July 2007 Archives

Game Closet

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I think that one of the most valuable assets a family committed to less TV and more interaction can have is a good game closet. I have no personal beef with computer/video games, when they are kept in their correct place. I enjoy a few hands (or, to be frank, more than a few hands) of solitaire or Poppit on the computer. But those kind of games rarely encourage face to face play with another human being.

Back in our homeschooling days, there was no television in our house during the week. Mondays through Fridays, no TV. Saturdays and Sundays were free game, but between stuff to do and church to attned, etc, the effects of TV were largely limited. It's a compromise that I recommend to people who are struggling with the "too much television" blues.

That left time in the evenings for something else. And the question then is, for what? We don't live on a farm with its attendant chores, etc. So, what is there to do?

Well, of course there is reading and talking and listening to music. Reading aloud and drawing, painting and coloring. But there is also time for GAMES! We own a lot of games. We play them with groups, we play them as a family, and we are always in search of good two person games.

Someone asked for my recommendations for a game closet. Once you've finished Candyland, Spill the Beans, Cootie (shudder!), and Chutes and Ladders, what do you play? Here's what we have in our closet:

Party (or group) games:

Trivial Pursuit - An oldie but still a goldie. Comes with special editions, but we like the original version best.
Scattergories - Quick! Think of a vegetable that starts with an R!
Taboo - Go ahead. Try and describe dog without saying canine, bark or fleas!
Pictionary - The cause of the most laughs in our family. PapaC and my dad draw the worst pictures for each other, but they are on the same wavelength and get the answers!
Twister - I'm too old for this now, but back in the day.....

Classic board games:

Monopoly - Everyone needs this one.
Life - We still have the set I had as a child. It's funny, because the salaries are so low! It's been updated, but the game play is the same.
Clue - Classic first logic type game. Col. Mustard in the conservatory with the lead pipe!
Sorry/Parcheesi/Trouble/Wahoo - Pick one--they all play reasonably similarly. Race around a track based on dice throws. Trouble is the one to start with. It has the AMAZING POPAMATIC DICE THINGIE, and you don't lose the dice so much. Sorry was the basis for the funniest Carol Burnett skit I ever saw.

Dice Games:

Yahtzee - Or its cousin Triple Yahtzee (which just means you play three games at once).
Can't Stop - Not well known, but it should be. How far will you push your luck?
Cosmic Wimpout - A fun game with five dice. Another test of luck and knowing when to stop.
Stack - You have probably never heard of this game. You should own it. You can get it here. A good game for mixed ages. Not a thinking-type game, but it is fun to play for hours after a nice barbecue with the friends.

Strategy type games:

Battleship - Nearly all kids start here. E-9? Hit!
Stratego - The next step up from Battleship. Move army pieces around, but watch out for the bombs! Not as long-playing as some of the other games.
Risk - Still Zman's favorite. He and a group of friends get together to play this regularly.
Axis and Allies - Recommended by Zman. I don't play it, I don't know.
Othello - Abstract strategy, reminiscent of the classic game Go.

Card games (our favorite category!):

Uno - The easiest game to start with. Match color or number, or use a wild card.
Skipbo - Another easy place to start with cards.
Racko - We played endlessly when Zack was younger. All based on ordering the cards.
Rook - A trick taking game, and a good introduction to that genre. As a side note, the cards may have been developed to appeal to a wide audience - including Mennonites and fundamentalists who couldn't play with standard cards.
Flinch - A stockpile game. You try to get rid of your ten cards first, building up on play stacks in the middle of the table.
Pit - A trading game. Do not play this if you are shy and afraid to yell if necessary. Also do not play if your parents are asleep and want to stay that way. Ask me how I know.
Blink - Discussed in the Camp Southard entry. An absolutely fabulous two person, quick, quick, quick little game.
Milles Bornes - Another stockpile type game, with the extra added attractions of being able to throw a monkey wrench in other peoples' hands.
Sequence - A combo board/card game. Fun and can be played either by two, or by four in teams.

Word games (only two that we really love, which I think is odd since we're wordies!):

Scrabble - The best word game, hands down. You can play for fun or for blood, depending with whom you play.
Boggle - The second best game. Can you see words diagonally or not?

Others that don't fit the categories above:

Rummikub - A fun game with mahjong-like tiles. You use them to make runs and sets. We have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours with this one.
Cribbage - Get a board, learn to play. PapaC taught us all this one - much more common in Yankee territory than here in Texas. Wonderful two player game, can also be played with three and four.
Backgammon - Unlike anything else, in my opinion. We don't wager with it, we just play it straight. According to PapaC, "Anyone can win if they get two sets of double sixes in a row!" (Guess who got them?)
Checkers - A childhood is not complete until you know how to play. I think it's kind of boring, but I know folks who play all the time.
Chinese checkers - I am surprised they haven't had to rename this one. We much prefer this to regular checkers.
Chess - I don't have the patience to get good at this. Zman and PapaC play sometimes.

