Perhaps you have heard of Disney Princesses. If you are the parent of young girls, like me, you have not only heard of them, you have lived and breathed them for some time now. We have triplets. Lord knows what secret genetic sauce is pulsing through my body that produced three identical little hellions, but it definitely checked my personal quota for child production.
At first my husband and I imagined that triplets might at least have some efficiencies to offer. After all, we could buy everything in bulk. If I saw a pair of adorable pink pants on sale, I could simply buy three – or, better, six – and be done with it!
Oh, so very wrong. The moment the girls achieved sentience, they began establishing themselves as individuals. The idea of wearing the same clothes horrified them. What was always amusing to me was the fact that despite their fierce efforts to be different from one another, they actually were very similar in their tastes and behaviours – their differences were all superficial. Though I learned fast not to ever hint that I wasn’t taking their individuality seriously.
The Princess thing happened suddenly. If I ever find out which of their friends at school turned them onto the Princess Thing, I will be having words with that little girl. My darling daughters were all instantly – and identically – into Disney Princesses, but established their individual personalities by demanding different princesses. On a fairly regular basis. Their allegiances shifted constantly, and we tried, at first to keep up. We bought the princess-branded backpacks, the princess-branded shirts. The dolls. The DVDs. It was getting out of hand. And then my dear husband, Googling on mysterious keywords, discovered the Clear Bag Store and their pink clear backpacks with the outer pocket for pictures.
So we now have printouts of all the Princesses. Every one. Each morning the girls tell us which Princess they want. There ensues a lengthy negotiation between them concerning who gets to have their way on the princess question, and then the appropriate pictures are slipped into the clear bags, instantly transforming them into Princess-specific backpacks. It’s made our morning school prep a much smoother, easier operation.
The clear bags are durable and have a plethora of other advantages. For one, I can see at a glance that each of my little darlings has everything she needs, including lunch. For two, when one daughter comes home with paste spilled inside her bag and the other comes home with a live frog in her bag and the third one comes home with peanut butter smeared everywhere – all completely inexplicable events, if I am to believe the first-person reports of my daughters – clean up is incredibly easy: Just a damp cloth and some quality time spent scrubbing and muttering darkly to myself.
And, super pro bonus: When the Princess thing gets old in a year or three, we can just start slipping different pictures into the slots.
I’d been aware of the clear advantages of clear bags (see what I did there?) for a while. This started since the time my friends and I went out to a concert and they sailed through the security check with their clear totes while I spent five minutes unloading my highly prized and sadly abused Marc Jacobs bag to satisfy the security guards’ apparent suspicion. He thought that I was smuggling something – liquor? drugs? a small yappy dog? – into the show. I’d even bought a clear bag for myself shortly afterwards, but I never carried it.
This means I routinely dump out the entire contents of my bag. Onto counters, onto the street, onto other people’s laps – usually in a panic to find something. Which brings us to the Disaster Date.
I was slightly obsessed with him. It was a first date, meeting for a cocktail and then dinner, and I knew that for me this was make or break. Guys have to make it through the first date – if they do, we’re usually steady for a while. If they don’t, it’s over. I was nervous and excited and got to the bar early, chose a spot based on flattering lighting conditions, and ordered a drink.
And he didn’t show.
I went through the five stages of Date Grief: Panic, rage, burning rage, depression, and finally, rage. After forty minutes I had already written a script for our next encounter which I imagined would set his hair on fire. And then I thought, wait, am I in the right bar?
On cue, my phone began to ring from deep within Marc. Muffled by a sweater, a scarf, a box of chocolate chip cookies, a work binder that weighed about sixty pounds in paper, and my wallet, it was barely audible, and an icy vein of dread crept up my back as I opened my bag to root around. I couldn’t find the phone! It kept chirping at me, but remained elusive. So, of course, I dumped Marc out on the bar, cookies everywhere, and found the phone just as it chimed that a voice mail had been left. The fourth one in the last hour.
Yes, his voice mail set my hair on fire.
I called him back immediately, but it was too late – he’d gone into a tunnel or something. I was miserable. That night, after half a bottle of awful Cabernet I went online and found the clear bag purse organizer. Where had this been a few hours before, I wailed, ordering five.
