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A Year of Trying to be a Better Mom

Whoa…is it dusty in here or what? July 30, 2010

Um, hi.

I know, I know. I said I would write. I said I would write EVERY day. And I intended to do that. And then, well. You see, I got BUSY. And I bet you can hardly imagine that, as a mother of now nearly 7 month old twins and a 2 1/2 year old, I might be busy. But I was.

Sorry for neglecting you, my precious blog. Sorry for abandoning you, my handful of faithful readers! I am back. And that’s the thing about journeys right? You may get off course, but it takes just one step on the old path to get back on it again. So. Here I am.

And never to fear. I may have been too busy to write (and boy do I have the list of excuses, but I’ll spare you), but not too busy to be keeping my children busy!

To fill you in on the past almost 2 months, I’ll just do a sneak peek here. Then, as I have time, I will update these sneak peeks with posts and tutorials. But I will simply move forward as I do that, so as not to create an even FURTHER backlog as I try to catch up.

So, since we last spoke. Here is what we have been  up to.

We….

Wrote our own songs & lyrics

Went on quite a few road trips to Michigan and Minnesota

Got to ride on Grandpa's tractor

Got to see our G.G. when she came to visit

Made a fort out of blankets in the living room

Painted picture frames for all our grandpas

...and for Daddy

Painted a t-shirt for our cousin, Ethan, because it was his first birthday

Made the wrapping paper for Ethan's present

Celebrated Father's Day

Learned to use a train whistle

Went to a BBQ at Uncle Chris' and made new friends

Went out for ice cream

Flew remote control toys with Daddy (this is a helicopter)

Painted the letter D

Made a Chinese "Dragon Kite"

Made thumbprint art

Killed time at the Dr.'s office by practicing shape recognition

Made an entire orchestra's worth of paper plate and cardboard instruments, like this Paper Plate Violin

and this Paper Towel Tube Flute

and these Paper Plate Cymbals

and finally, a cardboard box "Color Piano" (I think my kid is going to be a musician one day)

Had to go in the basement and hang out because of tornado sirens

Made thunder noises with a big sheet of paper and talked about weather (so it's not so scary next time there is a big storm)

Did 4th of July themed activities like hand print fireworks with Mommy

and lit up "snakes" with Daddy (insert Mommy "eyeroll" here)

Got our first set of golf clubs at Grandma's house in Minnesota

Went to the splash park (and the beach, and played in our sprinkler, and played in our kiddie pool)

Started solids

Found our feet

Went to Aunt Ciana's graduation party in Michigan

Made an awesome race car out of a big, cardboard box

Played "house" and "restaurant" and "this is where the puppy lives" with a big, cardboard box

Painted whatever we wanted with brushes

Made scribble drawings

Played with Easter Eggs (again)

Pretended to be a puppy (a lot).

Decided that THIS is how you play with a bouncy seat (and there's no stopping us)

Started trying to CRAWL (Mommy says, "AHHHH!")

Played with textures like crinkly newspaper

Made an elevator on our living room wall

Painted with noodles. How silly!

Decided we should do things, "All by ourselves"...like put on our sunglasses.

We went to the park, and on playdates. We pretended to be puppies and frogs. We developed an imaginary tiger as a friend.We colored and painted and cooked and made things…like I said…we were BUSY.

And there you have it. Whew!

(please check back for individual posts on these projects as I get time to update them. I will link the posts to the pictures.)

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Day 45: Jackson Pollock Painting June 3, 2010

I love it when things work out exactly as I had planned. It makes me feel a little like doing a diabolical villain laugh, “Muahahahahahahaha,” while tapping my finger tips together. Even though my intentions were clearly the opposite of diabolical!

Zach woke up this morning and asked to read a library book. He actually says it just like that, “Read library book, Mommy?” And if I don’t hear him, or do what he requests in an appropriate amount of time (read: 2 seconds after he asked), he starts repeating, “Library book. Library book. LIBRARY BOOK!” with increasing notes of whiny-ness and volume until I do.

So, I pulled out The Art Book for Children and we started to read about and look at the pictures. Reading through this book the entire way would be a bit like reading him the encyclopedia at this age, it’s very long. So we just flipped to a few of the pictures. One of them was on “my list” of project ideas from library books. The Jackson Pollock painting, Number 1, 1948.

Number 1, 1948 by Jackson Pollock

As we were looking at this painting, and the corresponding photos that went with it, showing Pollock doing the “splatter” method, Zach pointed to him and said, “Color?” Which was his way of asking if Pollock was coloring. To which I replied, “He’s painting, which is kind of like coloring. Do you want to paint?” Zach happily replied, ‘Yeah!!” And this mama did a victory dance! That’s exactly how I wanted it to go!

So I went to the kitchen and got us all set up.

Craft paper, spoons (and anything else you might want to paint with), painters/masking tape, paints and containers all on a drop cloth

Then I taped a piece of the paper to the drop cloth, so that when we started painting it would stay put. I also squirted some paint into my containers and then thinned it out a bit with water (for maximum splatter-ability).

