We Are Both Right

“Trouble in Toyland” — Playthings You’ll Want to Avoid this Holiday Season

You’ve made your list and checked it twice but is what you (or Santa) planning to give the child really as safe as you think it is?

Twenty-four seemingly (and not-so-seemingly) innocuous toys have had the dubious honor of being listed in the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s “Trouble in Toyland” report, a survey of toys that don’t meet the standards of safety set the Consumer Product Safety Commission and other health organizations.

While the list isn’t exhaustive, U.S. PIRG shopped a host of toy stores, malls and dollar stores in September and October 2011 nationwide, looking potentially dangerous toys. Using CPSC recalls and other regulatory actions as their guide, the group searched for toys that “posed a potential toxic, choking, strangulation or noise hazard.”

“Choking on small parts, small balls and balloons is still the leading cause of toy-related injury,” said U.S.PIRG’s Nasima Hossain. ”Between 1990 and 2010 over 400 children died from toy-related injuries, but more than half choked on small parts, balloons or balls. While most toys are safe, our researchers still found toys on the shelves that pose choking hazards and other toys that contain hazardous levels of toxic chemicals including lead.”

Toys on the list include a variety of playthings that appeal to kids of all ages including including an Elmo cell phone, a Hot Wheels stunt car, a Tinkerbell watch, a Hello Kitty keychain, a toy-sized Honda motorcycle, and a Whirly Wheel. The full report is an eye-opener, and will certainly give you pause the next time you go toy shopping.

“Parents and toy givers need to remember that while the CPSC is doing a good job, it doesn’t test all toys on the shelves.  Consumers should also remember that toys that are not on our list of examples could also pose hazards,” Hossain said. “The message of today is clear. We cannot, must not, weaken the most basic safety rules that protect young children, America’s littlest consumers.”

For me, seeing a toy that we own on the list (the Fisher-Price Elmo cell phone) was a good reality check. I looked at the list never expecting to see something that is in our own toy box, but there it was, listed as a noise hazard. Are any of your child’s toys on the list? Have you ever bought a toy, only to discover that it isn’t as safe as you would have assumed?

If you come across an unsafe toy, you can report them to the CPSC at www.cpsc.gov and towww.saferproducts. gov or by calling 800-504-7923.

Safe shopping!

Thankful for a Thanksgiving Table with Room for Everyone

© We Are Both Right

© We Are Both Right

My 7-year-old self would have been very lonely at a kids’ table on Thanksgiving. Every year we celebrated at my maternal grandparent’s house (Memaw and Bepaw) and I was the only grandchild on that side of the family at that time (my sister is nine years younger than me, my brother 11).

But not only would my younger self been sitting by my her lonesome at a table, she probably would have been pretty annoyed too. My Memaw and Bepaw made a big fuss over Thanksgiving, always including me in the preparation process. I can remember spending many “Thanksgiving Eve’s” at their home helping to get everything ready. After a big slumber party, we’d all wake up early and put the turkey in the oven. I’d help snap string beans and set the table while we waited for the other guests to arrive. And when it was time to carve, I’d dutifully stand by my Bepaw’s side as he worked, happy to accept any samples he was willing to slip me (lots).

The Thanksgiving meal, and the buildup to it, was (and still is) always about family. If after spending all that wonderful time with my grandparents I had been relegated to sit away from all the grown-ups, I think I might have been a little hurt. Now obviously our situation was different as there was only at most on any given year, three children at our Thanksgiving table, but still, I liked being with the grownups. Being a part of the conversation. And the family.

And even if the house had been teaming with kids, I’m still not sure the idea of a kids’ table on Thanksgiving (or any holiday for that matter) would have been a good fit for us, then and now. I mean, in our family anyway, we make a big deal about eating dinner together every night. Why, on what is arguably the most special meal of the year, would I separate myself from the people I love the most?  (Wow, that came out a lot more heavy-handed and judge-y than it sounded in my head.)

It’s true though. For me, Thanksgiving is about family and three-fifths of my immediate one all happen to be under five feet tall (although my 10-year-old is closer and closer to negating that  by the second) and are too young to know what a VCR is. Does that automatically mean they should have to sit by themselves? (Only if they start making fun of us for having to fast-forward to get to the good parts.)

