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A Year of Trying to be a Better Mom

Birthday Cake for the President August 5, 2010

Lately Zach has been very into the idea of birthdays. The trouble is that our whole family has winter birthdays. Well, Pete’s may technically be spring, but March is still winter in my book! Last night Zach wished me a Happy Birthday. I explained to him that it wasn’t my birthday, but it was the president’s birthday and if he wanted, the next day we could make him a cake. Zach thought that was a good idea. Of course he did!

We had to go to the grocery store today for typical staples like bread and milk. I decided to keep this cake activity simple today and do store-bought. We walked down the cake aisle to pick out a mix. Hmmm. What kind of cake would the president like? Funfetti. Definitely Funfetti.

Yum. Funfetti.

Zach has done the cooking and baking thing a bunch of times. He really likes to help. So, I thought I’d try talking about some simple math with him today. I didn’t expect him to really understand at this point, but talking about it can’t hurt. So, rather than just counting the 3 eggs we put in, I asked him how many eggs we had left after each addition. So, after the first egg was added I said, “OK. We put in 1 egg. How many more do we need to make 3 eggs?” He said 2. Now, I think that was just a fluke, but hey, I congratulated him on the right answer! That’s how he learns.

Other things I talked about as we baked: where we live, the country, the leader of our country is the president, the president’s name is Barack Obama, it was Barack Obama’s birthday and that’s why we made this cake. By the end of the night if you asked him who the president was, he could say, “Brack Oh Mama!” Pretty close!

Cracking eggs, he's gotten good at this

Stirring

Nothing says "Presidential Birthday" like Funfetti cake

Once the cakes were baked is when the “Torture of the 2 1/2 Year Old” officially commenced. He wanted to eat it right away. But first, the layers had to cool completely. And then I had to frost them. And then we had to add sprinkles. And then he had to eat his dinner first before he could be allowed to eat any dessert. You’d have thought we were pulling his little fingernails out one by one they way he acted. But FINALLY it was time to eat.

I cut us each a slice and put a candle in Zach’s. And just like every birthday party he’s ever had, he began to cry hysterically. At first I thought it was because he was impatient and just wanted his cake. But now I think he might be scared of the candle! I’m not sure. We did manage to sing Happy Birthday to Barack Obama though.

What's a birthday cake without a candle?

Sobbing during the birthday song

Digging in

Now we're happy!

What did Zach learn today? Some simple math (or, at least I introduced him to the questions of simple addition and subtraction). He also learned who the president is. And patience. Oh patience. Waiting for cake is HARD. And tasting cake in all it’s stages is sensory learning (powder vs. batter vs. dry baked vs. frosted baked).

What did Mommy learn? Toddler patience is a hard-fought battle. He did surprisingly well, considering! Also, we need to figure out this birthday candle thing before his 3rd birthday!

 

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.