If you and I were to sit down for coffee this morning, I’d start off by asking you how you are doing. I was such a bad listener last time. And I promised I’d be a much better friend this time.
So, how are you doing?
Good? Good! You’re so nice, you’d probably say something like, “You look great!” because that’s the kind of thing everyone says to a new mom—regardless of if it’s true or not. I’d thank you, and tell you that I’m starting to feel much more like myself. I’m still not finding a lot of time to workout, but I do try to walk every single day. And I’m trying to fuel my body with healthy food and drink lots of water. I’m slowly dropping weight (did I tell you I lost ten pounds in the past two months?), but I’m not so worried about that. I’m mostly just happy that I’m starting to feel like myself again!
I’d tell you that you look great, too (and I’m not just saying that, you’re totally gorgeous), and you’d tell me about the new fitness class you’re going to. And then you’d invite me to go with you, and I’d be all over that. We’d make a sweat date for next week.
You’d, of course, ask about the baby girl—because she’s pretty much the most amazing thing on the planet and everyone is curious about her goingson. I’d tell you that she just turned four months old, and her personality is showing like crazy. She laughs out loud, blows raspberries, and screams (not cries…screams) with a fiery passion when she doesn’t like something. She’s a whopping 17 pounds and wearing 6-9 month clothes pretty exclusively. She’s also working hard on her two bottom front teeth.
Since you’re a totally confident parent, you’d probably give me some of your tried-and-true teething remedies. I’d be really thankful for the advice, but then sheepishly admit that teething hasn’t really been that bad for her so far. She’s had a few screamfests where she seems like she’s struggling—and those sucked—but overall, she’s still the super happy, smiling baby she normally is (except with two white-caps in that smile). I’d tell you that we have so much fun everyday with our little June Bug. I had a lot of preconceived notions about motherhood, but I had no idea it would be this much fun.
Then I’d knock on every piece of wood in the coffee shop.
I’d, of course, ask about your family. You’d tell me all about the way cool vacation you got back from. And then you’d give me the most perfect gift you picked up for me at a quirky little shop you found off-the-beaten path on your trip—because you’re thoughtful and sweet and pretty much the coolest person I know. I’d then take the opportunity to pull out a plain kraft paper bag for you and give you a few jars full of canned food from my stash (probably some spiced peaches, bread and butter pickles, and pickled watermelon rind). I hope you like them. I know the pickled watermelon rind sounds weird, but it’s really, crazy good.
I’d then confess that I’ve missed canning so much this season. I didn’t have the mental capacity this year to take on the kind of canning undertaking I like to do each year, but I have socked away a few things. I’m excited to get back to “normal” with food preserving next season. I already am starting garden plans (of course). I’d then ask you if there were any canned goods you’d want next year. I’m always taking requests!
On a not-so-positive note, I’d then rage spiral into complaining about all the things that have broken in our house in the past month. I’d tell you that it started with our washing machine crapping out (pun intended) in the middle of a load of diapers. Followed the next day by our bathroom fan stopping working. And then a few days later by an outdoor water leak (which required an emergency call to a plumber and a whole lot of digging). And now, finally, last week, we found out our chimney needs four-figures worth of repairs.
Since you’re so wise, you’d tell me that things like this happen in cycles and that we’re bound to be near the end of this one. You’d then offer to let me do a load of laundry at your house. I’d thank you, and then tell you it isn’t necessary because we sprung for a new fancy pants machine a few weeks ago, and it’s the bomb dot com. It even has it’s own iPhone app that it can “talk” to. Considering our washing machine that bit the dust was purchased by my grandparents when I was 11 years old—our new model is definitely an upgrade.
I’d tell you that even though I’m raging about all the stuff breaking in our house, it’s actually okay, because the universe gifted me a nicely-sized refund check from my labor (yes, I got a refund for childbirth—go figure) on the same day the washing machine broke. I had about 10 minutes of fantasizing on how I’d spend that surprise money on fun things before Craig told me the washing machine was broken. Life, right?
Then I’d realize how silly it was that I was so upset about life’s minor inconveniences—especially ones that we can afford to fix. I’d quickly change the subject and ask you if you’ve seen any good movies lately.
Speaking of movies, I’d tell you all about our new Friday night ritual. We bring my laptop into the nursery on Friday evenings, and while baby girl nurses to sleep, Craig and I watch a movie. We usually stick to kids movies, because even though logically, I get that June Bug is too young to understand what is going on (and we wear headphones and she’s sleeping), she’s a good excuse to watch all the fun Disney and Pixar movies we’ve missed over the past few years.
