Mom and Dad had reached that age where they each had a host of pills to take every day. We joked that it ran in our family, since I’d started taking thyroid meds just a few years ago, so the three of us had our collection of various things to take. We were lucky, though; Mom and Dad were healthy enough, and taking fistfuls of pills every day to keep it that way seemed like a small price in the grand scheme of things.
They were determined to not let the pills slow them down, too, and usually devoted some time every morning to organising their pills and packing them up so they could be mobile all day and stay on their medication schedule. They weren’t living a wild lifestyle, but they liked to drive out to little towns to do some shopping and sightseeing and have some lunch, or to visit their kids and grandkids. They didn’t want to feel tied down to the house, so they hauled what amounted to a small pharmacy with them wherever they went, and it became a family tradition to do an impression of Mom walking around saying ‘This said take with orange juice. Now, where can I find orange juice?’
Mom and Dad’s pill packing had one problem: a lot of their pills looked the same. At first they loaded everything into plastic baggies, but then they would forget which one was which. Then they started labelling the bags, but even then there were some scary moments when the wrong bag was grabbed up in a rush, and twice the flimsy bags broke and pills mixed together freely, causing panic. Plus, the thin plastic bags didn’t last long and my parents were always running out of them, leading to the time my father just stuffed his day’s pills into his trouser pockets and they all slipped out when he sat down in the car, littering the car floor.
So when I saw the His and Hers cosmetic bags at my newest shopping obsession, The Clear Bag Store I instantly ordered them. These were perfect! Clearly labelled by sex, there would be no more confusion about which collection of identical white pills was which. They were sturdy, so there would be no accidents and no need to constantly replace them. They were waterproof, so short of being dunked in the ocean the pills would be safe. And finally, they were perfectly clear, so my parents could easily inspect them every evening and be sure they had taken all of their medications that day.
And yes, I got one for myself – and for my husband. I’m the only one in my marriage taking pills right now, but it can’t last for long. My husband’s not exactly a health nut. I haven’t told him yet. I figure, let him think he’s still young while he can, right? Click here to check it out.
I’m an active guy, and I married an active gal, so when we got pregnant I was determined to stay active and not gain fifteen pounds and look twenty years older like a lot of my fellow new Dads. It’s all about having a plan. If you just react to things as they happen it’s chaos and confusion, but if you sit down and think it out, make a plan and stick to it, you can have some small control over your life.
When the kids were small, we loaded them into harnesses and hiked with them hanging on us, but as they got bigger and started walking themselves we took them on short hikes, then longer hikes, until finally we were spending every weekend in the country, hiking and camping. The boys loved it. What boy wouldn’t love hiking out in the hills, catching bugs and such, being in nature?
One problem that arose was that I was the Quartermaster of the operation, in the sense that my backpack was the size of a small elephant and contained all of our supplies, emergency and snack. We came to call this Turtling, because I was like a turtle with this backpack – including the fact that if I fell onto my back I probably wouldn’t be able to get up without help. This also meant that every five minutes I was asked to stop and stand still while someone rooted around in my backpack for an energy bar or a sandwich, a map or a first aid kit. I didn’t mind stopping, but it took everyone so long to find what they needed – it was simply boring. I hate to admit it, but I got a little crabby about it.
Finally, my wife told me to quit complaining, and she would apply her superior woman’s brain to the problem, and a few days later she presented me with the Large Backpack from the Clear Bag Store.
I was dubious. It didn’t look like hiking equipment. But then, it wasn’t like we were in the Outback for weeks surviving on our wits. And the Large Backpack was sturdy, made from really tough PVC plastic, waterproof and well-made. We took it on a test run, and I had to admit: my wife was right. It made everything better.
Because now when the kids wanted an apple or a bag of peanuts, I just paused for a sip from my canteen and they could be in and out of the backpack in moments. They could see exactly where everything was back there, open up precisely the right compartment, and grab it. Now our hikes are just slightly better because of my wife’s genius.
I keep telling her that I’m watching the oldest boy carefully, measuring him up, and the moment I think he’s big enough (eight or nine years old, I think) he’s going to be our Turtle. There will be a solemn manhood ceremony, and the Large Clear Backpack will be handed from father to son, and then Dad’s taking a nap.
