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A Year of Trying to be a Better Mom

Day 11: Playdate April 29, 2010

Playdate: Noun, \ˈplā-ˌdāt\–: a play session for small children arranged in advance by their parents. (That’s straight from Miriam Webster).

I was going to say that playdates are the socialization of young children. But then, given the current political environment these days, “socialization” might be taken the wrong way. You might think I’m raising a 2-year-old communist. When actually what I’m doing is trying to get him to make friends.

Playdates are important on many levels. 1.) They provide a social outlet for children and this helps them learn to behave in society. 2.) They provide a social outlet for MOMMY. It’s a good hour or so of time where we moms get to talk to other adults, even if it is about our kids. We get to chat with someone who will respond to our queries with more than. “No. Want cookies!!!” Though sometimes I do want a cookie. 3.) They (hopefully) provide a bit of physical activity for our children. The “PC” reason to be thankful for that is the exercise it provides. The REAL reason–it tires them out enough to take a good nap!

Today Zach, Emily, Isaac and I met our friends at the playground. I won’t list their whole names, in case they don’t want to be mentioned on a public blog on the internet, but it was a fun day with K, E1 and E2. There’s not a whole lot to say about the playground itself. I mean, it was a playground. We swung on swings. We slid down the slide. We ran and jumped and yelled and laughed. We stole shared snacks with other kids. All around a good time. Though this particular playground did have something different from others I’ve been to. And it was something that, of course, instantly attracted Zach–A FIRE TRUCK playscape. He spent quite a bit of time steering the truck, making the siren noise and climbing all over it.

Driving the fire truck (another one)

Instead of elaborating on the playground itself. I thought I might enlighten you all on what it’s like to actually GET to a playground with Zach these days. People often assume that it’s the babies that make getting somewhere tough. But really, it’s 2-year-old curiosity. This is how our 2 block trip from the car to the play ground went.

About to start our walk from the car to the park

Me: “OK buddy. Let’s start walking! Time to go to the playground.” I wave my arm toward me to beckon my child to follow me.

Z: “Yeah! Playground! Slide! RUN!!!!” Zach begins to run as fast as he can down the street. His running pace is actually pretty quick and requires me to walk briskly beside him to make sure he doesn’t run into a street. At this pace, we’ll be to the playground in just a few minutes. Which is good. Because as per usual lately, Mommy is running late.

Z: “Run! Run! Run! I running Mommy. Mommy, I running! Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”

Me: “Yes. You are running. You run so fast. You…” I stop and turn around, realizing he is no longer next to me. And now I see that distraction number 1 has been found. DANDELIONS. And they are EVERYWHERE. You see, it’s the time of year where dandelions litter lawns and the grass along the side-walk. You can’t walk 2 feet without seeing one. And you know what that means? Zach is going to stop at every.single.one.

Z: “Fwower (that’s flower..in case you couldn’t tell). Fwower mommy! Fwower. One, Two, Fee, Four, Six, Semen. Semen Fwowers Mommy.”

Me: “Oh! Did you find flowers. Wow. Those are pretty flowers. Thank you so much for picking…..”

Z: “Run! Run! Run! Run!” Runs off, no longer interested in flowers, dropping all but one.

Me, struggling to keep up: “Zach! Wait! Please don’t run ahead of Mommy!”

Zach, slows down enough for me to catch him. We are now walking at a reasonable pace together.

Me: “Are you excited to see your friends E1 and E2? Are you excited to play with th…” I stop. Turn around to see what is distracting him NOW.

Zach: “Twee. Twee mommy. Twee.” He is hugging a tree. Literally, physically hugging it. Not in the “hippie-cloth-toilet-paper” sort of way, but in the “I-have-my-arms-around-this-tree” sort of way.

Me: “You’re right! That’s a tree!” I Wait a few seconds to see if he’ll move along. Nope. Still hugging the tree, “OK buddy. Let’s keep walking. We have to keep walking if we’re going to see our friends at the playground.”

Zach: “Run! Run! Run! Run!….AHHHHHHH!!! FWOWER! FWOWER! FWOWER!!!” He had begun running, only to realize a few steps in that he had dropped his beloved dandelion somewhere between there and the tree. He is now devastated. Luckily, I spot a patch of 3 dandelions just 2 steps ahead (and 2 steps away from there).

