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.


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 25: The Little Green Frog Song May 13, 2010

Filed under: music,songs — Erin Brambilla @ 11:40 pm
Tags: , , ,

Today’s activity takes me back to my high school years, specifically to times spent with my church youth group. One of my fellow youth group members taught us this song. I can’t recall if we were doing some sort of manual labor at the time, or if we were just hanging out wherever the girls were all sleeping that week. Either way, this little kids song caught on. My best friend, Jill, and I made it our official theme song. Looking back, I’m sure we annoyed the snot out of everyone else, but WE had fun. And that’s what matters.

So, much more age appropriately today, I decided to teach Zach this song. We were out running errands today and found ourselves stuck in the car for a while waiting on something. Boredom started to strike, so I looked into my song arsenal and pulled out the BIG one. The Little Green Frog Song.

I’m going to teach it to you all to. Because it’s fun and easy to sing. But I must tell you. The facial expressions are a CRUCIAL part of singing this song. Without them, it’s just a song. With them, its pure genius. I also must warn you that I am about to post some VERY unflattering pictures of myself here. Like, I can’t believe I’m about to post them in this most public of forums, they are THAT bad. But, in the name of music here goes.

The Little Green Frog Song

Oom Ah! Went the little green frog one day.
Oom Ah! Went the little green frog.
Oom Ah! Went the little green frog one day.
And his eyes went Oom Ah! Oom Ah Ah!

Those are the lyrics and the facial expressions go like this:

First, you scrunch your whole face up to say “Oom”


Then you open your eyes and mouth really wide and stick out your tongue as you say, “Ah!”


Yes, you WILL look as ridiculous as me doing this. But like I said. It’s CRITICAL to the success of the song. You will sing it, and do the facial expressions at the appropriate times (doubling up for the “Ah! Ah!” on the last line) and your 2-year-old will giggle and laugh and make you sing it over and over and over again. And he will learn this song faster than ANY song you have ever taught him before.

Later on that night, when Daddy came home, we did a special performance just for him. Zach decided a piano accompaniment was needed. I do think it makes a nice addition. Though our neighbors might not.



Zach is much cuter singing this song than me, obviously. But he’s 2. That means he’s cuter than me doing pretty much anything.

What did Zach learn today? Well, a new song, obviously. But learning and singing songs helps him with a lot of things: memory, rhythm, tone (well, maybe not if Mommy is the one signing to him), how to carry a melody, even pattern. it also instills confidence in himself as we clap and cheer him on.

What did Mommy learn today? I knew that Zach responds to music very well. I just had no idea how much fun he’d have with this one today. I’m going to have to find others like it.


Day 8 (10081-11520m): Letter A April 26, 2010

Filed under: Craft,letters,music,sensory — Erin Brambilla @ 5:29 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Today’s lesson brought to you by: The Letter A. A for Animal. And Animal Crackers.

A few months ago, while shopping at a certain “R Us” store, I came across the world’s biggest bag of Animal Crackers. Not only was it huge, it was CHEAP. And since I’m a sucker for things in bulk, especially cheap things in bulk, I bought them. The strange part was that up until that time, I couldn’t even tell you if Zach had ever eaten an animal cracker. Talk about a gamble. Even cheap things are a total waste of money if they don’t get used. Luckily, that was never an issue. After serving Zach his morning snack today, I think I have one serving of AC’s left and then they are gone.

So today I decided to make him work for those crackers. After discussing the fabulousness that was the bowl of beans with another mommy friend of mine, she said that she fills a plastic tub up with uncooked rice and has her son look for hidden objects in it. Great. I have a plastic tub. I have a plethora of uncooked rice (actually, another instance of cheap things bought in bulk, only this time gone very, very wrong. It will take us 20 years to eat all the rice I have in this house. Sometimes Costco can be just TOO alluring). So I hid some animal crackers in the rice and told him to hunt for animals.

Creating a future archaeologist, digging for animals

Reaping the benefits of hard work

Oh, and I promise I will not make this a blog of my son playing with random household items in bowls everyday for a year. This just happens to work out for today.

While he hunted for animals (and found them all and asked for more animals) I prepared today’s simple craft. An Animal A. I realize that this A looks more like a Cat, which would be great for the letter C…but I wanted to tie it in to animal crackers and well, this is what I came up with! A is for Animal.

I drew and cut out a simple block A. Then I cut out 3 strips of black paper and cut them in half to make whiskers and 2 triangles to make ears.

An "A" and the trimmings

Then I asked Zach to come help me with some glueing. He decided that sitting on my lap would be more fun for this, so I couldn’t take any pics. And that’s OK, because I’ll sacrifice the beauty of the blog for toddler cuddles. Gotta get ’em in when I can! So, we glued the A to a sheet of white paper. Then we put some glue in the middle of the A and stuck the whiskers on. Then we put some glue at the top of the A for the ears. I wrote “A is for Animal” underneath. And there you have it. An Animal A. And well, even if it looks more like a cat, he’s been saying, “Letter A. Animal Crackers” quite a bit today! I must be on to something.