I love my mother. I want to state this up front so that the tone of the following rant doesn’t make you think I am some sort of unfeeling sociopath – I did read recently that some shocking number of people in the world are really sociopaths, which is kind of scary. But I am not one of them, I swear. Mom is lovely. She’s always been a bit dotty, but dotty in a lovable way. She’s the sort of woman who wears two similar but different shoes, one earring, and my windbreaker from high school and thinks nothing of it. More importantly, she’s the sort of woman who doesn’t much care when this is pointed out to her.
Normally I find this cheerful. As a teenager I sometimes found my mother embarrassing, but that’s par for the course, isn’t it? As an adult I more often find her charming. Except when we go out to lunch, because my mother insists on buying, and my mother is a Dumper.
The lunch always ends like this: the check arrives. Whether we pay our server at the table or walk up to a register, my mother announces she will buy, I make some good-natured but thoroughly insincere argument … and then my mother starts rooting in her huge purse for her wallet, cannot find it, and within thirty seconds upends the whole purse onto the counter or table, muttering. Things go flying, and as she pays the check I can be found on the floor, picking up mints that have seen far better days, keys to homes she no longer owns, and receipts from lunches we had two or three years before.
Is it any wonder I finally bought my mother a clear purse organizer? More importantly, I extracted from her a solemn oath to use it.
Now, when Mom opens her oversize bags to find scraps of currency for your lunches, she’s immediately faced with a clear, organized field of battle. Her money and credit cards are right there, as are her keys and other essentials, like her cell phone – or at least the most recent cell phone that actually works, as opposed to the two cell phones commonly found in her bag that are no longer viable. The rest of her bag remains a madwoman’s adventure, but that’s how she likes it and that’s fine by me as long as I never have to see her dump the whole thing in front of a stunned waitress ever again.
I was moved when my mother admitted that this gift had improved her life immensely, and immediately began plotting to buy her a clear bag to replace the voluminous handbag she carries. My only fear is exposing to the world that bag’s actual contents … but then I figure everyone’s seen me on the floor of various restaurants collecting those contents already, so the secret’s out!
When we became pregnant, we had no idea what we were in for. When we found out it would be fraternal twins, we had no idea what we were in for. When the twins emerged as adorable, towheaded darlings, we had no idea what we were in for.
Perhaps you’re seeing a theme emerging.
I don’t know where Tom and Tabitha got it from. Their father and I are easygoing, Beta-type people. We’re not high-powered anything, and we like a quiet, calm life. The twins … are different. Competitive with each other, high-spirited, loud, and creative. The house is a never-ending stage where the twins put on plays, perform magic shows, and wear costumes. Bugs and other creatures are brought in from the yard on a regular basis, and there is always something the twins believe to be ‘music’ in the air as they attack various instruments with energy if no skill.
And then there is the endless squabbling over crayons.
Both Tom and Tabitha like to draw, and they compete for the admiration of their parents and teachers all the time, seeking to top each other. They’re both very particular about their crayons, as a result – each of them has a large curated collection of crayons, with certain colors inexplicably considered rare and thus prized. And at least once a week there is a knock-down, all-out fight over a disputed crayon or even a whole set. We tried marking the crayon boxes with initials, but the crayons still became muddled and fights broke out. Growing tired of acting as Mediator three times a day, I went out and found the perfect solution: His and Hers TSA-compliant carry on clear bags.
These sturdy plastic bags – hilariously marked HIS and HERS so there’s no chance of a mistake – aren’t meant to hold crayons, I suppose, but the great thing about clear bags from The Clear Bag store is that their descriptions on the site are really just advisories. They can all be used in any number of ways, and once you start thinking about how a clear bag can be used you get a lot of ideas. These were stuffed with crayons – under the watchful eyes of each Twin, of course, to guarantee no malfeasance – and we haven’t have a single argument since. Each Twin can see at a glance which collection is theirs, and that none of the colors have been disturbed or removed, without even having to open the bags up!
Am I a parenting genius? I won’t argue.
Of course, this hasn’t stopped the Twins from trying to sing louder than the other, from secreting fauna from the yard in their dresser drawers, or spending hours inventing complicated games and then spending hours arguing over the rules – although their father solved that one by insisting he couldn’t render a decision until the rules were written down in a bound book, which led to almost three days of peace while the Twins worked on the project.
