.

I am beyond relieved that my son is okay. You would never know anything bad happened to him. I tried to make some jokes in this post, but in reality, it was terrifying. I am so thankful that my sweet son is safe.

But I took his stomp rocket away from him.

 

52 Family Adventures- Week One

Our First Week of 2019

If I am going to be completely honest, our first family adventure of 2019 almost didn’t happen.

I had plans to visit a specific nature center Thursday or Friday. But it was raining Thursday and the forecast for the weekend was great. I decided to rearrange our plans to go on our adventure on Sunday. But then, on Friday I woke up with a cold. I spend Friday and Saturday feeling pretty awful. My throat felt like someone shoved a wire brush down it. My nose was clogged, and my head throbbed with every movement. But Sunday morning, I woke up and felt better.

But my six year old didn’t. My poor youngest son started feeling sick on Saturday and was not doing well Sunday. I thought about skipping this week. Or going on two adventures next week to make up for it. But here’s the thing. There will always be obstacles in the way of my goals. Skipping the first week was no way to start my challenge. Even if the whole family could not go, I knew I needed to start this challenge off right.

So I made the choice to visit a nature preserve closer to home with the older two kids. It’s been on my to-do list forever. And I am so glad we did!

Turnipseed Nature Preserve is beautiful! The 265 acre preserve is located in Wendell, NC, about 25 minutes from Raleigh. There are a few different trail options, but we took the Boulder Trail.

A sign at the beginning of the trail showed us how to spot signs of the wildlife that lives nearby. While we saw a few birds and squirrels, that was it for spotting wildlife. But we did see lots of beaver lodges and dams! The kids were so excited! Once, years ago, a friend of mine who works at the Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, WA gave us a private viewing of some animals, including a beaver. The kids loved the beaver and have continued to think that beavers are pretty cool animals ever since.

After observing the lodges and dams, we decided that we’d dedicate some time learning about beavers this week.

 

Even though our adventure was not what we planned, we had a great time. The kids are so excited to learn more about beavers, and they can’t wait to come back with their dad and little brother.  I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year will bring!

 

I am already working on more free printables for hiking and learning about animals! If you’re interested in getting your hands on these free printables, be sure to follow my blog!

 

Have you started your own adventuring for 2019? Tell me about it in the comments!

 

Preparing for 52 Weeks of Adventure

Planning Can be Overwhelming!

When I decided to to embark on 52 adventures with my kids this year, I wondered if it was too much. It’s hard to plan so many day trips, hikes, road trips etc. Even though I was overwhelmed, I knew that I really wanted this- for my kids and for myself. I started googling and found so many resources that have helped me  get started on my new journey. I’ve heard from some of you on social media. A few of you have expressed an interest in trying your own 52 Weeks of Adventure challenge! I am sharing some of my resources. Hopefully, they will inspire you!

 

 

When in Your State / Only in Your State

When in Your State has listings for each of the 50 US states. There are categories for everything from gardens, to waterfalls, to “haunted” places. Only in Your State has a very similar set up. Thse are great not only for finding fun places to visit nearby, but also for seeking out adventures when  you’re on a a road trip.

Find a Park

The National Parks Service website will help you find a park, trail, battlefield, trail, or memorial near you! Better yet, if you have a fourth grader, all National Parks are free with the Every Kid in a Park program!

Museums USA

Museums USA has a database of museums in every state! There are subheadings for Zoos, Nature Centers, Planetariums, and more!

Hiking

US News lists their pick for the best hike in every state! Thrillist has their own list of the best hikes in each US state. Backpacker has a list with multiple hikes in each state.

Macaroni Kid

Macaroni Kid has listings for several cities. Each area is covered by a different publisher, so content varies from city to city. Many areas have great coverage and are full of info on day trips, local parks, events, and more!

January Adventure Planner

I have created a fun, free printable for anyone who signs up for my email list before 1/5/2019. It will help you plan your first month of adventures!

Sign up for my mailing list here for your free printable! Be sure to check your spam folders. It may take up to 24 hours for your free printable to arrive.

Do you have any resources you like to use to plan your roadschooling/adventures? Let me know about them in the comments!

