Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Memory Lane

It wasn’t so much that I played a rousing game of Memory tonight.  Or that my son, with whom I played, kept checking on the same two pieces only to find they were still not matches.

No…no…it wasn’t that.

It was that the game–the box, the lid, the square pictures, the whole thing–was mine.   From, uh, three decades ago.

Which says something, I suppose.  About my mom.  Who…

who had no business saving a game ain’t nobody played since the second grade.  Only she did.  Which makes me smile.  Because… there’s just something I can’t quite articulate about turning over the same cards with my son that I once cherished in my four-year-old heart.

I could not have forseen this moment.  Nor planned it even yesterday.

My game. My kid. My Our joy.

Thanks, Mom.


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Sometime in October I brought down our bag of magnets and steel balls from its safe place and poured them out for our kids to build with.  I didn’t bother thinking of what I’d do if my son gulped one down.  I just watched them play.  And what happened was this:  The place got quiet.  My son linked all his pieces in a color coordinated train that wound around the living room.  Or make that a colorful straight line.  And my daughter started connecting her magnets upward until she had an unknown three-dimensional shape–one her brother immediately loved and asked if he could crush.

Only now it’s December and the interest in these magnets hasn’t waned.  The only person remotely exhausted by them is me.  But that is directly defined by the number of times I’ve found a few strays in the pantry behind a can of diced tomatoes and the number of ones I’ve heard clunk up the vacuum cleaner.  That I can see one beside a paint can from where I’m sitting doesn’t surprise me.  But, uh,the paint can probably should.

Here are my son’s tiny pyramids, the ones his sister taught him to make.

Here is also what magnets and steel balls look like scattered in four hundred directions.  Uh, speaking conservatively.

Here’s another view at my son’s pyramids looking like a map of a campground with same-size tents.

And here is my daughter’s pyramid, the one her brother desperately wants to touch.  And poke.  And smash.

Only after her eleventh escalated ‘no’ as she guarded the thing with her shoulder, did she finally concede that he could touch, “right here.”

And so he patted her arm while she worked.

Until the Law of Attraction became too much for him, and he realized that he must touch her pyramid.

Or he must inconspicuously try.

And try again.

No matter the means.



But you probably know what that looks like.

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When Fun is the Box

It started with a simple, “hey, bud. You wanna play ‘ice cream shop?’  

Only by the time I rounded the corner my son was already serving the stuff up from his shop window and telling his sister she could have the donut flavored kind.

Which she quickly ate with both hands and claimed she loved.

And which reminded me why we haven’t been able to part with a few boxes despite them nearly turning to crumbs.

It’s just that somebody always finds another use for them. Like this diaper box.  Which is practically family.

That my son hurtled around the house with his whole body in this box, wearing a Santa hat he swiped off his sister’s head was about as exciting as our evening got.

Which wasn’t remotely exciting, unless you count the eleventh lap…


where my son simply didn’t come round the corner.  In any form.

‘Cause he was taking a breather by the stairs.

Only by the time I peeked in the box, he was staring back at me from the other side.  Which meant he’d revived long enough to attempt another lap.

Until that wasn’t such a good idea, and he ran out of gas for good. 

And me, heh…

I saved that ‘good-for-nothin’ box…

for one more day.

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That it started with a bad case of the undies…

And eventually ended like this…isn’t the whole of the story.

It’s that at one time during the day he’d had these sweats on, and while he was still wearing them, he’d asked if we could play Twister.  The party game, Twister.  The game we’ve had on our shelf since my husband’s birthday last February when we’d thought it was a good idea to spring a hip, pass gas in a crowd and show a little crack reaching for the red dot.

Ain’t no crowd, though.  Just a little boy wantin’ to take his finger to the cardboard spinner and get a handle on knowing his left from his right. 

 Which became a game in itself.  One I could sit back and, uh, certainly not strain myself over.  Here he’s got a good thing goin’ on.  The spinner says, “right foot on green.”  And behold…his right foot be on the green.  Nevermind his other limbs.  They’re just happy to be somewhere.

So here he is, spinning again…

And here he is positioning himself for the 100 meter dash.


Which is really no further away than putting his left foot on red.

Only he’s taking this very seriously.

So seriously that he had to lose the orange sweats.

By which time he collapsed in his underwear on the Twister mat. 

Until the idea came to him to shed those, too, and wear ’em on his face.

