525/600:

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.)

Advertisements
 

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 38: Easter Eggs May 26, 2010

Say Wha??? Hold on, let me check my calendar.Yep. May 26th. Wednesday. NOT Easter. But why should Easter Sunday get to hog all the fun of these plastic little gems (that sit in my cupboard the other 364 days a year)?

I mean, look at what you can do with them.

You can put them in water and catch them with your net:

You can group them by color:

You can make them sink by pouring water into them:

You can push them around and roll them:

You can sit in a tiny tub of water like it’s a swimming pool and count them:

And you can even eat your lunch out of them:

Cherries

Carrots

Cheerios

I stopped at putting the peanut butter in the eggs, so it's on spoons

Cool, right?

See, no need to hold out for Easter!

What did Zach learn today? How fun using non everyday objects can be to do everyday things. And we talked about the principles of sinking or floating (and colors..again).

What did Mommy learn today? I think kids just don’t eat their veggies if they don’t want too. I’m losing this battle big time. I mean, I put the carrots IN and EASTER EGG. Fun, right? Nope. Not eaten. Those cherries were gone in 2 seconds though!

Also, I’ve been doing some sensory stuff with the babies. They got to feel soft and silky when I gave them some Lovies. And splashed in the water today too.

Emily and her Lovie

Isaac says, 'Grr...I'll eat you up Lovie!"

Chunky Isaac feet splashing in the water

Emily feet in the water

 

Day 35: Hot Day, Cool Pool May 24, 2010

Filed under: daddy,water play — Erin Brambilla @ 9:35 pm
Tags: , , ,

90 + degrees in May? Crazy I tell you!! Yes, I’m the girl who complains that it’s cold at 50 in spring time and then can’t handle the heat when it comes. 72 is perfect I say! No need to be warmer (or colder) than that. But, when it IS warmer than that, there’s no better relief for a kid than a kiddie pool and a squirty hose.

The morning on Sunday started out pleasant and then very quickly went to blistering. After coming home from church and eating lunch, Pete set up the kiddie pool in the back yard for Zach.

This activity was all about fun and refreshment (and burning 2-year-old energy). I suppose I could have thought of a lesson, but it doesn’t always HAVE to be about that. Zach and Daddy spent some time playing in the backyard and bonding. Zach loves having Daddy time, so this was perfect!

He is having too much fun

Looking at me upstairs on the deck and deciding to try and get me with the hose. He ended up hitting his sister with the spray. She was not happy. So it begins.

What did Zach learn today? To have fun in the sun! And probably that hose water is super cold (do kids even notice that kind of thing?).

What did Mommy learn today? Simple things are so joyful. Like cold water in a little pool.

 

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 16: Flowers May 5, 2010

Filed under: colors,flowers,patterns,planting,sensory,water play — Erin Brambilla @ 12:14 am
Tags: , , , , ,

It’s that time of year. The time where flower boxes are being planted in a frenzy to complete some NEED within us to beautify our spaces. This is more challenging for me than others. I have what is not the opposite of a green thumb, but close to it. This will be the 3rd summer of flower box planting for me. The first summer was pretty near disastrous. It got so bad that I pretty much gave up on my flowers and then  my father in law came over for a week and replanted for me! I was equal parts embarrassed and grateful (thanks Wally!).

Last summer, it went better. Not awesome. But better. I planted a few varieties of flowers in each box and they were colorful and lovely. But in the end the ONLY flowers that survived were the Geraniums. I think those things could survive nuclear war. So this year, I just went with what works. ALL Geraniums. Pink and Red.

Given how much Zach likes to play with dirt, and that I still can’t share our super secret craft projects yet this week, we have another planting/playing in the dirt activity today.

To begin, Zach was helpful. He was there with shovel (and dump truck, of course) to help me take the dirt out of the bag and get it into the flower boxes. These pics will probably look a lot like when we planted the marigold seeds!

Home Depot's finest Geraniums

Getting the dirt (he looks a lot like Pete in this pic, I think)

It's like we have our own excavating company!

After a little while though, this was a “been there, done that” situation for Zach and I still had 2 more boxes to plant. So, I set him up with his next favorite thing: bowls of water. I thought this was a good idea because it was kind of hot sitting on the deck in the direct sunlight and the water would be nice. Well, I should have SEEN where that would get me. Dirt. Water. 2-year-old. There is only ONE place it COULD go…MUD! But mud is fun, right?

In this one I showed him what happens when he uses the old flower pots w/ the holes as a "scoop", all the water runs out like a shower. He was AMAZED and delighted by this.

And then the good, "clean" fun turned into MUD

He is completely covered.

As dirty (and possibly scary looking) as that was, I’m glad I let him do it! One, he loved it, obviously. But two, it was kind of a science experiment for him. I talked with him about what was happening to the water when the dirt went in. About what happened to the dirt when it got wet. We talked about how different the mud felt from the water and the dirt. Luckily he kept it pretty much contained and didn’t fling it! Now that I think of it, his brother and sister were sleeping dangerously close by this little experiment!

While he played away, I continued on with the other 2 flower boxes. And well, they honestly got done much quicker without his assistance. I also tried to point out to him the colors of the flowers and their leaves. I planted them in a pink/red/pink/red pattern and tried to talk about that too. But at this point in time, mud had his full attention (and that’s OK!).

At the end of it all, the flowers were planted and one dirty boy got his second bath of the day. Oh yeah, and we tested out the “super secret Mother’s Day project” and it works fabulously.

With Aqua Globes and all

All clean again. I asked him to smile, this is the look he gave me. At least he's looking at the camera!

What did Zach learn today? What happens when dirt gets mixed with water. Some color and pattern lessons.

What did Mommy learn today? If you give a boy dirt, he WILL make mud. And that I could probably have squeezed one more plant into each flower box, but I didn’t have the flowers and wasn’t going to wait to get more!

 

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!