While driving home from work the other day, I heard a familiar sound: the “ding.” It’s a dreaded sound with weighty implications – an unmistakable reminder that the tank is nearly empty. I knew I was low on fuel, but the “ding” confirmed it. That needle was on the precipice of no return. If it had gone much farther to the left, I’m just not sure. It’s definitely reminiscent of that “Seinfeld” episode where Kramer tried to determine just how far he could drive Jerry’s car for free. Why not test the limits of the red slash, right? Well, I’m not Kramer. I didn’t want to cut it too close. It seemed like I just refueled, though – how could it be time again?

Once the initial frustration subsided, I realized the empty fuel gauge was indicative of most facets of my life. Essentially, everything is on “E.” And if it’s not completely empty, it sure is close.

Allow me to illustrate.

I open the fridge, and we’re low on milk. “Didn’t I just buy milk?” I think to myself. Then I actually say it aloud. “Didn’t I just buy milk?” Time to ration it. Next, I head to the linen closet as part of my pre-shower routine and oops – we’re out of clean towels. I thought there were still a few recently-laundered gems in there – the big fluffy kind. No. Only washcloths and dish towels remain. Bummer.

It seems as though the same phrases, or slight variations of, are applicable to each item and/or situation within our home. A few include: “running low,” “short on,” “almost out of,” and the unspeakable “out of.” They’re like phrase stems where you can insert any noun of your choosing. Here’s how it works: we’re low on bread, short on cash, almost out of diapers, and now I’m out of ideas.

Those are all disappointing scenarios but certainly manageable. For parents with young children, though, running out of diapers is probably the worst. There’s always that moment when you think you’re completely out of diapers and then realize there’s a slight chance that one or two are nestled deep within the cavernous abyss that is the diaper bag. My wife’s bag is roomy and boasts a decorative floral pattern. Aesthetically it’s great, but you can never find anything in there. It’s worth a peek, though. Yes! I found one! You break into celebratory song and dance, but the thrill is fleeting. The sad realization is that even if you do find a single diaper tucked away, you’re still out of diapers. You need it now, and it will be filled shortly. A trip to the store is inevitable.

Today, though, as I take inventory of all the shortages, deficiencies, and empty containers, I’m reminded of where we’re full. There is nothing quite like the peals of laughter from children as you chase them through the house. You load them into the tub and smile at the sight of their little heads all lathered up with shampoo. It’s adorable how they shield their little eyes as you douse them with water. There is nothing quite like those little smiles when you deliver on your promise of chocolate chip cookies after dinner, assuming they actually ate their broccoli. There is just something about the way those little ones curl up next to you during story time and wait with bated breath for the next page. Those little moments are full of what we cherish most.

We smile, tuck them in, say goodnight, and retire to the sofa for some down time. Gently, my wife leans her head against my shoulder. “Honey,” she says, “Our show didn’t record. The DVR is full – we’re out of space.”