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Pith and Punch From My Pint-Sized Guy

One of the best ideas I ever got while traveling was from a busy mother in Zimbabwe, who kept a spiral notebook of darling things her children had said. Her three children were then three years old, seven, and 11; the book was dog-eared, close at hand, and nearly full.

I've started my own book, and though it's hard to drop what I'm doing to write things down (and also difficult to recall them at day's end), I'm glad for what I've written so far.

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My oldest child is a boy, Carter, who will soon be 5. I treasure the way he has revealed his small self through the funny things he has said.

When he was 2-1/2, Carter reached the end of his bowl of homemade fish soup (with fish his dad caught in the ocean that morning). Looking at bits of brown sitting in the bottom of the bowl, he exclaimed, "Look, Dad! Low tide!" (Dad beamed, of course, to know his little boy had been listening all those times in the boat.)

Six months later, after bringing home a helium balloon from the state fair, Carter accidentally let go of it outside. The balloon quickly flew up and away until it was just a speck in the sky. After crying for a few minutes he looked at me with hurt, wet eyes and pleaded, "Can't we get a ladder?"

One month later, we talked about Daddy, who was just leaving on a trip from the airport nearby. I thought he would cry; instead, he looked up from his cereal bowl and shouted at the window, "Don't get stuck in the trees, Dad!"

Often we don't know what a child notices and remembers until we ask. As I began to give Carter a haircut on the porch one spring day, when he was 3-1/2 years old, I asked if he wanted it medium or short. "Make it like Grandpa Keith," he said. "Make a round circle on the top."

But as funny as his comments can be, they can also be profound. I'll never forget the time, about a month ago, that Carter looked up at the evening sky as small shafts of light poked through fat black clouds. "Hey!" he exclaimed to his dad. "That looks like God's flashlight!"

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