Monday, September 27

hey hey, it's a GIVEAWAY!

Woohoo! Who doesn't love a giveaway?

If you couldn't tell by that cute little bookstore button to the right, I am an Ambassador (precious name meaning "independent seller") for Barefoot Books which is a fabulous indie publishing company. I love Barefoot books because they are all originally illustrated, and there are no licenced characters- meaning you'll find no screaming Dora, no icky Barney, no cute-yet-annoying Clifford the Big Red Dog. Not that there's anything wrong with Mickey Mouse and company, but sometimes having a break from everything Disney and Scholastic is nice.

So! While I love being an Ambassador (awesome books! fun puzzles! precious puppets!), I need to unload some of my inventory.
I'm putting lots of books and book + puzzle sets up on ebay but you can get your own (free!) book right here.

All you have to do is browse my Barefoot Books Marketplace and leave a comment here telling me what book (or puzzle! or cd! or toy! or puppet!) you'd most like to check out.
For one more chance to win, you can "like" my Barefoot Books store page on Facebook, then leave another comment here saying you totally, really, for real like it.

What will you win?
Just this beautifully illustrated paperback book....

Storytime: First Tales for Sharing
and accompanying Storytime cd read by Jim Broadbent

Some of the stories included are The Gingerbread Man, The Ugly Duckling, The Three Little Pigs, and my favorite, Stone Soup.

So? What are you waiting for! Go go go!


Thursday, September 23

broadway, baby

I grew up on showtunes. I had hymns memorized before I could spell. I cut my teeth on Broadway songs. My ears could discern a flat or sharp pitch before I could read sheet music.

Lyrics and melody and live performance are in my bloodlines- my grandfather was a Big Band leader, a trumpet player, a music man. He once played a club alongside Fats Domino. My mother was a drum major in college. My uncle played trombone in a symphony recording of Il Trovatore. I played both trumpet and french horn before I quit the high school band. (I was terrified of marching. Never even tried.) 

Musicals have always been a major part of my life; a life spent roughly 1,300 miles from The Great White Way. I always kind of wanted to be Sarah Brightman. Or Patti Lupone. Or Bernadette Peters.
When I was growing up, my mother would drive my brother and I to middle Tennessee several times a year. Instead of pop songs, or books on tape, or license plate bingo, she would play bootlegged copies of Broadway shows:

Les Miserables
Fiddler on the Roof
The Phantom of the Opera
Big River
A Chorus Line
West Side Story
Tell Me on a Sunday
Jesus Christ Superstar
My Fair Lady
A Little Night Music
Porgy and Bess
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

I have loved Evita since before Madonna's turn as Eva Peron, since before "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina" was a discotheque hit. (I've never even seen the film version; I never wanted to spoil the musical that played in my head.)

When The Rep (the awesome Arkansas Repertory Theatre) asked me to review their production of Evita, I could hardly get my fingers typing YES fast enough. (full disclosure: my ticket was comped)

Last Sunday I did something I never imagined I'd be able to do. I sat, all by myself, on the fifth row and witnessed Evita; not on a bumpy bootlegged tape, not on a well-worn and scratched cd, but live and in person.
From the opening scene, The Rep's rendition of Evita was thrilling. If it lacked anything in comparison to the Broadway run it was only in stage square footage. It more than made up for any grand scale in the direction, choreography and nearly pitch-perfect voices of the cast. I was surprised to learn that the orchestra was comprised of only eight members; their strength and timing were fantastic.

Maria Eberline's Evita was wonderful. She has a very strong voice, and was obviously comfortable in the spotlight. Her rendition of "What's New Buenos Aires" and her waltzing duet with Che were her most powerful performances.
I was prepared to love (and, admittedly, loathe) Eva, but I was completely, totally, entirely blown away by Che. David Villella was absolutely incredible. He has a made-for-musicals voice and his mannerisms and stage presence lent an air of brevity to an otherwise dramatic opera. In his bio, it says that Villella was last seen as Rum Tum Tugger in Cats, and I can't think of any other character better suited for his voice and on-stage personality. (Ok, so I might have sent a text message to a friend that might have read "I heart Che.")
My favorite Evita song has always been the mistress' solo, "Another Suitcase in Another Hall" for its simple harmonies nestled into a rather complex score. Katie Emerson (an Arkansas native!) knocked it out of the friggin' park. She absolutely stole the spotlight with her beautiful, pure voice. There is no reason for that girl to have anything less than a lead role ever again. Ever.
I wasn't entirely impressed by Peron or Magaldi, though they were both solid performances.
The ensemble "A New Argentina" was breathtaking, and reminded me of Les Miserables' "At the Barricade," a full-cast rally cry.

