We were the lucky recipients of not one but TWO fancy dinners out

Saturday was my husband's 41st birthday, and on that day we were the lucky recipients of not one but TWO fancy dinners out, courtesy of my parents at lunch and his parents at supper. We also got some pretty sweet gifts (since my birthday was earlier in the month),--me a gift card from his parents, he a case for his shotgun from my parents that he had to return because it was slightly too small--and because we are young children on the inside, we had to spend the gift card/exchange the case that very same evening. We rationalized it as, "Hey, we're already in Wichita and have each other to watch over the children, so it makes the most sense to shop now, at night, after the kids' bedtimes." And truly, I should never again raise my left eyebrow at either G or Little Missy when they want to spend their allowance the same evening they receive it in their precious little hands; their impatience is apparently written on their genetic code.

First we stopped at Dick's Sporting Goods on Rock Road, and while Hubby exchanged his gift the children and I looked at all the real fish they sell as bait in oxygen-less, sealed plastic bags, before moving on to the machetes. Exciting items if you know where to look.

Then we went across the street to Eddie Bauer. We were the only customers in the store, so while I looked in the clearance section and tried on clothes, the children exploited the opportunity to crawl under dressing room doors, write with dry erase marker on the boards, and look at themselves in the three-way mirror. It caused me slight anxiety as I walked around the store and heard their giggles bounce across the concrete floors and high ceilings, but as I gauged the reactions of the sales associates, they were ignoring it so I forced myself to enjoy the browsing.

At the end, I had $5 left on my gift card, and since Eddie Bauer is not exactly the sort of store you run into to pick up a $5 item, Hubby and I searched the trinkets next to the cash wrap to choose something, ANYTHING, to fill in that last bit of the gift card. Baby Chickadee, ever observant, watched us and copied us, and as I laid my items on the counter to pay, she laid her items on the counter, too.

This is not unusual for my third-born. Not long ago she was in the cab of the car cart at Dillons and as I placed my grocery items on the conveyor belt a teeny little toddler hand reached up and placed her Trix yogurt (that I never allow her to buy) on the conveyor belt. It was too hilarious to tell her no. So that night at Eddie Bauer, as she laid her cache of goods that she'd never need on the counter, she smiled at me with her big brown eyes; I could only laugh in surprise at her audacity.

But I couldn't buy her non-essential stuff. So after I paid for my items and my items only, I had her help me put her items back on the trinket table. And the poor girl cried big tears at the injustice of being kept out past her bedtime on a day without a nap and too much sugar, topped off by not being allowed to buy a bug light. The cruelty of it all! Then I carried her to the car and kissed her cheek to try and soothe her. As I put her in her carseat her Hello Kitty lunchbox that she'd been using as a purse spilled open onto G and LIttle Missy's seats, pouring out all the goods she'd stolen from Eddie Bauer.

NOW, I'm not sure she stole them. G and Little Missy are pretty sure, Hubby is suspicious, but I think maybe she was too distraught by the injustice of not getting the items we'd already put away, thereby making her three-year-old conscience forget about the carabiners and flashlights she'd stashed in her lunchbox.

Hubby picked her up out of her seat with all the booty and made her walk back inside the store to put them back in their rightful places. I watched a sobbing Baby Chickadee hold her Daddy's hand, heaving with the sadness of her brother and sister and daddy calling her out, look at her Daddy just before re-entering the store, and I was sad for the poor thing. She'd had a tough day.

But not tough enough that I was willing to spend $50 on items she wouldn't remember in the morning. I mean, you have to draw the line somewhere.

Erin Fox is a busy wife and mother of three. She is a weekly columnist for the Times- Gazette.