We Are Both Right

Best of: Road Trip Games

©MEJones/stock.xchng

When your family goes on a road trip, how do you keep the kids entertained?

Road trip! The words have different connotations depending upon your age and station in life. For families with young children, the notion of hours (and hours and hours) in a moving metal box with four wheels and finite space can seem a bit daunting.

There are, luckily, devices designed to keep the whole family entertained while you are on the way to the main entertainment (Walley World anyone?). From portable DVD players to handheld video games (and let’s not forget books!), there are myriad ways to keep kids busy while you drive from Point A to Point B (and stop at Landmark C in between).

But now, not to get all “when I was your age I walked uphill in a snowstorm seven miles both ways,” but when we were younger, there were no electronic toys to keep us occupied. It was just ourselves (and a sibling or two), confined to the back seat, trying to stay sane. What did we do? Road trip games of course! Here are some of our favorites:

  • I Spy
  • 20 Questions
  • License Plate Bingo
  • Team Storytelling
  • Rock, Paper, Scissors
  • Banana Game (Whoever finds the most yellow cars wins)
  • Punchbuggy! (In which you keep an eye out for VW Bugs)
  • Mad Libs (buy the books or make up your own in advance)
  • Which Hand?
  • Quiz the Big People (the little one picks a topic and you name as many Pokemon, dinosaurs, etc. as you can in a minute)
  • Be Weird Al (and create your own song parodies)
  • Build an Imaginary Sandwich (the only time you will OK a pretzel, chocolate chip, syrup, white bread combo)
  • Colorforms on the windows
  • Magnetic fishing

What about you? What kind of road trip games do you like to play in the car with your kids?

(Originally published on July 22, 2011)

Best of: Bringing Tears to Our Eyes

tears of joy

What makes you cry tears of joy? ©davidlat/stock.xchng

For my mother it’s the song “Pomp and Circumstance.” She could hear the hopeful notes being played as far away from a graduation ceremony as could possibly be (think Musak in the elevator), and she’ll still find herself welling up, imagining polyester gowns, squared-off caps and optimistic speeches that take too long.

Tears of joy — a phenomena that you’ll (hopefully) experience a lot as a parent. And the thing about crying happy tears is that you never know what will set you off. Maybe it’s a sweet homemade card or one of your kids doing something uncharacteristically nice for their siblings.

Whatever it is, despite you tears, you feel good inside and you are once again reminded how lucky you are to be a parent.

So in honor of Mother’s Day on Sunday we’re sharing our favorite ways our little ones bring tears to our eyes. Pass the tissues!

  • First steps
  • Preschool graduation ceremonies where they sing songs you wouldn’t expect — ask Suzanne about “I Believe I Can Fly”
  • Dance recitals
  • Watching a child sleep
  • Solos at the school band concert
  • School-sponsored Mother’s Day teas, complete with crumbly homemade cookies and watered-down juice
  • Watching your little athlete be handed the game ball
  • Thinking back to the delivery room
  • The Song “Five Days Old” by the Laurie Berkner Band (gets Amanda every time)
  • When they brush my hair
  • The last day of school (and camp) goodbyes with friends
  • Pictures of my children giggling and playing, full of love
  • The special moments when you see siblings really connect (and dare we say, adore each other)

What about you? What makes you cry happy tears?

Best Of (the Worst Of): Reasons Kids Throw Tantrums

child screaming

Look familiar? There are lots of reasons a child has a tantrum, but we really do need to start working on a catch-all solution. Quickly. ©Ginger Garvey/stock.xchng

SAAAAAN-DAAAAALS! The battle cry heard ’round the world. It was the beginning of another tantrum — and as usual it was about clothes.

So what that the temperature had dipped back down below 50 and it was windy and we were about to spend five hours outside on a dusty, clay-caked field for a Little League double-header. Sandals seemed pretty reasonable (and fashionable) in a four-year-old’s mind. Mom’s thoughts? Not so much. Commence tantrum.

You know the scene. And once a child gets into that mode – they’re as locked in as Maverick and Goose in Top Gun. Hugs, talking quietly, ignoring, yelling, nothing seems to work.

The one thing we have realized after years of experience is that sometimes prevention is the best medicine. If you know your child’s triggers, there are some things you can do to ward off the tantrums or at least make them less frequent or shorter in length.

