A Year of Trying to be a Better Mom

Day 31: Neighbors May 19, 2010

Today as we were standing on the deck debating what to have for dinner, our neighbor was out grilling some burgers and dogs on his charcoal grill. Zach spotted him and said, “Hi Art!” and then Pete, being neighborly, said, “Wow. Looks like you got a lot of burgers there!” and Art, being even MORE neighborly said, “You’re welcome to have some!” Then Pete looked at me and whispered, “There. You’re off the hook now.” As if he’d planned it to happen that way the whole time (and I suspect he did).

Zach has been sort of obsessed with the idea of neighbors lately. It’s sort of funny. He’ll stand at the living room windows and shout to the people down below, “Hewwooooo Ney-mohrs!” He’s a very cheerful neighbor. Last summer he would hide behind my leg when Art, our next door neighbor, would come out to say hello. This spring/summer, Zach is always on the hunt to find Art. It could be because Art always gives him food. Bananas usually. Sometimes a peach. Today it was a hot dog.

Hey, uh, you look like you got a lot of burgers there

Zach's new thing is to not take the food from you, but rather, eat it out of your hands and force you to feed it to him

After we came inside, I decided it would be a good time to teach Zach a lesson in saying thank you. Since Art was so generous with his food today, we decided to make him some Thank You Cookies. Specifically chocolate peanut butter no bake cookies because they don’t take much time to make (aside from waiting for them to harden) and I wanted to get them done before bedtime.

Pouring ingredients into the pan

Licking the peanut butter spoon

All dropped and cooling to harden

Once we finished making the cookies, I got Zach ready for bed and had him write a thank you card for Art. We will bring the cookies and card to him tomorrow. But not too early in the morning, because that would be un-neighborly.

Coloring the thank you card

It says, "Thank you for my hot dog, Art. From, Zachary"

What did Zach learn today? To be neighborly. And that showing gratitude is important. Mommy is not so good at the thank you cards, so hopefully Zach will be better than me as he grows up!! As a bonus, earlier in the day at the park, he learned to drink from a fountain for the first time!

Of course you know this resulted in him being drenched completely down the front, but he had fun!

What did Mommy learn today? That my husband is apparently quite resourceful. And I’m actually pretty shy when it comes to neighbor interactions. Dinner with Art was fun tonight, I should try to talk to my neighbors more often! Oh, and when having Zach color over something I’ve written for him, it’s actually a good idea to use a highlighter marker. The highlighter won’t block out the words on the page.


Day 12: Popcorn April 30, 2010

Filed under: colors,cooking,Craft,popcorn — Erin Brambilla @ 10:10 pm
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Oh, I was excited for today’s activity, well, tonight’s activity actually. I thought, “THIS will be cool.” And I had all these beautiful visions of how exciting this would be. Making popcorn. REAL popcorn (as opposed to microwave, which is clearly fake). But, alas, never underestimate the power of a 2 year old who would rather do pretty much anything else.

Here’s how I WANTED it to go tonight:

Tonight Zach and I made popcorn. I figure it’s the perfect Friday evening activity. Popcorn and a movie, I feel the start of a new tradition coming on!

While I was busy cooking our risotto for dinner, I had Zach do this simple craft. We made a picture of popcorn out of cotton balls. Trust me when I tell you that if you have some glue, paper plates, cotton balls and construction paper at home, you can make ANYTHING.

After devouring a delicious and healthy meal, Zach and I got started on the evening snack.

First, I put some oil in the pan.

Then, knowing Zach’s affinity for “dumping” things, I let him scoop and dump the popcorn kernels into the same pan. I used a pan with a clear lid so he could peek in and watch the magic happen.

I set him a safe distance back from the heat of the stove, but left him close enough to lean over and watch the action. I turned on the stove and started the rhythmic shaking back and forth. Since the shaking was so fun, we sang this little song:

“Popcorn! Popcorn! Pop! Pop! Pop! Shake it! Shake it ’til it’s hot!!”

Then when the kernels started jumping, I held the pan at an angle he could see. You should have seen his face light up!! Talk about something more exciting that watching cupcakes bake in the oven (which is something we all know he likes to do!!).

