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A Year of Trying to be a Better Mom

Day 45: Jackson Pollock Painting June 3, 2010

I love it when things work out exactly as I had planned. It makes me feel a little like doing a diabolical villain laugh, “Muahahahahahahaha,” while tapping my finger tips together. Even though my intentions were clearly the opposite of diabolical!

Zach woke up this morning and asked to read a library book. He actually says it just like that, “Read library book, Mommy?” And if I don’t hear him, or do what he requests in an appropriate amount of time (read: 2 seconds after he asked), he starts repeating, “Library book. Library book. LIBRARY BOOK!” with increasing notes of whiny-ness and volume until I do.

So, I pulled out The Art Book for Children and we started to read about and look at the pictures. Reading through this book the entire way would be a bit like reading him the encyclopedia at this age, it’s very long. So we just flipped to a few of the pictures. One of them was on “my list” of project ideas from library books. The Jackson Pollock painting, Number 1, 1948.

Number 1, 1948 by Jackson Pollock

As we were looking at this painting, and the corresponding photos that went with it, showing Pollock doing the “splatter” method, Zach pointed to him and said, “Color?” Which was his way of asking if Pollock was coloring. To which I replied, “He’s painting, which is kind of like coloring. Do you want to paint?” Zach happily replied, ‘Yeah!!” And this mama did a victory dance! That’s exactly how I wanted it to go!

So I went to the kitchen and got us all set up.

Craft paper, spoons (and anything else you might want to paint with), painters/masking tape, paints and containers all on a drop cloth

Then I taped a piece of the paper to the drop cloth, so that when we started painting it would stay put. I also squirted some paint into my containers and then thinned it out a bit with water (for maximum splatter-ability).

Paper secured to the floor

Paint into containers

Thinned with water

Then I just let him have at it. I showed him how to fling the paint on the spoons onto the paper to make the splatter marks and he went to town.

Splatter painting

After a few times splattering with each color, Zach asked if his tractor could paint. And I thought, why not? It would probably look pretty cool and it’s a great way to let him use his imagination and creativity. So we rolled the tractor in the paint splatters to make cool looking tire treads on the paper. Then we looked around for other things to paint with. One was a circle (it’s actually a screw on lid to our Magic Bullet containers, if anyone has one of those to reference). We also used a shovel by smacking the flat end of it down onto the paper with paint. And a tennis ball, by rolling it around in the paint (it looks a lot like sponge painting). Ironically, the very last thing Zach asked for was a paint brush!

Painting with a "tractor"

Brush painting

In the end, I think we got some very Pollock-like results!

The artist and his work

Number 1, 2010 by Zachary

What did Zach learn today? To let his creative juices flow and think outside the box. Of course, painting gives an opportunity to learn about colors and textures too and we did talk about that a little bit, but for the most part, today was about free-flowing creativity.

What did Mommy learn today? That his little imagination is always going. I bet if the dinosaur would have been nearby, we’d have painted with that too.

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Day 44: Flour Writing June 1, 2010

Filed under: colors,letters,sensory — Erin Brambilla @ 11:43 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Zach has been rather stubborn lately and does not want to be “taught”. Anytime I attempt to talk with him about what he is doing, or start a project, I am met with a refusal to continue to participate. This does not bode well for mommy blogging! I mean, doesn’t this 2-year-old know I’ve got an internet audience to please? Sheesh. So, today I thought I’d start with something I knew he’d like, sensory tubs,  and build around that. And it “kind of” worked.

I remembered a tutorial involving tracing letters in a tub of cornstarch. The cornstarch had been poured over some brightly colored cardboard. When the child traces the letters in the cornstarch, the color pops through and it’s like “magic”. So I decided to do a spin on that. Her tutorial calls for cardboard, markers and cornstarch. I did not have cardboard, shockingly. I only had a little bit of cornstarch. So, my improvisation involves a plastic tub, flour and construction paper.

Supplies:

Plastic tub, construction paper, flour, tape

I used colored construction paper folded up and placed in the tub, instead of coloring it as was shown in the tutorial, because I didn’t want to color my tub! So, I folded up the paper, placed it in the bottom of the tub and taped down.

Paper in the tub

Then I enlisted Zach to help me dump the flour into the tub.

Dump! Hey, look, the kid is wearing clothes today!

Then I took and patted and smoothed the flour down to make a clean surface to start out with. I traced the first line or two for Zach to see what happens. He thought it was pretty cool.

Flour spread out and patted down

Drawing lines in the flour to expose the colored paper

Drawing in the flour

After a while, he told me that his dinosaur was hungry. And that dinosaurs like to eat flour. So, the dinosaur had a little snack.

