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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.)

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Days 26, 27 and 28: Repeats, Mommy Out and Mother’s Day Reveal May 17, 2010

This weekend Mommy hosted and participated in a rite of passage we all call a Bachelorette Party. Anyone who has been to a B-Party lately will tell you that they are no longer one night of partying, they are weekend long extravaganzas. While Mommy was out having fun, Daddy was on duty with the kids. You can give him his cookie now.

So, since I was for the most part absent this weekend, I’ll run through a quick retelling of the events and then will reveal the details of last week’s Top Secret Mother’s Day projects! Woot!

Day 26, Friday, Repeat: Today Zach learned the art of waiting for delayed airport guests :). While we waited for friends to arrive, we busied ourselves doing what I like to call the “Hurry up and clean! PEOPLE are coming!” dance.  After our guests arrived and Zach charmed them with his freshly awoken from nap shyness, he asked me for a repeat activity. And, well, I never promised we’d do NEW activities everyday. Just that we’d do SOMETHING. So, we took a repeat visit to the Car Wash, since that’s what he wanted.

Day 27, Saturday, Mommy Out: Friday evening I left to stay at a hotel with the girls. So, Pete was on duty. So here is Saturday, as told by Pete:

Actually, Pete’s entry will come later. Whenever he writes it. In the meantime, here are the pictures from what they did.

Took the "SUV" out for a spin

Went to the playground

Went to Lincoln Square

Learned to fly oak tree "helicopters"

Off it goes!

Day 28, Sunday Sundae: Sunday’s are fun for Zach because he gets to spend time in the nursery at church. It’s his time to see friends his age, play with toys, do arts and crafts and eat snacks. I am told that Zach sometimes can’t be bothered to stop playing with toys to participate in the craft, but he never. EVER. misses snack. This does not surprise me. Then after he woke up from his nap, we went for a walk as a family and got some ice cream at George’s. I ordered myself the most DIVINE chocolate ice cream in the whole wide world, Zanzibar Chocolate and got it in a cake cone. It’s a little serving of bliss and whimsy all at once. I ordered Zach his typical plain vanilla in a cup with a spoon. Today though, he decided he wanted MY ice cream. And nothing was going to stop him from getting it. So, wanting to avoid a big, public temper tantrum, I gave in on this battle and switched ice cream with him. I hope he knows how much I love him. I don’t give up Zanzibar Chocolate for just anyone.

Anyway, I so wish we’d have thought to bring the camera. He had chocolate ice cream everywhere. Up his nose. All over his face. His shirt. His arms. His hands. Man, did he love that Zanzibar Chocolate. He is his mother’s son.

And that pretty much covers our weekend!!

So, to update you on our Super Top Secret Mother’s Day Projects That Can Now Be Revealed. We did 2 handmade crafts for the 3 grandma’s. Both using items that you can recycle from your own home and probably have sitting around right NOW.

The first was Milk Jug Watering Cans. I read so many kid blogs these days that it’s hard to say for sure if I read about it or not. But I’m 99% certain I came up with this one on my own. Woot!

First. Drink a lot of milk. We needed 3 watering cans. So, 3 gallons of milk. That’s part of the reason this particular set of projects took a few days to complete, we had to go through those gallons first. Also, the 2-year-old only has a certain amount of patience for crafts. Doing 3 jugs at once was not happening, but spaced out over a few days was fine. Even if his only job was to scribble.

So, I washed out the milk jug and removed the labels. Then, I took a fondue fork and heated it up over my stove flame. I used it like a hot poker to make holes in the milk cap, arranged like you would see on a watering can. I ran some cold water over the cap after that was done, just to kind of harden the plastic that had softened from the heat.

Water holes

Before going further, I decided to test out the watering can on my own plants, just to make sure it would actually work. It does.

A working watering can made out of a milk jug

Then, I had my child use permanent markers to color on the jugs. We did this BEFORE the infamous dining room table incident and is where we got the permanent markers to use for that other project. But, I used permanent in this case because these jugs are meant to be used to hold and pour water. I figured washable markers would run right off of it eventually, especially if they get stored outside. I did attempt to make them a bit prettier with my own embellishments, but wonder if I should have left well enough alone. Oh well!

Coloring the jug

Pretty

We did this times 3 for our specific number of grandmas. But you should do whatever number you need. In case you couldn’t figure that out.

Then, I tied some ribbon to each handle, just to be festive. And the watering cans were complete. Easy peasy.

Finished projects

The next project we did was coffee filter flowers. These were also super duper easy to make. I got the inspiration for our project from two sources. Here and Here.

I used new coffee filters to make my flowers, but I love the idea of recycling used ones. I certainly drink enough coffee (actually, it’s my only means of survival!), but this particular week I was out of them and so was boy scouting my coffee filters out of paper towels. A trick my roommate in college taught me. He said he learned to do it in boy scouts, hence why I called it that. So, I bought brand new ones so I wouldn’t need to do that, but did not have enough time to drink  enough coffee to recycle them. Make sense?

Anyway–my supplies:

Coffee filters, spray bottles with water mixed with food coloring inside

and

Green construction paper, a black marker and pipe cleaners and scissors (which are not pictured, oops)

First, I took some spray bottles and filled them with water. Then I added a few drops of food coloring in each bottle. This actually took more food coloring than I anticipated. Just a drop or two will instantly turn your (hopefully) clear water into what appears to be a deep hue. But, after spraying a filter or two, I figured out that it actually required more like 10 drops per bottle to color the filters properly. There is still a lot of dyed water left in each bottle after this though, so we will certainly use it for other projects.

