Choo! Choo!

Another fun-filled week of playing and learning starring the super popular Choo! Choo! This week was  easy to put together. My only purchases were tra...


Asian Zing Chicken

This is a sauce that we use on homemade chicken nuggets breaded with saltine crackers.  It's a copycat of Buffalo Wild Wing's Asian Zing sauce, and it...



I am very behind in posting this, but we had a big snow storm in the Midwest so we had to take advantage of it and have SNOW WEEK!! This week was a li...


My Body

I love teaching and learning; I always will. There is something about helping people discover new things and conquer challenges that fills my heart. E...

Choo! Choo!

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Another fun-filled week of playing and learning starring the super popular Choo! Choo! This week was  easy to put together. My only purchases were train stamps and washable child safe ink. I set up some new activities for Carter’s trains and then just pulled out all of our train toys from around the house or stashed away in our toy cycle and put them in the basement. Train week was cheap, easy, filled with learning opportunities, and fun!!

1. Train Wash: I knew I couldn’t go wrong with water, bubbles, and trains. We gave all our trains a bath. They needed it! Carter actually used the little scrubber brush I had in the craft closet. He also rinsed off the trains with our beloved squirt bottles. Riley even got in on the action.

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2. Tunnel: It is obvious I am not an engineer. I tried to make a tunnel out of this cardboard to learn the words through and around, but it was not sturdy making it frustrating for even the most patient toddler. Riley and I played with it more than Carter probably because I didn’t accidentally run into it every time I pushed the train through. I guess I learned a lesson there.


3. Little People Push, Pull, Twist Train: This has been a very much played with toy in our house. I bought it on a crazy Black Friday deal for Carter’s first Christmas. The doors of the buildings pop open when you push, pull, or twist the tops. Carter loves it; he even uses it as a racetrack for his hot wheels.  


4. Felt Train Shape Puzzle: In an effort to include shapes and colors, I made this little train puzzle out of felt. I found a coloring page to print off and cut out the shapes to match. He mostly watched me put it together and listened to me tell him about the shapes and colors.


5. Train Stamps: Stamps are AWESOME!! He was completely obsessed. We got the train stamps from Hobby Lobby, and I let him pick out the colors he wanted. We started out stamping the paper; then daddy showed him how he could stamp his hand. Then the whole family got a train stamp on their hands. We loved the stamps!

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6. Geotracks: Carter got his Geotracks for Christmas, and they have been quite a hit. I think daddy likes playing with the Geotracks as much as Carter does. I guess they are mesmerizing and exciting to play with.

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7. Cardboard Train: My attempt to make a cardboard train is lame, I know. I don’t even think Carter knew it was supposed to be a train, but it was fun none the less. I cut a door in the back for him to crawl in and out of and a hole in the top to poke his head out of. I made some cars to put his buddies in tied on with a little rope.

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8. Wooden Trains: Lastly, I brought his train table from his room down to the basement with the wooden push trains.


Cartio Rating: 10/10

Asian Zing Chicken

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This is a sauce that we use on homemade chicken nuggets breaded with saltine crackers.  It’s a copycat of Buffalo Wild Wing’s Asian Zing sauce, and it has a bit of a kick to it.  Family favorite!


We usually start the sauce before the chicken because it just simmers after the ingredients all together.  It will be very thin but thickens up; we start with medium/high heat before lowering it to low/medium.

Serves: 4-6

Prep Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 40 min


4 teaspoons cornstarch

8 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

1/2 cup corn syrup

1/2 cup  water

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup chili-garlic sauce

2 tablespoon soy sauce

2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic, minced (or garlic powder)

  1. Dissolve corn starch in rice wine vinegar in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a small sauce pan combine remaining ingredients.
  3. Add corn starch and rice wine vinegar mixture and stir well.
  4. Heat mixture on low/medium heat, stirring often until sauce reaches a boil and thickens.
  5. Remove from heat just before chicken is ready, so it cools slightly.
  6. Coat chicken in sauce.


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I am very behind in posting this, but we had a big snow storm in the Midwest so we had to take advantage of it and have SNOW WEEK!! This week was a little different. Instead of having a variety of activities prepared, we did one activity a day.

1. Cooking with Snow: For this activity, I gathered up some real pots, pans, spatulas, spices, spoons, and bowls. Carter had the best time pretend cooking with the snow. He would add a little snow, add some rice, add some beans, and stir stir stir. He hums when he stirs! So cute! I am so proud of him too! He can use his tongs with one hand now! Yay, Carter!


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2. Playing Outside in the Snow: Playing in the snow is a little hard for a little toddler with short legs. It worked best running around on the shoveled driveway watching it snow. Of course we had to get bundled up which was a chore, but was well worth it. We both needed a little fresh air and exercise after being cooped up in the house. We had so much fun and ended the fun with a yummy cup of hot chocolate.

