Super Busy at Home

Family blog about homeschooling, autism, saving money, mom blog, travel, vacation, budgeting.

Quick Travel Update: Tennessee, Indy, and Beyond!

Hi sweet friends!

We have been around the big blue yonder! This post is unlike my normal posts because I am just dishing about my life. Which by the way, feels so nice!

Isn't it hard to find joy in the piles of laundry that come AFTER all of the travel?  Find out how to keep your chin up buttercup!

The last few weeks have been crazy!

We ended October traveling together to Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia. We landed home just in time for some good old trick or treating through our neighborhood and then it was back out for more fun on the go.

Last week we found ourselves tourists in Indianapolis…we had a blast and it was fun being touristy as that was where Nick and I first lived when we got married. It was fun to check out new places and to reminisce about the old.

Now we are back home and I feel that I am trying as hard as I can to get my bearings before the fun of the holidays kicks in. I find that this is the time of year that makes or breaks the holiday season. Not having a clean and organized home before everything picks up can turn the fun into chaos in a heart beat. Trust me, I know from experience!

So I am here sifting through the piles of laundry, organizing our attic area to make way for a gift wrapping station, and purging toys and clothes that we no longer need in an effort to make room for the new we know will be coming from friends and family.

It is so easy to become overwhelmed or even bitter through all of this…I’ve been there. But I just want you to know, we are all so blessed! Me, you, everyone! This time of year with the leaves colored gem colors it is so obvious how God give way above and beyond what we need. He gives to us so we will be happy and content and joy-filled!

I hope this leaves you inspired to find contentment in your chaos, to be grateful for the grunge your kiddos bring in, and to seek out the serenity of the every day!

I love you all!

These Items Help Make Learning Awesome!

Over the years we have fine tuned what works for us and what doesn’t.

This past year we took our very large homeschool room up on our third floor and moved it down to our den, located on the first floor. This took an enormous amount of time and thought as we sifted through each item on hand to determine its value in our classroom. After all, we moved our classroom into a much smaller space and which thereby dictated that everything needed a justification for its use of precious real estate in the footprint of the room.


It was really hard and took me a really, really long time (think 9 months, ugh). In the end though I am left with what really works, what we love, and what is useful to what we are studying. For a girl who always liked to have one thing on hand, then another if the first didn’t work, and then maybe something else, this was a struggle.


But now we have on hand things that work well for us and things that we love to use. (at least I love to use, something the kids would just like to not do school, teehee).

A few of you have asked me for some recommendations on things to buy so here they are in no particular order:

Light Up Timer

This is amazing for showing your kids how much time they have. It also gets you off the hook for having to track your kiddos time (or am I the only one who randomly forgets to keep track of the time only to announce, “two more minutes” when your kids ask how much time they have left?). It has a yellow zone so you can set it to give a ____ more minutes left until time is up. This is a much needed feature for our son and it’s really helped.

Multiplication Bracelets

We used these when we were practicing skip counting and now we use them when going over our multiplication facts. I will randomly give the kids these when we are not working on our facts and ask what number all of the bracelet numbers are multiplied by.

Drawing Workbook

This workbook has been in our house for years and for good reason…it’s amazing! When we practice the OiLs method of drawing with Classical Conversations I pull this out but we use it at other times as well. There’s a little story that tells about the animals you draw and there are stickers to use as well (we’ve actually never used those, just the story and the drawing).

HP Printer Connected Ink

Okay, I love our printer! We have had it for about 3 years and it is hands down the best printer we’ve ever had. We decided to take advantage of the HP Connected program. If you don’t know what that is, basically it’s a subscription program for your ink. You sign up for how many pages per month you use and they send you ink when you need it. It is so easy. You can send them back your old cartridges to be recycled and that’s it. It is so easy. I was always running out of ink and pinnacle moments when I didn’t have time to run to Staples for more ink and now I don’t even have to think about it.

Tichonderoga Pencils

We have tried so many pencils. When we started homeschooling (8 years ago!!!) I was a mom who would buy the Target Dollar Section everything to match and it was in theory so much fun! Except the pencils would always break like it was their job and that part wasn’t so fun. Through trial and error I realized that Tichonderoga Pencils really are worth the money. If you have a chewer like me you should also invest in some eraser tops because the eraser will be gone long before the pencil is short so with the erasers you can keep using the pencil.

