I discovered a meatball under the china cabinet this morning. We haven’t had meatballs for two weeks in these parts, and I found it surprising that I saw the meatball before I smelled it. I pondered it while I continued my search for hidden treasures beneath the rest of the dining room furniture, and I also pondered the ordinariness of my daily life.

Ten years ago I spent my days teaching students with disabilities inside the walls of a respected high school. I used the knowledge attained through my master’s degree on a daily basis, and every day brought new challenges and changes in my schedule. My husband and I traveled overseas often, and when we had a week off, we regularly took off across the country with our camping gear in the back of the SUV. Life was filled with adventure and possibility.

I remembered the adventures as I peeled a gooey piece of some unknown fruit off the leg of the dining room table, and part of my heart seemed to mourn the loss of my former life. While I love being a mom–and most days I even prefer full-time parenting to full-time teaching–there are days when the ordinariness catches up with me. There are days when I join my working friends for dinner and find myself jealous of what they have: eight daily hours of socialization with other adults, stretches of uninterrupted quiet time, coffee breaks, lunch without little hands snatching it off the plate, and projects that are noticed and appreciated by others.

Moving to the kitchen, still on my hands and knees, I almost started sulking in the thoughts of what my life could be. That’s when he caught me. My two-year-old refuses to let me clean the floors without jumping on my back and riding me like his very own pony.

“Giddyup!” he shouted, as I wiped under the kitchen table. And in that moment, I decided it was time to shrug off the sour attitude and embrace the ordinariness of my life and the 30-pound cowboy on my back. I decided it was time to make a plan for adding some extra joy to our schedule. Here’s what I came up with:

Start Counting Blessings
Too often, I correct my toddler when he climbs on my back to play cowboy. I tell him I need to clean the floor and I can’t be a horsey. What if, instead of embracing frustration in these moments, I counted them as blessings? What if I kept track of all the small blessings of each ordinary day: daffodils springing through black soil, robins on the lawn, rain pounding softly on the windowpane, and poplar leaves racing across the deck. Keeping track of the things for which we’re thankful opens our hearts to walk in greater joy. There simply isn’t room for grumbling in a heart that’s filled with thanksgiving.

Incorporate Some Simple Fun
As I crawled to the couch with my little cowboy on my back, I realized that I might actually enjoy joining him for some simple fun. Instead of trying to keep him occupied while I cleaned and attended to the day’s tasks, what if we did something we would both enjoy? In no time, we were dressed in our play clothes and headed to the woods with a bucket and a net.

Simply watching him chase moths, toads, and salamanders filled me with great joy. Joining him only amplified my pleasure. Adding a playful activity we both enjoyed livened our day like nothing else.

Mix up the Schedule (as much as you can without disaster)
While most of me enjoys keeping on a schedule, there are days when the daily routine feels like it’s draining the vitality from my weary body. After too many of these days, we pick a day to completely mix things up. We head to visit a friend out of town for the morning, spend a day with my parents, or drive north to Lake Erie for a day. I make sure there’s an appropriate place for a nap (the carseat works) at the appropriate time, and we enjoy a change in schedule.

Remember This Is a Season
When our first child came home from the hospital, I thought I’d never brush my teeth or remove my contacts without a baby in my arms again in my life. It seemed that the intensity of the newborn stage would last forever, and it never crossed my mind that completing daily tasks would actually get easier in time. Our daughter is now approaching her seventh birthday, and the few months of carrying her everywhere are long gone. This season of parenting little ones will go fast. We honor the season when we don’t wish it away and keep it in perspective. This is just a short stretch of our long lives.

Find a Community
I used to think that since I was a young mom, I needed to join a mom’s group. I tried several, but none of them were a great fit. Finally, I decided to embrace the community I already had. I was intentional to invite my friends for coffee regularly. I started hosting book clubs and study groups in my home. We had potlucks with neighbors, and I joined online blogging communities. Whether it’s a group of moms, a group of friends, or even an online community, we all need a place to share life with others. Stepping into community is nothing short of revitalizing.

I haven’t mastered the art of enjoying every moment of my life as a full-time mom. I’m not sure it’s possible to enjoy every moment of any occupation. But one thing I know is that when I slow down to intentionally enjoy my children, when I give thanks, and when I stay connected with other adults, this ordinary life isn’t too bad at all.

Stacey Pardoe

Stacey Pardoe lives with her husband Darrell and two children in western Pennsylvania. In addition to being a wife and mother, she is a writer, mentor, and teacher. She is passionate about encouraging others to pursue their passions and make an impact in the culture. She enjoys hiking, camping, running, and spending time outside with her family.