Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Favorite Kind of Day!

Other than the part where these guys are all like, "Let's clean for Mom!" this is pretty much exactly how my Mother's Day morning went:



It was pretty spectacular.

I even got a pocket full of money from Gracie - I had her count it up, because counting money is not quite her strength yet.... when she discovered that she'd given me $3.79, she promptly said, "Oh I didn't meant to give you THAT," and took a dollar back.

But that's okay, because she made me a super awesome booklet, full of all sorts of information about me, such as my age (32), my weight (15 lbs lighter than she guessed), my favorite food (she claims it's fish tacos, but she might be projecting, as I know they're HER fave, and seriously, it's homemade Fettuccine Alfredo all the way), and the fact that I hope to publish nine book series very soon (Um?).

And then I baked myself a fancy chocolate cake!


And promptly covered it in chocolate frosting and chocolate chips because HELLO, CHOCOLATE.


Mmmmmmm.....

Also, there is a huge possibility that this cake is all I served for lunch....

Mothers out there - especially mine *waves* Hi, Mom! - HAPPY DAY! Hope it's been as grand for you, as it has been for me!

xoxo,

Friday, April 26, 2013

Dollhouse Days, Revisited, and Fancy Rewards!


Six years ago, when Gracie was a diaper-wearing toddler, I blogged about her love for Playmobil and the pop-up dollhouse I saved from my own childhood Playmobil-playing days. {clicky click}

Well, naturally my children destroyed the dollhouse (I blame baby Annelie) and lost all the people (I blame Gracie) and now they look at the pictures and regret being the Queens of Destruction very deeply.

GRACIE [gazing wistfully at the picture of toddler-self playing with rad dollhouse]: Ugh, that looks awesome.

ME [remembering playing with said dollhouse when I was her age]: It was. It really, really was.

Gracie, upon discovering that Playmobil has a super fancy royal set of dolls, has rekindled her love for her "people" - what she called her favorite toys when she was two and a half.


It's like they were designed just for her. And as a Playmobil-loving parent, I couldn't be more jazzed.

But..... I refused to buy them for her. Yep. 

ME [2 months ago]: Guess what, kids! I've come up with a new Hopkins Family System of Doing Things, and from now on, when you beg and beg and beg for more toys, I'll say, Sure you can have toys! But first you have to earn the tickets to buy them! [waves handful of freshly printed tickets from http://www.kidpointz.com/]

GRACIE: No way. I'm just going to use the money in my piggy bank. 

ME: Nope. After I caught Annelie with TWENTY DOLLARS in her backpack, so she could buy her friend's hand-drawn comics, Daddy and I have decided you girls are going to the bank and starting accounts, and you don't get to spend your money. 

[shakes handful of tickets] But good news! You get to earn tickets to buy whatever you want!

At first my kids were a little shell-shocked, because my new Family System of Doing Things involves hard work and math skills, and a zero-tolerance-for-sibling-rivalry policy. (they get to earn behavior tickets - yay! - but have to give them up to their sister when caught being rotten little meanies - boo!)

Fast forward two months, and now they have ticket jars full of awesome behavior tickets, and charts full of neon happy face stickers, for doing daily chores, and momwork (math tutoring w/ me - yay, fun!). And their chart stickers turn into tickets that can't be taken away, or given to their sister, once their chart is full. They're pretty excited about their tickets.

And I can never quite believe how much smoother life gets with an in-house reward system. My kids eat it up! They ask for extra chores and beg to study! WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE?

Anyway, Gracie has been saving and saving, and finally last week, after passing over 75 tickets and a printed voucher for the Playmobil Royal Dressing Room set, she bought herself her first toy - and proceeded to stalk the mail, counting down the 5 shipping days until her new playset was hers, all hers!

You guys, it was the cutest thing! I've never seen her so excited for something. 

And because I had an empty box laying around, and a room full of craft supplies, gold puffy paint, and a glue gun, *kisses glue gun* I said, "Hey, let's build your Playmobil a fancy dressing room."

So we did!

Her dolls came in the mail a couple days ago, and she hasn't stopped playing with them - and her new dressing room - since. 

And, because this is Gracie we're talking about, here... yes, I have already taken away behavior tickets for catching her out of bed, playing with them late at night on a school night - the little sneak.

She was super excited to comb though my Southern Living magazines for room decorations - especially when she found Monet's Waterlilies (her favorite).

Isn't her little dressing room cute? She used the Napoleon Apartments at the Louvre as her inspiration, and made sure it had the chandelier of her dreams.


And dogs wearing fancy necklaces.

Also, after taking some photos of her playing with her new dollhouse... I realized I never wallpapered the outside of the box.... 
 ME [to Gracie]: Don't worry, I'll paper the outside for you ASAP.

WILL: Why would you cover up the best part?

GRACIE [rolls eyes]: Da-ad!

