with Lynne and Leslie

Stuff I’m learning: My kid-related first judgmental stranger moment

by bride35

Back up off me, man.

Leslie here! I am an expert on judgment, being a professional columnist, blogger and judge of things. And I expect blowback sometimes, even with the judgement it warranted, because that’s just how it goes. But that’s when it concerns stuff I think or feel, that has to do with my decisions about “American Idol” or Oprah or whether Denzel Washington is the best whatever there ever was (He is.)

Now, I know what it’s like to be judged, by a complete stranger, about a decision I made that, in that judgey stranger’s mind, would endanger a child. And I have been told to expect this, now that we are hanging out with a baby for the time being. But it still made me want to punch somebody.

Let me set the scene. I am standing at the counter of the local outpost of a huge drug store conglomerate, having placed baby wipes, an ear thermometer and a bottle of wine in front of the cash register. The friendly cashier informs me that I could not buy the wine at this time, as Florida laws prohibit the sale of such things before noon on Sunday. OK, I say, happily putting the wine behind me. I’m not a wino, so I don’t go “What?” or try to hide it in my baby bag.

This may have been the start of the judgement – I think it was – because I appear to be a mother buying alcohol while holding a baby. And I admit I thought “Is that weird?” before I went to the counter, but then decided that it didn’t matter. It’s not like I was drinking it there, or that I’d bellied up to the bar at Blue Martini and ordered a Cosmo with the baby on my hip. It’s legal (after noon on Sunday, anyway), they sell it and I was gonna try to buy it. So I couldn’t, so I cheerfully give her my credit card and rewards number, and waited for her to finish up.

And then she judge-slaps me.

“Is Mommy hurting you?”

I have only been hanging out with this kid for a few weeks, so I still take a couple of seconds to remember that people are talking about me when they say “Mommy” and that my own mother didn’t sneak behind me and was not, in this case, sticking me with a straight pin from behind. Then I realize “Oh, snap. She’s talking me….Accusing me.”

“I’m sorry?” I say. But she keeps staring at the baby, who is happily sucking on his pacifier and smiling at her because he likes attention, and addresses him. Although she is clearly addressing me, as the only person who understands English on this side of the counter is me.

“That bracelet,” she coos, in the most chillingly fake-cordial manner, like I’m on idiot. “She looks like she’s hurting you.”

The baby she is “speaking” to continues to stare and smile contentedly, not like someone being hurt. I look down at my bracelet, which looks like metal spikes but is really just cleverly-engineered plastic, that pulls apart, is not sharp, is quite dull and most importantly not hurting the baby only slightly leaning against it. Because this is a talky expressive boy who would not be shy about telling you he was being impaled. Or at all uncomfortable. Or wondering why you’re not sharing whatever is in that bowl with him, like, right now.

“Oh, no! It’s not sharp. It’s plastic. He’s fine, see?” I say, snapping the elastic on it so she sees it’s all a clever fake. And you know what she does? Are you ready for this, y’all?


“Well, it looks sharp,” she says, her voice now condescendingly saccharine and pointed, now full of sour grapes as if I was the person who’d made an assumption about her and her character. “She looks like she’s hurting you.”

And I want to say “Bisnatch, if I was really impaling this child on my arm, I would want you to call 911 or whatever. But I showed you it was plastic and not hurting him, he is telling you it’s not hurting him because he’s smiling like you’re made of Similac and peaches, and you’re being really condescending, so you need to give me my bag that does not have wine in it and instead is full of things that prove I am taking care of this boy rather than stabbing him with fashion, and keep that mess to yourself. Or at least talk to me like an adult and not like a stupid child.”

I do not say that, of course, because I am not crazy, and because she didn’t deserve my dignity. I take my bag and go home. Here is the thing – I have seen parents and guardians do things in public that made me suspicious, and I have wanted to say something, but don’t, because I don’t know that family’s life and unless it is very obvious that they’re pushing the child down the steps, or forcing them to eat paint in the checkout line at Target, I am not getting involved.

