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Michelle jogged into the kitchen. She casually said “freeze.” The twins held a bag of cookies. They slowed to a stop, opening the bag slightly. They watched to see her reaction.
“They’re supposed to stop all movement,” considered Michelle. “Give me that.” She took the bag and returned it to the pantry.
“We were gonna share,”Alex insisted.
“Yeah, with each other,” his brother told her.
It was just dawning on her. She was in charge. Bossing others around for once seemed like fun. Michelle spoke in a melodramatic way. “No way, Jose. Wait just a minute. I seem to recall a certain vacuum cleaner, brand new, stuffed with Legos. And, an order that you were not to have dessert for a week. Sound familiar?”
Michelle grinned. This was fun. She’d wanted to make rules. She knew right from wrong. Not that she always followed it. But, Michelle knew the basics. And, how hard could it be, anyway. Her dad sure made it look easy.
“But this isn't dessert,” Nicky said.
Alex added “we haven't had supper yet.”
“When I was your age...” She laughed at herself. The boys copied the infectious giggling. Her pony tail bounced slightly. “Yeah, right. I sound like a dad.”
“I wish I could say I sound like my mom. Oh, well, handling this shouldn't be too hard,” she reassured herself. “I just have to play with them.”
She sighed. They had a point. Dessert was after supper. But, she knew the rule really meant no snacks at all. She wanted to let them have some cookies. But, she knew she shouldn’t. “Look, boys. No ice cream meant no ice cream to me at your age.”
“But what about cookies,” they wondered. Each repeated the word “please” about ten times.
Michelle held her ground. “No snacks means no snacks,” came the determined voice. She showed her warm, friendly smile. The twins copied. This relieved Michelle. She could understand one test. She behaved like that, too, sometimes.
“Now that that’s over, they’ll be good.” The grinning reminded Michelle of something. She knew it was her mother’s favorite saying. “Always give away a smile, they're free and you'll get plenty back.” Or...well, it went something like that.
She put her arms around Nicky and Alex.. She hoped they weren’t mad. She’d raised her voice more than she’d wanted. “Now, give me a big hug.” They embraced. “You’re just in time for a birthday party video marathon.”
“Boring,” came Alex’s tired voice.
“That’s right. They don’t watch a lot of TV. I guess that’s good. But, right now I wish they did. The boys might watch one VeggieTales video with Michelle. But, they might have a lot longer to wait.
Nicky suggested they jump on the bed. Michelle decided that was okay. She led them up to the room she and Stephanie shared.
Michelle remembered a camp song. “I’m going to teach you a new song.” She directed them to her bed and took off her sweatshirt. She folded it and placed it on a chair. She climbed onto Stephanie’s bed.
“Does it have counting,” Nicky wondered. Nicky and Alex loved to count.
“Sort of. What you do is, you jump and start in a very low whisper. ‘First verse, same as the first.’” She bounced on Stephanie’s mattress while showing them.
“No, Michelle,” Alex informed her. “You start counting with oneth.”
Nicky nodded his head in approval. “Yeah, oneth, tooth, threeth, fourth, fifth...”
“That is so cute.” “No, you see, first means one - like when we look at pictures.” She asked if they remembered their first birthday.
“Yeah,” spoke Nicky, “when the doctor took us outta Mommy.”
“That was the day you were born. The day you are born is not your birthday.” She scratched her head. She could see why they looked confused. That made no sense. “Watch me. You’ll get the hang of it.”
She bounced again. “‘First verse, same as the first. A little bit louder and a little bit worse.’ Can you do that?”
The twins jumped and copied her. They shouted quite loudly though. They were already at the eighth verse’s level.
“No, no,” Michelle cried out, holding out her hands.
Nicky and Alex jumped. They sang “no, no,” while holding out their hands just as Michelle had done.
As Michelle placed a hand on her forehead, Nicky shouted “this is fun.”
“Yeah, what do we sing now,” Alex asked.
“Let’s try this once more,” Michelle whispered. “You can be quiet, can’t you?”
“Yes,” Nicky whispered.
Michelle nodded quickly. She went back to her regular voice. “Good, now...”
“Michelle,” hollered Alex.
“What?”
“You didn’t use your quiet voice,” her cousin complained.
“At least they understand the rule.” She whispered her instructions. The tots sang and bounced. They quickly mastered the song. By the tenth and final verse, they were all screaming like a monster was after them. Michelle jumped with her hands on her ears.
After doing the entire song several more times, the twins got off Michelle’s bed. They put their shoes on again. Still standing on Stephanie’s bed, Michelle asked “what is it?”
“Let’s do something else,” Alex said.
Michelle wished she could have gotten them to jump some more. She could have jumped for a lot longer. “Hmmm, let’s look for something. Where’s the ceiling?” When both boys pointed up, she tickled them.
“Where’s the ceiling,” the brothers shouted simultaneously. Michelle pointed up, and the twins returned the tickling. Soon, all three rolled and laughed heartily.
The trio tired of that after about a minute. They sat upright. Nicky and Alex wanted to do something different.
“Okay, like what?” Michelle followed them out the door into the hallway.
“I dunno,” Nicky replied.
“Me neither,” came his brother.
Michelle rubbed her lip. She was good at playing with her cousins. She knew she could do something to keep them occupied. “Hmmm, let’s go look at Joey’s puppets.”
They ran down to Joey’s basement apartment. “Where are they,” shouted Nicky.
“With the key to the batter’s box,” Alex suggested.
Nicky agreed. “Yeah, maybe. Joey’s always losing that.”
Michelle laughed. “Joey likes to pull that on you, doesn’t he,” she remarked. This was an old trick used to keep her busy when she was little. Michelle now knew that the batter’s box was merely a square. Baseball players stood in it while batting. It was not a box with a missing key.
“Pull what on us,” Alex wondered.
“That’s right. They still fall for that,” she reminded herself. “Oh... nothing, nothing. I guess the puppets are all in L.A. with him.” She frowned slightly. Now, they couldn’t have a puppet show.
“But if he took his key we’ll know where he left it,” came Alex’s reply.
Michelle laughed. “Okay. I guess that makes sense.”
“I gotta go potty,” Nicky reported.
“Me, too,” Alex said. He followed his brother. They went up to the second floor bathroom.
Michelle waited outside with Alex while Nicky went. Then, Alex went in and Nicky stood with Michelle. She was quietly thankful for their good behavior so far.
They normally behaved and listened well. However, she’d been told every child went through ornery spells. One had begun a couple days ago with the boys.
Michelle knew it was important to distract her cousins. That would keep them from having most bad ideas. However, it couldn’t prevent all of them. If this were a day like she’d had once, she would have to start making some tough decisions. After all, she’d spent practically the whole afternoon in the corner one day. She pushed every limit to the max..
Michelle remembered how much her cousins begged for some presents. The boys could be very demanding. They tried very hard to get their way at times. They had behaved extra well in the weeks before Christmas to get those. Her dad had explained they were probably letting off a little steam this week.
Most of their bad behavior lately had come from curiosity. They tested things to see what happened. They wouldn’t ask anyone. They’d wondered what would happen to her dad’s new vacuum if it “ate” a bunch of Legos. So, they stuffed it with them. If they’d just asked, someone would have explained to them. Then, they probably wouldn’t have done it.
Michelle hoped the boys would behave. However, soon Alex told Nicky to enter the bathroom with him. When she heard something open, Michelle knew there could be trouble.

Chapter 3

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