Super Busy at Home

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

Review: Conner Prairie

Each school year we enter into the sacred time with new hopes and expectations for the future.  It's always a feeling of excitement and with fervor we rush into the newness of our schedules: armed with the unspoken promise that our efforts will indeed bring forth a new era of accomplishment into our lives.  

Each year as a homeschooling family we try to carve time out of our schedules for two field trips each month for the duration of our school year.  Sometimes we fail, other times we flourish.  No matter what the future within our new year may bring, for the past several years our inaugural field trip has been to a place that has never failed to invoke a feeling of wonder and to evade our schooling with excitement. 

What is this place?  

It's Conner Prairie.  

Located in the heart of Indiana (which is the heart of the Midwest, keenly inside the heart of the heart) is a place that has evolved over the years into something nothing short of magical.  

We had the joy of being hosted this year by Conner Prairie in exchange for this, my own words about the place called Conner Prairie.  

First let me tell you about our trip this year: 

The Prairie opens each day at 10 am so we planned to be there right at the beginning.  Arriving in the morning is always so fun because the animals haven't met the full heat of the day yet.  We found frolicking lambs, squealing piglets, and playful kids (in the goat variety) wherever we turned.  While we are not strangers to the barnyard scene, we certainly are not accustomed to it on a daily basis.  Conner Prairie's farm life comes in just the perfect way...lots of experts to explain things and buckets of hand sanitizer.  

After saying hello to the animals we scoped out our map and decided that Treetop Outpost was the next place for us.  

The thing I love the most about the Treetop Outpost (or the treehouse as my kiddos call it) are the amount of activities there are to do within the area.  Kids with varying interests can enjoy different activities at the same time while mom is nearby.  Our kids are 10 and 12 and I love letting them wonder through the Outpost without me, giving them a sense of adventure and independence while mom is waiting at the bottom for their return.  

After lots of fun running, making music, digging, and exploring we decided to partake in a Make and Take craft.  For only $5 per child they were each able to construct a wooden treasure box.  We adore Conner Prairie's crafts because they are solid objects that the kids can take home and treasure.  I always walk away amazed by what they were able to construct and at how much of a value each craft is. 

If you decide to do a make and take craft, be sure to make it a point to talk to the workers who oversee the crafts; they truly are a plethora of knowledge from the history of Conner Prairie to the best places to eat once you leave, I've had some very interesting and insightful conversations with these wonderful people.  You can tell that they are deeply invested in Conner Prairie and not just an employee.  

Our day progressed and as the heat intensified I felt we were slowing down, like a little family moving through glue.  

We stopped to play in a tug of war game in the Prairietown area outside of the general store we explored.  

After that I was losing Cal.  Most of you know he has High Functioning Autism.  We reach a point where enough is enough and he just needs some quiet and alone time.  

Last year was when I discovered Conner Prairie has these Quiet Spots.  I adore that they don't have just one but several throughout the prairie.  Because let's be real, can be worse than trying to move a child in a full panic all the way across the complex to a quiet area. I've done that at other places and let me tell you, it's not fun.  I counted no less than 5 Quiet Spots on the Conner Prairie map but there could be more.  I can't say enough about these areas you guys...they are a godsend! 

We found one right on the edge of the town by the restrooms and for a momma in crisis mode it is a dream come true...quiet, well lit, cold, with a box of sensory resources to use.  I am highly impressed by Conner Prairie's attention to detail in this department.  Weighted blankets and fidget toys are calming for us and they had both.  Amazing, you guys! 

After our break we refueled (Conner Prairie allows outside food to be brought in) and then we headed out to the Civil War Journey area.  

If you have older kids learning about the Civil War, this is such an ideal destination.  First of all, let's be real, there just aren't many field trips you can find within Indiana, or the Midwest for that matter, about the Civil War.  And while it was very neat for us in the past to travel to places like Gettysburg or Savannah to learn about the civil war history there, in reality it's just not practical in most time frames of life.  

