1Make list of everything to be brought and packed. (Remember that weekend at the far-flung cottage when you discovered at 3 a.m. that you'd forgotten the extra diapers? The time you faced motel bedtime without a pacifier?)
• suitcase for each person, containing at least two complete changes of clothing for each day (baby gets two suitcases, four changes of clothing)
• portable crib (with two complete sets of bedding)
• suitcase for toiletries and pharmaceuticals, including special creams for all things dermal, as well as antidotes for all known pediatric poisons
• snack bag with judicious variety of kid's favorite foods, both treat-y and healthy
• stroller, bouncy seat, booster seat, car seat, other random furniture
• at least 25 books for child plus equal number
of CDs, DVDs, and toys, half of them brand-new for maximum distraction value
3 Note that you could forget everything else as long as you brought along Nunkey, child's smelly, torn, loved-to-pieces, once-blue-now-gray stuffed monkey.
4 Start process of corralling all goods to be packed in holding area, i.e., dining room.
5 Four nights before leaving, pack basic clothing -- socks, underwear, T-shirts, extra pair of shoes.
6 Panic at being only semi-packed.
7 Calm self by remembering that all material things are transient and ultimately unimportant. Except Nunkey.
8 Enter holding area to discover child has secretly consumed all treat-y contents of snack bag.
9 Restock bag; lock in trunk of car.
10 The night before leaving, finally pack for real, laying complete outfits for each person on bed, checking off clothing for each anticipated activity or event. Swimsuits? Check. Dress for dinner out? Check. Rain gear? Check. You are so on top of this!
11 Zip, snap, buckle, tape, and lock closed all bags, and place next to front door.
12 Humming vacation-y tunes, calmly transfer contents of purse to cute new straw bag you got at that sale, remembering plane tickets, gum for the plane, even new high-SPF lip balm.
13 Tiptoe into child's room to sneak Nunkey out to suitcases, but even you and spouse together, standing on child's bed and pulling with all your might, can't wrest Nunkey from child's grip.
14 Leave Nunkey for now, but tie thick magenta ribbon tightly around wrist to remind self to get Nunkey in morning.
15 Tape note to door: Remember Nunkey!
16 Call self on cell phone and leave message: Whatever you do, don't forget Nunkey!
17 Wake up early and think of Nunkey first thing. Hah -- you remembered!
18 Creep into child's room, slip monkey out of child's sweet little hands and quickly stuff into purse so he won't be forgotten.
19 Arrive, at last, at destination! All family members and bags intact and accounted for!
20 Dash to pool for quick dip, giggle tiredly together through quick dinner, sleepy stories, cheerful toothbrushing.
21 Smiling, and relaxed for the first time in a week, kiss child good night and turn off lights.
22 Deny the sound, at first, but then, stomach sinking, hear it for what it is: "Nunkey! N-u-u-u-unkeyyyy! Where's my Nunkey?"
23 Remember exactly where Nunkey is: safe in your purse. Where you tucked him. In your cute new straw bag, which you brought? No. In your purse. At home.
Contributing editor Pamela Redmond Satran's new novel, The Home for Wayward Supermodels, published by Downtown Press, comes out this month.