Monday, May 28, 2012

Thank you, Legend of Korra

Let me start this entry by saying that if you haven't watched the animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, you are seriously missing out. It is just like Harry Potter in that it's a story with young characters, an epic plotline, a magic system you wish was real so bad, killer character development...and it's something everyone will love. If you don't believe me, maybe you'll believe Orson Scott Card, who wrote a lengthy review praising the series. It has lots of spoilers, so don't read it before watching the series, but here are some things he says about it:

"The complexity of the story is astonishing for any television series -- it is as involved and intertwined as the storyline of Lost, but without any of the confusion that marred that poorly planned if brilliantly executed series. Avatar: The Last Airbender is so well-conceived that even the digressions (with a few exceptions) are all woven into the intricate tapestry.

What sets Avatar apart from the run-of-the-mill fantasies is the characterization. Character is hardly the strong suit of animated film -- it's one of the things that set Pixar's movies apart from all others. Usually it's just nice vs. mean (it rarely rises to the level of "good vs. evil"), with each character having only one trait to distinguish him or her. Instead, most of Avatar's characters have a complicated story arc, learning and growing over time.

We did not watch the whole series in a row. For a while in the summer it was two episodes a night. Then, after long lapses because of travel, we watched the last seven episodes last Friday and Saturday. I was left ravaged by the experience, but also thrilled: The series exercised all my emotions, but also filled me with a sense of its rightness.

The benefit of its Nickelodeon origin is that it is completely watchable by families viewing together. Adults, you will not only stay awake, you will enjoy yourself and never once think that death might be better than watching one more moment (as many of us feel during Sponge Bob or other nauseating children's programming). It truly is a family bonding experience, and from then on will give you a shared culture. In-jokes from the series have already been cropping up within the family, and the moral dilemmas have led to serious discussion."

The point is: WATCH AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER. Watch it online. Buy it. Borrow it from a friend/the library. Get it on Netflix. Steal it. I don't care how you get it, but watch it. 

Now, for you lucky souls who will just now be watching Avatar, you won't have to wait a million years for the sequel series like Nick and I have. The Legend of Korra takes place about 70 years after the first series. It debuted just over a month ago, but Nick and I wanted to wait till he was completely done with school for the year before diving in to the episodes. This weekend, we finally started watching. 

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh. We only watched 2 episodes, but there are already so many things I love. 

The first Avatar series already had hardcore, fully-realized female characters. But this time, the title character is a young woman. I love her animation design. Korra is tall, visibly muscled. She's not white.  She has a full figure but is proportional and clearly super fit. By proportional, I mean that unlike 99% of animated females, she does not have ridiculously big boobs, or an impossibly slender torso, or a nauseatingly narrow waistline. Her hips in particular are wide for an animated female, which I think is GREAT. She just looks so womanly and so strong. It's absolutely wonderful. 

Obviously, I don't know Korra that well yet as we've only seen 2 episodes. So far, she seems funny, independent, and powerful, but with an intriguing sense of naivete. I like her, and I'm really excited to get to know her better. 

It was also exhilarating to see some of the other main characters. A family with three young children and a fourth one on the way? AWESOME! The two older daughters (Maybe 9 and 6 years old?) both seem like intelligent and interesting children, and the young brother is a realistically wild toddler. The mama seems happy and confident in her pregnancy. The father has a prominent career, but is very involved with his children and clearly loves his wife. It's so hard to find a functional family in fiction, especially with more than two kids. 

I could go on about the myriad things I'm already psyched out of my mind about--like the action, or the villain, or the steam-punk setting--but this will do for now. Creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko have an obvious talent for fresh, real characters. Nick and I can't wait to watch more today. 

And if you aren't yet immersed in this should be. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Thank you, hormone cocktail

It's strange approaching this second birth, because in some ways the nature of labor feels just as mysterious as it did the first time. Specifically, what the labor pain will be like. With complete honesty, I can say that I cannot remember what the pain was like before. I remember the tightening sensation of contractions. I remember the stretch I felt with pushing. I remember singing my way through every contraction, letting loose this one particular note that resonated with my body. And many sensations other than pain.