It didn’t take us long at We Are Both Right to come up with the most tantrum-inducing scenarios. What did take a while was coming up with some solutions that didn’t involve earplugs or a passport and a one-way ticket for mommy to a deserted island.

Obviously, episodes like getting dressed in the morning and leaving friends’ houses are pretty much inevitable, so at some point you have to deal. But we’re thinking with these tricks, it might make life with a tantrum-thrower a little easier.

Problem/Solution

Choosing an outfit in the morning that doesn’t entail velvet in June or white satin sleeveless dresses on tie-die day in preschool in February. Take some time each night and turn this into a fun activity. Either watch the local weather forecast together on TV or pull it up on the web. Ask your child to interpret the  symbols, whether it’s partly cloudy, sunny, rainy or snowy. Explain the temperature and talk about what it will feel like on your skin. Give them the chance to be a weather reporter and give a little report to the family on what it would be best to wear the next day (i.e. pants and heavy sweaters, umbrella and raincoats, tank top and shorts, etc.) Then have your child pick an outfit to match the weather (and hope the weatherman wasn’t wrong). It will make your child feel like she has more control of the situation and made the decision herself based on her own conclusions.

Wanting something at the store and mean mommy won’t buy it. Talk about your shopping list ahead of time and ask them to check off things as they go in the cart. Explain that you have just enough money to buy these things, and anything they see and want, you have to think about adding to the list next time. If this doesn’t work, find a willing babysitter and go shopping by yourself (my solution for a few months when my kids were each around 30 months old).

Washing hands before and after dinner (the horror). Buy colored soap, peach-scented soap, hand them a wipe to do the job themselves. If that doesn’t work, threaten an earlier bath (and bed) time. Or do a science experiment on germs and let them see what dirty hands look like under a black light. It worked in our house!

Having to leave home to go someplace. Bring along the toy or thing that has them so attached to home in the first place. Tell them they will have so much fun when they get there. And then when they do, see below.

Having to leave someplace to go home. Promise that there are so many fun things to do at home, too. Tell your child that he can call his friend on the phone as soon as you get home. Have a snack stash in the car to lure her in. And then just make a quick break, because prolonged goodbyes never make it better.

Going to the supermarket (admittedly this makes me want to tantrum too). Bring a cart-worthy toy, or head to the book aisle in the supermarket and pick up a new book for your child to thumb through. It doesn’t necessarily have to come home with you, as you exchange it for a loaf of bread on the shelf. If your child knows colors, letters or shapes, play a treasure hunt game with them as you make your way through the store. Promise a special treat as you leave if they make it through tantrum-free.

Home improvement shopping where tantrumy child wants to run freely through glass tile displays on his way to jump into the whirlpool bathtub on display. Been there. The only solution is to leave and come back when you can actually form a clear thought about the tile that will be on your floor, well, forever.

Meal battles (think ice pops for breakfast). Recite a menu before the tantrum-prone child gets to declare his wishes. “Today, we have waffles, yogurt and cereal. Which would you like to start with?” And then ask another question immediately after — a distraction technique that I like to use. “And should we use your blue or yellow plate?” That way both answers come together and the child doesn’t think much about either one.

Best case scenario: Sometimes the tantrum isn’t full-blown and you will see a child who gets miffed and goes into meltdown mode, but storms off to a quiet space on her own, maybe even with a noisy door slam on the way out. Give it 10-15 minutes and chances are a centered, calm child will emerge like nothing ever happened.

So let us know where you are at with tantrums — do they happen once a week, once a month, or every day in your home? What are your best tips for keeping tantrums at bay? We’re listening, just don’t mind the screaming in the next room.

Best Of: How to Make Time for Your Spouse or Partner

Even if you are married with kids, a (quiet) candlelit dinner is possible! cynthiab ©/stock.xchng

Even if you are married with kids, a (quiet) candlelit dinner is possible! cynthiab ©/stock.xchng

Being married with kids can sometimes give you tunnel vision. Wake the kids, feed the kids, play with the kids, get the kids to school, get the kids from school, get the kids to afterschool activities, feed the kids dinner, put the kids to bed and everything else that the kids need in between.

