It’s Over.

I am officially done with winter.

I feel like I have been a remarkably good sport about it this year, particularly as someone who has deeply and truly disliked winter in the past. I have been skiing, so I have been outside even when it’s minus 25, and it’s been okay. I have cheerfully shovelled side by side with my children. I have invested in many lovely new pairs of thermal socks and have enjoyed many cups of tea. I have remarked on how nice it is that it’s at least sunny out, that the days are slowly getting longer. I have loved watching the kids love the snow, rolling around in it like it was a bed full of money.

But now – I’m over it. A couple of days ago I woke up and looked outside and it was still winter, still frigid, still with the snow all over, and that was IT. DONE. Since then I have lost my powers of optimistic protection and have felt the wind drive itself right into my bones, felt my hands turn blue with cold. I have come to hate my snow pants and resent my giant clonky boots and gone barefoot in the house in defiance, only to find myself shivering with toes by the fireplace an hour later. It all sucks.

This morning Sir Monkeypants declared the Winter Of Our Discontent to be over, because the deep-deep freezing days were supposed to end with slightly milder temperatures – highs in the negative single digits – starting with today. But although he’s technically right, I still suffered a great suffering on my way to pick up the kids today, despite still suiting up in the full spacesuit of winter protection. IT DID NOT HELP.

Winter: you have finally broken me. I quit.

A Few Thoughts On Food

Last week I made little individual tourtieres for dinner. I love them, but it was a little depressing that something that took me over two hours to make was gobbled up in the 15 minute window between piano practice and running out the door for guides/scouts. Sigh.

I made an apple pie as well that night and a piece before bed and then another for breakfast the next morning did help soothe the hurt feelings, a little.

———————————–

Every morning I have oatmeal for breakfast, with maple syrup on it. Every morning I open the fridge to get out the maple syrup and see it in the fridge door, right there next to a big bottle of Bailey’s.

Some morning I may mix the two of them up and it may not be an accident.

———————————–

We have had a devil of a time getting the children to eat breakfast lately. I have thrown out all notion of healthy breakfasts and am now offering them cookies, pie, or even a half cup of tea for breakfast. It frustrates me that no one has yet invented a pill that could take the place of an entire meal, especially considering that such an invention would solve the world hunger crisis, not to mention freeing up all kinds of time for more productive activities, and allow travel to foreign destinations to be so much easier for the food-allergic among us.

Perhaps my children are just using this breakfast strike as a way to inspire me to invent such a thing. If so, the joke’s on them, as I intend to make it their homework for the next few years. HA.

10 Books

Nicole over at the Boyhouse posted about 10 Childhood Books that Stuck, as in books that she read before age 12 that were especially memorable for some reason. I think it’s a meme that’s going around. Anyway, I was going to comment over there but it quickly ballooned into an out-of-control hijack of her blog so thought I’d move it over here.

So here are some books that come to mind when I think about those pre-grade-8 years:

1. The Forgotten Door by Alexander Key. We read this when I was in Grade 5, and I think it was the first fantasy book I’d ever read, and it blew my mind. Alexander Key is better known for his book Escape to Witch Mountain, and after reading The Forgotten Door I went on to read all his books, but this first one will always live in my memory – I can still quote parts of it. My class wrote him a letter as part of studying the book and it was my first author fan letter ever, and I gushed and gushed. Sadly, we heard back a few months later from his widow – he’d died just the year before – but it was still a wonder to me to have an actual response.

2. The Tattooed Potato, and Other Clues, by Ellen Raskin. I love, love, love Ellen Raskin. All her books are genius – they are mysteries, but odd and offbeat ones containing nutty characters and crazy situations and surprising twist answers to unusual questions. She’s best known for The Westing Game and I’ve read that book probably two dozen times and it’s great. But The Tattooed Potato holds a special place in my heart because a) the lead character’s name is a sassy girl called Dickory Dock and b) I never, ever saw the ending coming. Other titles by her include The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel), which I just read to my youngest and it totally holds up; and Figgs and Phantoms, a book that changed my whole world outlook when I was 12.

