There are days when I wear her in the sling from the moment she wakes, till the last dreg of the day when my neck and back insist that they can't take it anymore. But they do, and I go to bed knowing that I'll do it all again tomorrow. I won't get to wash my hair, or even my face. Don't even mention shaving my legs or tidying up my eyebrows. I don't have time to wonder what I used to do with all that time I used to have. I have officially (gasp) let my self go.
There are days when the only way I can bathe is by taking her into the tub with me. Her gaze at my face tells me that she doesn't mind my hairy legs. What used to be awareness of my own body and its needs have faded, and that awareness has shifted towards her and her siblings. It is as though they are extensions of my own self, like the baby sprouts that grow from the tentacles of a spider plant.
Some days I burn the popcorn, and say yes when the older girls ask if they can make "soup". They sprinkle in spices and coffee grounds, add a bit of water, and stir like little wisewomen. These are the days when they seem happiest, when I say yes. Some days I frantically cry NO at the prospect of any additional messes to overwhelm me in my half-assed pursuit of any sense of tidiness or order. With a baby in a sling, I can't tidy anything below my hips, so the floor at day's end is something to be waded through rather than walked upon.
In these last weeks of winter, there are days where they will play outside for over an hour, burying each other, creating slides in the mounds left by the snow plow, following mouse-tracks over the dusting on the crust of hard snow. One day they even saw the mouse jumping in and out of their boot prints, and followed it to its hole in the snow. On those days they come in clamouring for popcorn (preferably not burnt), cheeks rosy and mouths spilling tales of winter adventure.
There are also days where no amount of coercion or bribery will induce them to go outside. These are the days where they climb the furniture, fight, and break things. These are the days where I congratulate myself once again for the fact that I am not a)divorced or b) an alcoholic.
If it's one of those days when my mother comes to help me out, she tries to get a picture of us now and then. I know that these days will be a blur someday; instead of memories I will have a vague sense of how busy I was but without a real recollection of the intensity and reality. These pictures might fool me into thinking that the older girls didn't fight like hell cats, that the baby was happy to be put down, or that I always wore makeup and a smile.
These days, we check our pots of wheatgrass for sprouts, and check the world outside our window for the coming of Spring when we will all be released from this winter of welcoming a new sibling, testing mommy's limits, putting in the hours of cold and snow and chucking wood, and learning what it is to be a family of six.
Bring it on.