Me: “Oh no! Did you lose your flower? I see three more right here!”

In true toddler bipolar fashion, he goes from screaming to giggling in .02 seconds with this news. Then Zach runs over and picks the flowers, “Run! Run! Run! Run!”

Phew! Good thing I spotted the next 3 flowers!

And…it pretty much goes on repeat cycle from there. We’re lucky we didn’t spot something so interesting as dog poop. Or cigarette butts. ::shudder:: 20 MINUTES LATER, we arrive at the park. PHEW! This is already exhausting! And THAT my friends, is why going anywhere with a toddler (with or without the babies in tow) takes 3 times longer than it ever would without the toddler. So, if you do not have children, take it easy on your friends who do. You never know how long these things will take.

What did Zach learn today? Social graces such as sharing and waiting to take a turn (especially on the swings). I also hope he’s building a bond with kids who will be his friends.

What did Mommy learn today? That as much as it slows me down, I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of him picking me dandelions. And I certainly enjoyed hanging out with K. Getting that little bit of adult time in during the week is SO necessary. Oh, and the world is FASCINATED by twins. Ugh! This may be a topic/story for another post. But sometimes I do tire of feeling like we all exist in a fishbowl these days.

 

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!

 

Day 3 (2881-4320m): Fire Trucks April 21, 2010

Filed under: fire trucks — Erin Brambilla @ 3:13 pm
Tags: , ,

The Ravenswood Neighborhood Firestation

In “Little Boy World” there is a hierarchy of obsessions. It looks something like this:

1.) Construction Equipment

2.) Fire Trucks

3.) Dinosaurs

4.) Trains

5.) Cookies

Depending on the time of day (and line of sight!), cookies may be number 1, but that’s pretty much how Zach’s order goes anyway.

Today we decided to pay a visit to obsession #2–Fire Trucks!! Our local fire station is very close to us. Until today I never knew that you can just walk right up to your local station and they will give you a tour! Just because you want one! (well, as long as they aren’t busy saving lives or something like that 🙂 ). So, the friendly Fire Fighters down at Engine Company 110 of the CFD kindly let Zach hop up on the truck and the engine today. They also gave him a cookie. I’m not sure which part he liked better (but hey, that covers another obsession!).

We may revisit this activity sometime when Daddy is home to join us. Partly because I think that deep down, even grown men like fire trucks and also because Zach got a little bit shy today. I think with Daddy by his side, he’d be a bit braver and more adventurous. Mommy seems to inspire him to dance and sing. Daddy inspires him to be brave. I almost counted this activity as a “bust”, Zach was so shy. He didn’t want to try on the boots. He didn’t want to talk to the fire fighters. He was just quiet and pretty much glued to my leg. He did get inside the trucks though. Later on, however, he was still talking about it. And when I asked him what we did today, his response was, “Play with Fire Trucks”, so it must have been good!

Sitting on the engine

Inside the truck with fire fighter Danny

Outside the truck

The station with the doors closed and titles on the garage

To supplement our adventure today, we also went to the library and picked up the book Fire Truck by Peter Sis. Zach was very excited to read it before nap time.

As a bonus–the trip to the library will lend itself well for another day’s activity. We checked out the pass to the Chicago Children’s Museum. Man, I love the library! Sometime in the next 7 days (b/c that’s when we have to return the pass), we can all go to the museum for free. Woo hoo!

What did Zach learn today? He learned how big fire trucks are. He also learned that fire fighters are kind, helpful people (who may give you cookies)

What did Mommy learn? That Fire Engines and Fire Trucks are not collectively the same thing. A Fire Engine is the one with the hose and hooks up to the water. A truck (or hook and ladder) is the one with the equipment for search and rescue and things like that. Here’s a good explanation. Zach was told this too….but it may have gone over his head :). I also learned that just because it seems like your child may have been shy, or grumpy, or “out of it”, didn’t mean he didn’t get anything out of the activity.

Tips for other mommies: If you’re this sort of person (and not saying I am…but maybe), there really is something about a fireman that is just “hot”. So, ya know, maybe wear your mascara when you decide to go. And the shirt that isn’t stained with spit up. Er…um…I mean, not saying *I* did this…right…but you might want too.