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Best of: Things Kids Collect

What does your child collect? © Sascha Hoffmann/stock.xchng

Bert had his paper clip collection. Millions of kids have collected baseball cards. Stickers, stamps, coins. Beanie Babies. Even rocks make for an interesting collection.

For me, it was Garbage Pail Kids cards (remember those?). And how about the colorful plastic charms that attached to a necklace of links? Mine practically weighed more than my baby brother.

So I could totally relate when my preschooler son chose to surround himself with an extensive collection of dinosaur figurines. From T-rexes bigger than his arm to miniscule pterodactyls, “dino-world” as he called it, was his pride and joy. He would get them as gifts and earn new ones for good behavior. By the time he was in kindergarten, he had hundreds of dinosaurs that he would line up tail-to-mouth in a trail that wound its way around our family room.

I loved his collection — and not only because he would spent hours entertaining himself, sorting them by color, shape or type. He learned about organization and took responsibility for how and where he kept his favorite toys. It gave him reason to count up to 100 and even beyond. It also gave us a chance to talk about why some dinosaurs had horns and others only needed short arms.

Since then we’ve moved on to Pokemon, baseball and football cards. My daughter hasn’t yet identified her collection of choice, but she probably has enough Princess dresses to qualify and is kind of getting into Zhu Zhu Pets.

The only drawback to kids being so into their collections is when my heart stops because the remnants of a prized piece of their collection (i.e. a super-elite silver Pokemon card) crumbles on its way out of the clothes dryer. But other than that, it’s pretty much all good.

Does your child collect anything? Did you have a special collection as a child? Any strange collections you’ve heard about?

Best of: The Baby Product We Couldn’t Do Without

©just4you/stock.xchng

He's adorable, but he also comes with a lot of stuff. What is your baby gear must-have? ©just4you/stock.xchng

Everybody has one. Usually different from person to person, just a solitary mention inspires a passionate soliloquy (complete with bullet points and a Power Point presentation) from you on its excellence and necessity. It’s your sanity saver, getting you through sleepless nights and showerless days and you wonder why people aren’t taking to the streets, singing its praises.

It’s the baby product you can’t do without (and your go-to gift for baby showers).

Read ours and then share yours below!

Amanda:

Boppy Nursing Pillow

Do you remember those first few days after you bring home your first baby? There really is nothing like it. And unless you’ve lived it, there is no explaining it. I remember feeling like I was in a weird fog. Simultaneously both deliriously happy and scared witless out of my mind, I felt like every decision was IMPORTANT, had a great impact on my son’s future and I needed to get it right, no matter how inconsequential it would be under normal circumstances. Up is down, left is right, ice cream is a plate of liver and onions. Nothing was what it usually was.

I don’t know if breastfeeding mothers especially feel this way, but I remember feeling particularly flummoxed in the food department. My sweet newborn C. and I were having a bit of trouble with his feeding positions and no matter what hold I tried, I just couldn’t get us both comfortable. It was freaking me out and causing me great consternation across the board. It was affecting everything I did. (Seriously, I was a bit of a mess.)

Enter the Boppy.  I don’t know who introduced it to me or how I wound up with one, but I definitely got it after C. came home from the hospital. It quickly became my lifeline. It was like putting on a pair of glasses and then realizing that you couldn’t see before. Thanks to this 0h-so-simple-yet-so-brilliant, nursing pillow, feeding my son became amazingly easier. He was comfortable, I was comfortable and we were both happy. Amazing what a bit of brightly-colored fabric and some stuffing sewn into a funny shape can do.

Suzanne:

HALO SleepSack

As soon as the pregnancy hormones kicked in, this Suzy Safety went into red alert mode.  The car seat installation got checked and rechecked. Outlet covers and cabinet locks were ready to go before my first contraction hit. And my baby registry included not a single crib blanket — not even the adorable quilt that matched the nursery decor.

I had read enough about SIDS and learned that any type of loose bedding, including blankets, pillows and even stuffed animals, could pose a suffocation hazard to a baby. So to say we went the minimalist route when it came to outfitting our son’s crib would be an understatement. Even the once overlooked crib bumper got the heave-ho.

