Posts Tagged With: Scrabble

Cheating and the Grandparent Code

Here’s a question for any of you who are parents and especially those who are grandparents. Do you let small children win at games? Or maybe a better question is, how far will you bend in order to let them win?

I do observe and obey the section in the grandparent code that says it’s okay, even obligatory, to indulge the grandkids. “Spoiling them,” people tend to call it, though it certainly doesn’t spoil children (or anybody else, for that matter) to let them know they are wonderful, special, and loved.

But I also observe and obey that other important section in the grandparent code—the one that says part of the job is to maintain high standards. To set an example of honesty and be a role model for integrity. To help grandkids learn that wonderful, special children become wonderful, special adults by learning and doing what is right and honorable.

For example, cheating. Now, it’s perfectly sound grandparenting to play a game in a way that allows a child to win. I’ve been known myself to “overlook” a devastating series of jumps in a game of Chinese checkers. I’ve even from time to time—though it was terribly hard—deliberately not played a high-scoring Scrabble word. Even when it would have given me a triple word score.

But allowing a child to cheat? No way.

I remember playing Candyland with a granddaughter when she was four or five. She had won the first game, she was behind in the second game, and I caught her cheating. She moved her purple game piece to a purple spot on the board several spaces ahead of the purple spot it was meant to land on. I made her move it back. She tried to convince me her move had been legitimate. That didn’t work. She tried pouting. That didn’t work. She gave me her best scathing look. I just told her that cheating spoiled the fun of a game and that I didn’t play games with cheaters. She sighed and flounced in her chair. No one can flounce while seated quite as well as an offended five-year-old girl. Then she put her game piece back where it belonged and finished the game with reasonably good grace. And she lost.

I hope she learned something about integrity. I hope, if she ever reads this—and even remembers that particular game—she knows I am proud of her for finishing it.

I also hope she believes me when I say truthfully that my only purpose in that interaction was to help her learn not to cheat. Honestly, I did not intend any benefit for myself. I did not in any way try to influence the decision she made, at the end of the game, to put Candyland away and get out some puzzles instead.

Sometimes virtue is its own reward. Sometimes it offers unexpected collateral benefits. Like not having to sit patiently through 27 more games of Candyland.

Categories: Family | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Playing With a Full Deck

When we were kids, our family was so frugal . . .

Cue chorus: “How frugal were you?”

We were so frugal, we only had two decks of cards.

At least, that’s how I remember it. They were the classic Bicycle cards, in the original cardboard boxes, which were kept in the top drawer of the china cabinet. They served us kids for countless games of Hearts and Old Maid, both of which left me with a lasting suspicion of the Queen of Spades. The grownups sometimes played Hearts, too, or poker for small change. (Side note to the unwary: keep your wits about you if you ever play poker with my mother.)

We played plenty of games of solitaire as well, which in my experience is a great way for a kid to learn the value of integrity. It may be easy to cheat when you’re the only one playing, but cheating takes all the fun out of winning. The biggest challenge with solitaire was to play a complete game without a sister looking over your shoulder to point out that you could have played that red seven on that black eight.

But no matter who was playing with them, when the games were over, the cards were put back into the boxes and back into the china cabinet. Those decks survived intact, jokers and all, for years. For all I know, the cards in the drawer today are the very same ones.

Another game that’s still in that drawer is the much-used Scrabble set. The box has been held together by a big rubber band for years now, but all the tiles are still there. Possibly because, a long time ago, my mother made a handy little drawstring bag to keep them in.

I’m not sure what my point is here; I certainly don’t want this to be a rant about how kids these days don’t know the value of things, blah, blah, blah. But I am a bit embarrassed to consider how many decks of cards I bought for my kids over the years. True, it was a different time. Cards were cheap, an impulse buy before a road trip or a little gift to drop into a Christmas stocking. But they never lasted long. First the jokers vanished, and then a stray ace or a six got lost, and pretty soon the rest went into the trash because you can’t play games when you’re a few cards short of a full deck.

It is true that the more stuff we have, the harder it is to keep track of it. Which sounds like a very good excuse for being the cheap grandma who doesn’t buy the grandkids a lot of toys.

But at least my Scrabble set, which came with its own bag, still has all the tiles.

Categories: Family, Living Consciously, Remembering When | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

“There’s a Hole in My Bucket”

A bucket list. Maybe you have a real one, written out and posted on your refrigerator. Or maybe you just have a few things in the back of your mind that you really want to do "someday." ("See the Eiffel Tower by moonlight." "Visit Machu Picchu." "Go skydiving." "Learn to play the banjo." "Use 'quartzite' for a triple word score in Scrabble.")

