We are T-minus 4 days until we depart Denver and just a short week from leaving the States, and as our house continues to devolve into shanty status, our suitcases are still largely empty. I guess we’re waiting for some magical combination of sleeping children, energy, and a burst of insight into what it is, exactly, we should be packing into our 8 suitcases to start our new dolce vita.
Thus far, I’ve consistently outscored on the ‘purge’ column and failed to deliver much of anything into the ‘pack’ side of the equation. It did, however, feel monumentally important to spend $35 dollars at Hobby Lobby the week before Christmas on 3M command strips for hanging…I don’t know, pictures we don’t own yet? On the plaster walls of our foreign flat.
In addition to my healthy adhesive stockpile, I’ve also managed to amass a decent supply of Tide-to-go pens, Sharpies, prescriptions, pregnancy tests, and like a year’s worth of cosmetics and baby toiletries. Because my babies use toiletries. And because I’m a sucker for my best friend’s employee discount.
Meanwhile, I’ve been putting off the actual task of, you know, packing for a family of four to live overseas for an indefinite amount of time. I have suitcases lined up in the basement, and I have a decent idea of what to put into them as far as housewares (like 4 framed pictures and some tiny candleholders from Pottery Barn, since you didn’t ask), kitchen supplies (a garlic press and one spatula we love. Sad? Or super impressive? I can’t decide), toiletries, and adult clothing…but for the kids…oh, the children. What about the children?
The children, as it turns out, are something of a rarity in Rome. Italy has the lowest birthrate in all of Europe and the second lowest birthrate in the world, second only to Japan. In a weird and sad display of cultural irony, Italians are also borderline obsessed with babies. We’re talking grown men in 3 piece suits dropping to their knees on a filthy city bus to pinch your bello bambino’s cheeks and making kissing noises obsessed.
So while they aren’t having any of their own offspring, they will not hesitate to pour their hearts out in praise of yours. This has been uniformly true in our limited travels elsewhere in Italy, but seems especially true in Rome, which is admittedly a nice break from giving whiplash to the lady behind me in the Target checkout line when she asks if we’ll be ‘trying for a girl?’ wink, wink.
(Gee, I guess so. Do you have any tips? We seem to keep rolling ‘penis’ every time we play the game.)
Back to the bambino/a/s though. Since they’re an endangered species who require the utmost care and coddling, it is only fitting that their diapers should cost approximately one US dollar per dump, and their onesies retail for around $12 a pop. (Wish I were kidding, sadly I’m not.)
So aside from wild dreams of tandem potty training my Irish twins and abandoning layers as a dressing technique, I’ve made some serious efforts to beef up my stash of portable baby gear … and in the process, I’ve narrowed down what I believe are my true ‘can’t live without’ items for early child rearing.
Having recently sold our 8th stroller (3 of which were doubles), and all the nursery furniture I simply had to have when I was pregnant with Joseph, heir to the throne, I am now left with the following sundries* which will be making the leap across the pond with us.
- Double stroller: After months of intense research, some test-driving, and a failed Craigslist foray into Maclar-land, we settled on this pretty pony…and we couldn’t be happier. So far. We’ll see if we end up in some 4th floor walkup situation, at which point I will either be suffering severely expensive buyer’s remorse or at long last sporting Michelle Obama’s triceps. It’s heavy, but all doubles are heavy, and it pushes like a dream. Plus, my kids love punching eachother, and this bad boy has 16 different seating configurations to facilitate many different angles of assault. Seriously though, it’s the best single piece of baby gear I’ve ever purchased.
- Pack n play: after a hot debate, we’re decided on bringing uno, and letting little brother sleep on a pillow-lined mattress on the floor until we can get to Roman IKEA for a brand new baby cage for his very own. Our more than 2 year old still sleeps in a crib and has never tried to get out (please Jesus, let it continue to be so), so we’re planning on 2 cribs for as long as is legal.
- 2 stuffed animals each and a handful of well-made toys which they have proven to enjoy. (A Melissa and Doug garbage truck and a battery powered John Deere, if you must know.) Nothing larger than what will fit into a canvas storage cube from Target, which is now the toybox. And it.is.awesome. They’re already playing so much more creatively and doing more interaction (and yes, more fighting) now that their inventory has been drastically slashed.
- Winter and summer wardrobes for their current and next-up sizes. We plan on being home for a wedding next summer, so any real shopping will have to wait until then, unless I happen upon some glorious Italian equivalent of Goodwill.
- A digital forehead thermometer and Children’s Tylenol and Motrin. Will we be able to find these there? Probably. Do I prefer to spend my hard-earned Euros on wine? Definitely. (I read on one ex-pat mommy blog that baby advil was $12 a bottle and had a mini stroke.)
- My trusty Ergo Sport. I have a love/hate relationship with babywearing, but this thing comes in seriously handy for long flights, papal audiences, awkward networking events, and sightseeing in stroller unfriendly places. Plus, I can still strap Joey into it when need be.
- 4 spare pacifiers for each little mister. Just in case we can’t find their preferred brand abroad. I plan on taking children’s pacis away when someone is reaching out to put a diploma in their hands, for the record. And Joey only uses his while he is in his crib, so he won’t have much to discuss in therapy later.
- This completely amazing sound machine, which will probably start smoking and shooting out sparks as soon as I plug it into the janky Roman power grid, but whatever, I can’t bring myself to leave it behind.
- 2 sippies per boy, and a couple of cloth bibs
- The world’s best breast pump, batteries included. Just in case we meet and fall in love with a wonderful babysitter oooooor have a lengthy audience with the Pope someday.
- And last but not least, our current wonderful babysitter, plus a handful of DVDs for maintaining those critical bits of English vocab, the likes of which only Thomas, Dora, and George can provide.
And there you have it, folks. A comprehensive list of items necessary for the survival of yours truly + 2. Laugh now or laugh later, but I’m feeling strangely optimistic that we’ve got it aaaaaaaall figured out.
*(disclaimer: Since Dave’s company isn’t paying moving expenses beyond airfare and baggage fees, we are literally moving with 8 suitcases and a few carryon items. If we were shipping stuff, this list would look a little different)