Now not only is Marc saved the wear and tear of being dumped on a regular basis, I can find my phone in just under two seconds, every time, and I haven’t missed a call since. Plus, I get to be stylish and organized at the same time. As for the guy – he eventually understood and forgave me, once he realised that yes, I am that incompetent.
You haven’t lived until you’ve had to shop for shampoo and conditioner in a foreign city where you don’t speak the language, especially when you think the survival of your marriage depends on success. This is my story. May it serve as a lesson to men everywhere.
My wife thinks I’m not assertive enough, and she’s right. I always tend to compromise rather than argue. My wife’s the opposite: She will go after anyone if she feels wronged. I’ve seen her go after men three times her size. I’ve seen her yell at police officers until I was certain they would simply arrest her. She’s marvelous to watch, right up until she turns back to me and gives me that withering glare that means, you’re the husband, you should be doing the yelling. But she’s so good at it!
So, we’re at the airport. Security is taking forever, and we’re all a bit testy. At the conveyor belt, the TSA confiscates my toiletry bag because it is, and I kid you not, one inch too long. One inch. I didn’t say anything, because I wanted to make our flight to Paris on time and didn’t want to irritate the TSA guys. My wife just shook her head in that way that clearly implies she would never have allowed such a thing, and then this comes back to haunt me when we get to the gate and realize it wasn’t my toiletry bag that got confiscated. It was hers.
I thought my wife was going to start glowing, she was so angry.
On the plane, she informed me that she didn’t wash her hair that morning, intending to do so before dinner once we got in to the City of Lights for our quickie vacation. This stated with the bitten-off chill of a woman who clearly thinks she could have married better. So, once installed in the hotel, I dashed out with my broken, largely incomprehensible French, and started to hunt down shampoo and conditioner. I didn’t locate some, but I am still unclear as to whether she considered this a success or not.
A little research after we got home led me to the two most beautiful things in the world: His and her clear carry-on bags for toiletries. They’re clearly marked HIS and HERS, so I’ll never casually allow hers to be confiscated again. If it’s HIS, I’ll just let it go. If it’s HERS, I’ll allow myself to be arrested and stripped searched before I let that bag out of my sight. They’re specifically designed to meet the TSA requirements (the 3-1-1 rule) and have a cosmetic case option too.
Now that we have these I don’t have to lie awake the night before a trip, sweating.
Our daughter, Matilda, is special. No, really – I know that every parent says that about their kids. Well, not my parents, who were part of an older, less touchy-feely generation. In fact my father used to refer to me as The Wretch and frequently threatened to give me away to various organizations and circuses. All done with affection … I think. But Matty really is special. She’s like a thirty-year-old in a nine-year-old’s body.
Her room, for example, is pin-neat. Painfully neat. I sometimes want to go in there and scatter random dolls and clothes around just to give it that ‘little kid’ feel, but I know all that would happen is she’d spend an hour calmly tidying up. Her shoes are all lined up in the closet, her clothes hung with care; everything is exactly where she wants it. That’s just how Matty rolls. She’s still a kid – she has her games and her crushes and her friends. It’s just that she likes everything to be the way she likes it, and she’s willing to put in the time and effort.
And she gets upset at things that thwart her sense of order. Like, for example, her pencil case.
Matty loves school, mainly for the clothes. We don’t have a uniform to deal with, but Matty likes the concept of special clothes for special purposes, like school. Shopping for school supplies is the highlight of her year, in fact, and she spends the night before her first day getting organized and arranging everything. She fills her backpack with her books and implements in exactly the way she likes it, does a test-walk to make sure she can get to her mobile and keys without having to take the bookbag off, and tests out multiple sock and shoe configurations. It’s adorable!
Until she gets to the pencil case.
The pencil case represents all the chaos and disorder Matty hates. You fill it with pencils and pens and protractors and erasers and then everything gets all jumbled up and she has to spend precious seconds digging around. It upsets her. She stamps her little foot and sighs like a much older person. While I find it adorable, I figured I can’t really allow my daughter to be unhappy for my own amusement, can I? So, I bought her a pencil case from the Clear Bag Store.
It’s perfect: Tough PVC plastic, sturdy zipper, big enough for the most studious of children. And Matty can arrange her pencils and pens and erasers as she likes, and when she needs something, she glances at it and can pluck it right out without wasting precious seconds rooting around in it. When we gave it to her you would have thought we’d promised her a puppy, the way she jumped around in delight.
