Do you remember all those gadgets, ointments, first aid supplies, and other paraphernalia that you probably received at your first baby shower? Maybe you went a little wild on your registry and found yourself surrounded with tons of items that you thought you needed. The result: A back-breaking diaper bag.
As parents, we often depend on things to help us with the balance and order of our lives. Our needs change as frequently as our child grows. Prior to a year ago, I could not take my sons anywhere without hauling around our diaper bag- the vessel for a hundred things besides the diapers. It was a life line, fully stocked with every just-in-case product I thought I might need.
I’m learning to prioritize and condense as the boys are getting older. Their needs have changed, and my confidence has grown. Unless we are traveling to a wilderness, far away from all people, gas stations and shopping centers, there is no need to pack so many things. I’m always prepared, but my little car can only handle so much cargo without feeling cluttered and making my passengers feel claustrophobic.
Things. We don’t need as many as we think. I played through my day quickly in my head, and realized something: Short of food, oxygen, and love… we don’t really need too much. However, in terms of physical items, there are some things that have proven to be very useful.
I came up with five things which, as a mom of 3yr and 4.5yr old boys, I wouldn’t want to live without. Next year, my Top Five Things will look completely different, but for this stage of life here is my survival kit:
1. iPhone Notes App
I use this memo program on a regular basis. I digitally manage items on my grocery list as I shop the market. I write to-do lists while I’m watching my kids play in the bath. I type first draft blog posts while I’m standing in line. I copy/paste addresses, numbers, info that I found on emails or web browsers. Anything I need to remember, for future use, gets put in a digital note. I even keep track of my kids’ height and weight, and when someone has a fever I log their temperature & medicine times/doses. If you want to hear more rambling about how much I love the Notes app, watch my vlog on Youtube.
2. Portable Potty Chair
This has been a lifesaver more times than I can count. It stays in the car, along with plastic bag inserts that have absorbing pads inside. If my newly potty-trained son absolutely needs to go pee right away (because kids don’t always give sufficient notice), I’m prepared. It was especially helpful when my oldest was potty-training because it would have been awful to drag along my youngest and put the baby carrier on the floor of a public bathroom so I could help my toddler. Thankfully, I’ve never had to do that, and I was able to limit the trips to public restrooms. The model pictured here is great- the legs fold up so it can be more compact. The legs also snap outward, so it can be set on top of an adult sized toilet seat. We have a sturdier potty chair at home in their bedroom, in case they wake up in the middle of the night and need to use the potty.
3. Car DVD Player
Sometimes there are places to go, and the kids are not always on board. If you have a long drive ahead of you, a DVD player for the car is very helpful for keeping the kids content. Grandmary (great-grandmom named Mary) bought a portable DVD player for my kids two years ago. The model we have is battery operated, but has a power adapter that plugs into the car and one that plugs into a wall at home. The screen swivels, but I keep it in the center of the back seat so it’s viewable from both sides of the car. The holding case keeps the screen opened and it suspends from the back of the driver and passenger seats. The case has a pocket for DVD storage, and it also came with a remote control. On occasion, I will set up a DVD even for a 30 minute trip if I’m really in need of a peaceful and quiet drive.
4. Double Jogger Stroller
This jogger stroller was purchased by my coworkers when I was expecting my second child. I don’t know how I would have ever left the house with the boys if not for this very handy transportation device. My sons are almost 3 and 5, so I considered selling it this year, but even my oldest still fits comfortably. It’s wonderful for taking walks, a day at the zoo, a jog on the boardwalk, and it even serves as a wagon for the beach since the tires are so wide. The storage space underneath has held shopping bags, snacks, toys, sweatshirts- you name it. The cup holder section near the handle is a convenient feature. The seats even lay back, which is excellent for holding a baby.
Storybooks are a must-have in our house because we enjoy reading together, and it helps the kids to be calm and listen contentedly. Thankfully, we have an enormous collection of books and we visit the library every two weeks so the boys can choose new stories. Every night, we read 2-3 books before bed, and it’s good for them to have quiet time to listen and sit still for awhile. We also keep books in the car so the kids can look at the pictures and words while they’re stuck in their seats. Storybooks can also help them to be patient at restaurants and in waiting rooms, and quiet when visiting someone who’s sick.