There are other mysteries as well, such as when/where I will know I'm in labor, and how long my labor will be. But flat-out forgetting the pain intrigues me the most. I can distinctly remember the pain of ripping an ice cube off my tongue when I was 9. I can definitely remember the aches and tenderness of early breastfeeding and labor recovery. So why can't I remember the pain of labor itself, if it's supposedly the "worst" pain I'll ever experience as a woman? I encountered this passage in Birthing From Within by Pam England. It shed a little light on my amnesia:

[Begin quote] "When the brain perceives pain (especially with the added stimulus of stress, endorphins are released. Endorphins...have a pain-relieving effect ten times more potent than morphine. They also are mood elevators (e.g., "runner's high"). As dilation progresses, the sensation of pain will increase. The more pain you have, the more endorphins are released to help you cope. The rising level of endorphins contributes to the shift from a thinking, rational mindset to a more primitive and instinctive one...Endorphins also can have a dramatic impact on how we remember our births. Having given birth with and without drugs, I was fascinated by how drugs affected my memory. Late into my first labor, I was given an epidural in preparation for my Cesarean. The endorphin haze lifted suddenly, much as if a curtain had been raised. I became absolutely aware of my surroundings; everything around me was in sharp focus again. My memories are still distinct; the clock on the wall, time passing, sterile blue drapes, glaring lights, medical conversation and the clanging of instruments. Years later my fear and loneliness associated with those moments remain vivid. Without the endorphin haze, memories are shaped and stored in a way that makes them more vivid when retrieved. After an epidural, external events seize the foreground of awareness (and later, memory), displacing the softer inner experience and emotions which would ordinarily be a part of protecting against lasting trauma." [End quote]

Sometimes, when I hear women who have only had epidurals talk about their births, I notice that descriptions of the pain seem to dominate. Their primary memory seems to be how much pain they were in, and how the epidural made the pain stop. But it also made the endorphins stop. And I wonder if they would remember the pain that way, if they would tell the story that way, if they'd gotten to experience the rising tide of love hormones that eventually drowns you in absolute triumph and joy when your baby is born and washes away any memory of pain at all.

Especially before my first birth, women who had been through a medicated labor seemed to think I was naive and/or crazy for confidently planning a natural birth. But it seems like maybe a labor with pain meds is like putting dry spices for a delicious curry in your mouth. Without those spices (labor pain) being mixed in with the entire recipe, eating them will be a horrible experience. You will vividly remember how awful it was to have them in your mouth, and how grateful you were for water (pain meds) to wash it down. Eating the spices out of context like that might even make you think that curry is a terrible food, and that anyone who wants to go through all the effort of preparing a whole curry dish is naive/crazy. The truth is, you can't make a judgment on curry when you've only put the raw spices in your mouth, and you can't tell a woman not to pursue natural birth when you haven't been there.

It's worth noting that in my analogy, pain is seen as a good thing in the context of the entire labor. After all, what would curry be without the spices? I definitely believe the pain of labor is important. It causes you to have deep concentration on the work at hand. Pain tells you to move and seek positions that lessen it. Those positions usually help your baby move more easily down the birth canal, progressing your labor. Pain tells you how and when to push your baby out. Pain serves a crucial purpose during labor--as do all of the endorphins that naturally accompany it.

I suppose this is partly on my mind because even though this is my second pregnancy, I still occasionally get treated like I don't know what I'm getting in to. And since my memory of labor and delivery is a blissful haze, maybe I don't know what I'm getting in to. The sense of mystery is so palpable, just like the first time. But the one thing I know for absolute certain this time is that whatever labor is and however the pain feels, I know I can do it. I was confident before, but now I know. And knowing is half the battle.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Please, anti-maternity-skirt conspirators

I am 100% convinced that there is a conspiracy against manufacturing maternity skirts. The weather is getting warmer, this is my second pregnancy in which the 3rd trimester and the summer coincide, and I would be happy to wear skirts all day every day. Dresses are good, too, but I'm still nursing so...not always the most practical option.

