Mama’s Top 4 Video Games for the Whole Family

Math is not my favorite subject. My brain adores words but shies away from numbers. And that’s cool until I’m faced with a situation that requires actual math.

However, this is a math problem I can solve.

One woman enjoys video games. She marries one man who loves video games. What happens when you combine two chromosomes from Mama and two from her husband?

Correct! Six years later, you get one little boy who loves video games!

(Even though we’ve been married for more than a decade [and I should know this by now], I did confirm this with my geneticist husband. He frowned at my word-problem example, but it does work.)

For Christmas, I started a new tradition. I gave both of kiddos four gifts: Something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read. For George’s “something he wants,” I chose the video game Mario Party for the Nintendo Switch.

This has led to a new version of family game night, one where we gather around the TV and play a digital board game together. No, it doesn’t fit the traditional mold, but it works for our family.

A few years ago, I wrote about video games to play with your spouse/significant other, even if you’re not a gamer. Now, I thought I’d pull together a list of good games for families with little kiddos.

  1. Animal Crossing: New Horizons
    I have a serious question. Can Nintendo predict the future? The latest Animal Crossing game was released March 20, 2020, which was, what? Two weeks after all Covid-19 craziness broke loose? And honestly? It was a beautiful relief.

    Pros: Each family member creates his/her own character, and we all pick fruit, catch bugs, fish, and shop on this little idyllic island full of anthropomorphized critter-neighbors. You can also invite your real-life friends to visit your island, so it was a sweet way to connect with friends during the height of lockdown. The fish/insects change each months, so there’s always something new to discover. The game also updates with new activities, like scuba diving or fun holiday festivals.

    Cons: If you’re more, uh, particular, it may be difficult to watch your 3-year-old chop down trees and dig random holes around your island.

2. Mario Party
Like I said, George received Super Mario Party for Christmas. He hadn’t asked for it, though he’d watched enough YouTube videos about the game to know what he unwrapped. Basically, everyone picks a character and plays a board game together. There are numerous minigames that require different skills, but nothing is too difficult.

Pros: You can either play on a team or individually. The game is easy enough for our 4-year-old to enjoy, but challenging enough to keep the grown ups interested. You try to buy stars during gameplay, and the person with the most stars at the end wins. However, there are also bonus stars after the game ends, so even the person in last can come back in a miraculous victory!

Cons: This isn’t really a “con,” but it can feel that way. This, and any board game, is a good way to teach children about losing. I don’t enjoy having to deal with 6-year-old emotions when there has to be a winner and a loser. However, they are good, necessary life lessons, so we embrace them.

3. Untitled Goose Game
OK, to appreciate the brilliance of this very simple concept, please watch this trailer. As you can see, it’s a lovely day, and you are a horrible goose. I mean, who doesn’t love to be annoying? And what’s more annoying than an aggressive goose?

Pros: It’s just hilarious. You’re given a checklist of things to do. Steal a man’s hat. Put glasses on a statue. Prune the roses. But the way you make these things happen is just delightful. You can also download the game’s update for the Untitled Geese Game, which makes it two-player (and a lot easier). The entire game is fairly short, so you only need an evening to get through.

Cons: I’d say elementary-age children (and older) would be a better fit than small children. My kids would get too stressed (the humans hate the goose and try to chase it/you away) to enjoy it.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate should make this list as well. There are so many characters from which to choose, and each character has a costume change, which delights our daughter. Basically, you can play on teams and set the difficulty level of your opponents. So, if you’re fighting two level-one computer opponents and put a level-nine computer ally on your team, it makes life easier for the kiddos. The only con? I mean, you’re fighting each other, so you may see a bit of play-fighting repeated in real life.

Do you have any more games to add to my list?

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Currently Reading:
Oath of Honor by Lynette Eason – I’m attending a writers’ weekend with Lynette Eason in a few weeks. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about her books, so I wanted to fly through one before I get to meet (and learn from!) her. The whole crime fiction genre isn’t usually my normal fare, but I’m enjoying these characters so far.

Mama’s Top Books of 2020

For the past four years, I’ve set a reading goal for myself. Yes, like a first-grade teacher awarding gold stars and pizza-party bribes to encourage early literacy. My goal is simple and easy to remember.

