I could go on - for paragraphs or hours - on the afternoons I spend with my children. After I pick Nora up from school and the three of us retreat to the cozy confines of our little house while I start getting dinner ready. Maybe Nora watches a show and Gabe scoots around the floor playing with toys and hoping I won't notice when he gets his hands on the remote control. We're in a very nice phase and I'd be foolish to think it's going to last forever but I will certainly take it for now. It is slowly but surely making up for the five days of my life that I'm still, amazingly, not over, that we shall forever call, "Right After I Had Gabe and J Was Bed-Ridden With the Flu and my Mom Had a Broken Arm and my Dad Didn't 'Feel Like' Holding the Baby and No Other Family Was Around and Also the Incontinence." It's a million times better than that.

One of the greatest things I've been able to witness in our time together is Nora growing and changing as a sister. I've got to tell you: she's a natural. She's good at cheering up her little brother. She's good at distracting him and playing with him in a gentle, appropriate way.

And then there was her crowning moment, just the other day. I was in the kitchen, doing something that required my total attention - which is, by the way, not something I'd recommend when your two young children are all the way in the next room - when I noticed Gabe pushing his way over to this small pile of post-Christmas tree/decoration debris we'd swept into the corner and neglected to put into the trash. He can't truly crawl just yet, leading us to believe - falsely - that most things are out of his reach, but he can definitely get around.

I realized that as soon as he got there he was going to put whatever he could into his mouth, as fast as possible, as babies love to do, so I yelled out to Nora, "Hey! Stop him! Don't let him get that trash!" I don't usually count on Nora for things like this, because, you know, she's three, but I was stuck. Sure enough she rose to the occasion, ran over, took her brother by his shoulders, pulled him from the menacing pile, then grabbed his clenched little fist - as he'd made it before the intervention - pried his fingers open and began vigorously wiping pine needles from it.

She didn't look for praise; simply abandoned him there on the floor, a safe distance from the problem, and went back to whatever it was she was doing, succumbing, it seemed, to the fact that she'd be getting him out of situations like this for the foreseeable future.

If their nascent personalities stay on track, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Sister and brother, sure. But also rule maker and rule breaker. While their dad and I sit back and watch. And laugh, quietly.