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A Year of Trying to be a Better Mom

Recycled Paper Bag Tiger Puppet August 3, 2010

Zach, Emily, Isaac and I had some errands to run today. We were out and about during that critical hour when kids suddenly become ravenous. It’s one thing for mommy to wait for lunch, but Zach…well…his inner demon emerges within about 2 minutes of deciding he’s hungry. Now. So, I had a crucial parenting decision to make: deal with the tantrums in public, or hit a drive thru. McDonald’s it was!!!

Now, before you make a critique of Zach’s nutrition for the day; he basically ate his side of apple slices (not fries) and nothing else. The boy loves his fruit. He also drank his milk. So really, it was my wallet that hurt more than his tummy today! We won’t talk about what I had to eat (but, am I a sucker for those fries, oh boy).

Anyway. Happy Meals these days come in paper sacks. Not the nifty cardboard boxes we got as kids. When I saw the bag I thought, “Cool. A craft supply.” Yeah, how nerdy am I?

Happy Meal Sack

So I took this paper sack and turned it inside out. A blank canvas perfect for paper bag puppet making! A tiger paper bag puppet to be specific.

Happy Meal Sack turned inside out

Aside from a paper sack, here are today’s supplies:

Paper sack, black construction paper, orange construction paper (not pictured, oops), scissors, glue, googly eyes, orange paint, paint brush

I decided on this project for several reasons, besides the availability of a paper sack, that is. 1.) Zach has acquired an imaginary tiger. We pet the tiger, we watch it eat grass (apparently this tiger is a vegetarian), we make it go away when it is scary. So, I thought it would be fun to personify an animal he likes and 2.) It’s an opportunity to practice cutting with scissors, which is a fine motor skill.

First, Zach painted the paper bag. Actually, I had to BEG him to do this. He’d already spotted his new safety scissors and was semi-obsessed with wanting to cut things.

Painting the paper sack orange. Or, terra cotta, if that's the paint color you have.

While waiting for the paint to become reasonably dry, we cut stripes, whiskers, ears and a nose out for the tiger out of our black and orange construction paper.While I was holding the paper steady for him, Zach was actually surprisingly good at using the scissors. I bought a special kind that has a little plastic attachment on it that helps the scissors bounce back once he squeezes them. Once he gets the hang of the motion, I can turn the plastic part the other way and Zach can do all the cutting on his own.

Cutting the orange paper

Then Zach glued the stripes to the orange bag, to make it more tiger-like. At this point in time, Pete came home from work. Pete was astonished to see that Zach could glue and cut things and that I wasn’t doing it all for him. If my kid doesn’t learn colors or the alphabet after this year of projects, by golly, he will know how to make random stuff out of paper and glue!!

Glueing

And sticking

Of course, now that Daddy was home, Zach wanted nothing to do with craft time. Yeah, yeah. I get it. Mommy is second-fiddle to Daddy. Don’t worry. I’ll make this tiger by myself. No, really. It’s fine.

So, I finished gluing on the whiskers, nose, ears and googly eyes to make a lovely tiger puppet.

What a lovely tiger puppet

Zach did play with the puppet later though!

Rawr

What did Zach learn today? He worked on the fine motor skills of scissor usage. We also talked about colors–black and orange.

What did Mommy learn? That Zach is suddenly a skilled scissor user. Who knew? Guess all that playing with cotton balls played off!

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Sidewalk Chalk Paint August 2, 2010

Zach loves to paint. He also love to be outside. So, when I saw this activity on No Time For Flashcards, I knew he would love it.

Doing activities outside these days takes careful planning. Since we live on the 2nd floor of our condo building, it’s not just a simple matter of stepping outdoors to get to the yard. There are stairs to navigate. And 2 babies to carry. And a toddler’s hand to hold. And supplies to bring. Just getting set up takes me 2-3 trips up and down the stairs. By now though, I’m an old pro at getting the whole kit and caboodle down to the ground level.

Here are the supplies for today.

Cornstarch, water, food coloring, brushes to paint and stir, containers to hold the paint, and a tennis ball

First, I simply poured a bit of water and a bit of cornstarch into the containers (I have no exact measurements here) and stirred until I got it to about the consistency of milk. And that’s Whole Milk, rather than Skim Milk.