I am reminded of my mom’s story about being in the supermarket and telling us, her twin three-year-olds, that Superman could fly “because,” because even though she and my dad were stalwart in always coming up with answers for us about everything, at that moment it was after work, she had two toddlers pestering her about some nonsense, she wanted to go home and she was fresh out of creative, you dig? But a woman in the aisle who was listening frowned at her and said “You never tell those babies ‘Because.’ You give them an answer” as if she knew that my mother was a neglectful stupid person and not a then-current Masters in Social Work candidate who knew all about what to tell her kids. You know why she didn’t know?

Because she didn’t know her. And because it wasn’t her business. My mother wasn’t cursing us out. She wasn’t beating us or impaling us with dangerous accessories. She was just trying to get us to shut up long enough to go home and keep being an awesome mom, because she was and is awesome.

But this stranger saw fit to butt in and assume things about her based on one tiny exchange. I suspect that it may be because she, as I am, is black, and people seem to assume that black women are inclined to be bad mothers unless someone corrects them.

(And before you think I am “bringing race into this,” a phrase which makes me giggle angrily like I WANT people to act like I’m a neglectful wretch in a Lifetime movie, consider this. The day my husband and I flew back with the kid, the nice women who had helped me in the bathroom by finding my wipes to help correct a baby butt explosion saw me a few moments later meeting my husband in the terminal with the baby carrier, because as a man he could not actually come into the bathroom with me. They were visibly shocked that I was not alone. “Oh! You have a helper!” one woman said, only half trying to hide her surprise. Not, “Oh your husband or partner is here! Great!” Nope. “A helper.” Lady. It’s my husband. But we don’t have the same skin color, so he must just be a stranger or, I don’t know, the guy I hired to carry the diaper bag for today. I mean, I’m 42. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a single mother. But I am not one, and I don’t think that at my age, were I not black, that you’d assume that. Also, I have this ring on my finger. It should not surprise you that I am married or partnered. And yet….)

I have told this spiky bracelet story to many mothers, of every race, and all of them have similar stories of nosy people who don’t have a good reason to tell them they are mothering all wrong. Here is the thing. If you see my endangering this or any child in my care, like danger you can prove, do something about it. I know you’re trying to help. But don’t be cute about it. And then don’t get snippy with my when you’re wrong.

And don’t tell the baby about it. He doesn’t speak English yet.


Lazy Butt Cooking: What to do with a dollar bag of tomatoes

by bride35

Come with me, and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination…and tomatoes.

Leslie here!

I’ve had an interesting year so far, trying to eat clean (been following the Clean Cuisine challenge instituted by brilliant and lovely Ivy Larson) while maintaining my job as a person who eats and drinks dirty, dirty things) and a very hectic personal life (we have a little six month old hanging out with us right now, and he’s allowed no time for working out, which is bad, or eating, which is not.)

In my hecticness, which I have now decided is a word because I said it is, I have taken solace in some simple things, like a visit from my mother, who somehow raised twins without losing either of them at the zoo “by accident” or leaving us in the woods without breadcrumbs to find our way home, the advice of people more experienced and smarter than me, and groovy finds like the dollar bag section at Don Victorio, a vegetable market down the street from me with insanely cheap prices on good produce, some of it organic and all of it pretty and yummy.

The dollar bags have inspired me culinarily, which is another new word (you’re welcome!) because they remind me of “Chopped,” where you have to make some fabulous and inventive meal featuring a bunch of random crap they stick in a basket, and then whatever else is in the kitchen that makes it less random. I grab a couple of bags, which often contain different sorts of vegetables, all of which are ripe and gonna go bad sooner than later. So there’s a time clock pressure and a creative onus on coming up with something yummy. This week, I needed, that, because my brain has been covered in three layers of haze and cheese.

So I found a recipe for tomato bisque on the Food Network site and adjusted it to make it clean-ish, and to include the stuff I had in my house. My mom was like “Here’s where you tie the parsley, thyme and bay leaf together” and I was like “Don’t got none of that. Here’s some basil. It’s officially got basil in it, now.” And my relation to exact measurements is sketchy, because my cooking guru was the late Arnell “Grandma” Streeter, whose answer for how much this or that went into anything was usually “Enough” or “However much you need.” Chef Yoda. The awesome was strong with that one.

