Posts Tagged ‘Clara’

A San Diego native, I have never seen anything like this. I was somewhat comforted Thursday morning when Jaime, a long-time New England resident, conceded that she has never seen this much snow, and wondered out loud if we had unknowingly been transported to Buffalo or perhaps Alaska.

As it turns out, no one in Connecticut has ever seen anything quite like this. The snow began falling again last Wednesday night at the rate of 1-2 inches an hour and by the time the flakes stopped Thursday morning, the 15 inch measurement brought Connecticut’s total accumulation for January to 59.8 inches! The five feet of snow shattered the previous record of 45 inches in the month of January set in 1945, with four days yet to go in the month.

In the midst of the unyielding snow storms, my wife and I have been preparing for the birth of our third child and our first home birth. Our first two children were born at Yale New Haven Hospital, but after Shepard was nearly born in the car on the way to the hospital the last time around, we were excited to pursue our longtime goal of a home birth and have the midwives come to us.

Oh, it all seemed so simple at the time we made the decision. Our first two were born on beautiful and warm late summer/early fall days, and the thought of a winter arrival this time around seemed quaint. We would fill our oil tank and run our heaters until our 1910 apartment, sans insulation, reached a temporary but toasty temperature to welcome the child. The labor would occur quickly and without complication and life with three children would get off to a nice start. I would take off at least two weeks after the baby was born to assist both mom and kiddos #1 and #2 with the transition to a family of five. Yep, the plans looked nice all drawn up.

But nothing this time seems to be going according to my plan.

Let’s start with the snow. First snows are always somewhat magical and this month started out in enchanted fashion. The snow was soft and plentiful, floating down in big sparkly flakes. I took Clara out in the middle of a snow shower on the evening of January 7 when the ground was already covered in a blanket of frosty white. We had fun traipsing toward the backyard leaving footsteps in the virgin winter cover.

January 12 was a day to remember as my 28th birthday brought over two feet of snow and a resulting paid day off from work. Granted, I did spend hours outside shoveling ourselves and neighbors out of the overnight snow pack, but it was a good day. Our Maxima was so completely covered by the snow drift that when Clara came out to assist the clean up effort, I was able to help her sled from the roof of the sedan down the windshield and hood of the vehicle and then down the hill into our backyard without ever having the sled touch the surface of my car. Good times. Another highlight was teaching Clara that snow of the fresh white variety is edible and watching her test this out for herself (below).

But then it got messy. First came an ice storm which covered the existing snow walls and landscapes with two solid inches of ice creating a deadly beautiful scene. The ice put a choke hold on the trees and our homes while glistening in the morning sunlight. The added mass of the frozen water began to cause branches to snap off and fall in the roads.  Massive icicles over six feet long attached themselves to our house and were the death of our rain gutter which came crashing down two stories under the weight.

Then the ice was covered over by another two snow showers. As we ran out of places to shovel the snow, I was reminded of my friend Jason Stewart’s recent description of falling snow as relentless beauty. It was that unrelenting nature that helped me welcome age 28 by overworking my rotator cuff from unnatural movement related to repeatedly scooping pounds of snow and catapulting it over my head to the only places the snow could still be piled. By the time this last storm’s carnage was manifest, the snow pile up in our front yard could have buried Yao Ming.

Every intersection has become blind due to the snow barriers and all streets have been narrowed to the width of a single car due to the insurgent precipitation. Perhaps most worrisome to us, should the baby decide to come during one of these storms, would the midwives be able to get to us? I played a decent center field in my day and feel confident about catching the kid, but would prefer not to break out my glove. Even if the storms passed, as our town appears to be under siege from a near-permanent parking ban, will there be a place for the midwives to park upon arrival?

As if the snow is not a formidable enough obstacle, our family has been hit with consistent illness throughout the month. First Shepard and then Clara came down with an RSV-like respiratory infection and we were advised that such an illness contracted by a newborn would likely be an automatic hospitalization for the little one. We began considering splitting the family up postpartum and having Jaime rest and take care of the infant over at Nana’s house while I would take care of the sickly elder siblings in our apartment until the tide of infection should pass. But in between storms, Jaime’s due date of January 21st came and went with no sign or contraction of a baby.

