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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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Day 44: Flour Writing June 1, 2010

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

 

Day 19: Mailing a Letter May 7, 2010

Filed under: family,mail,numbers — Erin Brambilla @ 4:44 pm
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Well, today the “Super Top Secret Mother’s Day Projects” left our house and are now in the hands of the US Postal Service. And back on Monday, when I said that these would arrive to the grandmothers “possibly on time”, what I meant to say was “almost certainly late”. But the thought counts. Right?

To go along with the theme of mail, I decided to teach Zach about mailing letters. I read this idea on some other blog, that I didn’t save, and now I can’t link it. But the idea is not my own. And really, this can be done a million different ways–letters to Santa, letters to family, letters to soldiers, etc. But I decided to follow the advice I read on that other blog and have Zach mail a letter to himself. That way he sees the letter going out AND coming to him. Once he gets the concept, we can have him send letters to other people.

So, I had him start by coloring on a note card. This lesson comes with a warning for other moms: do NOT, for one single second, turn your back on your toddler if you are letting them color with permanent marker, not even to simply answer the ringing phone. You will regret it (but WHY did you use permanent marker in the first place, Erin? I don’t know. A lapse in judgement).

Writing his letter

If anyone has tips on how to clean this, let me know. I think we ruined our dining room table today.

Oh yes, he colored on that dining room table so quickly I wouldn’t have been able to stop him if I’d seen it while it was happening. Funny how it’s like pulling teeth to get him to make that many marks on paper, but the dining room table is apparently much more fun to color.

On the inside of the note, once he was done coloring, I wrote a little message. I figure we can track how long it takes a letter to get to us (though I imagine it will only be a day or two, since we sent it to ourselves). In case you can’t read it, it says: “Dear Zachary, We mailed this letter on Friday. The mailman delivered it to us on ______________.”

Perhaps I should have said, "Letter Carrier", I think our "mail man" is actually a "mail lady". Oops.

Then, we took it out to the mailbox.

Carrying his letter

Into the box. Hey, look how "urban" we are, graffiti on the mailbox!

They pick up mail from this box every morning at 10:00am and it was after 10:00am when we did this. So, I imagine it’ll get picked up tomorrow and delivered to us Monday or Tuesday. I’ll post a follow-up when we get to check our mail and receive his letter!

What did Zach learn today? Well, we talked about how a mailman delivers the letters. And that we put our letter in a mailbox and then a few days later the post office delivers it wherever we want! And how letters get delivered to our house too. And that we were sending presents out to Grandma today.

What did Mommy learn? That it’s called permanent marker for a reason. I could have done a numbers lesson here, along with trying to teach him our address, but he had gotten bored by the time I put the card in the envelope to address it. We’ll do that another day. I also had to do the stamp myself.

 

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

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