Archive for the ‘Toddler’ Category

To Bake or to Buy? Should You Make or Buy the Birthday Cake?

November 26, 2007

Editors note: I recently moved my blog to a new server. You can find this same post (and all my others) at the new location:, where I post daily.

For my son’s second birthday I struggled with whether or not to make the cake myself. Last year it was an easy decision: You need something special for the first birthday. I need to make the cake, I thought. Months before the event, I took a cake decorating class. Not knowing that I had to bake and frost a cake every week for a month, I endured the class and learned the basics of how to frost a decorative cake.

The night before my son’s first birthday I was up past midnight, with yellow icing up to my elbows. It was worth it. (The wine helped.) The cake turned out so cute and I was very proud.

This year, I wanted to do that same thing. We matured from a duck cake to a car cake. He loves cars so how could I not make a cake in the shape of a car? If you’ve never made a specialty cake before, it takes a lot of work. And I mean a lot of work. And, it’s not that it’s cheaper than a store-bought cake. Even though I had all the supplies and I’d already purchased the cake mold a few months ago, I was still dreading the baking and icing of the cake. Shouldn’t I just call Publix and order the Disney Cars cake?

I was about to make the call, but finally decided that I wasn’t going to let myself fail. I want to make this cake and have him point to it and say his favorite word, “car.” So, I forged ahead; made a plan, baked and frosted that cake. Even as I was making it, I made mental notes to think twice about doing it for birthday number three.

Finally, it is complete. The little blue car cake is sitting on the table in all it’s splendor. It is adorable. The kids love it, the adults are impressed and Mommy feels great for doing something special for her son’s second birthday.


  • Take a class at your nearby craft store. It really helps to learn the techniques to make the perfect cake.
  • Make all your frosting several days before you are ready to decorate. Store in air tight containers.
  • Make extra, white frosting. You might need to dye it for a color you didn’t plan on needing.
  • Buy the specialty gel coloring dyes; regular food dyes only make pastel icing.
  • Bake the cake a day before you want to frost it.
  • Keep a bowl of water on the table to clean the icing tips and to use on your frosting spatula to smooth the surface of the cake.
  • Frost a layer of “flat” icing before you pipe the star shapes.
  • Leave plenty of time to frost the cake. Do it the night before or early, early in the morning, depending on the time of your party.


car cake


Travel Tips For Long Car Ride With a Toddler

November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving is upon us which means long car rides to grandma’s house. This weekend is the busiest travel weekend of the year.

“AAA estimates that 38.7 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday.”

OK, so I’m going to be on the road with nearly 39 MILLION other people. This requires planning. Luckily I’m experienced in traveling with a toddler since we’ve taken several long car trips with our now 2-year-old son. Here’s what I do to make the trip go easier:

  • Travel during nap-time. This will easily cut 2-3 hours of having to entertain the child.
  • Back seat is best. Sit in the back with the child. This seems so “Leave It to Beaver,” but I find it’s easier to entertain my son if I’m next to him. When I’ve tried sitting in the front seat, I just end up turning by body around as if I’m playing a game of Twister.
  • Plan frequent stops. If your journey is longer than 3 hours (we’ve maxed out at 10 hours), plan to stop every two hours: Even if it’s only for a 10-minute potty break. While one parent is “occupied” let the other parent change the diaper, then let the child run around. By simply stretching and getting a clean diaper, you will elongate the happy mood back in the car.
  • Pack things to do. Bring a portable DVD player. I’ve mentioned before that we don’t really watch TV with our son. The main exception to this is on car trips. While he’s yet to watch a full-length movie, I do pack several short DVDs. On our 10-hour trip, however, I was wishing for that full-length movie DVD. Bring books – lots of books. We read and reread all the books that I bring.
  • Pack food – very important. Pack a cooler that sits in the backseat with you, but out of reach of your toddler. I pre-pour sippy cups with milk, juice and water so that I’m not in a position to become a bartender in the back of a moving car. Snacks are key too. – things that your child will eat. On our last trip I made the mistake of bringing a box of iced bakery cookies and putting in the sunny front seat. When snack time came, I grabbed a cookie from the box, the icing had melted and dripped all over me and my seat. Of course, my son had to have a cookie since he saw me trying to eat one. It was a mess. Note to self: pack only non-messy snacks like pretzels, goldfish and teddy grahams.
  • Stop to eat meals. It’s a great excuse to get out of the car. If you eat fast food, you can go to a place that has a play place to let your kid run around. If you pack your own food, go to a rest stop that has a big open field. Toss a ball around or just play chase. Get that energy out.
  • Pack his favorite things. Blanket. Check. Teddy bear. Check. If your child uses a paci, by all means put that on the top of your list.
  • Install sun shades before you get on the road. I’ve tried a couple different varieties of these and prefer the ones that clip to the top of the window. I just can’t get the suction cups to stick to the windows. And, don’t get me started on the plastic ones that “stick” to the window. You’ll be thankful for shade when your child is happily sitting in his chair when the sun would otherwise be blasting him in the face.
  • Forget the “rules” and just go with the flow. Do what works. It’s a car ride. Enjoy the time. Look out the window. Point out the trees, the clouds and all the trucks you see. Plan to get to your destination when you get there, leave the clock watching behind.

