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Outnumbered: More

"We need our next baby to be a boy," Abigail is explaining to me for the four hundred and thirty-fourth time this week, even though I'm nowhere near pregnant. I make a noncommittal sort of hmm-ing. It's eight o'clock in the morning and too early, I think, for a real response.

Abigail and Owen are eating oatmeal, I'm setting water to boil for tea. Audrey and Sadie have no interest in cereal other than the requisite squishing of grains between fingers, and, having been wiped clean, are now playing in the playroom. Or anyway I hope they're playing in the playroom; if not, they're at least being very quiet in the playroom.

But Abigail is still into this baby discussion. "Owen needs a brother. He doesn't even know what it's like to have a brother!" This may be, judging from Abigail's studied combination of sorrow and pity, a fate on par with being denied meals for weeks on end. Possibly fatal.

Owen looks up from his bowl. "I don't mind."

"But don't you want a new baby?" Abigail asks him, because really, this is the point of her argument.

He raises his eyebrows. "Yes," he says, as though that much should be obvious, "but I don't care if it's a boy or a girl. I like sisters." This is good news since he has three of them.

"That's all good to know," I say. "I'll keep it in mind." They continue to look up at me expectantly, as though perhaps I'm going to produce a blurbling, swaddled bundle from behind my back now that they've voiced their opinions.

Here again I'd like to point out that I'm not pregnant.

"I guess we'll see," I say, because I can't tell what's going to happen in the future any more than I can tell what's hiding in the dust under my couch (and let me assure you, I have no freaking idea about that one).

The truth is, right now, today, I feel full. As in: I am operating at full capacity. Sadie Jane just turned one, Audrey's two and a half. Owen is five and Abigail's eight, and both are homeschooled. There are diapers to change, toddlers to nurse, books to read, blocks to stack, the park to walk to. There are volcanoes to build, sketchbooks to fill, poems to recite, novels to discuss. There is tea to brew and coffee to buy; there are blog posts and essays to write. There is a bathroom to clean before my girlfriends and their kids come over tomorrow morning. My days? My brain? Full.

It's kind of like being full after eating at a fantastic restaurant. You've enjoyed every course, wine and cheese and salad and risotto, maybe a chocolate cake drizzled with raspberry sauce for dessert. The waiter comes back to say: Can I get you anything else? And while, sure, you would love another slice of that cake—right now, this minute, you're full. Will you be full forever? Not likely. But at the moment? Full.

I understand that I might feel less full if I possessed any organizational or time management-type skills. But I don't. I'm not one of those moms with a wall chart for each family member's daily—or hourly!—activities. Color-coded schedules exhaust me. My kids don't walk around wearing matching polo shirts; a good clothing day around here is one where everybody has both clean socks and clean underwear available. I don't wake up in the wee hours of the morning to set the breakfast table and prepare a three-course meal; I let hot cereal slow-cook overnight and then roll out of bed when the kids do. I read blogs of women whose eight children happily wipe crumbs off counters, fold the laundry, scrub the walls, mop the floors, and then head out to chop wood, and I think: Crap, I don't even have a chore chart. I admire those organized women with all their ducks—and children—in a row, but I have a hard time picturing myself ever becoming one of them. And so, for now, my days are full, every minute spoken for.

I'm still waiting for the water to heat, so I grab a mug out of the dishwasher and root around in the cupboard for a tea bag. Sadie waddles into the room, her wide toddler steps knocking down dollhouse people and a little stuffed rooster as she goes. Audrey is close behind her, holding up the Duplo tower they've been building. "Actually," she's explaining—she loves that word, actually—"actually only I built it myself. Sadie just dumped Legos on the floor."

Sadie looks up at me and flashes her six-toothed grin. In my mind, she's still a wispy-haired newborn, but in reality—color-coded schedules or no—she's quickly becoming a wispy-haired toddler, who will none-too-slowly grow to be a solid preschooler, and then, and then... At the risk of being labeled an unoriginal thinker, I'll go ahead and say: nothing stays the same forever.

And here's Abigail, here's Owen, both still staring at me. "We'll see," I say again and turn back to the stove to grab the water just before it boils. I pour it over the tea bag and watch the water settle, watch the cup let off steam. "We'll just have to wait and see."

column added on 2008-11-23 :: ::

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