So, yes: Matilda is special. And we wouldn’t have her any other way!
I’m going to be up-front and honest: I am one of those Crazy Dog People (CDP). My little pooch is named Munch; he’s a rescue dog who practically leaped into my arms when I visited the shelter, three pounds of shivering furry goodness. I’d always had a soft spot for critters, but Munch was my first pet and I just fell in love with the little booger the moment he slobbered all over me, and now I am full-on CDP. Munch is basically one of my children. I cook for him, buy him clothes, and take him everywhere.
Munch isn’t the most attractive dog. His hair is kind of patchy and all over the place, like a Muppet’s, he never stops shivering – never – and he often smells less-than-ideal. Again, just like my children. Unlike my children, who are increasingly picky and grouchy as they get older, Munch remains as sweetly dedicated to me as ever. Where my children often seem gleefully eager to escape me, Munch pines for me when I’m not home. Where my children have to be threatened before eating the nutritious and tasty meals I prepare for them, Munch gobbles everything up with the trusting relish of the Always Hungry.
I can’t say exactly when I started carrying Munch around with me, but today I don’t go anywhere without him shivering away in a bag. He took to it like a creature that always knew it was his destiny to be carried around like a king. Often when it’s time to go grocery shopping or to stand in line at the bank, I’ll find Munch already nestled in his carrying bag, ready to go. People always asked me if this was safe, and until the day I lost him at the supermarket, I always said absolutely. Actually, even after that day it’s safe enough – now that I have my Paw Tote Clear Bag.
It was simple: I was at the market hunting for the only brand of peanut butter my children will eat, and I put Munch down for a moment. I didn’t realize he was no longer in the bag until I was at the checkout – Munch barely weighs anything. A frantic two-minute search turned him up, cowering amongst the potted plants they always have on sale, and all was well. But it got me thinking, and then searching, and when I saw the Paw Tote Clear Bag I knew I’d found my solution. It became Munch’s personal carrying bag, and now I can always see at a glance that the only grateful child I have is still with me. He often likes to sit up with his paws over the side, taking in the sights, but sometimes he’ll nap in there, and I can always see him, shivering away.
I’ve floated the idea of carrying my kids in bags, too, but for some reason no one thinks that’s a good idea.
When Gwen announced her engagement, I didn’t need to be asked to be her Maid of Honour – it was assumed. At least I hope it was, otherwise the last few months have been incredibly awkward and I didn’t even realise it. But even if I was wrong to assume I’m sure I changed Gwen’s mind, because I rocked the most awesome Bachelorette Hen Night ever.
I know Gwen. I know she’s a sweetheart, an innocent lass who has been in a state of continuous shock ever since the moment she met me. I love her like a sister, and I’ve learned over the years to respect who she is – she’s not the sort who wants a sweaty man gyrating in her face, and she’s not seeking illicit adventures. Her idea of fun is truly and honestly a rented movie, some microwave popcorn, and me on the phone with her, watching the same movie and having an ongoing conversation about it. When we were younger I tried to drag her into the dark side with me: Dive bars, whiskey shots, dirty dancing. She tried – oh how she tried – but midnight always found her napping at the table, simply unable to stay awake.
We’re older now, and I’ve learned to just let her be. And this was her wedding, so I knew better than to try to put together the sort of Hen Night I would want. For Gwen, I hired a limousine to drive us around because I knew it would get her all a-giggle, bought us all tickets to see her favourite group in concert, made dinner reservations at a fantastic restaurant, and put together the sort of Gift Bags that have made me famous for my party planning. My gift bags are so good even the sober folks love them.
I’d gotten in all the supplies for the Gift Bags when I realised my one major error: The bags. We were going to a concert, and most of the items were designed to be used at the concert. But security would never let us in with tote bags full of stuff. For a moment I thought I’d boxed myself into a corner. But then I had what my dear Dad, the chess player, would call a ‘brilliancy’: Clear bags! Specifically, the Photo Tote Bag. I had pictures of all of us printed out, and instantly had the perfect Gift Bags: Big enough for all the goodies I’d acquired, clear for security to wave us through the turnstile, and personalised with a photo! Thus I’d come full circle from Party Genius to Party Fail to Party Genius again.
The Hen Night was a huge success, and the next day I cried a little as Gwen got hitched. And then made some personal party history at her reception, but that’s a whole other story.