Either way, it's probably a good idea to have some sort of list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket. And an even better idea, of course, to actually do them.

But here's something else that's also a good idea: a "hole in your bucket" list.

Some of the things on your bucket list might not belong there anymore. Maybe you wanted to do them once upon a time—or thought you did. But by now, one way or another, they're just not worth the trouble. It might be time to let those things just slip through a hole in the bottom of your bucket.

Maybe you've figured out that some items on your list are too risky or too dumb. (Bungee jumping, anyone?) You might be like the rancher who said he wanted to be a bull rider "until I got older and my brains came in."

Maybe some things on your list really aren't your dreams at all, but belong on someone else's bucket list. If your spouse has always wanted to go sky diving or canoe up the Amazon or trek through the Gobi Desert, you don't have to want to go, too. You can wave goodbye with a big smile, then enjoy looking at the pictures afterward.

There might be items on your list that seemed like a good idea at the time, but on second or third thought, you really aren't that interested. When I visited the Grand Canyon a decade ago, a hike to the bottom sounded like fun. Now, not so much. By now I've figured out the drawback to the whole plan. The natural consequence of hiking to the bottom is that you have to hike back up to the top.

Sadly, it might be too late for some bucket list items. If you're a person of mature years, say 59 or 67, you probably aren't ever going to realize that long-held dream of dancing with the Rockettes or playing tight end for the Green Bay Packers. (Let's face it—no matter who you are, "age 67" and "tight end" just don't belong in the same sentence.)

If there are things on your bucket list that won't keep, start actively planning to do them sooner rather than later. And while you're at it, take a close look at your list. It might be time to let some things fall through the hole and disappear. Letting go of goals that no longer fit makes more room for new ones.

It also helps you refocus on long-held goals that really do matter to you. One of these days, there's got to be a place to play "quartzite" and get that triple word score.

Categories: Just For Fun, Living Consciously | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A What In a Pear Tree?

In what may have been a kind attempt to bring inspiration to the décor-challenged, one of my friends invited me to go with her to the Festival of Trees last weekend. This is an annual fundraiser for a local organization, where creative people decorate trees and other Christmas decorations to be displayed and then sold. Besides the trees, there are gingerbread houses, seasonal music, and an array of wonderful homemade treats like pumpkin pie and brownies. It was fun.

It was also enlightening. All the lights worked on every single tree. The ornaments were distributed evenly instead of being bunched at the eye level of the youngest decorators. Colors were coordinated. Entire sets of matching ornaments appeared to be intact. I didn't see a single tree with a homemade gingerbread ornament that a small child had taken a bite out of. (Even though crucial dental-matching evidence was lost when the culprit's baby teeth fell out, we still know who did it.)

Several of the trees were decorated around specific themes. One was hung with small toys and game pieces, including Scrabble tiles strung together to form words. It was a cute idea that would certainly fit certain members of my family. Of course, playing Scrabble at the Christmas get-together might be a bit of a challenge if half the tiles were hanging on the tree. Maybe we could just make ornaments out of the Q, the X, and the Z.

The most unique tree in the display was the one with an "outdoor sportsman" theme. I can't remember whether it had camouflage ribbon and shotgun-shell ornaments, though it certainly should have. I rather think not—just ornaments in earthy outdoor colors with subtle accents in blaze orange. Maybe the average fabric store doesn't carry a lot of camouflage ribbon.

Appropriately enough for South Dakota, the tree featured pheasant feathers. Long tail feathers stuck out from the branches at random intervals, with a bunch of them clustered near the top. This may have been intended to look like a star, but to my unsophisticated eye the total effect was more like the way my stepson's hair used to look when he first got out of bed in the morning.

The pheasant theme was carried further with several pheasant-feather mounts that presumably were borrowed from a local taxidermist. It might have worked better had these been full mounted birds. True, a pheasant is rather large to perch in the branches of an artificial spruce tree, but at least there would have been some resemblance to living roosters.

Instead, these were flat—just the pelts, as seen from the top, with the heads sort of squashed into the feathers. Admittedly, it was realistic. A rooster pheasant can end up looking exactly like that if he hangs out in the middle of the highway and dares an oncoming semi to get out of his way.

The flattened pheasants reminded me of another decoration I saw earlier this fall. It was a witch and her broom smashed against a tree trunk, along with a cautionary sign: Don't text and fly. For Halloween, it was funny. For Christmas, you might say it fell a little flat.

But it did give a whole new meaning to the term "flocked" Christmas tree.

Categories: Just For Fun | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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