3. The Clue of the Tapping Heels by Carolyn Keene – My favourite Nancy Drew book, but in truth I read them all. ALL OF THEM. I also read all the Hardy Boys books – literally, ALL of them. Once when I was in Grade 4 I was home sick for a day, and my mother had an appointment that she had to go out for, so she gave me two brand new Nancy Drew books she’d been saving for my birthday to keep me busy in bed while she was out, and when she came back two hours later I had read them both. The Tapping Heels involves tap dancing and morse code – so yeah, loved that one.

4. Hurry Home Candy by Meindert deJong (pictures by Maurice Sendak). Checked this book out from the school library in Grade 5 at least four times – my younger sister FameThrowa discovered this fact when she was in Grade 5 at the same school, and saw my name multiple times on the card. Not sure why I did that, as this is seriously, SERIOUSLY, the saddest book of all time. It’s the story of a young stray dog, Candy, who goes through many adventures, most of which end badly or sadly or meanly. At the very, very end, the dog does find a kind home and it’s a WEEPFEST, I can’t even think about it now without welling up. FameThrowa bought me my very own copy about a decade ago and I can’t even imagine reading it to the children because I’d just sob all the way through it. It’s on the bookshelf downstairs if they want to have a go at it on their own.

5. The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald, Banner In The Sky by James Ramsay Ullman, and Crisis on Conshelf Ten by Monica Hughes. My mother has a brother, my uncle, and he’s 10 years younger than her, which makes him only 15 years older than me. When I was in middle school, he was a young adult but not married and he had to shop for his nieces for Christmas and had no idea what to get for tweenaged girls. So he went into a bookstore and asked the lady there what he should get for me, a 12 year old who loved reading, and she sold him these three titles, all of which changed my life. The Great Brain is a classic of hilarity – I read it to the Captain a couple of years ago and it totally holds up, funny as ever, just as I remembered it. Banner in the Sky is a story about a young man determined to climb a mountain and it was so moving and inspirational and I absolutely remember every word. And Crisis on Conshelf Ten – love, love, love that book, went on to read everything by Monica Hughes (she is best known for her Isis series, about a girl living alone on another planet). This one is about a society that lives on a future earth underwater, and one boy who is invited to use his low-grav skills to help settle the moon.

I just had a look on Amazon and let me say, it is sad that many of Monica Hughes’ books are now out of print – as are most of Ellen Raskin’s. I’m sure there’s more. In today’s ebook age, it seems like a simple thing to just upload the text and get it out there. Hm – possible new project.

Anyway, moving on!

6. Deenie by Judy Blume. Like every woman my age, I have read all of Judy’s books, but my favourites were Deenie and Tiger Eyes, both of which I read many times and heralded a new age of womanhood. Still remember Deenie making out with a boy at a party – THE SCANDAL. It was my own personal Fifty Shades of Grey. Also, I can still describe scene-for-scene how to get yourself a back brace for scoliosis. This book inspired me to seek out the movie Splendor in the Grass, starring Natalie Wood in the role that Deenie was named for, and that kick-started my whole love of classic movies, which soon became an all-consuming passion that lives on to this day.

As a fun aside, Nicole is doing a full chapter-by-chapter recap of Deenie over at her new blog, Throwback Three.

7. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I actually didn’t read a lot of “classic” literature as a kid. Things like Anne of Green Gables, Charlotte’s Web, or Little House on the Prairie were all read in my 20s because I felt I’d missed out on something. This is one of the few classic novels I did actually read, in Grade 5, and I loved it. Magical and dreamy with a kickass protagonist – oh, how I wanted my very own secret garden.

8. Among the Dolls by William Sleator. My whole life I thought this was another title by Frances Burnett, but it seems her book about dollhouses is a sweet little ditty about two competing dollhouses, while this one is a work of sheer TERROR. I had to look it up online but I’m pretty sure this is the one that continues to live large in my memory – probably the first horror book I ever read and it scared the pants off of me. It’s about a girl who gets a dollhouse for her birthday and, due to a troubled home life, is mean to the dolls inside – so then they suck her into the house so they can be mean right back. GAH. I also read The Green Futures of Tycho by the same author, about time travel, which mostly served to teach me who the hell Tycho Brahe was.

9. Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar, and Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Both of these were read to my Grade 4 class by my totally awesome teacher (she later went on to become the school’s librarian), and I loved them, they were like a golden special treat for the end of the day. Years later I still absolutely remembered whole chucks of both wholesale, and bought both for my kids and insisted they read them, and now I have read both probably 20 times, at least. WORTH IT.

10. George and Martha by James Marshall. Not a lot of picture books on this list, because I was a precocious reader and was into novels at an early age. But George and Martha – oh, how I loved them. We owned their book about pea soup (Martha loves to make it; George hates to eat it, but can’t tell her because it will hurt her feelings), and I’m sure I read it 100 times. I saw their combined tales at the library last year and I checked it out for ME, not the children, and re-read it all and it was super nostalgic.

Ah, warm memories of days spent hiding in the corner of a family reunion with my nose in a book. Good times, good times.

Earth, Fire, Air, Water

I’ve been missing for a week or so now because of many things, but the best thing is that my girls’ piano teacher has lent us her DVDs of The Legend of Korra. She found out that we were fans of the show Avatar: The Last Airbender and then we wasted almost a whole evening’s worth of lessons gushing about the elements, and what kind of bender you’d be (earth, for the record), and how awesome it is, and how mysterious it is to all of us that the world isn’t 100% on board with this show, which is, in all seriousness, AWESOME.

In fact, I can get quite evangelical about it, so I will try to keep it sane by just saying a few things: The Last Airbender is the story of four tribes, each of whom have the skill to “bend” or manipulate one of the four elements – earth, fire, air, or water. There’s one person born in each generation who can bend all four – the avatar – and this person’s job is to maintain balance.

It’s an animated show but it is, SERIOUSLY, so very, very good. The kids started watching it last year on Netflix (the whole original series is on there) but Sir Monkeypants and I were quickly sucked in as well. It’s funny and mystical and deep and yet accessible and fun and emotionally fulfilling. There are three seasons that tell a complete story and at the end, you’ll just need to sit and absorb and feel the peace. SO GOOD.

The Legend of Korra is a sequel show set in the same world that follows a new avatar, and it’s also AMAZING. We are watching it as a family and this weekend’s extra cold temperatures meant we all huddled up on the couch and binge watched the first season, and now are into the second season, and YES. Every bit as good as the original series. Find a way to get your hands on both of them, now.

In other news, I have been busy with skiing. Sir Monkeypants made a crafty move and bought me these:

DSC_3943 (Small)

Hello, my beauties. Bright pink ski boots, which automatically makes them the best boots ever, but also with plush thick lining that is sooooo comfy. Now I have no excuse not to go skiing. He also bought me my own set of skis that, by coincidence, match – they are black on top and hot pink on the bottom. Last week at lessons a young girl going by told me she liked my skis and that was possibly the most fulfilling moment of my life. I KNOW. When did I become a ski bunny?

And speaking of things Sir Monkeypants bought me, I got a Valentine gift this year, which is actually unusual, because both of us kind of pooh-pooh on the whole event and have never celebrated it, although I must admit that in recent years I have taken to getting the kids a book or a LEGO man or something to mark the occasion. Anyway, here’s what I got this year:

DSC_3941 (Small)

Best. Gift. Ever. The girls and I have been BUSY. Do you wanna build a snowman?

Telestrations

Time for another board game post! This one is on Telestrations – a fun party game that our kids really love. We learned about this game when we were invited to spend a weekend at a cottage this summer, belonging to Gal Smiley’s best friend RingetteGirl. We had a fantastic time and Telestrations was a big part of that – we came home and immediately went out and bought a copy (we found it at Chapters).

telestrations1 (Small)

Who It’s For

I believe the box says ages 12 and up, and I can see why, as there is some reading involved and some knowledge of phrases. But I would definitely say anyone 10 and up could handle it, and we play this with Little Miss Sunshine, who is 7, with some modifications (discussed below).

