Bag of Tricks

Four years ago, when I was still a new mom, I had the most perfectly organized diaper bag imaginable. There was a place for everything, and everything was in its place.

I had a miniature tin of diaper cream, a tube of lanolin that remained unopened until the day I rediscovered it last year, an adorable nursing-pad cozy which was replenished before each time I left the house, at least a day’s worth of diapers (just in case a grocery-shopping trip somehow turned into an overnight stay), a backup outfit, a backup backup outfit, and a pair of pajamas because heaven forbid my child should sleep in her clothes! There was also an emergency can of formula and an empty bottle in case the bottle of expressed milk ran out and I was run over by a truck, because that happens all the time and one wouldn’t want the baby to go hungry while the paramedics ran out for formula.

Of course, once Maddux was on solids, I always had a tin of Gerber puffs, several Mum-Mums and often a fresh banana squirrelled away in the side of the bag farthest away from the diapers. I had bottom wipes and face wipes in appropriate sections of the bag. And in one of the front pockets, a giant bottle of sanitizer stood at the ready.

A year passed, and the diaper count went from 12 to five. Once my second child was born, it was five diapers apiece. Things were squashed and moved around so that I could accommodate both my emergency bottle and formula and a sippy cup and a container of cheddar bunnies (which was wont to burst open and fill my once-tidy bag with delightful orangey crumbs).

The emergency pajamas were jettisoned to make room for a onesie and sleeper for James (now out of luck should he soil his outfit — he’d have to wear jammies to the market). At some point, Maddux’ spare outfit was pared down to a spare pair of pants.

The bottom wipes and face wipes were used with such abandon that they frequently ran out, resulting in the occasional face being swiped with a Pampers wipe and bottoms occasionally being washed with antibacterial Wet Ones. The fresh bananas were occasionally allowed to become not-so-fresh. And while there was a place for everything, not everything was in its place.

And then. Then I had a third baby. Like a once-austere neighborhood that’s crumbled over time and been overrun by porch furniture and vandals, my diaper bag has gone to the dogs. There are still five baby diapers in there. Somewhere. The last one I pulled out had to be shaken free of mystery crumbs. My attempts to pack Pull-Ups for James are usually hampered by the fact that the diaper bag is full of Happy Toy packaging and empty-but-for-crumbs sandwich bags and won’t zip shut. I wind up putting his Pull-Ups on top of the diaper bag, fully intending to clean the bag out at a traffic light, but instead forgetting about them and leaving them in some dusty corner of the car while I go wherever I’m going (where, invariably, James will poop himself).

I still have clothes for each kid. There’s a 3-month shirt (no sign of the matching pants) for my burly 1-year-old, a hoodie for James that might possibly fit Thomas, and until last week there was a pair of girls’ Pull-Ups in the size that fit Maddux when she was 2. (Please, please do not ask what happened to those Pull-Ups. I plead the fifth. A mother does what she has to when her 2-year-old poops his pants at the gym and refuses to wear a baby diaper.)

There are no wipes. Anywhere. My magical bag, which used to proffer anything and everything a mom could want, has turned on me and now swallows package after package of both bottom-cleaners and Wet Ones quite indiscriminately. What are they used for? No one knows, but Thomas was recently cleaned using a brown paper towel and water.

The sanitizer is a hot commodity when one has three kids, so it is saved only for those special occasions when I can actually, with the naked eye, see germs writhing on their hands. There is no formula, no bottle, no sippy cup. Perishable food has been verboten since the Sandwich Debacle of ’08 (we’re not sure if the sandwich itself was from ’08, but that’s when it was discovered). If ever we found ourselves stranded on the side of the road in the country and needed food, we would have to choose between a dusty, unsealed bag of pecans (always a great choice for the under-3 crowd, right?) and the inch or so of aforementioned mystery crumbs. I’m sure that when the cavalry arrived, they would find us shaking out those wadded-up “clean” diapers into our open mouths, trying to figure out whether the crumbs were from Cheerios, Gerber puffs or the Sandwich of Questionable Origins.

And they would click their tongues disapprovingly and think to themselves, “If only she knew how to pack a diaper bag!”

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