Jaime’s pregnancies with Clara and Shepard both went beyond their “due” dates by a couple days, so we were not alarmed when the 23rd arrived without a baby, but decided it wouldn’t hurt to get a check up with the midwives when the 25th came around without so much as a labor pang. At the exam, Jaime was informed that apparently our due date had been revised to January 26th after the last ultrasound performed by our previous practice, and that in the process of switching to our current midwife/home birth practice this information had somehow not been relayed to us. We were relieved that the baby was not yet “late,” but I admit I was a little perturbed as I had planned my paternity leave off the due date being the 21st and had already begun my limited leave of absence with no child yet in tow. I attempted to get over it and chalked up the miscalculation and mishandling of information to something that must happen when you have three kids and not one (or two) and attempted to embrace my new reality of plans being readily flushed down the toilet in favor of chaos. I reset my anticipation clock and again prepared to wait.

I have been leisurely reading through Ann Lamott’s Traveling Mercies over the past six weeks and have found the title chapter to be especially insightful. In the essay, an acquaintance of Lamott’s is complaining about her recent run of bad luck when she runs into a gentleman who works with the Dalai Lama. The gentleman then shares his perspective that, “when a lot of things start going wrong all at once, it is to protect something big and lovely that it trying to get itself born – and that this something needs for you to be distracted so that it can be born as perfectly as possible.” In light of the incessant blizzards, the relatively serious household illnesses and a miscommunicated due date, I decided that something big and lovely was indeed trying to get itself born. In this case, not much metaphor deciphering was necessary, obviously it is a big and lovely baby. A child in God’s hands, waiting for the right moment to arrive.

I felt strongly this said arrival would occur on Friday the 28th, if not before. Then when contractions did finally begin on the evening of the 28th, I felt certain that our son or daughter would be born on Saturday the 29th at the latest. We took the kids over to Nana’s house for a sleep over, we cleaned and prepared our home (again), we walked on the treadmill at Planet Fitness, we relaxed, we rubbed big toes, we waited and waited. We still are waiting. And the longer we wait, the greater my realization that I have no control here. And perhaps, this, my consistent desire for control, has been the obstacle that needed defeating, above the snowstorms and the illnesses. Perhaps now the baby can be born, perfectly as possible, unlike anything I’ve seen before.

As we were leaving Chili’s this afternoon, Jaime commented, “I cannot believe this is the third time that someone can ask me when my due date is,  and I can tell them yesterday.” Both Clara and Shepard arrived two days after their “due” date, Clara on a Sunday evening and Shepard on a Friday afternoon. Yesterday was the due date for our third child and in anticipating the arrival of kiddo number three, a.k.a. The Player to Be Named Later, I have been reflecting on our first three plus years of parenting.

One of our favorite things to do with the kids is read to them and I thought I would share my top 10 children’s books recommendations (thus far) in Letterman fashion, for anyone looking for a good read to share with your own little ones, grandkids or perhaps to pick up from the library in route to your next babysitting gig. The picks below are my suggestions for kids zero to three and for the most part do not include the stuff you probably loved to read as a kid, but instead are meant to shine light on some possible new favorites.

10.     “Rabbit’s Bedtime” by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace (1999)

Given to us as a gift by Yale New Haven Hospital when Clara was born, we read this book to her every night as an infant; that is, until she grew to love it so much that it became overly-stimulating and had to be removed from the bedtime routine in lieu of watching “Praise Baby” DVDs. Wallace’s construction paper cut-out art is simple yet inventive and makes me wish I had thought of it first. The story follows a typical day in the life of a child and ponders what was good about today.

9.       “Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus!” by Mo Willems (2003)

One of many great picks introduced to us by Fairy Godmother Wendy, this book is highly interactive as the bus driver gives your child the responsibility of preventing an overly ambitious pigeon from driving his bus. Kids love telling the pigeon “No!” But be careful, the pigeon can be pretty persuasive as evidenced by Clara’s consistent caving when the pigeon offers a bribe of five bucks. I have to admit that I also love attempting to give the pigeon my best Brooklyn accent.

