“I love that you can see the football field,” my husband said as we sat at the dinner table. He was looking out the windows to our backyard. The boys joined the direction of his gaze.

“What do you mean?,” the Oldest asked.

“The grass is thinner there . . . see that? It doesn’t seem to matter who is playing football back there, it always seems to be in that same area . . . leaving a ‘football field’ in the grass,” my husband explained.

Looking at it made me smile. Yes. Proof of life. Signs that people inhabit this home.

Toys left in the bathtub after the water has long since gone down the drain.

Scribbles highlighted through sunlit windows a week after the newest Crayola purchase found the grips of small hands.

Crumbs of cream-filled chocolate cookies scattered on the floor, the remains of a portion of the neighborhood crew scooping out “dirt and worms”.

And scratches etched in the dining table that was once sat mostly unused in a room only meant for formal meals.

Proof of life. Happening.

I used to try to keep up. To keep up appearances. But the endlessness of the tasks piled up. On me. Over me. My to-do list was never to-done. And I realized that in the little leave-behinds, I found a certain comfort of knowing they are here. And I am, too.

Yes. I am aware my children are running all about. I know the Littlest is sans shoes. I know the Middlest is inviting cars to “HONK” as they drive past his mailbox perch post. I know there are 472 bikes strewn about. The Oldest is playing a one-man basketball championship on the neighbors-who-are-like-family’s hoop. And that the dirt all over my sidewalk occurred from an excavation of the front flower bed involving two boys and a golf club.

I am aware that when others walk by, there is proof of life. Three camping chairs gathered in cahoots. A plastic picnic table upturned for whatever reason. The latest adventure left behind in their wake. I know that there are people who might view it as unkempt. I know there are those who wonder Where are their adults? as they rush by, hurried from one thing to the next. And the answers range from folding laundry to working on dinner to letting the kids be kids.

I let their handprints linger a bit longer these days, and their forts get a solid 72-hour existence before they are folded up for another time. Partially because I am trying to keep my sanity in check. Partially because I know how quickly these phases can fade.

As the days collect on top of one another, I will get to the toys in the bath. I will straighten the shoes at the door. Eventually the boys will clean the windows. We’ll someday buff the scratches from the floors.

Maybe we’ll even obtain a new table. And then again, I think running my fingers over the etchings in the table and counting them as leave-behinds of family meals, maybe not. Maybe the table will stay as a relic of this time.

“I love that football field,” I replied. “And the patches worn bare beneath the swings . . . ”

Fewer meals may be had gathered around the table. The football games may become fewer and far between. The grass will grow under our feet as the boys grow before our eyes. And it will feel as though these years will have been flashed before us in a matter of moments.

So for the very right now . . . all the little leave-behinds . . . I will leave in front of me. Not for always. But at least, for a bit.

After all . . . there is a home happening here. 

This post originally appeared on Baby on the Brehm


You may also like:

Welcome to Our Messy House—We Love It Here

Dear Husband, Do You Remember When All This Was Just a Dream?

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Ashli Brehm

Ashli Brehm = Thirtysomething. Nebraska gal. Life blogger. Husker fan. Creative writer. Phi Mu sister. Breast cancer survivor. Boymom. Premie carrier. Happy wife. Gilmore Girls fanatic. Amos Lee listener. Coffee & La Croix drinker. Sarcasm user. Jesus follower. Slipper wearer. Funlover. Candle smeller. Yoga doer. Pinterest failer. Anne Lamott reader. Tribe member. Goodness believer. Life enthusiast. Follow me at http://babyonthebrehm.com/

God Gave Him Bigger Feelings

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy on playground, color photo

He came home from school last week and asked, “Why do I get so angry but my friends never do? Why am I not the same?” And it broke me. Because he is passionate and intelligent and kind and intuitive and beautiful. He didn’t always seem different. We never paid attention to how he would line everything up in play. And we would laugh it off as a quirk when he would organize everything dependent upon shape, size, and color. He was stubborn, sure, but so am I. And then COVID happened, and we attributed the lack of social skills...

Keep Reading

We Have a Big Family and Wouldn’t Change a Thing

In: Kids, Motherhood
Four children in front of Christmas tree, color photo

I have just had my fourth baby. A baby who wasn’t expected but very much wanted and very much loved from the moment we found out. When we told people we were expecting, the response was underwhelming. The stream of intrusive questions would then ensue:  You already have your hands full, how will you cope with four? You’ll need a bigger car! Where will they all sleep? Don’t you own a TV? You know how babies are made right? People seemed to have such a strong opinion about me having a fourth child. RELATED: We Had a Lot of Kids...

