with Lynne and Leslie
Category Archives: staycations

The binky and the damage done: Flying with a toddler

by SweetMidlife


My sister is the expert in toddler observation and research, but as the kid who lives with us edges – makes that throws himself headlong- towards his second birthday, I identify more and more with her stories about Alex. I got to see him, and our little one, together in loud, nutty action two weekends ago when we traveled to Maryland for my husband’s college reunion weekend. The visit itself was amazing – if not a little messy, ear-shattering and yelly – but it was the getting there that made me want to buy a Winnebago or a Partridge Family bus and do all of our future travel that way until the kid’s, like, 12 and old enough to carry his own suitcase.

The above photo was taken on the first of our two flights back from Baltimore, to our stopover in Atlanta (that turned out to be more like a run-through.) We were already stressed from the logistics involved with traveling with someone who has more paraphernalia than the rest of us, but can’t carry it or logically understand what a stopover is, or why he can’t stand up in his seat when the seatbelt light is on. We found out that on our second leg, from Atlanta to West Palm Beach, we were seated in three different rows, which would have been disastrous, because in the overtired missed-nap moments, I don’t always love sitting next to my own toddler, let alone the toddler of someone who’s not in shouting distance to handle their business. Nobody wants that.

My husband had tried to handle it at the counter in Baltimore, but they couldn’t help, so he called the customer service number and was told they were looking into it. So we were nervous about that, and about the fact that we had a very, very short window to make our connection in Atlanta, where we often find that we land in Concourse A and our connection is in Concourse Z. (There is no Concourse Z. It just feels that way.) I sat with Toddler while my husband sat directly in front of me, next to a very nice lady who he accidentally knocked some water onto. She was lovely about it and said “Well, it’s water. Water doesn’t stain.”

But you know what does stain? Diet Coke! And it was that caramel-colored fluid that our kid, bored and trying to get my husband’s attention, hit dead-on with the above pink binky which we gave him to suck on to lessen the popping in his ears upon take-off and landing. He threw it backwards overhand and nailed the cup, which spilled all over the lady next to Scott. She was not happy. Scott and I were mortified and both offered to buy her a drink and pay for her drycleaning. She calmed down and smiled and said “No problem. I know what it’s like.”

I think part of our mortification is not wanting to be those parents, the ones that let their kids run up and down the aisle and knock into the flight attendants, who don’t comfort them when they freak out, who let them kick the seat in front of them (On or first leg to Baltimore, at 6:50 in the stupid morning, we turned Toddler’s car seat, which he was sitting in, around to face the back of his own chair, because he was kicking the back of the seat in front of him. The dude sitting in that seat was very appreciative.) Kids are humans, and cannot be expected to always sit quietly and be invisible. People don’t expect adults to do that, so the side eye I get when my kid sometimes even speaks on a plane is unfair. But I don’t want to raise a jerk. I will not raise a jerk. He knew he was being naughty, and when the binky was removed and only handed back upon landing so his little ears wouldn’t pop, he knew why.

I’m not sure when we’re going to fly again, but whenever that is, maybe he’ll be a little older and a little more…chill. And not knock over people’s drinks. I must add that the gate agent at our Atlanta gate, which was actually in the same concourse, not only didn’t make our kid sit alone, but put us all in the same row. Of course, we sat in the wrong row and didn’t realize it until someone came looking for their seats, but they were all cool about it and just sat in front of us. They might have been through this before too.


No-fly zone: Five road trips I want to take this year. Where are you motoring?

by SweetMidlife

custard shop naples

Leslie here…and please pause while I sing a bit of “Sister Christian,” because very few people my age have, since 1984, said the word “motoring” and then not sung “What’s your price for flight? In finding Mr. Right! It’ll be all right…to-niiiight.” Old. Rocking. Not sorry.

OK, now that that’s over, I’m all filled with wanderlust after a ridiculously relaxing trip to Maryland with my husband and the kid who lives with us. It’s the first time we’d been to our home state in more than a year, and the wee one’s second set of round-trip flights. (A blog discussing the indignities and pleasantries of plane travel with a toddler is coming soon, but it’s been a heavy day, so I wanna be on the positive tip today, as we olds would say.) It was great to see everyone, we were super chill and the boy had a good time. But after the running through the airport, fighting to sit together and trying to explain to a 20 month-old why he couldn’t climb over me and run up and down the aisle past the beverage cart like a crazy boy, I turned to my husband and said, “Didn’t you want to do a bunch of road trips this year?”