Willems’ illustrations are nothing to boast of, but you have to admire the Sesame Street writer’s persistence as he was repeatedly rejected as a children’s author before publishing this Caldecott Honor book in 2003. Willems has gone on to produce a growing number of titles, but in the ever-important child potty training genre, his “Time to Pee!” is my favorite.

8.       “I Love You The Purplest” by Barbara M. Joosse, illustrated by Mary Whyte (1996)

Joose tells a story of a mom and her two boys who are vying for her love and attention. While spending a day fishing, the mother makes sure to compliment the very different natures and skills of both her sons. When being tucked in, the boys ask, “Who do you love best?” Mom wisely and descriptively answers that she loves one of her sons the bluest and the other the reddest. I think I may have enjoyed this one more than the kids as it does a nice job of describing a parent’s love. Whyte’s watercolor illustrations nicely compliment the tone of the book.

7.       “Henry Hikes to Fitchburg” by D.B. Johnson (2000)

This New England flavored story was inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden” and is an ode to simplicity. A brown bear named Henry and his friend decide to meet up in Fitchburg, a town 30 miles away. While Henry’s friend spends a few days completing various chores and journeyman tasks in order to earn the train fare, Henry elects to hike the distance, stopping to examine nature and eat wild honey along the way.

The review in Publisher’s Weekly sums up the plot nicely noting that Johnson’s book weighsfast-paced urban existence against an unmaterialistic life in the woods. Both bears make it to Fitchburg, but Henry’s friend wears a blank stare, in contrast to Henry’s bright-eyed, curious gaze.” The review suggests the book for ages 4-8, but it’s hard to argue that an introduction to the value of nature can come too soon. However, should the message prove too complicated, the illustrations are fantastic (I especially enjoy the depiction of Henry rock hopping across the Sudbury River contrasted against his friend carrying wood, as the bears are shown walking in different directions despite moving toward the same overt goal).

6.       “Ella Kazoo Will Not Brush Her Hair” by Lee Fox, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas (2010)

I’m a sucker for creatively rhymed narratives that are as much fun for parents to read as they are for children to hear and Ella Kazoo fits the bill. Beyond a humorous take on the mom-daughter fight over hair brushing, the book is an undercover study in synonyms including the words mane, tresses, locks, frizz and mop as alternatives for Ella’s hair. Plus, I always like an unexpected turn and when Ella refuses to listen to her mom, her hair then refuses to listen to her and takes on a persona of its own, requiring parent-child collaboration to thwart. Perhaps most importantly, the book maintains its fun upon repeated readings, which won’t be true of all of your children’s favorites.

5.      “Mrs. McNosh Hangs Up Her Wash” by Sarah Weeks, illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott (2002)

Short, simple and constructed with bouncy rhymes, this book details Mrs. Nelly McNosh’s weekly ritual of hanging up her laundry to dry. After the shirts and socks go up, Mrs. McNosh gets a wrong number and hangs up the phone (on the line) followed by hanging all sorts of other things including the mail, a kite, bats (of the flying rodent variety), and her turkey dinner, before finally washing herself and resting at the end of the day laying in a hung up recliner. Little ones love that they are in on the joke, recognizing that these things shouldn’t be hung up outside and that Mrs. McNosh seems to be hanging up everything in reach, including the wildlife. We’ve checked this one out three times from the Wallingford Public Library.

4.      “Hippos Go Berserk” by Sandra Boyton (1977)

When Clara was about to turn one, I stopped by a Barnes & Noble in West Harftord looking for a book or two for birthday presents. I am a slow poke of a shopper, but based on title alone, I knew I had at least one book selected when I spotted a board book version of “Hippos Go Berserk.”