I’d move on to asking you about work. You’d probably complain about your boss (I’m sorry you’re stuck with such a jerk!), and I’d listen compassionately while you ranted, while secretly being so thankful that I don’t have to deal with office politics anymore. You ask me how being my own boss is going, and I’d admit that it is about 1000% more stressful than my office gig was, but it’s a healthy stress—if that makes any sense. I’d tell you that I can’t imagine ever going back to an office—I really thrive being able to wear all my different hats. I love that when people ask me what I do, my response is filled with slashes. Graphic designer slash food writer slash recipe developer slash photographer slash awesomeographer.
I’d tell you I’m so proud of my work to make my blog better. I had no idea it would go as well as it has been going. I feel really proud that I’ve been able to turn it into a a successful business without selling my soul. I am having so much fun with my blog again!
Speaking of work, I’d then tell you that I really need to do a better job of figuring out some kind of work-life balance. I’d ask for your advice on how to draw the line. I’d tell you that I desperately want to be an engaged and attentive parent, but I’m afraid that my work life might be detrimental to that. I think it’s good to show my daughter the importance of a strong work ethic, but I also think it’s important to model balance to her.
You’d laugh at me and say, “Welcome to the Mommy Guilt Club. Here’s your membership card.”
Because I can’t go more than 10 minutes without thinking about food, I’d ask you if you wanted to split one of those really decadent chocolate chip scones they have up at the counter. Then I’d remember they probably have dairy or soy in them, but since this isn’t reality, let’s just pretend I can eat dairy and soy in this realm. Let’s split a scone.
Speaking of food, I’d of course ask you if you’ve tried any good recipes lately. You’d tell me all about this super cool cookbook you found, and I’d, of course, ask to borrow it. Then you’d ask me what I was noshing lately, and I’d tell you that I’m trying really, really hard to kick my sugar habit. And try to replace all those sugary foods with some nourishing yummies. I’ve been eating a lot of salads, green smoothies, and anything with protein.
I’d then laugh at the irony of me downing a sugar-filled scone while I tell you all about how I’m trying to cut back on sugar. Hey, at least we’re splitting it, right?
When we both have finished the last remaining crumbs of our scone (it was so good!), I’d reluctantly tell you that I have to get going. I’m having a blast, but I miss my baby girl, and I’m sure she’s getting hungry. Maybe next time I’ll bring her along with me. It’s been so nice catching up with you! Give your family a hug for me. Until next time…
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by ABC through their partnership with POPSUGAR Select. While I was compensated to write a post about ABC Selfie, all opinions are my own. Read more about my sponsored post policy in the Bylaws.
One of my goals for my 31st year on this planet was to stop worrying so much about documenting life, and instead spend more time actually living it. I struggle with (and I think a lot of us do) needing to feel validation through technology. I sometimes feel like if I don’t Instagram a picture of it or have an app to track it or write a blog post about it—the event didn’t matter. I’m (obviously) not one of those anti-technology people. I met my husband online. I’ve met some of my best friends through blogging. My career is entirely online. I get the value of the internet! My issue is that sometimes, it can feel like the digital world is where my life is happening, instead of in, you know, the real world.
I’ve been slowly trying to step back from my life revolving around the internet completely. I try to be 100% present when I’m with my daughter—instead of mindlessly having a hand on her while I check Twitter on my phone. I’m trying to share less and less personal details online—but still connect with my friends. I want to be technology savvy, but I want to use it help me live a better life—I don’t want technology to be my life.
I was curious just how much of my day is spent revolving around the internet and social media. I knew it was a lot, but I don’t think I could really grasp just how it permeated every aspect of my day until I went cold turkey. So I decided to cut out all internet-y things for 24 hours last week. No social media. No email. No blogging. No checking sports scores. No checking the weather. And I learned so much about myself and my behaviors!
1. I mindlessly check into social media.
I knew this was the case, but I don’t think I realized how pervasive the act was until I wasn’t able to do it. I mindlessly check my phone for social media updates constantly! As in, I’ll just grab my phone to transfer it from the table to my purse, and during the five second walk from the table—I’ll quickly log in to check Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. I’m honestly not even sure I’m digesting the updates I do read. It’s just pure habit! Whenever I have a free moment during the day, my default reaction is to pick up my phone and check what is going on out in the world. I even quickly flip over to TweetDeck on my computer while a website is loading on my browser! Why do I feel the need to do this? Is it really the end of the world if I miss a tweet or update?
