Maddie. But the sympathy that she's earned having four brothers is quickly wearing off. For example, a conversation the other night when she came into the room where I was on the elliptical:
*Mom, your stomach is all jiggly when you exercise. Probably because you're fat.
*Well, thank you very much. That was so nice of you to notice.
*Oh, (giggling--trying to find a friendlier word than fat) how about...large?
*Nope. Not much nicer.
* How about you just refrain from commenting about people's jiggly fat?
*Hmmm. Maybe. (Runs out of the room)
And I promised the story of the new TV stand. We've had the same TV cabinet for about five years. It was definitely on its last leg--literally. The kids have broken the doors off it about five separate times and we've reattached them with the wonder of wood glue and some sturdy clamps. They even used the poor thing as a launching pad to measure how far they can jump across the room. I had been searching to find its replacement for months--which explains why Maddie is still alive after doing what she did.
I was dusting it when I stopped dead in my tracks. Scratched into the wood finish right on the top in plain view was about a five inch "A L E X." I immediately thought of Maddie because I had recently caught her writing on cabinets, desks, and in weird places . But when I asked her she immediately acted surprised, shocked, and then tried to change the subject. Definitely suspicious behavior. But her 20 minute denial throughout my constant badgering was so emphatic, I let it go.
The dynamic duo of destruction (the twins) were eliminated at the beginning of my investigation because neither of them can even spell their own names correctly 100% of the time, let alone someone else's. But they were happily anxious to see which sibling was going to get busted for the crime. They also suggested funny and highly preposterous schemes as to how it could've happened. One involved a dog sneaking into the house. If I find that literate and dexterous dog, I'll be a rich, jiggly woman. And I'd shove it into a big onesie and become one of those pet owners. (You know who you are.)
When Alex got home, I immediately questioned him. "Did you carve your name in the tv stand?" He looked genuinely surprised and said, "No," with a sort of 'why would I even do that'? sound to it. I could tell he had no idea what I was talking about, plus it really didn't fit his M.O. I officially eliminated him as a suspect.
So back to Maddie. I tried everything. 1. Guilt tripping her--I told her Alex was going to get in serious, serious trouble so if she had something to tell me she better do it soon. No confession. (Although not too surprising that she wouldn't feel bad if he went down for the crime.) 2. I tried playing nice cop. That I just needed to know to satisfy my curiosity and that everyone makes mistakes. No confession. I was using everything I learned watching my cop shows, but to no avail. 3. Threats. I told her to fess up and take her punishment like a big kid. I would go easier the sooner she folded. Nope. 4. Bluffing. Finally, I told her I knew she did it so she better just confess. She said, "Tell me how you know...?" I refused and sent her to her room and told her I'd discuss it with her when she was ready and willing to come out and be honest.
Thirty minutes later (she's stubborn I tell you) Aidan came downstairs carrying a tiny folded up piece of paper. "It's from Maddie," he said. So I open it up and read:
Ok. I did do it. But I didn't want to tell you because I didn't want to get in trouble. But how about for my punishment I can't play with friends for two weeks. Tell me yes or no. MADDIE
Too easy. After a stern lecture about honesty and destruction of property, I tried to think of a punishment for her. Alex is easy--taking away his video game devices or friends works perfectly. But Maddie doesn't have anything like that she loves doing so much it would be a punishment if taken away. I tried something else that works great on Alex--writing sentences. An old favorite from when we were growing up--just ask my brother Greg. I think his hand is still slightly deformed into a claw shape from the time he had to write some sentence about 1000 times. (What did you do to earn that one?)
She had to write "I will be honest and I will not destroy other people's things" fifty times. This is where my brilliant plan backfired. She ENJOYED it. It was one big "let's play pretend school" session for her. She excitedly ran off and got her pencil, sharpened it, and picked the perfect paper. Numbered it all the way down and started writing. Half way through, she brought me her papers to admire and happily chirped, "I'm going to get it all done right now before bed!"
Grrr. Nothing worse than when you're trying to prove a point and you miss the mark completely. Maybe I should have made it 100. Now I know for next time. But should she get any credit for being smart enough to carve someone else's name? Or was she just silly enough to think that would make her impossible to catch?
There better be no next time as far as carving into the furniture goes. We finally found a new media cabinet and coffee table and have threatened their lives if they willfully damage them. (It was an exceptionally painful process because we took the kids with us shopping. All of them. Although they didn't go into a few stores because I refused to be completely mortified by dragging them through quiet, peaceful places like Ethan Allen. That's when the DVD player in the car comes in handy. Jeremy wasn't too sad to sit out there with them either.) The countdown's on until the first big fat scratch is laid into one of new pieces and then we can relax and let them continue their five year lifespan.