Then, I had Zach spray the coffee filters with the dyed water. The spray bottles are actually difficult for him to use. They took a lot of pressure to push the pump down and he would get frustrated, so we did it together. I think a trigger style sprayer would be easier for the little ones. Or maybe we just had especially difficult spray bottles.

Zach spraying the filters

All colored and drying out

After the filters were dry, I took each one and gathered it around my finger in the center of the filter. Then I wrapped a green pipe cleaner (which they now call chenille stems these days, fancy huh?) around each gather to attach the “stem” to the “bloom”.

Connecting the flower to the stem

Then I just kind of spread the filter out a bit to make it look more flower-ish.

Unfurling the bloom

It almost looks like a real flower

After I created all of the flowers, I made some leaves out of the green construction paper. I folded the paper in half and drew a rough leaf shape. I drew it along the folded edge so that when I cut it out there was a crease in the middle of the leaf. This crease would be the part that wrapped around the stem. The leaves created a kind of “card” effect. I made 1 leaf per flower.

Drawing the leaves

All cut and ready to go

After Zach got up from his nap, I asked him to help me with the next part. I asked him what he loved about his grandmas. This was a little bit of an abstract concept to him, especially since his grandmas weren’t there with him. So we looked at some pictures on the computer. I was kind of prompting him, I’ll admit, but he did recognize his grandmas and answered yes when I asked if he liked the things they were doing in the pictures or things that the grandmas do when they are here.

On the front of a leaf I would write, “I love my grandma because…” and on the inside I wrote a reason (“she gives me cookies” or “she plays trains with me” or “she reads me books”, etc.). Other leaves said, “Happy Mother’s Day” on the outside and “Love, Zachary” on the inside.

Outside of the leaf

Inside of the book

If I were to do this again, I’d make the writing on the outside a little further from the crease. It got difficult to keep the glue away from the writing when I did the next step, which was to glue the leaves to the flower stems. Once the leaves were all glued on and dried, our bouquets were complete. 2 flowers for each grandma. And an extra for mommy. Because I want one.

Finished flowers

Oh Grandma, I love you just as much as I love my sippy cup of milk. Happy Mother's Day.

What did Zach learn? Patience. That worthwhile activities are worth repeating. About gravity and toys don’t always need batteries. The concept of love, even when those we love are far away. That we give gifts for special occasions.

What did Mommy learn? Once again, Daddy can handle himself with the kids, even overnight by himself. That worthwhile activities are worth repeating. That I am not 22 years old anymore (we did this cardio dance class that I am STILL sore from 2 days later. OUCH!).

What did Daddy learn? That it’s not so easy getting 3 kids out of the house by yourself in a timely fashion.

 

Day 15: Super Top-Secret Post May 4, 2010

Filed under: flowers,playground — Erin Brambilla @ 12:17 am
Tags: , ,

The next few days will be interesting when it comes to posting. I debated how I should do this. You see, there is a very special holiday coming up. It’s called Mother’s Day. You might have heard of it. Well, Zach and I have been working on some very special projects for this holiday to send to certain grandmothers we know. And, well, these grandmothers read this blog (so they tell me 🙂 ). We wouldn’t want these certain grandmother’s to get a sneak peek at what may or may not arrive in their mailboxes, possibly on time, for Mother’s Day and ruin the surprise, now would we??

But, I DO promise you all that after certain grandmothers have opened said special projects and it’s safe to let the cats out of the bags, I will post FULL updates and tutorials on said super top-secret special projects.

Aside from that, today was GORGEOUS outside. Zach asked me very nicely to “Walk, stroller?” and I had to say yes. It was definitely a playground day. So, the three kids and I took off for the park to enjoy the weather.

Before we left, Zach did pick me yet ANOTHER dandelion bouquet.

Better than a dozen roses! Unless you are my husband, in which case, you are not allowed to give me dandelions and call it a day

And then I tried to teach him about the other fun things his favorite “flower” can do. But well, teaching a kid blow on something is hard! He’d “pretend” to blow. Like, purse his lips and make a blowing noise, but not actually push out any air. In fact, he pretty much just spit on it. I will have to make it my goal to teach this kid to blow on a dandelion this week. And then, it will later be our goal to pull all the weeds from our lawn, but hey..I may end up desperate for ideas for activities. So I’ll just call it “lesson planning”.

What do you mean this does something else?

Pretending to blow on the flower

After several failed attempts and finally getting bored of the dandelions, we went to the park for a sunshine filled day of swings and slides. Today, Isaac decided to not sleep through it and join us. And since I’m SUCH a good mother, I forgot a sun hat for him. So, I let him wear Zach’s because Zach got sick of wearing it himself. Isn’t it cute on Isaac?

Isaac wearing Zach's hat. It's the perfect accessory to footed PJs.

What did Zach learn today? That dandelions turn from fun yellow flowers into something else. Hopefully he’ll figure out how to blow on them soon!

What did Mommy learn today? That teaching someone to blow is kind of hard. He knows how to blow into his whistle and harmonica toys, so I’m not sure what’s not translating here. But we’ll get to the bottom of it, don’t worry!!

 

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.