with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: kids

Lynne and Leslie Ask Each Other Random Questions About Randomness

by SweetMidlife

Howdy! So, a few times before, Lynne and Leslie have done this thing where we ask each other random questions based on a theme, like Christmas, or New Years. Today, we are going wild and just writing about whatever the heck comes to mind. We hope you like it.

Leslie with the Afro, Lynne with the locs. Hi!!

Leslie with the Afro, Lynne with the locs. Hi!!

First, Lynne asks Leslie a bunch of stuff.

Lynne asks: “You went to the 30th Anniversary showing of ‘Pretty In Pink’ a few days ago. Was it as good as you remember? As cute as he was, wasn’t Blaine, even though he was played  by Andrew McCarthy, who was my fake boyfriend, a huge drip?”

Leslie answers: I plan to write more about this at length, because at length is what I do, but Blaine was honestly being a teenage boy, even though it was distracting that the same actor had played a 23-year-old college graduate in “St. Elmo’s Whiners Fire” the year before. If he looked younger you’d probably go “Yeah…he’s a jerk. He’s 18.”

Lynne asks: “What is your favorite thing to eat on a cold day? You live in Florida, so when I ask you about cold days, that means 50 degrees. But let’s play anyway.”

Leslie answers: The answer is always cheese grits.

Lynne asks: “What’s the funniest thing the toddler who lives with you has done lately?”

Leslie answers: He has become obsessed with the theme from “The Banana Splits Adventure Hour” which reminds me that the Banana Splits were basically the Monkees. They even had dune buggies and a guy with a Southern accent. Sue them, Mike Nesmith. Sue them.

Lynne asks: “Who is your favorite ‘American Idol’ contestant and why? And wasn’t it lovely to see Ruben Studdard come back and sing last week? That dude is the real deal.

Leslie answers: Of all time? It’s between Fantasia and David Cook, because they both prove that talent and preparation are a baseline for success, whether you’re an illiterate single mom who feels the lyrics of a decades-old song because she approaches it as important, not just words, or a young guy who’s been gigging forever and has a vast musical knowledge he can draw on. There was joy in them. And that’s rare. Also, Ruben gets better. How is that possible?

Lynne asks: “Favorite 90’s love song?”

Leslie answers: There are so, so, so many. I have two answers – “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” by Bryan Adams is my favorite love song written in the ’90s, because it’s brilliant. But if you think of “90’s love song” as a genre, and I know that you do, it’s a tie between Backstreet Boys’ “Shape of My Heart,” which was actually recorded in 2000 but is the most 90s thing in the world; 4PM’s version of “Sukiyaki” which makes me weep, and “Now and Forever” by Richard Marx just because.

OK, so now Leslie asks Lynne some stuff and drinks her coffee and judges people. Silently through her coffee.

Leslie asks: “The Good Wife” is ending soon and it’s an attempt to clean up, in seven episodes, three seasons of crap done to a good show. What are, in your opinion, the best and worst show finales, in terms of wrapping up loose ends and telling the story that was meant to be told.

Lynne answers: Okay, it’s not the best or the worst, but it is actually an example of good and meh in one episode. I hope that saying this doesn’t get me banned from Gen-X membership, but the last episode of “Friends” was all over the place for me. When the show first started, I was crazy in love with it, because they were in their early-20s. and so were we, and I found so many things in common with them, like losing grandparents, and having the group dynamic of friends with good jobs who could order appetizers and dessert when you went out, and also having the friend (who I was one of) who drank water and made a meal off of the free bread. And as the show went on, the friends grew and went through things we all go through, like marriage and breakups and loss of jobs and being close to your friends and then not so close, and finding your way back and all of that. And by the last episode, I loved where most of them were, like Monica and Chandler adopting twins and moving to a bigger place, and Phoebe getting married, and Joey was headed off to his short-lived spin-off. But Ross and Rachel, the supposed great love story of the show, had, for me, become selfish people who had a daggone child together who you never saw. The show missed the perfect opportunity to show you how your life changes when you have kids, and that you can’t hang out like you used to, and how your friends have to adjust. But no, the show couldn’t break up the “6 people hanging out” aspect and baby Emma became a footnote. And that bugged me. And even though I am glad that Ross and Rachel were happy at the end, I also remember thinking that I really didn’t LIKE them as much because of all of the petty things they did to each other, and so it was a little bittersweet. Sorry, “Friends” fans.

Leslie asks: Onion rings or cheese fries?

Lynne answers: Onion rings covered in cheese

Leslie asks: I’ve been thinking a lot about history lately, and what to tell my kid and others about painful things in the past. What is the thing you are least looking forward to explaining to the toddler? (Deep, yes. But this coffee is good.)

Lynne answers: That’s deeper than I was thinking you were gonna go, twin sister. But there are so so many painful parts of history, and I think that the hardest ones will be where people are mean to each other. That’s so many ones. And I guess I will tell him that there are people in the world who do evil things, and I wish that they didn’t, but that I want him to be a person who doesn’t do those things, even when people tell you that it’s okay or warranted. That’s simple and hard at the same time.

Leslie asks: OK, so who is your favorite “American Idol” and why? Because it’s a good question I stole from you. Been caught stealing, once, when I was 44….

Lynne answers: LOVE THAT SONG. And I have several favorites. Fantasia, definitely, because she was just HER. She was polished but young, and polite and sweet, and had such a story filled with a lot of downs, but she made big ups from it, and even though she has had a bunch of ups and downs since then, she still seems like a real, genuine person who is still trying. And that voice is everything. My other all-time favorite is Kris Allen, and it’s not only because I think that he is just a great musician and a really nice guy, but also because he was SO not the favorite of the judges that year, as he was up against the AMAZING Adam Lambert and also Danny Gokey, who have both gone onto big careers, especially Mr. Lambert. And as you would point out, the judges would give Adam these huge production numbers with fire and stuff, and they would stick Kris out in the audience on a broken milk crate and a busted light bulb hanging overhead. And he would give these wonderful performances and the judges would be like “Are you still here?”, and he would take a a deep breath, because he knew what they were doing, and he would continue to knock out wonderful performances.