A Year of Family Adventures

 

The World is Our Classroom

As a homeschooling mom, I love to take my kids on adventures. We go on lots of day hikes. If we get the opportunity, we will hop in the car for a road trip or board an airplane for far-away destinations. We spend many days in museums, at festivals, or attending local performances. Our homeschool motto is “the world is our classroom.” We try very hard to make sure that we live by that idea.

We’d love to roadschool or worldschool full time, but it’s not possible at this point for our family. We have medically complicated kids and need to be near a home base regularly to meet their medical needs. We’ve made it a point to be sure that these medical complications don’t limit their experiences.

In 2018, we worked hard to expand our horizons and explore the world as much as possible.

 

 

We flew to Seattle twice. Our road trips took us to eight states. Our biggest trip of the year was my favorite to date; we flew to Saint Croix in the US Virgin Islands. Not all of our trips were big, of course. We visited the Botanical Gardens at Duke University, many local museums, and visited the Jamestown Settlement to learn about colonial history.

Adventure as a Way of Life

I truly believe that these experiences are vital to the growth and development of my kids. Children who spend time in nature will learn to value our planet. If kids see the world beyond their front door, they will understand diverse cultures and learn to respect then. Kids who are exposed to the arts will appreciate not only the beauty behind art, but the importance of art in our culture. Exposure to museums, zoos, and aquariums can bring science and history off of the page. My kids learn more from these experiences than they do from textbooks.

My Challenge for 2019

This year, my family will have fifty-two adventures. I will post an adventure every Sunday evening at 52familyadventures.com or you can just check out the home page of stepheniepeterson.com to find the newest posts. For the purpose of my challenge, an adventure can be as simple as a hike in the next town, or as grand as a trip to France. I mean, I don’t currently have plans to go to France this year, but who knows! If I did fly to France, I could use a trip to the Eiffel Tower as one adventure and exploring Norte-Dame another adventure. Because of this, though I will post one adventure a week, they might not be chronological. Be sure to follow me on Instagram for more frequent updates. I’ll be posting with the hashtag #52familyadventures so be sure to follow the hashtag too!

Do you want more adventure in your life? I’ll be posting tips, printables, and ideas to help you experience adventure with your family! I hope you’ll follow along as we dedicate 2019 to adventure!

 

Home Again

Okay. I know I said we were done homeschooling.

We bought 12 green folders, 76 glue sticks, 2 blue binders, one purple, and one white. We bought special headphones, name-brand pencils, rain ponchos, new backpacks, and one really expensive calculator. My daughter planned her first day of school outfit for a month.

The first day finally came. They looked pretty cute. They went to that first day and came home fairly happy. There were of course, a few issues, but none of us expected it to be perfect.

As time went on, however, the little issues became bigger.

My oldest has a lot of medical issues. Right after the school year began, he had what I could best describe as a medical crisis. He missed a lot of school.  As many days as he attended, he missed all or part of the day for illness or medical testing. It was a scary time. And it reminded me of why we homeschooled to start with. When you homeschool, you can change the time of your math lesson to work around a neurologist appointment. With homeschooling, you can have science lessons while you have an at-home EEG. At home, he wouldn’t have missed so much.

We figured out what was causing his health issues and he was doing so much better. But I just wanted to be with my son. I didn’t want to send him away again after having to worry about him. And I wanted to know that if he faced another medical crisis, we could ensure that his academics would not suffer.

I considered having the other two continue to attend school, but we had worries about younger son’s allergies were being handled at school. Protocols weren’t being followed. We could have fought the school on it, but we didn’t really want to.

My daughter is a free spirit. She marches to the beat of her own drum. While she made school work, I could see that spending all day conforming was squashing her spirit and I didn’t want that.

We pulled them out three weeks into the school year.

Thankfully, we were able to get them back into their homeschool classes and co-op and it’s been an easy transition.

My cuties on a field trip we took with our homeschooling group to the State Crime Lab

 

 

If nothing else, we can say we tried it. Maybe it was a failed experiment, but you don’t know until you try, right?

