Road Trip to Niagara Falls

Welcome to the July 2014 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Vacation
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their family travel tips, challenges, and delights. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

I’ve made several goals for myself since losing my husband. I wanted to push the envelope so to speak, get out of my comfort zone. Some of my goals were small, such as to try Stand Up Paddle Boarding. Others were harder, I wanted to take the kids out of the country by myself. My husband was always a big traveler. He had spent most of his child hood in other countries. He lived in places like England, New Zealand, France, and Thailand, just to name a few. I loved hearing his stories and knowing how those experiences shaped his view of the world. On the other hand, I had never been on an airplane until I was dating him, let alone be out of the country. During our married life together we had many opportunities to travel out of the country and I cherish all of those memories. This was something I wanted my children to experience.

A glimpse of Kalahari Resort

We started our journey at the end of May by attending the Unschoolers Waterpark Gathering (UWG) in Sandusky, Ohio at the Kalahari Resorts. This was our second year attending. It’s really a lot of fun for parents and kids. My cousin flew in from Vermont to meet up with us for the week. She was a huge help and she’s a ton of fun. There were some great speakers like Cindy Gaddis ( I LOVE her book about Right Brain, Left Brain learners called The Right Side of Normal)and Laura Flynn Endres. It was inspiring for the parents to hear from unschooling veterans. It’s refreshing to be around a group of non-judgmental people that share a lot of the same ideas in regards to raising children.

Besides having the largest indoor waterpark to keep the kids busy there were also plenty of other activities such as a nerf war, kids marketplace, and dozens of fun shops to choose from. I was particularly proud of my daughter for organizing a Littlest Pet Shoppe fun shop. She was quite pleased that so many other kids showed up and shared a similar interest. They had fun making clothing for their pets out of balloons and learning how to decorate their pets and create props for them. You can see my daughter’s Youtube videos of her Littlest Pet Shoppes HERE.

In the evenings, there were fun family activities such as a dance night, a family carnival and on the last night a talent show. It’s quite an eventful week. It’s quite exhausting, but very inspiring at the same time. I’ve been really impressed with the children and young adults I’ve met at UWG. As a whole, they are very creative and joyful people. I always leave UWG feeling good about unschooling and trusting my children’s ability to learn. They have their dates set for May of next year, it’s a great deal at a great place. After 5 days in Ohio, we headed up to Canada. It was about a 6-hour drive to our hotel in Ontario. We were going to be in Canada for about 5 days and I was looking forward to a bit of a slower paced day. We had said goodbye to my cousin, and we were back to just the three of us. Our trip over the border to Canada was rather uneventful. I did find it rather interesting that our Cell phone immediately knew when we were out of the country, and informed me of the change in charges. That prompted me to turn off my cell phone for our entire stay in Canada. We had a lovely slow paced stay. I had scheduled some time to just find things along the way that interested us. We stayed in Brampton, Ontario. We had a lovely hotel that a twirly slide and big pool, just in case the kids didn’t have enough time in the water at Kalahari. In Brampton, we found some fabulous places to eat. Our very favorite was called That Italian Place. Their menu was new every day. They made their pasta and sauces fresh and we had a vegetarian sandwich there that I still dream about. Did I mention they also have homemade cannoli!! Yum!! I wish I could eat there every day, my son said he wanted to live there. One other unexpected highlight of Brampton was Chinguacousy Park. We spent an entire day there walking around seeing the beautiful ponds, wildlife, petting zoo and botanical gardens. Oh, how I wish I had a park that near me on a daily basis! We were about an hour away from Niagara Falls. We made sure we visited the IMAX theater to see and hear the stories of those adventurous souls that attempted to go over the falls. We were actually very surprised to learn how many actually survived. Did you know a man went over the falls in a kayak and lived to tell about it? Crazy! We spent the day in Niagara Falls wandering the streets, enjoying good food and marveling at the gorgeous view. We also took a ride out to the falls to see them up close and personal. It was a bit too up close for my five-year-old, but we enjoyed it nonetheless. We saw some amazing rainbows and felt the mist off the falls. Our original plan was to stay until the night time fireworks. However, we all agreed we were quite tired and ready to leave before waiting for the illumination of the falls and then the fireworks. SO we left feeling satisfied at the beauty we had seen that day.

