The Most Fun Thing to Do With Kids on a Plane

Feb 28 2014

I’ve told you before about the 3 Important Things to Pack for Airplane Travel with Young Kids. I call them the Trifecta of Airplane Actives: 1. teeny, tiny vials of bubbles, 2. cellophane tape, and 3. pipe cleaners, and you can read more about why here. But I’m telling you now, those are old news. History. Ancient advice. 

Because we just discovered the MOST fun thing to do on airplanes.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  1. A young child who’s not afraid of strangers; I used a 7-year-old, but this activity should work well for kids aged 4-10.
  2. Seat assignments for your family dispersed throughout 5 rows, only 2 of which are actually together.
  3. The Cal State Fullerton baseball team.**

Now, here’s what you do.

As you board the aircraft and usher kids to their seats, reminding them gently to use the activities in their backpacks and not kick the seats in front of them, you’ll notice your 1st grader – the chatty one with a little bit of crystalized cinnamon sugar around his mouth – will be seated in a window seat, surrounded by a sea of nice college men, all wearing their pristine nylon baseball warm-ups, all with perfectly styled hair, all with chiseled jaws and clean tennis shoes, on their way from Cal State Fullerton to play the University of Oregon.

MAKE EYE CONTACT with the young gentlemen sharing your son’s row and introduce him to them.

“This is Cai,” you can say. “He’s sitting in that seat next to you.”

Then it’s important to FOCUS ON THE ONE SITTING NEXT TO HIM.

The one in the middle seat.

The one looking a little shell-shocked to be suddenly playing babysitter on the flight.

A tiny bit unsteady.

The slightest bit unsure.

But trying – really trying – with good grace to be kind and welcoming.

Focus on that guy and say, “Don’t worry. Cai does GREAT on planes. He’s done this a thousand times, and I promise you, he’s really well-behaved and he only vomits a little bit after take-off.” Make that “little bit” symbol with your thumb and forefinger, and then think about it and correct yourself, “I mean, it can technically be a lot of puke, but it doesn’t last very long, and if you hold the barf bag steady for him, he should get it all in there just fine.” 

Of course, your child, who’s been stupidly taught to tell the truth, will immediately ruin everything by saying, “I do NOT throw up on planes, Mom. I NEVER throwed up on a plane. Not ever.” 

But I swear by all that’s good and holy in this world, that split second of sheer terror on that nice college guy’s face before your kid gives you away will be the most fun thing you’ve done with a kid on a plane. Ever. Guaranteed.

And all the people sitting around you – especially that guy’s buddies, who laughed until take-off – will agree with you. 


CalStateFullerton**Psst… you can try this activity with another baseball team or sports team of a different variety, but I think it’s important to have, say, well-groomed, clean-cut, gel-haired college people who care about not being ralphed on. Rugby players like my brother are more likely to yell, “VOMIT! YEAH, MAN!” and fist-bump the child in question as a form of harfing solidarity before being terribly disappointed to find out you’re joking. Choose wisely, is what I’m saying. 

And P.S., there was no puking. In fact, when we deplaned, several people complimented Cai on how well-behaved he was during that flight. Let this be a lesson to us all: if you set incredibly low expectations, you really can’t help but exceed them. 😉

If You’re Really, REALLY Lucky & Your Wife Loves You Very, VERY Much, Someday She Might Do Something Like This for You

Feb 24 2014

You know those iconic pics from your childhood that you just HATE and no one will ever let you live down?

Like, ever?

This is Greg’s, from high school, 25 years ago at Disneyland with his family.

Because Holy White Short Shorts, Batman.


And, also, you Sexy, Sexy Boy.

Now, Greg was hoping, of course, that someday I’d put that on the internets for everyone to see, but because I love him so much (so, SO much) — and because he missed those short shorts deep, deep down inside — I decided to make a grand gesture and demonstrate my love for Greg by buying him brand new (ish) white short shorts from Goodwill… and bringing them to Disneyland so he could recreate his photo, 25 years later.

Which is what we did.


And why we are now, officially, celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Greg’s Short Shorts.

I know. I know.

Best. Wife. Ever.