We live in Florida, a very big state with some places we’ve made favorites, some I haven’t visited in ages and a few I’ve never made the acquaintance of but really need to. I’ll bet there are some cool places within decent driving distance of you, so your list is probably different. What’s your top five place to be motoring…and not take a flight? (I am sorry. You’re singing that now.)

1) Naples: We love the Gulf Coast, because it’s quieter and the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico have a different vibe than those out here on the Atlantic. Naples is a particular favorite, because it’s got several of my favorite things – really nice hotels with room service, an excellent downtown with great shops (see above) and eats up and down Fifth Avenue, and beautiful beaches. It’s a historic, elegant place with some quirks.

2) The Keys: There is no place called Kokomo in the Florida Keys, no matter what the Beach Boys say, but there are some incredible islands, shameless sunsets, cool hotels of every type from dive to divine, breathtaking bridges and lots of places to get lost. Key West was a favorite as a single girl, in bed and breakfasts and in a swanky Sheraton Suites on the beach, and now as a married chick (our honeymoon cruise stopped there, and we turned the end of the Ragnar Relay, which I ran three years ago, into a mini-vacation, staying in a little guest house with a clothing-optional pool. I told my husband that the fit runners would not be in the pool, only like old German tourists. And I was right.) We haven’t been back since the kid has been with us, but we’re in talks for my husband’s big milestone birthday this fall (I would also love to check out Key Largo, where I only stopped for an afternoon when my grandparents were staying there. I’d love to do the glass bottom boat.

leslie pool roof3) South Beach: Again, this is a place we’ve done much differently as married people and parents than when I was single (Remind me to never tell you about that.) The above photo is from the rooftop pool at the Riviera, a cool spot in a slightly quieter portion of SoBe, just west of Collins Avenue. We also did The James, which is a little more central, not far from the shops and stuff on Lincoln Road, and the Metropolitan by Como, a relaxing and purposely chill spot where they’re proud not to be a party spot. I do most of my partying dancing around my living room with a toddler singing Four Seasons songs, so I’m fine with that. These days, we stay in nice places and eat. And there’s plenty of that.

4) Seaside: It’s in the Panhandle, where my husband used to live, but where I’ve yet to go. It’s a bit of a schlep. But I would love to take a few days, where we can stop somewhere in between if the kiddie gets restless, because it’s supposed to be gorgeous, with little postcard houses that attracted Peter Weir when he made “The Truman Show.” It’s also between Destin and Panama City Beach, two places I’m excited to visit, although not at Spring Break.

5) St. Augustine: About ten years ago I did a road trip with my friend Rachel for part of a story where I was running in different places around the state. We stayed at the cutest Victorian B&B, did some cool walking tours, including that of the historic fort there, and met a guy dressed as an authentic Spanish soldier named Jeff, or as we called him, El Jeff-e. I’d love to walk the kiddo around the cobblestones and buy him a little soldier hat. I also wonder how old Jeff’s doing.

Where do you want to go?

Stay(there)cation- Five Things I Learned From Our Trip

by SweetMidlife

Hi! Lynne here!

My husband, son and I got back a week ago from a 5 day vacation to Washington, DC, and while this is a popular place for families to go, it might seem weird that we stayed there because we only live like 45 minutes away. Yep, we took a stay-there-vacation: we didn’t go far, but we actually stayed at our destination.

And it was a hoot!! I used to live right outside of the city, worked and performed there full time, and still work there on projects from time to time. But this was different. And I am gonna tell you about it. Because that is what I do. Read below for the take-aways I took from our time away down the road…


1. A Shorter Drive Means More Time To See Stuff. And Less Crankiness. 

Last November, we went to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for a week as the end of a mini-timeshare thing we bought. It was a beautiful trip in a fun place off season, and we saw so much, and ate so much. Yes. But what wasn’t fun was the 9 hour car trip. Sure, there is a lot to be said for seeing the country and landscapes change from your car window. But you also sacrifice two days of vacation on getting there and back, and you are often to tired to see stuff when you arrive, or you get home and need another day to recuperate. We also got stuck in traffic on I-95 in Northern Virginia, and our 1 year-old cried pretty much for the last hour. LOUDLY.  But when you travel close to home, it’s the length of a commute! You feel refreshed, and you have the energy to explore when you get there, if you want to. Or you can go sit down and order in. It’s your thang. Do what you wanna do. But you have those options..

We live practically down the street from this.

We live practically down the street from this.