Paper secured to the floor

Paint into containers

Thinned with water

Then I just let him have at it. I showed him how to fling the paint on the spoons onto the paper to make the splatter marks and he went to town.

Splatter painting

After a few times splattering with each color, Zach asked if his tractor could paint. And I thought, why not? It would probably look pretty cool and it’s a great way to let him use his imagination and creativity. So we rolled the tractor in the paint splatters to make cool looking tire treads on the paper. Then we looked around for other things to paint with. One was a circle (it’s actually a screw on lid to our Magic Bullet containers, if anyone has one of those to reference). We also used a shovel by smacking the flat end of it down onto the paper with paint. And a tennis ball, by rolling it around in the paint (it looks a lot like sponge painting). Ironically, the very last thing Zach asked for was a paint brush!

Painting with a "tractor"

Brush painting

In the end, I think we got some very Pollock-like results!

The artist and his work

Number 1, 2010 by Zachary

What did Zach learn today? To let his creative juices flow and think outside the box. Of course, painting gives an opportunity to learn about colors and textures too and we did talk about that a little bit, but for the most part, today was about free-flowing creativity.

What did Mommy learn today? That his little imagination is always going. I bet if the dinosaur would have been nearby, we’d have painted with that too.

 

Day 40: Library June 1, 2010

Our Library

We go to the library about once a week, so I thought I’d take this day to recognize it. Because, I LOVE the library. Let me count the ways. One, I hope it helps instill a love of reading in my children. Two, I hope it pushes them to do well academically in the future. Three, the books we read inspire project ideas. Four, our books at home get kind of tired and boring, so the library books spice it up a bit for FREE (and you know how I love free). Five, when I’m lucky and they are available, I can check out passes to go to the city museums for FREE (again with the free thing). And Six, I usually make a gratuitous stop at Dunkin Donuts on the way home for a cup of my very favorite coffee in the whole wide world. What could be bad about all of that?

Zach has started to become more and more excited about going to the library. I have to  be careful about telling him that we’ll be making the trip on days I’m planning to go there. If I tell him too early, he will DEMAND to go to the library and get extremely frustrated when we don’t leave right THEN.

I think, besides getting to take home books, he loves the little “his size” tables and chairs they have in the kids section. I try to take some time to read to him while we are there, provided the babies stay content and quiet. A crying baby’s volume is magnified about 10 times in a quiet library. So is a screaming toddler’s for that matter, but Zach is usually pretty good.

The library also stocks a bin full of crayons and a stack of coloring books in the kids section. And while Zach will almost always refuse to color at home without a lot of prompting, he will do it happily at the library.

In the past, I’ve let him color while I walked around the children’s section and picked out books on his behalf. Today, I decided, I would let him pick the books. No matter what he picked (and there are some interesting choices), we would take it home.

Zach’s book picking process is not super involved. Basically he walks around, randomly grabs a book of the shelf and hands it to me. I’m not sure he even looks at it. But, if I tried putting it back thinking it might not have been an appropriate book for him (too long, too short, over his head, whatever), he seriously protested. So, I kept them all. Funny thing is, I think we’ll all learn a few things. And I think I’ve got some project ideas already cooking up to go along with some of these.

Here are our selections:

I Like It When… by Mary Murphy

It’s a book about a baby bird (penguin??) and a caregiver bird (maybe a mommy, maybe a daddy, maybe a grandparent, it could be anyone). The baby bird is telling the caregiver all the things he or she likes it when they do. Pretty simple and all stuff any kid will recognize.

Musicians of the Sun by Gerald McDermott

This one is written by a Caldecott Medal Winner, so you know the pictures are good. It’s a story about an Aztec Legend. The book’s pictures have lots of interesting shapes and colors. I can see an art project or two coming out of it. Along with obvious shape and color lessons.

The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Ed Young

This book did win the Caldecott Medal, so again, great imagery. Zach really liked it when we flew kites. He also loves the episode of Little Einsteins where they rescue Dragon Kites (again…there I go with TV). I think we’ll do a project where we make a dragon kite. The story is about an emperor’s tiny daughter and how she saves him with her kite. It’s kind of a neat story that illustrates how even very small people can accomplish big things. And a lesson to adults to not take anyone for granted.

The Art Book for Children Phaidon

This is more of a reference book with a lot of famous paintings, sculptures, drawings, etc. The text will be a little much for Zach, but we can look through it and talk about shapes, colors, feelings, etc. One of the paintings in the book is Number 1, 1948 by Jackson Pollock. It’s kind of a splatter painting. I think we’ll make our own. I bet Zach would have fun with it! Here is the painting:

Number 1, 1948 by Jackson Pollock

The City Kid & The Suburb Kid by Deb Pilutti

This book could become relevant if we ever move to the suburbs one day. It’s a story, told from two points of view. A boy from the city and a boy from the suburbs each take turns visiting each other. Each one tells their point of view of how the other one lives. It’s been called a new twist on the Aesop fable The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse.

