We never planned to have five kids. One kid seemed like an overwhelming challenge to sanity. Five just sort of happened. First of all, triplets. Thank you, fertile genetic ancestors, for passing down to me the uterus of some sort of superwoman. Then, you guessed it, twins, fraternal. At that point my husband and I considered buying a second house to maintain constant physical separation, because a sixth (or my god, seventh or eighth) child would have sent us over the cliffs of insanity. Not to mention the cliffs of poverty.
We survived, and we’re very happy. Three boys and two girls all within two years of age is an equation for chaos. Especially mornings. Mornings! The non-stop marathon that is known as Getting Kids Ready for School. My children seem to think walking out of the house naked, screaming and carrying baseball bats and Barbie dolls in lieu of schoolbooks is perfectly normal behaviour. Making sure they’re clothed, supplied, and provisioned for the day is like convincing a cage of monkeys to sit for a photo. I used to have some lofty ideals for how my children would be presented to the world. Now I am basically just hitting the minimums to avoid getting a visit from Child Protective Services. Excuse me, ma’am, are you aware that allowing your son to wear a Chewbaca costume to school is unacceptable? Why, I had no idea.
The biggest challenge is lunch. I’ve seen what their school serves and calls lunch, and I don’t want my children to have heart attacks at the ripe age of nine, so I pack their lunches for them. Of course, they’re like five tiny millionaires with their dietary requirements. David won’t eat tuna fish. Dylan won’t eat peanut butter. Derek won’t eat any sandwich with crusts, and Diana won’t eat white bread under any circumstances. Deirdre will eat anything as long as there is no vegetable or fruit anywhere near her sandwich, which is problematic but more of a long-term problem than the immediate crisis of getting everyone out the door for school.
The one time I mixed up everyone’s lunch bags taught me a harsh lesson: Child Protective Services is always just one lunch room riot away from my house.
So: Clear Bags to the rescue. How did my ancestor Moms manage lunch without these? Names written on bags, I assume. Post-It notes, perhaps. Crude, easily defeated safeguards. The Clear Lunch Bags solve the problem easily – every child sees instantly what’s in the bag, and I can actually just Release the Hounds and let each child choose their own lunch instead of having to hand them off. One less thing to do in the morning might not seem like much, but it is much. So, so much.
Plus, I am told the clear bags make trading lunches that much easier! Take that, Child Protective Services.
We formed the Girls Fight Club at my office after the Noodle Incident. It’s not what you think – we didn’t meet in the parking lot at lunch to slap fight and plot the end of civilisation. That’s a Boy Thing. Girls Fight Club was more about banding together and defending ourselves against our boss, known collectively as Loathsome Daryl.
Loathsome Daryl was an incredible specimen: Chauvinistic, slightly racist, dim-witted, and fond of plaid pants that fit poorly in ways that were difficult to describe. Under different circumstances, we would have pitied Loathsome Daryl. Since he was our boss, and because he had a definite thing against the women in the office, we despised him.
It started off with comments. Nothing too outrageous, but the sort of snide comments containing the words honey or sweetheart that raised hackles. The other men in the office went along. Privately they all expressed disgust, but he was their boss too. Slowly things got worse. Daryl assigned as many menial tasks as possible to the girls, trying to treat us all as secretaries. His verbal assaults grew uglier and uglier. It all came to a head during a lunch status meeting, all of us in the large conference room with Chinese food. Daryl was in fine form, making snarky comments, finally just coming out and insulting Carrie after she’d given an admittedly less-than-stellar status update.
And Carrie had sat there for a few seconds, then picked up her carton of Street Noodles and tossed the lot in Daryl’s face.
We all applauded – even some of the men. The girls all met for drinks that night and formed the Fight Club. As in, we were going to fight back against Daryl. He couldn’t fire all of us. I went home filled with fire, and went online looking for a symbolic gesture – and found these incredible Fight Like a Girl Clear Bags. The little light bulb went off over my head – getting into our building was a pain because security spot-checked bags. The clear bags would solve that problem, they’d remind us all to fight back, and, double plus good, they would support Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Perfecto!
The bags came in a few days later and I distributed them. From that moment on, the Girls Fight Club challenged Daryl at every step. We resolved to always gang up on him, so there’s be witnesses and support, and to document everything he said and did. Every morning we arrived with our Fight Like a Girl clear bags like a badge, and we’d make Daryl’s life miserable. After a while the guys joined Girls Fight Club, too, and a few months later Daryl got fired – after everyone in the office made HR complaints.