Sticker Charts

You can get any you would like but I have the ones that we have linked so you can see what I am talking about. These are a great incentive for good attitudes about school and diligence with our work. I give a sticker for each day the kids get their work done without complaining and have good attitudes. Sometimes I will give the chart a set prize value “trip to the froyo place” or I will give it a monetary amount, usually about $5. This gives them something attainable to feel that they have achieved each day. Plus we like to use the little treats when we have a break from school and we remind them what their hard work has earned them.


We used fidgets long before fidget spinners were the craze and we have never used those. Instead I look for quiet things their little hands can play with while we are reading outloud, working on poetry, or whenever else they want to play with them. In my mind fidgets can be anything that keeps their hands busy…so crochet, weaving, playdough, anything could be considered a fidget, right? I love having different things on hand for them to play with (get it, on hand! Eh? Eh?!)

These are the things that are working for us to make our year awesome! If you have any other recommendations I would love to hear them! We are always looking for new things. I will have to learn to recycle things through with our new classroom rather than just hoard everything. I’m excited for the challenge though and hope it will keep us engaged as we will keep only what we love and move through things we are finished with.

Happy learning!

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Planning our Trip to Georgia

I shared before how I plan our family roadtrips in order to get the most out of them for the least amount of money.

I wanted to share with you now how I am planning our next trip to Georgia.

I chart our route and looked for larger cities that we will be passing through.

I see that we are going through Lexington, Kentucky and Knoxville, Tennessee. I have nothing relatable in my head about either one of those places (do you guys? Do I just live too sheltered of a life?) so I Pinterest them to see what there is to do.

It looks like in Lexington there are some horse race type parks to check out but nothing that is screaming “us” so I’m moving on. I will also point out Lexington is about 4 hours from our house. I want to make sure we cover some distance in the first day of our trip so Lexington is about the closest place I would be willing to go to. Otherwise we’ll have too much traveling to do the next day as we make our way to Georgia.

So the next place I’m going to look up is Knoxville.

There look to be some things but I am not sure if that is where I want to be for very long. We are after all driving through so we don’t have a lot of time to spend.

I now check out our memberships’ reciprocal programs. We have memberships through the ASTC and the AZA. I see that there is a zoo in Knoxville that looks promising but we still have to pay 50%. That’s a great deal, don’t get me wrong, but I just want to make sure that that is something we commit to do with our time. After all, a zoo takes a large chunk of time to go through.

I check out the National Parks website and, duh! I see that Knoxville is just a hop, skip and a jump a way from the Smoky Mountains National Park. BINGO!

I think we might go that way. We love hiking and exploring so going that route ensures lots of fresh air, exercise, and it’s darn near free.

Do you ever wish someone would show you how to plan a road trip?  I am walking you through how I planned our trip to Georgia through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It's a Step by Step Guide you can use to plan your next getaway!

In case you’ve never been to the Smoky Mountains, it is near Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. This is a really neat area but a huge tourist area that makes it really hard to stay on budget. I am sure we will do some things there but we try to steer clear of this area. An example of the area is when we went mini golfing. We went to a scabby kind of place with flaking paint and it was $60 for the four of us. Seriously. That is why we try to plan carefully what we do in the area and we look for budet friendly items.

The Smoky Mountains park spans over 800 square acres over North Carolina and Tennessee. While it is technically one park there are several sections and areas of the park including Cades Cove, Cataloochee, Clingmans Dome, and more. While there are lots of things to do I think we are going to be focusing on the Cades Cove area.

Do you ever wish someone would show you how to plan a road trip?  I am walking you through how I planned our trip to Georgia through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It's a Step by Step Guide you can use to plan your next getaway!

Cades Cove offers some of the best opportunities to spot wildlife. When we’ve been through the Smokies before we have spotted deer, bears, elk, and coyotes. We like Cades Cove because of the settlement you can explore as well as the nature. We’ve never had a lot of time to explore the area though, so I think that will be a perfect option for us.

Do you ever wish someone would show you how to plan a road trip?  I am walking you through how I planned our trip to Georgia through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  It's a Step by Step Guide you can use to plan your next getaway!