All was well and good until winter snuck up on us. With snow piled against the front door and the heat up as high as our budget could withstand, I reached into the drawers looking for the thickest set of baby pajamas I could find.  My hand brushed across a soft fleece fabric, and instead of pulling out the footed pajamas I expected, I came up with a mini sleeping bag of sorts. This yellow sack wasn’t something I had bought, and I honestly didn’t remember getting it as a gift, but it was exactly what I needed.

Then again, necessity is the mother of invention, right? That pretty much sums up the idea behind the HALO SleepSack, the wearable blanket that is endorsed by leading SIDS organizations in the U.S. and Canada. It represents everything we want for our babies — to be safe, snug and sleeping, of course — that I now include at least one in every baby gift I give.

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OK, we shared, now it’s your turn. What baby product is your absolute favorite? Why?

Best Of: Family Vacation Spots

This was our mountain-top paradise for a week. What's your favorite spot for a family vacation? © We Are Both Right

Was it that cabin at the lake? Or the beach in Mexico?

No matter how close or far it may have been from home, every family has a favorite vacation spot. Or two. Or three.

If you could go back every year, you would. But in the meantime, you can recall the sound of the ocean rolling in as the kids played contentedly for hours in the sand. The whole family still laughs at the mention of a mountain goat, because, well you remember that time at the zoo. And still nothing has ever come close to the homemade ice cream you had three years ago in that sleepy little town in Vermont.

Here we share a few of our favorite vacation spots — all five-star family-friendly rated in our book. Add a few of yours, and we’ll be ready with the bags packed.

AMANDA:
Estes Park, Colorado: Our ultimate vacation, the one we judge all others by. Normally our trips are on the shorter side — four or five days max — but for this sojourn to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, we took a full week. We traveled with Suzanne and her family and then met my husband’s brother and his wife and young son (they are lucky enough to live in the Denver area) there. I have so many wonderful memories from that trip — getting caught in a thunderstorm atop the Rocky Mountains; a stumbled upon, amazing meal in a French restaurant on Bastille Day; watching my kids catch their first fish in a stocked pond — I could write pages upon pages of our wonderful time and still have more to add. A perfect mix of relaxation and activity, made even more amazing that we got to spend it with our dear friends and family, we are constantly promising ourselves we will go back soon.

Cruise to Canada: A few years ago, before our third child came along, we took a cruise to two different ports in Canada with our two school-age children and my parents. We had a ball. While we grown-ups enjoyed the scenery, the expeditions and the country and just being on vacation, I don’t think the kids even cared where we were going. They embraced cruise ship life like seasoned travelers, running from buffet to buffet; going for dips in the hot tub (even though we went in late June/early July it was too cold for the pool); dancing till the wee hours of the morning to the various bands on board and laying out on lounge chairs, sipping their mocktails. They cried — sobbed — when it was time to leave, begging us to stay on board just a bit longer. And whenever we start talking about where we’d like to go on our next trip, I swear they both start humming the theme to “The Love Boat.”

Niagra Falls, New York: One of the more visually-stunning trips we have ever been on, Niagra Falls was also incredibly family friendly. We were lucky enough to have a hotel room that overlooked the falls, so we spent plenty of time just gazing out of our window. We went in April so unfortunately, many things were closed, but we made the most of what was open, going on countless hikes near and around the falls and just wandering through the town. I wasn’t sure if our kids would be old enough to grasp the magnitude of what they were seeing, but one “WHOA!” out of my son and I knew they were able to appreciate it as much as I did.

SUZANNE:
San Diego, California: Sandwiched in between a first trip to Disneyland and a few days in Los Angeles, the time we spent in San Diego this past fall was nothing short of perfect. The glorious weather was the ultimate backdrop for splashing in the Pacific, exploring the enormous San Diego Zoo, and eating at sidewalk tacquerias for dinner. We drove the length of Coronado and saw everything from naval ships to birds of paradise in the Hotel del Coronado gardens. Even the kelp on the beach intrigued my son. It was also the first trip to be seared into my daughter’s permanent memory and to hear her talk about it months later, she just might always equate vacation with California.

