My oldest daughter’s best friend is her cousin. It is a special relationship that involves tears (from both girls) if they go more than a few days without seeing each other. Lesley and I didn’t grow up with cousins nearby, so it is extra fun to watch our girls together. Our oldest two girls have been tight since my niece was born. I think it is partly due to learning early on that she couldn’t escape the affections of her cousin, so she might as well give in and embrace it.

I was trying to clean off my memory card and computer after so much travel this summer (that is an entirely different post). Anyway, I came across these pictures of the girls I took right after I got back from Ghana. They love playing in the trailer together…they also found my hats and wanted to match. I picked up the yellow one on our road trip from the Wyman Museum. During our road trip we got to spend a few hours with Nici of Dig This Chick. I spotted some custom hats in her studio and as soon as I got home I ordered myself one! A girl can’t have too many trucker hats in the Oklahoma heat….or anytime she doesn’t want to fix her hair (which I never do!)

Anyway…back to the girls.

Almost 4 years ago, the girls made their blog debut together in these pictures:9.10firesweetp-01(pp_w744_h558)

It kind of hurts my heart a little to see how much they’ve grown in such a short time. It is the good kind of hurt though. You can tell my girl has been delighting in her cousin from the start.

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  • Michelle Hill - That is SO sweet! They remind me of my relationship with my cousin, in which we are about 1.5 years apart. She is like my soul sister and was my very first best friend. Cousins offer a special bond and friendship.
    They are just a bunch of cutie patooties, those two!

  • Amy Espinosa - Such a blessing that they have each other! Glad y’all live close enough to one another that your littles can have this special bond!

  • Cassidy - This is too sweet. My cousin and I are 11 months apart, but we’re also 1,300 miles apart (Corpus Christi, Texas to Chicago, Illinois). It’s SO hard sometimes only getting to see her for a couple months out of the year. As we’ve gotten older, we’ve been able to visit each other more (she’s in the spare bedroom right now!), but it’s still sad to not be with one of my best friends during the year. Your girls will have such fun memories in the years to come. (:

  • Denise - In the last frame, Firecracker looks like she is yelling, ‘She’s mine! She’s all mine! Bwhahaha!’

  • Laura S. - Those pictures are priceless, especially the last ones. Your daughter loved her cousin right from the get go. That is how I feel about my cousins who are now spread out all over the US. Every year for the past 12, we take an all girls vacation. All six cousins. This year, in December will be our 13th vacation together. I hope Florida is ready for us. We all range from age 60 to 31. I am in the middle somewhere. I do believe in the power of cousins.

  • Sarah - Love the baby shots!!! So cute!!

  • Carolyn Williams - So sweet. Cousins are the best. +

  • Rikki - So beautiful. What a blessing they have in one another. I adore those last three photos looking at each other… And those baby ones together, oh my too cute!

  • Jenny B. - Oh my word. I remember those pictures of Firecracker and Sweet P! It is SO hard to believe they are all big now. My youngest is about the same age as Firecracker, and he starts Kindergarten in two weeks. Where does the time go??

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Oh my goodness – I so remember those pictures. Firecracker was smitten from the beginning! Love it.

  • Jen @ RamblingRenovators - We were at my sister’s this weekend where my 5 year old enjoyed a 36-hour sleepover with her cousins. She is our only child so it fills my heart to see her playing, running, swimming, fighting, and loving on her cousins.

  • Jenn - great pics. I remember their first pictures on your blog. my how they have grown. cousins are great. I love mine and love that my kids have cousins that they love

  • Amber - The picture of your daughter laughing when she is a baby is just perfect; I keep looking at it to laugh myself! I do hope they stay close as they grow up!!
    My cousin and I were only 12 days apart and inseparable growing up and eventually we drifted in high school (different crowds)…
    They are too cute!

  • carolina - I was reading your words and remember the picture when they were babies. Surprise, was in the end. Did you win something with that picture? I love my cousin even if we are in different parts of the planet. Thank God to technology because let me talk to her at least once in a week.

I think a combination of a busy weekend, friends daily dropping by and maybe a growth spurt have tuckered this girl out. She is sleeping more…and in random places. I remember when her big sister when through a phase of falling asleep all over the place, despite naps and good rest at night. There is just something so peaceful and a little funny about finding kids asleep in places not usually used for resting. Sleeping kids in great light are one of my favorite things to photograph.

Photo tip: When I first walked in on her, her hair was covering her face. I snapped a few shots without moving her hair in case she woke up. After I got a those shots, I gently moved her hair so I could see her face. If my kids fall asleep somewhere random like the kitchen table, they are usually sleeping pretty deeply and I can delicately move things like hair. Some might prefer the first shot because it is more natural, but I just love seeing her peaceful face.7.14sleeper-05

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  • silk - Sooooo cute!!