Keep Reading

As a Mom I’m Far From Perfect, But I Hope You Remember the Joy

In: Kids, Motherhood
Happy mother and daughter on the beach

Sometimes, I think about the future when you are grown and I am gone. When all that’s left of me are photographs and memories. I know what the photographs will show. I took most of them, after all. But the memories I’m less sure of. I wonder what will stick with you after all that time. How will you remember me? One day, your grandkids will ask you about me. What will you say? Will you tell them I was always distracted? Will you remember that I looked at my phone too much? Will you tell them I didn’t play...

Keep Reading

Being a Daycare Mom Can Be So Hard

In: Kids, Living, Motherhood
Woman holding boy on couch, black-and-white photo

Dear daycare mom,  I know it’s hard.  To get yourself up before them, to make lunches, to pack the bags, to get yourself ready.  To go into their rooms, where they are peacefully sleeping, and turn the lights on.  To struggle to get them breakfast, get them dressed, and get them out the door.  I know it’s hard.  To have a morning rush when all you want to do is snuggle up on the couch and ease into your day.  RELATED: When a Mom is Late To Work To feel like you are missing out on their childhood at times...

Keep Reading

The PB&J that Saved the Day

In: Kids, Motherhood
Table with three plates of PB&J sandwiches, color photo

It was one of those days.  One of those days when your pants are too tight, you wake up with a headache, and the kids’ rooms are disasters at 8 a.m. It was one of those days when I had to physically go into Target for our groceries since I didn’t have time to wait for pickup—I think that alone should sum up exactly the kind of day it was.  The kids were hangry. The toddler was, well, toddler-y. RELATED: Toddlers Are Human Too—And Sometimes They Just Need Grace Two minutes into our shopping trip, she had kicked her light-up rain...

Keep Reading

One Day He’ll Love Another Woman More than He Loves Me

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding baby, color photo

To Benjamin, my 16-month-old son, I am everything. I am the first person that boy looks for when he wakes up in the morning and the last person he wants before he goes to bed. If he is in a room full of people he loves and I am not there, he will search for me.  If he has a problem, mommy is the solution. I am the answer to his cries. I feel confident in saying that I am the most important person in that little boy’s little world. I love it. It is an honor and a privilege...

Keep Reading

To My Sister, Thank You For Being the Best Aunt To My Kids

In: Kids, Motherhood
Aunt with three young kids

“Do you have the kids’ basketball schedule yet?” you texted the other day. I sent back a screenshot of the calendar, and within an hour you responded telling me which game you’d be coming to. It was a simple exchange, but I was overwhelmed with gratitude for your love for my kids in that moment. It’s something I think often but don’t say nearly enough: thank you for being such an amazing aunt. Truly.  I know it’s not always convenient. You live three hours away and have a busy, full life of your own—but still, you show up for your niece and nephews...

Keep Reading

In Defense of the Stubborn Child

In: Kids, Motherhood
Little boy hanging over dock, color photo

“Lamp. Lamp. Laaaaamp,” my 2-year-old son screamed while stomping his feet. Tears were running down his face and snot was dripping dangerously close to his mouth. I put on what I hoped would be a soothing, motherly tone, “Okay, just calm down.” While trying to maintain eye contact, I slowly reached toward the tissue box. This must be what the greats like Jeff Corwin, Steve Irwin, or the Kratt brothers feel like when facing a volatile animal in the wild. The sound of a tissue being pulled from the box caused the crying to stop abruptly. His eyes flitted toward...

Keep Reading

Dear Stepdaughter, You Aren’t “Mine” but I Love You as My Own

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter hug

First off, I love you. I wasn’t there the day you were born or when you got your first tooth. I wasn’t there when you took your first steps or learned to pee in the potty. But, I have loved you since the day we met, and I’ve been there for every moment since. I’ve given you baths and eventually, taught you how to shower on your own. I’ve brushed your hair, clipped your nails, and taken care of you when you’re sick. I’ve tucked you into bed and kissed you goodnight, held you when you’re sad, chased away your...

Keep Reading

I Was Meant to Be a Boy Mom

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and three boys, black-and-white photo

When you’re a little girl, you dream of the day you can pass all your Barbies and dolls on to your daughter and continue that same form of make-believe, to play dress up, do their hair, and go shopping with . . . at least I did.  You grow up, fall in love, get married, and decide to start a family and all those same emotions come rushing back about all you’ll do with your baby girl. You cut open that cake and the blue frosting peeks through, and you’re so excited that you forget all those girl dreams. You...

Keep Reading