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A Year of Trying to be a Better Mom

Day 39: Cherry Vanilla Cupcakes May 27, 2010

Filed under: baking,cooking,counting,friends — Erin Brambilla @ 10:35 pm
Tags: , , , ,

On my last trip to the grocery store I decided to add a few different fruits to our usual list. Apples, bananas and grapes get kind of old! So, in addition to apples and bananas, I added cherries and pineapple. YUM. Both are a lot of work, all that pitting and coring and tough skin removal, but worth it! The downside though, is that there are A LOT of cherries in that bag. Like, a lot a lot, ya know? And we have no hope of eating all of them before they spoil. Today I came up with a solution–bake with them. Duh!

Zach, Emily, Isaac and I went to the park for a playdate with some friends. As we were leaving today, I was discussing our weekend BBQ plans with one of them. Upon asking, she suggested that I might bring a dessert or a side dish. Her 3-year-old piped up that I should definitely bring a dessert. How could I argue with that? After promising that I would bring some cupcakes, we all went home.

After Zach finished a marathon of a nap and we had dinner, we baked some Cherry Vanilla Cupcakes together. I’ve never made them before, so prior to feeding them to other people, I decided to test the recipe.

I used THIS recipe.

First of all, look at all of these cherries! Cherries for the cake. Cherries for the frosting. And cherries for the garnish. Cherries. There. I just wanted to say cherries one more time.

Lots of cherries

Then we dumped the ingredients.

Dumping the flour, we counted 8 "dumps" (or 2 cups by 1/4 cup scoops)

Then we stirred them.

He always says, "Stir, stir, stir" as he does this

Then we lick the beater.

Pretty much the entire reason he is so excited to bake with me

Don’t worry. We were done with the beater. Toddler spit will not be an ingredient in these cakes.

Then, we bake. Then, we eat.

Yum!

What did Zach learn today? Nothing new really. Though as always we like to count, count, count while we bake.

What did Mommy learn? Pitting up 30 some cherries is a lot of work.

Verdict on the recipe? It was good. Though I decided not to make the icing. Basically, to me, they were more muffin-like than cake-like. Probably because they are dubbed a “healthy” cupcake recipe. I will more than likely make a more traditional vanilla cupcake batter and just fold in cherries for the real deal. Though, these do make delicious “muffin-cakes”. You know what that means, right?? I’ll be eating one for breakfast tomorrow!

 

Day 38: Easter Eggs May 26, 2010

Say Wha??? Hold on, let me check my calendar.Yep. May 26th. Wednesday. NOT Easter. But why should Easter Sunday get to hog all the fun of these plastic little gems (that sit in my cupboard the other 364 days a year)?

I mean, look at what you can do with them.

You can put them in water and catch them with your net:

You can group them by color:

You can make them sink by pouring water into them:

You can push them around and roll them:

You can sit in a tiny tub of water like it’s a swimming pool and count them:

And you can even eat your lunch out of them:

Cherries

Carrots

Cheerios

I stopped at putting the peanut butter in the eggs, so it's on spoons

Cool, right?

See, no need to hold out for Easter!

What did Zach learn today? How fun using non everyday objects can be to do everyday things. And we talked about the principles of sinking or floating (and colors..again).

What did Mommy learn today? I think kids just don’t eat their veggies if they don’t want too. I’m losing this battle big time. I mean, I put the carrots IN and EASTER EGG. Fun, right? Nope. Not eaten. Those cherries were gone in 2 seconds though!

Also, I’ve been doing some sensory stuff with the babies. They got to feel soft and silky when I gave them some Lovies. And splashed in the water today too.

Emily and her Lovie

Isaac says, 'Grr...I'll eat you up Lovie!"

Chunky Isaac feet splashing in the water

Emily feet in the water

 

Day 37: Tie Dyed Milk May 25, 2010

Tie dyed milk. No, not a fashion statement. A science experiment.

