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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.)

 

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 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.

 

Day 9 (11521-12960m): Children’s Museum April 27, 2010

Filed under: Childrens Museum,family,field trip,fire trucks,sensory,water play — Erin Brambilla @ 10:04 pm
Tags: ,

Nice face, Chris

Today had the potential to be awe-some! It really did. All the ingredients were there. Free pass to the museum from the library? Check! Uncle Chris with a day off to spend with us all? Check! Super cool exhibits FULL of stuff Zach is obsessed with? Check! Excited and enthusiastic toddler? Ch…oh…um…no. It wasn’t so much that Zach was poorly behaved today, or that he didn’t participate, it’s just that he was indifferent. I guess you never can tell what will be a hit or a miss, or a good day or a bad day. Maybe we’ll come back again another time and it’ll be better. I mean, come ON….

There was Firetruck Stuff:

Driving the firetruck

Coming down from the big ladder

And there was construction and building:

Trying to lift the tool box of wing nuts, bolts and washers

Helping Uncle Chris build a house with the "scoop driber" (that's toddler speak for screw driver, in case you couldn't tell)

and splashing in water:

Building fountains in the water

And digging for dinosaurs!

Discovering dinosaur bones

Come on! "Shobels" are probably his favorite thing in the world and he would barely dig!

But there were no smiles to be found on this kid. Anywhere. He was very, very serious. And if he noticed me coming with the camera, all bets were off. I can’t decide if he was trying to concentrate or if he was just tired or if he was purposefully trying to do whatever the opposite of what we were showing him was. Whatever it was, I hope he had fun, despite the poker face. He was pretty obsessed with anything that had a steering wheel though.The aforementioned firetruck, a Jeep, and a little red car.

Driving the car

Cleaning the windows

Changing the tires

Oh, and let’s not forget. The front loader and dump truck. Just like the set he has at home!! Of course you know THOSE were a hit!

Wow. If there was some dusty furniture in this picture, I might think we were at home. The dump truck and front loader, always a hit. The kid knows what he likes.

Last, but not least, my favorite room, the “MOVE!” room. It was full of things for the kids to climb, slide and jump on. It should really be called the “Wear your kids out before nap time” room, but that would probably be hard to fit on a sign.

Trampoline like thing--blurry, but he's getting some good air!

A hill to climb and slide down

Jumping from cushion to cushion

Looking back at all the pictures, it was a pretty good day. We did a lot. I just wish I could tell if Zach really enjoyed it. It’s the kind of place that makes me wish I was a kid again so I could go back and enjoy it myself. Kids just don’t know how cool things are!

Guess who did have fun though? Check out these smiles!

This is the grin that greets me in the mornings, tell me you're not jealous!

So happy and smiley! She was chatting away!

What did Zach get out of it? Well, some physical activity is always good. He also got to work on motor skills (especially in the building room). He got to be a little bit scientific while building fountains–which way would the water go next by connecting pipes? what do I have to do to get the water to flow this way? or that? He also got to bond with his Uncle Chris, which is always fun.

What did Mommy get out of it? Well, getting out of the house for a whole day is ALWAYS fun. And it was cool to see what Zach would do next. In the room with all the cushions to jump on, he just went up and started doing it. No prompting, no lessons, he just knew to jump from one to the next. I thought that was cool. We have the kind of couch that doesn’t have cushions, so he’s never done that before, yet he just knew to do it. And, you can lead a horse to pasture, but you can’t make it eat. We would take him from exhibit to exhibit, but participation was not always there. I have to get better at letting HIM lead these things and not place my adult expectations on him.

What did Uncle Chris get out of it? Hopefully a fun day off of work. And, um, that 3 kids out and about is A LOT of work. That’s probably birth control enough for a few more years. LOL!