Rachel, our baker extraordinaire, made cupcakes to celebrate the inauguration last week—funfetti, from scratch. She even ground her own sugar to make powdered sugar because we'd run out (but don't run to the grocery store for little things these days). They were beautiful, but I soon noticed that one cupcake was a little less beautiful than the others...because someone had been nibbling on it.
I asked who had been nibbling on it but, of course, no one fessed up to the crime.
"There is absolutely no punishment for nibbling on a cupcake," I told the kids. "Other than having to eat the cupcake you've been nibbling on when we all sit down together to eat cupcakes. There's no timeout involved, no corner to stick your nose in, no privilege to be revoked. In all honesty, I don't care about the cupcake. At this point, the cupcake is irrelevant. The issue at hand is that someone in this house is lying to me in. And that doesn't feel good. And this is, possibly, the silliest, most pointless thing to lie about. So why lie about it? You don't stand to gain anything from it..."
We went through the list of suspects.
Daddy? He wouldn't nibble on a cupcake. He'd just eat a cupcake. No shame at all.
Rachel? Big same. Plus she baked them and already treated herself to one. Why would she pick at another one?
Miriam? She asks before she does anything. Like, at the dinner table, she will ask if she can eat the food on her plate. Yes, child. Yes. You can eat the food that I just gave you. Not a very likely cupcake thief.
Benjamin? Constantly getting into mischief. Enjoys sneaking around even though he's not very sneaky. Definitely our top suspect.
Zoë? Cannot reach the shelf of the fridge where the cupcakes were sitting and would have to drag a stool over and make a big production out of everything...all to sneak a little nibble undetected? Possible, but improbable. My kids aren't very good at sneaking (they are loud and obvious).
Alexander? Definitely cannot reach the cupcakes. Is even louder and more obvious about sneaking than either Zoë or Benjamin. Would 100% simply lick the icing off instead of taking little pinches of cake.
"Benjamin, you are the likeliest suspect," we informed him. We told him that if he was saying in all honesty that he didn't pick at the cupcake...
"Oh, I'm definitely telling the truth," he said. "I haven't told a single lie from this very moment."
"What do you mean you haven't told a lie from this very moment."
"I mean that I haven't told any lies, starting right now."
"But, like, that means before you could have been lying. Because, here's the thing—again, we don't care about the cupcake. We care that you would like about it. So if you didn't do that that means someone else did it and is lying about it, but we know it wasn't Zoë or Benjamin and Rachel and Miriam and terrible liars, and it wasn't me or Dad, so..."
"Mmmm...I'm trying to remember if I possibly...could have...yeeeeah...maybe...I think...I might...remember...something...about...maybe...sneaking a bit of a cupcake earlier today."
"So...you did it?"
"Yes," he said, hanging his head.
So he got a lecture about honesty and later a pre-nibbled cupcake. And we've been working on taking opportunities to tell the truth when they come (for example, later in the week there was the, "Gee, some kid drew on Toy X with a permanent marker. I wonder who that could be. And before you take time to answer, consider that I recognize this handwriting and already know who did it. Again, the only punishment will be rubbing these markings off with rubbing alcohol. I'm not angry. You've hurt nobody. The burden of truth-telling here is extremely low..." incident, which Benjamin immediately fessed up to.)
Today we had another mysterious incident occur.
Andrew had ordered some glass vials to hold cured vanilla beans. I didn't know anything about this venture so when they arrived and I opened the light-as-air package and found it seemingly full of bubblewrap, I was like, "What is even going on?" Further inspection revealed that there were little vials inside the miles and miles of bubblewrap, and I asked Andrew what they were for (because I knew that I hadn't ordered them) and then left them on the kitchen counter for him, still wrapped in all their miles and miles of bubblewrap.
This morning Andrew decided to take care of the vanilla beans and vials but couldn't find the vials anywhere. And no one seemed to know anything about them.
I didn't know where they were. Rachel didn't know where they were. Miriam didn't know where they were. Benjamin, Zoë, and Alexander didn't know where they were...but they had also gotten up early and made a fairy village out of some boxes.
"Was that box on the counter?" Miriam asked. "Was anything inside it?"
"No!" Zoë insisted. "The box was already in my room. It was empty!"
"Who cleared the counters last night? Wasn't that Rachel?"
"She said she didn't know about any vials."
"So just no one knows what happened to them? They're just gone, then?" I asked.
Seriously. So many impossible things like this happen at our house. It's wild.
"I'm going to need everybody to gather for an emergency meeting," I said, so we all gathered around the kitchen table and I began to explain what we knew about the situation.
"Dad ordered some glass vials to put the vanilla beans in so their flavour wouldn't seep into everything. They were in a box on the counter. Evidently no one knows what happened to this box, but clearly something happened to this box. Someone knows something. We just have to figure out who knows what."
Seriously. With our big batch of books, we also got a box of science equipment—litmus papers and magnifying glasses and stopwatches. I told the kids to just leave the stuff in the box (it would be nice to have a box of science supplies on hand) but soon the box was empty. And, like, who needs three packages of litmus paper? Turns out, Benjamin slowly pilfered everything from the box to keep in his "exploration bag." So I made him return everything but a couple of magnifying glasses because...come on, child!
Anyway, after some more monologuing on my part Rachel goes, "Wait...so this was just, like, a box full of bubble wrap?"
"Essentially, yes," I said. "But inside the bubble wrap there were glass vials."
"Okay, so...I may have recycled the entire thing? I honestly thought it was just an empty box full of bubblewrap."
She walked over to the recycle bin, dug around for a bit and pulled out a big wad of bubble wrap.
"Like this?!" she asked.
"Exactly like that!" I said.
Andrew took it, removed some tape, unrolled the bubble wrap, and found two little vials.
"There should be two more," he said.
Rachel dug around for a while longer and pulled out another wad of bubble wrap. All the vials were saved.
"Okay, the only issue I see here," I said. "Is that bubblewrap is, sadly, not recyclable."
"Oh, I didn't know," Rachel said.
Sometimes I consider myself a good parent, and other times I know I'm absolutely not. We had a minute at dinner the other night when I definitely was not. But sometimes I just can't help myself. Someone had said something about Andrew (about him not liking chicken or something).
"I feel attacked," Andrew whined.
"It's okay, Dad," Benjamin said. "Everybody still loves you."
And in that moment, I just...I couldn't help myself...and I said, "Benjamin, we've talked about your lying..."
Ooh, boy! He started laughing so hard tears were rolling down his cheeks.
"Sick burn!" he said. "Double sick burn, because it wasn't just for me...it was also for Dad!"
And with that he started laughing even harder. We enjoy a sick burn or two in our house, but only when they land right (which, unfortunately, is not always the case).
Today Zoë said something Alexander found offensive (I'm not sure what; it could have been anything as innocent as saying, "That's a nice drawing," when he felt she should have said, "That's a good drawing," to something as cruel as calling him a "cotten-headed ninny-muggins" or something). When he got pouty Zoë quickly recanted her remarks.
"Sorry, Alexander, sorry. I forgot to not make fun of you! Let me give you a hug to say I'm sorry. Here—hold my hand. Now, let's giggle together! That's better."
It was sweet, but also a little weird.
But I think that about sums up life in this house.