And from a practical standpoint, I think a kids’ table is actually more stressful for parents, especially if younger children are part of the dining entourage. I’m constantly being asked to cut up food, mop up milk, pour more milk — the closer the proximity to the children and their places, the faster I can put out fires and get back to my own meal (and if there are lots of other adults at the table, that means there are lots more hands to help).

In any case, for our family, this year there is no need to even question the need for a kids’ table. We have a lot going on later on in this holiday season so in the interest of maximizing our family time,  T. and I decided that the main part of the Thanksgiving meal will be spent at our home, just us five.

And when we are finished, we will head over to my sister’s house for dessert  – where the little ones will be happily dispersed amongst the grownups.

Where do your kids sit for the Thanksgiving meal?

Originally published November, 2010

It’s Always More Fun at the Thanksgiving Kids’ Table

When I was a kid, with nine cousins over a fifteen-year age span, the kids’ table at holiday dinners was the hot spot.

It was the stuff memories are made of — clams oreganato eating contests, smack talk about the Monopoly game underway, and brainstorms for yet another original theatrical performance which we would always make the adults endure before coffee was served. (I still remember being pretty bummed when I finally graduated to the adult table as a senior in high school.)

The tradition of a holiday kids’ table still exists in our family, although most of the time now it’s an appendage to the main dining table as opposed to the exclusive seating we had at my parent’s house. There are also less kids overall, with the max being four on either side of the family.

Not quite the level of excitement it used to be — but for me the kids’ table is always more fun. Since this is a holiday from work, I would much rather be debating our favorite episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba (and whether Lance Rock was wearing the orange sneakers or the white) than haranguing about mid-term elections.

falconreid/stock.xchng

For Thanksgiving this year it will just be my two — so we’re planning to take the far end of the table which actually juts out into the foyer of my in-laws’ house. It will still be decorated with linens and china, but we skip the wine glasses and keep the bowl of cranberry sauce snuggly planted at the other end of the table. This arrangement also allows the kids a quick escape when they’ve had their fill on the first course and we excuse them until the turkey comes out later in the afternoon.

Mainly it was out of necessity that my husband and I started sitting at the Thanksgiving kids’ table when our son was a toddler. Someone had to take the place of honor at the far end and it might as well have been us, since we needed to hop up and down on a moment’s notice.

But neither of us seemed to mind the “preferred seating” and we plan to keep our spots until the incoming nieces/nephews bump us over to adult territory.

For reasons that include peace of mind, I hope the tradition of the kids’ table lives on until my children pass the final exam at the etiquette school I keep threatening to send them to. (Or until there are enough other little kids running around that no one can pinpoint just who spilled the ketchup on the new, creamy white, fabric-covered dining room chair.)

Will there be a Thanksgiving kids’ table at your celebration next week? Was there one when you were a kid?

Originally published November, 2010

Our Two Cents: Holiday Shopping on a Tight Budget

holiday shopping on a budget

There's still time to get creative when holiday shopping on a budget. ©Kym McLeod /stock.xchng

Dear Amanda and Suzanne:

I’m already thinking (and fretting) about Christmas shopping for the kids because our budget is tighter than ever this year.

My husband’s been out of work since the summer, so we’re just getting by with the basics. Still, I can’t imagine not being able to make the holidays special for our kids (ages 3, 4 and 7).

Obviously, there will be fewer presents under the tree this year, but I still want all three of them to have a memorable Christmas and at least get some of what is on their wish lists.

Any tips on how to do that on a budget?

–Christmas on a Shoestring

Suzanne: Seeing how far we can stretch a dollar is almost a prerequisite for parenting in this economy, so where Amanda and I leave off, I’m sure our readers will pick up with tips of their own.

For starters, I’ve found that a lot of planning goes a long way. I can say from experience that last minute shopping is what really does me (and my budget) in. This year, I took about ten minutes to brainstorm one day and jot down some ideas and how much each item would cost. I have my target range, and as I’ve been spotting sales and finding coupon matches for additional savings, I’ve been pouncing on the opportunity to cross another thing off the list.