Leslie asks: Favorite karaoke song?

Lynne answers: It’s the former Disney-goddess combo of “Genie In A Bottle” by Christina Aguilera, and “Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears. You can dance to them.. I went to a karaoke birthday party recently, and someone else selected the Britney for anyone to sing, and I got up and did it like “Wow, this song? Well, if no one else is I GUESS I will.”, and my bestie Johnette was like “You knew every word.” and I was like “Yeah, I may have practiced this before I left the house.” Because I did.

Lynne and the Unexpected, Tired, No School, Very Okay Day

by SweetMidlife

Hi. It’s Lynne.

This post doesn’t really have a point. It’s just about my morning, and this morning didn’t turn out the way I expected, and that turned out to be okay.

This is one of the days that my son goes to preschool, and we were both working forward to it.  I am 4 weeks into a 6-week recovery period after a hysterectomy, and it’s one of those things where I try to rest, but then I feel better, and I call what I do “Doing What I Can”, and my body calls it “Sit Yo Butt Down”. And even though I have been taking it a lot easier than usual, it is hard to completely do that when you have a pre-schooler, and I haven’t gotten the hang of it yet. Add to that me using this downtime to start a business, which is going very well, thank you, and me also wishing that I could do more to help my husband do all of the stuff that I usually do, which is nice but I shouldn’t be trying to prove anything, and you have a me that is not up to my usual multitasking powers.

I had decided that because I have been pushing it, that last night and this morning were going to be work-free, and that my hustle would be either reading this book I got from the library, or watching “American Idol”. I accomplished the latter for a bit last night, and once I got up this morning, I decided to take a leisurely morning and watch the rest of the episode until I had to get the little boy ready for school. The kid made out well in this arrangement, too, because he got to veg out on his tablet and eat Raisin Nut Bran. Yes, he loves that. So at some point, I realized that I wasn’t dressed, and I looked at the clock and realized we were cutting it close, and I still didn’t know who the last 2 people to make it onto this season’s live rounds of “Idol” were, and I wrote this Facebook status that said:

“I am seriously considering just throwing a coat over this pajamas and taking this boy to school. I don’t have to get out of the car because I pull up and they get him out. Pajamas. Don’t tell my grandmother.”,

because my grandmother gets dressed up in ironed clothes to go the emergency room. And I got all kinds of encouragement from other moms and dads who do that all the time, and I was feeling all like “And I am not gonna wear a bra either!” and then I realized it was even later, and I was like “Let’s go, boy!”. Then I remembered that I had taken the change of clothes that we have to put in his backpack out and put it in the bag we took to the library the other day, so I had to go upstairs and get it, and I was winded by the time I got upstairs, and that took longer, then we got in the car, and we got there as fast as the speed limit would take us. And I forgot to add that I was wearing Teva sandals over green and grey striped socks.

I took the sandals off at this point. I don't think y'all were ready for that particular jelly.

I took the sandals off at this point. I don’t think y’all were ready for that particular jelly. Actually, you probably were. But I am not going back downstairs to get them.

So we get to the school and we are a few minutes late, and no other cars are there, which means that the drop-off lane was done, and I would have to take Alex inside. Yes. All of my resolve about not caring if anyone saw me was gonna have to carry me inside, because I parked the car and walked him in, hoping that I could just wave at the ladies in the office then duck back into my car quicker than a bunny. The nurse at my middle school used to say that when she told us nothing was wrong with us and we better go back to class. But anyhoo, the school director met us and said, “Wait, did you guys sign up for aftercare?”, and I was like “Say what now?”, and she said, “There’s no class today! We are doing parent conferences today, and the only kids here are the ones who signed up for before and aftercare to just stay all day. It was on a pink piece of paper we sent home!”, and I am like “I’m supposed to read all the paper? Wait, of course I am supposed to read all the paper.”, and I usually DO read all of the paper, but like I said, I am not up to my usual juggling standards. Dropped balls and pink pieces of paper, all over the floor. So they were really nice about it, but we had to go home. And my son’s conference was yesterday and I wondered where all of the kids were but I figured that it was late and most had gone home. And my kid was like “But I wanted to go to school today!” and I was like “I wanted you to go to school today, too!”, then I went home and saw the pink schedule for school snack this month, and sure enough, it just showed conferences today. All I had checked was to see what day we were bringing snack, and I didn’t really look at the rest. Then we just sat down and I let my son watch firetruck videos on You Tube, and I watched “Mysteries of Laura” from this week, and we both had a leisurely morning. Not the morning either of us expected. But it was nice to be together. And it was our morning.

Letting the Toddler Make Crafts Even When I Have No Idea What’s Happening

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here!

I like crafts. I am not very good at them all of the time but when I see cute things that I think I can maybe kind make or not mess up too badly, I can’t resist. And as you see, it has made for some results that maybe didn’t turn out like the original picture, but they turned out in a way that was endearing, functional, and sometimes since it was chocolate, it still tasted good so it didn’t matter. The joy was in the making of the thing, because it kicked my creative juices into gear and made me happy in the process because I got to express myself and stuff.

This past Christmas, my son’s preschool class had a party where I volunteered to read stories, and where other parents led games and crafts. I got to sit with some of the crafting kids while the parents telling us how to do it gave instructions, and the craft that did was SO. CUTE. They took clear glass ornaments, and they poured different colors of liquid paints in them, then they swirled them around. This is the one that my son made at school, and I wish I could tell you that I took that picture in December, but I took it 30 seconds ago when I got up and walked to the living room because our tree is still up. Yes.


So anyhow, I decided that this was going to be an amazing, amazing way to make beautiful ornaments as gifts for our friends and family! We can pour! We can swirl! I can do stuff! And this actually happened, because I bought some clear glass ornaments for my family who we see every year on New Years Day, and those turned out really beautifully, much like the one above.