Currently, my kids are learning about Edgar Allan Poe, writing Halloween stories at home, and taking classes in mythology, archaeology, chemistry, and current events with their homeschool group. They’re also taking classes with co-op and obviously learning math, language arts, and history at home.

Life is good. My babies are home and we’re ready for new adventures.

The Last Time

My oldest son is going to turn eleven in two and a half weeks. It’s hard to comprehend. I swear, he was a baby fifteen minutes ago.

 

His journey has not been an easy one. From pre-term labor scares to a brain injury at birth, from motor skills delays to an eventual diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy, from ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder, to Asperger’s, from epilepsy which has followed him around like a dark cloud from the day of his birth to memory struggles relating to the seizures, from years where he wasn’t growing and I had to beg doctors to pay attention to the eventual diagnosis of Growth Hormone Disorder, this boy has had to be a fighter since he came out of the womb.

 

We named him Keagan in the womb. It’s Irish, like my Grandma, and it means “little and fierce.” He’s had to live up to his name every single day of his life.  He’s seen more doctors and specialists in his short life than most elderly folks have in a life time. Currently, he averages 14 appointments a month.

 

And now, here he is, almost eleven. He’s smart, sweet, funny, and a fighter.  That child could out-read most adults, and began reading before he turned two. He’s obsessed with science and frequently educates the adults around him about a wide variety of scientific topics. But sometimes, he shuts down. Prone to selective mutism, sometimes language is just too much for his overstimulated brain, so he turns it off to protect himself. Sometimes, when there is too much sensory input for his brain to process, he melts down. He can get violent, especially with me. I don’t say this to insult my son. He’s the light of my life. I say this to give an honest picture of what our day to day lives look like in my home. I understand that my son isn’t mean or bad. When the meltdown passes, he is apologetic and back to his sweet self.

 

Though there are clear differences from my son and other boys his age, he’s also very much an almost-eleven-year-old boy. He loves Star Wars, Mine Craft, and Lego.  He’s also getting too cool for his mama, which brings me to the story I set out to tell with this blog post.

 

This morning, he climbed into my lap, wrapped his arms around me in a a tight hug, and held me in silence for several minutes. I held him back, running my fingers through his hair like I did when he was a baby. I breathed in his scent. I squeezed back. I gave him every bit of my attention for those minutes.

 

Eventually, his brother popped out of his bedroom and called him away to go play and he scampered off happily. I never got an explanation for why he wanted to climb into my lap, but I am glad that he did.

 

The thing is, these cuddling sessions are less and less frequent. One day, probably not too far into the future, my little fighter will climb into my lap for the last time. I won’t know it is the last time, nor will he, but it will be the end of an era. He’s a hugger, an I know I will always get affection from my son, however his days of climbing into Mama’s lap are numbered.

 

I can’t help but think back to the day after his birth. He’d just started seizing and the doctors had discovered a brain bleed. They had to transfer him to another hospital fifty miles away and I was not allowed into the ambulance. Before they swept him away from me, I got a moment to be with him. Panic stricken, I worried it could be the last time I held him. Thank God, it wasn’t. But that moment came back to me this morning. He lived for many more years on his mama’s lap.

 

I am so grateful for my son’s life. And I am not going to take his cuddles for granted. I am going to hold on tight when he crawls into my lap. I will savor the moment when he climbs into my lap because that last time is eminent. How blessed I am to get to have this era come to an end naturally instead of through tragedy.

 

Hold on to your kids. So many “lasts” sneak up on you and you miss them. Try to be present for the ones that count.

7 Tips to Encourage Kids to Write in the New Year

The New Year is a great time to look at what we’re doing as parents, teachers, or homeschoolers. I am all about goal setting in my homeschool. One of my main areas of focus in 2018 is writing.

I frequently hear from parents who have a hard time getting their kids to write.  Actually, if I am being honest, I have one child who I have to beg to write.  Even though he loves books and has a mother who is an author, he still isn’t a huge fan of writing. A lot of this stems from motor skills delays. I will get into that later in the article, but motor skills delays cause frustration when writing for a lot of kids.

Parents worry so much about writing, but there are so many ways to encourage your kids to write. Here’s a few that I hope help you!