The kids had fun learning about Canada, it’s history and culture. We met some new friends that we’ve been keeping in touch with and hope to visit again. I was really impressed with Canada’s efforts towards sustainability. They had windmills everywhere, as well as recycling bins. I was also impressed that their highways weren’t littered up with billboards every two feet. It somehow made for a more relaxing drive enjoying the scenery. So this was a baby step to what I hope will lead our family to further international adventures. I always learn so much about myself and my children when we travel together. Road trips are a fun way to see what’s out there. We finished our trip home by traveling country roads through upstate New York. We found a fun place with large metal sculptures along the way that was a lot of fun. We then traveled through Pennsylvania and stayed with family for another week before returning home. I’m already trying to plan our next road trip. Where are your favorite road trip destinations?
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Favorite Family Vacation Recipe: Staying at Home — The best family vacation Laurie Hollman at Parental Intelligence could ever recommend requires minimal packing, no hotels, unrushed travel, easy meals to everyone’s taste without a bill, no schedules, everyone’s favorite interests, and three generations playing together.
  • Scared of toilets and other travel stories — Tat at Mum in search is an expert at flying with kids. She shares some of her tips and travel stories.
  • Staycation Retreat for Busy MamasLydia’s Handmade Life gives Budget-friendly, eco-friendly staycation ideas for busy work-at-home moms.
  • How We Leave It All Behind — At Life Breath Present, they don’t take traditional vacations — they go on forest adventures. Here are some tips in planning for an adventure, if you don’t just go spontaneously, as they have before. Plus, many pictures of their latest adventure!
  • Traveling while pregnant: When to go & how to manage — Lauren at Hobo Mama discusses the pros and cons of traveling during the different trimesters of pregnancy, and how to make it as comfortable as possible.
  • Our Week in Rome: Inspiration and Craft Ideas for Parents, Teachers, and Caregivers — If anyone in your family is interested in learning about Ancient Rome, if you enjoy crafts, of if you’re a parent looking for a fun staycation idea, check out Erin Yuki’s post for a Roman-themed week of crafts, food, and fun at And Now, for Something Completely Different.
  • The Real Deal: A behind the scenes look at our “Western Adventure” — Often Facebook and blog posts make vacations look “picture perfect” to outsiders. If you only looked at the pictures, Susan’s recent family vacation was no exception. In this post at Together Walking, she takes readers “behind the scenes” so they can see the normal challenges they faced and how they managed to enjoy their vacation in spite of them.
  • Welcome to the Beach House! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is in love with her family’s new “beach house”!
  • Road Trip to Niagara Falls — Erica at ChildOrganics writes about her first trip out of the country with just her and the kids.
  • 5 Essential Things to Take on Vacation — Five things Nurtured Mamas should be packing in their suitcase for their next trip, in a guest post at Natural Parents Network.
  • The Many Benefits of Camping with Friends — Do you want to go camping, but the very thought of it seems daunting? Make your life easier – and your kids happier – and go camping with friends! Dionna at Code Name: Mama discusses how much better camping can be when you join forces with others.
  • My Natural First Aid Kit for Camping, Travel, and Everyday Use — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama gives us an insiders looks at her natural first aid kit for camping, travel, and everyday use. These natural remedies have saved her hide and those of others many times! You might be surprised what made her list of must-haves!
  • Traveling Solo and Outnumbered — Alisha at Cinnamon and Sassafras shares lessons learned from a recent trip with two toddlers and no co-parent.
  • Compromise and conviction on the road — Jessica of Crunchy-Chewy Mama shares the reality vs. the dream of travel and dishes on the compromises she makes or won’t make while traveling.
  • Camping Trauma — Jorje of Momma Jorje offers why she loves camping and why she and her family are a little gun shy about it, too.
  • First in our Books — Writing fresh from her first family vacation, Laura from Pug in the Kitchen has realized that helping pack her parents’ station wagon made for a smooth and pleasant trip that was more than she hoped for!


Mamatography- Week 3: Sinking

The Titanic Museum has been open for four years now. We have always enjoyed driving  by and seeing the giant ship and iceberg. We’ve been interested in visiting for awhile now. Finally, this year the museum offered Area Appreciation Days, where local counties could visit for only $8.50 per person. Tickets are normally over $20. for adults, even if you are with a group. So this was a great deal, I was thrilled! We were able to enjoy the museum with a few friends. You receive a boarding pass when you enter giving you the identity of one of the passengers on the ship. You find out your fate at the end of the tour.I’m pleased to say I survived! It was a bit depressing but very interesting. The audio tour was included for that price, I enjoyed the fact there was a separate audio tour designed for children. It was worth the four-year wait!
This week was tough because it would have been the week my middle daughter, Bella, turned 8. (See Bella: A Special Needs Diagnosis). A dear friend took my two kiddos for a few hours while I had a little alone time. I spent most of that time curled up in my bed reading and catching up on Downton Abbey. Our dear kitten, Scooter,(who was previously stuck in a tree), cuddled with me under the blankets all afternoon. Animals really seem to be intuitive to your feelings, have you found that?
Lastly, I wanted to share that Lil Z’s creation. He had fun creating a shield and crab in one. Yes, you read that right. He was very pleased that he made a crab (?) and a shield combination toy, with the beneficial feature of it clipping on your hand. It’s little things like this that give me chuckles through the week. Do your kids do crazy stuff like this?
 So why title this week “Sinking”..the titanic is obvious, my heart was sunk this week thinking of my sweet Bella..and a crab sinks in the ocean of course!




We are taking (at least) a photo a day, a collage or a picture each week to keep a record of our year. Join us at any point during the year and start sharing your own daily photos!

Appalachian Bear Rescue

Welcome to the November 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Family Service Projects

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about what service means in their families.