But those weren’t the first ones. Because I made an earlier batch that we gave out to my aunts and uncles and my son’s Godmommies on or right after Christmas, and those didn’t turn out exactly the way that I planned. First of all, I could not find clear glass ornaments, only frosted white ones. I realized that the swirling paint was not gonna show up under those, so I went to my best friend Google, and I looked for beautiful ornaments that you could do on painted glass. I found some really cute examples, and I settled on ones where your child dips his fingers in paint, and puts said finger on the ornament, and when it dries, I would paint in eyes and an orange nose and voila, fingerprint snowmen!! How wonderful would that be? And the boy was all excited that I was actually letting him touch paint with his hands, and he happily did two snowmen’s prints on one ornament. I painted one in, and it looked adorable. I would have said adorbs, but I am not something enough to use that term. I did the second one, or maybe he helped me, but the eyes on that one sort of made the snowman look like he wanted to eat people. “Whatever”, I thought, “It’s cute enough.” But then the boy asked if he could paint on it, and I said yes, and oh no it was the black paint he used and he did some dabbing, and it looked like the nice snowman and the evil snowman were headed into a tornado. Wait, what was happening to my craftsterpiece? Well, for the next one, he decided that he wanted to do red fingerprints. This fit well with the ornaments I had seen on Printerest that looked like Santa! I could do that! But then he decided to just keep going, and I thought that we would maybe just have a sweet fingerprint polka dots. But out came the black paint, and it looked like the polka dots were being attacked by a shadow.

Also taken 2 minutes ago because I have not put the tree away in that amount of time since the last picture.

Also taken 2 minutes ago because I have not put the tree away in that amount of time since the last picture.

And as my dreams of being able to give out flawless toddler-made gifts were drifting away like the storm plaguing throe snowmen, I remembered. IT WAS THE TODDLER WHO WAS SUPPOSED TO BE MAKING THIS. So if he wanted to go crazy with paint in hues I didn’t imagine, then so be it, because this was about him. And everyone was gonna love it. This is why we then went on a crazy ornament-making streak, where he made about 10 ornaments that he decorated by either freely going wild with the paintbrush, or but squirting paint on a plate and just swirling (see, we got to swirl!) the ornaments in the colors. And they were messy. And they were beautiful, and he gave each one of them names, including “Eye”, “Present Ornament”, and “I Don’t Know”, and I typed up a notice declaring them part of his 2015 exclusive ornament collection, and gave them out, and everyone loved them. Because we could tell the people that love him that he loved making them, just like he enjoyed making the second set that was closer to what I had planned. And people loved those, too. Because I took my hands off of it as much as I could, and I let him go.

This morning, we were watching this show on Amazon Prime called ‘Creative Galaxy”, where this cute little alien boy solves his problems with art, and on this episode, they were making pop-up books. Alex was watching intently, and I said, “Hey, do you wanna do that?”, and he said yes, and I found construction paper in what used to be my office and is now where things go to be dealt with later, and I got markers, scissors and glue from the junk drawer in the kitchen, and we sat down to create! And I looked up a How-To online, and I sat down and scripted a story that my son very carefully dictated to me, about he, my husband and myself going on a ride on a spaceship. and yes I have terrible handwriting. Here was the outline.

Good plot.

Good plot.

And as I was ready to ask him to draw a table to be the pop-up for the first page, I saw him furiously drawing something that wasn’t a table. I asked him what it was, and he said that it was a bad guy who wanted to steal something. Because just like that the plot had changed, and now the story was about a bad guy who wanted to steal a rocket. And that sounds like an awesome story. Because it’s the story he wants to tell. Here is the first page.

Background drawing and writing done by mommy, as dictated by the boy, who also drew the pop-up picture. Which is the best thing here.

Background drawing and writing done by Mommy, as dictated by the boy, who also drew the pop-up picture. Which is the best thing here.

And there is another pop-up page done, plus some other pages with a bunch of other drawings and cuts in them that might not even be for pop-up pictures, and also strips of light-green painters tape. And I have no idea why.

And I don’t need to. Because he is having fun, and being himself, and I could not Pinterest anything better than that.

Buying a dog bag by accident: Or owning the thing you have, no matter what

by SweetMidlife
Yes, it's a dog bag. But it's super cute. and I can work it.

Yes, it’s a dog bag. But it’s super cute. and I can work it.

About a month ago, rummaging through the local Goodwill for winter-type clothing for myself and my kid the day before heading north, out of Florida and into places where they have winter, I ran into the cutest bag. It was pink tweed, very Nancy Reagan at a press conference meets hipster bowling bag. It had a weird long zipper at the top, and some mesh zippered flaps on the side. I couldn’t quite figure out what those were for, but it was big enough to stick my laptop in for the flight, super attractive and easy to carry, and the weird side zippers made it a cinch to stick bottles of Diet Dr. Pepper in, which is totally a problem that needed solving. Totally.

Also, it was like $8. So welcome to the family, New Bag.

I wasn’t the only person to dig my bag – my sister and mother immediately told me how sharp they thought it was, and a few other friends specifically stopped to tell me how much they liked it. It was a very long trip, hanging out with Lynne to help out after her surgery, seeing friends and family when I could, and writing a random story for work when necessary (RIP, Ziggy Stardust), and I found myself shoving a lot of things into the new bag and its weird zippered portions, finding it spacious and easy to fill – there was always another corner to shove things into, and I have never met a bag I couldn’t fill till it looked like a hobo pack.

By the time I got home, I was rather in love with it – not the least of which was because it’s big and huge and easy to find in the crazy thrift store storeroom that is my living room.So a few days later, I grabbed it on the way out the door to go visit a friend for an after-work glass or two of wine. I plopped the bag down on her counter next to the wine and plunked into a chair, noticing her notice it as she walked by to get the corkscrew.