Girls Fight Club is dormant now, but still in effect – and we’re reminded of it every day when we arrive with our keen Fight Like a Girl clear bags, sailing through security!
I travel so much I’ve set myself up as a sort of travel guru. I used to like to interrupt overheard conversations and give people tips on getting around various airports, or to stand in the security lines and make fun of people as they make obvious, terrible mistakes that delay their trip to the gates. I once witnessed an irate man arguing that his collection of hunting knives were not an issue and should be allowed through in his carry-on luggage. That was a banner day.
Of course, whenever I start to feel smug these days I glance down at the clear laptop bag I now carry. Back in Roman times when the Emperors used to have a slave sit behind them to whisper that he was still mortal. This clear laptop bag is doing that for me.
I used to have a standard black laptop bag for my precious computer. I do everything on the laptop, so I carry it everywhere. My last trip I got to the airport incredibly late, and was racing through the airport using every bit of my experience. I was vaulting over railings, taking hidden short cuts, and calculating angles and shortest distances on the fly like some sort of Terminator. At security I raced through my usual routine – shoes off, pockets empty, belt in a bin – and was in such a hurry I actually ran in my socks from security to the gate. I made it to the plane without a second to spare.
I put my laptop bag in my lap … and discovered it was empty. I’d placed the laptop in a bin, as instructed, and then I’d grabbed the bag and left the actual computer.
Getting off the plane was significantly more difficult than getting on, but I managed it. Still in my socks, shoes in hand, I raced back to the security check, where a smiling TSA employee was waiting for me with it. I thanked him profusely and made a slightly less-energetic run back to the gate, just in time to actually see the plane pulling away from the gate. Sweaty and exhausted, I limped over to the desk agent to humbly request the next available flight.
Now, I look at my laptop bag and I can see at a glance whether I have it or not. I’ll never leave it behind anywhere ever again, because the second I see the bag I’ll know whether I have it or not. It’s sturdy, easy to clean (water resistant, it can be wiped clean with a damp cloth) and has a lot of neat pockets to store USB sticks and pens and secret candy. Most importantly, I can always reassure myself that I have my laptop. Everything else – my shoes, my pants, all of my other luggage – I can survive without. Without my laptop my business stops dead, and so the clear bag was an absolute necessity.
Usually, I can identify my son Robert’s gym bag by smell. He’s on the football, wrestling, and baseball teams and I often think he will never smell good again. This is partly due to his constant workouts in sweaty weight rooms and less-than-energetic approach to showers, but also because when he does shower he likes to douse himself in that body spray they make specifically for teen boys. It’s not so bad as far as colognes go except that Robert seems to be under the impression that a gallon of it is appropriate. Between the choices of weight-room stinky or body-spray stinky, I am honestly on the fence as to which is worse.
His gym bag, therefore, is generally identifiable at a distance, so even though I bought the same bag for myself (when things are on sale pride goes out the window) it’s usually easy enough to know which one is mine. But then I had one of my rare moments of Proactive Housekeeping and actually washed his bag. And then I did the next obvious thing: I grabbed his bag by mistake on my way out to the gym.
Now, Robert’s suffering was probably worse than mine, as he ended up at the weight room with a sundress and ladies toiletries in his bag, not to mention a paperback novel I wouldn’t care to identify by title and a sleeve of slightly stale cookies I continue to eat no matter how mushy and off-taste they get. I walked out of the showers in a towel and opened Robert’s bag, still containing the fruit of his workout the day before, and passed out instantly as a smell heretofore unidentified by science rushed into the humid locker room.
I may be banned from my gym; I’ve been too embarrassed to go back.
The next day I surfed over to the Clear Bag Store and purchased two clear gym bags for my son and I, with his full approval – a rare event from a boy who normally manages a shrug or a grunt in lieu of words. Not only will the clear bags save me from having to explain an odor to my gym friends again (“I swear it’s not me!”), but it will save Robert from having to choose between walking home in his sopping workout clothes and possibly dying of exposure or wearing his mother’s sundress.
Even better, the clear gym bags are water resistant – they can be wiped down in a flash, so I don’t have to worry about laundering Robert’s again. I’ll just strap on a HazMat suit and give it a good surface clean every few days, and no one will be forced to contact the authorities about the mysterious odors emanating from our house.