The choreography, the direction, the set production... it was all incredible.

I went in very cautiously. Having loved Evita for so long but never seeing it performed live, I had placed the entire show on a very high pedestal. I could not be an objective witness. I had expectations and doubts. As it turned out, all of my doubts were unfounded and my expectations were exceeded.

This may be the most exuberantly adjective-filled post I've ever written, but it is with good reason.

Evita runs until Sunday, October 3rd at The Rep. You need to see it.


Tuesday, September 21

seventy six trombones in the big parade

...with a hundred and ten cousins close at hand.

In 2007 we began a family tradition. Each year at the fall county fair parade, we line up the cousins (our kids, and Jeremy's two sisters' kids) on a long strong tree limb close to the parade route.


My little Ladybug was there, but she was 13 months old and not yet a tree climber. Pooter is the one with the curly hair and the cheesy grin.


There is my Ladybug, clinging to a branch for dear life. The Bunny was there too, um, in my belly. Also in another belly; another cousin.


This was the year Pooter had mono. Or, H1N1, or bronchitis, or strep. I don't remember. He had all of those things that fall.
Also pictured: a few second cousins and one friend.

And finally, the gang's all here.

Mostly. The second cousins still live in town, but parked somewhere else this year. Notably absent from all fair parade pictures is my oldest nephew. He is my sister's stepson, though we never use that word in our family. He's just another awesome cousin. We'll get him on tree limb photo day one of these years.

I'm so glad I have this series to document not only the kids' growth, but the expansion of our family. I'm sure there will be a few more babes added before they're all grown.

And yes, I'll be the crazy mom/aunt who makes them straddle a tree when they're all teenagers.

Someday they'll thank me for it.



Saturday, September 18

the pie

I almost walked right past him as I left, I almost didn't stop. But I could feel my husband's eyes on me, even though he was nowhere near. I stopped, turned, and bent to pick up the loaf of bread the old man had dropped.
Without so much as a "thank you" or an "appreciate it," he launched into a conversation as if we'd already been holding one.

"...And a young man would buy a pie, and eat it with a young lady. But I didn't have a young lady to eat it with. It was an old lady. I wish I'd had a young lady to eat that pie with."
"Did you get a pie tonight?" I asked, realizing I was already a part of his conversation and employing what little hereditary Southern charm I possess, when all I wanted to do was walk away.
"No, no pie tonight. But there was pie then."
"Well, sir, was it a good pie, at least?"
"Oh, yes, it was a good pie. I don't remember what they call that."

We walked haltingly in the direction of our cars, strangers in the Kroger parking lot.

"That pie, you know. You were supposed to eat it with a young lady. And, when you get married, they put a cowbell under your bed or something. No, not when they put cans and horns on your car. All that BANG BANG BANGING around. That was a chivaree. I wish I could remember what they called that pie."

He was talking more to himself than to me. Every so often he would look at me hopefully, as if I might know what that pie was called or that I might trigger something in him that would remember.
That word, chivaree, it struck somewhere in the recesses of my memory, though I couldn't recall exactly what it was. I was stuck in an awkward situation; standing my by car with a very old and very possibly senile old man. My home training made it impossible to be rude to this man. I was eager to get in the car and go home, but he wanted to tell me more about the pie.

"You eat that pie with a young lady, but the problem was, I got an old lady! I got an old lady and it nearly made me cry."
"Well, maybe you'll have better luck next time."
"Oh, no. There was no next time. She was the only one." With that, he turned and walked off toward his car.
"Have a nice night, sir!" I called to his bent and gnarled back.
"You too, young lady," he tossed over his shoulder.

I climbed into my car and immediately called my momma. "Listen to this...." When I'd relayed the bizarre conversation, she was initially as stumped as I had been. "What is chivaree? I know that word," I asked. She answered (and wikipedia confirmed) that a chivaree was the forbear to tying cans on the back of a newly wedded couple's car. A chivaree is a middle-of-the-night surprise celebration at the bride and groom's home, complete with clanging pots and pans, horns, and other noisemakers.