My latest find is the Dora motorized toothbrush I scored as a stocking stuffer for my daughter (while she was sitting in the shopping cart in front of me) when it was on sale and before my coupon expired next week. And even though it’s just a toothbrush, it’s something she’s been wanting and will be excited to get — even though it’s a run-of-the-mill item I would have to buy for her anyway. And that can be another strategy that might work for you. If there’s an outfit or shoes your child really, really wants, maybe you can justify it as a Christmas gift and something that meets a basic need at the same time. This also works with gifts like “A Day with Mom” coupon where each child is promised a special day just with you doing their favorite thing (riding go-karts, ice skating or going to the movies — which means that it does triple duty, first as a Christmas present that doesn’t have to be paid for upfront, secondly as a special treat to look forward to over the winter, and also as a chance to do something that might otherwise not be in the budget).

Another favorite holiday shopping strategy I’ve been on top of this year (and again it requires some advance planning to accumulate items over time) is taking all of the $10 cash coupons that come in the mail from stores like Kohl’s and Bobs, and finding gift items in those stores — basically for free. I love crossing something off my list and writing a budget-friendly $1.97 price tag next to it. Just sign up for e-mails at any of those store’s web sites, and like the Facebook fan pages of shops on your hit list so that you can get deluged with special e-mail sales, coupons, and online codes that you can apply strategically as the holidays approach.

Of course, there’s more to life than shopping. So budget or no budget, the most important thing we can teach our children is the real meaning of the holidays we celebrate. Try to take some time in the weeks leading up to Christmas (or even on the holiday itself if you want to fill the time with something meaningful rather than focusing on what is or isn’t under the tree) and go with the family to a Ronald McDonald House or community center where you can all brighten the day of people who would want nothing more than to feel a little holiday spirit themselves. Have the kids bring a holiday book and read it to younger children or seniors. It might just be the most memorable holiday tradition of all.

Amanda: Suzanne’s got some great tips, some I already employ and some I’m going to have to start doing. Toothbrushes for everyone!

My big thing about shopping, aside from scouring the sales and using coupons is to see where I can get money back. It’s not a lot but it goes a long way, especially during the holiday time when I’m spending more than I normally would (even if it’s a little more). So whenever I use a credit card, I make sure it’s one that gives me cash back in some form. I always shop through sites like Upromise and ebates that give money back on every purchase (the former deposits the money in a 529 account for your kids, the latter sends you a check every quarter).

Keep track of what you spend too. If you shell out $19.99 for product A at store B and then a week later it’s $5 less, head over to their customer service desk and see if they’ll give you an adjustment. And don’t be afraid to ask if a store will honor competitors coupons and prices too.

Many stores now are offering layaway, a program that lets you pay off an item upfront for a small charge — usually around $5. If your child wants a toy that costs $30 and you just don’t have that to spend right now, you can give the store $6 a week for about a month — a lot easier on your weekly budget.

Good luck! I hope the new year brings you happiness and prosperity!

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What are your best tips for holiday shopping on a budget? We’d love to hear your advice, and if there’s an area where you could use double the help, let us know at advice@wearebothright.com.

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.


Halloween Making a Permanent Move to Saturdays?

As much as I love Halloween, I’m dreading it a bit this year. Halloween falls on a Monday which means that we (and this is a collective, nationwide we) have a very limited amount of time from when the kids get off the bus from school and go to bed to squeeze in a lot of celebrating as well as our day-to-day things  – costume wrangling, instrument practicing, trick-or-treating, homework, eating dinner (sorry, even on Halloween the kids have to eat something hot and nutritious).

A Connecticut lawmaker, State Representative Tim Larson, feels our pain. He is proposing a bill that would permanently designate the last Saturday in October as the scariest day of the year. His reasoning is that moving the holiday to the weekend, would make the day safer, less harried and more fun.

“Halloween is fun night for the whole family, but not so much when you have to race home from work, get the kids ready for trick or treating, welcome the neighborhood children, and then try to get everyone to bed for an early school and work morning,” Larson said in a statement.