  • Lisa | Winter Heights - So precious!

  • Jess - Your children are beautiful. I love how you love them.

  • Jenny L. - It is wonderful to see any picture of little one, but her face is the best part. Especially when she has a expression on her face that you know came from watching her sister. And the serious mad face on Instagram – what a classic!

  • Jenny - So sweet!!! :)

  • Monica - She is beautiful! I also love see my girls sleeping. Like you said is so peaceful watching them. I like also the second picture where you move her hair. Her face is adorable!

  • Ginna - This is so precious. :) Random question, where did you get that chair? Is it a stool? I love it!

  • Emma Goodright - Aww she is so beautiful, my littlest girl had a habit of falling asleep in the toy box, they make me laugh bless them xxx

  • ajira - Too cute!! Sleeping kiddos are too cute.

  • Laree @ Ever Heard Of Euless - I had the hardest time figuring out where she was in that first shot. It honestly looked like she was standing against a wall or something. Then I scrolled down to the second one and I finally figured it out.

    I can’t get over how beautiful she is!

  • Laura - I sure hope my son enters a “fall asleep anywhere” phase. He barely wants to sleep in his crib at night. Love these photos! What a sweet moment.

  • Shannon - Sooooooo adorable!!

  • Bird - falling asleep on random places is one of my favorite things to do… I can sleep everywhere and at every time… She looks so peaceful and happy!

    A lot of love from Germany and the -fatcatconnection-


  • Cathy - SO cute!! My daughter is 2.5 and has yet to fall asleep anywhere like this, she has only fallen asleep in the stroller a handful of times. I can’t wait for times like these! :) Happy Thursday!

  • AshleyAnn - Ginna – it is a stool. We have two – one from a garage sale (or flea market, I can’t remember for sure) and one was given to us

  • Amy Hyman - Adorable pic! We have just recently received our referral from China. We are over the moon excited! Our daughter is 14 months old and also has cleft lip and palate. I had a couple questions I wanted to ask you to help us prepare for her and our travel to China. If that’s okay….would you email me?

  • Asbeh - She is a DOLL!

  • Jolene - She is so sweet!

  • Jules M - Love both of the pictures. Such a peaceful glow on her sweet face. There is something so wonderful about seeing that look of a child sleeping. When my daughter was in kindergarten, we would find her in crazy places too. We were at my MIL’s house & we hadn’t seen her for a few minutes. She was under a side table in the living room, all curled up in a ball. I think that their bodies go through these growth spurts & their brains do at the same time. It is completely exhausting!

  • Kristin C. - Precious!

  • Theresa - I have been following your blog since we began our adoption process in October. Thank you for your wisdom and insight! We have not been matched yet but am trying to prepare for our trip to China. I was wondering what type of camera you would recommend bringing. I don’t want to miss anything while we are there but also don’t know if I want to lug around a large camera with lense etc. thoughts?

  • AshleyAnn - Theresa – I took my dslr and a hefty lens…it was heavy, but I don’t regret it one moment. It was totally worth it to me.

Parenting often feels like a guessing game to me. Like all kids, mine are so different. What one kid needs is totally different from the other. What speaks to one doesn’t speak to another. It keeps me on my toes trying to figure out how to parent five kids with such different personalities and needs. I asked my eight year old if I could share a story about how he has overcome some fears and embraced the way God made him. He said it is a good story and it was okay for me to share.


This kid is funny. He has a gift for making people laugh in a way that is just clean humor (as opposed to potty humor like his brothers!). He can share humor in a way that doesn’t make fun of others or cause others pain. It is an ability that is unique to him in our family. The problem was he would be crushed when people laughed at him. Last year we joined a homeshool group that included the kids giving weekly presentations to their peers. For months, he has bravely given his presentations, but not without great struggle. He told me his greatest fear was messing up and people laughing at him.

Goodness that broke me heart. It was especially tricky to navigate because he is just so funny and witty.

We began talking about how humor is such a needed part of our world. I shared with him great comedians and stories of how laughter brings healing to the hurting. We talked about how God shaped him in such a unique way to bring joy to others through his humor. Being able to bring laughter to others in a pure form that is not at the expense of others is so rare. Slowly, he began seeing the difference in being laughed at out of meanness and being laughed at because has a gift of humor.

Slowly, he began gaining confidence and allowing himself to share his humor while welcoming the laughter.

He still isn’t a big fan of presentations, but he is beginning to embrace the laughter of others and his skill at evoking that laughter.