So that's what we've been up to, lately! Also, someday I'll blog about my husband winning us a spring break trip to Jamaica, and then winning another trip to Jamaica while we were in Jamaica. Yes, he is that amazing.

Happy Friday, folks! Hope you have a great weekend! 

xoxo,

Friday, April 19, 2013

We're LAAATE!

So remember that April Fool's prank I played on my kids a couple weeks ago? Yeah, turns out that was more of a drill for yesterdays major MomFail.

Poor kids. Wednesday night, I set my alarm clock for 7 AM, the time I get up to get them ready for school on the days when Will is home to take them to school in the morning.

But when he's out of town? Like yesterday? Yeeeeaah, it's the exact time we walk out the door to catch the school bus.

*facepalm*

But my KIDS! They're pros. As soon as they heard me running down the hall screaming, "WAKE UP, WAKE UP, THIS IS NOT AN APRIL FOOL'S DAY JOKE. WE ARE SO LAAAAATE." they flew out of bed, grabbed the clothes I threw at them, and started dressing. One minute later they were brushing their teeth (one handed, while I put on their zip sweatshirts and brushed their hair). One minute after that, they were slipping on their shoes. And no joke, four minutes from the time my alarm went off, my girls were grabbing their backpacks (thankfully packed with homework the night before) and running out the door. I followed behind with the breakfast and lunch money.

And wouldn't you know it, we were actually a bit early! Stood there in the cold, totally dazed, for a couple minutes before the bus came chugging up to us.

It took a whole forty-five minutes for my heart to calm, I tell ya. And the minute I walked back through the door, I set my alarm for today--the RIGHT wake up time, this time.

I sincerely hope I do not make that mistake again.  But hey, if I do, maybe we can try to beat our record and get out of the house in only THREE minutes! Sounds like a challenge....

Have a great weekend, folks!

xoxo,

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

April Foolin'


On Sunday night, I caught Gracie out of bed TWICE, just goofing off in the bathroom. As we've already done the whole toilet-wad-thrown-up-on-the-ceiling thing, and the entire-bottle-of leave-in-conditioner-sprayed-on-the-mirror thing, and the nail-polish-pictures-all-over-the-door thing (as well as dropped in the toilet. REDDISH BROWN NAIL POLISH. It's not a pretty sight) - always after bedtime - I knew not to trust my 7-year-old.

"GET IN BED RIGHT NOW!" I yelled that second time, since my calm and rational-sounding request for her to get in bed clearly didn't work the first time.

Also, she was in her pajamas, standing in the bathtub.

?!?

And then she completely burst into tears, and climbed out of the bathtub, and sobbed all the way back to her room. No, not because I yelled at her. She doesn't even hear the yelling, I'm convinced.

"I was setting up an April Fool trick, and it was a good one, too," she said, through her tears, and then pulled the bed covers over her head.

"Wait, what was the trick going to be?" I asked.

"I was tying fake money to strings in the shower, so you'd think it was real and freak out."

Well. It didn't actually look like real money - I checked - but not bad, kid, not bad!

Last year, this was the April Fool I got:


And the two little pranksters, sticking stuffed rabbits in my fridge would be none other than:

 
They were quite pleased with themselves. 

Truthfully, folks, I'm not a prankster. I'm actually the most gullible person on the planet - In fact, if you open the Guinness Book of World's Records 2011, and turn to Most Gullible Person on the Planet, there's my face. 

(did anyone go check? If so, GOTCHA!) 

I had absolutely no plans to prank anyone this year, certainly not my children. But knowing that Gracie had this day marked as one to prank ME? OH, HO HO, little child! I shall teach you!

The next morning, April 1st, I got up like any other school day, and went off to Gracie's room to wake her for school. Naturally, I did not softly rub her arm, and whisper, "Wake up, Gracie. Time to get ready for school," in my Hey-I-totally-get-that-mornings-suck-so-I'll-be-gentle-in-waking-you-so-your-day-is-not-lousy voice. 

No. Instead I shook her arm vigorously, saying loudly and frantically, "GET UP, WE'RE LATE, WE'RE LATE, SCHOOL STARTS IN ONE MINUTE!"

omg. The look on her face! Is it considered cruelty to children to LAUGH AND LAUGH (inwardly, until alone in the kitchen making breakfast, in which I died of the laughter) at their panic stricken faces as they assume they are supremely late for school?

Oh man. This is the moment in which all of their Late-for-school nightmares will begin, isn't it?

Well, it was worth it. I did this for both of my darling, sneaky little girls, and they got dressed for school in TWO MINUTES. Annelie was the first to stumble into the kitchen for breakfast, rubbing her eyes. She sat at the table and looked over at me, where I was cracking eggs and mixing them with pancake-making stuff in a bowl. 

"DID YOU BRUSH YOUR HAIR??!" I shouted. 