So, here’s, more or less, Leslie’s Tomato Bisque. The whole point of this is to use what you have, including ingredients and equipment, which makes it whatever you want it to be. I wish I had taken a photo, but I sorta suck. It’s not exactly clean, the way Clean Cuisine would insist because of its non-dairy edict, because I did use butter to saute the vegetables, but you could use olive oil or some other oil to do that.

4 tablespoons butter (or olive oil, or the oil of your choice. It’s your soup)

1 onion chopped (the original recipe calls for 1 Spanish onion, but we only had half of one, so it was one-half Spanish, one-half yellow)
1 carrot, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 carton vegetarian broth. (Normally I would use organic but the regular was two for one, and Mama loves a BoGo.)
28 ounces fresh tomatoes, chopped
a lot of basil, or as much as you like
1 cup almond milk
sea salt to taste
Black pepper and Old Bay

Heat the butter in a large sauce pan or a soup pot or a wok or whatever you have, because I would never kitchen shame you, over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic and cook stirring occasionally, until they’re glistening and pretty. The original recipe says 8 minutes but my stove heated faster, so just look for the glistening.

Stir in the flour and stir. I may have added it too early, but it got all coated and yummy, so whatever. Pour in the broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil while whisking constantly. Add the basil. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes or however long it takes (Thank you, Grandma!) Take off the heat and cool down.

If you have a fancy Vitamix blender like I do, you can pour the whole situation in there and blend for a few seconds – it seemed blended after 5-10. The original recipe said to strain the puree, but mine blended so smooth I just threw the whole situation into the soup pot over medium heat.

Pour in the almond milk, salt and seasonings to taste. I don’t have a whisk, so I stirred it, but whisk it if you got it. Get a bowl. Fill it with soup. Eat the soup. Be full and stuff.



Toddler PR

by bride35

Lynne here!

I write a lot about my almost 2 year-old on Facebook, basically because he is hilarious. And also because sometimes he does things that are so nuts, writing about it seems to be a better option for me than yelling or crying. He is your typical toddler (according to other people who have had toddlers): He is independent, yet clingy at times; if he doesn’t get his way sometimes, he can go into tantrums, and hitting, and crying jags that make his face look like an explosion. But he is also really sweet. He gives the best hugs. He loves books as much as he loves his iPod. He soaks up new things like a sponge. He loves the drums and anything having to do with them. The kid is the bee’s knees. Again, like most humans, he has his pluses and minuses, because, well, he is human.

Recently, we had lunch at a dear friend’s house, and she was so gracious to my kid, who loved that she had made macaroni and cheese, and that she had windows that went to the floor so that he could look outside at the goings-on of her city street, and that she had a piano. There were a couple of times where things weren’t moving fast enough for him, and he pitched a mini-fit, but mostly,  it was a delightful time. And as we were leaving, my friend said, “He is a sweet little boy.” And I said, “Today, he is.” And as the words left my mouth, I knew they were wrong.

Why, when people ask me how my son is doing, my first answer is “Crazy!”? Why does it seem that I am readier with the tantrum stories than the ones about what an amazing human being he is? I think I know: I don’t want people to hate to see me coming because they don’t want to hear me bragging. And I want to be honest about my struggles with him, because other people have been honest about THEIR parenting struggles, and it makes you see that these things are normal. Plus, some of the stories are downright funny when you back away from them. I see myself as being lighthearted. But what I don’t want, though, is for the struggles to overshadow the amazing. It’s like how people remember the bad experiences that they had at a restaurant (There was a hair in my food! It took them 30 minutes before they took my order! The soup tastes like soap!) and tell those stories more than the ones of the good service they had. So what people bring to mind are the negatives. I guess the bottom line is that I feel like I should be my kid’s first line of defense, his Public Relations agent. I can be upfront about his mistakes, but I should also want to present his upsides to the world. Enough people will pick him apart in this life. It is not my job to be one of those people. I can call him on his stuff and correct, but not drill into his head that he is a bad kid. I want people to see my whole kid, and that, despite the occasional crying, he is a wonderful person.