When his cousin wanted the Frozen party, he decided he wanted to surprise her by showing up as Olaf. It seems like a simple thing, but it was so huge for me to watch. On his own initiative he wanted to share his gift and bring about the laughter of others. He worked the crowd and delighted his cousin. He offered lots of free hugs and didn’t cower when everyone laughed.7.14olaf-0027.14olaf-0047.14olaf-005I am so incredibly proud of him and the journey he has been on over the last year. The world needs more laughter – good, fun humor. I’ve never gone to bed thinking, “Man, I sure wish I hadn’t laughed so much today.” I’m thankful he brings the gift of laughter to our home and that he is starting to embrace the beautiful way he was made. He has a gift and it is a joy watching him grow in it.

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  • jodi - Beautiful – what a gift for him to give his cousin, especially with the backstory! Precious!

  • Michelle - He is one beautiful soul. Treasure.

  • Meg - So sweet. I love seeing our little dude’s personalities coming out too! He sounds like such a sweet kid with a huge heart!

  • Lisa | Winter Heights - Love this, Ashley. You always give me so much to think and pray about as a new mama. And those head shots are just precious of your boy.

  • Yanet - Goodness, he’s handsome!!

  • Carrie - You must be so proud of him. Please tell him ‘way to go,’ and thank him for letting you share his story. :) It’s encouraging!

  • MIchelle - Ashley, I absolutely love this post. I always marvel at your beautiful family. Your children are spectacular in each of their own ways. I always look forward to reading new posts and gratefully take in new pictures of your gorgeous children, but its always your middle son that has me giggling, with his funny expressions and mannerisms.
    You are right, I can’t think of one person that has admitted to regretting laughing too much in one day…there is no such thing. Laughter is joyous, and your son brings much joy in the mornings when I read your posts.
    I’m glad he has a wonderful mom like you to teach him to embrace his gifts…not everyone has that kind of talent. Some WISH they had it. I married a funny man for a reason, I LOVE to laugh and my husband is just fantastic. Its never a dull moment. I hope your son continues to embrace his gift and spread joy everywhere he goes.
    I hope he knows that it was very brave and inspiring to share his story with us, please thank him on my behalf.

  • Sandy C - He was right, that’s a good story! Laughing at someone’s sense of humor is so different than laughing to make fun of someone. Looks like he pulled of a great Olaf!!

  • Liz - That. Is. Adorable. Soooo awesome!

    If you are ever looking for a good, clean comedic influence, you should check out Matt Falk. He is a clean comedian originally from my neck of the woods (Manitoba, Canada).

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Yes! The world absolutely needs clean humor. It is so important to know that we don’t have to resort to hurting others or being inappropriate to make people laugh. Good, clean humor is a gift!

  • Honeybee Mama - Oh this is so, so sweet. You always make me cry! Parenting is so, so hard, and it is such a sweet blessing when we get to watch our children experience triumph!

  • Tara - Jerry Seinfeld has a documentary called Comedian which is an amazing look at how even the most successful comedian has a lot of insecurities and works ultra hard at his craft. It might not be appropriate for your son’s age (I watched it many years ago) but you could probably find parts to show him. It might really make an impact especially if he understands how successful Jerry Seinfeld has been and how for even him, being “funny” is a struggle.

  • Megan - I love the way your approached this challenge! We discussed this very topic a few months ago and I used the book Daniel’s’ Duck to illustrate the difference between laughing to cause pain and laughing because one is delighted!

  • Jenni - The gift of a sensitive heart, both perceptive and cautious. You are parenting him well. Celebrating victories is awesome.

  • Sarah Pratt - A boy after my own heart! What a blessing to have in your family!

  • Susan - What a beautiful boy. You can see the gentleness on his face. God has blessed you abundantly with all your children; #2 is an old soul with a heart of joy!

  • kelli - I love this! I always appreciate the way you enjoy each of your children’s uniqueness. You seem to easily accept them (and yourself) where they are, and that example is an encouragement to me to do the same. Thanks for sharing this, and way to go, big 8-year-old! I love how you loved on your cousin for her big day!

  • Dena - Ashley, How kind of your son to allow you to share his story. He’s not alone in that fear. My son was sensitive that way at that age also. Would get upset and cry if anyone laughed at something he said. At 10 now he’s gotten over it for the most part.

  • Andrea Berglin - I have an 8 year old that looks so much like your son that my son thought he was looking at a picture of himself when he was looking at a picture of your son! He loves nature, and is the funniest member of our family. He also gets upset when people laugh, even when he tells a joke. My son will be happy to know he also shares this trait with his “twin”. And hopefully it will help him with his own fears of being laughed at.

