If your house is anything like mine, you find toys in the most unexpected places. Well, not that there are such things as “unexpected places” anymore but, you know, in places other people would probably be surprised to find a toy — under the kitchen sink, under the bathroom sink, in the refrigerator, on top of the refrigerator, inside the kitchen cabinets, under your bedsheets, in the laundry, behind the toilet, etc. This morning when I sat up in my bed and took a moment to look around, I saw a room that was no longer ours. There was a giant Tonka dump truck, a scattering of little boys’ clothes, several Hot Wheels, a remote control meant for flying a plastic helicopter, kids’ sippy cups and Paw Patrol on the TV. And an almost-three-year old sitting in bed next to me picking his nose and asking if I was “wake” yet.

Of course this didn’t happen overnight (well, Matty coming into our bed did but everything else was a product of passing time and busy lives) but, as you probably know, some mornings are like that. You wake up and you look around and you think to yourself “WTF. Didn’t I just clean this place? Can’t I just have one room that isn’t a disaster?!” When I walked out of our bedroom and into the hallway all I could see was, you guessed it, more toys. TOYS. EVERYWHERE. There were pieces of the adorable wooden oceanic nesting dolls I bought from Land of Nod that I just had to have for the boys’ Christmas stockings because they were so cute that I’ve never actually seen them play with (WEIRD), there were more Hot Wheels, tractors, markers, two footballs (TWO) and a riding toy. I walked past the boys’ rooms (nightmares) and into the living room where there were too many toys to even list. In the bathroom there was a salvaged pile of toilet paper casually placed on the shelf (Matty unrolls an entire role every time he’s in there and it nearly gives Seth an aneurysm every. single. time.) and ball pit balls, more Hot Wheels and dinosaurs scattered around the floor. The walls in our home are covered in nicks, faint lines where we’ve tried our best to wash away marker drawings and crayon lines, a few subtle paint fingerprints and faint dirty handprints here and there.

Nothing is ours anymore — there is no sacred space, not an untouched or untainted square foot. We are living in the wake of two tiny human tornados and drowning in cheap plastic and tiny clothes. It’s both sweet and infuriating. It all depends on the morning. We do a good job of living at their pace and some mornings, like this one, it catches up with me. I start to wish I didn’t have to wake up to a room filled with kids’ toys and a floor scattered with the mess of tiny ones, that I didn’t have to clean up the same shit every day and trip on the same toys in the middle of the night when they’re hollaring “Mama!” across the hall. But then I think about waking up in a perfectly tidy home with quiet mornings after a full night’s rest and I’m filled with the very real sadness that I’d actually probably prefer to live in their mess forever than to have to let them grow up and leave me with quiet mornings and free evenings.

And then sitting down to put together a sticker chart for chores becomes less about relieving the frustration of living in these tiny people’s mess and more about preparing them for the inevitable, the future – adulthood. In a matter of hours I went from identifying a problem, being furious about it, creating a solution and then sitting amongst cheap plastic, little clothes and dinosaur stickers in tears.

Momming is such an emotional journey. No matter how good or how bad the day, there’s always that underlying reality that it will not be like this forever. It won’t even be like this for very long at all and every day is just another day we’ll never get back. My best friends are a one- and a two-year old who will probably only call me their best friend for a handful of years to come – for me, every day counts. As Matty approaches his third birthday, which seems impossible, there is one thing I know: When they said, “don’t blink” they weren’t exaggerating at all.