Every year, I aim to read at least fifty-two books. One book for each week of the year.

That makes sense, right? Sometimes I wander into graphic novels or middle grade, which boost my numbers as they don’t take as much time.

And every December, I look back through my GoodReads list and reminisce. To be honest, I’ll get to the end of the year and forget titles I read back in, say, February. My memory is a slippery place, however.

This year, I’ve read fifty-eight books! I plan on squeezing in another three-ish, so it looks like I’ll be breaking sixty. Actually, if I can get to sixty two, I’ll beat my 2016 record, so it’s worth a shot. (I apologize ahead to my husband, as I may read in the car instead of providing lively road-trip commentary.)

OK, enough chit chat. Let’s talk 2020’s best books!

That One I Adored
Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (Have you jumped on the Backman train yet?)

Books Involving War
Last Christmas in Paris: A novel of World War I by Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (Vietnam War)
Lovely War by Julie Berry (WWI)
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (WWII)

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor (and its sequel Muse of Nightmares)
Heartstone by Elle Katharine White
Fable by Adrienne Young

Young Adult
Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Christian Fiction
Short-Straw Bride by Karen Witemeyer (Think Seven Brides for Seven Brothers)
Autumn Skies by Denise Hunter (I’ve read everything she’s published, so they’re all running together in my mind. However, I always adore every novel. Girlfriend wrote three books this year. THREE. Blows my mind.)

When Life Gives You Pears by Jeannie Gaffigan
Funny in Farsi by Firoozeh Dumas
Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by Susan Cain

Now it’s your turn! Please comment below for with some favorite titles. I’ve got fifty-two slots to fill for 2021…

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Currently Reading:
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Y’all, I’m falling down the Rainbow Rowell well, and it isn’t my first time. I recently discovered Fangirl, Vol. 1: The Manga, which is a graphic novel of the first one-fourth of the original novel. It whetted my appetite for more Fangirl, so I dove in face first. I’ve also checked out Attachments, Eleanor and Park, and Landline, all of which I’ve read before. I’ve fallen, and I don’t care to get up!

All Mama Wants for Christmas

Am I allowed to brag how all of my Christmas shopping is done? I’ll be honest, I start really, really early (here are some tips on how to be a better gift giver. Hint: start early!). But then I’m always a little bummed because I don’t have a reason to shop the Christmas sales. OK, I don’t have a reason to shop them for anyone else, but I may have taken advantage in a more selfish manner.

Anywho, I thought I’d share my Christmas list. Weirdly, I’ve already gotten some of my major presents this year. So, here we go.

This is a sum-up of what time alone looks like in my life. Thrilling, I know.

Time for me
I am a supporter of moms/parents spending a bit of time away from their children. I mean, don’t abandon them or do anything crazy, but absence truly does make the heart grow fonder. For my husband and me, by the end of a weekend away, we’re scrolling through our phones and cooing over pictures of our children. This does not happen after a normal day.

However, for mamas in particular, I think it’s important to snag some alone time away. Eat the junk food, watch the Hallmark movies (or, ahem, The Notebook twice in a row), and sleep in as long as possible. For both Christmas and my birthday last year, my husband gifted me a few weekends away. (My folks have an apartment nearby for when they visit, so it’s an inexpensive gift for us). But the gift of time away? Absolutely priceless.

A healthier body
When I asked a Facebook mom group about a BeachBody subscription, I got an overwhelmingly positive response. At $8-14 per month, I hesitated. However, I need to get off my lazy, book-loving behind and do some sweatin’. Well, a fellow mama mentioned Nourish Move Love, a website produced by a certified personal trainer who offers FREE at-home workout videos. Plus, she’s super positive and normal, not in a perkily obnoxious workout-girl kinda way. And she’s not a drill sergeant. (She also loves Jesus.) I’m on day two of her 14-day challenge, and I am SORE! However, I only worked out 30 minutes each day. And my kids watched me exercise and joined in. I mean, I’m not a fan of exercising, but even I can handle 30 minutes a day.

