The days leading up to a feis can be stressful. There is a lot of preparation and planning that goes into getting ready to compete on feis day.

In my house, my Irish dancing son is preparing. He is practicing like crazy- stretching, running through steps, working on stamina, and doing drills. The rhythmic percussion of feet on floors and the Irish dance music playing from speakers are norms in most houses with Irish dancers, but getting ready for competitions can up the volume. Our house is no different. You can often walk past my house and hear the music even from the sidewalk. I wonder if one can see the walls shake a bit as he practices his hard-shoe steps.

Along with what my son is doing on his end of things, I also am busy on my end. Costumes need regular upkeep. I am Making sure things are pressed and hung up, checking the length of the ever-shrinking, black, dress pants on the ever-growing boy, re-attaching errant crystals on the vest and tie, and making sure there is a matched pair of black trouser socks- and a spare at the ready. Along with costume responsibilities, I also print out stage schedules and maps to the feis venue and make sure hubby/Dad polishes the shoes and places them in the back of the car on newspaper and gasses up the car. One of the big things on my feis "to-do list" is to pack and check the feis bag.

The feis bag??

Yes, I believe that nearly every single mom of an Irish dancing child has a feis bag. If they don't they either should get one, or they have a way better solution than the majority of us. For me and many mommas, the feis bag is absolutely essential.

What is a "feis bag"?

The actual feis bag can vary depending on the mom. I've seen everything from duffel bags, rolling small suitcases, backpacks, fashionable purse-like bags, and market- type bags. They are filled with all of the essentials or emergency needs for a day at a feis (Irish dance competition).

What's in a feis bag?

The amazing moms from the Moms to Reel Boys group and I came up with this great and very complete list of what we put in ours.

To start, get a box of gallon-sized, clear, zip-lock type bags. I find that these clear bags are a great help in organizing a feis bag. That way, in a small amount of time, even the smallest of items can be found. All of these bags then go into the main larger feis bag.

In the first clear bag (costume fixes and competitor numbers):

1. Safety pins (for costume fixes and competition numbers)
2. Scissors, needle and thread
3. Glue for crystals- E6000 is the favorite ( this should be in a sealed sandwich bag)
4. Little container of extra crystals to replace errant crystals
5. I include a few of those Shout stain wipes or one of those instant stain-removal pens

In the second bag (First Aid):

1. Bandaids
2. Headache remedy- aspirin, Ibuprofin, etc
3. Bach Rescue Remedy-- this was recommend by at least 4 mommas including myself! I like
the spray best. Great for mom or child as a natural stress relief.
4. Any other medications you or your child needs
5. Blister bandaids
6. Small first-aid kit-- you never know when someone will need it.
7. Other items moms listed were- self-stick compression bandages and instant cold packs

In a third bag (Shoe care and socks- some of these things, will be in child's shoe bag):

1. Extra elastic bands for shoes (boys wear bands to keep their shoes tight on their feet when they do front clicks, etc- they also help to provide a tighter fit to the foot)
2. Duct tape/gaffers tape (for traction on slippery stages)
3. Electrical tape (same as the above use, but also can be used in a pinch if an elastic band, shoe strap, or shoelace breaks)
4. Shoe shine kit (This was is an optional thing, but handy. For quick touch-ups of worn fiberglass tips on shoes, a black permanent Sharpie works)
5. An extra pair of black trouser socks
6. Extra set of shoelaces- they break when you least expect them to!
7. Sock glue- this is also called Body Stays (comes in a roll-on applicator that looks a bit like a deodorant-- don't confuse them!! LOL) *Sock glue is MESSY- make sure it is in its own sealed bag. Some boys use this to keep up their socks. Some don't. I'll discuss sock glue in a post about costumes at another time. :)

In a fourth bag (personal care items):

1. Hair gel and/or hair spray
2. DEODORANT! I can not tell you how many times I've found that my son has forgotten this.
3. Wipes for hands and messy faces (for the little guys) Also great for the older boys if they look sweaty after dancing.
4. Brush

Last bag or in a separate area of the feis bag- Snacks!

*Now this is going to vary for each kiddo-- it's amazing just in the moms who contributed to this list how many dietary needs, food allergies, etc we found.

Here are some of our favorites:

1. some kind of sugar or quick carbs for when they need some energy-- all kids of things were listed
~Mints (altoids, etc) -the natural mints have peppermint which is good for nervous stomachs too
~Red Twizzlers
~non-staining (Always thinking about those costumes) small hard candies
~Dried fruits
2. Some kind of protein bar- My kiddo needs non-soy, so have recently found Larabars
3. WATER!! My kids always pack some kind of drink in their shoe bag, so this water is Mom's
4. Small snacks-- we always make sure that if there are carbs, that there are proteins as well, so cheese and crackers, jerky. Others like granola bars, trail mix, carrot sticks, apples, juice, and peanut butter crackers. Everyone does their own thing. Just make sure to make it light, easy to pack, and not hard on possibly nervous stomachs.

Now, put all your smaller bags into your larger bag, and voila! You have a well-organized feis bag! Having one packed is one way of preparing for a feis. Having a feis bag helps a mom be the best support person she can be to her Irish dancer. Being prepared helps everyone have a calmer, positive feis day experience.

As a disclaimer, this list is from a "boy Irish dancing mom" perspective, so for girl dancers, there are a few additions and subtractions to this list. Also, this list is definitely the SUPER complete list. Not everyone is going to need all of these things and some will need more.

Some of the other ideas for additions from moms of Irish dancing boys on the Moms to Reel Boys group were: Heating pad, beach towel for doing stretches on, an extra undershirt/ belt/ tie, power cords/ chargers for MP3s, Cell phones, hand-held video games, etc. I'd personally add a good book for down time.

One momma's recommended addition to the bag that I think is absolutely genius is to have a clipboard with attached pen or pencil with stage schedule, maps, extra paper for jotting down new friends' Facebook or e-mail contact info, etc. This would be great as a hard surface and a handy place for paper-related things.

There are still many feisanna this summer. Pack your feis bag well. Feel free to comment if you have other things you pack in your feis bag that we didn't think of.
Good luck to all the dancers!!

Happy feising!!