In the past couple weeks, I have scoured the shopping options of Charlottesville. There are no maternity skirts anywhere. We wasted precious time during our weekend home trying to find skirts. NO SKIRTS. Especially not casual/comfy ones. And especially not affordable ones.

There was one skirt I really liked at Motherhood Maternity, but of course it was a gazillion dollars. I hate Motherhood Maternity. Not only does it have a stupid name, it has stupid stupid prices and often stupid stupid stupid clothes. Last time I was there, (I don't know why I even go, because it's a one in a billion chance that I'll actually buy anything) there was this horribly ugly pair of camo pattern capris. Are pregnant women trying to hide in the jungle now? Who on earth would think, "Gee, I have this humongous belly...I could REALLY go for some camo pants!"

I wouldn't be shopping so much when I'm 33 weeks except I'm in a bit of a bind. I currently have one maternity skirt from my last pregnancy (the conspiracy existed then too!). Last pregnancy, I got by wearing lots of dresses and Toms in the final weeks. But I have a very active toddler to chase and haul, and Toms just don't cut it. When I go out, I've got to wear some shoes with legit support. And I happen to think supportive shoes, even if they're cute, look kinda dumb with a dress. With a, passable.

With shorts, even better. But if maternity shorts actually fit my legs, then that under-belly band is way too tight when I'm this far along. I can't comfortably wear any of my shorts anymore. There's some capris out there, but they either have the same tightness problem or the stretchy, almost-to-the-chest secret fit things. Who wants that much of an extra layer when baby may rapidly be approaching 9 pounds?

If I could become a very benign and short-lived dictator, I would mandate that all stores selling maternity clothes design practical, flattering, and comfortable skirts for very pregnant women ASAP.

I literally have one practical skirt to wear on a day-to-day basis right now. Finally, I went to Kohl's this morning, where I usually never go. There was one skirt in the maternity section. It was a good price, a cute pattern, and very comfy. So, make that two skirts. Sigh.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Please, power-hungry personnel

I thought that writing one blog entry about government/medical child stealing would be enough, that I would be able to get my anger and anxiety out of my system. But I was wrong. These nightmares continue to happen, and I continue to be horrified.

Most recently, I read about a doctor, a doctor, who had CPS called on him because he and his wife wanted more natural treatment for their newborn baby--such as a VBAC, waiting to bathe the baby, and not having a Vitamin K shot.

And I was gratified to read that Pennsylvania parents Jodi and Scott Ferris are suing after their newborn baby girl was temporarily stolen from them because of lying medical personnel and an aggressive social worker. Good for them!

All babies do not need to be born in a hospital. I would absolutely love to have a home birth, but it's just not monetarily in the cards with this pregnancy or the last. Luke was born in hospital, and the labor and delivery were great. Nobody bullied me about an IV or epidural or laboring a certain way, and Nick and I had an awesome experience. I thought that we were informed enough about newborn hospital procedures to know what we wanted and what we didn't want. For instance, we knew we didn't want the Vitamin K shot, the eye goop, or the Hep B vaccine. We were very lucky that those omissions were met with no argument. However, the staff told us that because Luke was a big baby (9lb 1oz.), he was at risk of low blood sugar, and they had to take blood every few hours and make sure he was doing okay. Nick and I had never heard of this happening. We didn't know anything about it, and we were perhaps a bit gullible with exhaustion. So, we consented to them torturously taking Luke's blood. Every few hours, we listened to our precious newborn baby scream in pain and fear, thinking that we had no choice and that at least it was happening for some medically necessary reason. When we wanted to leave within 24 hours of the birth, we were harassed by both pediatrician and nurses--they wanted to keep him around and keep testing his blood sugar, even though not a single test had ever indicated even slightly low blood sugar. We got out of there and back to our apartment, where my mom had already flown in from Virginia and was waiting.

