The Best Board Games for Kids – And Their Impact on Parental (In)Sanity

There are plenty of websites out there that rank the best board games for kids. However, most of them focus on just that: the kids. I may not have product testers or thousands of dollars to dump into the process, but I have something at least as good: three kids of my own.

While some lists are hung up on the best board games for kids to promote literacy, to play while traveling, or to teach cooperation, this is a different kind of list. My goal is to help you assess the best board games for kids while simultaneously measuring how much sanity of your own will be sacrificed each time you play (or witness your children playing) the board game in question.

It’s already September, which means the Christmas decorations will be out in force next to the giant pumpkins any day now (if they’re not on display already). Since I like to be prepared in advance (bahahaha just kidding, I never do anything well in advance now that I’m a parent), I’ve decided to publish this list now to give you plenty of time to plan for your holiday gift-giving needs and shop accordingly.

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5 Parental Superpowers My Husband Possesses (That I, Apparently, Do Not)

Last week, I wrote a post about five parental superpowers I possess that my husband is lacking. This street runs two ways. After six years and counting as parents, it’s become very apparent that my husband has some parental superpowers of his own that I lack. In no particular order, those superpowers include…

The ability to do bedtime without losing his sh-t.

At first glance, this may not seem like a parental superpower, but it definitely is. My children go to bed at 8:00 pm, and at least one of them (if not all three) is up-and-at-em by 6:00 am. That’s 14 hours of uninterrupted mommy-kid time. Apparently, my threshold for that kind of bonding is actually somewhere around 12-13 hours. By bedtime, I can’t take it anymore! It may be just a few minutes, but waiting for my kids to brush their teeth or complete a look-and-find book feels torturous and Drill Sergeant Mommy emerges (“Brush!” “Potty!” “Flush!” “Move, move, move!”). When I manage to do bedtime without being mean-mommy, it’s because I have plastered a fake Stepford Smile on my face and am filtering every single syllable from my mouth through a strainer of fake-pleasantry. Meanwhile, Dad handles bedtime like a boss and can typically manage multiple delays like a sane human being. Not surprisingly, the kids always whine when it’s Mommy’s turn to do bedtime (mommy whines too, but I whine–and then wine–on the inside). Read More

5 Parental Superpowers I Possess (That My Husband, Apparently, Does Not)

Having children changes you. Anyone can tell you that. What many don’t realize is that motherhood can provide you with new, some might even say superhuman, abilities. Like Peter Parker after being bitten by that radioactive spider (that’s Spiderman, for anyone who is unaware and/or is not raising boys), I have developed some pretty significant talents since reproducing that my husband, apparently, has not.

Sensing vomit

In keeping with the superhero analogy, I now have a spidey-sense that can detect vomit halfway across the house, even from a dead sleep. A little lurch from one of the kids’ stomachs and, faster than a speeding bullet, I’m there (with a bowl, with my own two hands, whatever it takes). My husband? He can sleep straight through the vomit, my calls for assistance, me stripping the bed, and me running a load of laundry (actually, come to think of it, maybe he has the superhero power here…)

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Back to School: 6 Hilarious Tips To Survive The First Month With Your Sanity (And Sense Of Humor) Intact

Between preschool and elementary school, as of this school year, I will have about six years of Back to School experience as a parent. However, I’ve also taught high school for a decade, so Back to School (and Back to School survival) is basically my native tongue. I’ve already professed my undying love and appreciation for teachers, but that doesn’t mean heading back to school is without its challenges. As some of you are already in your first weeks of school, and many more of you will be heading back later this month, I thought now would be a great time to share some key tips so that you can (hopefully) survive the Back to School chaos with your sanity and sense of humor intact.

Back to School Pro Tip #1: Start working out your arms.

With Back to School, you will pretty much be signing forms until the end of time. You could ask your husband to help with this, but truthfully, by the time you do that, you’ll probably just forget about the forms altogether and then wonder why you’re getting ten emails and phone calls per day over a missing emergency care form you swore you signed already. Better to just start signing now and keep signing until your arms turn to rubber and fall off. The upside is that, perhaps for a little while, your tricep area will stop waving when the rest of your arm stops (but Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are all coming, so don’t get too used to that). An alternative is to teach your oldest (however old that is) to start forging your signature. By the time they’re teens, they’ll be doing this anyway, so you might as well get some legwork out of them beforehand. Read More

The Dinner Give-A-Crap-O-Meter

“How are you?”