2. Houses are Great, And Suites Are Sweet

I love me a good luxury hotel. I once stayed in a Ritz Carlton for a conference, and my plans for one evening were watching TV in the fluffy robe and eating a $15 grilled cheese sandwich in the king sized bed with the stupidly fluffy pillows. But for longer trips, I love staying in suites, or even full houses. It can cost less to stay in a less swanky place but one where you get more room, and you can cook food if you want, or just store and heat-up your leftovers from the night before. It also gives you room to spread out all of your stuff, and, if you are travelling with other people (especially kids), it’s nice when everyone has somewhere to go if you need some downtime. Or time away. Also, I am a proponent of little people having their own room on vacation. Shoot, even if you only have a one bedroom suite or apartment, they can stay in the room, and you can stay in the living room. You just need a door. At home, my kid goes to bed at 8. On vacation, I don’t want to have to go to bed at 8, too. I can stay up until 10! I’m grown. When they are asleep behind their door,  you and your spouse can have some alone time. This can mean grown-up-sexy time, or it can mean playing board games, or watching a movie, or just giggling that you are somewhere else. But it’s awesome. For last week’s vacation, and our trip to Texas last year, we rented houses rented by private owners and found our places on VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner). I also hear good things about Airbnb. I feel comfortable staying in somebody’s place. That weirds some people out, but it makes me want to take care of it more. And again, if you look at what you are paying for a week away, you really can save some cash.

Comfortable. Really comfortable.

Comfortable. Really comfortable.

3. If You Go See Free Stuff, There Is More Money For Onion Rings

One of the best things about Washington, DC, is that much of the sites are free. The Smithsonian Museums have free admission (with some exhibits having a charge, but not most), and the monuments are just there waiting for you to walk up and discover them. And that means you can spend more money or food or getting around, or seeing other things that do have an admission charge. And DC has some breathtakingly beautiful free stuff.

You can see things that went to space FOR FREE.

You can see things that went to space FOR FREE.

4. You Get a Vacation, and They Get a Vacation, and It Doesn’t Have to be the Same Vacation

We have a toddler. And they don’t always get the point of all of the places you go. Well, actually, they get a point, but it might not be the point you get. At the Museum of Natural History, we all loved the large elephant in the middle of the center hall. My son’s other favorite parts were the gift shop, the steps that led upstairs, the steps that led back down, the worm that he manhandled (baby-handled?) when the museum guides let him pet it (so happy my kid didn’t squish that worm and traumatize all the other kids. Drama.) On our walks to whatever we were seeing, he was in awe of all of the trucks in the city, and the train, and called out the names of each one. The thing is, there are amazing things to see, and your kid, or even your adult relatives might take different things away from them, on their level. Because to them, it’s something new and cool and big and fascinating. And an adventure. And sometimes, you land on ground that’s a little more common. The steps of the Lincoln Memorial make me emotional because of the amazing things that have happened on them, like this, and this, and the mood around the statue of Lincoln inside is one of reverence. As we stood looking at it, my son pointed to him and said “Guy?” And we said “Yes, his name was Abe.” And the boy pointed to his feet and said “Shoes?” (he always wants to know if people are wearing proper footwear. I am not making this up). And as we left, he turned back and said, “Bye, Abe!” See? We all liked the same thing, but for different reasons. And then the steps, of course. Because he is two. But we all enjoyed ourselves.

Our old friend Abe. Who is wearing shoes.

Our old friend Abe. Who is wearing shoes.

5. The Familiar is Sometimes the Most Precious

I grew up in Baltimore, and we took many school trips to DC. And like I said before, I used to work in the city, and drove past those monuments and museums every day. But sometimes when we live close to something, you aren’t driving past it thankful for the chance to live near such amazing things. Sometimes, you go past them like you are driving past  the grocery store. And all of that majesty becomes mundane. And that should never happen. What a gift it is to live near beauty and history, and to take advantage of it by actually seeing it and experiencing it.

And that leads me to the most familiar, yet precious things I have: my family. Vacations give you time to unwind and see stuff, but also to see each other. You put the bills, and the telemarketers and work aside, and you get to breathe. Together. And hopefully, you take the closeness, and the wonder, and the happy home with you. Vacations should be restorative, and not a Band-Aid. They illuminate the good things that you have. And that those things are still good when you get home. And THAT’s a good vacation.


The best sights I saw.

The best sights I saw.

Linking up with “oh hey, Friday!” and five things Friday

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