Robin C Pierce Art

Our second child, Robin, just graduated from art college! (Which in the UK is like US high school, not US university.) Robin’s deciding if they’ll do an additional year of training before starting university or take a gap year and work on personal projects, which includes setting up their website and started to blog about the ups and downs and challenges and fun of being a young artist. You can check out Robin’s page here. We also put a link on the top right side, where I imagine we’ll add more as the kids create websites.

Bennett Update

I know we’ve been quiet about Ben specific posts, but we’ve been asked to share a bit of an update for friends near & far and he gave his permission to share a bit.

Ben’s now 14 and this term has begun to attend some GCSE classes at a local college. (College in the UK starts at 16, but this program lets home educated kids start at 13 for some subjects – last year Ben attended their art & design class.) He’ll attend part time this year and next for his GCSEs (like a high school equivalent.) Once those are completed he’s applying to another college that offers a special program in game technology & art. We’ve toured that campus and learned a bit about the technology they have to work with students with visual impairments, which only increased Ben’s excitement. He’s working at home on coding more so he’ll be ready once he turns 16 and can attend full time at the two year game program.

We’re in a city so Ben is able to catch public transport down to both campuses in city center. He had a few sessions of cane training to help him practice in an urban area and find out some of the ways the city is set up for visual impairments, like special ridged pavements and crosswalk notifications. We also wanted to ensure he could handle the challenges that may pop up while riding the bus solo, like delays or missed stops. While we suspected for years, it was confirmed that Ben will not ever be able to legally drive so being in a country with wonderful public transportation is something we do not take for granted. Many adults here never drive, so it’s not unusual and there are a variety of alternatives for people to get around or handle things like deliveries. It gives Ben an independence comparable to his peers, vs. being stateside where he would have fewer resources to navigate life without the ability to drive. Continue reading “Bennett Update”

Completely Subjective Paris “Must See” List

My first trip to Paris I was with a french club when I was 12 years old and we did the standard spots, which was enough to make me fall wildly in love with the city. While my parents were living just across the German border from France I was able to visit a few times more with friends & family, either by bus or driving but again – we mostly hit the highlights* tour. Kit and I visited with our firstborn & my husband’s wish list to see was a palace, a cathedral, a museum. He didn’t especially care which, as he likes to travel slow and meander as he feels so inclined. It was December, we had an active (running!) toddler, and it was cold so our trip was dictated by those parameters – but also so, so wonderful as I got to share a place I love with the person I love most.

* Highlight tours include Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc, and maybe a couple drive by spots like the Opera House or Sacre Coeur. Longer tours may include a day trip out to Versailles. Not that any of these spots don’t deserve an entire day to themselves, but tour trips tend to be quick and cramming in lots.

When Ben’s wish trips began I had a dream about Paris and when we had the opportunity to visit London we hopped the two hour train ride down to Paris with our kids. I was thrilled that they seemed to enjoy the city as much as I did, but it never feels like there’s enough time to fit in everything I want to see. Since our move to the UK we’ve been very fortunate to make a couple more trips down and see things we hadn’t on our first visit, and things new to me – like I hadn’t been to Versailles yet! On one of those trips we had friends meet us there and bring me to places that were new to me, but some of her most favorite.

Then I saw a video online about a new exhibit in Paris and I knew I was going to find a way to see it. Fortunately that same friend also wanted to go and was up for an adventure so we met in Paris for four glorious days. (Paris at your own pace vs. Paris with children in tow is pretty significantly different, as you can imagine.) Once again my friend introduced me to new spots, which made them all the more special, and we were able to wander slowly and it was just amazing.

So, after however many trips that is I’m compiling my list of the spots in Paris that you must NOT miss… not that you should skip walking by Notre Dame (still beautiful after the fire) or the Louvre, but you know those spots and you’ll no doubt fit them into your trip. These are the ones that you may not have considered that YOU NEED TO GO SEE. Continue reading “Completely Subjective Paris “Must See” List”

AirBnB vs. Hotel for Travel with Kids

We first tried AirBnB when we came to Europe in 2015, and we LOVED it in both London and Paris. We’ve since used them in Northern Ireland, three different places in Germany, a couple more in Paris, Athens, and Rome.

In other places we’ve done hotels instead (Scotland, London, Dover) – so how do we decide?

We’re a family of 8 so anytime we travel we need at least 2 hotel rooms (and in England you have to specify “family” room/suite, as some hotel rooms only sleep two people.) While AirBnB has a bazillion options for sleeping just two, they also have a surprisingly large number of places that sleep at least 8 people – and often for the same price, or less, than getting two hotel rooms. Once you get an AirBnB that size you’re always looking at either a detached home or a flat to yourself. (If you are looking for 2 people you’ll generally find it’s a room inside a home/flat, not so often you get the place to yourself.) And with six kids, I LOVE having our own space while traveling. It’s not just two rooms/suites in a hotel that’s often cramped, but a whole apartment – kitchen/dining area, living room, 2 to 4 bedrooms, and sometimes a lovely garden. Most have included a washer/dryer, which makes my travel easier as we can pack lighter. When you have little ones going to bed earlier and big ones up later, having a bedroom you can shut the door and still stay up in another room is wonderful. Continue reading “AirBnB vs. Hotel for Travel with Kids”

Travel Tips with Kids – Berlin

Berlin! We visited this autumn but I’m including links for places suggested to us – both those we saw, and those we’ll have to visit another time.