All important of course, but it’s also necessary to make time for your partner in all this — your spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend — it doesn’t matter what they are called, but it does matter that you get some alone time together, or at least a few minutes to talk uninterrupted. But how? Certainly you could hire a babysitter for an evening, but that often comes with extra cost and not everyone has access to a person they trust.

Instead, consider ways to make time within the confines of your busy life to find time. Take advantage of the few quiet moments or carve out some time by making your own (some are better advised than others). Even if the kids are with you, it is possible! Here are our suggestions:

  • Tuck the kids into bed early, rent a movie or play a game and bring in take out for a late dinner
  • Consider taking a break from dinner time being family time for a night. Let the kids eat in the living room with a movie while you have a quiet dinner in the dining room (or vice versa)
  • Wake up early and eat breakfast together alone
  • Pack the kids in the car and go for a long drive. If your minivan or vehicle is equipped with DVD player, utilize it. If not, let the kids bring books or portable game systems that will keep them occupied. (Make an exception if you usually frown upon such devices.)
  • If you both work (or if one of you does) while the kids are in school or daycare, consider taking a “goof off” day
  • When the weather is nice, go for a walk as a family at a local high school on the running track. Let the kids run ahead (staying in sight of course) while you two talk.
  • Invite another couple with kids over for dinner. Let the children entertain each other while they play, giving the grown-ups a chance to socialize.
  • If there is another family you are friendly with, consider setting up a babysitter swap arrangement where you take their kids for a night and they take yours.

How do you make time for your marriage?

Best of: What’s for Brinner?

breakfast for dinner

Breakfast for dinner anyone? ©Alicia Solario/stock.xchng

Brinner. Better known as breakfast for dinner. Or that quick fix on a busy night when you just can’t fathom take-out again.

What’s not to like?

Brinner is the easiest evening meal to pull off.

It can be as healthy as you make it.

The kids can help.

Did we mention it’s quick?

And in our homes, brinner often gets a better reception from the kids than when we spend close to an hour or longer finely mincing, dicing, and sauteing ourselves to a balanced meal (and a sink full of dirty dishes).

The husbands are a different story. Brinner is not a winner for either of them, although neither seems to mind if we serve the kids pancakes at 6 p.m. when they’re working late.

And at times like that, a mom will eat just about anything that doesn’t require a meat thermometer:

Sticky Waffles: Pop a few fluffy style frozen waffles (cinnamon work great with this) into the toaster. Set your preschooler up with a butter knife and a peeled banana to slice into quarter-inch rounds (or however they manage to do it). Spread peanut butter (optional) onto the toasted waffles, top with bananas and drizzle with honey. Warm, sticky, and yummy!

Egg Sandwiches: Eggs any which way with your favorite cheese, and bacon if you have a few more minutes to spare, smooshed between toasted English muffins, croissants, whole wheat, frozen dinner rolls, whatever bread you have on hand — it all works!

Veggie Frittata or Omelette: Same idea as above, just dump some whisked eggs and milk into an oven proof pan. Stir in diced tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, peppers, leftover ham, or anything you have a chance at disguising for your kids. Top with shredded cheese and slip it into a warm oven while you find those paper plates.

Breakfast burrito: Line up bowls with scrambled eggs, hashbrowns (the frozen kind warmed up), salsa, sour cream and shredded cheese alongside warmed tortilla wraps and consider it a make-your-own kind of night.

What’s for brinner by you? Share your favorite “recipe” below and tell us about how many times a month you enjoy breakfast for dinner.

Best of: Reasons Why You’re the Meanest Mom

mean mom glanzerr©/stock.xchng

Sorry kid, if you want to go outside, you'll need to put your coat on. glanzerr©/stock.xchng

There’s an interesting little aspect of parenting that no one tells you about. Your kids may love you, but it doesn’t mean they have to like you. Especially when you are in “mean mom” mode — telling them not do something that they want to do or making them eat their vegetables or coming up with some other ridiculous “mom” rule that is completely unfair in the oh-so-silly interest of keeping them safe and healthy.

You know what we mean. One chilly morning last week (34 degrees fahrenheit), Amanda’s 11-year-old son stormed off to the school bus stop in a huff because she made him put on his coat. The horror! What’s next? A hat? Some gloves?

And that’s not all! Here are some more seemingly-obvious little rules that we’ve actually found ourselves uttering and, according to our kids, make us the meanest moms that ever lived. (Please save your phone calls to the authorities until you have reached the end of the list.)