Then I think every closet needs:

Sets of cards - One set for Gin Rummy (the very best two person card game ever), Spades, Hearts, Nertz, spoons, etc. One multiple deck set (that you never have to sort out) for Canasta and its variations.
Dominoes - To play regular dominoes and then to learn to play 42 (one of the all-time favorites around here). 42 is a good way to learn to bid a hand, etc. If you get a set of double nine dominoes you can play Chicken Foot or with a double twelve set, Mexican Train.

There are hundreds of other games we've played and owned, but these are our favorites. It looks like it would be expensive to have these, but many of them can be had for little money. Especially the card games. Lots of them are < $5 or $10. And keep an eye out at garage sales, etc. Spare pieces can often be ordered for almost nothing, so if the game is complete except for a token or two, it might be worth investing a buck and getting the pieces you need.

What's your favorite? Is there something we should try here at CasaS? Do tell.

She's baa-aaa-aaa-ack!

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Chaos in this Mama's world has settled down a bit. Now we're back to the normal levels, at least for awhile.

After a week of Camp Southard, followed by a week of vacation for PapaC and me, this morning starts back to a more normal routine. Well, perhaps normal stretches it just a bit.

Last week was fabulous. Zman was still on his geology field trip and McKid and her mama took a week of vacation, so PapaC and I got to do exactly what we wanted to do. No money in the kitty for a travelling kind of vacation, so we stayed home and played. We went to the movies (saw Ratatouille), went to East Texas and poked around in antique and "stuff" shops, went to the Indian Reservation and gambled a bit, and read the final Harry Potter book.

But the very best part? Staying up as late as we wanted and sleeping as late as we wanted. That sounds silly, when you just write it out. But my life has been so governed by alarms and schedules, school days and lunches to make, meetings and just stuff, that it was just WONDERFUL to live an unplanned existence for six whole days. We got up when we woke up, we ate when we were hungry (not when it was "time"), and we played as many computer games as we wanted. It was glorious.

We finished up last night with pizza and a movie. Watched Children of Men, which was decent, but not like the book at all. I'll say more about it later.

Anyway, long way 'round to say that there will be more content on the Summa Mamas going forward. Thanks for your patience during our craziness!

An interesting review....

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.....of a book I'd like to read: Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life.

Small snippet:

While never neglecting the goodness of caring for one's own domicile and kids—itself an act of demanding hospitality—Peterson underscores that "a Christian home, properly understood, is never just for one's own family. A Christian home overflows its boundaries; it is an outpost of the kingdom of God, where the hungry are fed and the naked are clothed and there is room enough for everyone."

The Zman's best friend!

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Zman's best friend, known around here as "Good Boy Sam", sings in a college barbershop quartet called "Last Minute". They placed third at the international barbershop competition in Denver this month. And now you can see it, right here! Good Boy Sam is 2nd from the right. He is a fine young man and an unbelievable singer.

Oh, we're so proud of you!

Quote for today


Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.

~John Lubbock

However, let it be known that I personally am doing very little resting around here!

Camp S continued

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Camp S activities continued apace yesterday. We went to the park for a picnic, but we were pretty much run out by an invasion of flies at the picnic area. I guess our peanut butter sandwiches just looked too delicious!

During McKid's naptime, my niece and I played a really fun card game that the Zman had gotten in his Christmas stocking but we had never played:


We're a big believer in all sorts of games around here. We don't disdain the video or computer game, but all of us love the board game. And we are pretty rabid card players as well. It's given us hours of family enjoyment and fun.

Anyway, back from the family moment there, Blink is a very fast-paced (each game less than 5 minutes), highly addictive little game. Like Set in a way, you are trying to match and play cards based on the attributes of number, color and shape. No turns, you just rush to the finish, trying to play all the cards in your stack. Easy to handicap for play with a younger child (just deal yourself more cards than you deal them) it's a perfect game for 2--and I think those are hard to come by. And for less than $5 for the game? It's a steal! Highly recommended by the Camp S campers and counselor!

After naptime, it was swimming, swimming and more swimming. Fun for all, including ME!

Then last night, one of the big events of the week:


We went to see the new Harry Potter movie: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I thought this book would be the hardest to adapt into a movie--it's a lot of planning and talking. And the idea of a Grand Inquisitor of sorts for Hogwarts? I didn't see how that would play well.