Estes Park, Colorado: Since Amanda took up her allotted space but could have used more to talk about this awesome vacation spot, I can pick up where she left off. That tri-family trip we took had fun built in from the start. Our kids could have stayed in the cabin-like condo all day and waited for the bears to show up, and still had fun. But the fact that we took long rides through the national park which was literally outside our door made it all the more exciting. They saw moose and elk up close. We rode above the tree line and had snowball fights in July. They ended each evening with a confection or two from the caramel apple/ice cream shop downtown. And we all got our fill of that pure mountain air — just thin enough that they went to sleep by 9 every night.

Acadia National Park, Maine: This was a road trip for us the summer our son turned two. Not knowing just how much he would get out of it, we were pleasantly surprised. The sailboat ride we took found him nestled between two of the captain’s golden retrievers, playing tunes with spoons as he watched his Daddy try his hand at hoisting the sails. The car ride through the national park was one of the more manageable we have taken in any part of the country, since it really only took an hour or two to stop along the way at the scenic overlooks and enjoy a lunchtime picnic of lobster rolls. And since it’s always the unexpected experiences which make a trip for us, we reveled in the freedom to walk through downtown Bar Harbor at night, sampling lobster ice cream and letting off some pre-bedtime steam with the little one at a concert on the lawn.

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What about you and your family? Where is your favorite family vacation spot? Comment below or visit our Facebook page and read where others like to go when they get away.

What’s For Dinner? Probably Something They Don’t Like

©duchesssa/stock.xchng

Do family dinners at your house turn into food fights? ©duchesssa/stock.xchng

Here’s a scenario you’re probably familiar with. You spend some time (be it hours or even just 30 minutes) making a meal for your family. You’ve thought it out, done some prep and then of course, the actual cooking. And when your work is done, you are pretty pleased with the results. Everything looks good and tastes good — you are feeling pretty satisfied with yourself. And then you put your efforts out on the table for all to enjoy, and what do you get for your trouble?

“Yuck!”

“I don’t like that!”

“Can I have something else instead?”

“That looks disgusting!”

And it’s not like you are asking your little ones to eat escargot or Rocky Mountain Oysters. Maybe you made chicken nuggets from scratch instead of tearing open a package, or you dared to serve up some meatloaf and noodles instead of the standard cheeseburgers and French fries. Still, despite your pleas to the contrary, your kids either won’t eat it or there they sit, sullenly at their seat, pushing around their peas and carrots, your threats of “no dessert until you clean your plate!” not doing anything.

At least your spouse appreciates your attempts to channel your inner Julia Child. And at least you like what you’ve made.

Here we each share our top three dishes that are popular with the grownups in the house, but not so much with the people under 12. Feel free to make them in your own home so your kids can not eat them too! And then be sure to add to our list — stop by our Facebook page or send us a Tweet.

Bon appetit!

AMANDA

Tomato sauce: I’m not Italian, but I make a pretty good red sauce, if I must say so myself. It’s not too heavy, not too acidic — just a nice, basic sauce. Sometimes I’ll throw in some homemade meatballs or chopped up sausage or even pour it on top of some chicken parm. Really though, it doesn’t matter what I serve my sauce with, as long as pasta is on the table too. Because that’s all my kids will eat. Pasta with butter and cheese.

Lemon chicken: This is one of my and my husband’s favorite dishes. It’s not too tart but it has a nice flavor. It’s a dish that needs a lot of attention in the beginning but then you just let it sit and cook in the sauce for 20 minutes while you get other things ready (I like to serve this one with rice or elbow macaronis and carrots). My kids won’t go near it.

Chicken with ham and cheese: If I’m being fancy I’ll call it Chicken Cordon Bleu, but let’s face it. I dredge some chicken that’s rolled up with ham and swiss cheese through beaten eggs and bread crumbs and bake it in the oven for a little while. Still, it’s good and tasty (I even make a little brown gravy for the side) and still, my kids won’t eat it.