Unbeknownst to archaeologists the world over, T-Rex liked to eat All Purpose Flour

While he was busy using his imagination with his dinosaur, I thought I’d teach him to write the Letter D, for Dinosaur. So, I traced a letter D into the flour. And that’s when he was on to me. He did not want anything to do with a letter lesson. So, I thought maybe I’d ask him to help me dig for colors. I’d dig and brush the flour aside and say, “Oh my goodness! Look, I found a color! What color did I find???” and he wanted nothing to do with that either. Though he did ask me “What color flour is?”, which I thought was a pretty smart question, so I told him it was white. And then I just let him continue to play.

Eventually he spotted the tape I had set aside and asked for it. At first I told him no. And then I thought, “Why not?” I mean, we’re going for sensory, right, so why not talk about “sticky” (along with smooth and fluffy, but also gritty and grainy, when feeling the texture of flour and flour on paper, and taste..flour is edible). So I tore off a piece of tape or two and let him play with it. We saw how it was sticky at first, but not sticky any more once we stuck flour to the tape.

Sticky tape

Not sticky anymore

And that was pretty much the whole of our lesson. Yes, we did make a grand old mess doing this!

That's one flour covered little boy

I just love a messy face, even when that face refuses to smile for the camera

What did Zach learn today? To talk about the senses some more. About color. To look beneath the surface (whoa…deep). Imaginative play.

What did Mommy learn? That she needs to figure out how to get his attention again.

 

Days 41, 42 and 43: Memorial Day Weekend

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 40: Library

Our Library

We go to the library about once a week, so I thought I’d take this day to recognize it. Because, I LOVE the library. Let me count the ways. One, I hope it helps instill a love of reading in my children. Two, I hope it pushes them to do well academically in the future. Three, the books we read inspire project ideas. Four, our books at home get kind of tired and boring, so the library books spice it up a bit for FREE (and you know how I love free). Five, when I’m lucky and they are available, I can check out passes to go to the city museums for FREE (again with the free thing). And Six, I usually make a gratuitous stop at Dunkin Donuts on the way home for a cup of my very favorite coffee in the whole wide world. What could be bad about all of that?

Zach has started to become more and more excited about going to the library. I have to  be careful about telling him that we’ll be making the trip on days I’m planning to go there. If I tell him too early, he will DEMAND to go to the library and get extremely frustrated when we don’t leave right THEN.

I think, besides getting to take home books, he loves the little “his size” tables and chairs they have in the kids section. I try to take some time to read to him while we are there, provided the babies stay content and quiet. A crying baby’s volume is magnified about 10 times in a quiet library. So is a screaming toddler’s for that matter, but Zach is usually pretty good.

The library also stocks a bin full of crayons and a stack of coloring books in the kids section. And while Zach will almost always refuse to color at home without a lot of prompting, he will do it happily at the library.

In the past, I’ve let him color while I walked around the children’s section and picked out books on his behalf. Today, I decided, I would let him pick the books. No matter what he picked (and there are some interesting choices), we would take it home.

Zach’s book picking process is not super involved. Basically he walks around, randomly grabs a book of the shelf and hands it to me. I’m not sure he even looks at it. But, if I tried putting it back thinking it might not have been an appropriate book for him (too long, too short, over his head, whatever), he seriously protested. So, I kept them all. Funny thing is, I think we’ll all learn a few things. And I think I’ve got some project ideas already cooking up to go along with some of these.

Here are our selections:

I Like It When… by Mary Murphy

It’s a book about a baby bird (penguin??) and a caregiver bird (maybe a mommy, maybe a daddy, maybe a grandparent, it could be anyone). The baby bird is telling the caregiver all the things he or she likes it when they do. Pretty simple and all stuff any kid will recognize.

Musicians of the Sun by Gerald McDermott

This one is written by a Caldecott Medal Winner, so you know the pictures are good. It’s a story about an Aztec Legend. The book’s pictures have lots of interesting shapes and colors. I can see an art project or two coming out of it. Along with obvious shape and color lessons.

The Emperor and the Kite by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Ed Young

This book did win the Caldecott Medal, so again, great imagery. Zach really liked it when we flew kites. He also loves the episode of Little Einsteins where they rescue Dragon Kites (again…there I go with TV). I think we’ll do a project where we make a dragon kite. The story is about an emperor’s tiny daughter and how she saves him with her kite. It’s kind of a neat story that illustrates how even very small people can accomplish big things. And a lesson to adults to not take anyone for granted.

The Art Book for Children Phaidon

This is more of a reference book with a lot of famous paintings, sculptures, drawings, etc. The text will be a little much for Zach, but we can look through it and talk about shapes, colors, feelings, etc. One of the paintings in the book is Number 1, 1948 by Jackson Pollock. It’s kind of a splatter painting. I think we’ll make our own. I bet Zach would have fun with it! Here is the painting:

Number 1, 1948 by Jackson Pollock

The City Kid & The Suburb Kid by Deb Pilutti

This book could become relevant if we ever move to the suburbs one day. It’s a story, told from two points of view. A boy from the city and a boy from the suburbs each take turns visiting each other. Each one tells their point of view of how the other one lives. It’s been called a new twist on the Aesop fable The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse.