He’s meeting with some adversity, most notably Connecticut governor Dannel P. Malloy, whose spokesperson told The Hartford Courant, “The Governor is worried about confusing the ghosts, goblins, and witches – so he thinks leaving Halloween on Oct. 31st is the right thing to do. No disrespect intended toward Rep. Larson, of course.”

I think it’s a great idea, although my husband points out that if Halloween was permanently on a Saturday, the opportunity for little and not-so-little goblins to make mischief will be extended. In any case, we don’t live in Connecticut, so it’s a moot point for us for now. Still, I’m hopeful that is an idea that will catch fire.

What do you think? Would you welcome a weekend Halloween celebration?

Move Over Applesauce, Hello Halloween Candy!

In our house, my youngest child, 17-month-old S., is a big fan of “M-M-Ms.” (That’s “M&M’s” for those of you who don’t speak toddler.) He doesn’t get them very often, but when he does, it is cause for celebration, complete with dancing, hand clapping, waving arms and plenty of “RAY!”s.

© lusi/stock.xchng

© lusi/stock.xchng

It’s adorable. And yet somehow I feel guilty for enjoying his display of joy.

I know that we have an obesity epidemic in this country. And I realize that these sweet nuggets of chocolatey goodness probably aren’t the wisest of food choices for my little guy. But he likes them. And he’s a good boy. And sometimes I like to give him a treat.

Or bribe him.

After his first haircut, the barber gave S. a lollipop, admittedly, a type of candy that I’m not a fan of at all. (Every time I hear the candy bump up against my kids’ teeth I can practically see the sugar coating them.) And I’m terrified of choking. But after a traumatic experience like getting your hair trimmed for the very first time, is it really so bad to let a kid kick back with a “La-Pop!”?

I know after I’ve had a long day a little bit of chocolate always makes me feel better, so why would that be different for a toddler?

The key of course is moderation. When C. and A. were toddlers, they didn’t have any candy at all. Guess what? They still love it and would eat their weight in Nerds if I let them.

When S. does get candy — and so far it’s just been M&M’s and the one la-pop — he gets very little, maybe five or six pieces. Even still, that tiny amount of sugar and chocolate is enough, causing him to turn into a bit of a whirling dervish, spinning and shouting around the house, bouncing off the walls. Now I don’t know if he’s just deliriously happy or it really is the sweet stuff hitting his bloodstream, but it’s enough to give me (a little bit of) pause, limiting his treats to just once a week or so.

Still, this Halloween you can bet I’ll be letting S. not only do a little trick-or-treating, but reap the rewards too. To be sure he’ll get something he can have, I bought M-M-M’s as the candy we’ll be handing out.

If I can just convince him to give them to the trick-or-treaters.

Originally published in October, 2010

Our Two Cents: When Should Kids Be Allowed to Trick-or-Treat Alone?

When should tweens be allowed to trick-or-treat without their parents?

When should tweens be allowed to trick-or-treat without their parents?

Dear Suzanne and Amanda:

I knew this was coming, but I didn’t want to think about it so I kept putting it out of my head. Now it’s here and I’m wholly unprepared.

My 11-year-old son asked to go trick-or-treating alone with his friends. He’s a good boy and we live in a safe neighborhood. They’d go during the day and stay within a four or five block radius. (Once it gets dark, one of the dads is going to accompany them from a reasonable distance.) It’s all perfectly logical, all the other parents are on board and as a collective group the parents are going to talk to the boys about safe practices and what to do if they have a problem (two of the boys have cell phones). While they are out, I’ll be in the neighborhood with one of the other moms with our younger children so it’s likely we will even run into our kids.

It sounds like an ideal setup, so why am I still dreading the day? Am I making the right decision?

– Wishing He Still Wanted to Wear His Spider-Man Costume and Ride in the Wagon

Amanda: I’m actually facing the same situation you are. Our 11-year-old boy asked to go trick-or-treating alone with three of his friends this year and we said yes. My heart isn’t totally in it, but I recognize that he’s getting older and walking around the neighborhood with a brood of younger kids that include fairies, Elmo and ladybugs just isn’t cutting it anymore, no matter how many peanut butter cups he absconds from his toddler brother’s bag.