Well, she hadn't, obvious in how she sprang up from the seat and bee-lined for the bathroom to brush her hair. I did the same with Gracie, and then with both girls as they put on their socks and shoes. Will was up at this point, too, and clapped and shouted, "HURRY HURRY!"

The girls both sat down for breakfast, still dazed, still only 5 minutes from when they woke up. At this point, pancakes were on the griddle, and I was crushing strawberries into warm maple syrup.

"Mom?" Gracie said, totally confused. "Are you making pancakes for breakfast?" 

Will and I both shouted "APRIL FOOL'S" together and the girls - Gracie, especially - could not believe it. They were definitely shell shocked for a nice long beat before they laughed.


Then they cheerfully ate strawberry banana pancakes and watched cartoons for a half hour before school (which they never have time for). (also, Annelie was showing the camera her SAD, I-was-fooled-by-MOMMY face)

HA!

Although I have probably set myself up for disaster, as I know my oldest daughter, and I KNOW she's going to seek revenge.

Still, it was worth it. How about you, folks? Was anyone pranked, or a prankster this year, too?

Poor Gracie. She was pranked by her teacher, too, who had the class take out a sheet of paper for a pop quiz on a subject they hadn't studied yet. Haha! 

xoxo,

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Hippity Hoppity Easter's On It's Way


We have officially reached the first holiday in which a child KNOWS THE TRUTH ABOUT YOU KNOW WHO.

(no, I'm not talking about Voldemort, you guys. I'm talking about a certain cotton-tailed, gift-giving creature)

This discovery happened a couple weeks into the new year, when Gracie, my 7-year-old, upon rifling through a stack of scrapbook paper, came across a familiar patterned paper.

VERY FAMILIAR.

It was a paper that looked exactly like the papers the Tooth Fairy uses for her hand written in special curly-cue handwriting notes. Also, Santa? Yeah, his handwriting is the same. 

She cried out in horror, and I when I turned around and saw her, she was clutching the paper and her chest, her face crumpled and tears dripping from her chin. It was so tragically hilarious I finally understood why Will finds it physically impossible to keep from laughing whenever I cry. Gracie takes after me in many, many ways. And we both apparently take after the Make it Snow Girl, because watching her YouYube vid is like looking at myself in the mirror when I'm feeling particularly emotional.

Poor kiddo. Watching her complete and total devastation made me want to cry for her shattered innocence and laugh all at once (I restrained myself). I hugged her and talked to her about it, but nothing I said made it better, and she also cried that mermaids must not be real, or Saint Nick, or anything that she has ever believed in.

After a few minutes, she promised to keep the secret from her sister and started to leave for her room so she could sob in private... But just before she left, I turned over the paper she'd found, and unfolded it.

And whattadya know....

IT WAS THE NOTE THE FLIPPIN' TOOTH FAIRY LEFT FOR ANNELIE THE PREVIOUS WEEK.

"Gracie... did you LOOK at the paper you found?"

"No."

"Well..." So I showed her. She couldn't believe it. Also, lately Gracie has decided that jumping to the worst possible conclusion in any situation is the way to experience life, despite the fact that it frequently leaves her emotionally drained. Again, she sort of takes after me a little.

The last few months have been a challenge for her. With Easter approaching, she's been emotional all over again. She went crawling into my lap the other day after hearing Annelie gush about how excited she is for a certain carrot-loving visitor. The fattest tears were streaking down her cheeks.

Sometimes it's hard for me to watch the kiddos growing up. But sometimes I think it's harder for the kiddos to watch themselves growing up.

In any event, she showed how grown up she can be this morning, when I reminded the girls to pull out their baskets so they can leave it for the Easter Bunny. Annelie started crying immediately, because apparently her basket is gone (I'm guessing she took it outside when she wasn't supposed to, and it got rained on and wrecked), and she figured that meant she wouldn't be getting any presents this year.

"Here, Annelie! You can use my basket!" Gracie jumped in immediately, passing Annelie her basket. With how much sibling rivalry has been going on lately, this kind of sisterly sacrifice made me all sappy.

I just love it!

And I love even more that when I said, "Hey, Gracie, don't you think you'll need some kind of basket for YOUR presents?" she got super excited and produced this crafty little number:


I made sure to let her know that the Easter Bunny might be giving her something a little bigger than a candy bar (the exact size of her paper bunny basket) and she gave me a huge smile back.

You know those movie moments where the mother and daughter share a little secret, and smile at each other all knowingly, and the music swells and it's heart-warming?

Yeah, it was just like that!

I hope all of you who celebrate Easter, have a lovely day tomorrow! And all of you who celebrate the Easter Bunny, have a lovely day, too. And for those of you who simply call tomorrow "Sunday, the day to sleep in," I hope it's amazing.

xoxo,

Friday, March 1, 2013

Happiness Is...