So close. I read stories, and I look back on our experience, and I realize we were so close to having a social worker up in our business, flinging accusations and spiriting our child away.

And we'll continue to be close, because I will continue to make natural, healthy, and only medically necessary choices for my child. I will not make choices for my child so the hospital can cover their butts and not get sued. I will not vaccinate my child for Hep B so that vaccine makers can make a buck off my baby, since they never made money trying to make adults get vax'd. I will not linger in the hospital, letting them continue to torture my child for no reason.

And that's one huge sting about our newborn experience with Luke. As we've found out more and more, we've discovered that there was no reason for them to constantly check his blood sugar like that.  I had a completely natural birth, he was nursing and digesting well, he passed all his meconium effectively, and there were never any physical indicators of him having low blood sugar. And as I mentioned, his blood sugar was always perfect when they tested. So now I look back on those sad memories of his distress and I know that it was all just pointless procedure. Frivolous testing with no facts to back it up. But despite how unnecessary it was, if we'd had a more power-hungry pediatrician at the hospital, Luke could have ended up in the arms of a stranger in his first days after birth, instead of at home cuddling with his parents and grandma.

Even though I know the hospital I'm going to for baby girl is natural-birth friendly, and even though I've only heard great things about it, I am still terrified of getting some jerk, anti-natural nurse who wants to make my life hell because I make her do things a little differently. Obviously not terrified to the point of mindlessly giving in to all their stupid ceremony, but still. The only upside of reading all these horrible stories is feeling just a little bit more prepared to deal with a situation like this should it ever arise.

You have to fight

for your right

to paaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrent.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Thank you, Mama-in-law

Last Mother's Day, I wrote about my mom and her influence over my feelings about natural birth. Since I'm married, I have the blessing of another mom in my life.

The #1 most generous person I know is my mother-in-law, Cathleen. I would argue that she's the most generous woman who's ever lived. I can think of nothing that Cathleen would not give for her loved ones or someone in need. Space in her home, food from her pantry, a ride in her car, money from her checking account, sleep from her few true hours of rest. She will drive or fly as much as she needs to in order to physically be there with a loved one. And in Cathleen's world, "loved one" goes so far beyond the boundaries of blood. It goes beyond the boundaries of friends, or neighbors, or coworkers, or even fellow Americans. Anywhere in the world that Cathleen finds need, those needs become her own. They become her personal responsibility. And if she has anything to say about it, those needs will be met.

Sometimes, expansiveness and generosity come paired with endearing but possibly difficult traits--like lots of loving but unsolicited advice, or maybe animated but also dominated conversations. But my mother-in-law is unique. Cathleen somehow manages to be both a glowing hostess and a courteous guest. She is organized and certainly can take charge of things, but she never seeks someone else's spotlight. Some powerful extroverts like her are talkative to a fault, but Cathleen is a stunning conversationalist. People of all ages and backgrounds seek her out just to talk, because she actually knows how to listen. Despite everything she has going on in her life, she remembers people's specific concerns, and she never fails to follow up on them.

Cathleen is deep-thinking and savvy. Though her wisdom overflows, she never douses people with it when they didn't even want a sip. She is like a talented bartender, fixing and mixing just the right advice for anyone who approaches her. Whether you're looking for a scotch on the rocks approach to dominating in law school, or a strawberry daiquiri method for reaching out to a friend, she gladly serves it up. And most of the time, she knows the drinks people need before they do.

Now, if you want an actual drink and not a figurative one, you won't be getting any alcohol from Cathleen--she is LDS, after all. But you wouldn't miss it. When this woman sets out to cook, delicious things flow from her kitchen. I always eat very well at a Peterson feast. And so do all of the people she invites. Picking out furniture for her home, Cathleen chose an exceptionally large dining room table. I wonder if she knew how many hundreds of people would sit around that table over the years, eating, laughing, and feeling loved.

