Yesterday I planned to run a few errands over my lunch break. Annalyn’s birthday party is on Saturday, and this was really my last opportunity to pick up a few things without having her along for the ride.

(You might find this surprising, but most errands and chores are easier on the rare occasion I find myself alone.)

I told Mark that I wouldn’t be coming home for lunch, and that was that.

Until lunchtime. When Mark and Annalyn showed up at my office. Reportedly, that little girl had spent the last hour saying, “Mommy? See her? Mommy? See her?”

So being the good dad that he is, Mark brought her to see her mommy.

Okayyyyyy. Off to Target we went. We swept through the baby section, searching for a birthday party outfit and hurried over to the candy section to look for candy bananas to put on the cupcakes. Then as I paid for a shirt, a pair of pants, some small black shoes and a stuffed Elmo that I’d hid behind my back for 10 minutes, Mark got Annalyn buckled into the car. I ran out of the store (okay, I walked briskly, let’s be real here), and we sped off to McDonald’s, where we snarfed value meals and begged Annalyn to eat something other than our fries.

And where I found myself saying, “Stop! Don’t touch me with those hands! Here, use this napkin. Yuck! Baby girl! Those are my work pants!”

I know, I know.

Somehow, I let my errands and my work pants become more important than spending time with my daughter. I focused on not getting to the other store and the thought of stinky ketchup on my sleeve. And I almost missed that sweet girl just wanting to be with her mommy.

“Mommy? See her?” How could I think anything else was more important than that?

Reba McEntire sings a song called “Is There Life Out There?” and the video makes me cry every darned time I see it. It’s more of a mini-movie, really, about a mother who goes back to school and earns her college degree.

At the end of the video, her teacher returns a paper with an A but suggests she not submit stained work in the future. Those pages were stained because her daughter accidentally spilled coffee on her typewriter-typed report, an incident that reminded Reba’s character what was really important.

Reba tells her teacher, “I learned more from the stains than I did the paper.”

As I fussed at Annalyn about the ketchup on my sleeve and my pants, I thought about that scene.

I don’t want to be too busy to love on Annalyn. Time goes too fast and she’s already growing too much. I know this stage of Mommy-love and more hugs and one more kiss won’t last.

When we got back to my office – with a few minutes to spare, even – Mark told Annalyn to say goodbye.

“Buh-bye!” she said with a smile.
“How about a hug?” I asked.
“Okay!”
“I love you!” I said as she and Mark walked away.
“Wuv. Ooo.”

Turns out I had plenty of time to do my other errand after work. And I’m pretty sure nobody noticed the ketchup stains on my clothes. Although it wouldn’t have mattered if they did. One day not far enough from now, I’ll be the one saying, “Annalyn? See her?”

So I’m taking all the hugs and kisses and unexpected lunch visits I can get.

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