A is for Animal. Hey, a cat is an animal!

Since Zach loves to sing songs, I totally ripped one off of a toy to sing today–the Leapfrog Fridge Phonics song. It’s not even a toy we OWN. But I’ve seen it at friends’ houses. And the people who lived above us had one. I never saw theirs. But I CAN tell you their daughter played with it EVERY day. And I could hear the song so often I’ll forever have it memorized. So, I sang this with Zach today and he REALLY liked it. We sang it over and over and over again. And the best part, you can do it for every letter of the alphabet. Today we just did “A”. Here are the lyrics:

An “A” says “AH!”
An “A” says “AH!”
Every letter makes a sound
An “A” says “AH!” (and “AY!”)

It’s kind of to the tune of Farmer in the Dell. Very catchy and the kids pick it up really quick.

I’ve also been pointing out letter A’s as we’ve seen them printed today. I’m going to focus on the letter all week and then do another letter the next week and the next. You get the idea. Hopefully this starts to stick.

What did Zach learn today? Hopefully some phonics of the letter A. And what the letter A looks like.

What did Mommy learn today? That there are about a million better ways to dress up the letter A. Like, I could have done animal prints for Animal. Or animal stickers. Or glue the animal crackers to the letter A. Oh well, this is letter of the week, so I can do some more obvious ones too. Like Apple. Or Alligator.


Day 5 (5761-7200m): Paper Plate Tambourine April 23, 2010

Filed under: Craft,music,sensory — Erin Brambilla @ 4:06 pm
Tags: , , ,

Zach adores music. He also likes to shake things. Paper plate tambourines are like the perfect combination of two loves. Kind of like peanut butter and chocolate (yum).

Today’s activity also came with a bonus! More on that later!!

Today’s supplies:


2 sturdy paper plates, glue dots (or staples & stapler if you have that instead), hole punch, ribbon, scissors, dried beans (or pasta or rice..or whatever..buttons even!), stuff to decorate the plates (we used stickers today).

First, I had Zach put stickers on the back of the paper plates. We had an assortment of stars, happy faces and transportation stickers to play with. Festive!

That's a good spot for a sticker

Hmmm...which one do I want?

After he was done stickering to his heart’s content, I put some beans in a measuring cup and had him pour the beans on the plate. This was FUN.

There's something very satisfying about the "sssssspppp" noise the beans make sliding out of the cup and onto the plate

Beans on a plate. And this time I'm not trying to convince him to eat them (though he did do some of that!).

Now is the part where Mommy has to do some work before any music can be made. And there’s not much more activity to keep the 2-year-old occupied. That is BAD news. If I lose his interest here, the project will be lost. But never fear. A BRILLIANT idea has popped into my head. I only used maybe 1/4-1/2 cup of beans, which means there is practically an entire bag still left! Thanks to my recent research in activities for this age group, I now know about Sensory Tubs. Oh, I am now a BIG fan of Sensory Tubs. So, hence today’s “Bonus” activity was born. And let me tell you, Zach LOVED this. All I had to do was get some sort of a big container, put the sensory objects in (the beans) and let him feel away. I also gave him some cups and scoops. This activity was so much fun for him, that after we were done with the instrument making, I was actually able to unload and load the dishwasher, uninterrupted, while he played with the beans again. Good stuff!!

Beans in a bowl. What's more fun than that? They feel cool, and smooth, and round...kind of like rocks.

Now, while Zach played with the beans, I got to work. First I glue dotted around the plate. In hindsight I should have dotted closer together, some beans did spill out when we shook the final product and I had to go back and sneak them in the spaces (much harder than just putting them on the open plate). Staples would also work well to put the plates together, but we didn’t have any. After I put the two plates together, I hole punched around the plate to lace some ribbons through. The ribbons make it look pretty fun.

Glue dots. I'd do twice as many next time.

Hole punched

Pete will be happy to know that I used some leftover ribbons from our wedding!!

Lacing through

All done. It's a masterpiece.

Now, for the next fun part. A rousing rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star accompanied by the Tambourine.

It was difficult to get a decent pic, too much shakin' goin' on

Oh, the difficult to master "over the head shake". I think I have a prodigy on my hands!

What did Zach learn today? Some shape and color lessons, especially with the star stickers (they were solid colors). He also did some sensory exploration.

What did Mommy learn today? That sensory tubs ROCK. And that any song can be tambourine appropriate, just shake away. Also perfect for kitchen dance parties. These were so much fun, I might come up w/ a wrist rattle version for Em & I to join the band. Oh and I should have read a tutorial like THIS one before starting. I would have known to glue closer together right away!