It’s a simple enough question that most people field casually every day, with the typical response being something along the lines of, “good,” “fine,” or “well, thank you.” But are you really good? Are you really fine? It can be hard to tell. The next time you find yourself wondering (or someone else inquiring) about your current state, I suggest you utilize the Dinner Give-A-Crap-O-Meter.

The Dinner Give-A-Crap-O-Meter is a pyramid-structured system that is incredibly easy to use and is, undoubtedly, as accurate at determining your current mental state as any other method you might consider. To accurately place yourself on the chart, identify what you served for dinner last night or what you plan on serving tonight, read the corresponding description, and voila!

It is important to note that how much whining you will experience from your children is inversely proportional to how much effort you put forth. Hence, your crappiest, lowest effort on the Dinner Give-A-Crap-O-Meter will provide the happiest children. It may also provide diabetes and heart disease down the line, but that is not today’s concern; this is a short-term scale…

Let’s examine the Dinner Give-A-Crap-O-Meter, beginning at the very top, with the pinnacle of dinnertime achievement. Read More

Why Your Kids Are Angels For The Grandparents (But Not For You)

Raising children and living in what is practically a fraternity house is exhausting, so you send your kids to their grandparents’ house so you can catch a desperately needed break. The grandparents later return them to you, singing the praises of your children’s behavior. The grandparents then leave your house and, within five minutes (usually less), those darling angels morph back into the gremlins you always knew they were. What gives?

Well, if you’re thinking about blaming yourself, you can go ahead and stop that right now. This is not your fault. Were the grandparents lying about the kids’ behavior? No, it’s not that either. Your children really were perfect angels for them. Here’s why:

1. In the words of Wesley from The Princess Bride, “As you wish.”

Your kids didn’t hear the word “no” the entire time they were gone. All your children want to watch a different movie? No problem. There are multiple televisions at the grandparents’ house and they have no qualms about playing a different cartoon on each of them. Kids can’t agree where to go to eat? Problem solved! Lunch at Mom Heaven Chick-fil-A and Dinner at McDonald’s. And if you have three kids? “Second Dinner” wherever the third would like.

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Dear Chick-fil-A – A Mom’s Hilarious Love Letter

Dear Chick-fil-A,

My love for you is widely known to my friends and family, but I think it’s well past time for me to take my feelings public.

Back when I was still teaching in the classroom, I left at ridiculously-early-o’clock in the morning. You were the only restaurant who was there for me on my way to work (unless you count Burger King, which I don’t, because bleh). You were like the gas in my tank for a long, long day surrounded by teenagers. Once jaded by breakfast, you made a true convert out of me with your buttery chicken biscuits and scrumptious chicken minis. This was basically our dating phase–I just couldn’t get enough of you.

Since then, your delightful nuggets have adorned some of my favorite celebrations. Family gatherings, Super Bowl parties, even both of my baby showers. I probably would have served them as the hors d’oeuvres at my wedding, but you know, some people just don’t understand.

“And I Thought I Loved You Then”

I eventually became a stay-at-home, work-at-home mom and I think it’s only appropriate to quote Brad Paisley’ song, “…and I thought I loved you then!” Turns out, our love affair was just getting started. There I was, all day long, with these two (and then three) tiny humans. The soundtrack to my days was a nonstop chorus of “Get me,” “Can you?” “Will you?” and “Play pretend with me!” On the days I just couldn’t take it anymore, I’d pack everyone up and we would head to the Chick-fil-A play-place. I would sit and drink my fountain Diet Coke (glooooorious!) and let them burn off some desperately needed steam. Then we’d have a nugget snack and play some more. We might stay twenty minutes, we might stay two hours — whatever was required to regain the sanity necessary to survive until my husband returned. Whatever the trouble, I knew I could count on you, beloved.

With you, dear Chick-fil-A, I am in my glory. At home, if I ask my middle son to wash his hands, or the oldest to lift the toilet seat, I get a giant sigh and an occasional eye-roll (aren’t my children angelic?). If I ask the bright-eyed teenager at the Chick-fil-A cash register to go wash his hands? You better believe he’ll say “My pleasure” and then wish me a blessed day on his way to the restroom.

An Open Relationship

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On bathing (sometimes…)

Parenthood does wonders for your appearance. Unfortunately, this pretty much means people look at you and *wonder* what the heck happened (probably not what you were going for…) In fact, appearance post-children is such a struggle bus that I will probably make this into a series of posts. Up first: bathing.

