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Kids help us recapture the magic of Christmas

My wife, Karyn, and I are blessed with four happy, healthy children -- Christopher, 9, Gabriella, 6, Isabella, 4, and Nathaniel, 1 1/2 . As anyone with kids knows, bedtime (really anytime) can be a hectic time in a household.

A typical day has me arriving home from work at around 6 p.m., just in time to eat dinner with everyone. By this time, Karyn has worked through most, if not all, of the homework with the kids. I generally help with anything left over and I continue to help Christopher study for any test he has coming up.

At this point, Gabriella really has only a weekly spelling test to study for, but that will soon change. Additionally, depending on the night or season, we might have to go to the school for a meeting, soccer practice for Christopher or dance for Gabriella and Isabella. Thankfully, Karyn has us well organized.

Typically, after dinner and homework are complete, we move onto the bedtime routine. This takes the form of baths or showers for all four kids and bedtime stories. Karyn normally tucks in the girls and Nathaniel, while I tuck in Christopher.

I usually lie down with him, and more often than not, fall asleep next to him. Either way, a little over a month ago, I was tucking my two daughters into bed for a change.

As I sat on Gabriella's bed, my younger daughter, Isabella, came into the room dressed in her usual mismatched bedtime outfit. She was carrying an artificial poinsettia. It was one of several I had divided between her and Gabriella at Christmas time. It was part of a decoration that had served its purpose over the years and was now ready for retirement.

Even though we were done with it as a Christmas decoration, I knew the girls would still get enjoyment out of it. To be honest, though, I had forgotten about the flowers until that moment.

Isabella jumped up onto the bed with the poinsettia in her hand. She put the flower to my nose and asked me to smell it. I put it up to my nose, but it did not smell like anything in particular to me. Meanwhile, Gabriella was at the bookshelf still picking out a book for me to read to them.

Isabella turned to Gabriella, who without a moment's hesitation put the flower to her nose and said, "It smells like Christmas." Isabella immediately put it to her nose and repeated Gabriella's words, "It smells like Christmas."

They then proceeded to laugh as only two little kids can at that age -- a genuine, pure, joyful laugh that makes me happy just thinking about it now.

At the moment it happened, however, I felt both joy and disappointment. I was disappointed that I did not "smell Christmas" as they had, but I was happy to be there experiencing that moment with them.

My kids are one of the best things I've ever experienced in my life. I remember a time in my life when I never imagined being a dad. Now I can never imagine my life without them (or Karyn) in it.

Family helps you remember why we are here and why we go off to work every day. We do it so we can come home to our families every night.

Hopefully, more often than not, we all experience moments when "it smells like Christmas." Thankfully, I have four great kids (and a wife) to help me experience them.

Chris D'amato of Clarence feels blessed to have four children, who help him remember what's really important in life.

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