We are thick in the throws of summer around here (though you'd hardly recognize it with all the thunderstorms plaguing the land) and I have had a few epiphanies.

The most important being: I really like my kids.

I know that should not come as a new realization, but should be a natural, ever-present thought in a mother's mind.

And it is.

But sometimes it's hard to remember when you're constantly surrounded by the noise, nagging, and needs of three little ones.

This morning (and on several of the mornings lately) I have had the company of my oldest son on my runs. He's eagerly laced up his shoes and we've hit the streets together in the early hours. I was selfishly worried that the quality of my workout would suffer as a result of my young companion (I do eat all that cookie dough, you know), but that has not been the case at all.

This kid can really hold his own.

No one ever told me the elated sense of pleasure I would feel, having this little person suddenly big enough to physically keep up with me. Easy conversation, the back and forth between us is as natural as can be. He talks to me. Tells me things he's feeling and working on in his little 11-year-old world.

As the miles between us and home build up, I realize the distance between he and I shrinks drastically.

Back at home, the others have made strides of their own, as well.

Last night, the light beneath a door led to me discover Chase, still awake and reading. So wrapped up in his book, that all sense of time was lost. The urgent desire to see how it all ends was keeping him from sleep. His tired eyes sparkled as he told me of the book he just could not put down. I smiled as I shut the door, and left him to his happy ending.

This boy, the one who struggled and cried when he was learning to read. His letters constantly transposed and his eyes tired from the strain - often he was left in a puddle of anguish. And often I was left in a sea of worry.

I'll tell you what - I'll let him have that late night of reading any day.

And let us not forget the princess. She, who is sometimes the neediest and most loud voice of all. The girl who has been self-appointed as a one-woman tattling machine has lately been less consumed with what others are or are not doing, and more interested in her own pursuits.

I cherish the sleepy, rock star hair that strolls into my bedroom for an early morning cuddle under the covers. I love the sound of her voice, soft and scratchy, as she tells me of her hopes and dreams for the day.

She plans big, this one.

Always wanting to grab life by the horns, and so impatient when there are trifles like breakfast and showers standing in her way.

But I have also caught her watching me lately. Observing the way I perform this little job called Mom, and forming her own ideas of the way she'll do it herself one day. Makes me stand a little taller and strive to be that much better. To be more patient. To love more, and be cross less. To cherish, instead of just tolerate. To teach, and not just discipline.

Life is a series of peaks and valleys. And right now, I feel sheer gratitude for the mountain top I've been standing on. Here's hoping I get to stay here for a while.

Because I really like the view.