It’s a big messy party game and that means it’s best for a whole whack of people. In theory you can play with as little as 4 people but it’s definitely better with at least 5, and if you can get 7 or 8, that’s best.

telestrations2 (Small)

How To Play

Telestrations is advertised as “the game of telephone, with drawing” and that’s pretty accurate. A card will give you a starter word or phrase, and you write that phrase down in a little notebook. Then you pass the book to the next person at the table, and that person has to draw a picture of the word. Then the book is passed down the line, and the next person guesses what the picture is (i.e. writes a word that they think was the original word). Then the next person draws THAT word, and then the next person guesses based on THAT picture, and so on.

As you can guess, the original word/phrase gets pretty warped, pretty quickly, with much hilarity.

telestrations3 (Small)

Once the notebooks have made it all around the table, the original person presents their notebook one page at a time – “My word was Rocking Horse, and then Sam drew this (ha ha ha!), then Sally guessed it was a bow and arrow, then John drew this…” and so on. Everyone gets a notebook to start, and they’re all going around the table at the same time, so at the end, everyone has a notebook to present, so we take turns until they’re all shown.

There’s technically a way to “score” the game and have a winner. You can earn points for correct guesses; for getting someone else to correctly guess your picture; and for having your original word make it all around the table more-or-less correctly. But we don’t bother with this – Telestrations is just a game we play for laughs and fun.

Also, there’s a timer that’s supposed to limit your drawing time, but we don’t use that either – everyone has unlimited time to draw. Sometimes this means a few notebooks collect at one person’s station but so be it, it works out in the end, and if you’re waiting for a book to be passed to you it’s only a good excuse to eat some chips.

Why We Love It

Mostly we play this game for the hilarity factor. There’s three types of fun – admiring people’s artwork, laughing at crazy artwork, and laughing at the ridiculous things people guess.

The first time we played, we were playing with RingetteGirl’s older brother, who is very smart and funny and has the absolute perfect warped sense of humour. He was sitting next to the Captain, who is famous for his total inability to draw anything. The Captain was given the word “ball” and he drew this:

telestrations4 (Small)

Then the Big Brother guessed “Circle of Doom” and passed it to me, and when I opened the book and saw “Circle of Doom” as the next thing I was going to have to draw, I just about fell out of my chair laughing. It was AWESOME, and kicked off a whole evening of the Captain, Sir Monkeypants, and Big Brother trying to outdo each other with crazy guesses (“Monkey with pickaxe in bathtub wearing a top hat”).

Some Bad Stuff

Lots of people we have tried to play this game with have refused because they “can’t draw.” Really, bad drawing is 3/4 of the fun, so we usually push them into it. Plus, the fat markers on a small square mean even the most gifted artists can’t create masterpieces – everyone is just trying to capture the idea quickly with stick figures and simple shapes. But you have to make sure that the Bad Drawers at least have a sense of humour and can handle being laughed at. We have a solid track record of fun with this game but we did play one time with a lady who will remain nameless, who had played the “can’t draw” card to begin with, then felt very upset when we laughed at the mismatches. So yes, know your audience (and some alcohol wouldn’t hurt either).

I think this is a really fun game for all ages, but there is some reading involved, and also some knowledge of phrases like “out of the box” or “feeding frenzy” or “inside man.” Gal Smiley does just fine – when we first got this game last summer, she was 9 1/2 – but the Little Miss needs some help.

Here’s how we handle it for her – she sits always between two adults. If the person passing her a book has written down a word, then they will whisper the word to her, and sometimes give a little explanation of what it means; then she draws her picture. If she receives a picture and needs to write a word, then she asks the person she will be passing TO for help with spelling, as they’ll be reading the word next, anyway. It has to be kept hush-hush as the other people at the table aren’t supposed to hear any hints about what’s in the books, so sometimes we will play music to cover up our whispering. It works out well and she loves to play, so all good.