Of course, I am a little biased when I praise Cathleen. I see her goodness every day in my husband. I see her unfailing diligence when Nick sinks hours upon hours into law school. I see her dedication to family when Nick takes time every night to read scriptures with me and Luke. And when Nick has a gentle word for everyone, a heart full of forgiveness, and a smile on his face no matter what, I see her--generous, joyful, Christ-like Cathleen.

This is the second in my series about my awesome in-laws. I love them. The first was about Clara

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Thank you, Jenna Fischer and Brio Moms

If you haven't noticed, I just have a thing with little connectitudes (see HIMYM) on my Facebook newsfeed. Just now, a friend posted this lovely article where Jenna Fischer (Pam on The Office) speaks out against the freakishly fast birth-to-bikini transition famous mommies often make. And at the very same time, the Brio Birth FB page posted the question, "How did you make peace with your new mom body?"

What a fun little coincidence! Fun, and helpful for dealing with the background anxiety I've been feeling for weeks over this little number. Wheeewww. Okay. Not all women think their bodies have been "ruined" by having a baby and/or breastfeeding. Not all women think they have to surgically alter themselves to be happy with their bodies. I was beginning to fear the onset of Scott Westerfeld's Uglies dystopia.

So, in addition to Jenna's wise words, (especially about how breastfeeding does NOT automatically slim you down! Though over time, it definitely does help), here are some of my favorite comments from the Brio Birth thread. Names excluded for privacy, and pardon any swears or grammar mistakes:

Looked at my kids! There better then a perfect body!

I figured if I couldnt do anything about my belly/stretch marks I could invest in other parts of my body (getting me hair done, whitening my teeth, etc.). lol. but honesty the website helped me out a lot. :) there are a lot of mommas out there who have bellies just like ours. ;)

When I got frustrated with my new roundness (that just would not go away) I would try to remember to be grateful - be grateful that my body could make a baby. So many of my friends struggled with infertility that a few extra pounds is a small price to pay for my beautiful bundle of love. Soon enough the roundness went away, the stretch marks faded and the babies are growing up.

 It is what it is and no amount of wishing will make my stomach flat and stretch-mark free ever again... however, my body is very functional if not conventionally beautiful and I'm currently training for my first 5K.

 I've decided to practice the fine art of not giving a f***! I might have a striped tummy with loose skin but I'm not going to be ashamed of it. Instead of hiding in an uncomfortable one-piece (I have a long torso so they're all automatic wedgie machines!) I got a two piece this year. It's striped with whales on it! Might as well have fun with it :D

I work out and remind myself it was worth it

I got 'lucky', I suppose, and look exactly the same after as I did before... but with a c-scar to remind me of what I still think of as failure, but with less self-hatred now. I ignored it for a year, wanted to claw it out of my body for 10 months, and am slowly coming to terms with it now at 2 years. Oddly, an after-shower ritual of forcing myself to massage some C-Mama Salve from EMAB into it has helped. It's part of me... I had to start treating it like part of me.

My kids gave me the personal incentive to get healthy and REALLY take care of myself so that I could take care of them - I'm in better shape now than before my two pregnancies. Your body is your body and it changes from age 16 to age 30, 40, 50 - (and of course after each pregnancy). Getting fit and eating healthy is a true gift to yourself AND your family.

My hubby proves regularly that he is at peace with it, so why shouldn't I be:)

I realized that i went through a huge emotional, spiritual etc transition when i became a mother. In many ways, i am a different person. Less selfish, more humble, less worried about fashion trends or career aspirations; more worried about how to soak up every precious moment with my children. Why shouldn't my body show the mark of this transition from maiden to mother? In fact, i would ne saddened if it showed no mark of it. I did something amazing: I gave birth to new life and I nurtured two children with my milk. Nothing is wrong with my body. In fact, the thing that is wrong isn't me; it is our culture's fascination with youth. I have no interest in staying young forever. Youth may mean beauty to our culture on some superficial level, but it also means stunted internal growth.

