Like Mother, Like Son

Dear Mom and Dad,

I know when you planned me, you had wonderful visions of your genes melting together into a beautiful symphony of academic achievement, workplace domination, and mild-mannered bliss.  Instead, I fear it’s a cacophony of shenanigans.  Couldn’t you have at least ensured I missed out on Mommy’s ridiculous facial expressions?  I blame you, Father. I blame you.


Matthew (the disappointed one)

Happy Monday!

Munchkin Meals: Taco Night!

We have taco night once or twice a month around here.  I love how easy it is to throw this meal together, yet how festive, fun, and filling it is! <–How’s that for alliteration?!  Best of all is that after laying out a variety of topppings, everyone can choose what they want, and I don’t feel like a short order cook.  We like traditional tacos, but it’s so easy to switch it up with different meats, toppings, and spices.  Is it a toddler approved meal? Yes! What kiddo doesn’t like scooping their own fun foods onto their plate? And heck, I’ve yet to meet a kid who doesn’t like tacos. Matty (now 22 months) is all. over. the. place in terms of eating.  Lately, he’s been really into breakfast–eating a huge breakfast, then wanting little else the rest of the day.  There’s still a few key things I can count on him eating, though–like tacos!

Of course, I add a few tweaks to make it healthier along the way.

Taco seasoning used to be a big fight around here.  Hubby swore he hated it, but he also complained that plain meat was too, well, plain.  He said the packaged seasoning is too salty, and he’s right (not to mention the MSG, preservatives, and in some cases artificial dyes).  So a few months ago, a friend pinned this recipe for DIY taco seasoning, so I gave it a shot.  It worked perfectly, though I did think it needed a bit more salt (weird for me to say since I don’t add salt to much)!

Healthier Taco Recipe

  • 3/4 lb. ground lean turkey
  • 1/4 lb. ground beef (**Just adding a bit of ground beef helps take away the turkey flavor, and gives it the appearance of typical ground beef.  This is important if you have a husband/kids who freak out about ground turkey for whatever reason ::cough cough, not pointing any fingers:: even though it’s healthier)
  • 1 c. finely chopped kale and/or spinach (this shrivels up nicely and you can pass it off as parsley 🙂 )
  • 1/2 c. finely shredded carrots (this isn’t as easy to pass off as “oh, it’s just seasoning…”
  • Brown meat over medium heat (add carrots during this step)
  • After draining, add greens and stir
  • Add 2 rounded tablespoons of seasoning and 1/2 cup water
  • Reduce heat, stir occasionally over a few minutes, then enjoy!

**I usually make 3-4 batches of this (since I use wonky portions of meat), then freeze it. It lasts for a few months (at least), and is easy to thaw in the fridge and heat back up in the skillet.

Serving Ideas

Don’t forget–a “topping bar” makes it even more toddler friendly!

  • Diced tomatoes
  • Shredded Cheese (even just having a variety of cheeses could be a fun way to switch things up)
  • Lettuce (if you’re trying to cut calories, using a large lettuce leaf as a shell works well)
  • Corn (I like oven roasting frozen corn for about 10 minutes with olive oil and seasoning, but usually it’s just the microwave variety…)
  • Sour Cream (Hubby nor I are big fans, but Matthew tried some at Grandma’s and seemed to be a fan)
  • Hard or Soft Tortillas
  • Chips instead of shells
  • Rice
  • Beans (we’re partial to black beans cooked with a bit of cumin)

Pssst. I’m looking for a healthier taco shell recipe.  Preferably something super-quick, or something that can be frozen.  Any tried and true ideas?

Munchkin Meals is a link-up hosted by Brittany at A Healthy Slice of Life.  Ever in need of a fun, healthy meal or snack for your kiddo? Click on over to find loads of ideas all put together by other Mamas.

Matty Moments: Crazy Boy

Matty Moments

Normally I feature some of the amazing things Matthew is saying lately.  While we have gotten some great words of wisdom from him lately (Come on, Daddy! Pee pee garage!), I thought I would clear up the misconception that Matty is always a calm, collected, sensitive flower that never makes a peep, is always engaged in activities, and causes no mischief whatsoever.