SUZANNE

Anything with melted cheese: Think cheeseburgers, chicken parmigiana, grilled cheese, even pizza — all the old stand-bys when there’s no time for meal planning. But in our house, if it has melted cheese, it’s gross — at least according to my two children. I’m still having trouble figuring out where they came from, because cheese is my friend. I will melt it on anything and call it a meal. Before they were born, my husband and I would wile away an hour or two every Saturday at our local cheese shop. These days we’re lucky if we can order a pizza pie without everyone demanding their own slice of choice. Funny thing is that my little one eats feta cheese (not melted) out of a bowl for breakfast sometimes. Now that’s gross.

Lasagna: One of my favorite meals is (was) a good homemade lasagna. Crispy on the edges, layered with just the right amount of sauce and meat, mixed with ricotta cheese. And therein lies the problem. Yet another cheese product that my children despise. They won’t eat the fresh-stuffed manicotti that my father-in-law makes on holidays, nor will they touch a ravioli — Mickey Mouse-shaped or otherwise. And because it makes no sense to make a whole tray of lasagna for just me and my husband, I haven’t had it in a really long time. Have I mentioned we’re Italian? How embarrassing.

Catch of the Day: We’re a fishing family, and our rule is that if you catch it, you eat it. And since fish is so expensive at the seafood shop, we consider ourselves lucky to be able to grill some fresh caught fluke at the end of a summer day. My husband and I at least. We’re past the age with the kids where we can pass it off as chicken. And though they will nibble, not even frying it in a beer batter can entice them to actually finish a piece. Oh well, more for me I guess.

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What about you? What meal do you love to cook or eat that your kids just despise? Do you make them eat it anyway?

Baby Names Up for Grabs!

baby names

It's easy to tell which baby names we like -- just look at our kids! But about the names that weren't used?

Who doesn’t love talking about baby names? Well OK, maybe that guy who sits in the cubicle next to you is sick of hearing your analysis of Mae vs. Maeve — but pretty much everyone else revels in the choosing of a baby name, right? We know we do.    

Endless days were spent pouring over baby name books, delving into the charts of popular names over the last three decades, and bouncing ideas off best friends. But now that we’ve stockpiled enough names for the next generation of Duggars, we figured it would be fun to share some of our “leftovers” and revel once more in the perfectly poetic, yet unused, monikers that we painstakingly deliberated over — for hours — and hours.    

Maybe it was the most awesome first and middle name combination that came together in a moment of inspiration — except that with your last name, the initials spelled MOO. Or it could have been that your Emily Kate turned out to be a Nathaniel instead. Whatever the case, we surely all have more names than we have babies, so it’s time for our first annual “Baby Name Swap” at We Are Both Right.    

If you’re in the market for a name, feel free to grab anything you see and call it your own. Have a few names to pass along instead? Go right ahead in the comment section below, or on Twitter and Facebook.    

We’ll get it started by sharing our top three, up-for-grabs baby names:    

AMANDA

Ryan Nolan: My husband is a big sports fan, baseball in particular, so when we were trying to come up with names for our first child, this was one of the candidates if it was a boy, a play off of pitching great Nolan Ryan. We wound up having a son but name wise, we went in another direction with a moniker I had loved since I read it in a short story in middle school (the character was just wonderful). (Incidentally, our son’s first and middle is actually the same as another famed baseball player.)    

Katie Casey: Another pulled from the annals of baseball history, this was a brief contender with our third child. Katie Casey was in the original lyrics to Jack Norworth’s 1908 song, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” While I thought the backstory was really cool, we ended up ruling it out because I wasn’t crazy about how the two names sounded together.    

Eleanor Joy: One more potential girl name for our third. Eleanor was one of those names that had always been on our “maybe” list, and with our last pregnancy we decided it was ready to be called up to the big show. The middle name, Joy was my choice, although my husband T. was not as crazy about it as I was. Our third was a surprise baby, and while ultimately we were thrilled, in the beginning were a bit overwhelmed. For me, Joy represented the emotional journey we had been on and where we ultimately wound up.    