Recommended For

Big groups in fun, party like situations – perfect for cottages or family reunions or Christmas parties. You can play this one really quickly – a round takes maybe 15 minutes, so you can throw in a few rounds before bed with no trouble, and you can play for as long or as short as you like. It’s a great choice for people who might not want to play a game with a lot of strategy or thinking, but just want to have a little icebreaking kind of fun after dinner. If the relatives are coming for a visit – pick up a copy!

Report Cards

It was report card day yesterday, and I always get a little wound up on report card day, ranting about the meaningless comments. But yesterday was much cheerier than usual, because of this:

Captain: (cough cough) I’m sick, I can’t go to school.

Me: Well, it’s report card day, don’t you want to get your report card?

Captain: Hm.

Little Miss: What will they do with his report card if he doesn’t come?

Me: They’ll probably throw it out.

Captain: REALLY???

Me: Yes. If you don’t show up on report card day, that’s it. You have to wait until June to get any results.

Captain: REALLY????

And then I snorted and told him he could stay home from school and call me crazy, but they’d probably give him his report card the next day. Poor kid, he has absolutely inherited my total gullibility, complete with the trademark saying of “REALLY???” at all turns. He and I will go forth in blind trust together.

Later I called the school to let them know he was staying home and asked if his report card could be given to the Little Miss, whose classroom is right next door. That was no problem, so turned out he got his report card after all, PHEW.

Funny report card story: the Captain is in Grade 6, and in health class this term they were studying drugs and why they are bad. His report card says that he can describe and understands the effects of “cannabis and other illicit drugs.” Sir Monkeypants and I had a good laugh about his extensive knowledge of illicit drugs, SNICKER, and then this happened:

Sir Monkeypants: So, what do you know about cannabis?

Captain: Well, for the first two weeks everyone in my class thought the teacher was saying “can of piss.”

SNORT. Guess you really wouldn’t want to sample THAT at a party.

Naming Conventions

According to Gal Smiley and her Captain Underpants activity book, our family superhero names are Pinky, Stinky, Flunky, Zippy, and Zippy Jr. Monkeyhead. We are READY to FIGHT CRIME.

——————————

The kids sometimes like to get out the hexbugs and set them up in head-to-head battles like a hexbug version of The Hunger Games. The hexbug names are Exterminator, M.C., Poison Ivy, Easter, Nibbles, and Cockroach. I think these are AWESOME.

——————————

Gal Smiley is not sold on the idea of having children, but if she did have kids, or possibly pet pandas, she would like to name them Davin, John, and Ben. (They will obviously be boys.)

——————————

Bears are the favourite animal of the Little Miss and she has several stuffed versions. They are named Bear, Beary, Ted, Teddy (x2), Fuzzy, Softie, Pinkie, and Hero. You can probably figure out which one was named by me and Sir Monkeypants. They’re so adorably literal at this age.

That reminds me a story about my youngest sister – when she was about six she got a plastic yellow pony as a gift and she had to name it, so she called it “Bowie.” I was about 13 at the time and I thought she was naming the pony after David Bowie and I thought she was pretty much the coolest little sister on the planet. I believe I may have even bragged to some of my friends how my little sister was so pop culture knowledgeable. A year or so later we were talking about this point and she explained that the pony had some small white bows printed on its butt, and so it was more like “bow-y”, as in having Butt Bows, rather than a nod to the musician. Oh.

Butt Bows would be a pretty awesome band name, though, don’t you think?

el drama de segundo grado

The Captain had a friend over on Friday, and it is amazing how much the addition of a single 11-year-old boy to the household can amplify the noise level. Lest you think this other boy was at fault, I’ll tell you now that the problem is absolutely the Captain. He tends to get very excited when a friend is over, and expresses his excitement through shrieking. In particular, Friday’s play seemed to require the shrieking of the world “BELLBOY” over and over again. Not sure what they were doing down in the Kid Cave*, but clearly it involved a lot of arriving and leaving of hotels.

(* – Our new finished basement, name stolen from Shan’s adorable Lady Cave she’s set up for her daughters.)