After the corn was popped, I poured some into a little cup and let him enjoy his evening snack!

Magical. Right? Here’s what REALLY happened:

While I got the risotto started for dinner tonight, I showed Zach how to do a simple craft. First, I drew a picture of a popcorn kernel on a piece of white paper.

Don't be jealous of my mad drawing skillz

Then I cut it out and set it on a paper plate (more for a place mat than anything else). I squeezed some glue out on another plate and laid out some cotton balls.


The idea was SO simple. Take a cotton ball, dip it into the glue, and place it on the picture of the popcorn kernel. The idea was to make it look fluffy, like a real popcorn kernel. I did a few to show Zach how it’s done, then I let him go to town. Except, well. He didn’t.

Pushing the artwork back to me

I joked with him. I asked him. I BEGGED him to “Please buddy. Will you do this project with me? We’re making popcorn. Just dip the ball into the glue. That’s all.” Nope. Not gonna happen. I did finally convince him to stay in his chair and do the craft with me by basically allowing him to grab my hand and direct it where to go. So, I’d grab a cotton ball. He’d grab my wrist and push it toward the glue, we’d dip the cotton ball. Then I’d say, “OK. Where does it go?” and he’d grab my wrist and push it towards the popcorn kernel picture. I guess that works.

After we’d glued all of our cotton balls on, I glued the picture to a piece of construction paper. What a masterpiece!

I know. It's just lovely

Then, after we ate our risotto, I called him over to the stove to help me make our evening snack. REAL popcorn!

Lovely golden kernels

I poured some oil into a saucepan, just enough to cover the bottom. Then I let him dump the kernels in (as well all know, Zach likes to “dump” things).

Dumping in the kernels (the stove is off at this point)

And this is where it all went downhill. I moved him aside and let him sit on the counter. If only popcorn kernels popped instantly!! That might have saved me. I thought it might go well. I leaned the pot at an angle for him to see it, I showed him it was a clear lid. I told him that the magical kernels would transform into something else. He glanced in my direction, somewhat indifferently. Then. The CHOCOLATE on the counter caught his eye. Darn you chocolate!!! Hershey Kisses in a tin, still leftover from when we made cupcakes last week (and really, leftover from long before that).

“Choc-it Mommy. Want Choc-it.”

The popcorn was a goner. I let him have one piece.

“OK buddy. Let’s watch for the popcorn.”

We watch. Nothing. Crud.

“Hey. I know what we can do! Let’s sing a popcorn song while we wait. It goes like this:

Popcorn! Popcorn! Pop! Pop!….”

He interrupts me, “Want down. Down.”

“But Zach! The popcorn. It’s going to start popping soon! Don’t you want to watch it?”

“Want down. Down. Down. DOWN!!!!”

I gave in, no use having him yell anymore. I set him on the ground and he happily ran away to find trucks. Maybe if I’d have let him scoop the popcorn with a dump truck, this may have gone better.

And wouldn’t you know it, the INSTANT he was out of sight, the corn started popping. Figures.

Of course, he had no problems EATING the popcorn.


I will say though. He did make me incredibly proud today. As I was getting ready to cook dinner, I pulled a pack of stop light peppers out (you know the green, red and yellow peppers packaged together). I needed them for the dish. He said, pointing to the peppers, ‘Mommy. What is it?” I said, “Bell Peppers”. And he repeated, “Oh, peppers.” I asked him to show me the red pepper. And he did! And just in case it was a fluke, I asked him which was the green pepper, and he got that too! Then, going for the hat trick (that’s a hockey term, for those who don’t know…GO WINGS), I asked him which was the yellow pepper and he got that one right too! I know that probably seems like not such a big deal, but for MONTHS absolutely everything, when you ask him what color it is, has been yellow. This proves that he has been learning. I love that!!

What did Zach learn today? What bell peppers are. And he showed me he knows at least 3 colors.

What did Mommy learn? Sometimes you just gotta press on and do this stuff yourself. Maybe we’ll get a book from the library about popcorn and talk it up for a few days first, instead of a few hours. And maybe if we make it in the middle of a day instead of at night, he might pay more attention.