“One hippo all alone, calls two hippos on the phone,” leading to a hippopotamus party of legendary proportions. Even an unknown beast joins the fun and wait staff hippos are hired. When all 45 party animals cram into a small house, “All the hippos go berserk!” The party then dies down and the hippos leave in the order they arrived by means of a Conestoga wagon and a helicopter among other vehicles, until there is once more a solitary hippo living in the memory of the shindig. Constant rhyming makes reading so fun that math-haters will barely notice all of the addition and subtraction knowledge being subconsciously forced upon the children.

3.      “Porcupining: A Prickly Love Story” by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Janie Bynum (2003)

“Porcupining” not only rhymes but the central plot is built on bad puns, so you know it has to be a good book for kids and adults like myself with underdeveloped senses of humor. The story opens with Cushion the porcupine, pining for love inside a petting zoo where there are no other porcupines and everyone else seems to have a mate. A banjo-wielding Cushion decides his best bet is to serenade some of the single ladies of different species. But while his heart is well-intended, Cushion demonstrates why he’s single when he belts out to a sow that although she’s fat he’s still interested and likewise would be willing to get with a beaver gal despite her “bucky” teeth. Predictably rejected, Cushion finally meets up with a hedgehog named Barb with a similar hard-knocks love history and their relationship is on point. Another fun one to read as the narrative includes many of Cushion’s attempts to impress the chicks using his voice, meaning the reader gets to invent the melodies and inflections. I always opt for a good country twang with decent reviews from the kids.

2.     “The Napping House” by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood (1991)

It seems this title is a classic among librarians, but it missed my radar growing up in Southern California. A child and a grandmother are sound asleep and snoring on a dark rainy day as the household pets get in on the snuggle party one by one before a wakeful flea does nap time in and the slumbering characters awake one page at a time. A helpful Amazon review praises the book for being, “cumulative, predictable and engaging.”

Points are awarded for the husband-wife teamwork here, but it must be said that Don Wood’s illustrations are what make this book come alive. In each successive frame, we see the individual animals and people physically moving in the direction the narrative is heading while Mr. Wood brilliantly phases the light into the story with each page turn until “no one now is sleeping”. For extra credit, the setting of the book also appears to be based on the Wood’s actual home as shown in a photo of the couple on the back flap of the book jacket.

1. “Ballyhoo Bay” by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Derek Anderson, (2009)

I can take little credit for finding this book, as I obtained a copy for free inside a Cheerios box a couple years ago. Maybe it’s the overarching theme of social action and environmental protection, or perhaps it’s the combination of my affections for the beach and art, but Ballyhoo Bay takes the cake.

Mira Bella, teaches art classes including “etching and sketching to grannies and kids and undersea sculpture to swordfish and squids.” Beach animals and people alike are working on found trash art, paintings, paper-mâché projects, and penciled self-portraits under Mira Bella’s tutelage until word comes that Ballyhoo Beach is to be developed for penthouse apartments and a casino. Mira Bella builds political resistance as the grannies and sea creatures march on city hall and sway the town council to preserve the beach instead of selling out to the builders. The planned beach art fair is allowed to go on as planned and the sun sets over the ocean and on the book with the exclamation that  “truth is beauty” and “both saved the day.”

Perhaps the most fun book to read in our collection and Anderson’s illustrations cause me to want to call dibs on him in case I get around to my goal of publishing a children’s book. I also love that our Cheerios version of the story is bilingual adding some Spanish flavor to the story and causing me to imagine that despite the protagonist’s strongly Italian name, that the setting is my beloved San Diego.

I was going to include an honorable mention section, but I’d rather hear from you what you have enjoyed reading to your kids and your top picks for best children’s books.

“Santa Claus is coming to town! Santa Claus is coming to town!” At least, I think he is…

Christmas is a week away. Clara is now three years old, Shepard is sixteen months and next month a new child will be away in a manger putting any thoughts of a silent night well into the rear view mirror for the foreseeable future. But the idea of having three kids age three and under is not the primary thought occupying my mind this Holiday season (I’ll deal with that in January). Rather, it is the realization that three years into this journey of parenting, the white elephant in the room remains what to do with Old Saint Nick.