The Conner Prairie Civil War area does an amazing job of transporting you back in time by having you walk across a real covered bridge to enter.  There are a couple fairly intense representations of Civil War action, a house to explore, and more!  

With the heat in the mid-nineties when we visited we also enjoyed their new splash pad, and their new water play feature (again, we stayed here forever because this is always super calming for Cal).  

Conner Prairie is located in Fishers, Indiana, which sits as a cute little hat on top of Indianapolis.  It is very close to the interstates and very convenient to get to.  I think it would be impossible to make it through everything in one day (we only covered two and a half areas this trip!).  Below is a carousel of photos from a previous trip we had to Conner Prairie, just to give you a look at other things they offer: Tomahawk throwing, Fun Science activities (indoors and out!), the William Conner house (that started the entire place!), there is so much to do.  

If you are a homeschooler and would love to visit, I have good news!  

They offer various homeschool activities throughout the year that are focused on an indepth look at various sciences or historical eras.  Water filtration, civil rights, and lunar landers are some of the topics on their calendar. 

And every August and September they offer special homeschool days so homeschool families can come at the field trip price without the amount of students a field trip normally consists of!

You can read all about their homeschool programs and their upcoming homeschool day here.  

I hope you enjoyed our little tour and review!  We love Conner Prairie and we know you will too!

October Recap!

October came and went like a blur!  It was crazy!  

As a gentle recap, over the past 365 days I have taken on three new positions, I am now sitting on 2 boards of directors, and still homeschooling away.  It's crazy busy and most days I feel like I have lost my darn mind, but in a good fulfilling way.  And when I remember to lean into God's power and might (which I need to remember to do constantly...) I am reminded how much I can do when I do not rely on my strength but His.  

Anyway, October is my favorite month for the crispness of everything.  Do you know what I mean?  It's so great!  I was thinking of this the other day...it's crazy, weird that NOVEMBER isn't my favorite month since that one holds gratitude, my birthday, Christmas decorating, and shopping, but no, October still holds to be my favorite month.  

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It started with this crazy brood!  We went to the pumpkin farm, picked the perfect guy, and came home to carve away!  It was so much fun.  I love our little family so much!  

And then blur, blur, blur, blur, blur and before I could fully blink we were to Halloween!  

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This year Calvin was ninja (in New Balance Tennis shoes because that's how I roll) and Emma was Nancy Drew.  

Seriously how stinking cute are these two kids of ours?  Oh, and since we fast forwarded to Halloween from the Pumpkin Farm you can see that the majority of my pumpkins are now rotten.  Gross!  Guys, I need legit ways to keep these suckers alive.  Help!  Every year pumpkins fall victim to my pumpkin killing and the massacre just has to end.  Do I need to bleach them?  Talk to them?  Stop singing to them?  (Just asking that last one for a friend...promise!)

Anyway, now's where we talk about the no spend challenge and you wonder what happened to the girl who started out so gung-ho at the beginning of the year and now you haven't heard from about it in a million years.  So, we are still TRYING to do the no spend challenge.  Y'all it is so hard!  So, so hard.  So we'll use the kids' costumes as an example.  Emma totally went with the no spend idea and came up with something brilliant.  We didn't spend a dime on her costume and she kept getting so many compliments.  Calvin on the other hand had one specific thing in his mind...the kid wanted to be a ninja...again.  We tried making one at home for him, talking him through it, but alas, he was insisting on the costume.  So we compromised and we purchased him a less expensive costume than what he wanted.  No kid wants to have a costume that they hate and we didn't know what to do other than compromise.  We spend $20ish dollars on this versus the $75 costumes in previous years.  See?  We're making some progress!  