... having another writer in the house - one who TOTALLY GETS the thrilling possibilities of a blank page in a composition book, the wonderful smell of a new ink pen, my writing inspiration playlists (and has same taste in music, which is the best kind of bonus)....

...too bad it's not exactly convenient when said other writer breaks all concentration with excited sharing of her own brilliant ideas. Hard to focus on my latest shiny idea when thoughts are constantly interrupted with stories of a Princess called Donut...

Such is Friday night. And mine is looking mighty nice so far!

Hope yours is, too. Have a great weekend, folks!

xoxo,

Monday, February 25, 2013

Gracie the Poet (with the Trophy to Show it)


Since she was in kindergarten, my 7-year-old has dreamed of winning her school's Imaginations creativity contest. There's a range of mediums to choose from - art, photography, short stories, etc. In kindergarten, when the theme was announced, she was so excited she planned on entering in every category.

It's a project without parent involvement, so I provided whatever materials she would need, then gave her space to do her creative little thing. Gracie had big plans - huge - and knew it would possibly take all the weeks allotted to complete her projects. That only excited her more, and she worked every day after school....

And then her friends began handing in their own finished projects, and Gracie seemed to realize there was a chance she might not win.

With that, she was done. She set down her art supplies, looked indifferent, and insisted, "I don't have to enter. It's not homework. It's just if people want to. And I don't want to anymore."

When Gracie digs in her heels, she goes NOWHERE. Not the tiniest millimeter further, no matter how much encouraging and cheering Will and I are doing on the sidelines. (Sometimes being a parent sucks)

I was so mad. I tried not to be. Being mad at her certainly doesn't help at all. Besides, she's exactly like me, EXACTLY. And when I dig in my heels because of self-doubt, that's that.

Also, I learn from example, and she does, too. So after the contest passed for the SECOND year, and she still didn't enter because she was still too afraid to lose, and I was once again MAD, I told her that I was going to enter a short story contest - even though short stories aren't really my area of expertise. The winner of a contest I'd been toying with the idea of entering would be published, and that sounded like a mighty nice prize. And I told her that in second grade, no matter what, she had to enter her school's contest.

Gracie was intrigued by the idea of me entering a contest, too, and promised she would. I updated her on my short story-writing status for weeks. When my story was done, she watched me chew off my nails as I entered. A couple weeks later, the winners were announced and I wasn't among them. I was disappointed and she was the cutest thing as she hugged me, and let me know it would be okay (Most of the time, being a parent doesn't suck). She watched me get over it, sit at my computer, and get back to work.

Weeks ago, the contest at her school was announced, the theme being Elect to be Excellent! She remembered her promise, and took it all very seriously, sketching out pictures of kids being excellent by acing spelling tests, and considering possible short story ideas. Annelie entered in the K-1st grade Art division, but two days before the deadline, Gracie still wasn't sure what to do about her half-finished pieces. She was already talking about the other kids winning, and I worried, once again, that she would lose to self-doubt.

So I dug in my heels. "Either finish a project you are working on and possibly win, or turn it in unfinished and definitely lose. It's your choice, but YOU ARE ENTERING," I said. (breathing fire. I can be scary)

And it worked! Gracie tossed out every unfinished, hated thing she'd begun and grabbed her notebook - which she is never without. Starting fresh, she wrote the most brilliant poem!

The Spelling Test
by Gracie Hopkins

My spelling test is on Thursday.
I haven't studied yet.
I really don't know the words well.
I'll study so I won't forget.

I studied and studied.
My friend asked me to play.
I said, "No way! 
I want to get a good grade!"

It was Thursday.
We took our spelling test.
I got everything right.
It felt good because I did my best!

(awesome, yeah?)

And here is Annelie's entry, TAKING CARE OF FRIENDS (also called, THE SICKNESS, because she loves how morbid that sounds):


Friday was the award ceremony, which is a pretty big deal at their school. The judges are all professors of the arts at local universities, and hearing all the fuss made by the principal during the ceremony, I understood Gracie's past intimidation. We knew ahead of time that she had won a prize in her category, which ranged from a long string of honorable mention ribbons through 3rd, 2nd, and 1st place trophies. (poor Annelie was devastated because she had not won a prize)

Will and I were so nervous and excited for Gracie when the 2nd - 3rd grade poetry division winners were announced...And WINNER WINNER CHICKEN DINNER! Gracie won 1st place!

 Yaaaaaay, we are all so proud of her!

Well, not exactly all of us... Annelie sobbed through the entire ceremony. "It's not faaaaaairrrrrrr," she wailed when it was over.

I think Mama's Next Lesson needs to be something about supporting Sister's successes gracefully, and not being a sore loser...

Ha! Good luck to me.

Happy Monday, folks! Hope this week is filled with win!

xoxo,

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