“That your new purse?” she asked.

“Yep!” I said, anticipating the compliments not only on the stylishness of my choice but an opening to brag about the deal I’d gotten.

“You know that’s a dog bag, right?”

No. No I did not know that.

Suddenly, everything made sense – the odd roominess of the purse, that was not actually a purse. The weird, helpful zippers on the side, that I could shove a soda in but that was actually made so that little Fifi and Fluffy could stick their precious head out of. The fact that it was $8, because not everyone needs a dog bag. Or realizes that they bought one, sans dog.

So I wondered – was everyone looking at me weird? Was it like when I walk my kid to daycare and then walk the empty stroller back home with people peering in looking for a baby but seeing a bag of spinach and spaghetti squash and thinking I’m crazy? Did I look dumb? Should I head back to the Goodwill for another non-canine bag?

I don’t know how I looked to others, but I can answer the last one – No, no I am not replacing that bag. Because I like it. Because it’s big and roomy and cute. Because it’s possible to repurpose a thing as another thing because it’s not hurting anyone. And because even if I look a little crazy to other people, I have decided to work my dogless dog bag and let it rock.

Because I can.

Sing a Song of Christmas, But Don’t Tell Your Mom What Song It Is Beforehand.

by SweetMidlife

Hi! Lynne here!

I have spent the better part of 13 years directing children’s church choirs, and directing both adults and kids in plays, and I have rejoiced and laughed and oohed and ahhed with the parents of the kids I have worked with, as their little performers have sung and danced and Shakespeare-d their little hearts out. It is thrilling for me to see our hard work blossom into a performance, and I know it is wonderful for families to see their children up there doing the thing.

Well, I have joined the ranks of those who sit in the audience and watch their kids do stuff. And it is hilarious.

Our son is 3, and just started going to a preschool based out of a local church a few days a week in September, and so far this school year, they have done 2 holiday performances for parents. The first one was a Halloween Costume/Assembly, where each class sang a song that they had been working on with the music teacher, parents went crazy from the cute, and then the kids marched around the room so everyone could get a better look at their outfits. My son’s class sang a song about pumpkins. That I had never heard my son sing before. I mean never. And I first, I wondered if my son had been listening in class at all because he wasn’t singing at all. All of the other kids were singing, or at least it seemed that way, because it was magnified how much my kid was not singing, and just when I really wondered where Dude had been, he hit a big giant cheesy grin on the part about the pumpkins smiling. So he DID know this song! He was just choosing what he chose to sing. Ahh. This is who my kid is, at least for that moment, I thought. He’s 3. They evolve like every 30 minutes.

So, yesterday was his school’s Christmas program, and his teachers sent home a really nice notice about the show, and that they wanted the kids to wear Christmas clothes (which to us meant red sweater), and that the little folks were going to be learning some songs and working on stage presence. Hooray!! So I asked our kid, maybe a month ago, what songs they would be singing.

“We only sing it at school. Not at home.”, was what he said.

Well then.

So, I have been doing detective work over the last few weeks, trying to get any hint of what selection they were singing. He has wanted to listen to what he calls the “Gloria” song, which I realized was “Angels We Have Heard On High. “Wait”, I said. “Is that what you are singing at school?” “Yes”, he said. “It is.” I accepted that, although because I have met him before, I had a feeling that might not be the case. 3 year-olds sometimes tell you want you want to hear so they can go back to their toy excavator. Or to see you holding onto every bit of carol-info they can get.

Then Thursday, he announces that they are singing “Jingle Bells”. “But wait!”, I said. “I thought it was the Gloria song.” “But I love ‘Jingle Bells””, he said. Which is true. But he sings “Jingle Bells”, no joke, 12 months a year. Then 10 minutes later, he says that they are singing “Our God”, which is his favorite worship song, and I figured that wasn’t right, so I just stopped asking. Which is what I think he wanted. Well played, Sir.

So yesterday was the big day, and he got dressed in his red sweater, and he looked really quite deliciously cute.Now, I won’t post pictures of the actual program because I couldn’t get any without featuring other kids, and since I don’t have those parents’ permission, I won’t.

Pre-show tricycle ride.

Pre-show tricycle ride.

But here is what went down.

My husband had to get his car serviced all day yesterday, so he took off work, and he and I dropped off Nat King Childress to school, then went and got coffee while we waited for the show to start. We drove back to school, and on the way in, we ran into a friend whose son is in the same class as Alex, and we found that he was equally mum on what sing they were doing. “He won’t tell us. He said it’s a surprise and he can only sing it a school.”, she told us. Well, then. We walked to the really beautiful main chapel of the church, got a printed program and found our seat. I started reading, and saw that they had listed what songs each class was singing! At last! I looked at the top, saw his class listed, scanned, and realized that neither of the songs they were doing were songs my kid said they were singing. Well played, Sir.

“You are really wired.”, my husband told me. I hadn’t realized it until I sat down and proceeded to squirm in my seat how excited I actually WAS.

And then the doors opened, and in filed in the kids. And I realized that with all of the parents watching them process, it felt like looking for your kid as they march in for high school graduation, or when you wait for the bride to walk down the aisle at a wedding. And you know what? I am not sorry about that. There are no degrees involved, but darn it, you are never to young to know that people are excited for you. And excited we were. There was waving and picture-snapping and grinning and finally, Alex’s class came in, and there he was, holding the hands of one of his teachers. Then I wondered if there was a reason WHY she was holding his hand, and if maybe he needed, umm, an extra hand to get him to where they were going, but then noticed other kids holding teachers’ hands and decided that SOMEONE needs to hold the teacher’s hand so whatever.

Then the show started. Alex’s class was first, and they lined up in front, with him standing on the end. Then the teacher started the song. And my kid started looking at the stained-glass window. And then he started looking at the altar. And he had not started singing the actual song.