SUZANNE

Talia Rose: This was our favorite name for years, and part of its appeal for me is how it came up so randomly, years before we even thought about having a baby. My husband and I were on a supermarket check-out line early on in our marriage and out of the blue, he says: “How about the name Talia if we ever have a daughter?” “Sure” was my response.  And so it stayed in the rotation during both of my pregnancies. The first time it went unused because we had a son. But when we found out our daughter was on the way, we nixed the name after a few family members wondered aloud if we were going to come up with an alternative before she was born. Oh well, I still love it.  

Peter Gavin: This was our #1 choice for a boy the second time around and I will still use this name, IF (BIG IF) another little boy happens his way into our life someday. So for now I’m willing to share. Peter is one of those classic, yet underused names that I am attracted to, and yet it was the middle name that I was completely infatuated with. Gavin blends the first two letters of my father-in-law’s name with the first three letters of my father’s name, making it the perfect way to honor them both at the same time. I would have reversed the order, except that our last name didn’t really match up well with Gavin.   

Emily Rebecca: My sister and I made a pact, before either of us was pregnant, that whoever had a daughter first had dibs on the name Emily. We each have a daughter, neither named Emily. But I still like the name. And if there’s the one name that you’ve been holding onto since you were a little girl yourself — the one you picked for all your baby dolls and future children — then you’ll get my obsession with Rebecca. That was the name of my “Baby” when we had to do our family project in school, where they scare you straight about how hard it is to be a parent. Usually the names that were your favorite 20+ years ago are out of style by the time you need to use them, but I thought this one still held classic status – or maybe that’s just me.  

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See, wasn’t that fun? We can’t wait to hear yours! Share your best names in the comments below, and join us for more baby name talk on Facebook and Twitter.

Best of… Cures for Cabin Fever

"Mommy, is it Spring yet?" © Margaret Young/stock.xchng

You haven’t seen a blade of grass in months. The kids are saying things like, “Remember when we were little and it was summer….” The days begin and end with milk jug bowling.  In between, you made enough Play-Doh spaghetti to circle the world. And as much as you are trying to make the best of it, your ideas for fun indoor activities probably ran short even before the groundhog had to chip his way out of an ice hole.

Winter has worn out its welcome in your home. We know how you feel.

So what else can you do to ward off cabin fever, for however many more weeks of winter there are left in your neck of the woods? Here are a few of our ideas to push you closer to Spring:

Virtual Vacation: Go online and take your kids on a tour of someplace warm. Try Hanauma Bay in Hawaii for snorkeling, the San Diego Zoo for a panda cam or polar bear cam, or head over to National Geographic Kids for a look at life in places like Costa Rica.

Camp Stories: Turn a bedroom or playroom into a campsite, and pretend to go rafting on a throw rug. Roast marshmallows over a fire of blankets and pitch a tent out of couch cushions and bedsheets. (Good for at least 20 minutes).

Play Toys: Sounds obvious, but when was the last time you sat down and actually played your child’s favorite toy with them? (For me, this is especially true with my older kids.) If I want to make my daughter’s week, all I have to do is settle myself in front of the Barbie dream house or her pretend kitchen and ask her to join me for some fun. For my son, nothing is better than when he and my husband head down to the basement to build one of the umpteen Lego sets that they have. Simply playing with your child is a great way to bond while getting a front-row seat to their imagination.

Go for a Swim: My kids love the water, and while we don’t have an indoor pool in our house, we do have a bathtub. In the middle of the day fill it up with warm water, throw in some pails and shovels and other assorted aquatic toys, pull out the bathing suits and then let them have at it. For good measure, crank up your MP3 player with plenty of H2O themed tunes — “Surfin’ Safari” and “Under the Boardwalk” spring to mind as a good start — and mix up some fruity mocktails to drink. The best part? No sunscreen and no sand to clean up later.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be having such a great time trying out these fun indoor activities that Spring will sneak up on you.

What are some of your favorite things to do when winter keeps you and the kids indoors?