I used to have a trick. Or thought I did; now I see I was just lucky. I’m a huge NASCAR fan – stock car racing has a rich history and is a lot more exciting to watch than most other competitions. I’m looking at you, football, which has about 11 minutes of actual playing over the course of a three hour game, or baseball, which is basically a bunch of guys standing around for hours at a time. With NASCAR racing, it’s wall-to-wall energy – speeding cars, lightning-fast pit stops (I’m a gearhead, so I enjoy watching the pit stops almost as much as the race itself), and the occasional heart-stopping crash. What’s not to love?
Well, the security line, for one. It’s a crazy world these days so I understand the need for security, but man those lines are long and they move slow. Part of the problem are people who seem amazed to find security. They show up with enough gear for a camping trip and then stand there and argue when the security guys won’t let them in with all of it.
So, my trick: I know they officially require clear bags at these things, so they can see what’s in your bag – a picnic lunch, or a submachine gun. I didn’t have a clear bag, so what I would do is bring my usual backpack and have it wide open for inspection when I got to the gate. The security guys were usually okay with that – they’d look it over, run their eyes over it, and pass me through. Then, suddenly, a few weeks ago, they stopped letting me through. Apparently someone had gotten on them about their lax enforcement of the rules, and they weren’t letting anything slide. It was a clear bag or no race for me. Everyone else I talked to had the same story, and we all began shopping for clear bags that weren’t ridiculous – none of us are exactly high-fashion types, after all.
I eventually found a skull and crossbones tote bag that was just the right size. It was made out of clear PVC – strong enough for a six-pack of soda, my radio, and anything else I wanted to bring. I was kind of surprised that I liked the look of it so much – I started carrying that thing everywhere. You know how sometimes your wife – or when you’d a kid, your mother – buys you some clothes and at first you’re horrified and can’t imagine why they’d think you should wear that, and then you finally do wear it and it becomes your favorite pair of pants or shirt or whatever? That’s this bag: I saw it and though, aw, heck no. Now I bring it to my bowling night – and to every NASCAR race, where I sail through security like a boss.
I don’t know about you, but for me the digital revolution isn’t moving quickly enough. The first time I saw my little Kim staggering home from school with a ridiculous number of books stuffed into her backpack, like an ant carrying fifty times its weight in picnic goods, I couldn’t believe it! I was all for a strict curriculum, but I was concerned Kimmy might be crushed under the weight of her books before mastering her multiplication tables.
Then, after some strength training and motivational speeches from me – you should be picturing the training montage from Rocky right now, except instead of Burgess Meredith there’s me and instead of Kimmy punching cuts of meat she’s doing squat-thrusts with a full backpack – we suffered a setback. After all that bonding with her backpack (I’d made her name it, like the Marines and their rifles in Full Metal Jacket; she named it Sparkle Motion) the school had implemented a new policy requiring clear backpacks for security purposes. Some of the older kids had been caught with various contraband over the course of the previous year, and they were tightening security.
At first I was put out: What was next, forcing us to give Kim circus training so she could balance the books on top of her head? But, after some research, I got on board with the idea.
First of all, there are some super-cute clear bags out there. The Clear Bag Store sells a large pink backpack that is almost as big as Kimmy, which means it’s ideal for strapping it to her like a turtle shell and sending her staggering off to school every morning, and she goes through the security checkpoint easily while looking adorable. Kimmy loved it immediately, putting princess stickers all over it and, still in Training Mode, naming it Peggy, a name whose provenance remains a mystery. But then I’m used to mysteries when it comes to the imagination of my daughter.
Secondly, and I never thought about this, but a clear bag makes it incredibly easy to find the things you’re looking for. I recall once thinking that Kim had lost her cell phone, given to her in case a man wearing a clown suit rolled up in a van with no windows and offered her candy. She swore she’d checked her old bag, and we spent hours going over her route home from school and searching the house. I went back to the bag as a last-ditch effort and just dumped it out on the floor, and found her phone – it had been under her gym uniform, which had discouraged deep investigation. With a clear backpack I’d be able to see everything immediately, without fuss.
Today, Kimmy loves her clear bag – excuse me, Peggy. She gets in and out of school without a problem, I can tell at a glance if she’s packed all her books and her lunch, and Kim looks cool turtling her way to class every day.