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A Year of Trying to be a Better Mom

Oshkosh Weekend August 2, 2010

Over the weekend, Pete and Zach went on their 2nd Annual Father-Son Oshkosh Airventure Camping Weekend. Whew. That’s a mouthful!

They left on the road trip Friday morning and Zach was EXCITED. We had been talking about the upcoming trip by telling him he was going to go camping with Daddy, and that he was going to see airplanes, and they would be at Oshkosh. This summer, as we’ve taken our many, many road trips, Zach has started anticipating them. You can tell him he will get to do something in the future and he looks forward to it. It’s great that he can grasp this concept of forward time now.

Anyhow, they got to the campsite and set up the tent and grabbed some grub before heading out.

PB&J and a lollipop, sounds like a well balanced meal

After camp was set up, they went to see the sights. They saw:

The Ultralights

The Erickson Air-Crane Helicopter

A fireworks show

And Zach even got to sit in the cockpit of a DC-3! This plane hadn’t been flown at all in 12 years. The owners restored it in 12 weeks just to fly it to Oshkosh. For those that don’t speak “airplane” (like me), a DC-3 is one of the first mainstream airliners. This year, at Oshkosh, it was a special tribute year to the DC-3.

This, is a DC-3, in case you didn't know

Clear for take-off

Of course, my favorite picture from the weekend has got to be this one! Zach got to “fly” miniature airplanes that look like the real thing. How awesome are these? I’m thinking Christmas present :).

There are pedals that make the plane move and the propeller spin

While the boys were out having boy time in Wisconsin, the twins and I stayed at home and had some wonderful baby and mommy time. They practiced their crawling (Isaac is SO close), their sitting, and Emily tried to do backflips. Really, I think she’s happier hanging out upside down that right-side up!

After all of the things that Zach got to see and do, what did he tell me when he got home on Sunday? That there was dirt! And that he wanted to take a shower. Silly kid!

What did Zach learn this weekend? About airplanes and other aircraft. He also got some bonding time with Daddy, and that is really important. It will help build their relationship and Zach will know he can always trust his Daddy. They also built upon a tradition I hope they can carry out every year.

What did Mommy learn? Is it bad to say that it’s pretty easy with just the two babies? Two year olds can be exhausting! I sure missed him though!

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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.)

 

Days 41, 42 and 43: Memorial Day Weekend June 1, 2010

I’ll be honest, I didn’t do much in the name of “lessons” this weekend. But it was Memorial Day weekend, days off, no school, time to relax! That’s not to say that Zach didn’t learn anything, he most certainly did. And since the point of this blog was to reduce his TV watching time, he certainly didn’t watch much TV.

Here are the things Zach did!

He went to a BBQ at a friend’s house. He got to interact with other kids his age. Actually, it’s kind of neat. Whenever we hang out with this group of friends, there is a boy exactly 1 year older than Zach and a boy almost exactly 1 year younger. It’s fun to see them together and get a glimpse of the future and the past (developmentally speaking).

I don’t have any pics, unfortunately, but he did get to help make ice cream in one of these:

Ice Cream Maker Ball

Then we got to spend some time with family. My dad drove up from Michigan to hang out with us all. Not only is he a super fun grandpa, but visits from our far away family members (and they all are, except for Uncle Chris) remind Zach, Emily and Isaac that they HAVE family. And it’s always good to have the generations together. Truly times to cherish.

Grandpa and Isaac

Grandpa and Emily

Zach also learned to use the Slip N Slide. He was pretty hesitant to go on it at first, pretty much refusing. So, Mommy had to go upstairs, get her swimsuit on and show him how it’s done. And now I will plaster images of myself in a swim suit on the internet (oh boy). So, let what I lack in a beautiful physique be made up 10 fold by the fact that at 30 years old, I WENT DOWN A SLIP N SLIDE!!!

Doing the knee slide

Doing the traditional slide, good form, huh?

