I love how small things can make such a big difference to kids. My daughter Jane had always been an early riser and eager to start every day. Maybe school was harder now or this winter had just been too long and too cold, but she'd started waking up grumpy.
Amazingly, seeing heart-shaped pancakes on her breakfast plate can turn her mood around.
I make them with my new favorite kitchen gadget: The Tovolo Pancake Pen ($9.99). I heard about it in an article in our February issue called "With Love, From Mom" that had fun Valentine's Day recipes. One of them for was Kiss-Me Cakes: Pancakes shaped like XOXO, and our smart food editors used a pancake pen to form the perfectly-shaped letters. It's so easy to use, and makes me look like such a pro.
When Jane had a slumber party for her birthday, I made letter pancakes with each of her friends' initials. Big hit.
The dispenser holds 3 cups of batter (I add a jar of carrot or sweet potato baby food to each batch for some much-needed veggies), and I keep it in the refrigerator ready to go. The bottom of the pancake pen screws off to make it easier to wash thoroughly.
While she eats her pancakes in the morning, I also read to her. She's a good reader herself now, but she still likes to listen to (slightly harder) books. Even we only have 10 minutes (it can take us a month to get through a long book), it starts our day off on the right foot.