She's the last child to lay her head down nitey-nite, and the first to greet the sun most mornings. In the between time, she toddles along behind me most days, always watching, listening: learning. If I'm not careful, I can trip over her easily. Teaches me to slow down. When I turn to her and smile, "hi baby", she reaches her arms high, "up, pluhzz". Her arms tighten around my neck and she holds on tight. Often she will kiss my cheek. Mostly she lays her head on my shoulder and cuddles in. "Hush" she whispers; so I sing.

She watches her brother get on the bus from the window, waving bye-bye till it's gone, and sometimes long past then. He has hugged and kissed her good-bye...she is secure in knowing he will return. Now she waits for older sister to come back inside.  Her playmate.  She will run to the top of the stairs and yell "HI"......always. And those days when we bring her outside with her siblings, her smile can be seen from the moon I suspect. She is happiest to just be there; with us.

She is sweetness and light; even when pulling anything not nailed or glued in place down, off, out, and scattering toys over the house. If caught, she immediately throws the banned item down: and smiles over her shoulder. Methinks she knows how cute she is. But alas little one, you must also learn; sometimes love also says no. The tears fall, but after a spell she will come to me, and want a hug and kiss. Yes, little one, it is also true - love covers over.

As the sun begins it's sleepy descent, I head to the bathroom and turn the faucet. No matter where she is in the house, she hears the water, and comes runnning. "Bath, Bath...bubble?" I tell her yes it's bathtime. She gets her towel from the hook in her bedroom. There is so much of the house routine she already knows. After bath she will head to the pantry - it's milk and snack time. Then back to the bathroom, dragging her little chair behind her, to brush her teeth. Then to the big bed for lullabies with her siblings. Where they will giggle and roll around, while I try to soothe with song. But still she knows, "bedtime".  Down she climbs.

She goes to Angel's Girls bed, turns on her soothing sounds, climbs up beside her and holds out her hand for bedtime prayer. She hugs and kisses Angel Girl goodnight and climbs down. Off she toddles to Monkey Boy's room, where she will stand by his bunkbed with upreaching arms. I lift her up and she takes his hand to say his prayers. She will want to linger here... her first hero. Big brother gets the biggest, tightest squeeze of all. As she leaves each room, she turns and blows a kiss. She has already seen me do it a hundred times. Then she toddles off again to the kitchen, turning to look at me over her shoulder; "bubba?"

Yes, little one, let's get your bottle. It's time for bed. You must be so tired from your busy day. As I watch her cuddle into my side, slowly rocking, sleepy eyes on mine, one hand on my chest.....I marvel at what she has learned in 17 months. Not just the routine and the rules of life, but the relationships. She is 17 months of busy curiousity and never-ending exploration. Her hope and faith in the security net that is mommy, is absolute. Yet even in the midst of this, she is already learning, that the greatest of these, is love.