After my amazing Slip N Slide demonstration, Zach “sort of” did it. Mostly he just ran up and down the slide and drank the water.

Running up and down the slide

Stopping for a drink of nice, cold, water

He also decided it was a good car wash for his cozy coupe

Finally, he learned to do somersaults with Daddy.

Daddy helping Zach get set up to roll

So, not quite a "stuck" landing. The Olympics will have to wait.

Of course, learning anything new takes some parental demonstration.

Daddy, mid somersault. I give it a 10!

What did Zach learn this weekend? To make ice cream, to use a slip n slide, to do a somersault and that hanging out with family is cool! These things teach him motor skills, coordination and to have fun. They build relationships and are good physical activity.

What did Mommy and Daddy learn? That this will not be the last of making fools of ourselves on behalf of our children! Oh, and I guess I didn’t do my civic duty. I should have had Zach do something patriotic, or something to thank the troops. Maybe I’ll do an activity like that later this week. It’s never too late to thank your troops!!

 

Day 35: Hot Day, Cool Pool May 24, 2010

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 31: Neighbors May 19, 2010

Today as we were standing on the deck debating what to have for dinner, our neighbor was out grilling some burgers and dogs on his charcoal grill. Zach spotted him and said, “Hi Art!” and then Pete, being neighborly, said, “Wow. Looks like you got a lot of burgers there!” and Art, being even MORE neighborly said, “You’re welcome to have some!” Then Pete looked at me and whispered, “There. You’re off the hook now.” As if he’d planned it to happen that way the whole time (and I suspect he did).

Zach has been sort of obsessed with the idea of neighbors lately. It’s sort of funny. He’ll stand at the living room windows and shout to the people down below, “Hewwooooo Ney-mohrs!” He’s a very cheerful neighbor. Last summer he would hide behind my leg when Art, our next door neighbor, would come out to say hello. This spring/summer, Zach is always on the hunt to find Art. It could be because Art always gives him food. Bananas usually. Sometimes a peach. Today it was a hot dog.

Hey, uh, you look like you got a lot of burgers there

Zach's new thing is to not take the food from you, but rather, eat it out of your hands and force you to feed it to him

After we came inside, I decided it would be a good time to teach Zach a lesson in saying thank you. Since Art was so generous with his food today, we decided to make him some Thank You Cookies. Specifically chocolate peanut butter no bake cookies because they don’t take much time to make (aside from waiting for them to harden) and I wanted to get them done before bedtime.

Pouring ingredients into the pan

Licking the peanut butter spoon

All dropped and cooling to harden

Once we finished making the cookies, I got Zach ready for bed and had him write a thank you card for Art. We will bring the cookies and card to him tomorrow. But not too early in the morning, because that would be un-neighborly.

Coloring the thank you card

It says, "Thank you for my hot dog, Art. From, Zachary"

What did Zach learn today? To be neighborly. And that showing gratitude is important. Mommy is not so good at the thank you cards, so hopefully Zach will be better than me as he grows up!! As a bonus, earlier in the day at the park, he learned to drink from a fountain for the first time!

Of course you know this resulted in him being drenched completely down the front, but he had fun!

What did Mommy learn today? That my husband is apparently quite resourceful. And I’m actually pretty shy when it comes to neighbor interactions. Dinner with Art was fun tonight, I should try to talk to my neighbors more often! Oh, and when having Zach color over something I’ve written for him, it’s actually a good idea to use a highlighter marker. The highlighter won’t block out the words on the page.

 

Days 26, 27 and 28: Repeats, Mommy Out and Mother’s Day Reveal May 17, 2010

This weekend Mommy hosted and participated in a rite of passage we all call a Bachelorette Party. Anyone who has been to a B-Party lately will tell you that they are no longer one night of partying, they are weekend long extravaganzas. While Mommy was out having fun, Daddy was on duty with the kids. You can give him his cookie now.