The pumpkins were another issue with our no-spend year.  I had to decorate my porch. Sorry, not sorry, that's just the case.  So I took a fence panel from my neighbors free pile at their garage sale, dragged out other things I already had but had to have some pumpkins.  Last year I spent over $60 on pumpkins.  You all!  That is crazy!  So this year we found a new place to get pumpkins and for all of them they were $20.  So I spent some but not nearly as much as I was in previous years!  

But back to Halloween...

We don't really "celebrate" Halloween but we trick or treat.  

For those of you just joining us, we live in a National Historic District and we just love it!  

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From the street lights to the brick paved streets, we love our neighborhood.  Trick or Treating always helps me to take time to pause and reflect on how beautiful our neighborhood is.  The kids trick or treating is like going through a 1950's neighborhood.  All of the historic homes and picket fences make it so cheerful and nice.  

And I have to show you this because it was hilarious...

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When there's a construction project why not be silly? 

So there's our recap of October!  I hope you all are enjoying your November! I've missed having time to write...gah!  Hopefully I'll be writing more! 

Week 7 Recap of our No-Spend Challenge

Well this was the first week that I heard serious complaining about the no spend challenge. 

Emma was hilarious when she said "we had a good two months of this no spend challenge.  Now I think it's time to be done.  Let's order Chinese food." 

And believe me I was feeling the same way!  I was ready for Chinese food and not cooking too, but we didn't cave and had frozen pizzas instead. 

Can you picture me with my head hung low and pouting?  Because that's what I was looking like. 

Thankfully I am realizing that when one of us is weak and ready to give up (usually me) then there is the other person to stay strong and diligent (usually Nick). 

Valentine's Day was a bit hard with the no spend challenge. 

We are not huge spenders for Valentine's Day.  I've never gotten Diamond anything.  I do usually get roses.  But this year I knew I wouldn't be getting anything.  Still there was this TINY part of my brain that was just wishing and hoping that he would come home with something that I would act upset he spent money for but secretly was delighted he brought home. 

You know what I am talking about! 

But he didn't buy anything.  Well I take that back he did go to the store and bought crab and oysters to go with our beef tenderloin stay-in date meal. 

However I had had the same thought of a little surf with our turf and bought lobster tails. 

So it was a huge seafood feast. 

Nick also came home with an old fashioned love letter. 

It was my first one ever and it made me sob.  Big, ugly tears, sob.

It was perfect.  It helped me to realize that some of the most beautiful things in this world are free.  They don't cost money, they aren't big and flashy, but instead are simple and true words that mean the most. 

The days before Valentine's Day I was prepared that we wouldn't be buying the kids a ton of fun Valentine's stuff like we normally do. 

Valentine's Day on the No Spend Challenge

I had purchased Emma's Valentine's Day gift last year before we started the no-spend challenge.  So I purchased a small lego set for Calvin so he would have something soon. 

To make their special day a bit more special we made some sweet treats with things that we already had at home so they didn't cost a lot of money. 

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We made cookies which was lots of fun! The kids took a cookie decorating class last year so I whipped up a batch of royal icing and we had fun decorating cookies for our friends and family (and for us, of course!)

Valentine's Day on the No Spend Challenge

We had fun breakfasts!  For this I made toast and used a cookie cutter to carve out a heart from the center.  I then put Peanut butter on the heart and strawberry jam around the outskirt of the toast.  We had strawberry milk because strawberry milk makes everything better.  And I love these napkins that I bought last year from Marshalls. 

Valentine's Day on the No Spend Challenge

And of course we had fun lunches!  The kids' favorite lunch is a muffin tin lunch.  I bought these sweet 6 cup muffin tins from the Dollar Store, and then I put fun things in them!  For this lunch I gave them strawberry flavored string cheese, vanilla yogurt with sprinkles, strawberrys, grape tomatoes, more strawberry milk, and some heart shaped sweet tarts. 

I love giving them fun lunches, it really helps to break up the homeschool day and make things more exciting. 