  1. Use Writing Prompts. I’ve linked to some that I created on this site, but you can find more all over the web. Sometimes, the hardest part about writing is just getting started.
  2. Use voice typing software. Google Docs has free, built-in voice typing software as long as you use it with Chrome. All three of my kids enjoy writing this way. Their vocabularies are bigger when speaking than when writing and their hands don’t tire when voice typing. This is especially true for my eldest, who has a variety of motor skills delays. His brain and his hands don’t work on the same level. If he’s asked to hand write something, it’s like pulling teeth to get a few sentences out of him. With voice typing, he can write a five paragraph essay.
  3. Expose them to lots of great books. Good readers make good writers!
  4. Buy them cute notebooks and fun pencils or pens. For some kids, a unicorn notebook or a rocket pencil can make all the difference.
  5. Cut pictures out of magazines and ask your kids to create a story about the picture. It would be easy to fill a notebook with several pages like this to make this an easy to repeat activity. I did this activity with my Creative Writing students at co-op and they loved it. Just make sure to choose pictures that lead to story telling. A head shot of a man in a business suit is harder to tell a story about than a photo of a dog wearing a tutu.
  6. Play storytelling games like Story Cubes or Create a Story. Telling stories aloud gets kids in the right mindset to write.
  7. Allow them to write about their interests.  If you have a child who is obsessed with dinosaurs or ballet, it’s okay if a lot of their writing includes this interest. It might be boring for you to read 23 dinosaur stories in week, but a lot of authors have made careers out of such things.

How do you encourage your kids or students to write? Let me know in the comments!

Advent Activities for Slacker Moms

If you’re like me, you have great intentions when it comes to the holidays. You want a Pinterest-Perfect winter wonderland, but what you end up with is…less than perfect. I want to make the holidays magical for my kids- without making myself insane. So often, when I am looking at blogs for advent activities, I find lists of activities that are just not realistic for my family. I put together this list of super easy advent activities to keep myself sane. Hopefully some of you will enjoy them too!

  1. Christmas Coloring Pages from Crayola – It doesn’t get much easier than this! Just hit print! Great for a day when you don’t have time to prepare anything.
  2.  Christmas Music Dance Party – Check out this Youtube playlist or use your own favorites.
  3. Write letters to Santa.
  4. Draw a gingerbread house with Art for Kids Hub– these fun, short videos are easy to follow and kids have a blast.
  5. Get/ put up your Christmas tree. You’re going to do it anyway, it may as well count as an activity.
  6. Christmas movie night. Netflix has a ton of family holiday movies.
  7. Make cocoa. Quick, easy, and the kids will be happy.
  8. Go look at Christmas lights. Good for when you forgot to do something all day and suddenly, it’s almost bedtime. Put jammies on and go drive around looking at lights. Easy peasy.
  9. Go shopping for those less fortunate. Grab one of the tags hanging on an angel tree near you and take the kids shopping to help make the holidays brighter for kids in need.
  10. Bake cookies. Use the pre-made cookie dough if you need to.
  11. String popcorn.
  12. Play Holiday Charades
  13. Read your favorite Christmas storybook.
  14. Go to a local holiday parade/tree lighting/ town festival.
  15. Have another movie night. The kids won’t be sad if you have them watch Rudolf twice.
  16. Print out this Christmas word scramble. 
  17. Write your own Christmas stories. If your kids are too young to write, have them tell you a story. You can write it down for them and they can illustrate it.
  18. Go to a holiday party. You are probably doing this anyway.
  19. Take the kids Christmas shopping. I like to set mine loose in a thrift shop or dollar store with $5 and see what they find.
  20. Make lunchtime more fun with this printable holiday place-mat from Three Little Monkeys. 
  21. Make family game night festive by playing Christmas music and eating candy canes.
  22. Get some wrapping done while your kids enjoy holiday games online.
  23. Make peppermint bark. It’s super easy. Really. You basically just melt chocolate chips and sprinkle it with crushed candy canes.
  24. Open one present Christmas Eve. Pajamas are a great choice so the kiddos can put them on and look cute in the 200 photos you’ll take Christmas morning.