But then he did! He actually knew words!! And he did some of the arm movements too! And then they handed out bells and little drums for the next song, which was called “Angel Band”, and I was very impressed that the kids put their things that make noise down until that part of the song. Very impressed with mine because we have met before. Then the instrument part starts, and as evidenced by the bad video that you will never see that I shot, it was beyond crazy. They were just going to town on those bells and drums, and I started laughing uncontrollably, and I wanted to scream “You bettah work!”, but I decided to not do that. Then their class portion was over and they sat down and so did I and this is what happened for the rest of the show…

…The other 3s class sang some song where they each had baby dolls in blankets, who were supposed to be Jesus, and my husband said “How soon until someone drops one?”, and sure enough, some little boy dropped his doll, and people started laughing, and he liked that so he did it 2 more times. When the teacher came to take his doll away, he started twirling. Did not skip a beat. It was glorious. Then the 4s classes sang, and apparently when you are 4 you can handle words and hand movements and actually moving, because they had like choreography. One of the classes did a song that is a Hebrew blessing, and the kids did joyful, jubilant moves, and this one little girl had so much joy, she was grooving like she was a townsperson in the youngest production ever of “Fiddler On the Roof”. Full Tevye-realness. And then they did a Nativity scene, where one of the angels had to back out because she got sick before school and another little girl filled in and did wonderfully because I could not figure out who she was and only knew that there was a replacement because the director told us. Good job, Backup Angel.

The whole show was less than 30 minutes, and then we all went downstairs and ate cookies. And then we went home. And the whole thing was over.

And we told Alex that we were proud of him, and it didn’t really matter that I didn’t know what they were singing. They had it handled. Handled. Because maybe I didn’t need to know everything. Because Jesus was celebrated, and that is the point of the church preschool Christmas show. And even if everything didn’t go as planned, it went exactly as planned, because they are in preschool. Because preschoolers do things that are unplanned. Having a base for them to veer from is key, and they were fine. It was fun. And I am thrilled to be on this side of the audience.


You Should Play Outside With Your Kid, and a Really Cool Book Series About That

by SweetMidlife

Lynne here.

I like air conditioning in the summer, heat in the winter, and TV and my couch all of the time. And I like it sometimes when I can enjoy all of these things and have my kid occupied and happy with the TV, or with his toy keyboard or train track. I even let him ride his tricycle in the house, so he can get activity, and also where I can watch him and stay in the house. With my air conditioning, my TV, and my couch. I am well aware, though, that this isn’t always a good thing, because we aren’t doing things TOGETHER, and some of the best memories that I have had with my son, and shoot, that I have had period, happened outside, be it at the playground, or playing in our backyard in the sand table, or as in my running days, putting feet to pavement and seeing what it do in nature. When my son asks to play outside, which is often, I know that I should be doing more to make that happen for both of us.

So, I have this friend from Facebook, Marni Penning Coleman, who has actually become a friend although we have never met as far as I know. We DO know a bunch of the same people, and have one very good friend in common, and got to know each other in this Facebook group for parents in our area who are part of the local theatre scene. Last summer, Marni asked people if they would be in a test group to read, with their kid, this book that her sister had written, and that Marni illustrated. Add free things and a cool way to do stuff with my kid to the list of things that I like: I said yes. It turns out that the book was the second in a series of interactive books written by, Marni’s sister, Rebecca P. Cohen, called PJ’s Backyard Adventures, about a little boy named PJ who discovers amazing things when he plays outside. The book we read, Play at a Paris Playground, follows PJ as he takes his imagination global. Both books are bunches of crazy crazy fun: You can read the story about the things that PJ finds as he explores, PLUS you can color the pages, PLUS there is a cut-out of PJ that you can play with. Here’s us playing with it (note that our test copy was a printout. The actual book is a paperback. All awesome) …

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Cool, huh? But wait! There’s more! It ALSO turns out that the PJ series is just a part of a whole movement that Rebecca has started called Be Outside and Grow, that encourages folks to get out of their homes and into nature. Again, I need more of this in my life. I got to talk to Rebecca about how getting out is a good thing. And here is some of that conversation…