So after my friend gave my son that compliment, and after I sold him out briefly, I took a deep breath, and I said, “You know what? I shouldn’t have said that. What I should have said was thank you. He IS a sweet boy.”

Because he is.

Beautiful Things

by bride35


Lynne here!!

We have written often about our love for reality television, and one of my favorite genres of reality TV are the ones with makeovers. It could be people, like my beloved departed “What Not to Wear” (love you, Stacey and Clinton. Call me.), or houses, like my new favorite show “American Dream Builders”, the Nate Berkus-hosted thing where 2 teams of designers and architects makeover homes in disrepair. And I have been figuring out what to write today. Couldn’t think of anything.  I just finished watching last night’s episode of that show, as I started dinner, and I am currently watching “Under the Gunn”, kinda “Project Runway part deux” with fashion designers mentored by former Project Runway contestants. And I was thinking about how they look at a piece of fabric and make amazingly beautiful things. And I remembered that I had this song from yesterday’s church service in my head. It’s called “Beautiful Things”, and the refrain says, of God:

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of the dust

You make beautiful things

You make beautiful things out of us

And things all came full circle, and I am totally proving that good can come out of watching reality TV. Boo-yah!

Because just like designers and architects and stylists can turn otherwise forlorn, forgotten and neglected things into stunners, so God does the same thing for us. As I look in the mirror and realize that I am gaining and losing the same 4 pounds (on top of the weight I successfully gained last fall, and I am not happy about this), and that I am not where I want to be in some ways, God sees the potential. And my heart. And He sees me as beautiful. You too. Whatever you are feeling that makes you feel less than stellar today, you can keep working on it, but know that God sees you as wonderful NOW. As beautiful. You can give Him all of your ugly, and He will give you back gorgeous.  Because that is how He sees you. Even with the same 4 pounds on top of the other pounds. Trust that and trust Him. Beautiful.

Runaway Bunnies and Mommies

by bride35

Hi! This is Lynne! My sister and I write a blog! We took a very long break because we were having web issues and such but we are back now :) .

So, my son is suffering from being almost 2. Which means that he is brilliant and funny and moody and temperamental and smiling and crying and he hugs and hits and passes out and screams but will them start laughing. It is exhausting.

And I love being his Mommy, but there are moments when I am like “Are you serious right now?Really?” And last night’s bedtime was one of those times. He was obviously tired, so that translated into running and laughing in the mirror, and playing with his iPod, and putting clean diapers away, and all manner of things that delayed sleep. And he actually pointed to a book to read, but didn’t really want that either. And that book was “The Runaway Bunny”, where a little bunny tells his mom he is going to run away from her in several creative ways, but she harshes his mellow by telling him that she will come to get him wherever he goes. But I have to admit that I felt like following that little bunny’s lead because of the ensuing crying. And hitting. And finally laughing. Then sleep. Then tired but happy now but really frustrated Mommy. And I know these things happen, and this is normal for his age as he is testing his independence but it ain’t always fun. And I did a lot of praying for all of us last night.

So I went in to get him this morning, and after the diaper change, he points to his dresser, and I handed him his iPod, but he shook his head now, and kept pointing until I picked up The Runaway Bunny. And he wanted to read it. And as we went through it, I realized this was a gift from God. Because even though we sometimes want to run away from each other, we are each others. The little bunny in the book concludes that if his mom is going to keep following him, he might as well stay and be her little bunny. And I guess, happily, that I will stay and be this little person’s Mommy, too. Even through the tantrums and such. Yep.

Weird question: How often do you change your sheets?

by bride35

My bed never looks like this.


Leslie here! I consider myself both confident in my life choice, because at 42 I certainly can’t be blaming them on my mommy anymore, and yet still enough a citizen of the world that I want to make sure those choices don’t make me a societal outcast. I mean, it is what it is. I just don’t wanna be creepy, you know?

