I felt like a grown-up when we bought a rug for our living room. I hadn’t spent years reading design blogs for nothing; I knew an area rug was the key to unifying our furniture and making our bowling alley living room feel cozy. So when I finally found one I loved for less than $200 on Amazon, I jumped on it.
I loved it from the moment it arrived—the bright blues and oranges popped against our gray couch just like I hoped they would, and I felt so at ease when I sunk my toes into the warm, plush fabric on a cool fall morning. The kids loved it, too, though for different reasons. Each wider stripe of color made a perfect road for matchbox cars, and it turns out to be more fun to wrestle on a soft rug than on 1920’s hardwoods in desperate need of refinishing.
But if I ever get around to leaving an Amazon review for this rug, the thing I’ll be sure to mention is that the bright colors and array of shapes and patterns make this the perfect background for toddlers: toys and crumbs are camouflaged to near perfection. Inevitably, my house would seem pretty clean until my toddler’s speech therapist arrived on Friday mornings. The three of us would plop onto the floor together, and suddenly, I’d notice what I could not see from five feet, four inches above the ground.
Crumbs. Crumbs everywhere.
Cheerios. Granola. Chicken nugget breading. Pieces of rice now crispy enough to impale you. More Cheerios. Sprinkle it all with a few tablespoons of sandbox sand for good measure.
It’s a battle I consistently lose. Many nights, after my husband and I have done the dishes and taken out the trash and he’s begun clicking through the Netflix queue, I stare out across the dining and living room floor, wondering why anyone ever wants an open floor plan, anyway. I sigh. I can not even bring myself to go get the broom, because I feel completely demoralized by the knowledge that I just swept last night, and before my kids have shed their pajamas tomorrow morning, my floor will be back to its current state. I am Sisyphus, but my boulder is tiny and made with whole grains and no added sugars, and I’m constantly stepping on tiny pieces of it every dang day.
Last spring, my husband was offered a new job that necessitated moving 200 miles south to Indianapolis. From my perspective, the best part of the job was that it included reimbursement of moving expenses. This became even more significant when he tore his ACL and meniscus right after accepting the job offer; we decided to leave every single bit of the packing and moving to a crew of professionals with a semi-truck.
I did my best to declutter and clean and sort before packing day; I didn’t want to trek anything across state lines if we didn’t need it or love it. But with three small children underfoot, an immobilized spouse, and a determination to spend as much time as possible with the friends we were about to leave behind, I only got so far.
Nevertheless, the movers arrived on a July Saturday. I watched one of them dump the entire contents of my junk drawer—pens, spare change, business cards, packs of gum, tangled earbuds—into the center of some packing paper, wrap it up like a turkey sub from the deli counter, and drop it into a box labeled “Kitchen.”
I quickly fell in love with our new rental house in Indy. It was built in 1860, and the living room has bright white walls and twelve-foot ceilings. I couldn’t wait to see how our rug would pop against its new canvas. The moving crew carried it in like lumberjacks with a fallen tree, and I gave instructions for placement. “Watch out, guys, out of the way,” I said to the kids. When the rug was lined up, I stood on the short edge and began unrolling it with the tip of my foot. I walked across as I went but stopped when I felt a crunch beneath the ball of my foot. I looked down to find four Cheerios, now smooshed.
I’m so glad we remembered to pack those.
It is now a Sunday night in October, and I’m standing in my newish kitchen, trying to decide what to do next. Another load of laundry, or chop the onion for tomorrow’s dinner? Watch an episode of The Good Place or read my library book? Set the coffee pot for the morning, or just go to bed already? Maybe I should do a quick sweep of the floor.
We’ve lived in Indy for three months now, and I really thought I’d have a stronger and better routine by now. But my days still feel a little aimless, I’m still figuring out the best way to load the dishwasher, and I seem to be maintaining many of the same bad habits I had in Michigan—staying up too late, scrolling Instagram long past my screen time limits, never making my bed. My kids are adjusting, but of course, they still have the same growing pains as before: arguing over who sits where in the shopping cart, snatching toys when a sibling looks away for a moment, whining about what’s on their dinner plates. And gracious! They still insist on dragging their snacks into the living room, and I still hate cleaning the floors at night. In the midst of all the change and upheaval our family has experienced, I’m learning to find comfort in the familiarity of what remains the same.
Fresh starts are available to moms all over the place, no cross-country moves required. We have Monday mornings and afternoon naps. We have New Years’ and new schools, birthdays, and anniversaries. Mostly, we have new mercy gifted to us not only in the mornings but with every single breath and heartbeat and tick of the clock. But of course, we bring ourselves along for the journey, even if we tried to purge the less desirable parts of our personalities long ago.
You may wake up in a new city, but there are still Cheerios on the rug.
Lindsey is a writer, reader, and mom who is slowly learning to trade perfectionism for freedom. A Florida-to-Michigan transplant, her faith and sense of purpose are shifting as she experiences seasons in the world and in her own life. Lindsey is also the co-founder of The Drafting Desk, a newsletter for anyone trying to pursue grace instead of perfection. You can find her on Instagram @lindseycornett.