  • No bare feet on the dinner table. (No feet on the table period.)
  • No using your little brother as a ball.
  • Your test is a week away? Great! Start studying now.
  • Jell-O is not a fruit.
  • Yes, you have to take a shower every day.
  • The ceiling fan is not the same as the monkey bars and should not be treated as such.
  • Please stop jumping on the trampoline, um, I mean couch.
  • The dog is not a horse.
  • No more slap shots with the hockey puck down the hallway.
  • You’re nine now, it’s time to use a fork.

We know we aren’t alone. Share your favorite “mean mom” moments in the comments section or on our Facebook page!

Best of: Things Parents Say

red barn

"Whaddya think, we live in a barn or something?" and other great parenting one-liners... ©Robert Walker/stock.xchng

You promised yourself it would never happen. And then one day it does.

Your parent’s words come out of your mouth.

Maybe it’s a phrase that makes you sound like a cranky pants instead of the progressive parent with a degree in positive reinforcement that you are. In some cases, it’s a saying that your kids won’t have a hope of understanding now (i.e. “You sound like a broken record.”)

But the first time it happens, it’s almost like a rite of passage. You have officially adopted the universal, age-old vocabulary of parenting. And when you hear other parents using the same lines as you (like my husband and I often do), it makes you wonder if somewhere along the way there really was a parenting handbook that had to be memorized.

I never got a copy, but it’s not too late to start the e-version. So here goes…

Why do I think that you just might have a few to add?

  • She’s not my kid, you are.
  • What do you think, we live in a barn?
  • Money doesn’t grow on trees.
  • I’m going to make you friends (perfect for siblings who are anything but)
  • Just wait until we get home.
  • I don’t have a refrigerator in here (my mom’s famous line that I’ve pulled out whenever my kids ask me for a chocolate milk, peanut butter sandwich, or a piece of cheese while we’re walking through a store and it’s obvious that all I have on me is my purse).
  • I’ll give you something to cry about (my personal favorite).
  • Hold your horses.
  • As long as you’re living under my roof…
  • Someday you’ll thank me.
  • Someday I hope your kids act like this for you.
  • You should be a lawyer (my Dad’s career advice to me at the age of five).
  • Don’t make me stop this car.
  • Why? Because I said so.
  • Watch out or your face will freeze like that.
  • Hay is for horses (handed straight down from my mom to my daughter, who thinks this saying is the cat’s meow).
  • This isn’t a democracy. It’s a dictatorship.

I haven’t had to use them all yet, but you just never know when these words of wisdom might come in handy. In the meantime, what are your favs?

Best of: Thankful Thoughts

Giving thanks

Giving thanks... ©Marinka van Holten/stock.xchng

When do you stop and think about all that you are thankful for?

How often do you count your blessings?

Of course, Thanksgiving is always a good excuse to reflect, but we don’t have to wait until the actual holiday to consider all of the people and things in our lives that we appreciate.

We’ve decided to add a thankful thought to our site every day leading up to Thanksgiving.

And once we’re on a roll, it just might be something we get in the habit of doing even more frequently. After all, it’s a great way to begin or end any day, and a wonderful tradition to share with a child.

We are thankful for…

children who crave love more than perfection

crisp fall nights where darkness falls early and there’s a pot of homemade soup on the stove

a child who is willing to share his hard-earned stockpile of Snickers

being an optimist. Even when I’m at my lowest, if I just give myself some time, I’m always able to find that silver lining

friends, mine and my children’s

daylight savings time (we needed that extra hour this weekend!)

that gas prices are dropping (for now)

that my two older children embrace the titles of “big brother” and “big sister” so readily and happily

the chance to make the most of a new day

episodes of Blue’s Clues free on demand from my cable company (my 2-year-old is a huge fan!)

the troops (current and past) who have had to leave behind their own families to protect ours

long weekends away with my husband

that my husband has made a family tradition out of his big Sunday morning breakfasts

my children’s teachers (past and present) for helping shape who they are becoming

that my daughter has a knack for memorizing songs and singing them in the sweetest voice ever

that my son got a new book today and hasn’t been able to put it down

having family to depend upon

great report cards (and the kids that earned them)

that I can still raid my mom’s closet

friends who help you out in a pinch

a sunroom that doubles as an indoor playground so the kids can still burn off energy even when the temperature outside take a dip

my family — my husband who makes me laugh every day and my children who taught me the true meaning of unconditional love

that the guy who misread my signals 18 years ago today decided to ask me out on a date anyway

…not to mention that we are thankful to you for being a part of We Are Both Right, and would love for you to help our list grow by adding your thankful thoughts below.