What I’ll change: I’ve started to be intentional with my social media time. It is important for me to stay connected because of my job, but that doesn’t mean I need to be constantly connected.
2. I felt disconnected.
Even though I knew a lot of my friends live in my computer (no shame), I was surprised by how disconnected I felt from my circle by going off of social media. I really draw no distinction between my “online” friends and my “real life” friends, so a day without them felt like I was cutting myself off from the world. I felt lonely!
What I’ll change: Nothing! I think connecting with friends is one of the best things about the internet. My life would be loads different if I never used the internet to meet new people (as in, I wouldn’t have met my husband and had my beautiful daughter).
3. I remembered the ways of the past.
Whenever I encountered something during the day that I would usually do online (say, check the weather), I had to try and remember how people would do it pre-internet. I’m probably the last generation that has a recollection of life pre-internet (we got our first internet-connected computer when I was in fourth grade), and so I have some frame of reference for time before the land of cat videos took over. Remember the time and weather phone line? You’d call and a recording would tell you the time and temperature? And remember when people would check the newspaper or wait for the local news broadcast to hear the weather?
What I’ll change: Nothing here, either. Technology has made these everyday tasks so much easier and faster than they used to be. Although, I have to admit, I do miss the days where you could accidentally get caught in a warm summer downpour because you didn’t have the ability to check the radar every second of every day.
4. I feel validated by numbers.
I went for a walk at the park during my 24 hours without the internet. I walked for about 45 minutes. I didn’t use a device to track my steps or my mileage or my calories burned. Or even my time—I just glanced at my watch at the beginning and the end—how unscientific! By the end of my walk, not having any numbers somehow made my walk feel less important. Was that walk any less of a workout than the 45 minute walk I did the day before with tracking? Nope. But it definitely felt like it was. I realized that numbers give me validation and motivation when it comes to health and fitness.
What I’ll change: I’m trying to milk this fact for all it’s worth and really let myself get “into” the numbers and be competitive with myself to help me reach my health and fitness goals. I’ve also been trying to do at least one gentle walk each day where I leave my phone at home and just enjoy the pure, untracked joy of a simple walk.
5. I was lost on some tasks.
There were some run-of-the-mill tasks during my day that I had no idea how to tackle without the help of the internet. I had to refill a prescription on that day. Usually, I just go online, push a few buttons, and it’s ready for me to pick up in an hour. But I had no idea how to refill it without the internet. I assumed you could probably call the pharmacy and get it done, but it’s not something I’ve ever done before! I’ve always done prescription stuff online. It’s interesting how some tasks in our lives become so connected to the internet, that it’s hard to imagine another way to accomplish them.
What I’ll change: Nothing here, really. It’s more of an observation. I have to admit, it does make me a little nervous that we have an entire generation (or two, really) who would be completely lost in life if the internet suddenly stopped existing.
6. I’m more connected to reality without technology.
I may have felt more disconnected from my friends online during my day without technology, but I was definitely more connected with my reality. Because the internet is always on, it means I can always be on, too. I can always be working. I can always be talking to someone. I can always be researching something. And because of that, I always feel like I’m rushing to the next thing. I have to get back from this walk so I can work on this thing. I have to hurry through my shower so I can answer emails. I have to hurry up and get to bed so I can hurry up and wake up and write a blog post. With the internet out of the equation, there was nothing to focus on except the here and now. I had nothing to “get to” so I could just spend some extra time snuggling with my daughter, looking at beautiful flowers, and petting my dog.
What I’ll change: I’ve decided to take internet breaks more often. The reconnection to reality was a really positive side effect of my day without internet, and it’s something I’d like to continue. I’d like to make a conscious effort to really stop living for/around/in the internet for a few days each week. It doesn’t mean I won’t check the weather if I need to, but it does mean that I might try and forget that I have this super powerful device in my pocket a few days a week.
I’m really amazed at how much I learned by just taking one single day off from the internet! If you’ve never tried going on a social media cleanse, I highly recommend picking a day and leaving your phone at home (or, at least, just use it for emergency calls). It was incredibly refreshing!