Jaime had a classic Santa experience believing until around age seven or eight. She has fond memories of believing in a larger than life figure who displayed extravagant generosity and being comforted that someone was looking out for all the children of the world, regardless of their socioeconomic backgrounds. When Jaime figured the ruse out, she wasn’t upset, but instead delighted in assisting the faith of her younger siblings.

I, on the other hand, was that kid on the playground who was telling your kids that Santa was a hoax resulting in angry phone calls to my parents about how I was ruining the magic of Christmas. You see, my father had been a true believer in Father Christmas. When he found out the whole thing was fake, he felt deep in his soul that he had been lied to and when he recounts that moment, one can still hear the pain in his voice. I imagine his childhood anger dwarfing Miles Finch’s fury after being called an elf by Will Ferrell. What really got my dad going was that his own parents had deliberately duped him. He vowed that day he would never lie to his own children in such a manner. So, naturally I shared my father’s disdain for Kris Kringle as I was never given a chance to believe anything but anti-Claus propaganda.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bitter about my own childhood Christmas experiences. We had a great time and I don’t feel I lost anything by not believing in the jolly benefactor in the red suit. We still had presents under the tree, still opened stockings, still belted out “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” But I want to believe there’s a third way. Something beyond deliberately lying to my own kids on the justification that the entire culture does it and therefore it must be okay, but leaving room for childlike faith to soar and grow in the goodwill of mankind, the supernatural, or both.

Presumably, the argument could be made that the whole Santa production is really for us parents and the enjoyment we receive from manipulating our children and then vicariously experiencing their wonderment. I don’t buy this theory entirely though due to the sheer number of folks who pleasantly recount their credence in the charm of the North Pole. Plus, if it were really all about Mom and Dad, it wouldn’t make sense to forgo all the credit for the awesome gifts and transfer the gratitude to an anonymous bearded senior citizen.

Then there’s the whole religious element. The origins of Santa Claus include a mix of semi-Christian mythology and history, but gradually he has become, at least to some degree, a symbol of the commercialism of the season. Some even protest Papa Noel as an anti-Christ figure, the icon of secularism that threatens to swallow the birth story of Christ. Even though Santa is an easy anagram for Satan, I don’t subscribe to any ill-will toward Mr. Claus and dismiss claims such as these quite easily; perhaps because my particular faith tradition was more concerned that December 25th was being celebrated as Jesus’ actual birthday without any “Scriptural authority” or common sense (shepherds don’t typically hang out with their flocks outdoors in the winter).

For a while I thought perhaps I could take an M Night Shyamalan approach to the whole Santa dilemma. You know, pull a “Sixth Sense”, never actually speaking about the guy, but not denying my kids the experience of believing. Then when they figure it all out they could look back and realize I had never actually said Santa was real. They could then replay their whole childhood looking for the red doorknobs that would have tipped them off sooner to the secret of Santa. But while I believe myself to be decently clever, my kids are pretty smart cookies and I recently had to resign that this plan is not feasible in the long run.

So back to the drawing board. But speaking of cookies, I am completely down for eating a plateful of warm chocolate chip cookies with a tall glass of milk each Christmas Eve. So count me in… for now.

Three years ago today, Clara Jane Fisher, literally burst into the world. I suppose we expected her to gradually emerge like a normal newborn, but with an innate flair for the dramatic, her entire little body flew out in one final push.  I distinctly remember Nana’s gasp of “A whole baby!” upon witnessing Clara’s arrival. Three years later she still has people excitedly exclaiming due to her unpredictability and sheer cuteness. I distinctly recall falling in love when she smiled at me just minutes after she was born. And although she lived her first day without a name, labeled as “Baby Girl Fisher” in the hospital, Clara Jane has lived up to her name and demonstrated on a daily basis that it is clear that God is gracious.

Clara has always seemed to be ahead of the game, and this has brought about some quotable quotes and great memories. Like the time 18 month old Clara informed me in the middle of the night while attempting to change her diaper, “Dad, I want a choice.” Of course, I told her no, but who has to tell an 18 month old she doesn’t get a choice anyway?