A clean car
When my mother-in-law asked what I wanted for Christmas, only one thing came to mind. And, to be honest, it’s a biggie. However, my in-laws are some of the most generous, caring people I know, and they already gifted me with it. Y’all, they got my minivan detailed. Like, like-new detailed. It took the poor guy hours. He got out stains that were in the upholstery when we bought the (gently) used van! It’s my new favorite present, especially for the crushed-Cheerio crowd.

I *heart* Holling Hoodhood.

A good book
Have you read The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt?! It came out in 2007, so don’t think I’ve discovered something new. It kept popping up on recommendation lists, but I’m not a big fan of middle grade, so I never jumped on the bandwagon. Do NOT let the “for middle schoolers” note deter you.

It’s set in the late 1960s in Long Island, New York. Holling Hoodhood (yes, the most bizarre name I’ve heard) is in 7th grade and is certain his teacher, Mrs. Baker, hates his guts. She makes him clean her erasers and read Shakespeare. It’s the perfect mix of middle-school shenanigans and insecure 13-year-old angst mixed with real life featuring overbearing parents, first loves, and the Vietnam War. I listened to the audiobook and immediately bought a copy for my mom. I think it’s the perfect story, as it’s relatable to both genders, to preteens and adults, and also to the older adult crowd who can relate to growing up in the 1960s. And it won a Newberry, so I’m obviously not alone in my estimation.

A happy husband
In addition to getting a few early Christmas presents this year, I’ve also given one. Every year, I give the Hubs a box of Black Rifle Coffee. Now, I realize I’m the oddball as I dislike coffee. I’m not even a fan of the smell. But I love my husband, and he adores good coffee. This year, I decided to give him a subscription so instead of getting a few bags Christmas morning, he’ll get a bag of dark-roast, whole-bean goodness every month. We love Black Rifle’s mission and overall vibe, as it’s “a veteran-owned coffee company serving premium coffee to people who love America.” #America.

You’re welcome for this early morning bathroom selfie. But isn’t the sweater cute?

Comfy clothes
This is our second winter in South Carolina (after six in Florida), and I’m still working on an appropriate winter wardrobe. This year, I realized I don’t own sweatpants. So, I’ve been on a mission. They don’t need to be cute, they just need to be comfy! During my hunt, I came across Walmart’s Time and Tru and Secret Treasures brands. Y’all. Stop spending more than $20 for pajamas. This brand is the softest and most delightful fabric I’ve ever allowed to come between me and my T-shirt sheets. I bought two pairs and loved them so much I’ve now purchased a third. And yesterday I discovered they have regular clothes too, so I’m sitting here in a soft fleece sweater. I may or may not be going back to Wally Word tomorrow…

To feel safer
I think we can all agree this year has been rougher than usual. It’s held a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. While Jesus tells us not to worry, it’s hard, y’all, and I think this year has proven that again and again. So, I decided to do something to make me feel a little more in control. I took a beginner gun class. Growing up, my father had guns, but they were always responsibly locked away. I’ve never been interested or fond of guns. I would even say I was scared of being near a gun. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but I’m now a mom and have different responsibilities. I just wanted to get over my fear and have a clue.

And the class was really cool. A sheriff’s deputy in town offers courses, so just he and I spent an evening discussing, loading, and shooting. He answered all of my questions without laughing, though I’m still not certain what all of the numbers mean. Like, why is a .22 weaker than a 9mm? And how does a .380 fit in? Sounds like someone needed to get the menfolk organized back in the day.

All this to say, I think it’s worth facing a fear. Don’t be paralyzed by something because you’re less than educated. Do your research. Take a class. Talk to an expert. Move beyond fear and learn to feel more confident.

And there you have it. A probably too-long list of what I’d like/what I’ve already received for Christmas. Well, I also would like someone else to wrap all of these presents, but you can’t always get what you want.

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Currently Reading:
Y’all, I’m kind of in a reading rut. I checked out the audio version of East of Eden to help me wade through the book-club pick, and I’m still not enjoying it. Bleh. I’ve started a stopped a few other books recently, but I just haven’t found one that sticks. I’m attempting Marissa Meyer’s Instant Karma because I’ve loved her other books, but this one is…different. I’m also editing a sci-fi/horror book in the Reality Bleed series by JZ Foster and Justin Woodward. They’re finishing up book five, and it’s been a fun ride thus far.

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