Life was especially chaotic after the birth of our eighth and ninth children because everyone was still fourteen and under. It was difficult to keep a sharp eye out for my new bundle of energy, Daniel.
As our second youngest, Daniel's basic character has always been pleasant and easy-going. His eyes are still twinkling and a slight smile graces his face. Most troubles seem to just roll off his back and his small smile often changes into a mischievous grin as he sits back on the fringes of our family stage and observes the emotional drama of his six sisters unfold. Teenage Daniel has learned a lot from observing teenage sisters.
One year, a high school religion teacher noticed Daniel's deep grasp of the feminine mind. During class discussions, after a few male students stumbled out vague answers to her inquiries the teacher would turn to the class authority on girls,
"Daniel", she'd call out," You had six sisters; what do you say?"
Invariably, as my son started giving his opinion, all the girls would slowly nod their heads in agreement.
However, this agreeable, laid-back young man, was a real handful as a baby and little kid. With his little eyebrows lifted up in surprise, his eyes wide open, making sure he didn't miss anything and with his tiny, wiry body, squirming with energy, he was definitely alive. As Daniel peered over my shoulder one afternoon, staring at a friend of Michael's, the 'stranger' blurted out,
"Boy, is that baby ever awake! "
That short statement basically sums up baby Daniel's personality.
Once he learned to crawl, he was into everything and made sure that he reached his destination with great speed. Sometimes, after running to grab and scoop up this little bundle of happy energy, before he could dive into trouble, I would realize that Daniel's hands and feet would be still moving, as if he was trying to crawl in the air.
The pivotal point, where his crawling speed accelerated dramatically, was when he discovered the bowl of dog food. If the dog, Leisha, didn't come to eat right away or left food in his dish, Daniel was immediately crawling over to it as fast as his hands and knees would move. He'd grab a chunk of dried food in his hand and start gnawing on it.
Was he using it to teeth on?
Did I not feed that baby enough?
Did little Daniel actually like the gritty, hard, dry dog food?
I don't know.
All I do know is that when we moved the dog dish and huge bag of food to the back entrance, trying to hide it from this baby, he still found the dog food. When he reached the dog dish, he dove into it, chomping with gusto. That spot became Daniel's destination every morning while I was trying to get six kids feed, dressed decently, with notes signed, homework done, lunches made and packed and hair brushed and braided.
Finally, I reached my limit. We decided to move the dog dish and food right out of the house to the wood shed, even if it meant that feeding the dog became more complicated.
Did that stop the baby crawling cruiser? Not after he was out one day and saw the kids feeding Leisha.
The kids had barely turned away from the shed when the speedy crawler made a beeline to the dog dish.
From that moment on, I'd yell from the kitchen, as the kids headed for the front door,
"Don't let the dog in and don't let Daniel out!!"
Some mornings, as older children struggled to keep happy, eager Leisha from bounding energetically through the door, Daniel would crawl as fast as he could, duck through everyone's' legs and try to squirm out the door. Then kids would call out,
"Daniel's headed for the dog food again!"