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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.)

 

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 39: Cherry Vanilla Cupcakes May 27, 2010

Filed under: baking,cooking,counting,friends — Erin Brambilla @ 10:35 pm
Tags: , , , ,

On my last trip to the grocery store I decided to add a few different fruits to our usual list. Apples, bananas and grapes get kind of old! So, in addition to apples and bananas, I added cherries and pineapple. YUM. Both are a lot of work, all that pitting and coring and tough skin removal, but worth it! The downside though, is that there are A LOT of cherries in that bag. Like, a lot a lot, ya know? And we have no hope of eating all of them before they spoil. Today I came up with a solution–bake with them. Duh!

Zach, Emily, Isaac and I went to the park for a playdate with some friends. As we were leaving today, I was discussing our weekend BBQ plans with one of them. Upon asking, she suggested that I might bring a dessert or a side dish. Her 3-year-old piped up that I should definitely bring a dessert. How could I argue with that? After promising that I would bring some cupcakes, we all went home.

After Zach finished a marathon of a nap and we had dinner, we baked some Cherry Vanilla Cupcakes together. I’ve never made them before, so prior to feeding them to other people, I decided to test the recipe.

I used THIS recipe.

First of all, look at all of these cherries! Cherries for the cake. Cherries for the frosting. And cherries for the garnish. Cherries. There. I just wanted to say cherries one more time.

Lots of cherries

Then we dumped the ingredients.

Dumping the flour, we counted 8 "dumps" (or 2 cups by 1/4 cup scoops)

Then we stirred them.

He always says, "Stir, stir, stir" as he does this

Then we lick the beater.

Pretty much the entire reason he is so excited to bake with me

Don’t worry. We were done with the beater. Toddler spit will not be an ingredient in these cakes.

Then, we bake. Then, we eat.

Yum!

What did Zach learn today? Nothing new really. Though as always we like to count, count, count while we bake.

What did Mommy learn? Pitting up 30 some cherries is a lot of work.

Verdict on the recipe? It was good. Though I decided not to make the icing. Basically, to me, they were more muffin-like than cake-like. Probably because they are dubbed a “healthy” cupcake recipe. I will more than likely make a more traditional vanilla cupcake batter and just fold in cherries for the real deal. Though, these do make delicious “muffin-cakes”. You know what that means, right?? I’ll be eating one for breakfast tomorrow!

 

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.

 

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.