"Oh! But that's not what he meant, Savannah. He was talking about the old-fashioned 'pie socials.' Girls, or old ladies I guess, would bake pies and men would bid on them. Whatever man won the pie got a chance to sit with the girl at the church picnic. It was a fundraiser for the church. Savannah, he bought a pie, thinking it was made by a cute girl and it turned out to be from an old lady! Honey, he was sharing memories with you!"

Naturally I googled when I got home and found this entry from
We also we had pie socials at the little old school house .One day some of the girls baked pies and they took them to the school and the boys or men would bid on the pies . Jim Haggerty liked a girl named Violet Crow so him and another fellow were bidding on Violets pie , they bid it up to $27.00 before they stopped and Jim had the highest bid . So he got the pie and he also married Violet. There was lots of good clean fun back in those days.
I found another website that tells a lovely story of someone's grandparents meeting at one of these socials.

found at The Courting Quilt

His story, however jumbled, reminded me of my mother's parents. Harris Tooker and Bessie Sue, though everyone knew them as Bud and Sue. They had an American Dream courtship, they are one of the few first-and-only love stories I have in my life.

I hung up with my mother and drove out of the parking lot, away from the chatty old stranger. I wondered if he has an old lady to go home to. I wondered if he has children who know the story of the let-down pie. I wondered if he has someone in his life to be chatty with, or if he often strikes up conversations with young ladies who pick up his bread. I wondered what sort of pie maker I would have been back then, what kind of young man would have been disappointed if he hadn't won my pie. The man who "won my pie" in this lifetime is nothing short of a gentleman. Yes, he has a rogueish streak, but he came from good stock, and he knows what's what.

I'll never know what came of that stranger's pie.
I couldn't tell if he was truly disappointed when the identity of the pie baker was revealed, or if he went on to marry that "only one" old lady. His life's story only intertwined with mine for about three minutes, but it was enough. Enough time for him to reminisce about a long-past afternoon, and enough to stir my imagination (and romanticization) of a by-gone era.


Friday, September 17

birthday happies, part deux

When I announced that I was celebrating not only my birthday, but my birthweek and even my birthmonth this year, people were skeptical. My own sister-in-law couldn't believe I would be festive during the entire month of September.
To that I say... why not?

My son dominates May. August is reserved for The Girl. November is Jeremy's. December belongs to The Bunny... and Jesus. But September is mine all mine.

  • The first week of the ninth month was especially fun for me, because I got to hang out with some fabulous ladies and sip some tasty spumante and talk books (among other things).
  • Last Sunday I hung out at the Little Rock Family Education Expo, selling my Barefoot Books wares and generally having myself a grand ol' time. Technically it was work, but I had fun doing it.
  • We had an impromptu pre-birthday dinner on Tuesday night. I ate chocolate cheesecake. It was delish.
  • I spent my whole (actual)birthday at home with my kids, and then with my hubby, and nothing could have been better.

My birthweek is drawing to a close, but that doesn't mean the end of the fun.
  • Today my rockin' cousins-in-law are in town from NOLA and we're going to lunch.
  • On Sunday I will be doing something very exciting (and kind of scary) and will be blogging about it later.
  • Next Thursday my super awesome really funny friend Audreya and I are going to carb load (and giggle too loudly) at the new Panera.

One of the best parts of celebrating all week (and month) instead of just one day is that the presents keep coming!
I cannot describe how much  I adore getting mail. Good mail. Not campaign fliers, not bills, not junk catalogs (ok, I really like those too), but real mail. Cards, boxes, notes, manila envelopes full of goodies.

Manila envelopes full of goodies? Why, I received one of those this very day!
In case you can't see everything.... there are more pics. Of course there are.

This was the card that came in the package. I'm kind of in love with this card.
 It is perfect for me, it is perfect for the sender.

found online here
Best. beverage. napkin. ever. I just need a beverage to complement it.
And really, who among us has her cape clean and pressed and hung nicely in the phone booth?
Nobody, that's who(m?).

And then there was a Hello Kitty Pez dispenser. Which only served to increase the awesome.

That post I wrote just two days ago about being known?
This is it. This is having a friend who knows exactly what will make you guffaw out loud. This is having a friend who sends her Christmas cards out on December 1st (there. are. rules.), but who sends your birthday gift the day of. This is a friend you've known for one year and one month, but one who knows you pretty darn well.

Thank you, friend.


