The instant I stepped into the house my daughters were on me, even Anya who had crawled along the rug with her sister to get to the door just in time to attach herself to my leg and not let go.
“They’re in the ‘Daddy Stage,’” I explained to my brother. He nodded and laughed.
“Daddy! Daddy! Mommy’s in the living room with Aunt Andy and Uncle Isaac!” Zoë informed me from my left leg.
“Need some help there?” Zac offered. I nodded and mouthed “thank you.” Zac scooped Zoë up off my leg and brought her into the living room with her giggling the whole way in.
“You,” I accused Anya picking her up and holding her high above my head. She squealed in delight and dribbled on my nose. I closed my eyes and pulled her down to me, resting her bottom on my left arm so I could use my right sleeve to wipe her salvia off me and my daughter.
“Oh-no, Daddy’s home!” Clare exclaimed as I walked into the room with Anya on my arm.
“Dada!” She bellowed.
“Shhhh,” I told her prying her two hands off my face. She went to squish my face between her hands again but I grabbed on to one hand this time and she wound up smacking me cheek. “No,” I scolded her, holding her right hand tightly. I looked into the crystal blue eyes that Zoë, Anya, and I all shared. “Don’t hit,” I warned loudly. She could sense that I was scolding her and she tried to hide her head in my shirt. “Anya, come on,” I said sitting down on the couch next to my wife. “Clare, take your daughter out of me.”
“MY daughter?” Clare said raising her eyebrows. She reached for Anya and gently pulled her off me. I winced as I untangled some of my hair from her fist. Clare stood her up on her lap and held her with two hands around the baby’s waist. “Who’s the one she refuses to leave?” Clare commented as Anya reached towards me. Anya jumped up and down, “whoa!” Clare exclaimed holding on to the girl tightly.
“Dadaaaa!” Anya whined reaching out farther, her tiny hands and fingers waving like it would help her get me.
“Anyaaaa!” I whined back, leaning close to her hands. I kissed her right fingers gently and pulled back as she squealed.
“Wow Taylor,” Andy said, “she really loves you.”
I smiled and looked at my sister in law who was perched on the arm of a chair in which my older brother was sitting.
“I love Daddy, too,” Zoë said squeezing her way in-between me and the arm of the chair.
“And your mother?” Clare asked.
Zoë laughed. “I love you, too, Mommy!” She rested her head in my lap and looked up at me. “Daddy, you smell good.”
I heard laughter from across the room. “What does he smell like, Zoë?” Isaac asked trying to contain the laughter he and his wife were sharing.
I made eye contact with Isaac. He was laughing at her observant statement.
“Ow,” I said as little hands grabbed onto my hair.
“She made it,” Clare informed me with a grin. Anya now had one fist wrapped around my hair and one hand on my arm. She jumped up and down screaming “dada” over and over while trying to climb up my arm at the same time.
“Do I have a sign on me that I don’t know about? One that says ‘climb on me’?” I joked as Anya successfully wrapped her arms around my neck. I slid my hand under her bottom to support her in her climb.
“Get off me!” Zoë yelped as one of Anya’s feet kicked her in the head. Zoë sat up and rubbed her head. “I was here first!” She threatened her sister.
“You can share!” Clare negotiated. “As long as I can have some too.”
I smiled at her and kissed her quickly. “Of course.”
“What a Kodak moment!” My mother exclaimed. We looked up and saw her and Dad standing in the doorway. “Where’s Amanda and the twins, Isaac?” Isaac shrugged. “How should I know?”
Andy hit him playfully. “They’re outside in the tree house. Isaac’s just stupidddd!” She screamed the last part because Isaac pulled her off the arm of the chair and into his lap. “Ike!” She said in embarrassment.
He kissed her. I looked at Clare and shuddered. “How can you kiss HIM?” I teased Andy. She shrugged but she didn’t stop what she was doing.
“Mommy?” Zoë said resting her head back in my lap. “Why do you kiss each other on the lips all the time? It’s yucky!”
Clare looked at me for an answer. “She asked YOU,” I said softly trying to contain my laughter.
“Well,” Clare started, “Me and your daddy love each other very much and when a man and woman love each other they show it in different ways.”
“Like having the new babies?”
“Kind of...” Clare said. She swallowed hard and looked for me for help.
“You’ll understand one day, kiddo,” I said to Zoë. “And when that one day comes Daddy’s going to purchase a shotgun.”
“Nicole’s coming at six,” Zac announced walking into the room. I hadn’t even noticed he left.
“Finally we get to meet her!” Clare exclaimed.
“You’ll love her,” Andy said from sitting up on Isaac’s lap. “She’s so sweet!”
“I can’t wait!” Clare said.
“I hope you don’t mind but tomorrow I asked her to go to the mall with us.”
“That will be wonderful,” Clare told our sister in law.
“Yeah I want to buy some stuff for these babies!” Andy said with a note of excitement in her voice.
“I think they heard that,” Clare told her, holding her hand to her stomach.
“Ooo can I?” Andy asked.
“Of course!” Clare told her.
Andy walked over and sat down next to Clare. “Aww I feel them!”
Clare laughed and nodded. “Taylor’s favorite activity.”
“You betcha!” I said. I put Anya down on the couch between the two of us and leaned my head on Clare. “At home I watch TV next to them.”
Clare nodded. “Yes he does. I’ve got one baby on them, one baby next to them, and two babies in there.”
Andy stood. “I wish we could have another baby in the house.” She sat down on Isaac’s lap again and he nuzzled her neck. “Ike’s going to the doctor for a follow up in a few days.”
“You are?” I asked him.
“Yeah,” Isaac muttered. He raised his head and patted Andy’s leg indicating he wanted to stand up. “I’ve got to use the bathroom,” he mumbled.
“What’s up with him?” I questioned Andy after Ike’s hasty exit.
Andy shook her head. “It’s painful for him to talk about,” she explained briefly. “He..” she let her sentence trail off, she looked away. “He’s angry at himself for having a problem.” She looked back up and swallowed hard. She attempted a smile, “How’s school, Zoë?” She asked my daughter, changing the subject.
I glanced at Clare while Zoë excitedly went on and on about her new school to her aunt. She got into great detail about her gym class, which consisted of horse rides on the trails near the school. Zoë had fallen in love with the horses and I knew I was going to be bordering a horse at the nearby ranch soon. That private school was great for Zoë but it was costing us a fortune in both the tuition. I knew it was the best for her so I gave the checks in without a second thought.
“I think it’s time for some little girls to take a bath before their new aunt gets here,” Clare said catching her chance within Zoë’s bragging to speak. Clare stood and picked Anya up with her. “Taylor?” She said, indicating she wanted help.
I patted Zoë’s leg and stood, “come on Zo-ster, bathtime.”
“Daddyyyy,” Zoë moaned.
“No if, ands, or buts,” I said. I gave her a stern look but she didn’t move off the couch. “Zoë Marie...”
Zoë stood up with a moan.
“Let Aunt Andy help,” Andy said taking Zoë’s outreached hand. She looked at me with a smile, “sometimes Daddy’s have to stay downstairs while us girls go freshen up.”
Zoë smiled brightly and followed her aunt up the stairs. I shook my head after them and sighed. Clare kissed my cheek. “Don’t worry, honey,” she said. “Zoë loves you, but I guess when there’s two women around she’d rather have us help her at bath time. I love you babe.”
I kissed her lips briefly and understood what she meant. “Love you, too.”