But, uh, you already know all that.

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I have never found the fun in tic-tac-toe. Ever. Which meant I certainly wasn’t going to buy a glorified variation of it.  Until I did.  But this isn’t tic-tac-boring-toe.  It’s Gobblet Junior. A game someone put a lot of thought into.  A game with depth.  A game that takes but a minute or two to play.

It goes like this.

Somebody’s yellow.  And somebody’s red.  I’m playing with my daughter who’s decided she’s red and I’m yellow.  I can live with this.

The board has as many spaces as tic-tac-toe.  Because the objective’s the same–to be the first to get three of your men or markers in a row.  Then it’s over.  Only you play again.  And again.

Each of us has six men–two Big guys, two Medium guys, and two Small guys.  Which is where the complexity of the game really is.  As well as any confusion. The big guys can gobble the medium or small guys.  The medium guys can gobble the small guys.  But you’ll see.

It doesn’t matter where you start or which man you start with.  Only that once you pick up a man and place him on a circle, you don’t get to change your mind.

My daughter went first and placed her big guy (she’s red) in the corner.  I played my big yellow guy in the middle.

She went ahead and played her other big guy right beside her other guy.  Which means she’ll win if I, say, fall asleep on my next move. 

I’m tired, but I’m still in this thing, so I place my medium guy in the corner to block her win.  It also puts me in position to win, if she doesn’t notice.

But she does.  And since she can move any of her men at any time, even the ones already on the board, she chooses to move her big guy from the corner to block me. 

 Which means that for my turn I can move any of my men.  I choose to bring another guy on.  And when I place him in the bottom corner, it’s not looking so good for her now.  Uh…at all.

She chooses to block my diagonal win option by placing her medium guy in the corner.

But it isn’t enough.  I win with three on the side.  I could’ve brought in one of my men that I had still on the sideline, but I went ahead instead and slid my big guy in the middle over to complete the line. Just a matter of preference, which does nothing to change the outcome.  Slick, eh?

And that might’ve taken 35 seconds.

So…New Game now.

She goes first in the middle with her big guy.  I go beside her with mine.

She plays her second big guy in the corner.  Forcing me to do something.

I block her with a medium guy.

Her big guy gobbles my medium guy.  Which is totally allowed.  Now the two of us have to remember what’s under there (my yellow guy).  I cannot move that yellow guy now until she moves her big red guy off of him.  And she may or may not do that.  So he’s temporarily stuck.

I play my medium guy in the corner.  Technically, I have more men on the board.  You just can’t see one of them. 

On her next move she gobbles up my other medium guy.  Also allowed. 

So what we don’t see now are my two medium guys beneath both her big red guys.  She’s also in a position to win.

But I block her with my second big yellow guy.  And look, now I could win.

Only I’m not sure why she did what she did.  But she moved her big red guy off of my medium yellow guy and placed him in the corner.  It looks like she could win.  Only it’s not her turn anymore.

Which is about the time that she has no idea why she did what she did either.  But I get it.  I’ve been there.  Only I was playing her dad.

So with little fanfare, I grabbed my smallest piece and placed him in the winning middle square.

And since the only thing long about this game is someone taking pictures of it, there’s plenty of time to wipe your nose all over the pieces. 

Here’s our last Game.

Her red. Me yellow.

She goes for her medium guy in the corner.

I gobble her medium guy with my big guy.  And set myself up for the win.

She temporarily checks out and places her big red guy in the corner.

But it’s easy to do.  To miss the obvious because you’re thinking of your next move.  And so I win again.

Which is when she reminds me of the first few times we played…back when I couldn’t figure out how to win.  Against her then five-year old self. 

But I’ve surpressed those days.

Sort of.  And whip up on her now every chance I can.

Heh heh…if only that were true.

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When Winning Doesn’t Matter

Some time over the summer we bought this game.  Chunks.  Not the healthiest sounding, I realize, but one my daughter and I play often.  Like this morning before her brother drug his blanket entourage down the stairs and needed both of our attention.

“How ’bout a game?” I’d asked her.  “How ’bout ‘Chunks’?” she asked me back.  And so it was…a game of Chunks.

Which goes like this. 

You’ve got two colors of tiles and you turn them all face down.  The yellow tiles are word beginnings (a letter or letters that can begin a word).  The green tiles are word endings. 