But we all enjoyed the movie. Really, though, I think people go to HP movies to see their vision on the big screen. It's exciting to see Quidditch played right there before your eyes. It's fun to see what Hogwarts looks like. Most of the people who go to the movies know what the plot is, and they don't really go for that. So I don't know if the movie is a good movie on its own terms or if you haven't read the book.

That said, I do think there were a couple of stellar performances in the movie. Imelda Staunton, who plays Dolores Umbridge, is genius. She gave us a lot to talk about on the way home: how evil doesn't always LOOK evil in the beginning. And here is this little lady in pink suits and shoes who turns out to be the most vile person. And a person who does things wrong in the name of "helping" you. She was not what I had imagined as I read the book, but in this case, the moviemaker's and actor's sense was better than mine.

And Helena Bonham Carter rocks the portrayal of Bellatrix LaStrange--escaped from Azkabahn. She's not in the movie for long, but she steals every scene she's in. If being in Azhabahn drives a person crazy, she's the spot on example.

And Fred and George Weasley's final act at Hogwarts? Spectacular.

The movie focuses down on just a few characters this time. If you wanted to see much of Draco, or Ginny, or Percy, or any of the teachers, this isn't the movie for you.

At any rate, the four of us spent an enjoyable 2 1/2 hours at the movies. But then, my niece and nephew are Potterphiles. Your mileage may vary.

no pressure

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check out "mi mundo" -- the new blogsite of our dear amiga marsha. you may find her new digs here. btw, marsha also happens to be the mother of the smock's adorable and delightful, precious and delicious, oh, and gifted as well as beloved godsons.

Oh, beautiful!


I am a fan of barbershop choruses and quartets. Zman's best friend sings in two different choruses (Texas Millionaires and The Vocal Majority) and two quartets. He's really good. Seeing him in shows over the years has helped me appreciate this beautiful singing.

Here is Ave Maria done by the Westminster Barbershop Chorus. This chorus won the international competition in Denver this month. Their show set was fabulous (it's on YouTube, if you're interested). But this is simply gorgeous. You may have to turn your sound way up (I did) to hear it. It's worth it.

And a final quote!

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Raising kids is part joy and part guerilla warfare.

Ed Asner

And quote #2


Any child can tell you that the sole purpose of a middle name is so he can tell when he's really in trouble.

Dennis Fakes

Quote for today!


Anyone who thinks the art of conversation is dead ought to tell a child to go to bed.

Robert Gallagher

Camp S


Every summer, my dear niece and nephew come and spend a week with PapaC and me. We do a lot of fun things: we swim in a friend's pool (and swim for a LONG time--the point is for the kids to get their fill), we go play miniature golf, we go to the movies, we rent videos, etc, etc, etc. This week is Camp S week, so you'll hear from me only in bits and pieces. In between the "fun stuff", you know.

Yesterday was a really fun day. Cinnamon rolls for breakfast, play around the house, go to the bargain movies at Studio Movie Grill (to see Over the Hedge), come home and rest, go swimming (and the Smockmomma and the Smockchitlins came and swam with us!), barbecue some chicken, and then nephew plays Sonic the Hedgehog on the game console while niece and I watch High School Musical on DVD. And then off to bed with books.

Mostly thumbs up around here up for Over the Hedge, though it has some rather rude parts. I was surprised by the voice talents they rounded up: Gary Shandling, Catherine O'Hara, Bruce Willis, William Shatner, Eugene Levy, Thomas Hayden Church, Wanda Sykes. Not the people usually involved with animated features. Some funny riffs on Mission Impossible and films of that ilk. It is not a movie that I will add to my collection of DVDs, but it was a fund way to spend a morning at the movies.

High School Musical is a definite kid chick flick. Nephew had no desire to see it again. Niece and I liked all the singing and dancing. I can see why it was such a hit for Disney. Again, nothing I'd buy for my collection, unless it was really, really cheap. But I know that McKid would watch it over, and over, and over......

We're hoping it doesn't rain today. We want to go to the park and play and have a picnic!

Quote for today!


"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

— Groucho Marx

Art For Today!

Young Lady Reading
Mary Cassatt

Interesting questions today.

1. In your opinion, what is the best translation of a book to a movie?
2. The worst?
3. Had you read the book before seeing the movie, and did that make a difference?

I like to think about this, because one of our ideas for our book group next year is to do books and their movie counterparts. Earlier this year we read The Keys of the Kingdom and watched the old movie version and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I am not a purist. Even with books that I love, I understand that not every moment in the book can make it onto the screen. I was not one of those people picking apart, say, the latest Lord of the Rings movies and saying, "Well, it was terrible! They didn't put XYZ in!" Also, my sisterfriend, who is a drama-type, has taught me a lot about the things that advance plot in a book that just can't happen that way in a movie, so I understand the process a lot better than I used to.