20130227-7520130227-57    20130227-6920130228-80  3. Colored Ice Cubes in the Snow: The day before I made some colored ice cubes with water and food coloring. I threw them in with the snow and used those tongs like a pro searching for colored gems in the white snow. I also added some glow sticks that I had tucked away for a rainy day. 


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4. Colored Water in Various Squirt Bottles with Snow: For this day’s activity, I dug through the recycling and closet for any type of squirt bottle I could find. I filled the bottles with colored water for Carter to squirt on the snow.

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5. Snow Ice Cream: Last but not least, we made snow ice cream.

Stir together: 1 gallon snow, 1 cup white sugar, 2 cups sugar, and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Enjoy! (we added “strbry” syrup too)




More playing in the snow on a warmer day:


My other little cutie (future student) having some tummy time.


My Body

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I love teaching and learning; I always will. There is something about helping people discover new things and conquer challenges that fills my heart. Encouraging someone to do something they didn’t think they could do or being patient enough to wait for them to learn from their mistakes is definitely my gift from God.  Teaching my son is so much fun. My goals for working with him at this age is exploring new concepts, learning new things, and practicing real life skills. He is a great student, and we have lots of fun together.

1.Cool Whip Body Paint: This was great fun. I used Cool Whip and food coloring. Carter mostly ate the yumminess, and I painted his little body while naming what I was painting. The best way I can describe this activity was that we created a memorable, silly, yummy, and funny experience to remember body parts.

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2.Family Tracing Hands and Feet: I wanted to trace Carter’s body on the craft paper and let him draw and color on it and then we would hang it on the wall and find body parts on the picture. He was having none of lying still on the floor while I was attempting to trace him. We just went with the flow and traced Riley. We ended up tracing the whole family’s hands and feet instead. After tracing daddy’s feet, it was cool enough for him to have his feet traced as well.

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3. Mr. Potato Head: Mr. Potato Head is a really great toy in my opinion. Carter loved it, and it even works on fine motor skills by poking the little body parts into the tiny holes. We could also play “find the __(body part)__” with him. He also was obsessed with opening the back compartment and putting things inside the potato and dumping it out.

4. Felt faces: I thought these felt faces were awesome; Carter thought they were dumb. I cut out eyes, mouths, noses, eyebrows, ears, hair, glasses, and mustaches out of felt to arrange on some heads. I wanted the heads to be a little sturdy so I hot glued them on the some cardboard. Mostly all Carter would do with them is rip all the face pieces off the heads. Maybe he will like them more when he gets older or maybe he will hate them forever.


5. Homemade Carter’s Body Book: When I was teaching, I loved to make class books. Each student would make a page; we would put all the pages together to make a class book. With this theme, we made a Carter’s body book. I took pictures of his body parts, printed off the pictures, and glued them onto some cardstock. I wrote the name of the body part at the bottom of the page with the matching picture. I bound the book with a rubber band and   paperclip. Babies love pictures of babies; Carter loves pictures of himself (as most kids do I would think). This was a big hit.


6. Singing and Dancing: We also sang Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes all week. We sang and danced to other children’s action songs. Sorry no pictures of that craziness.

Cartio Rating: 7/10

Ball Week

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My mom, two of my sisters, and nephew came up to visit for the day. We had tons of fun hanging out, playing, a little shopping, cooking, and eating. I love having friends and family over.

During the visit, a conversation with my nephew Jack:

- Hey Jack, guess what?
- What?
- I have ball week set up downstairs for Carter. Do you want to go play?
Ball Week! That sounds incredible!

That kid! He is such a cutie, and he was right. Ball week was incredible! Unfortunately, I did not get any pictures of the two of them playing. This week was full of lots of playing and giggling and learning.

 1. Homemade PLINKO: We saved the cardboard box that Riley’s mattress came in because I knew we could make something cool out of it someday. In my searches on pinterest, I found this on iVillage. I added some wrapping paper tubes that I had saved from Christmas to the mattress box; I just taped them on which probably was not the best method because the balls would get stuck on the tape sometimes. Gluing them on would probably work better. Carter would drop a ball in and watch it roll to the bottom.

2. Ball Drop and Find: This is so simple. I cut a few holes in the top and bottom of a cardboard box and added a few balls to the mix, and we were playing our hearts out. Carter would drop the balls in the top holes. We would wonder, “Where did it go?” Then he go down to the bottom to find them. It was really funny for some reason. We also had to turn the box over and crawl in and out of it and fill it with all our toys. There is just something about a kid and a cardboard box.


3. Basket and every ball I could find around the house: I gathered every single ball we own and brought it downstairs to play with. So many things you can do: throw, roll, kick, hit, compare, sort, bounce, drop, fill, catch, count, hide, seek, and more.