While using the paintbrush to stir, Zach kept saying, "Making circles. I'm making circles."

After this (and all of my aforementioned efforts at getting downstairs), rain thwarted our plan! Drats!! Never fear, I have no problems using sidewalk chalk upstairs on the deck, dry, under our awning.

Next, I had Zach help me squirt food coloring into the mixture to color it. This requires A LOT of food coloring. And by A LOT, I mean…think red velvet cake a lot. Don’t be shy, just put food coloring on your grocery list for next week if you try this!

Zach liked this part best, he went to town adding the food coloring to the cornstarch mixture

Once the color is mixed into the cornstarch and water, it’s time to have fun. We tried “painting” with a tennis ball by soaking it in the chalk paint and bouncing it on the deck. This lasted all of 3 throws before the ball rolled off the edge of the deck and down to the yard, but it does make a cool effect. Kind of Jackson Pollock-like.

Dip the tennis ball into the chalk paint

Fresh tennis ball paint splatters

This is what they look like dry

After the loss of the tennis ball, we turned to paint brushes. Zach painted the deck and asked me to draw him pictures. We made circles, rectangles, triangles and hearts. He asked me to draw snakes. He even asked for a birdcage! Apparently, while watching Jack and the Beanstalk, the Giant keeps a golden goose in a birdcage and Zach had it on his mind.

Zach painting the deck (don't worry, rain will wash this all away, just like it does with chalk)

My repainted deck

What did Zach learn today? This project is kind of neat in all of the areas of learning it encompasses. It covers science: similar to our tie dyed milk experiment, you can talk about what happens when you mix things together. What will happen when we add cornstarch to water? The water turns white. It thickens. What will happen when you add color drops? The mixture changes color. We learned about colors. We learned about shapes (which is a building block to learning math). He got to be creative and creativity helps him have an open mind and develops problem solving skills.

What did Mommy learn? How creative Zach is getting and how he is starting to connect one activity to the next. Watching a movie translates, through his imagination, into the art and activities he does. Oh, and a tip for my friends. If you’ve just paid for an expensive manicure, wait until it wears off to do this activity. Here is what my hands looked like at the end of the day:

My dye stained hands. Don't worry, it washes.

 

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.)

 

Day 46: Nature Walk Collection June 3, 2010

Nature Walk? Girl, you live in the city.

Yeah, yeah, I know. We’re about as urban jungle as it gets. Most of our “nature” has been planted by man alongside paved streets and concrete sidewalks, in cement potters and next to railroad tracks. Here are some prime examples of “nature”, Chicago-style:

"Nature"

"Nature"

"Nature"

"Nature"

So, not much to go on. But luckily, there are some cute little green spaces that neighborhood associations plant along the way. We decided to visit one today. There is a block long garden path not far from us that we decided to walk to. This was our “nature walk”.

Garden Walk

Prior to leaving for the walk, I labeled a few envelopes with different colors. I had red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, brown and black. I wrote the name of the color on the front of the envelope, along with a scribble block of color underneath to show it more. I also filled in a little color on the back of the envelope at the opening.

Front of the envelope

Back of the envelope

Then on the path I let him just sort of find things. Every time he did, I asked him if he wanted to add it to our “collection”. He enthusiastically said, “Yes!” So we would sort through the envelopes to find the one that matched whatever we were looking at and we would put it in. My only rule, since this was a planted garden, was that the object had to have fallen to the ground already. We couldn’t pick it. Unless it was a dandelion, I’m pretty sure they don’t care about those!

Our first encounter was with a butterfly! A black, orange and white butterfly. Zach spotted it right away. The little creature did us a favor and didn’t fly off when we stopped to admire it. Zach bent over it and said, “Hi butterfly. You’re cute. Cuuuuuuute. Cuuuuuuuute.” He says the same thing to the babies, pretty funny!

"Cuuuute, cuuuuute" Butterfly

Close up

After that he would walk along the path and find things. We’d see what color envelope it matched and we’d put it in.

Feeling the needles of a pine tree, he said it felt like a broom. He's right.