It should be interesting to go through all of these books with Zach, and I certainly can’t wait to do the art projects. Many of the books are very long, for a 2-year-old, so we’ll have to see how that plays out, but I can get the basic story across and we can always break them up.

What did Zach learn today? The excitement of picking out his own books, which is really teaching him it’s OK to make his own choices.

What did Mommy learn? That Zach makes some rather interesting choices. And he seemed to be drawn to some very colorful books!

 

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 32: Color Train May 22, 2010

Filed under: books,colors,Craft,Games,trains — Erin Brambilla @ 10:58 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Ever since the National Train Day family outing, trains have been subject numero uno on Zach’s mind lately. I mean, “tractors” (construction equipment) is still up there, don’t you worry, but trains are the flavor du jour. So after a fun day of playing at the park, we took a trip to the library to pick out some books. I spotted a book that I thought would be perfect to take home. Zach has been struggling to pick up the concept of learning colors, this book deals with colors. It also deals with trains. Awesome.

Freight Train by Donald Crews

The book is a simple board book. It shows a freight train and each car is a color in the rainbow. Zach seems to enjoy it. To go along with the book we got from the library, I decided to make a little game for Zach to play. The Color Train Game.

I took a long piece of thin cardboard I had lying around. It came in the box a bridesmaid dress was shipped in (that I also recycled for a project!). It’s about the thickness of regular poster board. So, you know, if you don’t have a bridesmaid dress getting shipped to you in the very near future, you could use that instead. I also used some construction paper, markers, scissors, an envelope and a glue stick.

Supplies

I needed each color of the rainbow for both the construction paper and the markers. But I didn’t have purple construction paper, so I just colored a white piece of paper purple. It works. I also didn’t have indigo. But that’s OK, the book doesn’t mention indigo, so we’re in the clear. Poor, left out indigo. I guess it’s a misspelled rainbow–ROYGBV.

My idea was pretty simple: connect a bunch of different color squares, train like, and make a matching game to teach colors. First, I had to figure out how big to make the squares. You might decide to measure. I forgot to grab the ruler from the supply bin and was too lazy to get up. So I guessed. And then cut. And recut. But whatever. It’s only wasted paper…right (note sarcasm)? Those scraps will work for some other projects. After I cut my color squares, I traced them on the cardboard (that I had already drawn some “tracks” on).

Colored squares all fit (there are two black pieces b/c the book calls for a black coal tender and black engine)

Trace the squares and draw lines to connect them, I decided to leave the engine on permanently

Then I took out my markers and wrote in each corresponding square on the cardboard what color paper square belongs there. I also drew a little block line to show the color more. Then I drew wheels, so the train didn’t look like it was floating.

Colors written in

At the top I wrote, “What color are the train cars?”. I was going to consider it done at this point, but then I had a stroke of genius and decided to glue an envelope to it so when he’s not playing the game, there is a place to store the color squares. I am good!

Titled and storage envelope glued on

After Zach woke up from his nap, we read the book together and I had him play the game. He was patient enough to humor me for about 2 color matches and then he just scattered the squares around the play area. Oh well. We can play again later!!

Playing the color train game

What did Zach learn today? A new game. He took some steps to learning more colors.

What did Mommy learn? Measure, measure, measure. Haste makes waste, right? Or maybe it’s laziness that makes waste. Either way. And also Zach LOVES the library. The last time we were there he discovered that they keep crayons and coloring books there for the kids, he doesn’t actually color for very long (at home or the library) but the attraction of it is enough to make him excited to go there. He actually likes bringing the books home to read as well.

 

Day 17: Road Rollers May 5, 2010

Filed under: books,clothing,construction equipment — Erin Brambilla @ 7:31 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Sometimes you just have to go with it. Like, when he wakes up in the morning and informs you that he does not want to wear pants today. But he does want to wear his rain boots. And a cowboy hat. Sometimes you just have to let it happen, because they need to learn it’s OK and safe to make choices (read: you aren’t going anywhere anyway, so looking like a circus kid is OK).

Hey there Mommy!

Riding off into the sunset

The other thing I had to just go with today was the lesson. All I can say is there is NO way I could EVER compete with this:

A real, live, road roller!

Today they finally finished up on a road project that has been happening outside our house for quite some time. They repaired the water main a few months ago. And then the gas lines were worked on. Today they resurfaced the street after all of that digging. Zach has been fascinated since the beginning, but the majority of the equipment has been “diggers” and “dumpers”. Today we had rollers. And THAT was what glued him to the window for the entire morning!

I decided not all was lost though, because we were able to talk about one of Zach’s favorite library books. We may end up having to go and buy this somewhere because we check it out so often. It’s called Dig Dig Digging and is written by Margaret Mayo and Alex Ayliffe. It goes page by page describing different kinds of construction equipment. Road rollers are one of them. We talked about what the rollers were doing on our street and how it went from messy and bumpy to smooth and clean.

Zach's favorite book

What did Zach learn today? To make his own choices when it comes to his wardrobe. And to correlate things he reads to things he sees in real life.

What did Mommy learn today? My child has absolutely no fashion sense.