This activity came to me from my friend A.¬† It’s from THIS website. She’s actually the one (whether she knows it or not) who introduced me to the No Time For Flashcards blog, where I get many, many ideas from. So I knew this would be good. Thanks A!!

The experiment is super easy to set up, uses common household items (I did not need to buy anything to do this). The concepts in the experiment can be taken as deep and complex as you want them too. I mean, it talks about chemical bonds and molecules! My 2-year-old is NOT ready to grasp the concept of chemical bonds and molecules. But he is ready for things like, “Watch this!” and then, repeating it, “What do you think happens now?” and let’s not forget, “What color is this?”, “Can you use the green one?”, etc. He may or may not be WILLING to answer me, but a mom can try.

Supplies:

A dinner plate, food coloring, 2% (or whole) milk, dish soap, cotton swabs

Zach and I headed out onto the deck and I set everything up. I said, “Hey, let me show you something cool”. I set the supplies up and was getting ready to grab the food coloring when Zach decided HE wanted to do it. I probably should have jut let him, but the controlly mom in me told him no (I was freaking about the mess…since when, right?!). From that point on he only indifferently watched me do this, but I did get a little bit of participation out of him. My husband and I thought this was the coolest thing though!.

Zach reaching for the food coloring saying, "Color back! Want color back!" which means, "Give that to me. NOW."

So the first thing I did was pour the milk onto the plate (I actually used a pasta plate, which is a bit deeper than a regular dinner plate) and let it settle so it was still. Then I took and added one drop each of red, green, blue and yellow food coloring (color lesson!) into the milk, pretty close together.

Color in the milk

Then I took a regular cotton swab and dipped the tip into one of the colors. It is important to note that I did not stir the color, just dipped the swab in. Then I asked Zach to watch what happens. It’s pretty uneventful. Mostly the cotton swab turns from white to green and the milk lies undisturbed.

Dipping the plain cotton swab

We repeated this for another time or two. Then I dipped the cotton swab in some dish soap. I said to Zach, “Watch the milk move now! It’s going to move fast!” Then I dipped the soap covered swab into a color in the milk. Magic happens!

It disperses. Magic!

Then I let Zach try it out.

This time I let him do the food coloring drop. He was very good.

Dipping the swab in the soap

Making the milk move

Then I let him swirl the swab around a bit and it started to look like a tie dyed t-shirt. Or even a Van Gogh painting! So we talked about that. We went to the library last week and picked up a book called Make Van Gogh’s Bed by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo. It’s a “touch the art” book with pictures of very famous paintings and portions of those paintings have been made interactive and touchable. And while these activities are to reduce the amount of TV Zach watches, I have to say I was amazed as we were reading these books that he recognizes some of the paintings from watching Little Einsteins on the Disney Channel. I guess TV isn’t ALL bad. Anyway, here is the book.

Here is a painting in it (I’m sure you recognize it!):

Starry Night by Van Gogh

And here is what the milk looked like at the very end, similar?? Maybe it’s a stretch, but it was good to discuss art with Zach!

Kind of swirly and starry looking, like a Van Gogh painting

Anyhow, art look-alike or not, I made sure that Daddy read Zach that particular book before bed tonight.

What did Zach learn today? Hopefully a little bit about questions and answers and the scientific process. 2-year-olds (or young children in general) are naturally “scientific”. Whether they vocalize it or not, they are always experimenting–“What happens if I push this button? Oohhh…it makes a noise. What if I push it again? And again? And again?” That’s how they learn. It’s fun to teach them something that sort of naturally flows with that line of thinking. “What happens if I touch the blue color? Oooh, it moves. What about the green color? It moves too!!” Oh, and maybe an art lesson too (and colors, yada, yada).

What did Mommy learn? Well, this: “When you add soap [on the cotton swab], the weak chemical bonds that hold the proteins in solution [in the milk] are altered. It becomes a free-for-all! The molecules of protein and fat bend, roll, twist, and contort in all directions. The food coloring molecules are bumped and shoved everywhere, providing an easy way to observe all the invisible activity.” according to the writers of the experiment.