Green pine needles

Brown stick

Oh snap! Mommy didn't make a white envelope. Oops.

As for other wildlife, we saw:

A bee

Another butterfly, this one was actually really pretty on the front side, a nice bright blue. But it flew away too fast for me to get a front pic of it, so here is the back.

Bird

We also saw a cool dragonfly (and some other bugs), but he was too fast for me to take a picture of. At the end of the walk we had collected enough stuff to fill most of our envelopes, only blue and black remained empty. But since the butterflies covered those colors, we certainly found them, we just couldn’t take them with us.

Our nature collection

What did Zach learn today? To observe and appreciate nature (at least the nature in our surroundings). We encountered and observed some wildlife. We also talked about colors, though I didn’t push them on him, I just sort of suggested.

What did Mommy learn today? I didn’t press the lesson today, I planned on it, but I just let it happen. I didn’t ask him what the colors were, but was sure to point them out. He’s been really resisting questions lately, so I let them go. This seemed to work better.

 

Day 45: Jackson Pollock Painting

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 44: Flour Writing June 1, 2010

Filed under: colors,letters,sensory — Erin Brambilla @ 11:43 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Zach has been rather stubborn lately and does not want to be “taught”. Anytime I attempt to talk with him about what he is doing, or start a project, I am met with a refusal to continue to participate. This does not bode well for mommy blogging! I mean, doesn’t this 2-year-old know I’ve got an internet audience to please? Sheesh. So, today I thought I’d start with something I knew he’d like, sensory tubs,  and build around that. And it “kind of” worked.

I remembered a tutorial involving tracing letters in a tub of cornstarch. The cornstarch had been poured over some brightly colored cardboard. When the child traces the letters in the cornstarch, the color pops through and it’s like “magic”. So I decided to do a spin on that. Her tutorial calls for cardboard, markers and cornstarch. I did not have cardboard, shockingly. I only had a little bit of cornstarch. So, my improvisation involves a plastic tub, flour and construction paper.

Supplies:

Plastic tub, construction paper, flour, tape

I used colored construction paper folded up and placed in the tub, instead of coloring it as was shown in the tutorial, because I didn’t want to color my tub! So, I folded up the paper, placed it in the bottom of the tub and taped down.

Paper in the tub

Then I enlisted Zach to help me dump the flour into the tub.

Dump! Hey, look, the kid is wearing clothes today!

Then I took and patted and smoothed the flour down to make a clean surface to start out with. I traced the first line or two for Zach to see what happens. He thought it was pretty cool.

Flour spread out and patted down

Drawing lines in the flour to expose the colored paper

Drawing in the flour

After a while, he told me that his dinosaur was hungry. And that dinosaurs like to eat flour. So, the dinosaur had a little snack.

Unbeknownst to archaeologists the world over, T-Rex liked to eat All Purpose Flour

While he was busy using his imagination with his dinosaur, I thought I’d teach him to write the Letter D, for Dinosaur. So, I traced a letter D into the flour. And that’s when he was on to me. He did not want anything to do with a letter lesson. So, I thought maybe I’d ask him to help me dig for colors. I’d dig and brush the flour aside and say, “Oh my goodness! Look, I found a color! What color did I find???” and he wanted nothing to do with that either. Though he did ask me “What color flour is?”, which I thought was a pretty smart question, so I told him it was white. And then I just let him continue to play.

Eventually he spotted the tape I had set aside and asked for it. At first I told him no. And then I thought, “Why not?” I mean, we’re going for sensory, right, so why not talk about “sticky” (along with smooth and fluffy, but also gritty and grainy, when feeling the texture of flour and flour on paper, and taste..flour is edible). So I tore off a piece of tape or two and let him play with it. We saw how it was sticky at first, but not sticky any more once we stuck flour to the tape.

Sticky tape

Not sticky anymore

And that was pretty much the whole of our lesson. Yes, we did make a grand old mess doing this!

That's one flour covered little boy

I just love a messy face, even when that face refuses to smile for the camera

What did Zach learn today? To talk about the senses some more. About color. To look beneath the surface (whoa…deep). Imaginative play.

What did Mommy learn? That she needs to figure out how to get his attention again.

 

Day 40: Library

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!