1. Hot days made cooler by ice cream--sticky fingers and thick, smeared mustaches.
2. Damp, sandy beach towels.
3. Looking in the rearview mirror to see a six-year-old sound asleep minutes after leaving swim class.
4. Throwing pennies in public fountains.
5. A cookie date at a coffee shop with a two-year-old who is finding her words.
6. Walking the neighborhood until the wee one falls asleep.
7. "Penalty kick shoot-outs" in the basement and conversations that go like this:
C: "Andrea, you're a pretty good keeper for someone like you."
Me: "Hey! What's that supposed to mean?"
C: "For someone who isn't very good at soccer. We're like opposites. You are a good keeper, I am a good player."
8. A ten-year-old eager to tell me about her day.
9. Tucking in and "counting sheep" with a bored boy who won't sleep even though he's laying on the coolest (ever) spiderman sheets.
10. Loving a beautiful girl who is almost eleven and weighs herself 3 different times in the locker room. Frustrated that I'm tongue-tied and want to tell her things that will turn her mind from where it's at.
11. Dinner together at Potbelly's while mom and dad are out. Laughing so hard chips spew (chewed up ones; in my face) and sprite dribbles down the sides of his mouth. And her lips are stained brown from the chocolate brownie cookie we are supposed to be "splitting."
12. Laughing till it doesn't make sense because we're all probably over-tired and high on the sun.
13. Learning as I watch them that this is where life is real: these moments that sometimes feel mundane and routine but that are gifted moments and I wouldn't trade them for anything.
Tonight I felt so grateful to be sharing these years with these little ones. It has been hard and beautiful and quite a journey. They have taught me so much. Loving them has turned to an ache. Uh oh, good gracious. They've gotten to me.
And I'll need to be reminded, again, when things are tough and I'm on the floor cleaning up puppy diarrhea or acting as referee (for the umpteenth time) that this is where it's at. That "relationships grow only in a hot house of humility, selflessness, open-handedness" and I will have to give of myself again...and again...and again. He taught us self-giving. That's how we live best, but it isn't always easiest. No wonder we find ourselves praying for strength and courage to put our best foot forward. And for baby steps :)