Anyway, my point here is that the Captain’s buddy went home after three hours of intense playtime, during which there were exactly zero conflicts or issues or debates. It has happened on occasion that a buddy comes over and they run out of things to do, but then they happily parallel play on their iPods or read and that’s just as cool, it would seem.

Compare and contrast to the life of Little Miss Sunshine. Her life seems to be one ongoing telenovella – el drama de segundo grado – where small dramas cause huge ripples of reaction throughout her entire circle of friends on a daily basis, requiring lots and lots of reaction shots, tears, and sending messages back and forth via a third party. For example, on Thursday her class went skating, and while the Captain would say such a trip was “fine,” the Little Miss comes home with story after story about how SHE wanted to skate with A but A wanted to skate with B and B was too fast so A sat and cried so SHE chased around after B to let her know how A was feeling but B had a new friend in C and then B cried because she felt bad and then SHE went to make A feel better and then they skated together after all.

Seriously, I don’t know how she lives this way, it sounds EXHAUSTING.

I am reminded of a story Sir Monkeypants likes to tell of two girls in his own grade school who were best friends/frenemies. They sat with their desks pushed together most of the time, but on an almost daily basis would have some sort of squabble which would require the dramatic pushing apart of desks (reaction shot), then by the end of the day they’d have made up and moved their desks back together. He holds this up as an example of the craziness of grade school girls (and possibly, all women in general, but he’s too smart to imply that to his adorable and cherished wife). But now that I am seeing it in action, I’m thinking it’s maybe just a way that some girls like to pass the time. Gives them something to do, or perhaps preps them for a life in show business.

Unfortunately, the Little Miss has two rather unsympathetic parents. I was never into drama as a kid, and Gal Smiley has always played with boys at school so has a similar social history to the Captain, so this is all new to me – and I have to admit, it all seems a little silly, if not downright annoying. She is absolutely NOT interested in any practical suggestions or ideas that would remove her from the bondage of Life As A Soap Opera, including things like just walk away and just shrug and say it doesn’t bother you or even never let them see you cry, Evita. It’s what she does.

Heaven help us if she ever gets a blog.

7 Wonders

We are a game playing family, and I love that. I personally love games – I am often accused of being too competitive when it comes to games, but it actually isn’t true that I love to win or must win – I just love to play. The strategies, the planning, the thrill of a streak of luck – all good. And I couldn’t be happier to say that the rest of my family loves games too, enough to continue to play with me even when I am KICKING THEIR ASS. (Okay, perhaps I am a LITTLE competitive.)

So I had the idea this year to do a series on the blog of Games We Love, and why we love them. If you aren’t a game player, you can skip these posts because I warn you, they will be PASSIONATE and full of detail, a LOT of detail. Maybe I’ll even get tired of them myself, but for now, I’m going to give it a spin and see how it goes.

It was almost impossible to pick just one game to feature first, but in case I run out of steam on this little project I thought I’d start with our absolute most favourites and work our way down. So top of the heap comes first: 7 Wonders.

7wonders_1 (Small)

Who It’s For

The box says ages 10 and up, but our youngest, at age 7 and a half, can play on her own and actually has even won a few times (she watched us a lot first, then played “on a team” for a while before going out on her own). Our middle kid has been playing since just before she turned 9 with no trouble.

You can play with two through seven players, which makes it a great choice for bigger families (we have SO MANY games that are just for four players, GAH). Playing with just two players is a little more complex – you have to take turns being the ghost “third” player – so I would recommend starting off with at least three players if you can.

How to Play

7 Wonders is a game with a TON of rules, as well as dozens of different cards, and when you first get it out of the box it’s overwhelming. But it’s acutally really simple once you get going – after just one game you will get the hang of things. If you can, try learning from someone who already knows how, and don’t let them overwhelm you with rules – just get the general idea and then jump in and give it a try.

The game is based around the 7 wonders of the ancient world (educational!). Every player gets their own personal board featuring one of the 7 wonders, and some special powers in the game that come along with that. You’ll be collecting cards during the game, and using some of those cards to “build your wonders” – claim your special powers on your board.