How did the whole Be Outside and Grow idea start?
Be Outside and Grow is the belief that time outside is good for us. A few years ago, I realized I wasn’t living every day the way I wanted; I was always rushing to spend time inside. Time outside was limited to weekends and rare vacations. As I began to spend more time outside with my children, my family grew closer, we had more fun, and I learned more about myself. Being outside with my kids reduced my stress and allowed me to engage in their sense of curiosity and wonder. I wanted to help more families experience the benefits of fitting in outdoor play into every day. My first book, 15 Minutes Outside is about that journey to get outside with my kids every day and includes low to no-cost ideas for every day of the year. The book is a helpful resource for parents, grandparents, caregivers, and teachers. With my new children’s book series, PJ’s Backyard Adventures, I want to continue to encourage outdoor play in children at a time they are also learning to read. The main character, PJ, is the essence of every child: curious and full of wonder. Children really relate to him, especially in that he loves to wear his pajamas, boots, and fireman’s hat! It’s the type of engaging early reader series I wish I had for my children.
Why can you connect with your kids more outside than you can by staying in the house?
Something magical happens without four walls around you. Each person literally has more space to be themselves. Inside, my two children would bicker constantly. Outside, they were best of friends. Studies have shown that unstructured outdoor playtime reduces aggression and improves cooperation. Everyone has fifteen minutes to step outside – its doable – usually the fun can last an hour or more depending on your schedule or result in child-led creative play where you can sneak off to tackle the next item on your to do list feeling reinvigorated and grateful for having created a precious moment together.
Did the PJ books grow out of the Be Outside and Grow movement, or vice-versa?
PJ’s Backyard Adventures is my version of 15 Minutes Outside for kids, and connects children around the world through outdoor play. Children naturally engage in imaginative outdoor play, but there are many activities competing for their attention. Having needed an early reader series that would engage my family – not just picture books that my children couldn’t read or sight word books that felt like a chore – I created what I thought would have excited my children to read a book. Children can relate to PJ, who uses his imagination in his backyard to travel the world. In each book, PJ travels to a real place outside that kids and parents would love. The latest PJ’s Backyard AdventuresPlay at a Paris Playground, is about the playground in The Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. There are eight ways that children can engage with each book, from coloring to finding a hidden Dolch sight word on every page. I’ve read the books to over 500 children ages 2-8 in North America, Europe, and China, and the excitement with PJ is the same. Every type of learner finds something in the book that holds their interest and prompts further curiosity and play, from the seven continents to decorating their own pj’s, hat, and boots and cutting out PJ from the back to take with them on their own outdoor adventures.
Did you know from the beginning that you wanted your sister to do the illustrations?
I had the idea for PJ’s Backyard Adventures for several years before I persisted in finding a publisher and an illustrator. I had a goal to publish the series by the time my nephews were old enough to read it, and time was running out! In my head, I knew exactly what PJ looked like, and I asked my sister Marni Penning Coleman if she would bring PJ to life. A talented actress and graphic designer by trade, Marni drew an entire Winnie the Pooh mural the night before her son’s first birthday. She always liked to draw, but thought her drawings were too “cartoony” – which ended up being perfect for children’s illustrations.
Aren’t sisters the best? (I write with mine so this one is rhetorical. HA!)
With whom else can you have insanely productive one-hour weekly video Skype meetings in your pajamas? And when family life takes over, no one understands better than sisters. I’m enormously impressed with Marni’s ability to illustrate books with a toddler hanging on her most of the time!
What cool stories have you heard from your readers about their adventures?
Most of the coolest stories are about discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary just beyond our doorstep or noticing the nature around us at any moment. Positive reviews and kind personal notes keeps me going. A mom recently wrote to me that she didn’t realize how much time her children really wanted to spend time with her, and they would ask her for fifteen minutes outside together every day. Kids meet PJ and they immediately want to cut him out and take him outside. He is a playmate who understands them in every way. I have wanted every child to find something in PJ’s Backyard Adventures that excites them, and I am in awe of seeing this dream come true.
Lynne again! Rebecca’s books, PJ’s Backyard Adventures :Who Is PJ?, PJ’s Backyard Adventures: Play at a Paris Playground, and Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect With Your Kids are available on Amazon by following those links. And I did receive copies of both PJ books (the Paris one to test and the first one later) but everything that I said about them is absolutely my opinion. They are wonderful books. And encourage us to spend more time outside. And they will do the same for you? Hey, what are your favorite things to do outside with your kids?


I am not a fat girl, or The Fitness Benefits of A Large Man Yelling At You

by SweetMidlife
leslie and victor

This is my friend. He loves me enough to yell when I am mean to me. This is a good friend.


“You have to cut that mess out!”

I am running up the steps of a fancy outdoor mall, on the ascent of my second of five trips up and back. And there is large, black-clad man standing at the top, his eyes wide, arms above his head in emphasis. He is serious. He is not playing.

And I’m not gonna lie – It freaks me out a little. But because Victor is my friend, and my trainer, and I am paying for him to make me run up and down the steps, I keep toward him, admittedly wobbly because we’ve been at this for a few minutes and stairs hurt, and because I know I need whatever is coming. I can’t even breath right now, so I can’t muster more than a half-nod and a huffed “OK.”

What Victor is mad at me about – and what I should be mad at me about –  is my self-deprecating tendency to call myself fat. Or old. Or something. And it is true that I am…more robust that I was when we met, back 25 pounds ago when I even thought I had weight to lose then, and that I am like ten years older, but isn’t that a gift to be. I do it because I keep remembering what I used to look like, what my knee used to feel like, how easy this used to be or at least how easy my self-deprecation tells me it used to be (NOTE: This was never ever easy, even when I was all relatively hot and stuff.)

I also admit, when the stairs are done and we are taking a nice recovery walk, that I do that as a way to say I’m fat first before anyone can say it first. I know it’s messed up.

So does Victor.




Apparently, yeah. I’m not alone, either, the people – probably mostly women – who think they can motivate themselves to change by bullying themselves, not in a “Girl, you better do this” tough love way, but the way an actual bully who hates you and wishes you harm would do. Like you’re worthless. Like you suck.

I do not suck. I am worth being out here on these steps so early in the morning, watching my mother wheel my kid at a leisurely pace around the square in a non-sweaty fashion. Those people make me worth it. If I am not worth being healthy, being happy, why am I here? And what makes me think that if I find reasons to hate myself at this weight that I won’t find more reasons to keep slagging myself?

So I’m done. I don’t need to pretend that this body is my ideal because it ain’t. But I can tell myself that it is strong enough to get me up the steps, that it physically carries another human being to bed when he’s sleepy and kicky and weird, that it calms him when he is scared and cranky and ready to cause mischief. That it is worthy because it is mine.

Thanks Victor. I got it. And if I lose it, feel free to yell. I can take it.

The Sweet Midlife Guide to Traveling By Air With A Toddler

by SweetMidlife
Snacks. Binkies. Anything to get that toddler calm. But not whiskey on his gums like the old ladies have advised me, because I like not being in jail.

Snacks. Binkies. Anything to get that toddler calm. But not whiskey on his gums like the old ladies have advised me, because I like not being in jail.


Thanks! See you later!

…Oh, you’re still here. Wait, you’re serious? OK. We were only half serious about Rule #1, although we’d be lying if we said that this was ideal. Obviously, sometimes getting where you have to go involves getting on a plane, and sometimes, if you want to take your kid with you (or couldn’t talk anyone else into keeping them while you jet off to Whateverastan), you gotta go without a partner to help corral the wee one. You might be a single parent, as I now find myself, or just have to travel without your partner for at least some portion of your trip. Whatever the reason, this can be way, way stressful.

So stressful.