Tune in to ABC this fall to watch the new comedy Selfie where social media-obsessed Eliza Dooley wants to give up “likes” to be liked and learn to live in the real world. And let’s face it, we all could benefit from a day of living in the moment and taking our heads out of our…cloud. Selfie premieres Tuesday, September 30th at 8pm/7pm Central. Disclosure: This post was sponsored by ABC through their partnership with POPSUGAR Select. While I was compensated to write a post about ABC Selfie, all opinions are my own. Read more about my sponsored post policy in the Bylaws.
This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze. All content and opinions are my own. Read more about my sponsored post disclosure policy in the BTHR Bylaws.
Before I had a baby, I promised myself I wouldn’t become one of those everything-is-about-my-kid parents. I wouldn’t revolve my whole life around my child. I would love her. I would be there for her. I would spend tons of quality time with her. But I would also make sure to take care of myself so I stayed healthy, happy, and, well, me. I believe that in order to teach healthy behaviors to my baby girl, I have to model them for her. And I think one of the healthiest behaviors (that I’ve yet to master personally) is taking care of yourself.
Of course, now that I’m a Mama, I realize that finding time to care for yourself is much easier said than done. It’s damn hard to figure out how to put yourself on your own priority list. When you have a free half hour and the laundry needs to be done, you have 10 emails to answer, and the kitchen floor needs swept, those items all feel so much more important than going to gym or relaxing in a bubble bath. But what I’m trying to teach myself (and eventually, pass on to my daughter) is that those items aren’t more important than self-care. If anything, they’re less important because if you don’t take care of yourself, eventually it catches up to you and everything else comes crashing down. It isn’t selfish to take care of yourself. And there are no medals for being a Mommy martyr (which, worth noting, I think this is a problem that extends way beyond motherhood—I think everyone, parent or not, struggles with this, I just don’t know of a better phrase to label it).
I’ve been working on giving myself higher priority in my life for years. In certain aspects, I’ve succeeded. But, for the most part, I still really struggle with showing myself compassion and appreciation. I consider myself a compassionate person who is deeply grateful to lead such a fortunate life, but I still struggle with seeing myself through the same positive lens that I view the rest of the world. I’m working on it. And now that I have a tiny human that I’m molding, I want to work even harder. For better or worse, I will be her main model for how she treats herself in the future—and I want her to be a compassionate person. I want her to have compassion for others and for herself. And I’m the person she’s going to learn it from. How’s that for motivation to get my act together? The irony of this is that having a child has become my main motivation to make my life about more than just having a child. Oh universe, you work in funny ways.
Lately, I’ve been working on this by taking baby steps (pun intended) daily. I’m not reformed enough to book a long weekend at a spa, but I am seeing my own value enough to slowly implement self-care into my everyday. I thought I might share some of the ways I’ve been taking care of myself lately. They aren’t major, but they are important.
Eating dinner with my family
I’m a pretty skilled multitasker, which also means that I struggle when I am just doing one thing at a time. This really applies to mealtimes. I’ve always struggled with just eating. I always feel like I need to eat and answer emails. Or eat and watch TV. Or eat and read a book. But lately I’ve been trying to eat most meals—especially dinner—and just focus on eating and conversing with my family. Not only is it a nice, relaxing break in the day, but it is also a lot healthier from a nutrition stand-point—I can focus on being aware of my food and my hunger instead of mindlessly overeating.
Taking a walk everyday
I’m not quite to the point where I can devote the kind of time to doing a long gym session or going to a fitness class everyday, but I can take a walk. Somedays, I’m lucky if I can get 10 minutes in, but even just that few minutes outside makes me feel so refreshed. I leave my phone in the house, and I just walk around and take in this beautiful place I live.
Two days off a week
Taking full days off from work is one of the hardest things for me to do, but it’s also one of the most restorative. I’ve started taking Wednesdays and Saturdays and signing off of work all day. I don’t answer emails. I try not to check into social media. I definitely don’t do any design work or writing. I just spend those two days enjoying life! Wednesday is my day with the baby girl (while Craig does school work), and we’ve taken to spending that day going to park, hanging out at the library, and playing for hours and hours. It is such a fun way to spend the day! And on Saturdays, we have family day where we go on hikes, go visit fun local towns, and soak up our time together.
Treating myself to a fancy coffee
Since I had to give up dairy and soy because of nursing, I’ve found myself really missing the ritual of stopping off at a coffee shop and getting some sweet, dessert-y coffee drink. I didn’t do it very often, but it was a small way for me to take care of myself when I was out running errands. I don’t think I quite realized how important it was to me before I couldn’t do it anymore. There is something so soothing about getting a coffee and walking around Target, you know? That’s why I was so incredibly excited when my friends at Blue Diamond Almonds sent me an email last week telling me that Dunkin Donuts was starting to carry Blue Diamond almondmilk in their stores for use in coffees and lattes. I am so happy that I can get back to my fancy coffee ritual (with decaf coffee and almondmilk).
