A tax accountant could make a strong case that Jayme Kranz’s sense of timing was off by about eight hours.

If Jayme, 0, had been born eight hours earlier, Wes and Leah Kranz of North Mankato could have claimed him on their 2005 taxes, saving thousands of dollars through per-child tax credits, exemptions and deductions.

On the other hand, by choosing to be born at 7:47 a.m., Jayme became the first baby of 2006 in Mankato and got his picture in The Free Press.

“You just want to be a star, don’t you?” Leah Kranz said to Jayme as he slept through his inaugural press conference.

Wes Kranz, sitting nearby, had no comment on which prize — the major tax breaks or The Free Press coverage — he would have preferred.

Kranz, who runs a handyman business, and his wife, a supervisor at the Taylor Corp. division Label Works, agreed that they were happy to accept a healthy 8-pound baby whenever he wanted to arrive.

In reality, if Jayme had been born when doctors predicted, he wouldn’t have received either the cash or the notoriety. The Kranz’s hadn’t even considered the possibility of being parents to the first local baby of 2006, even as they went to bed well before midnight on New Year’s Eve.

“It was a surprise,” said Leah, whose water broke just after 4 a.m. “My due date wasn’t until the 16th.”

The Kranzes were given some gifts by the hospital as part of the “first baby” honors. Wes Kranz suggested to an ISJ employee starting another tradition.

“I heard the first one of the year is on the hospital,” he said.

This time, it was the ISJ employee who had no comment.

Jayme is almost certain to be the first of a record-setting number of babies born at Immanuel St. Joseph’s Hospital in 2006. The hospital’s births have been rising steadily in recent years and set a record in 2005 — at least for as long as the hospital has records — with 1,513 babies born, up from 1,375 births in 2004.

The most popular names in 2005 were Madison, Olivia and Emma for girls born at the ISJ Family Birth Center and Caden, Aiden and Logan for boys.

Wes and Leah Kranz didn’t know whether they’d be providing a brother or a sister for their 3-year-old twin daughters, Ashlyn and Aubree (who were a double tax bonus arriving in December of 2002).

“We thought we’d do it the old-fashioned way,” Wes Kranz said of asking that the ultrasound technician not tell them the gender.

That left Ashlyn — who has been imitating her mother in recent weeks by pretending she was pregnant, too — no choice but to tell people alternately that the baby in her tummy was a boy, the baby was a girl or there was one of each.

After an exciting and tiring day, Ashlyn — her eyes at half-staff — looked at the pink little guy in the striped hat. Just before joining her sister in nodding off, she provided a reminder of what the real prize of the day was by sleepily whispering to her mother: “That’s my baby boy.”

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