Beautiful stuff, truly, enough to remind any mama that she's a stinkin' babe and that there's way more to function and sexiness than just...looking like you're 14. Don't get me wrong--fitness is super important, as I've written about before a couple different times. I really agree with the one mom--being pregnant and having Luke has made me more proactive about health and fitness than I've ever been in my life. In fact, I was looking at some pictures of pre-marriage me the other day and thought, "Wow, I'm way more toned now and I'm 8 months pregnant!" But I lift weights so I'm strong enough to rock my babies to sleep in my arms. I do cardio so I have stamina when I play with Luke outside. I work my legs in case I want to push and deliver baby girl in a squatting position. It feels so good to exercise, and I liked wearing most of my favorite pre-baby clothes for a while between pregnancies.

But I say most because despite all of my exercise, healthy eating, and breastfeeding, my body was still different. There are still clothes--like all of my Threadless shirts--that just didn't look good anymore, because even though I may have been back to my same size, I was a different shape. And while I don't wear bikinis as a matter of modesty, I still see my stretch marks every day, and Nick sees them too. And I know he sees them as part of me bearing his children. And what on earth could be more attractive than that?

Thank you, Contagion

So way back in September, my bestie Christine and her man went to see Contagion. They told us all about it over a dinner, and just hearing about it was scary enough. But then a couple months ago, we finally watched it ourselves. "Geez," I thought. "I'm glad we at least have our 72-hour kits together..."

And yesterday, my friend Clarissa's Facebook status read: "Just watched Contagion. Will buy a years supply of food storage in the morning." A bunch of people liked it, and also commented saying they thought the same thing, and had even purchased emergency supplies solely because of the movie.

That's pretty cool.

The LDS church is really big on emergency preparedness. Every congregation has emergency preparedness specialists, every household is instructed to have at least a 3-month supply of food and water, and every individual member (even babies) is supposed to have a 72-hour emergency kit. But even though we get lessons on it all the time, many many Mormons do not have food storage or emergency kits. Nick and I didn't get ours together until we were asked to be emergency preparedness specialists. I have no idea what percentage of Mormons are prepared for emergencies, and I certainly don't know what percentage of the general population could sustain themselves if all hell broke loose.

What I do know is, Contagion is a really great movie, and I'm seriously impressed by how it makes people act about emergency prep. At least in some cases, it seems to accomplish in 2 hours what my church tries to accomplish all the time in lessons, and what the government tries to accomplish with...a website.

I think what makes Contagion effective is not just Matt Damon, or even Kate Winslet, or even Marion Cotillard. It's how simple and inglorious it is. There's no big, dramatic solution. Matt Damon doesn't get in crazy fights, or save the day. There is lots of fear, and lots of death, and that's just kind of how it is. Everyone in the movie is pretty powerless, and has to just deal with what comes. But what comes is scary. And if you did happen to have a food supply, or emergency kits, you might be able to deal with it better.

You can't do anything to gain more control or more power once an emergency strikes. But when your life is good, when everything is just going along like normal, that's when you can change and possibly save your life in an emergency. It's like some sort of time travel movie, where the future you--the you in an emergency--comes back in time and saves the present you!

I think an easy place to start is a 72-hour kit. Everyone should have a 72-hour kit. Whether you live at home with your parents, in a dorm or apartment, with your significant other, or with your own small children, every single person you live with should have their own. In fact, having Luke really pushed Nick and I to get our emergency act together, and we're already building one for our unborn baby girl. It's easy to ignore your own potential needs, but how horrible would you feel if you couldn't protect or provide for your children in an emergency, all because you just...never got around to preparing?

When Nick and I were emergency specialists, we broke the 72-hour kit list up into groups, and every couple weeks announced that everyone should now be working on Group X. If you wanted to and if your budget allows, you could of course buy all of these things right now. But for most people, spreading out the purchases is a little easier. Also, there are pre-made emergency kits that you can buy, but you'd have to shop thoroughly to make sure it's what you wanted. I like the idea of personalized kits. Here's our list--obviously, there could be more items, but this is a good place to start. I encourage everyone to take this seriously, and to buy your umbrella before the rain, so to speak. Personally, since seeing Contagion, I've been buying extra food every time I shop. We'll get to a 3-month supply sometime soon.