Sticking to my hobbies
I don’t have the same kind of time to devote to my hobbies as I did before, but I still think it’s important for me to carve out a few hours per week to sew, craft, and garden. Doing these projects really helps refresh me and keep me sane! I used to be able to devote a few days to a project and really plow through from start-to-finish, but I’m realizing now that I have to work on projects in manageable chunks. I can no longer just go hide away in my sewing nook and work on something for eight straight hours. I have a few fun projects up my sleeve to show you guys over the next few months!
Showing appreciation for myself
I believe that words are powerful, including the words we use to talk about ourselves. Admittedly, I’m not always kind to myself. When something goes wrong, I’m the first to assign blame to myself. I’m trying to head off those negative words, and instead give myself the benefit of the doubt. Mistakes happen. Life becomes tricky. I’m human. And it’s okay to be human. On the flip side of this, I’m also trying to show myself some appreciation when I do positive things. I’m allowing myself to feel proud. Even if it’s as small as making sure my kitchen is clean at the end of the day. It’s okay to feel proud of yourself!
This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Almonds. All content and opinions are my own. Read more about my sponsored post disclosure policy in the BTHR Bylaws
What do you guys do to try and take care of yourself? How do you manage to carve out the time?
If you and I were to sit down for a cup of coffee this morning, I’d tell you that the idea of a coffee date was actually kinda ironic because I’m not drinking coffee right now. And then I’d probably order some sort of iced herbal tea, because I’m also off of soy and dairy—making pretty much everything on the menu at the coffee shop off-limits. That’s alright, it’s all so my baby girl feels better, so that makes it worth it.
Once we sat down, I’d probably tell you that I’m really struggling with how much of my private life I want public now that I’m a parent. It’s no longer just my life that I’m sharing, it’s this tiny human’s, too. And I feel like my sole purpose is to protect her. Part of me wants to shut out the whole world, but the other part of me wants to spread around all this immense joy I feel everyday. It feels like too much happiness to keep to myself. Especially considering the state of the world.
You’d probably ask if the baby was sleeping through the night yet (because that seems to be the question everyone wants answered), and I’d probably give a hearty chuckle, because our sleeping arrangements are decidedly unorthodox.
I’d confess that since we’re dealing with a baby with severe reflux, we haven’t let her sleep without one of us awake nearby since she was diagnosed six weeks ago. Which means we split the night up into two shifts—Craig takes from 8pm-3am (with him waking me up once for her to eat), and I take from 3am-10am. The irony of this situation is even though both of us sleep on strange schedules, we’re actually both getting more sleep than most parents of newborns. I haven’t felt sleep-deprived since the first week we were home.
So no, she isn’t sleeping through the night, but we’re cool with that.
Then, I’d tell you how it was a blessing-in-disguise that Craig was laid off from him job during paternity leave. I know it’s unfashionable to talk about money, but I’d admit to you that it’s taken some financial rearranging to deal with the sudden loss of work. And then I’d tell you that even though it’s been hard, it’s probably the single best thing that’s ever happened to us, because it means we both get to be home with our baby girl. Silver linings and all that stuff.
We’d talk about how I’ve re-watched both Friday Night Lights and The West Wing during my late-night nursing sessions over the past two months. And now I’ve moved onto re-watching Gossip Girl. If you’re a mother, I’d probably ask for your reassurance that I’m not totally ruining my child’s brain by watching TV while she sleeps on my chest.
If you were pregnant, you’d probably ask me for some advice, and the biggest piece of advice I’d give you is to throw away all your parenting books. Seriously, don’t read them. Your instincts are the only guide you need. And all those books will do is make you feel guilty when you don’t follow their recommendations exactly. Which you wont. Because every family is different. And no one has ever written a parenting book about your family.
And then I’d ask you if you want a box of baby clothes. Because a new outfit or two gets thrown into the “too small” pile every day.
Since you’re polite and a good conversationalist, you’d probably ask how my work was going. And I’d tell you that I am so happy in my career it isn’t even funny. I’d talk about how miserable I used to be in my job—how I’d cry almost every single day—and how drastically different my life is now. It feels like an entirely different universe. I’m in such a healthier place. And I’m so proud of the work I do. Sure, I still have frustrating days, but that’s life. And overall, I’m so much more fulfilled in what I do.
