The power of playing games

I’m lame when it comes to playing most board games, especially I Spy. Forget about even winning a round with my wife at this game. My daughter has been kicking my butt at this games since she turned 7. Monopoly? Thank God it’s not real money. I do have better fortunes with card games, but Uno is no beuno for me. My poor performance at games is not the point. Playing games is the point. I believe that there are tremendous benefits to playing games together as a family. 

I’ll state the obvious first. Playing games gives you a great opportunity to bond with your family. In some cases, like mine, it puts you on the same level playing field with your children. Children love it! They eat it up! I remember the day my son realized that he could beat me on a certain video game. He lit up and smiled the whole time. At the same time there’s a connection happening between you and your family. If it gets you to put the phone down or pulls you away from the tv show then that’s a good thing.

Playing games usually results in a lot of laughter. If there isn’t laughing I am going to guess that you are being too competitive, and many times that’s not fun at all. What is fun is your family seeing you at play. You are probably more approachable and easier to be with when you are in play mode. Laughter breaks down the walls between us. There is a Jewish Proverb that says that laughter is like medicine for your bones. I heard that laughter releases those endorphins in your body. You get natural pain killers working in your body from playing a game? That’s a great reason to play a game! You feel better afterwards!

So go and put that phone down and break out the board game. If you don’t have one, then buy one. Buy board games to invest into your family. For you gaming pros, which ones do you recommend? Which games are great for little ones? Which games are great for older kids? Game on!

What’s your special memory of summer?

The school bells rings one final time
Summer plans include taking their time
Vacation dreams put a smile on every student’s face
But Bailey can think of only one place

Her grandfather’s vineyard is just a bicycle ride away
She and her brothers pedal up in the morning to stay
Where Bailey can dream and make up her songs
Joining her brothers on walks when they let her come along

But her sanctuary is among the vines with a blanket on the ground
That’s the spot where Bailey will usually be found
With a journal well worn and a pen in motion
Where her narratives and melodies flow like an ocean

Penning tales of good fortune and meeting magnificent folks
Sharing them with grandpa and even telling a few jokes
Writing songs of beauty and dancing with heavenly creatures
She meanders through the vineyard admiring every single feature

Until grandfather calls for the kids to come in
Each day plays out like a beautiful violin
Sometimes friends visit to sing with her and play
This is Bailey’s Summer. She’s content either way

Grandpa says that one day the vineyard will be hers
He says she can sell it if she prefers
Bailey will never let it go she says- No way!
Because when that day comes, Summer will be every day.

Notes: Thanks for taking the time to read my poem. I took this picture while my daughters explored a vineyard which became the inspiration for this fictional poem. Summer is usually a season with many opportunities for great memories for young people. You may not had your memorable childhood moments in a vineyard, but everyone has one. It may have been visits to grandma’s house, a summer camp, or hanging out with a best friend. Everyone has at least one. What’s yours?

This poem can also be experienced visually on Steller.


Back to School

It’s time to go back to school. Some of your kids already started the new school year. By the way, whatever happened to starting school after Labor Day? You would think that being a former school teacher would mean I that I knew all the Jedi tricks to help your children succeed in school. Not really. I need help to help my own kids. Here’s my short list:

  • Your children need a lot of sleep. I’m an adult and I don’t function at my best when I lack sleep. My children are no exception. Neither are yours. I remember in junior high telling everyone that sleep was overrated, yet I was the one with my head on my desk by the afternoon.
  • Your children need to eat breakfast. You might have convinced yourself that breakfast is optional for you. Don’t let your children to live the same. They spend 1/3 of their day not eating as they sleep throughout the night. To continue going on another 4 hours until lunch is a bad idea. I put gas in my car if I want to get somewhere. You child needs fuel for the day. Plus, going without breakfast makes your children’s bodies crave everything that’s unhealthy. Make it a healthy habit to eat breakfast.
  • Your children need space to be kids. Maybe your child is that type that needs to be in 3 sports at the same time, along with the Scouts, and on top of a couple hours of homework. My point is that to not fall into the trap of thinking that being overwhelmed and proudly living over-busy lives is a good thing.

The main thing is that your children need your support. School is their “work week.” What do you do to help your kids succeed in school? Comment below.

Do you watch or play?

Did your mom watch you play in the wet sand or did she get down and play with you? How about you now? Do you watch your kids play in the wet sand or do you play with them in the wet sand?

This past week, after I took a few pictures on the beach just like this one, my daughters asked me walk further out with them towards the whitewash. The two girls took turns attempting to body surf. For every wave each girl jumped into, the same girl would ask about their performance on the wave. They weren’t satisfied that I walked out with them to the shorebreak. They wanted me to submerge myself under each wave that crumbled over us. I took note of that because my kids aren’t little preschoolers. They are preteens, yet they wanted the same kind of engagement and acknowledgement as they did years ago.

I agree with the writer, George Bernard Shaw who was quoted, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing,” and Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “It is a happy talent to know how to play.” I don’t want to forget how to play. Do you?

That “Let-me-show-you-how-it’s-done-son” moment

Any of you old enough to remember the cartoon episodes when Sylvester the Cat would attempt to teach his son the art of bird-catching, yet he would fail every time he tried to catch Tweety Bird? That was me at this skate park 20 years ago trying to teach my son how to skate inside of a bowl. I powered about 6 feet up the side of the bowl on a skateboard when I realized I had no clue what to do next. I tried to bail out and keep my dignity, but my foot planted in the cement on my fall downward and I landed at the bottom of the pool in the splits position. I felt my hip pop and remember limping for a good month.

