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Emily Morrison Emily Morrison
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A relaxing, candlelit dinner for two

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Every now and again my children surprise me. After spending a relaxing afternoon by the lake, we settled our sand- and sun-rumpled kids into our minivan for the two-minute drive home. I should have known something was up by the whispering.

'We have a surprise for you, Mumma, and we think you're really going to like it,' Meg said. As the middle child, Meg enjoys her role as the 'spoiler of all secrets' her two siblings are foolish enough to share with her.

'Meg, I told you not to tell her! Why do you always ruin everything?' Addie, the oldest, blurted from beside her in the backseat. Eye rolling, foot stomping and pouty staring out the window ensued.

'Well, I didn't tell her we were cooking supper. I just told her she was going to like the surprise,' Meg replied, unconsciously perfecting her art form.

'Meg, you just told her our secret!' Jack belted out from his middle-row car seat. For a 4-year-old, he wears righteous anger well.

'Woah, woah, woah. I really appreciate the offer, guys, but we don't have much to cook. Maybe you can make us dinner tomorrow night,' I said, assuming I cut all attempts off at the pass.

'No, that's fine, Mom. We're just going to do pasta and salad. Meg and Jack are in charge of the salad, and I'll do the pasta. Take the night off relax,' Addie said. Her eyes beamed with the quiet knowledge she alone understood this world of grown-ups. She had made the offer to be helpful, and we would not, could not turn her down.

And so our night of relaxation officially began.

Jack's toys, Meg's clothing and Addie's math book were unceremoniously deposited onto the love seat beside the dining room table how romantic.

Next, they fought over which candles to place in which candleholders, all of which were glass.

To add to the glass theme, Jack found a yellow rose in a blue glass vase to use as a centerpiece. The girls refused to let it adorn the table. 'Just because I'm not a girl, I can put stuff on it too, guys!' His tears really sealed the centerpiece's place on the table.

After the first candle was lit, they proceeded to light the other candles from the one flame. Rather than a symbolic show of solidarity, the candle lighting ceremony turned into a fiery debate. 'I'm lighting the next one, Addie!'

'Jack, you're going to light the table on fire!' Meg yelled. Frankly, I was more afraid for her hair than the tablecloth.

While Addie set the plates on the table, Meg climbed up onto a bar stool to fetch the wine glasses from the cupboard. I witnessed an amazing feat: my 7-year-old balancing on one foot while holding onto a wine glass with the word 'hope' scrawled across it. Hope was almost shattered.

Then came the food preparation.

In his zeal for all things salad, Jack bit the baby carrots in two and spit them back into the bowl, repeatedly.

While supervising the carrot 'cutting,' Meg washed the lettuce in the sink. We live near a blueberry field, and without the filter, our water is a lovely mix of pesticide and arsenic. Here's hoping she used the filter.

As Addie cut the cucumbers with a knife sharp enough to sever a digit, I tried to find that relaxing place all mothers go to while watching their children julienne vegetables.

After boiling the pasta, they fought over who would have the illustrious job of adding the sauce to the pot. Democracy ruled, and they each took turns stirring the pasta onto the floor equally.

At last, with great decorum, they set us down and served us.

And for the big surprise, Meg managed not to spill: We were having dinner and a show. She produced a portable DVD player from underneath her T-shirt with our favorite romantic comedy all cued up.

Forgoing their plans to watch Kipper and dine with Jack in the living room, Addie pulled up a seat and Meg stood by my elbow.

'Isn't this SO romantic, Mumma?' Meg asked me.

'Yes, Meg. This is SO romantic,' I said.

No dinner, no show, no dimly-lit atmosphere could ever compete with this delicious love.

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