I know what you’re going to say. Aww, but she’s so cute! Well, she’s only 6–what do you expect? How much trouble could one cute little girl actually cause?! Those are some valid points, but let me assure you, this kid is trouble.

Like Zoe, she’s very smart. However, Zoe is a rule follower who seeks to learn things so she can do them correctly. She’s also constantly looking for ways to help others and has been an extremely social child since she was a baby riding in a grocery cart smiling at strangers. Ella is not like that.

You see, Ella is very self-contained. She smiled plenty as a small kid, but her looks for strangers (or even us) were a little more like, “I’m busy over here. What do you need?

She also generally looks for rules to break them—sometimes she doesn’t seek the rules at all. What rules?! On the bright side, she’s highly self-aware:


That’s why it shouldn’t be surprising to hear a few Ella the Troublemaker stories. Let’s get started. The Tooth Fairy has visited our house many, many, many times, leaving gifts ranging from $1 (there’s a 4-quarter drama for that) to up to $10 for a milestone tooth for Zoe (that we had forgotten about on the first night, which was not unusual). So it’s not our first rodeo, and in recent years, after I researched the proper amount, our Tooth Fairy usually leaves around $5—or whatever we can find around the house. Stay with me, all this will be helpful context in a second.

Ella has lost a couple of bottom teeth so far, but when one of her two front teeth started wiggling, it was very exciting! For what felt like a month (it was not) she wiggled, announced, pointed out that tooth to anyone who would listen or had the stomach to watch. Then one day, as always happens, that tooth fell out.

After lots of celebration, you can guess what happened next: She diligently put that tooth under her pillow, and The Tooth Fairy fell asleep. Bart and I had even talked about what to do, but hey, we didn’t do it. She woke to no Tooth Fairy money. Ella was unfazed. She simply announced that the Tooth Fairy had not come, and we agreed she had too much stuff up in her bed and that we’d need to make the tooth contraption a little easier to find. On night two, we felt guilty and were determined not to forget. We gathered $7 (a fair amount for negligent fairies), and Tooth Fairy Bart remembered to make the swap.

The next morning, Ella was elated! The Tooth Fairy had left her $86!!

Let that soak in. And let me add that there was not a drop of guile on her face. She looked completely genuine in her excitement and was simply sharing the good news. I wish I had a video of MY face (thankfully, little kids aren’t good at reading those signals yet). Astonished, I repeated, “Eighty-six dollars?!” On one hand, that was a perfect response if you’re trying to sustain the tooth fairy mythology.

What was really going through my head was, “Bart Johnson! What were you thinking?! We can’t afford to keep this up! I mean, a front tooth is special, but do you realize how many more teeth we have to buy?!” But back to the troublemaker. She instantly replied, “Yep” to my inquiry about the amount and smiled broadly. Unsure what to do, I just said, “Wow. That must have been some tooth!” After confirming with my husband that the Tooth Fairy had indeed NOT left her $86, I went back to the source.

Ella assured me that she found ALL that money beneath her pillow, and so, clearly it was from the Tooth Fairy. She had no concerns about the amount (I mean, it WAS a front tooth, and she has no real concept of money). I was befuddled. Maybe there really IS a Tooth Fairy?! One that thinks Bart and I are cheap, who snuck in behind us and added $79 to the tooth loot. Ok, I’m an optimist, but that was unlikely. Approximately 48 hours later, I was able to get Ella to confess. She had supplemented the $7 with money from her piggy bank AND money from Dad’s wallet…


Before you ask, yes, we had a conversation about NOT stealing from Dad’s wallet (or anywhere else). She said, “Oh, ok.” Another symptom that we have spent so much time together during this pandemic that it seems like none of us have personal items anymore. That explains why they love messing up my office and walking away from that mess.

Anyway, when the other front tooth came out, Ella had a lackluster response. In fact, instead of her running out of her room and telling us about it, as both girls usually do, I had to ask her if the Tooth Fairy came. Turns out the Tooth Fairy had left her $7. That’s more like it.

Maybe you’re thinking, Was that story really so bad? Let’s just say this saga continued. Flash forward a week or so, just before dinner, when I walked towards Bart in the kitchen with Ella and Zoe, and he said to me tensely, “Ella just lost her iPad for 3 days. Ella, do you want to tell your mom what you just did?” [insert slightly sheepish cute face]

Turns out this time she dipped back into Dad’s wallet and took a credit card to buy something on Roblox (which we have never done). It was a “red skull thing” that allows you to “do anything you want in there, for free”. Ha. Free. For those in the know (not me), it was an Elite game pass in the Murder Mystery 2 game that costs 499 Robux (~$6).

You may also be wondering, How’d she get caught? Thankfully, the credit card form online required a zip code, so she stopped by Dad’s desk and asked what our zip code was… Realizing something was up, he gave her a fake one, then asked her why. We were 5 digits away from Ella having made her first online, completely unsupervised purchase. What followed was a very serious discussion where I explained that if she had put all that information online and someone had stolen it, we could lose our house.

That resonated. With saucer-shaped eyes, she promised never, ever, ever to do that again.


To be candid, there’s a LONG LIST of things that Ella does on a regular basis that prove she’s a Troublemaker. Here are just a few:

  • Frequently, random household items “disappear” then “reappear” in her room as part of a scene she’s created with stuffies and dolls. (FYI, her room is a wreck 99% of the time, and she will cry actual tears and say, “I can’t do it by myself!” when we insist she clean it.)
  • Ask her sister how long a hug is supposed to last or how many Lego parts Ella has commandeered (blatantly stolen) from Zoe’s sets because “she didn’t have one”.
  • Count the unapproved (and empty) Goldfish or Fruit Snack wrappers you find hidden in corners or under the dresser in her room.
  • Talk to my friend about the following text exchange with Ella, who was on FaceTime with her daughter while on her mother’s phone (the first line is from my friend, who thinks she’s texting me) – names blacked out to protect the innocent:

Troublemaker. Sassyfras. What in the world?!!

Now, anyone who knows me knows that a) she probably got all this smarty-pants-ness from me, and b) I’m getting back exactly what I deserve. But no one can argue that this kid makes trouble. Looks for it even. I cannot imagine what her teen years are going to be like (or me surviving them).

In the meantime, I hope the universe stays on our side and intervenes during the highest risk transgressions (like credit card theft), and that we end up giving the right advice. And if you’re interested in what it might be like to wrangle this troublemaker in virtual school, I’ll end with a video Ella uploaded, unsolicited to Seesaw, the school platform for her homework. You’re welcome.


4 thoughts on “Troublemaker

  1. You have your very own Ramona Quimby over there! That tooth fairy story is a classic. And props to Bart for giving a fake zip code… though I suspect credit card transactions might not be fully in your rearview. Is there a way to set up two-factor authentication??? :D

  2. While it is true that you two have unusually intelligent, beautiful, charming children, that also means they are curious and creative; they will constantly entertain you! Sometimes it’s absolutely wonderful and others NOT, That’s why they have amazing parents to teach, guide and stay ahead of their challenges😘. It really makes life enjoyable and never dull💫💕 Love you all. Don’t tell anyone, but they get it honest. Like trading hair barrettes in second grade⚡️

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