I wasn't born in the barn, but I was raised there. From my start in a playpen occupying two empty stalls I moved to a wooden swing my dad hung from the center ceiling beam. Not long after, I graduated to helping with chores, instead of just asking millions of questions.

I remember one of my first jobs being topdressing the cows with their protein and mineral; the little scoops we used were just my size. By the time I was in middle school, I was helping with everything: milking cows, moving fences, cleaning barn, feeding calves and making hay.

Being the oldest, I never questioned my job as Dad's right hand girl. And, since my responsibilities on the farm trumped all others, with the exception of homework and school activities, I spent very little time attending to my household chores. In fact, I did everything within my power to avoid housework.

One summer, I remember hiding in the haymow, listening as my aunt called me from the house to come mop the kitchen. (My aunt looked after us kids during the day; if we weren't out in the barn or the field, we were expected to help her in the house.) I don't recall whether I returned to the house before evening milking for supper or not; odds are I stayed in the barn. More than likely, one of my sisters had to do my mopping.

It's not for lack of my aunt trying that I never developed a knack for household management. She did everything she could to teach us basic domestic competence. It's just hard to master the subject if you're never in class.

The results of my absence are evident: I'd rather clean barn than clean the house, I do a much better job feeding calves than feeding my family, and my idea of a great shopping experience is flipping through the NASCO catalog or making a quick trip to the vet outlet. When I do clean house, the task is often referred to as mucking out.

Lately, though, there's been something stirring inside me (besides the baby). A tiny ember that's been smoldering beneath my inadvertent attempts to smother it has grown into a flame (not heartburn, either). There's something about child number two's impending arrival that has created within me an irrepressible urge to organize, clean and simplify (OCS).

This is more than just the 'nesting instinct' I experienced when I was pregnant with Dan. I'm beginning to feel that if I'm not ahead of the game when this baby comes I'll never catch up. Household mismanagement with one child wasn't too detrimental; with two, however, I feel it could be disastrous.

As a result, my list of things to organize, clean and simplify before the baby comes is growing faster than our baby. I finish one project and add two more to the list. Everyone asks if I'm ready to be done being pregnant. No, I'm not. When my projects are finished, then I'll be ready. At the rate I'm going, I'll end up carrying this child for 18 months instead of nine.

But since delaying this child's arrival really isn't an option, I called in the reinforcements: my sisters. Not unlike our childhood, my sisters still pick up the slack when I've been out in the barn more than I've been in the house. Unlike me, they flourished under our aunt's tutelage, which is why they have houses that look like the ones on the pages of Martha Stewart Living and my house has spots of dried manure juice on the entryway floor.

In response to my cry for help, my sister, bless her Martha Stewart heart, came for a couple days to help me wrangle this growing desire for domestic order. We cleaned. We painted. We dressed up the walls in the living room, which finally removed the half dozen boxes of picture frames from the floor in the office where they had been sitting since we moved here 18 months ago. We remodeled a closet in the playroom to better accommodate Dan's toys, which means we can put toys away now and actually see the playroom floor every once in awhile.

By the time her stay was over I felt the odds of surviving our family's transition from three to four had much improved.

All of my sisters are coming next week for Phase II of Operation Household Readiness: a final pre-baby cleaning and making room for the new baby and all of the newborn paraphernalia that has been stashed away since Dan employed its use.

With their assistance, I'll be able to check a whole handful of projects off my OCS list. So when the baby signals it's ready to join our family, instead of panicking, I'll be ready.

Glen and I once had a conversation about the farm moms we know with housefuls of children who seem to have mastered managing their families, houses, and farm responsibilities. Glen thought those women were just born well organized. I speculated that they had become more organized with each child out of necessity.

I think Glen figured there wasn't any hope of me becoming more organized. I'm beginning to feel there might be hope after all. Maybe even the most incorrigible farm girl can be domesticated.

(P.S. If anyone has a good strategy to OCS my office, let me know, because I'm pretty sure that without any help it will take 10 more kids for me to check that project off my list.)