 

Day 36: Snacklet May 24, 2010

A snacklet is a bracelet, made out of snacks. It could also be a necklace (but would then be called a snacklace). It’s fun because it’s an educational activity, but you can eat it!

Today’s supplies:

Cereal with holes (like Cheerios or Fruit Loops) and pipe cleaners

I admit that I bought the Fruit Loops solely to do this project. We don’t normally serve them here, so needless to say we all went crazy with cereal eating and 2 days after I bought them, they are GONE. LOL! What a treat. But, I managed to save enough to do this. Cheerios work just as well, skills wise, but the Fruit Loops just make it look so much more festive and colorful (and teach color). I could have used string instead of pipe cleaners for this, but I wasn’t sure how easily Zach would be able to get the cereal on the string, so I started off easy. Next time, I’ll use string or yarn, he did pretty well with this today. I read about this activity HERE. It helps him with his fine motor skills. As I mentioned, the Fruit Loops can provide a lesson in colors. And you can count each piece as you put it on. We didn’t, but if you wanted too, you could also teach pattern (Red piece, blue piece, green piece. Red piece, blue piece, green piece, etc.). It’s also a nice after nap snack.

So, basically, I just had him slide the cereal onto the pipe cleaner. It was a little difficult to convince him to not eat the cereal first, but as soon as I did one as an example for him and showed him he could eat the cereal later, he was in.

Showing Zach how to lace the cereal onto the pipe cleaner

After doing a few pieces for Zach, I held the pipe cleaner and let him slide the cereal on.

Figuring out how to get the cereal on the "stick", as he called it

Then, after we filled the pipe cleaner up, I tied it to his wrist and let him eat from the snacklet. He thought this was pretty fun.

Tying the bracelet to his wrist

What a fine looking bracelet, I mean, snacklet

Yum!

Then he decided he was confident enough to do the next one himself.

Doing it all by himself

And, if you’re wondering why his face is so messy, it could be because he decided to eat his lunch like this today:

Eating like a puppy

Talk about an imaginative kid! He was pretending to be a puppy this afternoon. And uh, no, I didn’t clean his face before nap. Oops.

What did Zach learn today? He worked on fine motor skills, counting and colors. And he got to eat some yummy (forbidden) sugary cereal (notice I also included some healthy Cheerios too though!).

What did Mommy learn today? How fun it is (however messy) to watch my child pretending. He’s so silly!

 

Day 35: Hot Day, Cool Pool

Filed under: daddy,water play — Erin Brambilla @ 9:35 pm
Tags: , , ,

90 + degrees in May? Crazy I tell you!! Yes, I’m the girl who complains that it’s cold at 50 in spring time and then can’t handle the heat when it comes. 72 is perfect I say! No need to be warmer (or colder) than that. But, when it IS warmer than that, there’s no better relief for a kid than a kiddie pool and a squirty hose.

The morning on Sunday started out pleasant and then very quickly went to blistering. After coming home from church and eating lunch, Pete set up the kiddie pool in the back yard for Zach.

This activity was all about fun and refreshment (and burning 2-year-old energy). I suppose I could have thought of a lesson, but it doesn’t always HAVE to be about that. Zach and Daddy spent some time playing in the backyard and bonding. Zach loves having Daddy time, so this was perfect!

He is having too much fun

Looking at me upstairs on the deck and deciding to try and get me with the hose. He ended up hitting his sister with the spray. She was not happy. So it begins.

What did Zach learn today? To have fun in the sun! And probably that hose water is super cold (do kids even notice that kind of thing?).

What did Mommy learn today? Simple things are so joyful. Like cold water in a little pool.

 

Day 34: Abacus May 23, 2010

Today I spent the day with some girlfriends at a teeny little store we like to call Ikea. OK, so it’s not so teeny. And it’s pretty much impossible to go there and not get sucked in for a good 4 hours. And besides carrying the world’s greatest selection of particle board and wood veneer furniture, Ikea also has an impressive display of educational, reasonably priced kids toys, like the wooden abacus I bought for Zach.