Wednesday, September 15

birthday happiness

If you follow me on the twitters, or check in at the blog to read the updates over there on the right, you'll know that I was a bit... irritated... last night at work. My tweets were such that my friend Kerri was prompted to issue a warning:

After the initial irritation was over (someone I work with makes a habit of getting under my skin, and last night's conversation was different in that it actually made me angry, instead of just annoying me) I called Kerri, only to hear her laughing about my ruffled feathers.

After we hung up, I sent out a tweet along the lines of "Everyone needs a designated call-to-gripe friend. I just made Kerri mine." (If Kerri had not answered, or if I still needed to release some rage, Amy B. Hole would have been next on my list of Whom to Call When You Need to Scream)

I love having friends who don't mind, who actually enjoy, being the ones I turn to in a moment of madness. I love that they laugh when I do get all riled up, because they know how roll-with-the-punches I usually am.
It reminded me of one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite John Mayer songs:
"...then, the circle of your friends will defend the silver lining..."

In any case, I had a rough night at the ol' diner. I managed to get off work early enough to meet my husband and children and mother-in-law at Stoby's for supper.
My sweet MiL gave me a gift card to one of my favorite restaurants, and a bonus promise to babysit one night so Jeremy and I could go on a real date. Like a real couple!
The Girl was itching to give me my birthday card, though her daddy kept telling her to wait. Finally he relented and I opened the funniest card, signed my all of my chirrens. Jeremy's gift to me was an exorbitant amount of cash with very specific instructions to spend it all on myself: "Don't buy the kids any more clothes, dangit!"
Earlier yesterday my Best Friend Since 9th Grade drove all the way up from Maumelle to surprise me with a box of Maggie's cookies... the smiley face ones, natch. In a world full of new and shiny, it was so good to sit and chat with someone who's known me since braces.
When I checked the mail yesterday, I found a box from my momma. She sent me one practical gift and one purely fun gift. She has this great tradition of giving want/need presents each birthday.

More than the actual gifts themselves, I was once again reminded how much my people love me, and how well they know me.

Being known is a gift in itself.

I think one of the things that bothers me most about the people I work with at the ol' diner is that they don't know me. (Admittedly, this is also one of my favorite things- that way they stay outta my bidness.) They don't know how much I cherish books and what a high value I put on education. They don't know that I adore pregnant woman and newborns and new parents. They don't know about my dreadful Dr. Pepper addiction. They don't know that I'm a wannabe writer and an amateur photographer. The don't know the losses and the joys I've been through. They don't know my history and they don't know my hopes.

But. My family does. My friends do. I don't know if I am too transparent or if the people I surround myself with are just super-intuitive, but most of the people closest to me know me inside and out.

As for my husband... Early on in my marriage, I joke to my mother that I'd never be able to lie to him, because he sees straight through me. It's the same reason I have failed miserably to surprise him with birthday parties and Christmas presents- he knows me so well, he knows my ideas before they come to me.

It is a blessing to be known. Sometimes when I feel lost or discouraged, a friend will surprise me with a sweet text message. Or I'll find some funny tweet directed at me. Or I'll come home after a long night to find this, wrapped and waiting for me on my birthday eve:

Because my husband? He knows me. And that is the best birthday present ever.


Tuesday, September 14

conversation with a delirious four year old

This happened last Monday night, and was written on Tuesday, Sept. 7th. I found it hidden in my to-be-published pile. So, here 'tis.


Last night was pretty awful.

The Girl and The Baby wailed all. night. long. They took turns tormenting us. We took turns comforting them. It is not an even exchange, at all.

At 4:15 The Girl came stumbling into my room, clearly exhausted and incapable of normal thought process. I felt her pain.

What follows is a verbatim account of our conversation. I emailed it to myself last night (this morning?) lest I forget what she said. Sure enough, when I saw the email at 8:30 this morning I had no idea what it was.

"Moooooommyyyyy, I peeeeeed in my paaaaants!" (again with the wailing)

"Ok, baby, ok. Where did you pee?"

"Right heeeeere!" (points to her little girl bits)

"No, I mean, where were you when you peepee'd?

"In my pajama pants." (said as if her mother is a complete idiot and should know better than to ask such stupid questions)

"Sweet Baby, where were you standing when you peed in your pants? Were you in the kitchen, in the bathroom, in your bedroom?"


"Ok."  (losing all hope of ever sleeping through the night again while simultaneously coming to terms with never being able to live in a house that is pee-stain free.)


in absentia

I am a pitiful blogger.