Crib Tent Helps Toddler Go to Sleep (Mom and Dad Too!)

November 19, 2007

Several months ago I wrote about how my toddler son suddenly had a hard time (that’s putting it nicely) sleeping in his crib. He had been the poster child of the perfect sleeper: never woke up in the middle of the night, never cried when we put him to bed, always went to bed with ease. Until we went away for a long weekend.

We remedied the problem through a series of experiments over 23 days, one of which I’ll tell you about today: It’s called the crib tent. While this is not a product blog, I feel I must write about this thing that brought order (and sleep!) back into my life.

I know a few moms who have resorted to the tent, so that made the transition easier for me. It’s not easy to put your toddler in his crib and zip him in. I felt like a bad mom; our bedtime routine has become: brush teeth, read book, hugs and kisses, put in crib, say “Nite, nite,” then ZIIIIIP! and lights off.

The first night I felt pretty bad zipping that tent up, but he didn’t seem to mind. It got easier after time, especially the peace of mind it gives me knowing that he’s not going to climb out of his crib in the middle of the night and start playing with something dangerous. It’s been a little over two months now and we still use it — otherwise he’d be climbing out every night. I think that we’ll transition to a toddler bed sooner than I have planned, but for now, the tent is working.

Related links:

crib tent

Reverse Trick-or-Treating

October 31, 2007

Today I went with a few moms and our kids to a local nursing home to visit with the people who live there. We thought it would be nice for them to see the kids all dressed up in their Halloween costumes. Boy, did I underestimate the welcome we would receive.

We planned on handing out some goodie bags to them, kind of like a reverse trick-or-treat. We did not anticipate the kids trick-or-treating around the facility; the employees hadn’t planned for it either — but it’s exactly what we ended up doing. An employee pulled out a big bag of candy (I suspect to be used at the resident Halloween party they had planned for later in the day) — before I knew it, they had distributed the candy to residents so that they could hand our kids the candy.

Up and down the halls we went. There weren’t even that many of us; 4 moms and 6 kids, but it seemed like an army. I could feel the warmth and see the welcome in their smiles. We even made some residents smile, that apparently “never smile.” That’s the power of a toddler for you. It’s the power of giving. Today we gave time.

We were repeatedly thanked by so many people there, but we are the ones to be thankful — for the experience of putting smiles on so many faces today.

Cribs and Kid’s Jewelry Recalls

September 27, 2007

I wasn’t going to keep writing about all the recalls, thinking that Moms get that information in our everyday news sources, but then I decided to offer some links in case there is a Mom reading this who hasn’t heard this news yet. In the past week, there have been two crib recalls — one for a regular crib, one for a play yard (aka pack ‘n’ play). And, there is a recall on children’s jewelry that contains lead.

Here’s a list of the recalls from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Don’t forget, as I posted earlier, you can sign up to get email notices of all recalls, here.