Exhibit A:

He’s better at make-up than I am.

Exhibit B:

One wonderful morning as I’m stepping out of the shower, Matty comes running into the bathroom yelling “clean”.  He grabs a roll of TP and runs back out of the room. At first I just nod and smile, until it sets in that he is TRYING TO CLEAN SOMETHING UP.  So I run after him.

Let me explain.  He tried to put soap in the dishwasher.  When he spilled that, he got dish soap to try to clean that mess.  When he realized that was a bigger mess, he realized he needed paper towels. Since he can’t reach paper towels, he got TP.  Of course, paper towels get used with spray cleaner, so he sprayed the soap puddle first.  As I intervened, he realized, “Duh, this is a floor mess. We need a mop” (which has yet another type of spray cleaner attached).  All I could do was laugh.  I mean, it was good thinking, and I’m thankful he  tried to help.  But how exactly does one go about cleaning 4 different types of soap off the floor?  Only after scrubbing and mopping and scooping and wiping for 20 minutes did I realize I was still butt naked.  I apologize to all of my neighbors. And yes, he had pants on when I got in the shower.

Exhibit C:

This was taken at 12:30 at night.  Need I say more?

Exhibit D:

I’m not sure who is the bad influence here.

Exhibit E:

Matty’s volume and activity level 90% of the day.

** NOTE: Ignore that horrible mess. We’re in the process of turning that room into a playroom–sneak peek alert!– and everything is getting piled up.  Such is life.

Farm Sensory Box

farm sensory box

With the start of Summer and outdoor weather, I thought the sensory  box would be put away for awhile.  But alas, Rain-a-geddon ensued so we needed to find some new indoor fun. Or rather, just upgrade some fun.  Last Summer I built Matthew this barn and farm, and I added a sensory box and toddler-approved game this year.

Sensory Box

farm sensory box activity toddler


  • Popcorn for the base (already had)
  • Schleich animals (our animal of choice)
  • Tractor (a gift from Grandma!)
  • “Hay bales” (TP tubes cut in half)
  • “Stables” (Melissa and Doug play food crates)
  • Mini scoop (already had)

Total Cost: Free 

** I already had all the materials, but I suspect you’d be able to put this together for around $10-$12.  A large jar of popcorn kernels runs about $3 at Walmart, and these animals are also a good choice.)

farm sensory box

farm sensory box

farm sensory box

farm sensory box


farm books

1. Sheep in a Jeep. Matty is obsessed with jeeps right now. Sheep in a jeep? Oh my.  It’s on constant repeat around here.

2. Let’s Go To the Farm. We have two copies of this book. Both gifts. Both givers know a little something about kids. We’ve read this book at least a few times a week for the past year (at least).  It’s a lift-the-flap book, so we keep a copy in the car for road trips or restaurants.

3. Chicks and Salsa. I had to review this book for a college class years ago, and I loved it. It’s hilarious. I didn’t quite know if Matty would get it, but I guess it really is all about how excited the reader is, because it’s one of his favorites now, too.


  1. Try these Montessori inspired nomenclature cards.
  2. Matty is loving this farm-themed game on the Kindle.  We’ve been traveling a lot–so he’s soaking up the app time lately.  He’s actually learning too–he surprised me the other day by pointing to a picture of a moon and saying “creshent” (crescent). Play on, Buddy. Play on.
  3. Of course, we listened to Old MacDonald a lot. A lot.  We have this download with this version of OMD, which gets a little silly at the end.
  4. Farm Picture.  I printed two each of a variety of farm-themed coloring sheets.  I cut out certain parts of the picture, such as the tractor, barn, animals, and crops, and colored 1 copy.  On a large sheet of paper, I glued the remaining uncolored copy. Then we matched and glued the colored parts onto the uncolored outline of the pictures.

farm activity toddler

toddler farm activity

toddler farm activity

He’s still loving farms and farm animals (and tractors!!!)–any recommended activities?