We've  been busy.
It's been hot.
We've been sick.
Daddy's had the camera.

It'll be better soon. I have something meaningful and witty to say. Soon.


Tuesday, September 7

Room to Grow

I was tickled to pieces when our friends at the Arkansas Museum of Discovery asked me to check out and blog about their Room to Grow area, which is designed especially with the under-6 crowd in mind.

Last month we loaded up the Bees and drove over the river (but, sadly, through no woods) to The Big City to check out ArkMoD again. We've been there several times before, but not since Room to Grow has been open.

My guest post is up right here, on the Museum's blog, and is the first one in their MOD Voices series.

Go check it out. We had load of fun, and, speaking for my Bees, we all really appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the Museum and all the things there are to... discover!


Sunday, September 5

small victories

The post I had originally written (in my head, along with 57 others) was about the Big Exciting Thing that happened to my Pooter. It was about all the child- and motherhood-milestones we've hit this week. But the more I thought about it, it morphed into a different post altogether.

Small victories.

In the span of my 6-year motherhood, there have been mishaps and miracles. I take the small victories when I can.

The Boy's Big Exciting Thing: He discovered he has not one, but two loose teeth. (Non parents, feel free to groan and reach for the little red X button now.)

So? Every kid who ever grows teeth will eventually lose them and grow some more. It is not new, it is not miraculous, but it is new and miraculous to us. The Boy was agonized during his entire kindergarten year- all of his friends and some of his cousins were losing teeth like crazy, and he had not a wiggle to show.

This week his two bottom front teeth are all kinds of wobbly, and he couldn't be prouder. I'm excited for him too, I know how much he's wanted to show off a big snaggle-toothed grill. But then, there's this part of me that mourns the not-so-eventual loss of the perfect baby face he's had for six years. He is one step closer to manhood (oh yes, I know exactly how melodramatic I sound), one step further away from me. Le sigh.

What was I saying? Oh yes, small victories.

Well, he's made it this far without cracking any teeth on the marble floor of a bank. (This happened to my brother when he was three. It was horrifying, and his two front teeth turned grey. Luckily, his adult teeth -post braces- are perfect.)

He's made it this far without a single cavity.

He's made it this far without diving off the back porch and landing on his incisors.

See? Small victories.

If there is a day in which he eats more than three vegetables? Small victory.
A day in which he brushes his teeth of his own accord? Small victory.
A day in which I manage to capture his true smile, instead of the forced get-outta-my-face one? Well, that's a pretty big victory.


Friday, September 3

Extreme (baby) Sports

So. September is here. Typically, September is my favorite month. (Ok, it ties with December. I'm a sucker for Christmas.) September is my birthmonth. Yes, I celebrate all 30 days. September also marks our second anniversary. Yes, we got married twice. We love each other that much.

In any case, September 2010 is shaping up to kick. my. butt.

The very first day was full of Big Moments and Milestones in my mommyhood. (The Boy had a Milestone of his own, but that'll be another post, soon.)

Big Moment Number One:
At twenty months, one week and six days, The Baby, my very last baby ever, climbed out of her crib for the first time. I was cleaning in the kitchen and all of a sudden I hear the most delighted baby shriek as The Bunny ran down the hall, "OUTTA BED! DA BED! OUTTA DA BED!"
Oh, but was she pleased with herself. I could hardly stand to send her back, she was so full of pride at her accomplishment.
Of course, being a good helicopter parent, I had to document the occasion. Plus, I just wanted to know how in the world she'd managed to climb out. My girl, she is chubby. Her legs, they are stubby. Her crib mattress sits on the lowest setting, and has been that way since she could stand.
So, I grabbed my trusty Flip and recreated the scene of the crime.

And, that word she's saying, right before "I hold it"? It is "candy." Because I had to bribe her to climb out again. With Pez. I know, I've been shortlisted for Mother of the Year.

So basically, what this video shows is that THE WHOLE THING IS MY FAULT. Her new found independence and agility? Totally on my hands. Because I left a chair in the perfect position to be a step-stool. Geez. Who does that?

There was no way she was going back in the crib after that escapade. She was high on power. She literally ran through the house, screaming at the top of her lungs.  So, I just let her play in the play/school room with us for a while.

I stepped out to do some (perpetual) laundry, and I heard her shrieks turn from glee to terror. "Need help! Doooown!"