The other cards you’ll be collecting go face up in front of you and represent points (which are what actually help you win the game), and resources that allow you to buy other cards that are worth more points. The point-collecting cards work in a variety of ways – some of them, you have to collect a set for it to be worth anything, others you have to have the most of that type to get the points, others are not worth much now but will give you a free card later on that that’s worth more. You have to decide which kinds of cards are going to be your best strategy for this particular game.

7wonders_3 (Small)

Collecting the cards is the best part. Each player starts with a hand of seven cards, then you pick one to keep, and pass the rest to the player beside you. Then everyone plays the one card they chose face up, picks up the hand of (now) six cards that was passed to them, keeps one, passes the (now five) hand away, and so on, until all the cards are distributed. Once you’re down to a two-card hand passed to you, you keep one and discard the other, so every player gets a total of six cards throughout the round this way.

7wonders_2 (Small)

Points are semi-tallied and then there’s a new set of seven cards dealt out (keeping all the cards you already have), with three total rounds before the end of the game.

The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Why We Love It

One of the great things about 7 Wonders is that it’s simple enough to learn to play quickly, but because everyone gets a different board each time, the strategy changes each time. Your own board will guide you towards a specific strategy due to the special powers on it, but what the other players are doing matters too, and you have to adapt to the table as it lays out.

The kids are okay at this – the girls tend to have a favourite strategy and stick to it, which sometimes works, sometimes not. We offer lots of advice and try to point out when they are collecting too much of one type of card (for example). For us adults and the Captain, it keeps things interesting and we’re always having to think about things, rather than play on autopilot.

Another thing we love about this game is that it’s really hard to guess who is going to win, or even who is in the lead, during the game. That takes away the “I’ve lost already, I can tell, yet I still have to finish this stupid game” feeling that comes from other games (like, say, Monopoly). Sometimes we have been really surprised at the winner, and the kids in particular are always willing to play because they feel like they actually have a chance at winning (and they do – I’d say it’s about 50-50 whether one of the kids is going to win, or Sir Monkeypants or I are going to win).

At the end of the game, you have to tally up the points in front of each player and I highly recommend purchasing the 7 Wonders app for this purpose. It’s a 3rd party app but the one we have is really professional and stable, and supports all the expansion packs too (if you get really into it). Plus, as a bonus, it keeps stats on each player – so you can see how many games you’ve ever won, what your winningest strategies were, what your winningest boards were, that sort of thing. The kids LOVE this, and there is always a fight over who is going to get to “do the iPad”, and then after every game they have to study their stats extensively.

Some Bad Stuff

As I mentioned, there are a ton of rules and cards so it can be a little tough to get going the first time – but stick with it! There’s a bit of complicated setup – you have to sort the cards by the number of people playing, and only use the marked subset of cards that matches how many people are playing. There’s also some special cards (“guilds”) in the third round, and a somewhat complicated procedure for picking these at random to add to the third-round deck, again based on the number of people playing. That’s why it’s awesome if you can play for the first time with people who know what they’re doing – they can do all the setup for you, and you can just focus on the basics until you’re ready to fly free, little birdies (thanks to Tudor for reminding me about this one!).

Recommended For

This game was our absolute OBSESSION in the summer of 2013 – we even took it with us to PEI and played every night in the hotels and cottages we stayed at along the way. Since it’s a strategy based game, not a party game, it’s for families that really love gaming – if you’re looking to graduate up from Monopoly or Game of Life or Clue, this is a great first step into a larger world.

Sushi and Chocolates

The kids were watching Drake and Josh on Netflix the other day while I was cooking, and this scene came on, of the two boys attempting to pack sushi into boxes from a conveyor belt:

I let the kids watch it without comment just to see what would happen, and they found it HILARIOUS, I possibly have never heard Gal Smiley in particular laugh so loud. So it’s good to know that after 60+ years, Lucy’s still got it:

I showed them the Lucy version on YouTube afterwards, and they thought it was pretty cool, too. A solid foundation in Pop Culture History is pretty important to me.

But they still think, after re-watching both several times, that Drake and Josh have the edge. Youth these days! Which do you prefer?