Montessori Inspired Farm Animal Cards

montessori animal cards printable

Nomenclature cards, or 3 part cards, are prevalent in the Montessori method of learning.  Essentially, each card contains a picture, and a label of the picture or concept to be learned.  One card normally keeps it’s label attached, with a matching card having a detached label.  Learners can then practice matching pictures together, as well as labels to pictures, with self-correction in place since they can check their work against the attached label. There’s numerous uses, but the main purpose is to teach vocabulary (or names of concepts).  There’s cards for different types of animals, parts of a flower, planets in the solar system, life cycle of a frog, etc. etc. etc.

nomenclature cards presented by The Little List

The interwebs abound with printable options (The Little List has a great repository), and there’s some very beautiful professional options (albeit a bit pricey and usually on backorder!).  I fell in love with these cards months ago, and have been looking for a similar option ever since.  I really love how the pictures stand out on a white background–that way learners aren’t distracted by things in the background of the picture and they know exactly what they should focus on.  I finally realized I was going to have to make my own, that way I could make them exactly how I wanted, and I could add to the card collection whenever I wanted (and still have them match!).

That’s easier said than done, considering the options of free pictures.  I finally sat down one Saturday and devoted the entire day to photoshopping some free clip art to remove the backgrounds in order to get these the way I wanted them (please ignore that the lamb has no feet…).  Upon printing them, I thought they did need a little pizazz though, so I matted them on scrapbook paper before using laminating sheets (I like these).

animal cards

Then it was time to play.  First, we went through each picture, flashcard style, to learn the name and talk about the picture.  Then I laid out 3 cards and asked Matthew if he could find the animal from his basket that matched the one on the card (we have all Schleich farm animals, though Toobs are a great choice, too). Uh, yeah, of course, Mom.

montessori nomenclature animal farm cards

So I laid all the adult animal cards out, and he went to work making matches. He thought this was great fun. Like the highlight of his day great fun. Some were slightly difficult, mostly because the pictures weren’t exactly like his animals–like a German Shepard dog card and a Golden Retriever figurine.

montessori nomenclature animal farm cards

I chose to make a set of mommy & baby cards, so then we talked about the names of baby animals.  I asked him to match the mom to the baby.  This took some more skill, but he really enjoyed the challenge.  Most of the baby animal figurines are new additions to his collection, so he was also very excited to explore those.

montessori nomenclature farm animal cards

After playing a few times, I put them on the shelf in the living room, so he could play again whenever he wanted, and he has! We’ve recently begun playing simple Memory using only 2-3 animals (mom and baby combo).  As he gets older and recognizes words, I can trim the bottom off to have him match the name to the picture or the animal.

 montessori farm animal cards printable free

Been looking for your own set of farm animal cards? Click here to download this set of 8 animal moms and 8 animal babies.  The quality isn’t the best, but you know, cows don’t need front hooves anyway. 🙂

nomenclature cards montessori farm animal cards free printable download

Note: Feel free to link to this page, but please no sharing the download on your own site. Enjoy!

Pssst…I’m linking up for Montessori Monday @ Living Montessori Now. Click on over for other great Montessori-Inspired ideas.

DIY Ice Cube Puzzle

ice puzzle

With the days heating up and a little one who is slightly afraid of water (at least at first!), I’m trying to come up with creative solutions to stay cool.  He’s very much in an “ice” stage right now, including singing “ice, ice babies…doo doo doo doo da doo doo”. 🙂

ice puzzle activity toddler

I picked these ice cube trays up at Hobby Lobby back in April-ish for just a couple dollars.  I also got letters, but since he’s loving numbers and counting right now, I decided to focus there.

First, we filled them up.  I wanted to use colored water to make it a bit more fun, but didn’t want to use artificial dyes (because he inevitably did taste them!)–so strawberries and blueberries it was!  Then we did a little fine motor skill practice.

After an overnight in the freezer (although they freeze in just an hour or so), it was on to the next step.