You’re going to have to find a standard with which you’re comfortable. I highly recommend finding that balance somewhere in between gorgeous model and disheveled, unshowered lunatic. The former is certainly a pipedream but the latter is undoubtedly my husband’s nightmare, so, you know, compromise. This is not to say that Lady Lunatic will not be making her periodic appearances, and in fact, there may be seasons in which it looks like she has downright taken over (side-eye to you sleep regression, terrible twos, stomach-flu-season, etc.). Still, making a little effort here and there is good for the soul. The problem: appearing somewhat normal these days requires more than making just “a little effort.” It requires a Herculean one…

Bathing: Once Upon a Time… and now.

Personal hygiene doesn’t happen as easily as it used to. It is no longer “I feel like a shower and hence, I shower.” Bathing now resembles a juggling act. If your spouse is home, you can trade-off shower time –one watches the kids while the other washes up. This is all well and great on the weekend, but during the week is where things really get dicey. I stay home with the kids and Hubs leaves for work very early. There was a time when I used to get up while the kids slept and shower before he left, but that was several children ago and my desire for sleep has long since trumped my desire to be clean.

These days, showering requires my three children to be safely engaged in something. Every now and then, the planets align and I manage to snag a shower while the oldest is at school, the middle is in his room for “rest time” and the baby is napping. This happens approximately five times per year. Unfortunately, five weekday showers per year is, clearly, gross. To shower on the other days, I experience this dilemma: Do I tell my kids what I’m about to do?

The upside to telling them is that they know where to find me if there is an emergency and my oldest will know to be more careful of the baby (who will be safely-ish locked away in a pack n play, bouncer, crib, etc.). The down side: the second you tell the kids what you are doing, they need you urgently. All three kids could be happily playing/sleeping/watching a cartoon, but if you tell them you are going to shower (or heaven forbid, to the bathroom), wait about two seconds so all hell can break loose.

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Summer Survival: The REAL “Essentials” Checklist

At this time of year, there are a lot of “essentials for summer survival” checklists floating around the internet. Most of them seem to be related to nutrition and appearance (summer body, beach-ready, etc.). Well, that ship sailed for me when my middle son, literally, tore through my abs and then my youngest later turned the aftermath into a hot air balloon. Even parenting-wise, there’s no shortage of websites floating around that will tell you what sunscreen to put on your child, or conversely, what hazardous poison-death-creams not to put on your child. Sadly, none of those summer survival “essentials” are going to help you run your household insane asylum through the summer. If you’re at all like me, the following checklist will much better suit your summer survival needs:

Summer Survival Strategy #1: Earplugs.

The clear wax kind. I love my children and I (generally) want to hear what they have to say. At ages six, three, and 16  months, I just want to hear it a little more softly than they are capable of delivering at this point in time. These earplugs are my jam because you can break off just a small piece and the kids can’t even see them (so you won’t hurt their feelings and 10-20 years from now, they won’t be telling their therapists about how Mommy literally blocked them out). They’re also awesome because they’re safe (because really, what good is a summer survival strategy if someone literally does not survive?) — they don’t cut out all the sound, just the amount of sound that makes you want to rip your ears from your head and feed them to your garbage disposal. Success.

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The Witching Hour: It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, unfortunately…

Back in your pre-child days, if you’re anything like me, you tossed around the phrase “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” with both joy and longing. You couldn’t wait for 5 o’clock. In fact, when you literally couldn’t wait, you would hold happy hour early and say “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.”  5:00 pm was a magic hour in your day.

Now that you’ve been blessed with children, 5 o’clock still comes every day, but you no longer eagerly await it. You fear it. You dread it like a  necessary root canal.

I don’t know why, but it is a universal parenting truth that children lose their ever-loving minds around 5 PM. The term “ witching hour” exists for good reason. For some kids, it strikes earlier, say around 4 PM. For the excellently behaved children, maybe a little later, say 6 PM, but the witching hour pretty much seems to strike everyone regularly, daily for most.

If you happen to be Catholic, next time you go for confession and your priest gives you your penance, you can tell him you already did it yesterday at 5 PM and you’re doing it again today at 5 PM, and probably tomorrow too. Your sins are covered indefinitely. For my protestant friends, who believe that Jesus has already paid your penance on the cross, good news for you too: you’re going to need that redemption and forgiveness for the things you are about to say and do today (and tomorrow, and…). Religiously unaffiliated? Ten bucks says you start praying anyway come the witching hour. Children know when you’re weak–they’re like dogs that can smell fear. All parents are weak around 5 PM and that is when the children go insane. They’ve got you on the ropes and they know it. Read More