Side note? Popcorn kernels would be excellent in both a sensory tub and a paper plate tambourine!


Day 10: Apple Pancakes April 28, 2010

Filed under: cooking,language development,letters — Erin Brambilla @ 4:58 pm
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Moving along with our Letter A theme this week, we made some applesauce pancakes this morning for breakfast. Cooking with Zach is one of my favorite activities to do with him. He seems to enjoy it as well. Watch out Emeril, Bobby and Tyler…Zach is coming through!

To begin, I started out with a recipe I found online: Mom’s Applesauce Pancakes. The only issue was that I didn’t have any pancake mix, as it calls for in the recipe. So, I also followed this one, up until the addition of wet ingredients: Good Old Fashioned Pancakes. So, taking the dry ingredients from the second recipe, I then followed the 1st one for the rest. I think using a homemade pancake mix is better anyway. Bisquick and other types of mixes have partially hydrogenated oils in them. Did you know that? Partially hydrogenated oils = trans fat = bad. And since it’s pretty much just as easy to take a few cups of flour and add a few teaspoons of baking powder as it is to scoop out some Bisquick, there’s really no love lost by making it yourself (and now I’ll step off of my ‘make things from scratch’ soap box). I had intended to use whole wheat flour instead of all purpose, but I didn’t have enough. Add that to the grocery list, please!

So, together with my assistant, we mixed up the ingredients.

Dumping in the flour

Stir, stir, stir

The process was pretty fun today. Zach is starting to become much more involved in it. Rather than just doing what I tell him, he’s beginning to recognize ingredients and what to do with them. For instance, he can crack an egg. That’s right, this crazy mom lets her 2-year-old crack eggs. With my hand VERY close by, he taps it gently on the counter, I take it from him to separate the shell and pour into the bowl. He’s also started asking questions with ingredients he may not recognize, like baking powder. I got out the container, and he said, “What is it?” and I said, “Baking powder”, and he said, “Oh,” as if that’s all the explanation he needed. Then I had to kindly ask him to stop sticking his finger in the bowl of baking powder and flour, it was SO not ready to taste yet! However, after the addition of other yummy stuff, a finger full might not be so bad. All good cooks taste first, right?

Let's see, does it need anything? Nope. It's just right.

While we were adding the Applesauce, today’s star ingredient, I was talking about A is for Apple, Apple Pancakes!! I chanted it over and over again. And he said, “Letter A. Animal Crackers!” As if I couldn’t be proud enough of that recollection alone, he added a NEW “A” word. He said, “Letter A. Awesome!”

Um…YES! Letter A IS for Awesome! Holy Moly. The kid is a genius!! I’m thinking he connected that one from the incredible Fridge Phonics song we sang on Monday (“An A Says ‘Ah!'”). Ah… Awesome. Very similar sounding! It’s truly amazing to see their little brains working right in front of your very eyes!!

So, we sang and talked and he played awhile while I cooked our breakfast. They turned out pretty yummy!

Yummy! Pay no attention to that burnt one on the bottom!

As we were eating, I asked Zach if the pancakes were yummy. And he decided that he’s now much too smart and sophisticated for a juvenile word like “yummy” because he told me that they were, “delicious!”.

Mmmm. Delicious!

I had another craft on the to-do list for today, but Zach was in a much more sing-songy mood. He got out his Alphabet Pal toy, switched it to music mode and sat and sang with me all morning. In an effort to let HIM lead the way when possible, I ditched the craft and sang away. Maybe we’ll be more crafty tomorrow!

What did Zach learn today? For starters, how to make pancakes. He also worked on more phonics of the letter A. And recollected some learning from earlier this week. Let’s not forget the addition of “delicious” to the vocab.

What did Mommy learn today? That the mind of a 2-year-old is amazing!

What are you all learning right NOW? I’m ditching the numbers in each day’s title. It’s looking too busy up there. If you MUST know how many minutes have passed for this number of days: take the day number, multiply by 1440. There you have it. Today takes us through 14400 minutes of this year.