Live from Afghanistan: Indigo Smith listens as her dad reads - 7,000 miles away.

Indigo Smith got a front row seat in her preschool class Feb. 15, the day her dad was scheduled to read a book to the kids at West Suburban Temple Har Zion.

Smith, 4, sat calmly on the rug as she and her classmates listened to her dad read one of her favorite stories, “Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed.” They all stared at the computer that was set on top of a chair at the front of the room, where Nico Smith’s voice came through loud and clear.

Nico Smith was calling from almost 7,000 miles away in Afghanistan, where he is stationed as a member of the National Guard. His call over Skype was the first of its kind for Ilana Marczak’s preschool class.

“Our program encourages parents to be involved in the school, even if it is as simple as reading a favorite story to the class,” Marczak said. The class had been reading books by Mo Willems and Indigo mentioned her dad had read the mole rat story to her before. Marczak emailed Smith, who started a 10-month deployment at the beginning of January, and he was happy to be a virtual guest.

A connection problem prevented the video from coming through onto a large projector, but the kids made sure to tell Nico they could hear him.

Nico’s wife, Alana, said he often reads books to Indigo and their 2-year-old son, Mojave, if Nico calls when it’s close to their bedtime. He even has some of the books memorized, she said. Other times, the kids will play in the living room where the computer is set up and will break just long enough to say hi to Nico on the other end, showing him their latest favorite toys—currently dinosaurs—or telling him stories.

And the kids love the Skype ringtone that lets them know their dad is calling.

“I was in the shower one day and my computer was ringing and I couldn’t hear,” Alana said. “And they were screaming, ‘Papa! You’re going to miss the call!'”

Alana said the kids can be more moody with their dad gone, but using Skype to connect with him gives them comfort that he can still be a part of their lives without physically being there.

“It shows we’re still going to be a complete family,” she said, adding her husband hopes to make another Skype call to his daughter’s class again soon.

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