Despite your protests that you haven’t, it sounds like you and the other parents involved have put a lot of thought into your son’s afternoon and have tried to control as many of the variables as you can. That’s good. What you and your son (and me and my son) need to remember is that you can’t control everything. Not to freak you out, but he may encounter a group of older kids with eggs and shaving cream or a stranger who asks your son’s group to come for a ride in his car. What’s important is that you give your son the tools to help him make the right decision to remove himself from the situation. Making sure the kids have access to at least one cell phone is a great idea, and depending on your comfort level, you can also equip them with emergency whistles and flashlights (just in case they don’t make it back in time before dark). We are also setting some non-negotiable rules — he can’t eat any candy until it’s checked and no crossing any major roads, plus we have clearly defined what streets he needs to stay on.

Making myself semi-comfortable with the situation (and any activity that involves him becoming more independent) was all about telling myself that if I want my son to grow up healthy and well-adjusted, I need to start letting him do things that I might not be ready for him to do. He needs to practice being self-sufficient and I have to work on realizing that if I made him wait to do something until I was totally unworried, he would be married with kids of his own.

So send him out and try to relax. Soon enough he’ll be home and your next big parenting issue will be wondering if you need to ‘fess up for stealing some of his loot.

(And as an aside, on behalf of my husband, make sure you review the etiquette of trick-or-treating with your kids. Nothing drives him more bananas than kids who don’t say “trick-or-treat.” He’ll survive if they don’t say “thank you,” but if our Halloween visitors of any age [there are a couple of exceptions of course] who show up at our door don’t utter that famous phrase, likely aren’t getting candy from him.)

Suzanne: I wish I could be as open-minded about this as Amanda but it really makes my skin crawl. (Obviously you understand that!) It’s just that Halloweeen presents a very different set of circumstances than most other days that your child would be roaming the neighborhood with friends.

Granted there will be other groups around when they are making their way door-to-door but the concept of sending your child unattended up to a stranger’s door is a little too close for comfort for me. At least on a regular day, you could warn about staying away from strangers (and certainly not walking up to a strange home or car).

So if it were me, and my child was making their first foray out into the land of the unknown, I would want to follow along at a distance, just this once. Obviously give them a long leash and, for all the reasons Amanda mentioned, an opportunity to spread their wings.  But you (or another parent) should think about being there both before and after dark (even if undercover trolling along in a car).

And really, as overprotective as I sound right now, I do value experiences that guide a child toward independence. It’s just that while they’re still learning, a safety net can’t hurt.

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What do you think? What is a reasonable age to let kids go trick-or-treating without parental supervision?

If you have a parenting question that needs two perspectives, send an e-mail to advice@wearebothright.com. We promise not to steal any candy from your Halloween stash!

Pretzels Anyone? A Sugar-less Halloween

This Halloween will be like no other, now that my daughter is a preschooler.  You see, I’ve tried to keep her away from the gobs of Halloween candy that tend to get thrown into the bags of the oh-so-cutest trick or treaters.

But an innocent toddler she is no more.  Last year, I was able to entice her with pretzels instead of lollipops, but I think she will be much wiser to my tricks this year.  Nope, no more toddler yogurt snacks filling in for mini-Musketeers.  This year, she’ll be snubbing her nose at animal crackers and tearing open the Kit Kats.  Guess the party’s over in my world.

Don’t get me wrong, I never was the mom that forbid a gram of sugar from ever coming within 50 feet of my child — but I did put up a valiant effort to impose some limits.  A bag of M&Ms here, a lollipop there was OK with me.  I never used candy as a bribe and even if I did buy the occasional candy reward, my kids knew that they weren’t leaving the store with those dipsticks attached to a bag of pure sugar.

Up until now that is.  My Little Mermaid is going to be swimming her way through a sea of candy, trying to keep up with her big brother who boasted for days after last Halloween that he had filled his treat bag up to the bellyache line.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not one to shy away from a Snickers bar.  I ate peanut M&Ms religiously every afternoon when I was pregnant with L.  Ice cream is still one of my favorite snacks.  So it’s not that I’m trying to spoil the enjoyment of a sweet treat for my kids (or the best holiday of the year), but I twinge at the thought of so MUCH candy.

