What’s in our Bag?: the Year of Two Backpacks

PD just came home from his grandmother’s house with an adorable galaxy backpack; his initials embossed on the front of the bag in bright orange. He’s grown quite a bit, and is definitely big enough to carry his own bag.

It’s bittersweet, preparing his own backpack for daycare. More sweet than bitter, I must admit, but it’s just another reminder that my sweet baby isn’t a baby anymore. Up until this point, my backpack just accommodated both of our needs. Come to think of it, I hadn’t even considered them separate until recently (his needs translated into my need to take care of him; another sign of his maturing). It’s been pretty convenient having a pack of wipes tucked in the front pocket of my bag for both of us, and a few laughs have been provided the times I’ve accidentally pulled a toy or a tiny pair of pants out of my bag in the middle of a group meeting or while fishing for something deep in my bag while in class.

I guess there was a point when PD had his own bag before. When he was a baby, he had a diaper bag backpack that was full of nothing but items for him: receiving blankets, soft blankets, bottles, jars of breast milk, formula, bottled water, diapers, diapers, diapers… but eventually he started to need fewer items and we were able to conjoin bags. Until he started doing things without me more and more, I suppose. It’ll make trips to the grandparents easier, not to mention after-school shopping trips on the way home that may pop up. Having all of his things in my bag, while making for my own convenience on campus, did not make quick stops any easier.

So, with some sadness, but mostly optimism, I’ve prepared our bags separately. First, I’ll show you what our bags look like now, then list what my ideal bag was when I had to cram it all into one bag. Let me tell you, it’s not easy fitting your whole life into one college backpack, but it sure does work when you have a little one who requires too little for their own bag, but still has plenty of things to lug around for their basic care. For all of you mothers out there moving to the one-bag part of parenthood, I feel for you.


  1. An iPad and/or notebook to keep your notes in for class. I usually keep all of my notes on my iPad, but I have a professor who won’t let us use any technology in class without a doctor’s note, so I have to carry both. No worries: it gives me something to be more creative in.
  2. Textbooks for the day that I need them. Sometimes, if I have planned study time and know I’m behind in a course or it requires a little more attention, I’ll pack for other classes, but I usually try to keep it pretty light.
  3. A standard-sized folder for my syllabi and any other handouts I may get in class. I don’t get enough handouts, nor am I willing to spend the money to be organized in a binder the way that I like to be, but if you have a class that you know has a lot of papers and you have the patience, this could be a binder or series of binders.
  4. Study tools are always handy to keep on hand. You never know when you’ll get a sick professor and end up with an extra hour to do a quick study session!
  5. Highlighting tools are my life! I use them to decorate and to note important quotes in my textbooks (most bookstores will buy back lightly highlighted books, if the highlighter is yellow).
  6. Colored pens that are strictly for decorating and highlighting important words in studying. I find them helpful, and will pull one out for all of my lectures and study notes, but they can get a bit distracting if you’re someone who likes to draw. Still, I find them helpful and a real necessity.
  7. Black pens.
  8. A travel first-aid kit that includes headache medication and a pair of tweezers. The headache meds for my sleepy and/or stress-headaches and the tweezers to console my irrational fear of splinters and bug stings.
  9. Water flavoring packets. They aren’t necessity for most bags, but the water in Warrensburg makes these a requirement if I plan to stay hydrated.
  10. Moisturizing items to stay moisturized on extra hot days, while still smelling sweet. I’m a little over the japanese cherry blossom, but I don’t use up perfumed lotions very quickly, so I’m still working to get through this container.
  11. Decorating tools for when I’m studying and want to make my notes look extra good. A quick strip of washi or an accentuation tab really make a page come alive!


  1. Easy-grip crayons are nested so cutely and conveniently in the front of his bag for whenever he wants to color and needs a little color. He’s still getting used to coloring, so the easy-grip make it easier for him to still make that adjustment to writing.
  2. Snacks are just as important as diapers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to make the decision between leaving a store, spending money I don’t really have or dealing with nasty looks when a hangry meltdown happens and I don’t have a snack. We keep goldfish or graham crackers on hand at ALL times!
  3. I picked up some super cheap flash cards to do with him in case we ever get stuck somewhere with some time to kill. PD can identify his upper-case letters pretty well and can verbally count to twenty, but I figure it doesn’t hurt to start looking at lower-case letters and what numbers look like too.
  4. See number two for why a sippy-cup is so important. I usually always have a water bottle with me, but I’ve sacrificed my own thirst way too many times to make the mistake of not having a cup full of fresh water for him available at all times.
  5. Books, books, books! I’m an English Literature major, and a writer. We take reading very seriously, and never pass up a chance to read or listen to a good book!
  6. A coloring book to use all of those pretty crayons in! This one just so happens to have a special marker with it so that he can color on the page and not my car.
  7. Any time we don’t have a change of clothes, we always end up needing them. They seem to be more of a good-luck charm than a precaution factor, but we carry them all the same.
  8. Diapers and wipes, because Heaven forbid you ever forget those! Especially if a blowout happens!
  9. My son is a clean-freak (got that from his dad for sure), so we have to keep Wet Wipes, or something to clean up with on hand. If we don’t have Wet Wipes, we’ll use a butt wipe, but we just so happened to be prepared today.


Our bags haven’t changed too much lately, besides the major split. I’d say the bag has looked like this for about a year. The major difference was when he started eating what we ate. I made his baby food, and before that I mostly breast-fed. When he was eating baby food, I would have to pack heavy jars of food (because I didn’t know about these baby food jars, and I refused to use plastic at the time because of the BPA scare) with at least one heavy glass bottle that was prepped with formula. I also had to carry around a bottle of distilled water for the bottle. I kept a receiving blanket in the bag up until he was a little over a year old, and the amount of diapers we carried was triple what we carry now. I needed a lot of space for his stuff and my own, but I made it work. It was extra helpful that his grandfather watched him before he turned one (because of the baby-food. No daycare would allow me to make and bring his food. I was ultra picky about his eating when he was a baby) so we could load and unload pretty easily.

When I did have to share his things and my things, like books and notebooks, I just downsized my needs. That’s really why I have so few school supplies now. I started using my iPad to drastically cut down on the notebook and binder room needed, cut down on the amount of books I carried in my bag (I used to carry them all!) and switched from a binder to a folder. My books take up about two to three inches of space, which allowed me to jam-pack his needs around mine. It took some effort and a lot of patience, but I eventually found a solution that worked well for us, and I couldn’t be happier to have found a way around such a big hassle. Now that I have a big bag all to myself, I wonder if my things will start to get bigger, or if my bag will get smaller. The tiny backpacks are in style, and they are pretty cute. I guess we’ll just have to see!


Hopefully you found this list helpful in preparing your own bag for school. Are you using one bag or two? If you have an older kid, how does the bag change as they go from toddler to child? Let me know in the comments below!

Have a relaxing weekend,



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