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February 28, 2010

Requiem for a label maker

2010.02 label maker First it jammed, but I was able to fix it. Then it jammed, but I was able to hack it. Then one day the lovely husband uttered the most distressing words to me: "I think the label maker is dead."

I do not weep for an electronic life cut short; our oldest child is 4 years old, so the little machine must have lived nearly 4 years itself. It was a respectable life span for a $29 impulse purchase. And yet, that impulse purchase changed our outlook on household organization. It changed our whole world.

First we labeled baby bottles when our first daughter entered daycare. Bottles needed two labels each: one for the bottle itself, and one for the cap. Then, as she started on solid foods, we had bowls to label, as well as corresponding lids. She nurtured a pacifier addiction but her Nuk paci looked like three other kids' Nuks, so I printed her name with my trusty label maker, cut off all the white margins with scissors, and stuck a tiny name label on the bridge of her pacifier in the little space between silicone nipple and plastic handle.

She outgrew bottles and I labeled milk cups. She carried her food to and fro in a little backpack and I wrapped a label around its zipper tag. Meanwhile, we employed our labeler liberally throughout our home, as well. I labeled toy bins and seasonal storage bins and the giveaway bags we leave on the front porch for pickup by the National Childrens Center. Our second daughter was born, and once again I labeled bottles and pacifiers. And then once again I labeled school bags and milk cups. I learned to use our last name instead of their first names. There are life lessons in labeling.

It's little exaggeration to say the label maker has been an indispensible member of our family. It never even acquired a permanent storage spot; it simply tucks behind the phone and the blender on the kitchen counter, by the plug we use for charging our cell phones. It's been so much more than an appliance, but how does one characterize such an invaluable companion? Personal organizer? Life coach?

This is a serious question: what do you do when your life coach passes away?

We'd been coping, tiptoeing around the gaping void in our lives, waiting a respectable length of time to discuss replacement (we are decent people, I promise), when all sorts of chaos broke in our household. First there were the DC snowstorms. And then, just when we thought it would never happen, I gave birth to our third child.

In the first post-partum days the lovely husband drove the girls to preschool while I stayed home with the baby. He came home one day and commented that he hoped they'd get their lunches. We'd bought them new bowls but without a label maker his plan to Sharpie their names on their bowls when he unpacked at school wasn't sufficient. In our sleep-deprived state, he carried a Sharpie to preschool and back in his pocket. He never uncapped it. I still don't know if they ate that day.

The baby is almost two weeks old now, which means my husband is about to finish his paternity leave and return to his office. So I've planned a little field trip for myself tomorrow afternoon. It might be the last time for a very long time that I go anywhere entirely by myself.

I'm going to Target. And the first item on my shopping list is a label maker.

This is an original DC Metro Moms Blog post.

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