At the gym last week, the Question of The Day was whether it bothered you when you don’t make your bed. My answer was that I’m more likely to make the bed in a hotel where there is technically someone else being paid to make that bed because I don’t want to be judged by the housekeeper, than I am at my own home when the only people who see the mess are myself, the husband, and the cat when she sneaks into what is clearly a No Cat Zone. Because she’s a judgey little thing.

The class seemed to be split evenly between the obsessive bedmakers and those, like me, who just kind of make sure there are sheets on the bed and then go to work. But then I started thinking about those sheets. I always wondered how often you’re supposed to change them. I do once a week, on Saturday mornings when we’re eating leftovers and watching “Shark Tank” on the DVR. But in hotels some people want them changed every day. Is that normal? Am I weird? And what about towels? We typically kept the same towel at least three or four days growing up, unless it was nasty or moldy, before we changed to a new one, but my husband wants a new one every day.

Am I a bad person? Validate me!!! I’ll be over here nervously awaiting your answer and judgement. Always the judgement.


Keep It Real Tuesday #krt

by bride35

Hello! Lynne here!

So I am sick and I am moving a little slowly. I am home with my toddler, so even though we usually only let him watch 30 minutes of TV a day, I am letting him watch more today.  I know there is a reason for limits and such, but this is not the day for that. Today we have already watched an hour. And I am okay with that. I wrote some of this on my FB page, and I started getting confessions from other mom-friends who have had to resort to necessary screen time (for their kids and for themselves), well, BECAUSE. And one friend said that we should make this Keep It Real Tuesday, where we all (ANYBODY) confess stuff that we might not be proud of on the surface but, shoot, had to do because stuff happens. And I thought I would give you guys space to just come out with your own stuff today! Even came up with a hashtag! #krt, y’all!! Trying to make fetch happen (A Mean Girls reference, if ya don’t know).

So, if you wanna join us today in sharing your honest, funny, and ultimately okay moments, write them below in our comment section. Ooh, I will start! My kid had cold pizza for breakfast today! Then I gave him oatmeal! See? There you go.

My kid is watching many episodes of this show today. And I ain’t ashamed.

Falling Somewhere in the Middle

by bride35

Lynne here!!

My family and I are looking for a search in our area, and revisted one today that we really liked. After the sermon, the Pastor had a congregation member come up and give his testimony about what God has been doing for him. And the guy told  the story of being laid off of his job after over 20 years in the same industry, and how he didn’t sweat it at first, because he knew he would find something quickly. And how that time drifted on and on as he looked for new employment. And when he first started speaking, I just knew that at the end of his story this morning there would be the happy ending with him being rewarded with a new job, and how he is so thankful to God for walking him through that hard period, but how he is out of it, Praise the Lord. But as it turns out , he is still looking, and still doesn’t have a job.


But at the end of his testimony, he didn’t complain. Nope. He actually talked about how God has been using him to pray for other people in the same situation. And then he prayed for the whole congregation. And I was wowed. Because we all struggle, and we love telling the stories of how our dreams came true and how we got what we wanted, or got even more than we thought we would get. We love to look back on the hard times. But we often don’t do a lot of reporting from the middle of them. Maybe we are tired. Or embarrassed and want to look like we are doing okay. Or maybe we are so focused on getting out of it that we don’t have time to party in the middle. Because the party, we think, is on the other side.

But as hard as going through things is, you aren’t alone in that. And sometimes, sharing your story as you are struggling let’s your fellow strugglers out there know that THEY are not alone, either. And maybe, somewhere in there, there is joy in the middle. I know. It’s scary. You might not want to rejoice so much in the middle of pain that God says “Oh, great, you’re okay! I can leave you there and give this new job to someone else.” But even if you aren’t able to do cartwheels right now, there still might be someone who might be encouraged by hearing about what you are going through. And maybe you can go through together, and have that party now, AND when you are both on the other side. There can be a party in the middle, a praise in the middle, and you can have that now.

How I learned to stop worrying and stop hating Valentine’s Day

by bride35

You’re better than this. Seriously.


In the film “Valentine’s Day,” starring apparently everyone on director Garry Marshall’s email list, Jessica Biel’s character throws an “I Hate Valentine’s Day party, because she’s single and fed up with the glaring pressure to be coupled up, at least for that evening, and the disgusting displays of happiness and cannoodle-ness of the stupid happy people rubbing their stupid happiness in her face.