In conclusion, greater love has no man than this: that he recreate an 80’s short shorts picture for his wife.



P.S. Greg saw a t-shirt he wants on this trip. It reads, “I Love My Crazy Wife.” Also, I think he’s willing to trade me for a churro and a new set of mouse ears at this point. Or best offer; he seems open to negotiation.


Because Grace

Feb 21 2014

There are bits and pieces of my life – of all our lives, I suspect – that can’t be parsed or parceled or wrapped up into neat packages, and so they become secrets, not in bad ways necessarily, but quiet and hidden nonetheless because I find myself at a loss for how to disassemble them in any way that makes sense while leaving them as deep and horrible and wonderful and true as they really are. I wait to talk about these pieces, usually, until I can manage to break off a piece of the story about adoption, about depression, about marriage, about faith, about the dark, about grace, about train wrecks, about my body, about kids with special needs, about LIFE. A piece that makes sense as itself, not polished or perfect, perhaps, but something that reflects the whole. That shines a light on the rest. That helps me put words to the rock that is part of the mountain or the grain that is part of the beach or the drop that is part of the ocean that overwhelms me.

But I sit here tonight, on the carpet of my hotel room, outside the bathroom which is the quietest place in the room where my children are awake past their bedtime watching cartoons and the Disney channel, and I try to put words to the mountain, to the beach, to the ocean, but I find myself a little lost. A little wandery. A little speechless. Which you can tell by all the words I’m using to say absolutely nothing at all; the sign, always, of a writer gone astray. 

It’s just that my niece has cancer, and she’s had it for 6 of her 8 years of life with all of the ups and downs and what-ifs that word entails. Cancer. Which is Damn It All. And Dear Jesus, Help. Because cancer.

And tonight, in Anaheim, before we start our manic extended family Disneyland trip, terrorizing a park full of good people with our myriad children – my five rowdies plus our niece who is brave and bold and beautiful and spends a fabulous amount of time shaking her head, trying to choose between delight and dismay at her cousins’ shenanigans – I’m stuck on the floor with my butt going numb, thinking about life and about cancer and about words and stories and mountains that seem sometimes too high to cross, even a rock at a time.

And I…

I just…

There’s no piece to break off. 

No way to make this story neat or tidy.

No way to shrink it down to something that makes sense.

Because cancer.

I wrote an email the other night to a group of women who are, at the same time, strangers to me and also my friends. We’re due to meet each other in person in Portland next month, most of us for the first time, but we’ve met each other before, here, in this bloggy ether, where we’ve told true truths and revealed our real selves, and I don’t know how that’s possible without counting each other as friends.

In my message, I asked the women to introduce themselves, Reply-All style, and then they did. Except they didn’t just give their superficial stats because I think they forgot it’s more culturally appropriate to only dip our toes in the water with each other. To be tentative. To hold back.

Instead, they started writing things like this, from Elizabeth, “In addition to our living children, our oldest child died of pneumonia several years ago at age 3, and we just had a stillbirth due to terminal defects in December. I am okay, nobody freak out; I just prefer to mention this upfront.”

And this, from Jennifer, “My husband was diagnosed with lymphoma in September and we are nearing the end of his chemo. His last scan came back good. By the time we actually all meet, he will be all done (except for recovery) and will have another scan. That’s the week before we meet, so expect me to be either crazy elated or a complete wreck.” 

And this, from Andrea Dillard, “Can I just say you all sound lovely? And totally intimidating? I’m not very good at groups or at introducing myself or at making friends with other women.” 

I found myself at my computer, reading their stories and drinking deeply from their vulnerability and generally breaking down as I was knit imperfectly back together, because I was, at that moment, trying to juggle answering an email from a truly kind woman who doesn’t understand why I use swear words in the middle of an otherwise nice blog post and is very concerned that I’m undermining my witness for Christ… and listening to a voice mail from our pediatrician about whether anti-anxiety medication is right for the son who’s battling increasingly severe panic… and reading an email from someone outraged that I made light of the Girl Scout controversies… and planning and replanning this trip to Disneyland, a trip for which I feel guilty spending money and insanely grateful for the opportunity to spend time with my kids and my niece… and thinking about kids and cancer… and I guess I just needed help facing the mountains.