I’d ask you how your family was doing. And then I’d try really hard not to talk anymore about my baby girl. She’s really all I want to talk about all the time, but I’m not so far removed from being childless that I don’t remember how annoying that can be. I refrain from telling poop or spit-up stories. And try to think of something non-baby related to talk about.
I decide to talk to you about my other baby—our garden. I tell you all about our grandiose plans next year to plant even more space and sell at the farmer’s market. I tell you that Craig and I really want to start a CSA, but are petrified to take the leap because the number of successful farmers out there that make a living wage off their farm is pretty much right around zero.
I’d then tell you how excited I am to spend hour and hours with JuneBug in the garden when she’s a little older. I remember playing in the freshly-tilled soil as a kid, and I can’t wait to give her those same memories.
Whoops. There I go again, talking about the baby.
I’d tell you how I’m starting to get the urge to get back to taking care of myself again. We’d chat a bit about weight loss, and then I’d sheepishly admit to you that I’m intimidated of the weight loss process again. What if it doesn’t work this time? What if I never can get back to feeling healthy? What if I can’t figure out how to fit in fitness and taking care of a kid?
I’d tell you that I’m back up close to my highest weight ever as an adult, and, while it feels totally different this time, it also feels just as insurmountable as it did before. I’d tell you that I miss my old clothes. And I miss my knees not hurting. I’d tell you that is such a strange feeling to be so incredibly proud of this body (it made this beautiful creature, birthed her, and fed her), but at the same time want to change it.
I’d tell you that I tried to workout last week and it was so difficult, I cried. But it also felt so amazing. I’d tell you that it’s going to take some time to get used to this new body—the parts just aren’t all working the same way they used it.
I’d then probably apologize for unloading all my baggage on you. Let’s change the subject.
We’d start talking about the good food we’ve both been eating lately. I’d tell you that I’m totally obsessed with mashed avocado on toast, topped with a few slices of our homegrown tomatoes, salt, pepper and a perfectly-runny poached egg. I’d admit I’ve eaten it at least once a day for pretty much the last month.
I’d tell you that I’ve started to drink beer again (oh, how I missed it), but I’m such a lightweight now that about a 1/4 cup of the stuff gets me good and buzzed. Hey, at least I’m a cheap date.
I’d then tell you about the most perfect (orange!) honeydew melons we grew this year. And then I’d beg you to take one off my hands because we have a million of them sitting on our counter. No matter how delicious, two people can only go through so much melon before it goes bad. In fact, I’d probably hand you a whole bag of produce to take with you before you leave.
Then I’d probably apologize for scratching so much, but I can’t really help it because the lower half of my body is covered in poison ivy—and has been for the past month. You’d ask where I got it, and I’d tell you it was from walking the path to my parents’ house a few times a week. I’d tell you it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out the source and start wearing boots and long pants over instead of flip-flops and shorts. You’d tell me not to scratch. I’d nod my head and then try to covertly scratch between my toes. Because it itches worse than any itch I’ve ever had before.
I’d look up at the clock and realize I spent all of this time together babbling on about my life, without asking you much about yours. I’d promise to be a better listener next time, and then I’d ask that maybe we go for pedicures for our next coffee date, because my toes haven’t been touched since the day before I went into labor. And I’ll try to have something non-baby-related to talk about.
Back after our apartment was hit by a tornado in 2011, I wrote a post about what we had in our emergency kit (in fact, the photos in that post were taken in an apartment we were squatting in as temporary housing). More importantly than just the list of items, that posts contains what we learned by going through an actual emergency with the kit—what we added, what we changed, and what we used. Even though our emergency kit wasn’t perfect, I was so thankful to have that resource during the stressful time post-tornado. We saw first-hand how stressful it was for our neighbors who weren’t prepared (and in fact, lent out more than one item in our kit to them).
But now, our life is dramatically different from when I first wrote that post. Back then, we lived in a small apartment, in the city. We had only one pet, and we certainly didn’t have a little baby running around. Then, our emergency plan meant that in most situations (fire, tornado, earthquake, environmental disaster, terrorist attack), we were going to leave our apartment and the city. In almost all situations, it was safer for us to pack up in the car, and head south to my parents’ house in the country. That made our emergency kit easy. We packed the bare minimum in an easy-to-transport bag.