I, too, was glaringly single for most of my adulthood, so when this guy from high school I had been hanging out with as friends asked me out for an official first date for that Saturday night, I did some quick math and screwed up my face.

“That’s Valentine’s Day!” I said. “That’s not a good idea. That’s too much pressure for a first date. Can we do it some other day?”

What I didn’t know was that this guy had decided that he was in love with me for months, since we met for a friendly drink and he’d laid eyes on me for the first time in 20 years. He says he knew he was going to marry me in that moment. He also decided to keep all that to himself, aware that this could sound a wee stalkery, and because he correctly identified me as a skittish tiny fawn with a sketchy track record who was just looking for a reason to flee out the back door and run far. Far. Away. He also says he knew that I might balk at having a first day on a such a traditionally loaded date, but took the chance.

And so did I. And now we’re married, so I guess he was right.

Here’s the thing – just because I’m now a wife doesn’t mean I forgot all of those years of being solo on the supposedly most romantic day on the calendar, right up there with the anxiety-inducing New
Year’s Eve and its all-important midnight kiss, and Every Wedding Where The Line For The Bouquet Toss Gets Whittled Down To You And The Bride’s 10-Year-Old Niece. I have tried very hard not to be a so-called “smug married,” as Bridget Jones would say, because I was single way longer than I’ve been married and would never assume that having a ring on my finger qualified me for knowing anything more than my single friends. I hate those people and I’m determined to never, ever be one of them.

I noticed that a bar when I spent about a year as a regular in my single early 30s was having the Jessica Biel special, the anti-Valentine’s Day party. And if they’re going to make a lot of money on it, I wish them well, because times are rough and any occasion that can draw more business to you is awesome. And if you’re single and need an extra special reason to go drink, or a fun night out with single friends who don’t wanna be alone, or don’t want to face the smoochers, I get it.

Then again…I wish that when I was single I had not let some arbitrary day get to me, like it was extra-illegal to be without a partner that day, or the Pathetic Police were gonna show up and cart you out while slapping a scarlet “S” for single, or spinster, or sadsack, on your chest while the villagers mock and laugh. It’s just a day. You were single yesterday. Maybe you’ll be single tomorrow. Maybe you’re good with that, and maybe you rue each day. But rather than allow Hallmark and your coupled friends and your mama make you feel bad, remember that while it may be a bummer not to be included in something that seems to welcome all your friends and their partners, that its better than being thrown into depression, or maybe even talking yourself into some sloppy kissing situation you would have avoided on any other day.

I’m not going to say “Be your own Valentine” or anything like that, because that’s condescending. And I’m not going to say “Just buy something for your cat, or your Grandma,” because while those folks deserve something good, it’s not the same. So just know that you’re awesome, no matter what the date. Focusing hate on a fake holiday doesn’t do anything but make you want to drink and eat chocolate, and possibly hate-dial your Xs. You’re better than that. And tomorrow is another day. Maybe there’s a nice non-stalker around the corner waiting for you. One could always hope.

Enjoyable: Cookie Breaks

by bride35

Lynne here!

So , every so often, we run pieces of a series that we like to call “Enjoyable”, a little ode to the simple yet wonderful things that make life, well, enjoyable. Today, I salute cookies. I have been cutting back on the amount of processed food that I eat, and cutting back on sugar and such, but I made these peanut butter cookies last night with maple syrup and no sugar and who cares what’s in them because they are yummy. And they are cookies. Cookies are good. And I am drinking them with a big glass of milk and watching TV on Hulu while the laundry spins and the child “sleeps”. Because he’s not sleeping. He is actually crying to get up from his nap that really only lasted about 20 minutes. But he will be fine chillin’ for a few more minutes while I eat peanut butter cookies and milk, before I return. And now he’s jumping so I should probably go but seriously these cookies took me away for a minute and sometimes that is all you need. Cookies. Milk. A chair. A floor even. Just a break. Enjoy.

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