All that said, here are my answers. One of which I know will horrify Erik K, who thinks it is a terrible movie.

1. Best translation of a book to a movie in my mind is To Kill a Mockingbird (This is where Erik screams "No! A thousand times NO!") But I love the book (it's one of my all time favorites) and I think the vision of the movie was dead on. The scene of Scout running in the ham costume--exactly as I had imagined it.

2. Worst translation? The Shining. I hate that movie with a passion that is unseemly. Jack Nicholson was EXACTLY WRONG for the part he played. It MIGHT be a good movie, taken on its own. But as an adaptation of the book? It was disastrous. If I had been "little Stevie King" (as Smock so often calls him), I would have burned down the director and producer's houses and moved on to Nicholson's house just for good measure. Yeah, I hate it that much. And I thought the book was one of the scariest things I had ever read.

3. Usually I read the book before I see the movie, if I have any interest in the book at all. I'd rather have my own ideas before I see the movie. Even if I see the movie first, I usually like the book better. If there is good source material at all, the book just gives a fuller interpretation. But movies are more constrained. Look at it this way, Kristin Lavransdatter can go on for three books. If they made a movie, they'd have to leave out big old chunks of it. The movie might be good on its own terms. I might love it and think it grand. But the books. Well, there is just more to them.

And there you have it. What say you?

Summer Reading Challenge Update

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In the midst of the chaos that my life has been lately, I still have been reading. I guess I'd have to be in a coma not to read. It's my good friend--a reliever of stress and an escape valve. It's my equivalent of "Calgon, take me away!"

So, my plan was to read these:

Stones from the River by Ursula Heigi
The Golem by Isaac Bashevis Singer
Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

Sights Unseen by Kaye Gibbons
Delta Wedding by Eudora Welty
Lost in the Cosmos by Walker Percy

Lord Vanity by Samuel Shellabarger
Captain from Castile by Samuel Shellabarger

And the following Agatha Christie books:

What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!
The Body in the Library
Death on the Nile
Murder on the Orient Express
The ABC Murders
Cards on the Table
Thirteen at Dinner

I've read the ones that are crossed out.

I have made one change. I started Lost in the Cosmos by Walker Percy (which was part of my Southern Reading Challenge over at Maggie Reads). But it takes more thinking than I am able to give it at this moment in my life.

So, Lost in the Cosmos comes off the list, replaced by Eudora Welty's The Ponder Heart which I got for A DOLLAR last night at Half Price Books.

And, yeah, don't remind me that I have shelves of unread books. I actually only bought 3 books for myself: The Ponder Heart, Flannery O'Connor's Everything That Rises Must Converge, and Patrick O'Brian's Post Captain (the second in the Aubrey/Mauritain series). And I bought one book of poetry for the Zman, because I couldn't pass up The Collected Works of Emily Dickinson for three bucks.

So shoot me.

Swimming Wednesday!

“It's a good idea to begin at the bottom in everything except in learning to swim"

A Bigger Splash
David Hockney

Swimming lessons today. More later. But enjoy the art!

But What We Really Know.....


Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

-----------------John 14:27

And we're holding on to that promise.

They go virtual shoe shopping, OF COURSE!


Love, love, love, love these!!!! I want them. They are me to a T (no pun intended, but I would have if I had thought about it!). Well, they're me except for the price. There is that little sticking point.


I think these shoes are so totally the Smock that they should have her name embroidered on them somewhere. Better yet, they could change the name of the style to Smockmomma.


OK, so maybe these are a bit Minnie Mouse-y, but I like them anyway, and they would look fab with my jeans and t-shirts in the fall.


The most Summa of the shoes I looked at tonight. Smock and I need matching pairs for church on Sundays.


While my virtual shoe shopping is usually done a little tongue in cheek--at least as far as the actual BUYING of anything goes--I really do like these. A lot.


But, if I'm wishing and dreaming, I'll wish and dream that I had THESE, and someplace superfantastic to wear them........Some day my prince will come.......Oh, wait, he already did, and he's washing the dishes! Hmmmm. I can't wear these for that. Time to find my flips.....



Sometimes it seems your ever-increasing list of things to do can leave you feeling totally undone.

---Susan Mitchell and Catherine Christie, I'd Kill for a Cookie

I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once.

---Jennifer Yane

There are very few certainties that touch us all in this mortal experience, but one of the absolutes is that we will experience hardship and stress at some point.

---James C. Dobson

Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it.

---Lily Tomlin




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