"Fred says it's a worthless talent... that I should've learned French instead. But I say you don't need to know what 'Voulez-vous coucher avec moi' means to love that song."

"I think being good at crane machine is way cooler than French."

One of the best things about being a child is all the stuff you get away with that a taller person couldn't.

We were at the mall a few days ago and in the food court is one of those crane machine games. This particular one is beloved because it has four sides and four different players can each be playing at once. This is one of Dormouse's favorite things in the world. Not because we ever let her actually put money in the game and play - what a waste of precious quarters that would be - but because she loves to push buttons and mess with the joy stick.

Hey... it's cheap entertainment. Don't knock it.

So the other day, we were waiting for KingofHearts to get some food and I chose a table near the Crane Machine of Awesomeness so I could let her push, push, push buttons to her little heart's delight until Daddy Delivery came back with lunch. She had just exhausted her interest in one side and started around the corner to push new delectable buttons when I heard "No, no that's not yours!"

I could see the Dormouse, but not everything around the corner, and what I did not realize was that a young man was there actively playing the game. He had this process of starting the game, moving back to inspect, and then moving back in to adjust the crane, move back, inspect, lather, rinse, repeat. Dormouse didn't realize he was playing and in a moment, she grabbed the joy stick, pushed the button, and the bells and whistles began as the crane hook lowered, completely uncontrolled by the person who had actually paid for the game.

To the both of our surprise, she nabbed a stuffed raccoon and the crane picked it back up and dropped it into the chute. The game congratulated her, more lights and bells lit up like Christmas and the smiling raccoon slid happily down to be adopted by a waiting patron.

Dormouse went wild. Congratulated herself, jumped up and down and clapped her hands as the stunned 20ish guy looked on at the child who'd just bogarted his stuffed animal. It was clear from the stack of quarters neatly laid across the top of the game, that he'd spent quite a bit of money trying to win something already.

I was mortified.

Through her whoops and hollers, I tried to explain that the raccoon was his, that he was playing the game, he was the one who put the money in, and she had to give it back to him (harsh, maybe, but she has to learn this lesson sometime). Amazingly, she understood, did NOT throw a Big Stupid Fit and walked over to him and pushed the raccoon out toward him through the air.

He looked down at her face and I could see a wave of "awww" cross his countenance as his expression changed from righteous indignation to kindness. He said, "You know what? You are the one who caught it, you deserve to have it." How awesome was that dude?

And how awesome is it that she could just look up at him with her crooked little smile and totally diffuse the situation? Not only diffuse it, but walk away with the toy she stole and convince everyone she had every right to do so.

I've got to learn how to bottle this stuff. I'll be a millionaire.