I dumped them all out, and he immediately went to work putting them back in.  I stepped in occasionally to ask if he could find “2” or correct him from trying to stick “8” into the “3” slot.  I was impressed with how into this he was, how well he could get them to fit into the mold, and how many times he wanted to do it (4 or 5).

By this time it was melting, but I wanted to occupy him a bit more.  So I grabbed our trusty roll of paper, and we did a little ice painting.  Unfortunately the colors weren’t strong enough to really show up well, so I added a blob of purple finger paint to the mix. I mean ice and painting–does life get any better?

diy ice puzzle toddler activity summer

Tales From the Crib: Month 22

22 months

Gooooing to the chapel and I’m goooona get mar-ar-ar-ied…

That’s right! It was super wedding month!  This past weekend, I got married. I walked down the aisle and everything.

matty wedding


Not sure why Uncle Moose is in the picture with Aunt Amy, but I think we can all agree that everyone came to see me.  Though, I’m still waiting on all those shiny presents to be delivered to my house. Weird.

Friday was the Rehearsal, or as I like to call it, Run-Around-the-Church-Eating-Snacks time.

matty rehearsal

Then we went to fancy restaurant, and I got a fancy pizza and ate fancy bread, and dressed all fancy, too.  We didn’t get done until like 9:00. We stayed in a hotel, where I got my very own Big Bed! By the time we checked in, I was very tired, jumped in the bed, pulled up the blanket, and went right to sleep all by myself.  Yes, yes, I know–I’m amazing.

The next day was WEDDING DAY!  Finally, the day I’ve been waiting for my whole life all week (I asked Mommy every morning if was time to go to Grandma’s and go to church with Amy).  Mommy and Daddy and me were all in the wedding, so it was a bit chaotic getting everyone ready and to the church. But all went swimmingly.  Mommy and Daddy got to ride in the Limo (pretty much the coolest car I’ve ever seen), and I got to ride in Grandpa’s car (the second coolest car I’ve ever seen).  After pictures in the park (seriously, can weddings get any better?!), it was time to walk down the aisle…

“I pee pee potty!”  Mwahaha.  Leave it to me to have perfect timing.  Mommy told me to just go in my diaper (I thought she threw all of those away, but apparently I was mistaken), and I’m pretty sure she caused years of irreparable damage. Then I got to sit with Aunt Nancy.  She’s warm and snuggly and fun and has cookies shaped like little animals hidden in her purse–I mean, where has this woman been my whole life?!  Together, we made it through the entire wedding (a 7:00 pm Catholic wedding), and it was on to the reception!

I danced the night away. No seriously.  We stayed until midnight.  If anyone has pictures, please send them.  I was so cake-drunk I don’t remember what went down.  So ladies, if I offended you in any way or tried to hit you up for a quick drink of milk, I apologize.

Of course, I was up bright and early at 6:30 the next morning ready for the day.  Mommy and Daddy look like the cast of The Walking Dead. I know that wasn’t juice in your cup, Mom. You brought it on yourself.

Of course, not everything revolved around the wedding this month.  It also revolved around rain. And cupcakes (which are wedding related, so…). And words. Vocabulary explosion!

Favorite Words and Phrases

  • More cupcake? (Thank you bridal showers!)
  • NO! (Even when I mean “yes”)
  • Whatchoo gots?
  • Ooooh, what’s Mommy GOTS?!
  • Oh, no!
  • Hi, Mommy. Hi, Daddy or just your basic Hi…for no reason…
  • Come on, Dada! Racecars. Vroom!
  • Mommy, come on!
  • Let’s go, Mommy.
  • Kitty eat! Kitty eeeeeeeat!
  • No, drive car! (I like to yell this when we pull in the driveway to come home.)
  • Wake up, Mommy. Eat bredfast.
  • Uh, huh, I do.
  • Oh, no. Poop poop!
  • Pay Kinel? (Play Kindle.  I’m a touch-screen genius). And the follow up, more games!
  • Oh, no! Neighmor’s car?! (Our neighbor leaves a lot and I like to keep track of his whereabouts out the window.)
  • Counting to 10 in English and Spanish.  Yep, finally got it down. Well, sometimes “yellow” still makes it in there…

As you can see, I’m very excited and a bit dramatic.  I get the best of both parents–I’ll let you decide which is which. There’s actually not much I don’t say.  I’ve mastered plurals (two apples?), and possessives (Mommy’s car!).

