Pandemic Games

The longer I go without writing in this space, the more overwhelmed I feel about trying to dive back in. So I’m going to ignore how deep the water looks (and how much life has changed over the past 10 months) and just start writing.

Early on in the pandemic, Sam’s family decided to connect via Zoom, but given the sheer number of us and the age range (ages 1-77) we had to be creative about how to do that. We came up with some great ideas, and I want to share them here in case your family has been struggling to make your group Zoom (or Hangouts) time a success.

The Name Game

This is a game we play often when we get together, and it works online as long as everyone also has a phone (or an adult nearby has a phone.) We choose a theme (eg, Disney characters, or historical characters, or desserts) and designate one person as the Writer. Everyone else chooses a name (eg, Gaston, Rasputin, or Tiramisu) that fits in the category and reports it to the Writer one by one. The Writer records them all (just the names- no need to write down who chose each) and then reads the list twice to the assembled group. No worries if three people chose the same name: there will just be three people named Elsa.

It’s very important there’s no table talk about the names during the reading (i.e., no one asks, “Who’s LaFou?”) because that will cement the name in everyone else’s head, and there’s an advantage to choosing a forgettable name.

Once all the names have been read, the guessing begins. The goal is to be the last person guessed.

Player 1 guesses by asking another player if they are one of the names that were read. For example, “Phoebe, are you The Beast?” If she is, she joins Player 1’s team, Player 1 whispers their name to her, and they address another player to see if they can guess their identity and gather that player to their team. If she is not, then it is her turn to guess someone else, and so on. Each time an identity is successfully guessed, the players join together, creating larger and larger teams, until there are only two teams left trying to guess the still-unknown player’s names.

In person, we move around the room and reassort based on who the teams are. On Zoom, that couldn’t happen, but it still worked. This is a good game with lots of kids and adults of different ages. Only one person has to be able to read, and the slight timing disconnect online didn’t matter.

The Great Family Bake-Off

Five groups took part in this, and each one was tasked with making a dessert within a time limit using only the ingredients they had on hand. One household was designated as the judges. (They judged mostly on presentation, since we had people participating from multiple states.)

Movie Trailer

One challenge was for each household to make a trailer for a summer blockbuster movie. (We used an app, but several other groups made theirs simply by cutting a pasting video footage.)

Scavenger Hunt

I made a scavenger hunt, in which each household had fifteen minutes to find/make as many items on the following list as they could. (I recommend assigning assigning points generously.)

  • greatest number of mismatched spoons (1 pt each)
  • dirtiest stove
  • funniest t-shirt
  • smallest Christmas tree
  • best pet costume
  • moldiest food
  • most inspiring fridge magnet
  • weirdest keychain
  • Easter candy
  • keys (1 point each)
  • condiments from take-out restaurants (1 pt each)
  • creature from outer space
  • most complete puzzle
  • most expired food
  • beach sandals
  • a snowball
  • the most Draw 4 cards from Uno
  • a rainbow of somethings (crayons, t-shirts, etc.)
  • the most annoying toy sound

The best part of this challenge was enjoying each other’s offerings for each category.

Board Games

We’ve played a variety of games over Zoom: Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary being the most successful.

After schools restarted in the fall, many of them virtually, more serious Zoom fatigue has slowed down our online adventures, but we’re game for some more, if you have some to recommend. How has your family used technology to connect while far apart?

Mid-Winter Update: What’s saving my life right now

I’ve enjoyed Modern Mrs. Darcy’s What’s Saving My Life series for a few years. In that spirit, here’s what’s saving my life right now:

Thick hand cream and rubber gloves:

During the winter (and with all my hand-washing in the clinic) my hands get so dry they crack. There are lots of expensive options out there, but I like the $4 Vaseline’s intensive care deep moisture cream. This is not a sponsored post. I think it works; I like the price; I can still open doorknobs afterwards. All the same, I still need to use rubber gloves for all my household tasks involving water.

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Candles

For the first time ever, I recently returned a candle to a store because the fragrance was too strong. (No, I hadn’t burned it yet.) Generally, I love candles, the more the merrier. Burning them all winter long (especially in February) makes me feel cozy and warm.

Books

Normally in February, I reach for old favorites. I hate investing my imagination in a new book and discovering I have chosen poorly. Currently on my reading table: Pride and Prejudice and The Westing Game.

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Getting Outside

There’s a direct correlation between how much time I spend cooped up indoors and my mood. At this stage in our schooling and in life, I have to be very intentional to make my outside time happen, but when I make it happen, life is better. For all of us.

Music

My current favorite music to listen to includes Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, the music from the musical Waitress, and Ingrid Michaelson.

What’s saving your life right now?

7QT: Instead of the news

One: It’s been hard to write this year. There is so much terrible news, and all of it is much more important than anything I have to say about school or local food. When I finally get over it to write something and schedule it to post automatically Monday morning, something terrible happens (looking at you, white supremacists who overran Charlottesville, and nutcase in Barcelona) and then my response appears to be some links about the upcoming eclipse.  There are many thoughtful, wise responses to the state of our nation and world.  I’m sorry that you won’t find them here.  Read them first, and then when you can’t take reality any more, you can pick up some sheet cake and come back here to read about something less distressing.

Two: Welcome back. While you were gone, I’ve been organizing our books.  Every year I  pull out the ones I want to have handy to assign for school.  I’ve been putting it off this summer because… well, see #1 above.  (It’s not just writing that’s been hard.)  But school starts on Monday, and I’m running out of time. I began yesterday by going through all the shelves and pulling out the books I need. Now I have to make room for them in a convenient spot, which involves moving those books somewhere else.  Anyway, it quickly became overwhelming.

