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Me: Tonight at dinner we are going to play a game.

My children’s eyes widened in rapt attention.

Parker: What kind of game?
Me: It can be like a contest. It’s a contest to see who can be the cleanest at dinner. Don’t leave any messes. If you spill …
Gwen: You die?
Me: No, not this time. You can spill but it has to land on your plate. I don’t want anything dropped on the floor or the table and definitely keep your placemat clean!
Gavin: I don’t know about this. I’m tired.
Heath: Yeah and Mom is tired of cleaning! This should be a challenge since we’re having tacos for dinner.

The kids were very excited about this proposed plan that started out as a plea veiled in heavy sarcasm.

Gwen: What happens if you win?
Me: If everyone can keep things clean then we can have popcorn with our movie, and there are bottles of Sprite in the fridge that you can have too.
Parker: And if you lose?
Heath: The loser has to eat this jalapeño from tip to stem.

With game on expressions, we prayed and commenced building tacos. I have never seen the kids eat so carefully. I figured at some point they would realize I didn’t really mean for it to be a game. That was just the attention getter statement. But they took it all extremely seriously. I have good kids!

Parker: Mom, I was the last one to finish eating so will you come check the table? Oh I hope I’m the winner!

I checked and saw a virtually perfect table. Not a speck marring the table. Not a crumb on a single placemat. Gwen already had to sweep up her lunch crumbs so no crumbs made it to the floor after dinner.

Gwen saw the offending pieces first. She had spilled three tiny turkey crumbs on her placemat. I told her I would pretend I didn’t see it if she could just take care of it. She yelled loudly as she picked up the crumbs to dump in the trash. It’s like they are all very excited about Christmas or something! Then she walked into the kitchen and picked up the jalapeño.

Gwen: Do I really have to eat the whole thing?

Again, I totally thought they would get that we were kidding. I even told her that I would ignore her transgression! Yet she fully believed that she had to eat the jalapeño! Heath stopped her before the pepper got to her mouth. The movie came with popcorn for everybody too.

I know I am neurotic. This is not news. I love my kids and how they handle their crazy mother. Yes we really do have the rule that if you spill you die. That started when our dining room was carpeted. So far no one has spilled anything that couldn’t easily be vacuumed or swept up. Therefore they are all still alive … for now! I have learned that jalapeños are an excellent incentive as well.