The Emergency Column

By Melissa Stefanec

Summer — it’s a time for so many wonderful things. Family vacation, time with friends, playing outside, exercise, farmer’s markets, festivals, barbeques, parties — the list of fun feels endless. However, all these wonderful things take time, and time is a very limited resource for my household. Between fulltime jobs, school, extracurricular activities, hobbies and other responsibilities, things get a little crazy.

In all this craziness, I find myself wishing I had a couple of columns stashed away for a non-rainy day. In a perfect world, I would have something generic, wonderful and ready to print. That way, when life got away from me, I wouldn’t be writing a column from the passenger seat of my car while my family speeds away to my in-law’s house. (This is all purely metaphorical, I assure you.)

I am a born planner. The motto ‘Always be prepared’ doesn’t quite do my love for planning justice. So, I find it a little surprising I don’t have an emergency column. Quite frankly, I’m a more than a little disappointed in myself. However, I don’t want to spend too much time beating myself up, so here is a list of ways I plan ahead. Maybe my advice can make the life of just one reader a little saner. And, let’s face it, who among us couldn’t use a nugget or two more sanity?

Birthday party gifts

Birthday parties for my daughter’s friends have a way of sneaking up on me because (gasp) they aren’t my top priority. Rather than realizing Amazon Prime can’t get me a gift in nine hours or dragging myself on an 11 p.m. Target run, I keep a stash of small birthday gifts on hand. I try to make them something a boy or girl would like.

Snacks and water bottles

There will be many things I regret in my life, but I can say, with near certainty, I not will regret keeping fruit snacks in my purse. I am proud to say a bag of snacks typically rides shotgun with me. I keep my kids’ car seat cupholders stocked with reusable water bottles. I don’t like dealing with just about anyone when they are hungry or thirsty, and my kids are certainly no exception.

Greeting cards and stamps

Life comes with occasions. People celebrate landmark events. They do nice things for us. They encounter tragedy. If I didn’t keep a stack of decent greeting cards on hand, I wouldn’t be as thoughtful as I want to be. I want to let people know I am thinking of them. Sending a note lets me do that. However, if I had to make a special trip to the store each time I wanted to send a card, it just wouldn’t happen.

Boo-boo kit

I have first-aid kits in my house. I have them stashed in our vehicles. I keep Band-Aids in my purse. I have tick kits in our vehicles. When my son cuts his finger at the store, I know a single super hero Band-Aid can solve all of our woes and save the ears of fellow shoppers. At home, I also try to keep common medicines on hand (e.g., pain relievers, antihistamines, cough/cold medicines and stomach medicines).

A change of clothes

My kids are 7 and 4, but I still try to keep a change of clothes for them (and myself) at all times. I keep a bag with clothes in the car. I pack a bag for the smallest of outings. I don’t want our days derailed by a minor accident or spill. I don’t want to be stressed out when my kids trash what they are wearing two minutes into an outing. We all do better when there is backup outfit on hand.

Sunscreen and insect repellant

I keep travel-sized tubes in my purse. I keep full-size versions in our cars. Every time I pack a bag to go anywhere, sunblock and insect repellant go in it. I don’t want a day of fun to result in three days of suffering for my sunburned or chewed-up kids.

A sketchy frozen pizza

There are nights when I need an emergency dinner and don’t want the price tag associated with eating out. I keep one forbidden dinner item in the freezer at all times. Typically, I don’t let my kids eat standard prepared foods, so when I pull out the emergency dinner, they are glad to eat it. If a frozen pizza can save your day, why not let it?


Ziplocs are great at containing just about anything. Need an emergency garbage can for a tissue with bodily fluids on it? Check. Need a baggie for a tick you found on your dog or kid? Check. Need a place to stuff 30 dirty wipes into? Ziploc has your back. These little buggers are lifesavers.

Stomach bug helpers

I usually have sports drinks, applesauce, popsicles, noodle soup mix, microwave rice and frozen tube yogurts on hand. You never know when a nasty stomach bug is going to run through the house. The last thing I want to do when one hits is stuff the family into the car for a grocery store trip.

Gifts for teachers

I’m not talking about sassy mugs or whimsical desk plaques. I like to keep gift cards on hand. You never know when you will want to recognize someone special in your kid’s life, and I find pre-paid caffeine does the trick.