Michelle looked up just in time. A spoon fell toward her head.
She stepped aside quickly. She tried to catch it. Somehow, she snagged it after it bounced in her hands.
Two dozen spoons were piled around the boys. They had been trying to juggle them.
“Cool catch,” shouted Nicky. “Here, catch these!” Suddenly, Nicky and Alex flung half a dozen spoons each at her. Most of them came from the floor.
“Wait! Stop!” The twins halted as spoons zoomed around her. Her face held great shock. “Why are you throwing spoons?!”
“Because Daddy says never play with forks and knives,” Alex explained slowly.
His brother agreed. “Yeah, they’re not toys.”
Michelle gawked at the children, then at the spoons again. She felt like she was in a Dennis the Menace cartoon. The children weren’t being destructive. They were just on the wrong side of the border. The border between silly and naughty.
This was the perfect time to suggest something positive. Michelle also followed “Mr. Bear’s” advice.
“Listen, you two. There are plenty of things to juggle in this house. Pillows, stuffed animals; you’ve got tons of stuffed animals.”
“They do it with sticks,” explained Nicky.
“Yeah,” added his brother. “But we never do that.”
Nicky nodded quickly. “They’re experts.”
“Great! Some lesson are sinking in to them.” “Look, when you come down we can juggle all our stuffed animals. But now, you are just making messes. First with Stephanie’s magazines. Now, with these. Not only that, but we do not throw things at other people. Nicky, you go to my room for a timeout. Alex, you go to D.J.’s room.”
“Do we have to,” whined the twins.
“Yes. You know you do. You need to settle down.” They gave her incredibly sad, begging looks. “I mean it.” She placed her hands on her hips.
They slowly went upstairs. Michelle picked up the spoons. She was upset about sending them to different rooms. They were always together. “It must be hard to be a parent.”
She sniffled. Maybe this would work. But, how long would she keep them there? Timeouts weren’t used that often. Usually, parents just removed privileges in their house.
Hers were ten minutes long. However, ten might be too long for her cousins. Michelle sat at the table and thought. Comet walked into the living room. She knew making them wait too long could be a problem. “Here I am second guessing myself again,” she told herself.
She called her friend Cassie Wilkins. She could hire Mrs. Wilkins to babysit the twins. Then, Cassie could come over, too. Plus, she would learn how long to keep the twins in timeout. Everything would be taken care of at once!
She frowned. The Wilkins’ answering machine picked up the phone. She left a message. The Wilkins’ were to call right away. She did the same with Allie and Darcy. They were Stephanie’s best friends. “I should have known this sounded too easy.”
Michelle’s other best friend, Mandy Metz, was with her family in New Jersey. So, neither Mandy’s mother nor older sisters nor grandmother could come. Michelle’s grandparents were on vacation, too.
The phone rang. She snatched the receiver. She wished it would be her dad. Maybe she should call the airport. They could tell her when he’d land.
Allie’s mother answered. Michelle explained the situation.
Mrs. Taylor was shocked. “Your dad lets you babysit by yourself.”
“Well, he didn’t mean to let me.” “Boy, that sounds crazy. Then again, this whole day has been crazy.”
Allie’s mom chuckled. “Allie’s out with Stephanie. I’d come babysit myself. But, I’ve got to go stay with my uncle in a couple minutes. He’s had lots of health problems. We’re taking turns caring for him.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” Michelle asked about timeout length. “I just have no idea what I’m doing here.”
“You will. It just takes time to develop,” Mrs. Taylor assured her. “My mother told me something once. Experience is something you get just after you need it.”
“Time to develop? I’ll give it thirty seconds,” Michelle told herself. She noticed the dog. Comet was dragging a dirty shirt into the kitchen. The floor was getting messy.
“I’ll leave a message for Stephanie to call you if they come back....”
“Wait. Comet, drop it!” The dog obeyed. “Sorry, Mrs. Taylor. Thanks. I’ve got to go. Whenever I get on the phone, things get worse today.” She hung up, and hoped someone would be home soon.
“Comet, where did you get that?” She walked into the living room. A pile of Joey’s laundry laid there. A small trail of dirt led to the plant by the front door. “The boys juggled these before going into the kitchen. Good thing I made to settle.”
She instructed Comet to follow her upstairs. She went into her room and hugged Nicky. Her cousin was laying on Michelle’s bed. He was face down, frowning. She couldn’t believe how easy it was to imagine herself as the child in timeout. “It’s okay, Nicky. I love you.”
“I’m sorry for that mess,” came the whimpering voice.
“I know. Let’s go see Alex.” They walked, hand in hand, to D.J.’s room. Once there, Nicky tried to break free. “Sorry. He needs a hug from me first.” She embraced Alex. “I love you.”
“We was bad,” Alex remarked. All three sat on D.J.’s bed.
“You were pretty wild down there, huh?” They nodded. “I wish I hadn’t had to do that. But, you need to control yourselves. I sent you here so you could settle.”
Alex smiled warmly at her. “You sound like a Mommy.”
“We oughta call you ‘Mommy Michelle’ for now,” Nicky said. His voice held lots of love.
“I feel like one.” “Thanks, guys.” She looked at each. She had to admit she didn’t have all the answers. But, she could give it a very good try. “I’m glad you understand I’m the one making the rules. And it’s hard. It’s very hard for me. But, I’m doing my best.”
“They’ll never know how hard this is. I’ve taken privileges away. I’ve yelled. If I wanted to play I couldn’t. I can’t even ve on the phone for two seconds. What else can happen today?”
She hugged her cousins. They went downstairs. She had them help her get the clothes into a pile. She told them to grab a laundry basket. At first, they played with Comet instead.
The dog normally didn’t grab household things. However, Joey had given him a bath. One of Joey’s shirts had lots of the dog’s scent. Comet seized it. The twins chased him behind the Christmas tree.
“Comet, no,” Michelle shouted too late. The dog bumped the tree. It crashed to the ground.
“Your turn in timeout,” shouted Nicky. Comet backed into the corner, his head low.
Michelle instructed the dog to stay. He did. She grabbed the shirt. This time, Nicky and Alex quickly brought a basket. She filled it and carried it to the washer. The boys ran elsewhere.
Michelle walked into the living room. She looked at Comet. She placed her hands on her hips. “I am not doing laundry. If I got distracted with that, they’d probably flood the house. That’s the way this day has gone.”
“Speaking of going, where are they,” she asked herself as she swept up the dirt. She called for them. But, they didn’t answer. “Ah, nuts. Now what,” she wondered aloud.
She first thought they were juggling something. However, a search turned up nothing.
Could they be playing hide and seek? Probably not. They weren’t in any closets. Besides, they wouldn’t stay hidden earlier.
Michelle allowed Comet up. She asked him to help. They jogged through each room. No Nicky, no Alex. Then, she noticed that a closet door was opened. The boys’ hats and coats were missing.
She ran to the kitchen, and looked out the window. Nicky and Alex were outside riding their tricycles. “They’re in big trouble, Mister,” she informed Comet. She wished she knew what that meant.
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