Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Boys Love Fast Cars!

My son celebrated his fourth birthday party last weekend. Just like last year, I decided to bake his cake so that I could personalize it for him. This year, the theme was Cars, so of course the star of the cake would be Lightning McQueen et al.

I started with a sketch of what I wanted. Then I cheated a little with white, box cake mixes. It takes two to fill a 9"x13" pan. For a moist texture, I prefer Duncan Hines with pudding, and shave 3-5 minutes off the recommended baking time. Once the cake was throughly cooled, I frosted it and added Oreo halves to line the bottom.

The race track is crushed Oreos. The birthday boy had a great time mashing them for me. (I need to remember this activity for one of those long summer days I know are coming.)

The grass is shredded coconut dyed green. The lines on the road are long strips of coconut held in place with a little frosting. The flags are printed paper glued to toothpicks.

Next I staged my son's toy cars. Lighting McQueen is racing to the finish, while Tow Mater is towing Pacer from the track. Red sprinkes cover the still blank area at the top.

Completed cake with a too cool #4 candle and Happy Birthday Wishes over the red sprinkles. The kids loved it!

I also made marshmallow pops using jumbo marshmallows dipped in red candy melts and blue sprinkes. Too sweet for my taste, but naturally a hit with the kids. 

For an added bonus, a lady we know made a cardboard Lightning McQueen. He served as a decorative item and we used him as a backdrop for pictures.

But of course the pièce de résistance was this...

It was a great day. And even though the ferocious wind storm made our paper decorations ineffectual, which in turn made me cry because I'd spent so much time making them, everyone enjoyed themselves. And I relearnt that's what matters most.

In Memoriam

Talking to young children about death is difficult at best. While they can understand the absence of a person [Mommy and Daddy left me with the babysitter but will be back later] or an item [I've lost my favorite dolly], they are not mature enough to comprehend a failure to exist.

Two weeks ago, just before leaving for a long weekend on the coast, I accidently dropped [an apparently heavy] fish food tablet on the tail fin of our cory catfish named Blackbeard. Because we were out of time, my husband 'took care' of Blackbeard down the garbage disposal. Tempted to replace Blackbeard before any of the kids noticed, I decided instead to turn it into a teaching opportunity about death. We explained as gently as we could that Blackbeard went to heaven where he wouldn't be sick anymore. My two and a half year old didn't really have any follow-up questions, but my four-year old questioned death, heaven and visitation rights for days. In between fun, vacation activities of course.

Just as the kids were getting used to only have two fish left, Goldilocks, our orange goldfish died suddenly. We're not entirely sure what happened, but we do know that an aquarium prop was leaning irregularly. My husband and I talked to the kids again, but this time held a funeral in the backyard. The kids and I said a prayer and we asked Goldilocks to take good care of Blackbeard in heaven. There were questions of course, even from my youngest, but there was a certain closure I guess they received from the funeral process. I also think companionship for Blackbeard added ease since one of the lingering questions was about Blackbeard being alone.

Only Snow White, our albino goldfish remains. Lord, if you're reading my blog, please bless her with at least a few more months of life. I don't know if I have the strengh to muster another talk about death.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Challenging themselves, each other and myself

I've made some cool Mom discoveries over the last few weeks. First, my son will happily eat squishy fruit (e.g. berries and melon)...if they're incorporated into pancakes or cupcakes. This is incredible progress for my picky eater, and while not ideal, I'm pleased he's finally taking baby steps.

After much prompting, and lessons from her older brother and myself, my two and a half year old daugher is successfully peddling her tricycle. I can hardly believe how quickly she is growing and developing before my eyes. There is an urgency to keep up with her older brother and she's meeting the challenge head on.

I am learning to trust my creative abilities for the sake of my children. Realizing I had 24 hours to come up with costumes for Dr. Seuss Day at preschool, I had severely limited options; drive an hour to pay $40 for two t-shirts or make them myself for about $11. I chose the latter and they came out great.

I am applying my new found confidence to the food and decor for my son's upcoming 4th birthday party. Pictures to follow soon.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pillowcase Dresses Galore

I've always admired pillowcase dresses, but balk at the $45+ price tags, since my little tomboy will either outgrow or destroy them before I can balance the checkbook at the end of the month. But, I like my little girl to look...well...girly on occassion, so I decided to learn how to sew them.

There are many online tutorials which make the process seem way more complicated than it needs to be. I am an amatuer seamstress after all. Then, I came across this site, which didn't intimidate me, and a pillowcase-dress-making-monster was born.

Check out some of my handiwork and let me know what you think!

This pink fabric is from Bahama Hand Prints. It is a handmade batik fabric made in The Bahamas.

Even bandanas made great pillowcase dresses. When it's too short for my baby girl to wear as a dress, she can use it as a top.

This one is for my little girl to wear at her big brother's upcoming 4th birthday party. Can you guess the theme? Ka-Chow!