On your turn, you grab one tile of each color and look to see if when you put the two together, you make an actual word. If, however, your tiles don’t make a word, you laugh at what it did make and then place those two tiles back down.  End of turn.

This is my daughter’s list so far.  In her three turns, she’s created three words.  I might’ve helped her with the last one.

She pulled these two tiles, raised her eyebrows at me and said with the hard ‘g’ sound, “gin?”  Which sounded hilarious, and which, I of course corrected and said, “no, honey.  This one’s pronounced ‘jin’ with the soft ‘g’ sound.”  And then I added,” it’s a hard liquor that some people drink.”

Then ever-grateful, she said, “good thing you know your alcohol, mom.”   By which time, had I false teeth, they’d’ve flown right out onto the tiles.

The other thing about the game is that if you draw a couple of tiles that don’t jive together, you can switch your tiles around to create new words, so that all of your tiles work.  But the thing is, when you’re done moving tiles around, they’ve all gotta be words.  Which is why we have a dictionary just a breath away.

My daughter’s list no longer has the word ‘gin’ in it, but ‘kin’ and ‘gear.  It works.

Then she drew ‘frump’.  Which sounds like a word.  But isn’t.  You can’t say to somebody, “you look frump today.”  And you can’t feel ‘frump’ today.  What you can do is find yourself a ‘y’ and then you’ve got a word.  So what to do…

You move your tiles around.  And you come up with cool words like ‘chump’ and ‘fray’.  And you learn from the dictionary that chump means ‘fool’ and fray means ‘to come a part at the edges’.   And because your brain’s a sponge, you file these words away for later use.   Say when your brother wakes up.

And then you smile because at this moment your stack of words is much larger than your mom’s.

And then because the game could go on forever if we wanted it to, and because it’s hard to hear over our stomach’s growling, and because a little boy is on his way down the stairs, we say, “okay, last turn.”  And this is how we ended.  She has one more word than I do with the same number of turns, and so she wins. 

Only with a game like this, there is no loser.   It’s just too hard to feel defeated when you’ve had fun gettin’ smarter.

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Candy Land

Candy Land. I bought it in a moment of false nostalgia.  I couldn’t remember…hadn’t I enjoyed playing this?  Hadn’t there been something radically fun about moving my gingerbread guy one color square at a time?  And hadn’t I just loved it when I was almost to Candy Castle and I turned over the plum card and had to back track to the plum square, six spaces from the start?  I must’ve.  Because I bought it. 

 Only Candy Land sat on our bookshelf these last three years, completely unused. Until I eyed it this morning.

“How ’bout a game of Candy Land?” I asked my son, showing him the forgotten game.  “Okay!” he shouted, already way too excited. 

 Then as I worked on crossing my legs, he expertly emptied the box and we set up our gingerbread men.  He was blue.  And I was red.  And Daddy was yellow, though Daddy was at work. 

Now I hear people say you learn things every day.  (If they were referring to Candy Land..uh…that part I don’t know).

And well, I hadn’t known that the blue gingerbread guy was really a race car in complete disguise until my son moved it to the yellow square.  “Vrroooom  brrrrooomm” or something like that came out of his mouth, as he steered his blue ‘engine’ past my red fellow. 

Only he didn’t stop to idle on the yellow, but continued around the race track, until he’d passed Queen Frostine.  “No, no, bud,” I said.  “You got a yellow, so you’re man’s gotta sit right here on the yellow.”  So he put his man in reverse and sped him back to a yellow square midway on the board.   “No, buddy…this yellow.”  And he backed him up again.  Only onto the purple next to the yellow.  Which completely didn’t matter now.  So I took my turn.

Our game would last most of eight minutes.  None of it that fun. 

But all of it worth it. 

My son in his dinosaur pjs, sitting directly across from me, would eventually park his ‘car’ on the right color and lose the sound effects; he’d ask if it was his turn; then he’d draw his card and move his own man.  It was like watching a green strawberry ripen on fast forward.  He didn’t get it; he sort of didn’t get it; he sort of understood; he got it.  The guy got it.  He got Candy Land.

Which made a memory for him, I suppose.  One he may call on one day when he’s stumped on whether or not he should buy a game of Candy Land for his kids. ” I liked this, didn’t I?”  he’ll ask himself. 

And as he carries it to check-out, he’ll think, “I must’ve.”

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