But that’s not our situation anymore. As our life gets more complicated (owning a house, more pets, having a baby), our emergency kit needs to get more complicated, too. And, in fact, our entire emergency plan is now multi-faceted. I know this all may sound like overkill to some folks, but the peace-of-mind of knowing we’re prepared is absolutely worth it to me.
I think the key to figuring out your emergency plan and kit is accessing your situation. Figure out what you are at high-risk of going through. We’ve figured out, shy of the zombie apocalypse, there are three types of events that could logically happen to us. Obviously, we live in tornado-central, so tornadoes are a biggie for us. Secondly, as we learned this past winter, it’s entirely possible for us to get dumped on with a metric ton of snow, lose power, and not be able to leave our house for a week. And thirdly, everyone is at risk for a house fire.
Your list might be different. You might live in a flood-prone area (we don’t). You might live on a fault line (we do, but it’s not a huge risk to us). You might live in a major city that is susceptible to environmental spills or terrorist attacks (we don’t). You might live next door to a nuclear plant (we don’t). I think the key to having a really great emergency kit is figuring out what emergencies you might need it in. And of course, you can go as crazy with thinking about the scenarios as you feel is necessary. We’re not crazy about it. Yes, I realize that there is a chance that the entire financial system will collapse, roving gangs of zombies will come to eat us, and some foreign dictator will spray the entire country with some superbug. But I have no interest in revolving my life around planning for those extremes. But I do want to be prepared for the realities of our situation. And the reality is, we sometimes get hit by big snowstorms, fires happen, and we’re apparently tornado magnets.
Based on our risks, we decided to stick with the easy-to-transport bag idea, but just expand it to include a more comprehensive selection of items then we had before.
We store this bag on our main floor, in a cabinet equidistant from all the outdoor doors, so it’s easy to grab if we can in a fire, but also near the basement stairs entrance so we can grab it as we head down to take shelter for a tornado. Forecasting has gotten pretty decent in the past few years, so we usually know at least a few hours a head of time if we have a high chance for tornadoes, so I also tend to put my purse and the diaper bag right next to the basement door on those days, too.
It sounds like a ton, but we manage to keep it in a small duffle bag. Easy to grab and go. It includes:
- A pair of shoes and socks for both Craig and I—we just picked up cheap, sturdy shoes from the Goodwill
- Work gloves (2 pairs)
- Backup glasses for both Craig and I—if you don’t have backups, you can get $7 glasses from Zenni Optical
- Backup keys to both the car and the house—see how we used our car as home-base post-tornado here
- Glow sticks (2)
- Hand crank weather/AM-FM radio
- Water (2 liters)
- Protein bars (6)
- Hand crank flashlight
- Ponchos (3)
- Emergency blanket
- First aid kit—including baby-specific items, like Children’s Tylenol and adult meds like Excedrin, Pepto, etc.
- Feminine hygiene products—trust me, stress does crazy things to your body
- Toilet paper
- Travel size deodorant
- Toothbrush and travel size toothpaste
- Baby wipes
- Cloth diapers (2)—we might switch these to disposables
- Baby blanket
- Onesies (2)—in the next size up from what she’s currently wearing
- Baby hat and socks
- Formula samples and bottle—we’re exclusively breastfeeding, but I have no idea how stress/emergencies can affect supply, so I figure better safe than sorry and put these in there. If nothing else, some other parent might be able to use them during an emergency if we don’t need it.
- Washcloths (2)
- Travel size Dr. Bronner’s—used for hand soap, wash clothes, etc.
- Small bottle of bleach and eyedropper—can be used for water purification in a pinch
- Ziplock bags
- Plastic grocery sacks
- Collapsible bowls for pet food and water (3)
- Kitty food—in a ziptop bag
- Puppy food—in a ziptop bag
- Extra leash and collar for Puppyface—this was mega important for us during the tornado
- Pillow case—to quickly grab Kittyface
- Dust masks (3)
- Leatherman tool
- Matches in waterproof container
- Disposable camera—to document things for insurance
- Backup charger for our cell phones—we both have iPhones, so it’s the same charger
- Accordion folder with copies of important paperwork
- Emergency Financial First Aid Kit
- Insurance polices (life, car, homeowner’s)
- IDs (driver’s licenses, Craig’s green card, passports, birth certificates)
- Puppy and kitty’s vaccination records
- List of emergency contact info
- $20 cash (in small bills)
- Photos of entire family (including pets)—good for if we get separated
- Basic first-aid how-to guides
- Paper and pen
It’s not going to last us through a week out in the wilderness, but it will definitely help us get through the first few hours after an emergency. It sounds like a ton, but it’s actually pretty compact. I can easily carry it.