We are so excited for our trip and can’t wait to get to the mountains!!!

I hope this kind of “me talking outloud to you helps you to see the madness behind my method for planning our trips. I can try to do this with another trip if it helps you! Let me know, friends!

The Top 5 Buys for a New Homeowner

My sister bought a house! We’re so excited for her! It is such a rewarding experience to purchase your very own home!!!

We’ve been homeowners for about 14 years now but every time I help someone move it’s amazing to me how much stuff you find out you need. Here are some things that I recommend if you are looking for something to get someone who has just moved.

A cool new key chain

On closing day the homeowner gets all kinds of new keys…surprise them with a new key ring to make their day!

A trash can

I don’t know why but whenever someone moves they need a new trash can. I don’t know why. It’s science.

Dish Soap

Instantly you’re going to want to wash your dishes when you unpack so get someone some new cleaning supplies, a new sponge and dish soap.

Toilet Paper

It’s not any fun to have people help you move and then realize you don’t have any toilet paper in your new house.

Vacuum Cleaner

Think how happy it will make a new homeowner to surprise them with a new vacuum cleaner! I know when we bought our first place we didn’t have an adequate vacuum for an entire house.

Great Gift Ideas for the New Homeowner who is just starting out...these are perfect ideas!

What We Found in Mississippi


This summer we were able to travel with Nick down to Mississippi on a business trip. 

I feel the need to tell you that if you are thinking of going to Mississippi in the smack dab middle of the summer and you’re wondering if it will be hot the answer is…um, yes.  Most decidedly yes!  The heavens declare the answer is yes.  If you find me I will be screaming yes!  It was hot, humid, bug filled, and pretty miserable weathere wise.

Since we are on a journey to have the children visit each state we decided to go. I say that because of the nature of Nick's work it doesn't often lead us to popular destinations but rather smack dab into rural America. While I would have loved to travel down to the coast or over to the river bank, we only went as far as the North Eastern corner of the state.

We stayed in Starkville which is home to Mississippi State.  It is a GIGANTIC campus!  If you are looking for some big whoppin’ school to go to with humidity and flying, biting insects then have I got a place for you!

You know me, I try to find fun things to do when we go places. I am a big believer that even if you’re in the backwoods of a state there is still so much to see.   The culture and the people can be such a learning experience and such a joy when we get away from the chain restaurants and actually steep ourselves in the lives of the people we’re surrounded by. This is how we have fun in our family.

However, it proved difficult in Starkville. Very. difficult.




There was nothing to do. Being there for 5 days I found 1 park, a second hand store, and 2 ice cream stores that were nice. That’s it. The people were sweet but the town proved to have nothing to do with children.

Aren’t you glad you’re here to read this riveting post?

That being said, we were in Starkville for near a week so I had to find something else for us to do. 

Thankfully I came across the cutest little town just a short drive away. 

The town was Columbus, Mississippi and we loved going there!

If you ever get a chance to go to this town I highly recommend it!  On top of being the birthplace of Tennessee Williams, almost all of the homes are antebellum.  SO many gorgeous neighborhoods and homes to discover and gaze at.  The story goes that during the civil war the town saw the writing on the wall so to speak and became a hospital town , saving the town from inevitable destruction.

Check out of these houses…


Gorgeous, right?

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a history lover and my husband has a degree in architecture so old houses are our love language.  We even hunted this house, Waverly Plantation Mansion, down that is in the middle of nowhere. The picture is a touch blurry because it was already closed when we arrived so this photo was taken through the fence.


Another city in Mississippi we were able to enjoy was Tupelo. Birthplace of Elvis Presley, this place is steeped in history and respect for the king.  

Here is the house that Elvis grew up in. It was very eye opening. I’m always trying to compensate for the smallness of our lake cottage, warning people about the size, and, my word, this place is way smaller than ours.   


Not to mention that this was his only house, not his vacation property.  

It made for some great discussions with the children on how it doesn’t really matter how or where you start out. You can follow your dreams no matter what.  It’s all about drive people, your drive.


Over all we had an amazing time in Mississippi, but I’ve got to be honest, we did have to do some digging to find some off the beaten path-places. We had a great time and through all of the hard work I feel like we got a really honest look at Mississippi, not a shined up, best look for tourist kind of vision.