You know?

I needed help looking at the winding path up the rocky slope that disappears into the trees.

I needed help putting one foot in front of the other when God only knows if this mountain is passable.

I needed help, but I didn’t know how to even mention the mountains. The range of mountains. How to name them. How to acknowledge their vastness and my inability to surmount them. 

But grace came anyway.

Grace came anyway in the form of strangers and friends sharing bits of truth, and they let me borrow little pieces of their souls to patch mine.

Which is when Jennifer wrote, “I stayed up until midnight watching mindless TV. Because cancer. I stay up late enough so that I am too tired to think when my head hits the pillow. The first time I mentioned the ‘C’ word out loud to my husband I said, ‘You have cancer. What the fuck?’ I hadn’t said fuck in five years. Now I say it every time I stub my toe or drop something. Because grace.”  

And these words, I felt, despite the kind lady who doesn’t understand, are exactly Jesus and exactly Love and exactly Light, as best as I can understand them while looking at the mountains. Because cancer. And what the fuck? And grace.

Because grace. 

Because grace.

Because grace.

photo 3 (32)

An Open Letter to the Girl Scouts of the USA on the REAL Issue With Your Organization

Feb 18 2014


Dear Girl Scouts of the USA,

I know you’ve had your share of controversies over the last few years, and I don’t mean to fan the flames, but I’ve thought about this long and hard, and I believe I would be remiss if I neglected to bring one additional, and, frankly, much bigger issue to your attention.

Now, I get that you are all, clearly, a bunch of left-leaning, lesbian, feminist, pro-abortionists who brilliantly cover up your true motives by:

a) having no policy whatsoever on human sexuality, birth control or abortion, stating instead that it’s your role to “help girls develop self-confidence and good decision-making skills that will help them make wise choices in all areas of their lives,” 

b) teaching girls to pursue four goals: developing their full potential; relating to others with increasing understanding, skill, and respect; developing a meaningful set of values to guide their actions and make sound decisions; and contributing to the improvement of society,

and, c) disguising yourselves for the last 102 years as highly intelligent, poised, motivated, active women who tirelessly promote leadership skills in young women, counting women in both major US political parties among your most famous members,

but I have a hard time understanding why the BIGGEST Girl Scout issue of our time is constantly being swept under the rug. Or perhaps I should say the littlest issue, because, Girlfriends, here it is:

The sizes of those boxes of crack cookies you sell are too small.

Way too small. Way, WAY too small.

And that is a matter that needs addressing.

Obviously, your marketing department is extremely clever, using the hot button controversies of our time to camouflage serious underlying cookie issues.

I just have to wonder… do you think it’s still 1917? When people ate reasonably? Responsibly? Mindfully? And when consuming four Thin Mints at a time was possible? Instead of, say, an entire sleeve of 12… or two sleeves of 24, as the case may be? Because if you do, you’ve got us pegged wrong. Wrong, I tell you. WRONG.

Listen; I’m not here to tell you how to run your organization, but I’d like to respectfully suggest you take a step back from teaching values such as honesty, fairness, courage, compassion, character, sisterhood, confidence, and citizenship and step it up on the size of those cookie boxes already.

Yours truly,





Beth Woolsey
Five Kids Is A Lot Of Kids 

JulietteGordonLowP.S. I don’t want you thinking this letter is satire, because a) the boxes really are too small, ladies. I’ve gained ZERO POUNDS this cookie season because my chaos of children eats them ALL before I can get anywhere near those teeny, tiny boxes. Obviously, this will never do. I don’t want to be greedy, but I think you owe me at least a 5 pound weight gain. And b) that feminist thing is totally true. In 1916, Girl Scout founder, Juliette Gordon Low (pictured to the right) established an aviation badge—even before women could vote. The nerve!

P.P.S. I want to be like Juliette Gordon Low when I grow up. 

P.P.P.S. I look forward to your response, Girl Scouts. You can contact me at 

Writing Contest: Family and Imperfection

Feb 16 2014

It’s time! It’s here!