Last year our small homeschool group learned about the Appalachian Bear Rescue (ABR) at the Wildlife Wilderness Week in Pigeon Forge, TN. Our homeschool group decided this month to take on a service project in support of the Bear Rescue Program. The ABR mission is to: 1) rehabilitate orphaned and injured bears for release in the wild 2)provide public education on black bears and regional threats facing them 3) to research bear attributes which may lead to other environmental or health related issues. Our group would participate in the Adopt-A-Cubby program. This would involve the kids saving their pennies to donate to ABR  and collect acorns and hickory nuts to provide food for the orphaned bears. ABR encourages the children to do chores around the house to earn the pennies, not to just take them from their parents.

Joey, a volunteer from the ABR, came to visit our homeschool group and educate us on Coexisting with Bears. We learned about some mistakes that people often make when around a bear and how this can cause problems later. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen getting dangerously close to a bear just to get a good picture. It always surprises me, these are wild animals people!
Joey shared his wealth of knowledge in relation to the black bears that live in our area.  Personally, I was really fascinated by the skull comparisons of a bear that was fed a natural diet (bark and berries) and that of a bear that ate garbage. The color of the skull was yellow compared to the healthy white skull. Also, their teeth were decayed and rotten. Did you know that a bear eating human food and garbage will live half as long as a bear that eats a natural diet? The kids loved exploring the samples of bear scat, fur, teeth, and food.

The children were eager to learn about the black bears and how we can help protect them. Each family was thrilled to receive an adoption certificate. As a group, we adopted a young cub named Colton. It was exciting to see a picture of the bear our money and acorns will be helping. Joey emailed us later to let us know our pennies added up to $76.62. Colton will be released back into the wild after the winter, so anytime we see a black bear in the Smokies, it could be Colton!
Would you be interested in supporting the Appalachian Bear Rescue in their mission of helping the black bears of the Smoky Mountains?  Their website offers a lot of information and there is a lot of great pictures of black bears and a way for you to make a donation via PayPal. There is also some kids activities and more, visit them online at:  You can see some great picture of Colton and the work they do at ABR on their facebook page.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon November 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • Acts of Service: The Great Neighborhood Clean Up — Sarah at Firmly Planted shares how her daughter’s irritation with litter led to eekly cleanups.
  • Running for Charity — Find out how Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her love of running and a great new app to help feed the hungry.
  • 50 Family Friendly Community Service Project Ideas — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares a list of 50 family-friendly community service project ideas that are easy to incorporate to your daily, weekly, monthly, or seasonal rhythmn.
  • Volunteering with a Child — Volunteer work does not need to be put on hold while we raise our children. Jenn of Monkey Butt Junction discusses some creative options for volunteering with a child at Natural Parents Network.
  • Family Service Project: Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina — Erika at Cinco de Mommy volunteers with her children at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, where 29% of the recipients are children.
  • Family Service Learning: Advent Calendar — Lyndsay at ourfeminist{play}school offers her family’s approach to some holiday-related community service by sharing their community focused Advent Calendar. She includes so tips and suggestions for making your own in time for this year’s holidays.
  • How to make street crossing flags as a family service project — Lauren at Hobo Mama offers a tutorial for an easy and relatively kid-friendly project that will engage young pedestrians.
  • Pieces of the Puzzle — Because of an experience Laura from Pug in the Kitchen had as a child, she’s excited to show her children how they can reach out to others and be a blessing.
  • Appalachian Bear Rescue — Erica at ChildOrganics shares how saving pennies, acorns and hickory nuts go a long way in helping rescue orphaned and injured black bears.
  • Volunteering to Burnout and Back — Jorje of Momma Jorje has volunteered to the point of burnout and back again… but how to involve little ones in giving back?
  • How to Help Your Kids Develop Compassion through Service Projects — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares service projects her family has done along with links to lots of resources for service projects you can do with your children.
  • Involving Young Children in Service — Leanna at All Done Monkey, the mother of a toddler, reflects on how to make service a joyful experience for young children.
  • A Letter to My Mama — Dionna at Code Name: Mama has dedicated her life to service, just like her own mama. Today Dionna is thanking her mother for so richly blessing her.
  • 5 Ways to Serve Others When You Have Small Children — It can be tough to volunteer with young children. Jennifer at Our Muddy Boots shares how her family looks for opportunities to serve in every day life.
  • When Giving It Away Is Too Hard for Mommy — Jade at Looking Through Jade Glass But Dimly lets her children choose the charity for the family but struggles when her children’s generosity extends to giving away treasured keepsakes.
  • Community Service Through Everyday Compassion — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children calls us to Community Service Through Everyday Compassion; sometimes it is the small things we can do everyday that make the greater impacts.
  • School Bags and Glad RagsAlt Family are trying to spread a little love this Christmas time by involving the kids in a bit of charity giving.
  • Children in (Volunteering) Service — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reminisces on her own experiences of volunteering as a child, reflects on what she thinks volunteering teaches children and how she hopes voluntary service will impact on her own children.