I have a dog that weighs 220 lbs. He requires the following items: collar, leash, food bowl, water bowl. That’s it. I have a child that weighs 30 lbs. He requires the following items: everything ever made. In duplicate. Sooo between the two of them we have a lot of stuff. This post is about the way I tame two types of stuff. 1) The stuff we’ll need for the next kid and 2) the toys. This is just the way I’ve been doing it. Which works for our family, house, and storage space. You might think of something that works better. In which case, you must share it. You are obligated. There are no secrets here, in the Internet-Of-Truth.
Stuff For The Next Kid:
Dear Next Kid, most of your stuff has been pooped on. Regards, The Management. We’ve got infant strollers, car seats, swings, chairs, tub, rockers, mobiles, etc., etc., ET FREAKING CETTERA. The babies use them for about a year and you have to store them for all your reproductive years. My solution: drum liners. You know, the clear plastic humungo trash bags that people use for leaves or whatever. Put your big items in the bags, seal them up, and store them in the garage (rafters are a good option). The nice thing about Next Kid stuff is you have 9 months warning to unpack it. So it doesn’t need to be in an easily accessible place. The clear plastic makes it easy to identify the stuff in case you are looking for a specific item. Plus they are protected from dust, bugs, rodents, and the like so they’ll be in pristine condition for Next Kid. (Poop notwithstanding.)
On to the clothes. For a while, my son Calvin’s entire closet was just a mountain of onesies until I finally organized the beast. I divided the clothes by age and then put them in those air-tight bags. Once I had enough to fill up a clear bin, I labeled it by age and a description of any additional items and then took it to the garage. These bins are more easily accessible. So I can grab whatever age is appropriate for Next Kid without having to re-sort though all of the clothes we’ve accumulated. As I was making up the “Infant” bin with all those adorable tiny clothes and shoes, I also added my sitz bath and donut pillow. While remembering what I used those items for, I considered scratching the idea for Next Kid altogether but that’s another story.
You know how in Toy Story the toys all come to life and have fabulous adventures. Yeah, I think that happens for real. Except they aren’t learning lessons about love and friendship. They are breeding. There are toys everywhere. Every room, every car, every purse, every, every where. A while ago I dumped everything into the living room and organized into 5 piles: 1 active and 4 inactive (divided by season).
I left out all his most favorite toys as well as the ones I thought he would outgrow soon. And then I made 4 piles (Summer, Spring, Winter, Fall). Some of the toys are seasonal but mainly that was just an easy way to divide it. I put an equal number of toys, books, and art supplies in each of the piles. Then I put them up high in the closet. Every 3 months, I pull down a new bin of toys and put away a bunch of toys he’s bored with. It’s a good way to keep the clutter contained and to keep him entertained without needing to buy new stuff.
Now, wait a minute. I see what you are thinking. No, this philosophy does not carry over to my closet so don’t even bring it up. Obviously I DO need to buy new clothes instead of sorting through my old stuff. Yes. Need. New clothes. And I can spend all the money I saved on re-using Calvin’s clothes and toys! Gotta go…
Preparing for a road trip is like preparing to head out into the Wild Wild West. You really have no clue what to expect and you only can account for so many contingencies along the way. Knowing this, my husband and I weren’t ready to take on a big journey for our first adventure by car as a family of three. So we chose to hit the road and head north to San Francisco, which is a manageable six-hour drive give or take some. Even though this trip was more of a baby step for us than throwing caution to the wind, our time wasn’t without a few surprises, lessons learned, and tumbleweeds. Driving forward, this is what I’ll remember for the next time we motor to our destination.
1. Whoa Nelly! If you’re not careful your car can soon look like a covered wagon ready to take on the Oregon Trail. Because I wasn’t constrained by the TSA luggage limits, I ditched my usual travel checklists and loosely threw things together. It totally was a stress-free and lazy approach to packing; however, one look at the trunk and the contents of my suitcase would tell you that I overpacked (yet I still managed to forget pajamas, jackets, and face soap…I guess I was preoccupied with amassing enough healthy snacks to help us avoid starvation for those rough pioneer winters that one often faces on the drive through what’s essentially an irrigated desert along I-5). Next time, I’ll know my son takes the word “vacation” seriously, which means he’s ditching his healthy ways in favor of indulging in French fries and Mexican food (read: he refuses to eat anything else, including his favorite greens), so I’ll forgo lugging a week’s worth of meals and snacks with us and instead tote a few granola bars.