I’m very excited to announce our first WRITING CONTEST is officially open for submissions. Our theme is Family and Imperfection, and parameters are loosey-goosey because, as a writer myself, I find the best work comes from the heart and not from a precise word count or writing style.

If you’re a writer, take a shot! ENTER. If you’re not a writer, share this with your writing friends; trust me, telling a writer friend you thought of them – that you think they’ve got what it takes to make this writing gig happen, that they have stories worth telling – is life-giving encouragement. If it wasn’t for a few people who relentlessly encouraged me and continuously urged me to KEEP WRITING, I wouldn’t be here with all of you today; instead, I’d still have what my kids call a “real job” where I “help people” and not a “pretend job” where I “think about myself all day.” And man, that would suck.

Five winners will have their submissions featured individually here at the 5 Kids blog, and one of those five will be selected by the editor of Mamapedia to be featured again on that wildly popular site as a Mamapedia Voice

Here are all the details: 

OldWoodPencil5 Kids Writing Contest Submission Guidelines

  • Theme: Family and Imperfection. Please note: this contest is open to ALL writers. Parents. Non-parents. Experienced writers. Novices. Young people. Old people. Decrepit people. Exhausted people. And people who spilled coffee on themselves this morning. ALL the people.
  • Style: We’d like to read compelling stories! We’re looking for essays that are well-written, interesting, engaging, entertaining and/or thought-provoking. They can be serious, funny, sentimental… whatever. Knock yourself out.
  • Word Count: The number needed to tell your story. As a loose guideline, I do recommend keeping it between 800-1,500 words just for readability. If your story is more compelling than 1,500 words, though, or doesn’t need 800 to tell it, ignore me. No one’s going to count your words.
  • Previously Unpublished: Please submit original and previously unpublished work. Yes, this includes previously unpublished online, as well. 
  • Dates: The contest officially opens for submissions February 16 – March 1, 2014. Contest winners will be announced by March 10, 2014.
  • Contact: Send your essay to me at Use “Writing Contest Submission” in the subject line.
  • Include: Your essay, a brief bio (less than 150 words), a headshot, any photographs or other illustrations that accompany your essay (you must own the rights), and any links you’d like included if your piece is selected (i.e. your blog, any books you’ve written, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Winners and Prizes: 5 Winning Essays will be selected by a panel of judges and featured individually as guest posts on the 5 Kids Blog. From the 5 Winners, the editor of Mamapedia will select one essay to feature on the Mamapedia website as a Mamapedia Voice. Psst… Mamapedia has over 140,000 Facebook fans and 2 million unique visitors per month; I’m very grateful for the fabulous editor there for working with us on this contest!


Old Wood Pencil image credit gubgib via

Love Is: An Ode to Our Marriage

Feb 14 2014

When we were married 19 years ago, I knew about love. I did. And I wasn’t wrong because love is, in fact, gentle and love is kind. Love is a two-way street. And love is a choice. And love, it’s true, is what conquers against all odds. I knew. I did. And I wasn’t wrong. 

But I didn’t know that love, also, was made up of failure. And of bruises. And of falling down. And of getting up. Sometimes. Eventually. And of a thousand thousand tiny moments and little sighs and brief caresses and small hurts and exhaustion and healing and time. 

I didn’t know like I do now, in part, what love is for us. What it was going to be. What it has become. Which is always evolving. And made up of this:

Love is. 

Oh, dear.

Love is.

Love is magic and mystery and mundane and madness.

Love is painful and peculiar and pathetic and perfect.

Love is deep and wise and shallow and foolish.

And love is…

…love is made from more than I ever imagined. 

Love is using weapons of mass verbal destruction and rebuilding together anyway and then trying – trying – not to strike with such precision next time.

Love is a million dishes in the sink and watching the washer flood and knowing you can’t afford to paint the house this summer after all.

Love is fighting about money and trust and children and in-laws and priorities and then buying Thin Mints together even though you’re broke.

Love is calling him to say, “I’m OK, but I’m at the hospital. I lost the baby. Again.”

Love is emailing and texting and instant messaging. Sometimes in the same room. Sometimes about things that matter.