In part because she is verbally and intellectually advanced, she often has hung out with older children, and attempting to watch her socialize with the big kids has often been humorous. One of my favorite stories occurred while at a park in Cheshire when Clara was just shy of two years old. A boy around four or five years old was playing with Clara on a merry go round when he said to Clara, “Have you seen this movie called Casper the Friendly Ghost? Remember the part where the uncle gets sucked into the vacuum cleaner and he says ‘This sucks!’?” The boy laughed hard and without skipping a beat Clara bent over laughing and responded by pointing to her feet before she giggled, “I wear socks too!”

The kid is full of enthusiasm, just like her mom, and often makes us laugh. Like the time at 21 months when driving from Connecticut to New York to go camping, that we made a pit stop in Massachusetts an hour into the trip and immediately heard Clara’s victory cry of “Camping! We made it! I did it! Yeah!” with hands fully extended into the sky. In the weeks leading up to her birthday, Clara was super pumped about having a “Bayou Birthday” in a tribute to Princess Tiana of The Princess and the Frog and literally took to jumping for joy when telling others about her New Orleans themed party and the planned menu including gumbo and beignets.

Sometimes it is her unexpected skills that bring us joy like the famous “moonwalk” video taken at 15 months. And given her dancing and the fact that she is my genetic offspring, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by the following conversation we had just last week:

Clara: What should we name the new baby?

Me: I don’t know. What do you think we should name it?

Clara: How about Michael Jackson?

Me: Who told you to say that?

Clara: Nobody. I just made that name up myself.

Her wit has always impressed me as has her logic, far beyond the capability of the average toddler, as evidenced by this exchange in a Department store around 26 months:

Clara: “What’s that? Movies?”

Me: “Video games.”

Clara: “Can I play video games?”

Me: “Maybe when you’re older.”

Clara: “Can I be older?

So clearly, we have our hands full and it is just the beginning. Luckily, she takes great pride in being a big sister as evidenced in her leadership in naming the still unborn third child, but she wasn’t always so eager. When Shepard first arrived in August 2009, her first words upon seeing him for the first time in the hospital were, “That’s okay.  I don’t think I like this one. We’ll come back another time.” Never without an opinion.

But perhaps my favorite part of our little girl is her spiritual nature. She often will run over to Jaime and I when we are praying together and form a huddle by grasping our legs. It is a common occurrence these days to hear Clara pray for “the new baby, this home we live in, (and) this wonderful meal we just had.” Once at 26 months, I witnessed her pretending to dribble and asked her if she was playing basketball. Clara replied, ““Yeah. I love basketball. Everybody loves basketball. Daddy loves basketball. Nana loves basketball. Jesus loves basketball. Mom loves basketball. Everybody loves basketball.” Yep, everybody does love basketball and Jesus is a part of the family. Can you believe this chica even asked me at the age of 24 months, “Dad, what is your foundation?” I’m pretty sure she didn’t quite comprehend what she was asking, but it challenged me nonetheless.

Clearly, I would die for this young lady and am preparing to do so on a daily basis as is my duty as a father. After becoming a father to a girl, Bryan Douglass encouraged me to read Meg Meeker’s “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” which I did and also highly recommend. Dr. Meeker writes, “Love isn’t just about feeling good. It’s about doing what you don’t want to do, over and over again, if it needs to be done, for the sake of someone else.” This seems to sum up love, life and parenting. Perhaps more poetically, as Switchfoot sings, “If it doesn’t break your heart it isn’t love. If it doesn’t break your heart it’s not enough.”

And so, I am preparing to fight for her and to show affection to her, even and especially during the awkward teen years. I am preparing to make the tough decisions that will not earn me immediate respect, but will protect my little one, even and especially as she becomes not so little. All in hope that through the mountaintop experiences and valley lows, that a strong woman in the Lord will emerge ready to exhibit the unique blend of a tough mind and a tender heart, an independent thinker willing to trust and depend on God alone. I love you Clara Jane. Happy birthday.