Zach's new "toy"

According to the New World Encyclopedia (whose website looks suspiciously like Wikipedia, so take this definition for what it’s worth), abaci have been “in use centuries before the adoption of the written Hindu-Arabic numeral system and is still widely used by merchants and clerks in China, Japan, Africa and elsewhere.” In other words, a really long time.

I basically bought it because I knew that Zach would have fun sliding and rolling the beads under his hands, so it’s a sensory toy. I also knew he’d like to count them. The beads are colorful, so I can use it to teach him colors. They are also grouped in 10’s, so we can learn to count by 10 (up to 100). It’s all sorts of usefulness. It also looks like part of the playscape at our local playground and Zach loves to play with that.

So, when I got home from the Ikea-fest, I unwrapped the abacus and put it in front of Zach. He took to it immediately. He slid the beads back and forth. He took the palm of his hand and spun them around (this made him laugh because it kind of tickles). He counted them one by one. And he even told ME the colors of some of the beads. Yellow and Green specifically. On his own. Yay Zach!

Moving the beads over one by one

No. We have STILL not painted that wall. It'll happen. Someday.

Of course, you know that we can’t do anything here without enlisting the help of the front loader and/or dump truck. Zach said, “Yellow tractor. Here tractor, yellow.” I assume the last yellow as for the beads. And then he made the tractor play with the abacus.

Tractor + Abacus = Fun

What did Zach learn today? The abacus was good for all kinds of things: sensory play, color learning, counting practice, imaginative play (with the tractor) and motor skills.

What did Mommy learn? Occasionally I hit the nail on the head in the toy department. And this is great for long-term use as he gets older and learns more math.

 

Day 33: Ripping Paper

When your child seems to be in a destructive phase, rather than a constructive phase, it can really grate on your nerves as a mother. Instead of coloring, he’d rather throw the crayons. Instead of reading, he’d rather test the strength of the book pages. Instead of building towers, he’d rather knock them down. You get the idea. So the best thing to do is to remember the mantra, “If you can’t beat him. Join him.”

Today’s activity not only harnesses fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, it also spoke to Zach’s desire to tear things up and make a mess. It’s pretty simple. Tearing and crumpling up strips of paper. Yep, it’s a legitimate learning activity! I read about it HERE.

First I gathered up the junk mail newspaper pages that we get in our house every day. Mostly ads for the sales at the grocery store (clip the good coupons first, of course).

Making use of junk mail

Then I called Zach over and told him I needed help (this works better than, “Let’s do a lesson!” because he likes to be a “good helper”). I said I needed to make paper strips. I showed¬† him how to tear the paper into strips and handed him a piece. You may not really think about it, but tearing paper into strips takes some dexterity. Dexterity that adults come by easily, but 2-year-olds are still learning.

Attempting to rip the paper

At first he was just trying to pull on the paper, as if he were ripping off little bits, or pulling it apart. So, I had to show him again how to rip it into long strips. I actually had to start the rip for him and then let him tear the rest of himself. After we ripped off enough strips (read: after he started showing some boredom in ripping strips of paper), I then asked him to help me make paper balls.

Crumpling paper is another activity that takes more dexterity than you think it does. I had to show Zach how to smoosh and crunch the paper up in his hands. At first, he just crinkled along the strip, but then he understood how to crunch it up between his two hands to make the “ball” shape.

Crumpling the paper

Then, the fun part. Throwing the paper balls!

Throwing? Easy! This part I got down!!

Yes, my living room floor DID look like this in the end. But thats OK, newspaper is not the messiest thing I have had to clean up in the name of crafts and learning!

What did Zach learn today? He worked on fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.

What did Mommy learn? To think on my feet. We had another color learning activity planned and it ended disastrously (“No, no, no, no, no, we don’t put pipe cleaners in the toilet!!!”). I was super frustrated, but once I began an activity that fit his mood, things went much smoother.