As a parent, you get creative fast. First of all, nothing last long enough – clothes, food, toys, your sanity and patience. You think you have enough of them and then bam! they’re gone or used up or worn out and you need something else. So you have a choice: You can take out a second mortgage on the house and squeeze in a pizza delivery job during those hours you had foolishly scheduled for sleep and just keep buying new, new, new, or you can figure out how to make everything do double or triple duty. Clothes can be handed down, toys can be combined and re-purposed with a little imagination, and everything else gets put into the shed for a bit until you can figure out how to get a little more use out of it.
My recent triumph along this line was the Pink Lunch Bag from the Clear Bag Store. Originally bought for, you know, lunches, my little darling had begun getting her lunch at school, and so the sturdy clear bag with the bold pink piping had sat for a bit on a shelf. But my little girl had developed a sudden anxiety about her stuffed animals, particularly Mr. Paws, a grungy old bear with one missing eyeball that she liked to have with her at all times. I’d so far been fighting a rear-guard action against taking Mr. Paws to school with her, but at home and on family outings she always wanted that bear in sight. It had become an issue when she couldn’t have him out and in her little hands.
I didn’t want to take away her toy, but there were plenty of occasions where it wasn’t appropriate for her to be lugging around this old bear, but if I took it away, she threw a tantrum. You have to pick your battles, and the tantrums were something I figured I’d deal with in time, but with a lot of family get-togethers coming up, I needed a quick and easy solution. And so the Pink Clear Lunch Bag got a second life as a Paws Display Case.
Paws, still sticky and smelling slightly of grape jam, was placed lovingly inside the clear bag, where he had plenty of room. My daughter brought some of Paws’ favorite things to place in there with him: a twig, a banana, a small red ball Paws apparently liked to play with when I was not in the room and he magically came to life. And suddenly, we had a way to bring Paws everywhere with us without having him be on the table while we ate, dragged through all sorts of dirt and dust (and that germ warfare battlefield known as the playground). My daughter didn’t mind Paws being in the bag; she actually seemed to think of it as Paws having his own room, and liked just being able to glance over and see him at all times.
Next trick: Convincing her that mud is not her friend. But one creative idea at a time.
It’s a modern problem, and a first world problem, but it was my problem: The family needed new laptops. I needed one for my work, my wife needed one for the house, and our kids needed them for school. We discussed tablets, but laptops seemed tougher, better able to travel and take abuse. Plus, I thought I was super smart when I found a deal to get four of the same model at a discount – they were just about to discontinue the line, so even though they were brand new, we got them cheap. Husband for the win!
The kids were about as enthusiastic as possible, which is to say they accepted their new laptops with a grunt and a shrug, and went off to do mysterious things with them. I immediately got mine set up for the big proposal I was preparing for, trying to woo my largest client yet. When the big meeting came around, I was glad to know I had a new laptop, running smooth and fast, and felt very professional as I checked my briefcase to make sure I’d brought it along, as it had my presentation and all my backup materials.
At the office, I shook hands, accepted a cup of coffee, and pulled out the laptop to begin setting up. I flipped it open, and instead of my presentation on the screen, there was a recipe for cupcakes. Panic sweeping through me, I confirmed with a few clicks that I’d brought my wife’s laptop instead of mine.
The funny thing was, the presentation went well anyway – I knew the material perfectly, and just winged it. Sweating bullets, I was amazed to discover I could pull data out of my head and sound confident doing it, and somehow I think that actually impressed the client!
That night though, I told my wife about it over a glass of wine as we celebrated, and she got up and returned with our laptops and a set of stickers. She put a red dot on hers and a blue dot on mine and suggested this way we’d never repeat the mistake. I thought about it, but realized I’d never have seen that sticker once the laptop was in my briefcase. But my wife, as always, was one step ahead, and showed me the Clear Bag Store. We ordered a Computer Laptop bag for me – and I love it. It’s sturdy, it’s big enough for all my stuff, and best of all I can be certain with just a glance that I have not only the right laptop, but everything else I need for my day’s work.
And, bonus – I get a lot of attention for it because it’s cool. I realize that when I walk into a conference room with this in my hand, I look like a hip young professional, and everyone sort of takes me more seriously as a creative guy. I think the clear laptop bag has taken five years off my age!