She scaled the three-drawer chest and was perched on top. Once she saw me, she got all excited again, knowing her rescue was imminent. She was so pleased with her wild-childness, she forgot about how scared she'd been when she couldn't get down.

Not even a full hour later, I heard the HELP ME cry again. This time she was in the sleeping room, at the top of the bunk bed ladder, stuck again. She could go up, but she couldn't go back down.
I had to get a picture using my BlackBerry, because heaven forbid if I'd gone to grab the camera and she'd taken a flying leap off of that ladder.

The Bunny is a daredevil. Evel Knievel, Junior. She is Kitty O'Neil, she is Amelia Earhart, she is Angelina Jolie's stunt double.

She's going to break something some day. I just hope it's not her face.


Wednesday, September 1


Yesterday at lunch my mother-in-law (who is the main caregiver to my late sister-in-law's three children) mentioned that my 4-years-and-6-months old niece cannot recognize all of the letters in the alphabet, though my 4-years-and-9-days old daughter can. And has been able to since she was just barely three.
My mother-in-law, whom we shall call Nana, remarked that she said something to my niece along the lines of, "You don't know all of your letters, but Ladybug does and she is younger than you. Don't you want to know all of you letters like Ladybug?"
I thought it was an odd thing to say to my niece.
link here

Before I go any further, let me say this is not an indictment of Nana. She devotes her time, talents, energy, money... her life... to her grandchildren. All ten of them. She has been charged with the almost-impossible task of raising three of her grandchildren as if they were her children. She does a great job at it, too.

However, I wasn't sure if comparing my niece to Ladybug was the best way to get my niece fired up to learn the alphabet. And I said so. Because that's what I do. I say things.
"Well, I don't want Niece to be competing with Ladybug."
My sister-in-law immediately said that some competition is good for kids. Keeps them on their game. Encourages them to do their best. That sort of thing. (It will be noted here that while I love my sister-in-law more than words, I patently refuse to play any sort of game with her. Ever. I've heard too many growing-up-with-her stories from my husband, and have witness too many crazypants contests between her and her husband to ever step a single toe into that cagefight. She. always. wins.)

Except, in my mind, there is a difference in competition and motivation. The very word competition suggests there are teams, a winner and a loser, and a prize to be fought for. Motivation, on the other hand, is more of an internal influence that drives one towards a goal.

To me, it sounded too much like "Ladybug is smart and you are not." Though that is something Nana would never in a million years say, let alone think. But that is how it came across. To me.

I don't want my kids to compete with each other, or with their (very close in age, proximity, and relationship) cousins. I don't want adult-given labels stuck to their foreheads already. He's the smart one. She's the pretty one. He's the athletic one. She's the funny one.

I want them each to take the time to become who they want to be, not who their aunt, or teacher, or father, or grandparent says they are.

My husband and I try to encourage each of our kids, even The Baby, to find out what they love, and do to all things well. Even things that don't come easily to them, even things they don't like. Yes, we tell The Boy his is brilliant and The Girl that she is beautiful, but we also tell The Boy that he is handsome and strong and kind, and The Girl that she is smart and lovely and capable.

I don't mean to infer that competition is bad, or that there is not a lesson to be learned in the classroom or on the playing field or in the workplace. I do think competition is healthy, it does push you to do your best; and trophies, accolades and pay raises are all big incentives. Failure can be a valuable learning tool, if taught correctly. What I am concerned about is pitting one family member against another, one child versus the other, and assuming someone will come out on top.

The Prince of Wales on a racehorse in Brisbane, 1920

Ladybug knows her letters because of her brother. This is the only logical conclusion, because when she was old enough to start learning them, he had already mastered the alphabet and I was dealing with a very demanding infant. It seems almost as if one day my Ladybug came to me and spelled out her ten-letter name perfectly, could pick out all the letters- even out of order, and knew the sound each one of them makes. I can't take much credit there.

It is a goal for us as parents to foster affection, encouragement, and loyalty between our kids, and that extends to our nieces and nephews. Yes, they annoy the fire out of each other sometimes. Yes, they have arguments on a nearly day-by-day basis. But they love each other, and, I hope, they don't feel like they have to compete for our attention and love.

Surely one of them will become the funny one. One will be the bookish one. One will be a standout athlete. One will be overly dramatic.
But those are things I want them to be because that is what they want, not because someone else already shines under that spotlight.