Love is that time you had to call him for help because you sharted in the closet while you were pregnant with twins and couldn’t get all the way down to the floor by yourself to clean it up.

Love is like water in all its forms. As still as the snow. As sharp as the ice. As raging as a river. As endless as the ocean. And as muddy as the puddle your toddler will find on the drizzly day in the parking lot right before family pictures.

Love is taking each other for granted and every once in a while remembering not to.

Love is bailing each other out and listening well and forgetting to listen at all and succeeding and failing again and again. 

Love is watching him choose to love you more than he fears getting it wrong.

Love is the memory of the silhouette of him above you by the light of the voyeur moon.

And love is telling the kids who are pounding on the locked door that you’re having a “meeting,” and dad will be out in a second (“sadly, literally,” he says), and then trying to find an explanation for what’s so funny.

Love is watching him watch your children and knowing there’s one person, as impossible as it seems, who just might love them as much as you do.

And love is discovering – knowing what you know now about pain and desolation and fear and anger and falling apart and coming together – that you’d choose to do it this way all over again.


What is love for you?

Doodle Embroidery: Only as Inappropriate as You Make It

Feb 13 2014

My grandma taught me to cross stitch right around 1980, and I was a rainbow-producing machine. Sometimes I even made my rainbows fancy with clouds at either end because, what can I say? I was a sewing prodigy.

Well, I have a new favorite pastime these days, inspired by Dame Judy Dench because that lady is classy and accomplished, and, also, she embroiders profane pillows.

I cannot adequately describe the timbre of my laughter or the depth of camaraderie I felt with Dame Dench upon discovering that delicious bit of news, because, of course, there is something both delightfully ridiculous and intensely freeing about using the art medium that is synonymous with docile femininity to be subversive. 


Right after I read the article about Dame Dench’s on-set art projects, I came across the book Doodle Stitching by Aimee Ray. As a former avid cross stitcher, pattern-follower, and occasional pattern off-roader, I was immediately enamored with Aimee’s free-form doodles. Now, they’re not totally my style – a tiny bit cutesy for my taste, although certainly in keeping with traditional embroidery – but this idea that you can doodle and sew anything? Anything at all? Big fan! Huge! So I splurged on Aimee’s book, and I’ve been creating my own, socially awkward dish towels ever since.

Here are three of my favorites:


1. For the home that’s welcoming to children,


Children Welcome Here
(the rest will be made into pies)


2. For my brother and sister-in-law for Christmas, a quote from the totally awesome kid with autism with whom my brother used to work. He’s known in our family for classics like, “I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my brain,” and the always popular phrase for a kid proactively working on learning social cues,


“May I sniff you?”


3. And , for my parents for Christmas, a favorite and extremely frequently used phrase of my grandfather‘s,


“Oh shit, oh dear.”


Simple. Creative. Expressive. Individualized. I’m in love with doodle embroidery.

If you’d like to doodle embroider, I do highly recommend Doodle Stitching.* It’s a comprehensive guide with complete instructions for different types of stitches, lists of materials and hundreds of design ideas. 

Briefly, though, here’s what I use:


  • Material of your choice – I prefer dish towels because they’re both useful and temporary. I don’t want someone sitting around with an Oh Shit, Oh Dear pillow 10 years from now wishing they could throw it out but afraid of hurting my feelings. With a dish towel you get to use it to death and then toss it, guilt free!
  • Embroidery floss – I picked colors from my cross stitch stash, and I LOVED picking whatever colors I liked instead of matching up numbers and realizing I don’t have enough 3371 to finish a project.
  • 6″ embroidery hoop
  • Needles
  • Scissors
  • Embroidery transfer pen – use to doodle directly on the fabric, freehand or tracing, and erase with a damp cloth.

Here’s what a project looks like when I’ve drawn but not finished sewing it:


And here’s a preview of my current project, barely started:


P.S. I make these while sitting in church. 😀 You can pray for my people.

*P.P.S. Aimee Ray is not affiliated with this site. She doesn’t know I’m promoting her book. Let’s give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she’d be horrified to see what I’ve done with it. I think that’s only fair.