So, since I was for the most part absent this weekend, I’ll run through a quick retelling of the events and then will reveal the details of last week’s Top Secret Mother’s Day projects! Woot!

Day 26, Friday, Repeat: Today Zach learned the art of waiting for delayed airport guests :). While we waited for friends to arrive, we busied ourselves doing what I like to call the “Hurry up and clean! PEOPLE are coming!” dance.  After our guests arrived and Zach charmed them with his freshly awoken from nap shyness, he asked me for a repeat activity. And, well, I never promised we’d do NEW activities everyday. Just that we’d do SOMETHING. So, we took a repeat visit to the Car Wash, since that’s what he wanted.

Day 27, Saturday, Mommy Out: Friday evening I left to stay at a hotel with the girls. So, Pete was on duty. So here is Saturday, as told by Pete:

Actually, Pete’s entry will come later. Whenever he writes it. In the meantime, here are the pictures from what they did.

Took the "SUV" out for a spin

Went to the playground

Went to Lincoln Square

Learned to fly oak tree "helicopters"

Off it goes!

Day 28, Sunday Sundae: Sunday’s are fun for Zach because he gets to spend time in the nursery at church. It’s his time to see friends his age, play with toys, do arts and crafts and eat snacks. I am told that Zach sometimes can’t be bothered to stop playing with toys to participate in the craft, but he never. EVER. misses snack. This does not surprise me. Then after he woke up from his nap, we went for a walk as a family and got some ice cream at George’s. I ordered myself the most DIVINE chocolate ice cream in the whole wide world, Zanzibar Chocolate and got it in a cake cone. It’s a little serving of bliss and whimsy all at once. I ordered Zach his typical plain vanilla in a cup with a spoon. Today though, he decided he wanted MY ice cream. And nothing was going to stop him from getting it. So, wanting to avoid a big, public temper tantrum, I gave in on this battle and switched ice cream with him. I hope he knows how much I love him. I don’t give up Zanzibar Chocolate for just anyone.

Anyway, I so wish we’d have thought to bring the camera. He had chocolate ice cream everywhere. Up his nose. All over his face. His shirt. His arms. His hands. Man, did he love that Zanzibar Chocolate. He is his mother’s son.

And that pretty much covers our weekend!!

So, to update you on our Super Top Secret Mother’s Day Projects That Can Now Be Revealed. We did 2 handmade crafts for the 3 grandma’s. Both using items that you can recycle from your own home and probably have sitting around right NOW.

The first was Milk Jug Watering Cans. I read so many kid blogs these days that it’s hard to say for sure if I read about it or not. But I’m 99% certain I came up with this one on my own. Woot!

First. Drink a lot of milk. We needed 3 watering cans. So, 3 gallons of milk. That’s part of the reason this particular set of projects took a few days to complete, we had to go through those gallons first. Also, the 2-year-old only has a certain amount of patience for crafts. Doing 3 jugs at once was not happening, but spaced out over a few days was fine. Even if his only job was to scribble.

So, I washed out the milk jug and removed the labels. Then, I took a fondue fork and heated it up over my stove flame. I used it like a hot poker to make holes in the milk cap, arranged like you would see on a watering can. I ran some cold water over the cap after that was done, just to kind of harden the plastic that had softened from the heat.

Water holes

Before going further, I decided to test out the watering can on my own plants, just to make sure it would actually work. It does.

A working watering can made out of a milk jug

Then, I had my child use permanent markers to color on the jugs. We did this BEFORE the infamous dining room table incident and is where we got the permanent markers to use for that other project. But, I used permanent in this case because these jugs are meant to be used to hold and pour water. I figured washable markers would run right off of it eventually, especially if they get stored outside. I did attempt to make them a bit prettier with my own embellishments, but wonder if I should have left well enough alone. Oh well!

Coloring the jug

Pretty

We did this times 3 for our specific number of grandmas. But you should do whatever number you need. In case you couldn’t figure that out.