Toddlers are stressful when out of their element, overstimulated and way past nap time, even when you have help (See Lynne’s sad/funny story about her son, a plane trip and some poopy pants). So when you’re the only person there to carry, coordinate, wrangle and talk a crazed two-year-old down from a “NONONONOOOOO!!!” jag…let’s say this is not where vacation dreams begin.

I just got back from a similar trip mostly unscathed, and plan to do it again very soon. And I know I wouldn’t have made it back alive (or at least as sane as I claim to be) without following the below listed rules:

1) Do all your documentation, as much as possible, before you get to the airport. I cannot stress this enough. Check in online the minute you can. Print your boarding out, or download it onto your phone. Try to travel as light as you can, even trying to just do a carry-on if you can swing it with both of you, to save yourself from even having to stand in that Godforsaken line to check your bag. The less loose paper you have flying about stuffed in a nasty baby bag as you’re running through Security screaming “Where is your shoe? WHAT DID YOU DO WITH YOUR OTHER SHOE??” the better.

2) Try to figure out what you really need to bring, and what you can borrow or rent when you get there. This is smart anyway, but when you’re the only person who’s going to be dragging the stroller, car seat, luggage, baby bag AND the child (can’t forget him!), you’ll appreciate downsizing. This last weekend we were in NYC, and relied a lot on Uber, a company that, at least in that city,. provides car seats that are installed by trained drivers. So we didn’t need to bring our own. We did take the big stroller, but that can be rolled through the airport with all our stuff in the bottom basket for kind of a third hand, and checked for free at the gate.

3) Get help where you can. My mother has, lately, asked for gate passes on days she is not flying with us, so that she can physically help get us through security, carry stuff and stop Boy from climbing on the conveyor belt to make sure no one stole his stroller. (This happened. He’s paranoid. I told him no one wants his nasty cracker-dusted stroller. He did not believe me.) And this weekend, my sister is going to pick us up at the terminal and then drive us to the rental car facility, because I would never be able to get the stroller, car seat and actual bags on the shuttle by myself.

4) Bring the whole kit of wonders. Again, every toddler parent knows to be prepped with snacks, drinks, and whatnot, but when you are alone with that lovely ball of energy and crankiness, you must make sure that they’re…handled. Like Olivia Pope handles people, or at least like she did before she went public with the President, lost her mind and starting acting like a quivering chump. Distraction is key, so I came armed with snacks in tiny containers, those squeezy food packets he’s likely a little old for but which fill the belly with minimal mess, sippy cups, his favorite apps on my phone and extra binkies. At two we really wish he didn’t want binkies anymore, but they’re good for takeoff and landing to prevent the ear popping. And they keep him quiet. So quiet.

4b) Do not rely on wonders you cannot control. JetBlue has the FlyFi free WiFi and I figured that it would provide a chance for Boy to watch his favorite online videos, like that oddly hypnotic ChuChu TV with the little chubby animated children singing “Head Shoulders Knees and Toes.” But the FlyFi was a no-go on our last flight, and so the increasingly frantic tug on my arm and little demanding slurry voice going “Hesholkneetoes! HESHOLKNEETOESSSSS!” was met with a lot of “Umm, that’s not working right now.” Toddlers care not about your petty technical difficulties. They are the Tim Gunn of people. They demand you make that thing work. And if you can’t, you sing that song to them yourself in the lowfi version and hope it does the trick till the snacks arrive (It did.)

5) Get there early. But not too early. Most airlines suggest being at the airport two to three hours before you leave. For us at the moment, this isn’t always possible considering nap time and the boy’s tendency to wake up at the most inopportune times. If we fly really early, he usually runs around the terminal before crashing on the plane (Crash good.) But sometimes we can be there too long, and he’s tired in the airport but awake and cranky trapped on a plane. It ain’t good. So know your kid, try to get them to get a good night’s sleep and hope they run it all out before you get on the plane.

Rah, Rah! Sis Boom Bah! You Can Do It ‘Cause You Already Are!

by SweetMidlife

Happy Wednesday! Lynne here to offer you a little bit of encouragement.

I am not the most organized of people. Clocks and I have a power struggle with each other. Well, actually, it is me who struggles against the clock since it’s gonna be whatever time it is, whether or not I forgot something inside after we are all strapped into the car or not. Curse you time!! I can also be easily distracted, as evidenced by the fact that I watched several episodes of Fox reruns on Hulu before I finally decided to write this post, even though I knew it needed to get done. But seriously, Rob Lowe and John Stamos are both still FOINE. That is a word. Say it out loud.

Anyhoo, this past Monday my husband was home from work, and I noted how awesome it was that he got up and helped in the morning process of getting my son ready for preschool when my husband could have slept in longer. “Well”, I thought to myself, “it would be even better on my end if I actually HAD a process.” I was thinking about moms or dads whose mornings run like clockwork, and who have checklists and something. I have heard of such.

But then I had a thought. Actually several.

I get up in the morning and do my daily Jesus devotional Bible study thing, and I either fit in a workout or make plans to do it later. My son gets up, goes to the potty, gets dressed, eats breakfast in front of something on television, and we make one last trip to the bathroom before we leave for school. Shoot, I even have an alarm set for that potty break.

Now yes, sometimes we sit around too long before we start the actual cleaning of teeth and such, and often I have caved to letting him it a cookie for breakfast along with grapes, because grapes are redemptive. And there have been times when I am scrambling at the last minute to find the other shoe of the pair he insists on wearing that day, I forgot to pick up something for his assigned snack-bringing day recently while I was actually at the store, and tried to convince myself that a sleeve of saltines would go over great with three year-olds.

But the point is that his teeth DO get brushed. And he DOES eat. And he DOES leave wearing two matching shoes. And I did happen to have bought a bag of oranges, and we sent that to school.

Because I DO have a process. It may have its bumps, and its sudden stops, and it may not look like other people’s processes. But the important thing is that things get done. I am working on smoothing my flow out. But I need to give myself credit that I am doing it. I’mma stop beating myself up, okay? You do it too. Stop judging yourself by other people’s schedules. The fact that you even bought a schedule means you are working this. Even if it isn’t all filled out.