4. Exercise Ball: His favorite ball! I didn’t know this would be so much fun, but he loved it.


Cartio Rating: 9/10

Valentine’s Day Movie Night

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My love of baking and cooking dates back to the good old 4-H days which I am very proud 11 year member of the Neosho Valley Busy Bees 4-H Club. Carter and Riley will be 4-Hers, and I hope they love it as much as I did. Movie night was Homemade Oreos from My Kitchen Addiction and Gnomeo and Juliet.  Carter didn’t care too much for the cookies, but Tyler and I gave them two thumbs up. I will still have to have an occasional real Oreo every once in a while. Very cute movie too. It went perfectly with our lovey, dovey Valentine’s Movie Night.


Homemade Oreos
(Makes approximately 3 dozen)

For the cookies:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dutch process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the filling:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons half and half
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 – 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar, whisked to remove any lumps


Begin by preparing the cookies.  Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla, and beat until well incorporated. Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture, beating on the lowest speed.  Continue to mix on the lowest setting until the dry ingredients are just incorporated. Divide the dough in half, and shape into two discs.  Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour. When the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 350°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat.  Set aside. Taking only one portion of dough out of the refrigerator at a time, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll the dough to 1/8 – 1/4-inch thickness.  Use a cookie cutter (approximately 2 inches in diameter) to cut out cookies and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Once the cookies are cooled, prepare the filling.  Combine the softened butter, half and half, vanilla, and salt and beat until combined.  The mixture may be a bit lumpy, but will come together.  Add the powdered sugar gradually, approximately 1/2 cup at a time, until the filling comes together.  It will be slightly stiffer than a cupcake frosting. Transfer the filling to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip.  Pipe the filling onto half of the cookies, and top with the remaining cookies to form cookie sandwiches.

It was a Red Letter Week

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Red is my favorite color. I can so clearly remember picking out a dress with my mom for a Father Daughter banquet. I tried on this bright red dress, and my mom could not stop going on about how much she liked it and how good she thought it looked on me. She told me red was my color. I doubt she remembers how much her little comment meant so much to me, made me feel beautiful, and led to my love of red.

1. Dress up in red: This was so funny; he looked so silly. We dressed up in red clothes practicing putting on clothes and taking off clothes and talking about red clothes and being silly. I think I liked this one more than he did. Still makes me laugh just thinking about it.

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2. Red Play-Doh: I used cherry jello for this batch of play-doh. It is so easy to make for little ones.  He used some tools, junk from the craft stash, and his utensils to cut, scoop, poke, and fork his play-doh to smithereens.

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3. Water play: I had to add some water play. This is what I came up with. Water, confetti hearts, red food color dyed water in a squirt bottle, and a spoon. Carter is obsessed with those squirt bottles. We cannot get enough water play for this kid.

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4. Light play: Since I had this red pitcher and bowl in my cabinet. I tried to think of a way to incorporate them into our week’s activities. We turned the lights off and got to exploring with Daddy’s lantern, some flash lights, and our headlamps. He loved to shine light through them and make Mommy’s face look red.


Cartio Rating: 7/10


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Sometimes I just look at Carter and can’t believe how old he is getting. Twenty months is old (hehe). He is talking more and more, playing pretend, and so much more. We watched some of his old videos this week; they made me think about him growing up and just how bittersweet it is. We have so many great memories already,  but there are so many more to come. I am definitely going to be one of those moms who is the one crying when their kid starts kindergarten. It is so easy for me to see God knew what he was doing when he designed us.  With each milestone mastered, come new challenges, but the challenges only last a short time before we are on to something new. Looking back at the memories I wish Carter was tiny again, but then again not really.  I guess I just realized this week to appreciate even the difficult moments.

Here is a peek at our week at Carter School:

1. Homemade Drums: I found this homemade drum idea and gave it a try. I used old tin cans (lid cut off with no sharp edges), cut the bottom off of a balloon, put rice or beans in the cans, stretch the balloon over the can, and use a rubber band to hold the cut balloon in place.  My goal was to make them yellow until I ran out of yellow balloons. I thought the bigger cans made a better sound. Carter loved banging on them with the dowel rod. I can see him as a drummer when he gets older.



2. Cutting Bananas: When planning yellow activities to add to our theme, I thought of bananas and combined them with a skill Carter needs to learn which is cutting. Of course this is beginning knife skills with a toddler knife, but if I want him to learn how to cook me supper, I need to get him started early on learning some chopping skills.  This was his first experience cutting, and I quickly realized that we need to practice this more often. It was much more difficult for him than I thought it would be.