For those of you who know her, feel free to add your own favorite memories in the comment section.

P.S. Also thanks to Mark Wade for the picture directly above. Check out his photography at http://bluemarblephotography.smugmug.com/

Dad Time

Posted: September 18, 2010 in Family, Kids
Tags: , ,

Dad Time. Defined as the period, no matter how long, in which Mom is not present and Dad is left with the kids. Inevitably, Dad Time invokes incidents that simply do not occur if Mom is present.

For example, there was the time I was attempting to transfer six month old Clara from a pack ‘n play to her crib, in the dark, but did so by picking her up upside down and then holding her away from my body while trying to figure out what happened to her head. You can imagine Jaime’s reaction when she walked in at that exact moment to witness her baby dangling by her legs, fast asleep.

Or the time just a few weeks ago, when just moments after Jaime left the house, I underestimated Shepard’s crawling speed, then underestimated his ability to pry open doors, and then watched helplessly as he found a bottle of Pine Sol and with break neck speed untwisted the cap and let the the bottle’s contents fly onto the kitchen floor while he giggled with delight. No joke, the way he put the Pine Sol in a headlock and twisted off the cap while releasing the bottle to the ground in one motion would have made Jason Bourne jealous. Boy, did it smell clean in the apartment that night.

Jaime is away for the weekend at the Ganderbrook Ladies’ Retreat in Maine, which means I have had the kids to myself for a couple days and fortunately for the kids there are no great stories to tell. But just a couple days of Dad Time reinforces both how much I love these kids and how grateful I am that my wife is able and willing to stay home and raise them.

Clara, Shep and I visited Sweet Treats on Center Street yesterday to pick up some candy (also a part of Dad Time) and the store manager commented how fast the time goes by with little ones. She had a look of longing in her eyes that suggested she wished she could return to such a time as I am currently enjoying. Just an hour before, the cashier at Walgreens noted she wasn’t even sure if she could remember her girls, now 11 and 6, ever being as cute as Clara. I don’t think she meant to say Clara was especially cute, as much as she was trying to lament the fact that she simply doesn’t have clear memories of her children as toddlers. These interactions made me appreciate my blessings all the more.

So not to brag, but in hopes that I will someday remember, Shepard is incredibly cute at 13 months. He just learned how to walk and his gait-in-progress reminds us of Jack Sparrow looking for the last of the rum. He frequently comes up behind us while doing the dishes just to snuggle the back of our legs, complete with a humming sound effect to express his love. And there can be few things better in life than to return home from work to your son ecstatically flipping out with excitement upon your arrival screaming “Dada!”.

Clara continues to be a trip at nearly three years old. She did an amazing job as flower girl in Ty and Andrea’s wedding over Labor Day weekend. I think it may be impossible for a Dad’s eyes not to well up with tears when you see your beautiful little girl go down the aisle, even if she’s only two and just the flower girl. After she very seriously and thoroughly placed the flower petals on the aisle she came back to hang out with me near the back of the venue so as not to cause a distraction.

I fed the kids animal crackers to keep them quiet and when I found a sheep cracker I pointed it out to Clara. Clara then picked up a rock and informed me that I should have the sheep stand on the rock. I complied. Then she instructed me to have the sheep drink water from the rock. This took me aback, because as many Bible stories as we have read to her, I don’t ever recall telling her about Moses and the water from the rock in Exodus and I couldn’t think what may have possessed her imagination to think that a rock could produce water.

I began to think that perhaps out of the mouth of babes I was to receive an inspirational message from God or some type of instruction. I eagerly awaited what she would say next as I envisioned myself as a sheep in need of both God as my rock and foundation and Jesus as the living water foreshadowed in those Exodus passages. Clara then squinted her eyes and cocked her head appearing ready to deliver a profound insight. And then she asked me very seriously, ” Now, Daddy… Do you have to go potty?” Good stuff.

Well, Jaime is due back in a few hours, and while I have successfully kept the kids alive, the house is a wreck. Dad time.