I cannot count the times.
It happened again in the middle of my grandmother's yard, relatives and friends gathered for a picnic and my boys the only children there. They were running around screaming, of course, as two and three-year-old boys do, with blueberry pie lips and I was trying to wipe their mouths and they hadn't slept the night before. At all.
And everyone was laughing at how charming my sons were. "Don't take these days for granted," they told me, "because before you know it, they'll be gone.
I wanted to turn and yell, "Really? When will they be gone? Because then maybe I'll get some rest!"
But instead I smiled politely and said, "I know, you're right, they're such a gift," even as my youngest son stained my beige pants with his blueberry lips.
And isn't this all of us with preschoolers? Aren't we all just counting the hours until nap-time and then bedtime and living off cold coffee and prayer? We're trying to carpe diem, we're really trying, but the days are so long and so repetitious: the same story, over and over, the same movie, the same questions: "Why Mommy, why?" until we begin hallucinating about empty hotel rooms and wine bottles.
We're broken people trying to raise broken children and where's the redemption? How do we let in the light, especially as summer fades and the leaves turn and the night takes over? How do we become bigger than the pile of laundry, the stack of dishes, the noses that need wiping and the bickering between siblings? How does God fit into all of this?
And is it possible to seize the very ordinary, ever-so-plain day with an air of expectancy, and even joy?
Here are some tips on how to make space and time for joy.
• TV IS NOT THE ENEMY. You can use it, just don't abuse it. It's okay to pop in a movie or put on a show like Boz the Bear, or Super Why, or Little Einstein. Use that time to do something restful: to read your Bible. To pray. To sit on the deck and whisper to your heavenly father. To drink a mug of hot coffee.
• DANCE. My boys and I have a worship CD we turn on. It's loud and we rock it on the dance floor of our living room, and it always turns into laughter.
• BUY A NEW SHIRT. There's something to be said about buying something new once in a while. One woman I know likes to buy herself mitts. Whatever it is, it makes you feel special. Treat yourself. You're worth it.
• GIVE YOURSELF A TIMEOUT. When your husband comes home at five o'clock, and you've had a bad day, tell him you're giving yourself a timeout. Go for a walk. Exit your world, and enter God's.
• SPEAK POSITIVE. While you're doing that aerobics video, thank God for the use of your arms and legs and let your children hear you uttering thanks, too. Don't comment on your flabby arms or floppy stomach. The more we praise, the more we raise, both our spirit and theirs.
Friend? Before you were a mother, and even after, you are a woman. And you matter.
So seize the day. Before the day seizes you.
Emily T. Wierenga is a wife, mother, artist and the author of Chasing Silhouettes: How to help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder, and Mom in the Mirror: Body Image, Beauty and Life After Pregnancy. For more info, please visit www.emilywierenga.com. Find her on Twitter or Facebook.