Dome of the Reichstag – ticket link: VISIT HERE. Tickets come available online about 8 weeks in advance, they are free but you need to book them and they can go fast. There is also a multi step process to book – initial email, confirmation, provide names/DOB, then final email that acts as the ticket. Make sure you get that final email or you’ll show up and not be allowed in. There was security to get through, and we had to provide photo ID (with birthdate!) for each person, and a crazy double lock door to enter… then up an elevator that we were crammed in (that was odd) but then you’re on the roof – and it’s amazing! You can walk around on the roof a bit, then you can walk inside the glass dome and up the spiral ramp to the top for an even more epic view. It was gorgeous, and a great way to start our Berlin adventure. It’s also the block next to Brandenburg gate.

Brandenburg Gate: We watched a video about this before we came, and as we walked up I told them about some of my memories of being in Berlin right after the wall came down. I thought it was really neat, but it was less significant for the kids. 🙂 It is a block away from the memorial below…

Berlin Memorial to Murdered Jews Continue reading “Travel Tips with Kids – Berlin”

Travel Tips with Kids – Getting Around London (from a Non-Londoner)

It can take a bit of adjustment, but the London public transport system is fantastic. (Okay, so I’m comparing it to some cities where we did not have positive impressions of their undergrounds, but still – it’s relatively clean, well organized, and you can find attendants!) 🙂

There are options for visitor passes (Travelcards), but we’ve always found the Oyster card to be a better deal for us for kids. (For adults we use contactless – Apple watch, iPhone, or any credit or debit card set up for contactless works.) Here are some links to see all they have to offer: Continue reading “Travel Tips with Kids – Getting Around London (from a Non-Londoner)”

Travel Tips with Kids – London/Harry Potter

* Disclaimer, you need an entire day to see the WB Studio Tour. The studio is on the outskirts of London, you can take the underground out to Euston but then switch to the overground to get to Watford Junction (about 40 minutes from central London), then hop off and catch the shuttle bus (every 20 minutes, takes 15 minutes, does have a fee and I cannot remember if they take cards or you need cash.) Make a day for that if you’ve got any hardcore fans with you! They do have family tickets, which can save you a bit. The shop at the end of the tour is HUGE, and if you arrive early you can go in there to browse. You are given a set “tour” time that’s not flexible, but once you get past that initial bit then you are free to explore the rest, which is self guided, until they close. (They said they do have people stay for the entire day and they have to kick them out at closing.) Continue reading “Travel Tips with Kids – London/Harry Potter”

Travel Tips with Kids – Germany (Bavaria)

Because I lived in Ansbach for four years as a kid we focused around that area when we made our visit in 2017, but there’s so much to explore every direction! We rented an AirBnB house in a tiny village that was central to most of the spots we wanted to visit – it was a lovely house and a sweet, friendly little town. There wasn’t a grocery store in town, but you’ll need to rent a car in this area and there are shops in the nearby towns. We spent a few days in three different spots (Heidelberg, Salzburg, Ansbach area) but Bavaria won their hearts so we plan to return there in spring 2019 for some more exploring.

By far the kids’ favorite part was the swimbads, we found one in each place we stayed. Second was the hauptstrasses in the various cities/towns, and stopping to get pretzels and treats at the bakeries. Third was the residences and castles. Here are some links of the various spots they’re saying they loved best:

Ansbach Residence & be sure to visit the Orangerie gardens, too.

Aquella – My local swimbad as a kid!

Nurnburg Castle – Despite living nearby for years, I’ve not actually visited this spot yet!

Wurzburg Residence (I’ve not taken the kids there yet, but I loved it and went several times as a kid and will take them next trip.)

Rothenburg ob der Tauber – Our kids could happily have spent all day long wandering this town! They loved walking through the walls and market square, and there’s a playground with a great view and good picnic spot just outside the walls.

Berchestgaden Salt Mines – Buy your tickets online in advance! And if you’re coming from Germany you’ll go through the edge of Austria – buy your road pass for the tolls at a gas station in advance or you’ll get a fine as soon as you cross onto the Austrian roads.

Salzburg if you’re already down that far south, it’s a lovely city for walking around and there are spots to picnic in the garden if you’re a Sound of Music Fan. 🙂

Herren Chiemsee Island & Residence – Between the ferry ride, horse drawn carriage ride up to the palace, gorgeous fountains & palace tour, this day was magical!

*Welcome, Welcome!*

Welcome to our little corner of the world! I’m Heidi, I’m married to Kit, we have six little ones keeping us busy ranging in ages from 20 down through 11. They’re adorable and amazing and wonderful!

In 2005 our third child decided to show up four months early at a whopping 22 ounces and give us a good scare. This blog was created to keep family and friends updated through our 4 months in the hospital. You can read a bit about his NICU story here. He started a wish list of places he would like to see and things he would like to do before his eyesight declines further, an anticipated complication due to his early arrival.

Over a couple year stretch of time we began working on that wish list and being blessed in countless ways by friends, family, our community, and complete strangers as Ben tackles this challenge with his typical passion. So thank you, whoever you may be! We’re glad you came by and we welcome your comments and messages. Continue reading “*Welcome, Welcome!*”

Guess What??

webOne year ago when we had the chance to visit England for Ben’s wish trip we did not in our wildest dreams imagine what would come next…

We’ve moved to England!!

Kit’s working in the city of Nottingham (for his same company in Denton) and we’ve got a great house. We’re connecting with some neat home educator groups and making friends and we are so unbelievably excited to share this adventure as a family – and to share it with you! We’ll be posting photos and videos here to keep in touch with friends and family as we’re exploring our new home.

Though we will miss Denton and our loved ones here SO MUCH, and it does feel like our hearts are being stretched between two places. Hopefully they’ll be able to come visit (hint, hint, y’all!)