I squandered my weekend. I had intended to tackle that overdue prayer letter among other things. This Saturday was supposed to get me further ahead, but my best-laid plans went up against Zach’s puppy-dog eyes. Then Renee started singing a line from “Cat’s in the Cradle.” You know, that song by Harry Chapin about a father too busy to play with his son and how he then grows old to regret it. My plans were no match for such cunning and cuteness. In defeat, I shut off the computer, popped in a dinosaur documentary on DVD, and curled up with Zach on the couch.

After an hour’s worth of Triassic carnage, both of us were in the mood for a wrestling match and so we descended into a game of “prey and predator.” Zach sampled both roles, but I think he preferred being the prey as it afforded the most opportunity for me tackle him into the beanbag and nibble on his ribs like an Alosaurus.

After that we organized a Nerf-gun war across the tiny apartment. Just to calm down. Renee, meanwhile, developed a craving for M & M’s. Her power of suggestion precipitated an impromptu road trip to the local Target store where we would undoubtedly leave with more than just chocolate.

“Thanks for indulging me honey,” she said, as we arrived for the family shopping spree (budgeted of course, in these times of economic crisis and all). I typically hate shopping in stores. But since we had no agenda (except for chocolate), and we still act like giddy missionaries at any sizable store, I figured the trip could double as another round of cultural readjustment for us all.

So with a big red cart and kids in tow, we canvassed aimlessly about the store. Zach and Amelia practiced their math as they weighed the allowance dollars in their pockets against the loot in the toy isles. Renee, in her endearing way, got all excited about picking out new place-mats. And me, I just tried (unsuccessfully) to guide us toward the electronics department in the southeast corner of the store.

But our meandering ended once we found two bags of the coveted candy. And since I was in such a fun mood, we also bought a couple boxes of breakfast cereal of the variety my mother wouldn’t approve. Oh, and we bought a clock. This was so we looked like adults when we checked out. And also so we might not stay up so late every night.

Once home we piled into the living room and ate vanilla pudding with towers of whipped cream and stayed up late to watch a movie. The kids did get to bed by ten (I’m not completely irresponsible) and Renee and I hung our new clock. I thought about getting some of that work done, but the big-hand on the move toward “11” gave me pause, and we both retreated to bed.

I slept well on Saturday night and dreamt of Captain Crunch (No kidding).

Sunday, however, didn’t move me any further along with my busywork. We met mom at church down in New Jersey (her first Sunday back since dad passed away), and then Renee and Amelia met her again for an afternoon concert by the church orchestra. Zach and I skipped the cultural event for something more adventurous—a hike in the woods. Our weekend of newsletter-dodging wasn’t over yet.

It is, in beautiful North Jersey, somewhere near the peak of the autumn foliage. I know this because parking at the trailhead was like parking at the mall on the day after Thanksgiving. Seems a lot of other people thought it a perfect day for a hike too. We found a spot, however, and a familiar trail, and ventured out.

Zach is a capable hiker and a joy to walk with. He never complains, but he never stops talking either. “Listen to the sounds of nature,” I’ll finally say. And he’ll pause for three whole seconds… “Oh, that sound. I hear the birds I think. Did you hear that dad? Cool. My shoes are making funny sounds. What would happen if we fell off that cliff dad? Is that tree a real tree? Where are we going now? Is this the blue trail? Did we bring snacks…”

I thought the silence was golden until he said this: “Dad… I like hiking with you.”

And I smiled as we marched on, single-file and ankle deep in crinkly yellow leaves, supremely happy that I wasted my weekend.

(PS-the newsletter is pending)