Then, I tied some ribbon to each handle, just to be festive. And the watering cans were complete. Easy peasy.

Finished projects

The next project we did was coffee filter flowers. These were also super duper easy to make. I got the inspiration for our project from two sources. Here and Here.

I used new coffee filters to make my flowers, but I love the idea of recycling used ones. I certainly drink enough coffee (actually, it’s my only means of survival!), but this particular week I was out of them and so was boy scouting my coffee filters out of paper towels. A trick my roommate in college taught me. He said he learned to do it in boy scouts, hence why I called it that. So, I bought brand new ones so I wouldn’t need to do that, but did not have enough time to drink  enough coffee to recycle them. Make sense?

Anyway–my supplies:

Coffee filters, spray bottles with water mixed with food coloring inside

and

Green construction paper, a black marker and pipe cleaners and scissors (which are not pictured, oops)

First, I took some spray bottles and filled them with water. Then I added a few drops of food coloring in each bottle. This actually took more food coloring than I anticipated. Just a drop or two will instantly turn your (hopefully) clear water into what appears to be a deep hue. But, after spraying a filter or two, I figured out that it actually required more like 10 drops per bottle to color the filters properly. There is still a lot of dyed water left in each bottle after this though, so we will certainly use it for other projects.

Then, I had Zach spray the coffee filters with the dyed water. The spray bottles are actually difficult for him to use. They took a lot of pressure to push the pump down and he would get frustrated, so we did it together. I think a trigger style sprayer would be easier for the little ones. Or maybe we just had especially difficult spray bottles.

Zach spraying the filters

All colored and drying out

After the filters were dry, I took each one and gathered it around my finger in the center of the filter. Then I wrapped a green pipe cleaner (which they now call chenille stems these days, fancy huh?) around each gather to attach the “stem” to the “bloom”.

Connecting the flower to the stem

Then I just kind of spread the filter out a bit to make it look more flower-ish.

Unfurling the bloom

It almost looks like a real flower

After I created all of the flowers, I made some leaves out of the green construction paper. I folded the paper in half and drew a rough leaf shape. I drew it along the folded edge so that when I cut it out there was a crease in the middle of the leaf. This crease would be the part that wrapped around the stem. The leaves created a kind of “card” effect. I made 1 leaf per flower.

Drawing the leaves

All cut and ready to go

After Zach got up from his nap, I asked him to help me with the next part. I asked him what he loved about his grandmas. This was a little bit of an abstract concept to him, especially since his grandmas weren’t there with him. So we looked at some pictures on the computer. I was kind of prompting him, I’ll admit, but he did recognize his grandmas and answered yes when I asked if he liked the things they were doing in the pictures or things that the grandmas do when they are here.

On the front of a leaf I would write, “I love my grandma because…” and on the inside I wrote a reason (“she gives me cookies” or “she plays trains with me” or “she reads me books”, etc.). Other leaves said, “Happy Mother’s Day” on the outside and “Love, Zachary” on the inside.

Outside of the leaf

Inside of the book

If I were to do this again, I’d make the writing on the outside a little further from the crease. It got difficult to keep the glue away from the writing when I did the next step, which was to glue the leaves to the flower stems. Once the leaves were all glued on and dried, our bouquets were complete. 2 flowers for each grandma. And an extra for mommy. Because I want one.

Finished flowers

Oh Grandma, I love you just as much as I love my sippy cup of milk. Happy Mother's Day.

What did Zach learn? Patience. That worthwhile activities are worth repeating. About gravity and toys don’t always need batteries. The concept of love, even when those we love are far away. That we give gifts for special occasions.

What did Mommy learn? Once again, Daddy can handle himself with the kids, even overnight by himself. That worthwhile activities are worth repeating. That I am not 22 years old anymore (we did this cardio dance class that I am STILL sore from 2 days later. OUCH!).

