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September 23, 1997

I was watching a program about “simplifying” yesterday. The simplification expert recommended that families should lay the school clothes out, make lunches, and do homework the night before. No offense, but we know that, right! Just like we know doughnuts and cinnamon rolls are not diet foods. It’s not the simple things we are having trouble with.

It’s when we’re finally dressed and ready to go, everyone has their coats on, you’ve got your briefcase, laptop, and other assorted supplies strapped to your handy dandy luggage cart which you are about to carry down the 25 steps between you and a smooth pulling surface, you ask one of the three able bodies behind you to shut the door and World War III breaks out . . . . “JUST SHUT THE DOOR!” It is after the door is shut and locked, and when you realize that your keys are still in the house that we need the simplification expert.

This morning, I was thoroughly appreciating each moment of familial bliss as my children took their point charts to heart. This momentary suspension of regular behavior is not lost on me; I know the shelf life of a good point chart, especially one that includes the task of “Never Disagreeing With Mommy.” However, in spite of my vast experience and understanding of the power of points, I was not prepared for the picture perfect behavior I was presented with this morning as I emerged from the shower.

I shouted out my usual post shower commands, “Kelly get dressed! Ralphie get up! Kip get away from your sister!” Silence . . . almost never a good sign. I opened the door all of the way, and it was as if I had passed into some strange Norman Rockwell dimension. Kelly and Kip were dressed, their hair was combed, the dishes were cleared, the beds were made, Kelly was watching Big Comfy Couch instead of Gargoyles, and Kip was lying on his tummy in the top bunk reading a Hardy Boys novel.

Of course I showered the two of them with compliments as we descended the steps on our way to school. That is when Kip confessed, “Mommy, don’t give us any points for this morning.” “Why not?” I asked, surprised that he would forego points for any reason. “Kelly and I were arguing while you were in the shower,” he admitted. “He was screaming in my ear, I thought I was going to be deaf!” Kelly added.

Norman Rockwell days are pretty rare around here, we have about one picture perfect day every six months, and I have finally come to grips with that. Rushing from here to there, frayed nerves, short tempers, and flab are part of the story. Happily ever after comes with the stuff between the lines; the stuff that no one writes about or includes in picture books.

Enter Kip: “Mommy is there any way for me to get my video game privilege back?
Me: “No”
Kip: “Kelly is scratching her bottom.”
Kelly looking closely at the point chart, “Why did Kip and Ralphie get 10 points for saying thank you, and I only got five?”

Sketch of SF house by Nick Isaak @ Homesketch