72-Hour Kit Essentials

Group 1—Personal Items
  • Backpack, tote, or messenger bag
  • Copies of important documents (Photo ID, birth/marriage certificates, insurance policies, credit/debit cards, wills, passports, patriarchal blessings)
  • Recent family photo
  • Scriptures (mini ones)
  • $50 cash per pack
  • Emergency contact information

Group 2—Food and Water
  • 2 liters of water (3-4 20oz bottles)
  • Pack of water purification tablets
  • 9 meals, or 2000 calories of nonperishable food per day for adults, 1000 for children; formula needs different for each baby
  • Protein Ideas: Nuts/trail mix, canned beans or chili, small jar of nut butter, ready-made tuna lunch kit, summer sausage or pepperoni
  • Carb Ideas: Cereal, granola bars, cereal bars, whole grain crackers or tortilla chips
  • Fruit/Veggie Ideas: Fruit leather, dried fruits, vegetable soups, raisins, fruit&grain bars, preserves
  • Other: powered milk, juice boxes, cookies, hard candies
  • All-in-one utensil
  • Optional: Small, light mess kit

Group 3—First Aid and Medicine
  • 3-day supply of any prescriptions
  • Basic first-aid guide printout
  • Bandages: adhesive strips, sterile gauze rolls, bandanas
  • Adhesive tape
  • Tweezers, scissors
  • Medical mask, latex gloves
  • Antibacterial ointment, hand sanitizer, antiseptic wipes
  • Benadryl, Ibuprofen, Tylenol
  • Women’s sanitary pads and tampons (these are good for wounds and first aid, so include them in everyone's kit, not just women's)
  • Cotton balls or pads
  • Sunscreen, insect spray

Group 4—Clothing and Toiletries
  • 1 full change of comfortable clothes: long pants, long sleeve shirt, underwear, socks
  • Travel size toiletries
  • Eyeglasses or extra contacts
  • Diapers and wipes
  • Poncho, light jacket, hat, light gloves

Group 5—Equipment
  • Light, durable blanket (compact, reflective emergency blankets work well)
  • LCD flashlight and extra batteries or a wind-up flashlight
  • Pocket knife
  • Matches in waterproof container
  • Light, basic can opener
  • Whistle
  • Small sewing kit
  • Notebook and pen/pencil
  • 3-5 bandanas
  • Miniature games, small songbook (may seem frivolous, but could really help people calm down in an emergency situation)
  • Toilet paper
  • 3-5 large garbage bags
  • Resealable plastic bags
  • Cotton, cloth, or twine-based rope

  • Update kit every 6 months (for Mormons--every General Conference!). Check food, personal documents and family photo, and sizing of clothes and diapers
  • Keep it somewhere easily accessible, not tucked away in a basement.
  • Even if children couldn't use items like a sewing kit or pocket knife, include them in the child's kit anyway. Think of them as for the children's needs.
  • Make everything as compact and light as possible (remove tube from toilet paper, pack only the bag of cereal, etc). All of these items can fit in a backpack.
  • Include foods you’d eat anyway. When you update your kit, rotate food that's about to expire into your pantry, and eat it as lunches/snacks for a couple weeks.
  • Be aware of foods that will “flavor” other foods with their scent (gum or strong-smelling mints, some beef jerky). Avoid, or pack in a separate compartment. Strong-smelling toiletries can also "flavor" your food.
  • Avoid foods that might easily burst or leak, such as pop-top cans, mini apple-sauce or fruit-cups.
  • Strive for low-sodium soups, crackers, and chips. High sodium can increase thirst and dehydration.
  • Buy foods with the longest shelf life possible to maximize their value.
  • Be aware of the weight of your kit; don’t make it unbearably heavy. You should be able to sling it on your back and run, if need be.