What did Daddy learn? That it’s not so easy getting 3 kids out of the house by yourself in a timely fashion.

 

Day 20: National Train Day May 8, 2010

Filed under: daddy,family,field trip,free,trains — Erin Brambilla @ 10:10 pm
Tags: , ,

Today we took advantage of another totally free event. In case your calendars didn’t tell you, today is National Train Day. Don’t worry, it’s OK if you didn’t send a card.

National Train Day Activity "Passport"

Cities all across the country today hosted events celebrating the nation’s railways. Since Zach loves trains so much, we went down to Union Station to check out the festivities. And of course, it would only be appropriate to take the train as our mode of transportation downtown. Zach has ridden the train before, but he doesn’t remember it. So this morning when I told him we were going to be riding the train, he got VERY excited.

Waiting on the train platform

Zachary, Isaac and Pete getting ready to get on the train

Here it comes!

Once we were on the train, Zach had a funny little grin on his face the whole time. He just watched everything we passed going by in the windows and named every single thing. Houses. Cars. Trees. Other trains. You name it, he did too. We often take walks in the evening down to the train platform to meet Daddy after work, so to actually ride the train was very special for Zach today.

On the train

The National Train Day Event was probably a little much for Zach to handle. They did have kid areas there with coloring and some train toys and face painting, but it was VERY crowded. He did like looking at the model trains though.

Looking at the display of model trains

I think a lot of people liked the model trains

They passed out lollipops for all of the kids. I wasn’t even going to show it to Zach, but there were a lot of long lines to wait in to see exhibits and this lollipop was probably the difference between waiting in peace or waiting with screams from a bored kid.

Lollipop, lollipop, oh, lolli, lolli, lolli, lollipop (POP!), ba dum dum dum.

Other highlights:

Governor Pat Quinn showed up to speak (they said this was a surprise)

And the awe-inspiring beauty of the Great Hall at Union Station.

Approaching Union Station

Union Station

Zach liked all of the skylights in the arched ceiling

The skylights, arches and columns, they just don't make buildings like this anymore

We also took a break to eat lunch before we went home and Zach did a performance of his “Hot Dog Dance” (a favorite activity at the moment) while wearing his Jr. Train Conductor Hat.

He makes a pretty cute train conductor

Pete looks pretty great in it too

And just to prove that this was a TRUE family event, we took a cheesy, touristy photo. At least they didn’t make us pay for it (though secretly I kind of love it).

All 5 of us are in the pic. Emily and Isaac are in the baby carriers, you can see the tops of their heads. Haha! Oh and this is a pic of a pic, so it looks even BETTER here!

Then, it was time to head home. This was pretty much the best part (aside from maybe the train ride there) for Zach. He was very excited to get on the train again. I have a feeling he’s going to ask me to go on a train ride every day!

Looking at the other tracks out the window

All my boys, riding the train together

Super cute pic of Isaac

My sleepy Emily, napping in the Baby Hawk on the train (a Baby Hawk is the carrier I use for her)

Bye-bye train!

We probably could have skipped the event and just done the train ride today, but it was fun to get out for a family day. Taking advantage of another free event in the city is always fun on a Saturday!

What did Zach learn today? Today was mainly about fun and experience. But he did learn what it was like to ride a train, and can probably relate a little bit now when I tell him Daddy is on the train to come home from work.

What did Mommy and Daddy learn? We are actually pretty efficient, when we want to be, at getting out of the house with 3 small kids. We had 1 umbrella stroller, “wore” the babies in carriers and took only the smallest of diaper bags. I swear I used to carry more stuff with me when Zach was a baby than I do now that I have him plus 2 more. It’s probably one of those “2nd time parent things”.

Daddy would like to add: We didn’t set foot in a car even once today! Cool, right? No worrying about car seats. No gas or parking to deal with. Just our feet and the railways to get us where we needed to go.