It should be interesting to go through all of these books with Zach, and I certainly can’t wait to do the art projects. Many of the books are very long, for a 2-year-old, so we’ll have to see how that plays out, but I can get the basic story across and we can always break them up.

What did Zach learn today? The excitement of picking out his own books, which is really teaching him it’s OK to make his own choices.

What did Mommy learn? That Zach makes some rather interesting choices. And he seemed to be drawn to some very colorful books!

 

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 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 37: Tie Dyed Milk May 25, 2010

Tie dyed milk. No, not a fashion statement. A science experiment.

This activity came to me from my friend A.  It’s from THIS website. She’s actually the one (whether she knows it or not) who introduced me to the No Time For Flashcards blog, where I get many, many ideas from. So I knew this would be good. Thanks A!!

The experiment is super easy to set up, uses common household items (I did not need to buy anything to do this). The concepts in the experiment can be taken as deep and complex as you want them too. I mean, it talks about chemical bonds and molecules! My 2-year-old is NOT ready to grasp the concept of chemical bonds and molecules. But he is ready for things like, “Watch this!” and then, repeating it, “What do you think happens now?” and let’s not forget, “What color is this?”, “Can you use the green one?”, etc. He may or may not be WILLING to answer me, but a mom can try.

Supplies:

A dinner plate, food coloring, 2% (or whole) milk, dish soap, cotton swabs

Zach and I headed out onto the deck and I set everything up. I said, “Hey, let me show you something cool”. I set the supplies up and was getting ready to grab the food coloring when Zach decided HE wanted to do it. I probably should have jut let him, but the controlly mom in me told him no (I was freaking about the mess…since when, right?!). From that point on he only indifferently watched me do this, but I did get a little bit of participation out of him. My husband and I thought this was the coolest thing though!.

Zach reaching for the food coloring saying, "Color back! Want color back!" which means, "Give that to me. NOW."

So the first thing I did was pour the milk onto the plate (I actually used a pasta plate, which is a bit deeper than a regular dinner plate) and let it settle so it was still. Then I took and added one drop each of red, green, blue and yellow food coloring (color lesson!) into the milk, pretty close together.

Color in the milk

Then I took a regular cotton swab and dipped the tip into one of the colors. It is important to note that I did not stir the color, just dipped the swab in. Then I asked Zach to watch what happens. It’s pretty uneventful. Mostly the cotton swab turns from white to green and the milk lies undisturbed.

Dipping the plain cotton swab

We repeated this for another time or two. Then I dipped the cotton swab in some dish soap. I said to Zach, “Watch the milk move now! It’s going to move fast!” Then I dipped the soap covered swab into a color in the milk. Magic happens!

It disperses. Magic!

Then I let Zach try it out.

This time I let him do the food coloring drop. He was very good.

Dipping the swab in the soap

Making the milk move

Then I let him swirl the swab around a bit and it started to look like a tie dyed t-shirt. Or even a Van Gogh painting! So we talked about that. We went to the library last week and picked up a book called Make Van Gogh’s Bed by Julie Appel and Amy Guglielmo. It’s a “touch the art” book with pictures of very famous paintings and portions of those paintings have been made interactive and touchable. And while these activities are to reduce the amount of TV Zach watches, I have to say I was amazed as we were reading these books that he recognizes some of the paintings from watching Little Einsteins on the Disney Channel. I guess TV isn’t ALL bad. Anyway, here is the book.

Here is a painting in it (I’m sure you recognize it!):

Starry Night by Van Gogh

And here is what the milk looked like at the very end, similar?? Maybe it’s a stretch, but it was good to discuss art with Zach!

Kind of swirly and starry looking, like a Van Gogh painting

Anyhow, art look-alike or not, I made sure that Daddy read Zach that particular book before bed tonight.

What did Zach learn today? Hopefully a little bit about questions and answers and the scientific process. 2-year-olds (or young children in general) are naturally “scientific”. Whether they vocalize it or not, they are always experimenting–“What happens if I push this button? Oohhh…it makes a noise. What if I push it again? And again? And again?” That’s how they learn. It’s fun to teach them something that sort of naturally flows with that line of thinking. “What happens if I touch the blue color? Oooh, it moves. What about the green color? It moves too!!” Oh, and maybe an art lesson too (and colors, yada, yada).

What did Mommy learn? Well, this: “When you add soap [on the cotton swab], the weak chemical bonds that hold the proteins in solution [in the milk] are altered. It becomes a free-for-all! The molecules of protein and fat bend, roll, twist, and contort in all directions. The food coloring molecules are bumped and shoved everywhere, providing an easy way to observe all the invisible activity.” according to the writers of the experiment.