Monthly Photo Round- Up

I caught my first fish…then screamed “no!!!! fish in drink” All water is called drink. Did you not know this?

There was lots of “pay dibble dibble dopp” (play in the rain). Have you not read Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?

The good news is that I’m no longer afraid of my rain boots.

Mommy has also decided it’s time for me and Daddy to spend more quality time together.  So we lift weights.  Well, Daddy lifts weights, I lift canned goods.

Please ignore my beer milk gut. I’m working on it.


Happy Independence Day, Everyone!  We’re having a day filled with grilling, festivals, and other pre-approved shenanigans.

And baseball. What could be more American than baseball?

Daddy taught me the great American past-time of baseball.

Here’s how you play:

1. Jab baseball with the tip of the bat

2. Get corrected by Fun Police

3. Swing (with all your might)

4. Swing softer. Hit a foul.

5. Spin with glee. Or boredom. Same thing.

6. Take a break to collect pinecones and dandelions.

7. Disassemble tee and use the top as a faux shop-vac.  Sweep yard.  Watch Daddy hang head in defeat.

Look at me, all ready for Little League.  I’ll fit in great, no?

Happy Freedom Day, ‘Murica!

The Outdoor House

Not to be confused with the outhouse. Obviously.  Oh, that’s right baby. It’s done.  Just in time for Summer. It only took 3 months, but the outdoor play space is done, well, at least for now 🙂 Construction was halted due to unusual amounts of rain and an infestation, but we’ve got that under control now.

poison ivy

That pine tree really needs to come down and some more grass really needs to come in, but in the meantime, I decided to limb it up to free up some more yard space.  The great thing is that now Matty has a space that is pretty shady, so we can stay outside all day, even in 90 degree weather.

I can’t find a picture of how much space the tree limbs took up, but you can see where the grass ends in the picture above.  That’s where the limbs came out to.SO MUCH MORE SPACE!  Limbing it up did cause some privacy issues, but we’re working on it…think The Great Fence In Part IV…

The House

wood playhouse kidkraft

We considered building a play house from scratch, but we honestly couldn’t figure out how to do the roof. So we considered following Ana White’s plans, but once we factored in lumber costs with overall time (and number of other projects we’re doing), it made sense to just buy one.  I’ve had my eye on a Kid Kraft playhouse for awhile, and when I found this one with free 2 day Prime shipping on Amazon, I was sold.  This house had a red roof, which wasn’t our thing, so before assembling, we used Rustoleum spray paint for plastic to make it a more neutral brown.

Eric built the porch for the house, and it was his own design. We used two leftover 4×4’s from when we disassembled the fence planter that was here when we moved in.  We also had the 1×2’s for the little fence railing leftover from our own fence project, so that worked out great. The rest of the lumber we bought–which was then hauled in a Buick Rendezvous.  For anyone considering it, 8ft. is the longest you can get, and that’s if you put it up to the dashboard through the center console. 🙂  I found stain and sealer in one at Menards that matched the color of the house almost perfectly.

playhouse work

The steps were built from bricks that were here when we moved in.  And the little pathway was made from leftover rocks, much, and flowers. Matty loves watering them each day.


Last year, we built Matty these toddler busy boards, or activity boards, but he’s outgrown a few of the activities…

toddler activity boards

So we added them to the house.

playhouse activities

playhouse activities

playhouse activities

So I stained a few squares of leftover wood, attached some of his favorite little doodads, then used industrial strength velcro to attach them to the house walls. I didn’t want to drill into the house, and this should come off with a little bit of Goo Gone should we decide to add different activities.