Best of: Scaring Up a Halloween Costume for the Littlest Goblin

baby Halloween costume

Trick or treat...dressing up the little ones for Halloween is half the fun. ©Mitchael McDonald/stock.xchng

What’s long and brown and red all over?

A mommy dressed as a hot dog covered in ketchup.

And that would be me walking around the neighborhood this Halloween had the tables been turned, and my son had the opportunity to pick out my costume.

He saw it in the store today and had to have it. But just not for himself. I guess no self-respecting 9-year-old wants to look like processed meat with condiments spread from his head to his toes. Can’t say I blame him.

On the other hand, if the parent of a toddler happened to think that was the cutest thing ever, you can bet there would be a mini hot dog strapped in a stroller being traipsed around the neighborhood getting laughs at every door. Because that’s our privilege (and pleasure) as parents.

Who can resist those adorable bumblebee costumes and Woody and Jesse get-ups? How about the pumpkin baby? Or the real-life Rubik’s cube?

Whether you buy it from the store, or put in hours crafting it yourself, your little one’s Halloween costume is a chance to be creative. It won’t be long before they ask to dress like zombies and rock stars, so get in there while you can and try on some of these costume ideas for size:

Suzanne

Fisherman and baby fish: The first joint costume my children donned for Halloween, my daughter’s first and my budding fisherman’s sixth. His favorite part? Netting her.

Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion or any other Wizard of Oz combo: Another great costume pairing for siblings who don’t have a say in the matter just yet!

Static cling: Haven’t had to do it yet, but attach a few socks and underwear to a sweatsuit and it has to be the easiest last minute, low-budget costume ever.

Amanda

Sam I Am: Dress your child in all yellow and then add a two-sided placard. On the front have it read “I am Sam.” On the back, “Sam I am.” Add a paper plate with drawn green eggs and ham.

Any of the Harry Potter characters: A black robe, a red, blue, green or yellow scarf [depending on your house] and you are good to go. You can style hair and add props accordingly.

Pea Pod: Store bought, but one of the cutest ones ever for our infant.

What Halloween costumes are you planning for your little one? Any favorites from Halloweens past?

Best of: The Bucket List

bucket list

What's on your bucket list? ©czekka/stock.xchng

A bucket list. Or in other words, the ultimate “to do” list.

The one that’s OK to carry around with you for a lifetime.

The one that you hope to finish before you, well, uh, kick the bucket.

Do you have one? We were talking about ours recently, or more specifically how Amanda has to delay part of hers out of responsibility to her children. (See if you can guess which fall in that category.)

We thought it would be fun to share and can’t wait to see what’s on your bucket list. So here’s hoping we all have a few more decades to cross every last goal off:

Suzanne

  • Bring my children to see the hometowns of their great-great grandparents in Italy
  • Sleep on the beach
  • Build a log cabin in the Rocky Mountains and retire there with my husband
  • Enter a cooking competition
  • Do a sequel to the cross-country road trip the hubby and I took in 1999 (but this time the kids are invited)
  • Take photography classes
  • Jar my own raspberry jam
  • Splurge on a haircut at the best salon in the city
  • Run a road race with my son and daughter
  • Write a book
  • Go back to volunteering at a therapeutic riding center
  • Ride a motorcycle
  • Invent something

Amanda

  • Eat at a five-star Michelin restaurant
  • Volunteer on a regular basis
  • Drive my car in the major metropolitan city that I’ve always been afraid to
  • Skydive
  • Run a 5K (if I get this far, the distance will increase — baby steps, baby steps)
  • Write a book
  • Visit Europe (hopefully, multiple times)
  • Donate a substantial amount of money to a charity that helped our family out when we were in a tough spot
  • Play on an organized sports team
  • Plant a tree (or seven)
  • Swim with dolphins
  • Earn a master’s degree
  • Spoil my grandchildren

And now it’s your turn. From risky to routine, what’s on your bucket list?