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Three: So instead of finishing the task, I moved on to the abundance in the kitchen.  It’s August, which means melons and corn and tomatoes and peaches. Hallelujah. A God who made the peach is Someone I can get behind.

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I used to spend a hot, August afternoon sweating over the canner with these beauties. No more. Now I wash them, slice them in half to remove the pit, and freeze them on parchment paper. (The peaches, not the pits.) It takes about 10 minutes and involves no heat. Then, when the peaches are frozen, I throw them in bags.  In the winter they are perfect for the cobblers and smoothies that are the antidote to the February blues.

Four: While I’ve been working hard (or running to escape the news), the children are struggling with boredom. Poor things. I feel so sorry for them.

Five: Phoebe has taken to writing a newspaper.  I was nervous about this at first, until her first two articles were Tips about the Eclipse and Tips for Going Back to School. A girl after my own heart.

Six: Moriah has been coping by baking. Alas, that enables my coping by eating. After days of double chocolate chip cookies, lemon bars and flourless chocolate cake (she has been limited only by the egg production of our hens), I begged her please to make something that could count as lunch.  “Here,” I said, “use all these gorgeous tomatoes to make some sauce.”

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Seven: Teenage boredom for the win. Now if I could only talk her into helping me with the books…

When you can’t take the real news any more, check out Kelly for more Quick Takes.

What’s Saving My Life Right Now

Upon the inspiration of Anne Bogel, this is a reflection on what’s saving my life right now.

Midday walks.

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Sometimes we borrow our neighbor’s dog. Sometimes we hit a nature preserve (no dogs allowed.) Sometimes we just walk, but it’s always worth the effort.

Good books.

The children and I are reading Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome and Greenglass House by Kate Mitford. I am re-re-re-reading Dorothy Sayers’s Gaudy Night. (Sam just read it for the first time.)

Honestly, I’m not up for a challenge right now. I need something I know ends well. Suggestions?

Colorful food.

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This week I made Run Fast, Eat Slow’s Runner’s High Peanut Sauce, and we poured it over bowls of rice, grilled chicken and diced vegetables. Yum.

Prayer.

My friend Lori introduced me to the app Pray As You Go. It’s a lovely 11-12 minutes of contemplative music, Scripture, meditation on the Word, and prayer.

Also, because I’m not playing music in church right now, I am free to seek prayer from our prayer ministers during communion. And I do. Every week.

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What’s saving your life right now?

Beating the February Blues: Day 29

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Welcome to the end of a month of ideas to beat the February Blues!

Day 29: Make a plan.

I know this feels like a regular Monday, but it’s not.  It’s the end of a hard month. A date that comes only once every four years.  So take some time today to reflect. To look back on your last four years: How have you grown?  What went well?  What didn’t go so well?  What would you like to do differently in the future?*

Of, if that’s too much to take on in just 24 extra hours, make a smaller goal. Perhaps you want to run a half-marathon (though 13.1 miles isn’t really “half” of anything) or learn to tap dance. Maybe you want to commit more deeply to your faith, or make time to work with a cause dear to your heart.  Great!

Then make a plan.

*That little 3-question mantra (What when well, what went poorly, what will you do differently next time) comes from Make It Stick, by Peter C. Brown. I highly recommend it, and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg if you want to make a change. (My reviews of both books are here.)

Beating the February Blues: Day 27

Welcome to a month of ideas to beat the February Blues!

Day 27: Help someone else.

Maybe it’s a neighbor whose day you could make by shoveling her walk.  Or stepping in to help someone at church who does more than his fair share. Praying for a family in trouble, or sharing a meal with a lonely student or senior.

Or maybe, as you’ve joined me in praying for those in Fiji who have lost everything, you are led to send a gift across the world.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is on their way now to Fiji, to begin a long process of rebuilding and restoring.  If you are led to give, please know that 100% of your gift will make it to the communities hardest hit by Cyclone Winston.

Photo credit: Jerusha and Wesley Neal

Read more here about how Cyclone Winston has devastated communities, and how UMCOR and our friends in Fiji are ministering to those hit hard by this disaster.

Better yet, donate here.  Even a gift of $5 (one family asked only for a cooking pot!) will make a difference.

Beating the February Blues: Day 26

Welcome to a month of ideas to beat the February Blues!

Day 26: Pull out the good craft supplies.

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I have a bin where I keep the “good stuff,” so that I have something special when we need a little treat.  Maybe you’re one of those cool parents who always uses the good tools, but I have to keep the expensive stuff hidden, or it’s all used up by September 12.  Today is the day to pull out the good watercolors.

 

Beating the February Blues: Day 25

Welcome to a month of ideas to beat the February Blues!

Day 25: Have a party!

It doesn’t have to be a big deal… just a few friends or another family. Don’t wait until your floors are clean or you’ve tested that “perfect” new recipe.  Just have a few people over to celebrate that winter doesn’t go on forever.  Host a game night.  Or a hot chocolate open house after church.  Potluck dinner with some medical students (that one was ours… sorry, no photos. Instead here’s a photo from a long-ago birthday party.)
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Beating the February Blues: Day 24

Welcome to a month of ideas to beat the February Blues.

Day 24: Make a new friend.

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This one isn’t easy.  A friend said, “You and my other friend should get together! You both home school!”  So I texted her friend to introduce myself.  I felt vulnerable and exposed, and honestly we didn’t hit it off as well as I had hoped.  The upshot is, I’m not as afraid to try again.  I even know who it’s going to be… she’s been on my radar for a year, and I’ve been too something (shy? nervous? busy? lazy?) to give her a call.

Is there someone you think might be a new friend?