We also have other survival-y items stashed in the basement, where we would be hanging out in the event of a tornado, or if for some reason we needed to stay in place during an emergency. Our overflow pantry is in the basement, plus a spare fridge and freezer packed with food. We also have a bunch of good-for-if-the-zombies-come gear stashed in the basement with our camping goods—camp stoves, sleeping bags, tents, backpacks, flashlights, etc. We don’t really have an emergency kit in the basement, but there are a lot of things that could come in handy in the event of an emergency down there. Basically, just as long as we have access to most parts of our basement, we could live down there for an extended period of time relatively comfortably. Although, I really don’t see that happening except in a crazy extreme emergency.
I know this all sounds like overkill, but it’s actually a pretty modest emergency kit. We’re not stashing years worth of food or water. We’re not preparing for every single bad thing that could ever happen, but we are being realistic about that bad things that are in the realm of possibility with where we live. And we’ve worked really hard to make sure our emergency kit is compact and don’t really impact our day-to-day lives—but still leaves us feeling prepared for the most common emergencies we could face. If you have less room, you can make a smaller kit. If you have more threats, expand your kit.
We usually go over and restock our kit once a year (normally right around early spring—before tornado season hits). We’ll switch out expired food, replace anything that isn’t working well anymore, and update any paperwork that needs it. Now that we’re a family of three, we’ll need to do it a bit more frequently to make sure Baby J’s needs are met—obviously she’ll need bigger clothes, different food, etc. as she grows.
Do you have an emergency kit? What types of emergencies are most likely to happen in your area?
I hope you all had an awesome holiday weekend! We had absolutely gorgeous weather here, and even though we’re still getting used to life with an itty bitty baby, we tried to make the most out of our festive weekend.
As I’ve mentioned before, Independence Day is a big honkin’ deal where we live, so we really wanted to try to get out to enjoy a little bit of the town’s celebration this year. Not only do we love joining in the festivities, but at this point, any excursion out of the house with a small baby is a victory. When you have a tiny human to take care of, it’s like relearning how to do everything—including something as simple as sitting at the town 4th of July parade! And when it goes well, you pretty much feel like you just won the lottery.
We set up shop at our normal parade viewing location, and within a few minutes, the little lady was asking for some eats. I had just done my first public nursing session the day before (in the pediatrician’s packed waiting room—a good place for a test run) and it went really well, so I was feeling confident about nursing in public. Confident enough that I happily fed my daughter while sitting on the main drag in my hometown surrounded by hundreds of strangers (and well, some not so strangers). I was so proud! We’re still fumbling a bit with latching on, so I’m not ready to go sans cover yet (plus, the sun was bright, and we wanted to keep June Bug out of it), but..baby steps! Thankfully, it was unseasonably cool out, so we both were perfectly comfy under the light blanket. It’s funny how every little thing feels like a major victory when you’re a new parent.
Baby girl nursed for the first half of the parade and then happily passed out under her sun shade for the second half. She didn’t even wake up when all the firetrucks came by with sirens blaring. We all talked about how different it’ll be next year and all the years after. Marching in the 4th of July parade is a rite of passage in this town, and I’m sure at some point this little girl will be smiling and waving to the crowds from a float (or on a tractor, as you do in parades in the Midwest). And even before that, she’ll be right up front with a pillow case collecting candy with the other kids. I’m definitely embracing the snuggly newborn stage, because I know it’ll pass by all-too-quickly. This was probably the first and the last 4th of July parade that she’ll spend curled up in my arms. Sniff.
Usually after the parade, we head over to the park and browse the flea market, listen to some music and enjoy a funnel cake (or two), but we figured that going to parade was a victory enough and headed back to my parents’ house for a nice holiday meal. Maybe next year we’ll be ready to hit up all the 4th of July festivities. For this year, seeing all the tractors was plenty of excitement for the day.
After dinner, our big plans were for an absolutely epic family nap. We’re still trying to get a handle on sleeping arrangements for nighttime, and the night before the 4th was a rough one for everyone. But a four-hour afternoon nap seemed to cure a lot of the sleep deprivation. Plus, we did some rearranging for that night and had a much, much more peaceful night (well, other than all of our neighbors trying to outdo each other with fireworks).
I hope you all had an awesome weekend!