You are a work in progress. Give yourself grace. I’m working on it. Yay for me. Yay for you.


You got out of the house! Yay for you! Have a saltine.



The Story That I Said I Wasn’t Gonna Tell. It’s Gross.

by SweetMidlife

Hi! Lynne here!!

It’s been sad here in Sweet Midlife land. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers and sweet comments. We are living off of them.

So I thought I would tell you a funny true story. It’s about a gross thing that happened to us on the way to San Antonio this spring. SPOILER ALERT: It’s really gross. But it’s kinda funny. Now.

Happiness after the gross parts.

Happiness after the gross parts.

So, this past April, my husband, toddler son and I headed to Texas to see my husband’s family. We only get down there about every two years, so it’s something that we plan way in advance. Now, I won’t lie and say that this means that we are packed a week in advance, and that we roll out of the door exactly when we planned, and that we have on clean neat travelling clothes that we ironed. Because no. But we did put a lot of thought into what we were taking, and to what we were wearing, and even though I did change purses at the last minute, we did think a lot about potty issues. See, we started potty training hardcore back in February, and we had been doing really well with the big boy undies and all. On this trip, though, we decided to put him in Easy-Ups training pants (Pampers didn’t pay us to mention them, but holla, Pampers!! We love ya!) since we had a long day with the driving and parking and boarding and waiting and flying and such. AC, my husband, got the boy out of bed and out of his pajamas, and I put him in the Easy-Ups.

I swear I put him in the Easy-Ups.

So we got dressed, and packed our bags, and before we left the house, I thought, “I should really take him to the potty now.” But I didn’t listen to me, because he had on training pants, and we proceeded to the airport. We checked in, and even ran into friends of mine who I hadn’t seen for a very long time, and laughed and talked, and got to our gate and ate Auntie Anne’s pretzels (They aren’t paying me to mention them either, but Holla, Auntie Anne! I used to buy your pretzels in bulk). Before we boarded the plane, the toddler said that he needed to go to the potty, so my husband grabbed his hand and walked him to the restroom. When I looked up 90 seconds later, they were back, and my son was screaming “I don’t have to go!”, because apparently the airport bathrooms weren’t up to his high toddler standards. Yeah. Now, we thought about making him go, but the plane was boarding, and you know, he was wearing training pants. We’d be fine.


We settled into seats towards the back of the plane, and we set up my son next to a window where he could see things, and we handed him headphones and my husband’s tablet all loaded up with kid shows, and we took off on our 3.5 hour flight.

And things were going great until about 2 hours in. Now, if you are wondering why we hadn’t taken my son to the bathroom by then, chalk it up to wishful thinking, and sleep deprivation, and the fact that he seemed comfortable. Yes, this was not smart, since toddler boys have been known to walk around in their own nastiness for hours if good TV is on. But again, self-delusion. My husband had gotten up to go to the bathroom, when Toddler says he has to pee. He was actually doing a little dance, but I figured that we had time for my husband to get back and take him to the lavatory. And that is when I looked down and saw something coming out of his pants leg.

It was brown.

I kinda started to panic, and make up things that could be that color and falling out of his pants that were not what I knew it was. Mud? Had we been to a mud pit? Runny brownies that he put in a pocket that had a hole in it? As I ran through all of the fake possibilities in my head, Husband came back. “He has to go NOW”, I said, and my husband grabbed his hand, as the little boy actually waddled to the bathroom because his pants were so full. And I called for the very nice and non-judgmental Southwest Airlines flight attendants (another unsolicited thanks), and they brought me disinfectant and gloves. And I started scrubbing brown stuff that wasn’t really an under-cooked brownie out of the plane carpeting. And my husband and son came back, and we put my son back in his seat, and I noticed that he was still waddling. “What happened?”, said I. “We didn’t pack a change of clothes in his backpack.” said he. This was so strange, because we sometimes over-pack that thing. “Why was he so wet?”, said I. “Did he pee through the Easy-Up?”

Wait for it.

“He wasn’t wearing one”, said the husband.

Things started swirling, and maybe it was the cleaner I had been inhaling, but say what now?

We still have no idea what happened to those training pants. I swear he had them on.

So my poor wet son had to sit in his plane seat for another hour in wet pants and not shoes and socks, because they were soaking. The lady across the aisle from us was shooting me dirty looks. I tried smiling as I looked up from the scrubbing but she wasn’t having it. And my poor child moaned “Mommy, I’m cold.”

Of course you are, sweet boy. I am sorry that you have parents who misplaced your disposable training pants and didn’t pack you replacement shorts.

When we finally landed, we waited until everyone got off of the plane, and tried to walk really fast to the baggage claim so we could get his clothes out of his suitcase and change him fast. We got our bags, lugged them off of the carrel, and started throwing clothes around right there in the luggage area. I found shorts, a shirt, socks and a new pair of shoes, and Soggy Boy and I ran to the airport bathroom. The large stall was open, and I started the peeling off, and the wiping.

So. Much. Wiping. And in between it, I would go out to the sinks, and my naked toddler would run out into the sink area, and ladies would squeal “SOOOOO CUTE!”, and I would smile and say “GET BACK IN THERE.”, and more wiping.

And I threw away every single thing he had been wearing. Including the shoes, which were just about too small anyway. Didn’t matter. They had the taint on them. And they needed to go.

And there was more to that day, with the rental car company not having our car ready, and the owner of the house we rented having to wait for us for awhile, and the 4 AM  storm that rattled the sweet bungalow’s shutters so much that we thought someone was trying to get in the house, and my husband got up so fast and knocked something over and it set the burglar alarm off. Yeah. But the rest of our stay was wonderful, and I knew the non-wonderful part would make a good story. I wasn’t going to tell it, but we needed a laugh right now. So there you go.

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