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3. Lemon Stickers: When we are shopping for groceries, Carter has to hold the whatever produce we get and peel the sticker off. It is a little annoying, but it led to this sticker game. We used lemons and some stickers from the craft stash. I stuck them on and he peeled them off over and over. I was trying to give his little fingers a work out, and it worked.

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4. Baking Soda and Vinegar: This squirty bottle may have been my best purchase ever. We just did the basic baking soda  and vinegar experiment. I added yellow food coloring to the vinegar; he squeezed and stirred and oooed and awed.


5. Rubber Duckies: One of Carter’s first words was duck. He loves his ducks, and I love hearing him say duck. I splurged on 5 yellow rubber duckies, filled a container with a little water, and he fished the rubber duckies out and put them in bowl.  This game had loads of learning opportunities and kept his interest for a long time.


Carter Rating: 8/10


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Blue week was a hit. I think I went a little crazy with it though. My mind kept thinking of more and more blue things to do as the week went on. I started out by looking around the house and filling up my blue bowl with blue things that we have. Then my imagination went wild thinking of how he could use different blue things to work on his age level skills. We started out the week with the basic set up downstairs then I kept adding stuff as I thought of them. Be warned, I went a little blue crazy!

1.Blue Rice: We used dollar store rice dyed blue, two containers, a spoon, a laundry detergent scoop, a funnel, and a clean coffee creamer container. He would transfer the rice from container to container. I taught him to use the funnel, and he continued to fill and dump to his hearts content.


2. Blue Marble Drop: Marbles again! This time I cut some holes in an empty container with plastic lid. Carter plopped the marbles through the holes over and over and over. I am finding the recycle bin as a good place to find new toys, and they are FREE!!!


3. Cheerio Pour: In my searches through the house for blue things, I found a blue protein shake bottle and filled it with Cheerios from the pantry. Cheerios+bowls+spoon=pouring, scooping, stirring fun

4. Blue Stuff and Light Play: We explored our bowl of blue things with a flash light and lantern.


5. Blue Shaker and Water Play: BEST thing ever! Water play is a go-to activity at our house. I filled a pie plate with water and put in some blue beads and glitter. I had some blue Gatorade powder in the pantry so I filled a shaker with it and he used it with the water and pretended to cook. It was a bit sticky but not too bad.



6. Blue Jello: Carter was not very interested in the Jello this time, and for some reason it was a huge mess.


7. Blue Lava Lamp: This was so awesome! All you do is fill a bottle with 2/3 way with water; then add any kind of oil (I used canola) and some food coloring. To make the bubbles, you add alkasetlzer tablets and blue bubbles worked their way through the oil. Very cool and, I think, Carter liked it too because he kept signing, “More.”



8. Blueberry Smash: Simple. Carter hammered some blueberries for some hand-eye coordination while I cooked supper.


And somehow (wink) he has learned to say, “BLUUUUUUUUUUE!!”  It was a great week.



Carter Rating: 9/10

A Week of Green

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We have started Carter School! I had just been trying to plan one activity a day with no real structure. Some days we would get to it and some days we wouldn’t. Some days the activity would be a huge score and others would be a waste. Too many days were slipping by where I had run out of time to prepare an activity. After realizing I needed to become more organized, I started planning thematic weeks. On Sunday, I do a little research for ideas, plan out at least four activities, and set up everything ready to go for the rest of the week. (I don’t think I will ever lose the teacher in me.) I love this so much because everything is ready to go for the whole week, and there are a variety of things for Carter to choose from.

This week in Carter School we did Green Week:

1.  Spices and Aloe Vera: For this activity, I squirted some green aloe vera on a tray and let Carter explore his little heart out. I also whipped out some old green spices for him to shake into the mix. He loves to stir, stir, stir and pretend he’s cooking. He really enjoyed this.


2. Green Homemade Play-Doh: I made Carter some Play-Doh with lime Jello and added some green straws for poking fun.




3. Oatmeal Sensory Bin: Carter’s favorite thing in the world might be tractors. In our house, tractors are John Deere Green which led to this activity. I printed off some little tractors, covered them in contact paper, and hid them in the oatmeal. He dug and dug through the oatmeal to find the hiding tractors.


4. Green Marbles: There is something about marbles that Carter cannot resist. He used a spoon to transfer the marbles from a little glass bowl to the ice cube tray and back again. This was serious business for Carter; he likes things a certain way sometimes.


5. Green things: For some reason, I didn’t get a picture of this. It was pretty simple but very successful; I set up his new tent with a green bowl with lots of green things from around the house. He played in the tent and used daddy’s lantern to look at all the green things.


All of these activities seem so simple, but for some reason I can’t wait to see him exploring new concepts or practicing different skills. It is too much fun watching him grow and learn. He is one special little guy; I love him so so much.

Carter Rating: 9/10