Valentine's Day on the No Spend Challenge

A special part of Valentine's Day was someone sending me a gift!  I love colored pens and someone sent these to me with a sweet Homeschooling Momma card.  I have no idea who sent these to me but it was just the sweetest thing! So if you are reading this and it was you, thank you!

All in all it was a great Valentine's Day and week. 

It was really nice when it was all said and done to not have the guilt that I spent too much on the kids or spoiled them more than I should have.  It was a great day and we loved spending time with one another which is the best part of Valentine's Day! 

I hope you all had a great Valentine's week.  Please let me know how you are doing on your own no-spend challenges. 

Love to you all! 

No-Spend Challenge, Week 2 with a Lesson in Using What You Have

Last week went by in a whirl. 

Our church is looking for a new pastor and it was a crazy week of preparing for a new one to come for a visit.  I apologize this is coming to you so late in the game but as I've always said, better late than never! 

This past week as I mentioned was crazy and so I don't remember what days I did what.  I do remember though that there seemed to be a presounding theme throughout our week and that was to use what we have. 

The one thing I've been so amazed with by staying home is how much time I have to get things done. 

Before I was doing mindless errands to get things I thought I needed which in fact, upon a long, hard look turned out to simply be wants.  Oh, maybe not wants in the way of saying I really want that carton of yogurt tubes but more of an issue of mindlessly keeping up with the Joneses. 

I didn't even realize I was doing it but it was in my head that the kids wanted go-gurt tubes because all of their friends had them at snack time and by golly, they had wanted them too!  But when I realized it I put a stop to it.  If we have yogurt in cups at home then by-golly they can grab themselves a spoon and take a good old-fashioned cup of yogurt.  Ta-da!  Mindless shopping and spending minimized. 

This week by being home I've also noticed two things happening:

1) I am going to the gym a lot more! 

Weird that I said by being home I am going somewhere but shut up, it's my blog and I can write weird things.  ha! 

It's true though.  As I mentioned before we did not cancel our gym membership but instead challenged ourselves to make the most of it's value.  As a result I've gone every single day.  I am sore in parts of me that I didn't know existed but it is also a rewarding feeling to know that I am doing something good for myself, burning stress off, and using that gym membership to it's fullest.  Our gym also has daycare, swimming, a waterpark area, a big gym for the kids, a video game room, an art center, and a rock climbing wall.  So our gym is something we go to a lot and do a lot of different things at. 

2) I am cleaning this house up! 

This past week was the first time in I don't know how long that I actually got caught up on the laundry.  It was a great feeling!  Being caught up on the laundry also brought out some feelings of overindulgence when I discovered that both of our kids have so many clothes that I can't put all of them away when they are all clean. 

How to Find Joy in Using What You Have during the year long no-spend challenge

So for each drawer we stood in front of it and weeded and sorted, and hemmed and hawed over everything until we had gotten rid of enough that everything fit.  It is definitely a weird feeling to get rid of things that still fit and are still perfectly good but I will be donating them so I feel good about that at least. 

So both of those things (massive time at the gym and laundry) I had not had time for before when I was running everywhere and getting things we simply didn't need. 

Can I get an amen about no more trips to Hobby Lobby?

The other thing we've been doing is actually USING what we have!  I've pulled out blocks and cards and books that had been buried because we have too much.  I've noticed the quiet as they rediscover simple things that we already have. 

I've also done my nails with nail polish I already own.  I mean, I already have it, why not use it up?  Anyone else guilty of buying things and then never even getting around to using them?  What is up with that?

How to Find Joy in Using What You Have during the year long no-spend challenge

When Emma and I would have girl time together previously we would go buy something or go out to eat.  Now we are doing our nails together and it is so much fun!

I could go on forever with examples, yo, but in short, we're using what we have, cleaning what we have, and moving what we have (at the gym!) 

I hope you all are having a great week! 

Comment below with what you want me to talk about relating to our no-spend challenge!  Next week I'm talking about how I pack food for road trips.