I remember the first time I met them. I was coming home from work feeling nervous. I told myself they're just kids. And I'm good with kids. I like kids. I've always gotten along with friends' little sons, younger cousins, and children I shoot at events. I'm an only child so I don't have nephews and nieces.

I opened the door and heard voices in the living room. I walked straight to it trying to act normal though my heart was racing. Marge, stop it. I saw John with 2 beautiful little girls clutched on either side of him. So cute. Both had long straight hair and were like miniature female versions of my husband. I said "Hi!" with a big smile. Ruby beamed and with the same enthusiasm said "Hi!". Crystal shyly smiled and burried her face in daddy's arms. I didn't know what else to say. Ask them if they've had anything to eat, I told myself. I did and John said yes, he made them grilled cheese and were taken care of during the flight. That was a stupid question, I thought. Of course John took care of them. He's been waiting for this for the last few years, from the day I met him. It was a simple question anyone would normally ask but I was so self conscious. I wanted them to think I was the cool adult they can talk to and hang out with and just be themselves. I knew that would take a while. Of course.

That was the summer of 2010. Ruby was 8 and Crystal was 6. Now, a year later, I am thankful that these 2 girls came into my life. I did not conceive them but being with them gave me a glimpse of how it is to be a parent. It is fun, stressful, a constant balancing act, time consuming and rewarding all the same time. When I'm with them, I can be myself. I don't know where to begin to describe how precious they are, so, being someone who's always making lists for everything, I decided to make one.

What I love about Ruby and Crystal:

1. They're smart. Literally. They're straight A students. At their age, they squeal when they receive a good book as a gift for their birthday. They know how to play chess. Ruby's my regular opponent and she's getting better with each game. On their summer vacation, once in awhile they'd ask me to take them to the library to pick up new reading material. They both just started reading about Einstein. Not because they were told to, but they heard us talking about him and they were simply interested. Reading time before going to bed usually involves the parent reading to the child. They read to us.

2. They're creative. They always have new projects they're working on. Ruby made this contraption (as she so maturely refers to it) that involved an old skateboard and a few pieces of thick cord so we could take her talking Dug(from the movie Up) whenever we would go to the park. Crystal would bust out my make-up kit and give me makeovers. She custom painted her top part of the bunk bed with squiggly letters in different colors that spell Crystal. Ruby, on picture day, came up with her own outfit ala-Leslie Burke from Bridge to Terabithia. They make personalized christmas cards or just because cards. Made their own DIY mailbox and put it beside their bed and handcrafted daddy a special crown on father's day.

3. They know how to have fun! After seeing Katy Perry's Last Friday Night music video, Crystal arranged an 80's party in the bedroom and set a time for when their cousins could come over. Complete with lights, music, make-up and 80's fashion. That's what I'm talking about. They'd ask me if we could go to the mall, or better yet, the city! I'm telling you, these girls and I get along just fine. We looooove walking around downtown San Francisco. Their favorite place, which is no surprise, is the Disney store on Stockton. To cap the day, we'd get Crystal's favorite frozen yogurt at Yoppi and Ruby's pretzels at Auntie Anne's at Westfield.

4. They're generous and well mannered. They always say thank you for anything given or done for them. They're the first to break up a fight between cousins. They share. They don't let anyone be left out. They play with the kid who everyone else doesn't want to play with. Strikes up a conversation with the quiet one. During the summer, the pool is usually the scene of drama. When cousins start to get on each others' nerves, I shout "What's Rule # 1?" They'd shout back, "Be nice!"

5. They're my mini bodyguards. Kids are smart. They could sense if something's wrong. They could smell tension. When they enter a room, see me and daddy suddenly quiet, they'd automatically ask in chorus, "What did you do daddy?!" I'd encourage this with a childish pout directed at John as if to say "See, I have back up." The girls would then go to daddy and playfully give him a spanking then John would pull me over and all this would end up in a pillow fight which usually lasts a few minutes until our hair pointed into different directions.

6. They're game for anything. I'm so thankful these girls aren't the shy type coz if they we're, we'd be staring at each other all day. I might blabber here, to John, my dad, my best friends but I'm generally quiet. It takes a loooong time before I get comfortable with someone. With them, I could be myself, talk about anything, cry when I'm sad, dance with Spongebob and consume ice cream without guilt. The first time we brought them to Santa Cruz and introduced surfing, there was no hesitation in wanting to try it. When we first took the bus to the library, I handed them coins and they smiled broadly at the driver and got their own tickets. When we woke up one morning and started greeting them in different languages, they didn't miss a beat and greeted us back "Magandang umaga!" and "Buon giorno!"

7. They're sweet. From the first time I met them during the summer of 2010, it didn't take long before Crystal would cuddle to me, Ruby saying "I love you" and both of them making sweet little notes for us just because they felt like it. When Crystal wakes up, she'd motion for me with her arms to come close so I could pick her up from her bed. Ruby would hold my hand when we go out, make me friendship bands and adjust the portable DVD player just right so I could see when we were on long drives.

I could go on and on but it seems like the more I write about them the more I miss them. If there's anything I don't like, it's the fact that we only get to be with them every summer and every other Christmas. For now. I miss you Ruby and Crystal. Thank you for the birthday cards you made me. I can't wait for our next trip to the city.

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