I also found these chalkboards at a garage sale for $.25, so I added a bucket of chalk to round out the fun.

playhouse activities

Of course, his little chair is the star of the show.  He picked it out (and carried it himself). 🙂

The Rock Box

rock box

I love, love, love the idea of a rock box for numerous reasons.

1. A lot less messy than sand.
2. Most play sand is very harmful to your health.
3.  Cats won’t use it as a litter box. And we have enough of those around the neighborhood…
4. What kid doesn’t love rocks?!

We were actually able to use the ends of the 4×4’s from our fence posts (they were too tall, so we lopped them off) at the top.  Then we hauled some more lumber home and put this together really quickly.

rock box

I think it ended up being 5′ x 5′ which is a perfect size for him (and another kid could easily play).

Plastic lining went down first just ensure he didn’t start digging up a bunch of mud and dirt.  We did rinse the rocks before putting them in (a very arduous process, let me tell ya), and we ended up using about 12 bags.  The price was only about $3/bag, so it wasn’t too bad.

Natural Elements

logs in playspace

Have you jumped on the natural playspace bandwagon? Love it!  I knew I wanted to incorporate as many natural elements as possible, and I’ve been looking for logs for months.  We finally found some this past week, and was able to call this space complete. And yes, we hauled them in a Buick Rendezvous.  I don’t think we ever got up to speed on the highway. 🙂 Poor transmission.

I also put pots with our painted rocks, some pinecones, and sticks for open-ended play.

rocks rock painting loose parts

loose parts outdoor play space


swingset for toddler

We bought this last year thinking it would last awhile.  Pretty sure he’s about outgrown the slide already.  I did add these rings and bars to add a new element of fun, but Eric’s itching to build him a rock climbing wall extravaganza of a playset, so we’ll see where we end up…I’d love something that blends in a little more naturally, but that is definitely a project for next year!  The swingset used to be on the other side, but Matty kept complaining that the slide was hot, so I moved it under the tree and it was a perfect fit.

Overall, we love it. And by “we”, I mean all. of. us. Including the neighbor’s kids who invite themselves over–usually when they see us eating popsicles. 🙂  Now that the yard is fenced in, I’m able to let Matty roam while I work around the yard or in the kitchen (it overlooks the yard) or even *gasp* sit in the sunroom and read a magazine.  Yes, it keeps him entertained that long.

Rockin’ It Out

rock painting

Last week I had Matty help me out with a little project I needed in order to complete his outdoor playspace.

Paint + Rocks + Outside = Very Happy Toddler

rock painting

rock painting

rock painting

Things Needed:

1. Rocks
2. Acrylic Craft Paint. These are the little bottles found for $.97 at Wal Mart.
3. Brushes (any kind)
4. Stickers
5. Sharpies
6. Modge Podge
7. Newspaper or cardboard (to paint on)


1. Clean and dry rocks.  Painting over dirt just won’t do.
2. Paint. Solid colors, half-and-half, swirls, anything goes.
3. Let dry thoroughly–at least an hour
4. Apply stickers, glitter, or write & draw with Sharpies
5. Apply two quality coats of Modge Podge.
6. Let dry (pretty quick drying time) and enjoy!

This is a great activity for colors and even color mixing.  I only gave Matthew primary colors, then he asked for green.  So he watched as I mixed blue and yellow, and was thoroughly impressed it turned green (and I was thoroughly impressed I only had to think for a second to remember what colors to mix!).

These make great outdoor “toys”.  In addition to Matty’s colorful masterpieces, I added a few “learning resources” as well.

rock painting

There’s a lot of great uses–sorting games, stacking, making up stories–the possibilities are endless.  I started off by using basic things he already knows, and we’ll add to it throughout the Summer (especially since he loved the painting so much!).  He’s really into Goldilocks and the Three Bears, so I’m thinking we’ll add some character rocks soon from his favorite books.  Independently, he really likes just naming the items on the rocks (he knows everything except the numbers!) and putting them into buckets.  Together, we sort colors and letters, or make up a story about a cat chasing a butterfly.  Either way, it’s a great vocabulary builder!