  • Anna - Thanks for sharing! A beautiful story. It touched my heart, especially because my 8 year old is going through the same struggle with his gift for humor.

  • Maria - Ashley, your posts almost always bring me to tears –happy tears.

    Seeing the way your family grows together is endearing, as well as was seeing you show how beautiful and kind you are while you were in Ghana. Keep bringing those happy tears to our lives!

    By the way, your boy looks so much like your sister!

  • Diana - So sweet!

  • kimberly oyler - please stop making me cry in public places. what a gift.

  • Taylor - So very sweet! I have my sister’s wedding coming up this weekend and I’ve been so nervous for my maid of honor speech (see, I’m in my twenties and I still struggle with being in front of people!) but I decided to use humor as bumpers for my anxiety. So far, it’s making me feel a lot better and I’m hoping it works the day it is most important. I hope he has fun continuing to make people laugh!


  • Emily - I am so glad he’s learning to embrace his inner comedian. We do need more laughter in the world. I’ve had the kind of year that’s filled me with anxiety and I’ve found myself seeking out funny writing and shows to soothe my soul. I know your boys are big fans of Calvin and Hobbes (as am I) and I re-read the entire series to help get us through our move. And now I want to go watch “Make ‘em Laugh” from Singing in the Rain. Good times.

    Also – he is growing into quite a handsome young man!

  • Sally - Ashley, you have such a wonderful insight into your children’s talents and their hearts. This is a beautiful post!

  • Monique - I really loved today’s post; thanks for sharing! I have a little one with a gift for music, but is incredibly shy! He so badly wants to play for others, and yet is terrified they will laugh at him. It was good to read that lots of encouragement to be who God made your son to be has helped him face his fears :)

  • Nicole L. - I loved this post! I also have a daughter that is inherently funny. She doesn’t like it when we laugh ‘at her’. I have tried many times to explain how much we enjoy the things she says and does and we aren’t laughing to be mean to her. I am going to have to try explaining it again using some of your reasoning!

  • kris saia - The photo of that back-bending hug made me laugh. You made my day… as usual.

  • Emily - That is such a sweet story. I love how you embrace each child’s unique gifts. These are precious pictures! You continue to inspire and encourage!

  • Amy - I love this post. I have a funny, yet sensitive little man. He gets so upset when people laugh, but he is just so sweet he brings laughter out in many. I am happy to see how your son is embracing this. The Olaf thing was great. Thanks for sharing.

  • lorieannbell - I am so proud of him!!!! He does indeed have a beautiful gift and I love seeing him share his gift in front of others! Many will laugh with him…..all will learn from him!

  • Julie B - Thank you so much for sharing this story. And thank him for me too. My 5 year old son is deeply struggling with the same thing. He is terrified of being laughed at and truly doesn’t understand the difference in making people laugh and people laughing at you. I’m going to use some of your wisdom to chat wit him about honing and owning his gift of humor.

  • ellen patton - You are an amazing mom and I’m so glad you share so much of your life.

  • Kimberly - When you shared about criticism, it reminded me of JJ Heller’s song “You are Loved”…have you seen the music video?

  • Haley - I love this story so much!

  • Stephanie George - LOVE the first and last picture of him. So handsome!

  • Rikki - This warms my heart so much. What a gift… A blessing for your boy.

  • AndreaB - Ashley you speak the most beautiful words over and of your children – so encouraging to hear as a new mom myself, I hope I’m able to be as thoughtful and encouraging to mine as you are to yours. Thanks for sharing!

  • Nichole Young - That was a beautiful story! I wish I didn’t think potty humor was so funny, but I do. I have a 10 year old boy’s sense of humor I guess.

  • AshleyAnn - Nichole….I think it is too :)

  • Amy K. - I thought it was awesome that he was willing to dress up as Olaf before I read this… now I think he’s a total rock star!!!

  • haverlee - This is great. I struggle with this with Dawson, about him hating when people laugh at him. I’ve had many talks with him about the fact that he’s bringing me joy and making me happy. But it’s so helpful to know that your son didn’t really “get it” until he was 7. And it’s also helpful to know that most of your boy just rely on potty jokes! I’m always saying to my oldest, “you can still be funny without being rude and crude!” I’m guessing that’ll take another 20 years to sink in ;)

  • tara pollard pakosta - tell your boy, I think he’s AMAZING!
    and extremely handsome too!
    what a GREAT kid~!

  • Laura - It is a great story! My favorite line is “I asked my 8 yr old if I could share this story?” In a world of oversharing I love that you respect your son that way! Thank you both for sharing who you are!