I think every dad has one of those failed let-me-show-you-how-it’s-done-son moments. At least my son and the kids that were there had a good laugh. If there were cel phone cameras back then, I would’ve been a viral sensation and invited to be on Ellen’s show. Do you remember your “Sylvester” moment?

A new morning means new mercy

The Book of Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “… His mercies never stop. They are new every morning…” (NCV)

A few times during the week, I’ll get up before dawn to surf with a few friends. When I get a moment I take a picture of the sunrise.  I’ll keep doing this to remind myself to keep thanking and trusting in God even as this world keeps getting darker. One more morning means more mercy-filled day to live out. Ray, Rich, and Dave, thanks for being my surf homies. Have a great weekend everyone.

Get some “Alone Time.”

This man managed to be left alone to his thoughts while looking out at the infinite expanse of the ocean and sky. He seemed so content. Fishing like this looks very therapeutic. What is your version of fishing?

If you don’t have a version of fishing find something that you like to do. For some parents, the only alone time is hiding in the bathroom from the kids to catch up on the FaceBook feed. Sorry, that doesn’t qualify as alone time. If you cannot get out, put all the kids to bed (another reason to have a clearly defined lights out time) then find a place that can be your space in the home, and play on one of those Sudoko puzzle books you can get at the grocery store. Do something that gets to you to unwind, relax, and smile.

Play a guitar, ride a bike. If your budget is tiny, then walk. Are you creative? Break out the drawing paper and pencils. Do whatever it takes. I’m on a device or a computer most of the day, so I say do something that requires you to put that phone down. It may be difficult for most folks to fish multiple times during the week. Maybe this dude in the picture only gets out once in a while, but who knows. He might have his own Sudoku.

My computer seemed laggy a couple of days ago. I restarted the thing, and it was back to being snappy and responsive. Getting rest and doing something to unwind is like a restart. Getting your “me” time will help you lead your family. What is your version of fishing?

It’s time to add wisdom to your knowledge

I think I know more now at almost a half-century of life than I did a couple of decades ago. I foolishly thought that I knew it all when I was out of college at 24, but the more I know now, the more I realize I don’t know much. Growing in wisdom is the key to our journey. There is a Jewish proverb that says that wisdom is better than gold, and that is definitely proving itself out in my life, and I bet it is in yours as well.

I think that’s how most good movies play out. Our main character has an enemy he has to defeat or a mountain he has to overcome. Somewhere in the story he gets wisdom that helps him win.

Wisdom is not the amount of knowledge you have but applying the knowledge you have. You can know how to make money, but the wisdom is in how you use that money. You can be an expert at driving, but if you are constantly getting traffic tickets then that knowledge is not being maximized to your own benefit; let alone any good for anyone else.

Wisdom is a heart thing; not a head thing. Many times, wisdom is making the tough decisions 90% of people are not willing to make. Wisdom is selectively choosing relationships and endeavors that are usually not popular. Wisdom is the voice that keeps you from repeating that same mistake over and over. Many times, wisdom requires courage to see it in action. Wisdom requires courage because the decisions you make influence others linked to you.

The sign in the picture says, “You know more than you think you do,” and let me add that the greater challenge is to apply what you already know to benefit yourself and those connected to you.

Your children are living in a world that is moving a whole lot faster than we were kids. They are being bombarded with so much information that parents have to “compete” with. It is crucial to be an active and intentional voice in their lives. And by the way,”Do what I say and not what I do,” is about the laziest and most ineffective way of parenting.

Parenting requires wisdom. Show your children over their lifetime how wisdom works. Teach them that wisdom is a heart thing; not a head thing. You will have to repeat yourself countless times over many years, but keep reminding them that wisdom is making the tough decisions 90% of people are not willing to make. Keep modeling for them how you are using wisdom to choose relationships and endeavors that may not seem popular nor easy.

We can all be students of the school of hard knocks, but have the heart of someone who wants to graduate. You and your children can apply that wisdom that keeps you from repeating that same mistake over and over. Growing in wisdom requires courage, time, and patience. When we grow wiser those connected to us benefit.

Lastly, if you don’t have wisdom, then ask for it. The writer in the book of James said that if you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. That doesn’t work if you don’t read your Bible because that’s where the wisdom is.

Proverbs 14:1 was written thousands of years ago, yet applies to our families today, ““A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.”
Let’s continue to use wisdom to build our homes.

When was the last time you played with your kids?

When was the last time you played hopscotch?

When was the last time you hopped? On one foot? For fun; not because you stubbed your toe navigating through the house in the middle of the night.

When was the last time you played a game that was actually on a board with other players waiting for their turn and not a mobile device?

When was the last time you ran to beat someone to a finish line?

When was the last time you chased a ball?

When was the last time you rolled on the grass?

When was the last time you made a paper airplane and threw it?

When was the last time you did anything like that?

You may lose every hand at the card game. You may be the last one to cross the finish line. You may not be able to handle the ball like you used to. You may not do anything like you used to, but something good happens when your children see you not having to be so grown-up.

I’m not talking about being childish, but being child-like. I’m talking about being a person who remembers how to play. I’m not talking about being irresponsible but less grown-up filtered. Don’t let your children grow up thinking that the only “playtime” you have is for “adults-only” and requires drinks.

Do you remember the movie “Hook?” The main character Peter Panning (played by the late Robin Williams) was always stuck to his phone on a business call. His children were kidnapped by Captain Hook, and the only way to win his children back was to battle Captain Hook as Peter Pan.

Being playful makes you approachable. It counters the stress that you may unknowingly transfer to your children. Go beyond barking orders and managing behavior. There will be times that the best way to connect with your children is through play.

Thanks for dropping by. Your comments and insight are always appreciated. When was the last time you played with your children?