2. Personal space is guaranteed. Why? Because it’s the law. Having your wee one strapped in his car seat for a few-plus hours means mommy can sit in the front seat without having to lend her parts and pieces as a jungle gym. Yay! No more monkeys jumping on my head. Seriously, who would’ve thought that three hours riding shotgun is the closest thing I could have to a spa session in quite awhile (unless, of course, I’m counting the time some guy performed Cirque du Soleil on my back). Ahhh…heated seats relaxed my tense shoulder muscles, prompting me to doze off. And thankfully monkey see, monkey do because the Little Dude napped too.
3. No technology is needed. Being trapped in a car with a screaming kid is one of my worst nightmares. Their primal screeching literally drives me insane, batty, ape shit. Despite my fear of this predatory pterodactyl, a.k.a. the toddler, I ignored the “sensible” voice in my head instructing me to stockpile Elmo clips from YouTube—the only thing my son will watch—in case desperate times called for desperate measures. Instead, I packed a mini Magna-Doodle, a book, and a stuffed dog as the only means of distraction (I was relying on the trucks on the road to provide endless entertainment). In the end, my gut instinct was right. The Little Dude was surprisingly content for most of the ride—thank you bulldozers, cement mixers, and tomato trucks—and when he got antsy and let out a scream or two we discovered that making whip crack sounds and gestures made him laugh hysterically. Random, I know. Maybe he was gleefully letting us know that he thinks he has us whipped?
4. You’ll arrive at your destination sporting a road glow. Don’t worry if you haven’t had time to hit the beach because sitting in the front seat is like enjoying a free tanning bed. Except you’ll exit the car with less-than-flattering geometric tan lines. Don’t forget to apply the sunscreen even if it’s overcast, unless of course you want your skin to look like you borrowed Lady Gaga’s outfit!
5. Shit happens. I was forewarned to expect barf, but I guess I missed the memo that one’s child reserves the right to have explosive poop even after his nursing days and breast milk muck are long behind him. And in the car seat no less! I don’t know which was worse — the dirty diaper or the dirtier gas station bathroom — so we opted to disinfect clean him standing up in our crossover’s trunk. Five hundred wipes later, countless stink eyes, a change of clothes, and a few double-knotted plastic bags to hide the rotten pants, and we were finally ready to hit the road again. The takeaway here, washing poopy pants in a gas station bathroom is all part of the family bonding and fun.
6. There's always a sweet reward. No matter what is behind or ahead of you on a trip, enjoying your chosen destination is priceless ... until your child only naps for thirty minutes two days in a row.
~ The Other Sarah
I love Paducah. I was born here. I grew up here. I got married here. I love seeing familiar faces on my daily errands and driving the same tree-lined streets every day. I love it so much I uprooted my entire existence to move back here and start a family.
So, imagine my surprise when I recently realized a shocking truth.
I'm also a little bit insecure about living here.
There was a certain cache to living in DC. People's eyes would light up when I told them where I lived. It was a total ego stroke to be asked questions about the best restaurants or how to get around on the metro. It was a beautiful city so full of excitement. Even if my life there wasn't always exciting, it sure seemed that way to other people.
No one gets excited when you tell them you live in Paducah, KY. If they know where it is, there are no questions about upcoming visits. In fact, we have a difficult time getting anyone to visit at all. To those who do come, I feel like I'm always in the midst of a sale's pitch. "See, we have good food!" "Isn't downtown charming?!?" "We're the quilt capital of the world!"
I'm not sure why I care. What does it matter what anyone else thinks? I guess there's a little part of me—a little part of all of us—that wants to belong to something exclusive. And there's definitely something exclusive about living in a big city, even if it's with hundreds of thousands of other people.
But the truth is it shouldn't matter. My family and I are happy here. Paducah gave me a safe, loving community in which to grow and now it is providing the same space for my two boys.
Plus, we do have great food and charming streets and a shit ton of quilts.
~ Sarah Stewart Holland