I guess the best I can do is to keep track of what S. is unwrapping as we make our way from house to house.  My strategy is to steer her toward the chocolate, since there has to be more nutritional value in that than chewy squares of colon-clogging colored corn syrup.

And maybe she’ll be delightfully side-tracked when we happen upon one of those houses that has a bowl full of pennies or (score) a mini-tub of Playdough.

But in the end, it’s one day, and I’ll let her (mindfully) indulge the sweet-tooth she inherited from me.   Once we get home, I can hide the excess of treats from the little one with a short-term memory.  Her brother on the other hand will be making a mental inventory of every last Starburst he brings in, but that’s a story for another day.

Originally published in October, 2010

Taking A Trip Down Memory Lane with the Kids

college homecoming reunion

Heading back to campus (with the kids) was great! ©We Are Both Right

It was just like old times.

Me and Amanda hanging out in the parking lot across the road from our college dorm. Watching the crowd gather for the football game. Glancing through the latest edition of the college newspaper. Planning our next set of stories. Gossiping. Wondering what the guys were scheming up now as they headed toward the tackling dummies. Wiping glitter and asphalt off our children’s knees (now, not then).

If our lives were a sitcom, this was the week of the retrospective episode. Taking it back to where it all began. Homecoming weekend at college.

Like a new show on TV, it would have been all too predictable to start our story, well, at the beginning. So one year into this blog and sooooomany years after we first met at college orientation, Amanda and I are finally getting around to sharing a flashback or two to put it all in perspective.

Let’s just say that homecoming isn’t quite the same as it was when we first stepped foot on our college campus 19 years ago (yikes). Actually it’s so much better.

Those new boyfriends we had back then. Husbands now. Great cooks to boot. Still doing crazy things that make us laugh and sigh at the same time. And did we mention they are great cooks? We’re talking winning-a-throw-down-with-Bobby Flay-great.

On Saturday, they were proud of themselves for having the culinary skills to wow everyone who walked by — from alumni to giggling co-eds. But there was a little bit of regret hanging in the air (on their part) for not having figured out two decades ago that the secret to life (and girls) is as simple as paella and skirt steak sliders on a grill in the parking lot. Hee hee. Amanda and I were happy to sit back and toast our luck with bottles of beer coolers.

We could see the college kids at their tailgate table which was lined with green and yellow plastic cups, and three layers deep of bottles of alcohol, while we inhaled the scents of saffron and caramelized onions.

Our own kids were entertaining themselves (!) and each other riding scooters and doing their version of preschool in a parking lot, thanks to some paper lunch bags and glitter glue that our friend Christine brought. The older boys went roaming around campus in search of a lawn to play football and came back with a broken umbrella handle, fashioned into a kicking tee (A+ for innovation).  Right before kickoff, a walk over to the free carnival afforded the little ones their first ride on a ferris wheel and the three oldest their first falls off a mechanical bull.

The rest of us were content to sit in between our loaded-to-the-brim minivans, talking about how we still “had” it. And how we didn’t.

Case in point: John went up to one of the student club tables set up outside the football field, where three of the current editors of the school paper were looking for people to join. “We’ll sign up,” he said, pointing to himself, Amanda and me. Maybe it was the kids swarming around our knees that gave us away, but they looked doubtful. Then when he launched into a “back when we were editors, almost 20 years ago…” their eyes glazed over. I bumped John’s elbow and said, “Time to go, we’re looking like old folk.”

But those were the days. Late nights in production at the paper, which coincidentally resulted in six marriages among staff. (Somehow I managed to never be at one of those all-nighters — sorry Amanda — but my 4 p.m. deadline for the features section let me preserve my work-life balance even back then.) Then there were the parties in our dorm — where I first met my husband and supposedly gave Amanda her first wine cooler too many. The walks on the roof. And the 90210 viewing parties in Amanda’s room.

Considering that none of us had actually planned to go to this college, but for reasons including parents reluctant to part with their firstborns and the lure of a full scholarship, we all ended up there. And now looking back, we’re really glad that we did.