Cooperative Influenza

We have a rule in this family.

(*Well, to be honest… I have a rule and a 50/50 chance of it being obeyed*)

“Thou shall have one and only one parent sick at any given time. One shall be the number thou shalt have and the number of sick parents will be one. Two shalt thou NOT have. Two is right out.”

I’ll give Evil Genius Inc full credit—we have only had one parent sick at any time over the last month. For almost two weeks, it was me.

And to be fair, it was the spawnlings who ganged up on me. Usually, two kids out of three sick at home at the same time, with late nights played out in a twisted sense of tandem-comforting needs. So I pulled out the only arsenal I have to stop them from attacking me: Cooperative Tabletop Games.

Worked like a charm.

Cooperative Influenza Title

Family Friendly Cooperative Games

When spawnlings are sick, the competitive drive sharpens to the point of snarkiness. A little snark is okay (I consider it healthy) but a lot of snark when you are already really sick… Well, that’s just mean.

Cooperative games are so much better for sick kids. By ‘cooperative games’, I mean the tabletop games where you play with other people and gang-up on the ‘Game’ and not the parents. There is usually a common goal to achieve as a team, and The Game will create a bunch of problems to prevent you.

Cooperative games come in a range of styles and age-groups. Here’s our Top Three:

 

Orchard (Haba) – 3-6yo

Orchard is a go-to favourite for Zaltu (who just turned 4yo last week), and a happy choice for the older two. It’s not their favourite but they will often suggest playing it with Zaltu and keep her entertained for a solid half-hour or so.

Orchard 02

The Aim of the Game is: to collect the fruit from the trees before the Raven steals it all. Each player takes a turn rolling the single six-sided die; there are four colours representing the fruit, plus a picture of a basket and a raven. If the die lands on a colour, you collect a piece of fruit: green/apple; yellow/pear; blue/plum; red/cherry. If it lands on a basket, you collect any two of your choice.

If it lands on the Raven, you have to place a piece of the Raven puzzle in the middle of the board. Everyone is working together to collect all the fruit as a team BEFORE the Raven puzzle is completed.

I also reviewed this game in a bit more detail over at GeekMom. The game is beautiful in its simplicity and intuitive for younger spawnlings. The physical make of the game is equally beautiful with wooden carved pieces for the fruit in the trees, lots of bright bold colours, and cute baskets for collection. It packs away easily, a particularly attractive feature when playing with young spawnlings.

Orchard 01.jpg

The best part is how willing the older two are to play. Orchard is a fairly quick game to play, so they are willing to set up a game or two with Zaltu before we head over to their preferred choice.

Forbidden Island (GameWright) – 10yo+

We originally had this game on the iPad—and then the iPad died. *insert sad panda face* It was a brilliant cooperative game to play during our campervan travels around New Zealand a couple of years ago. This and our digital copy of Ticket to Ride have both been sorely missed.

And then EG Dad scored a hard copy of Forbidden Island and the spawnlings rejoiced!! Seriously, this game is so popular with Sinister and Nefarious, they were reading the blurb of the game early today…instead of comics. They have already planned out this coming weekend with gameplay time.

Forbidden Island 01

The Aim of the Game is: to escape the island with your treasures and ALL members of the team before the waters rise up and swallow the island whole. Once again you are a team, each player having a specific role with specific skills. You might be the pilot, who can transport players all over the island AND off the island when you complete your goals. You might be the diver (Sinister’s favourite), allowing you to move through flooded channels around the island. You might be the engineer, able to save more areas of the island. No matter who you are, you are all working together.

Each player’s turn is followed by The Game’s Turn. That’s right, minions: The Game draws cards and floods various areas of the Island while you are taking turns to explore. The game ends when your team collects all the treasures and escapes, win…or the Island floods, lose.

This is a genuine cooperative game where you have to communicate with the team and work together when planning out your next move. If you run off ahead without your teammates, you will miss the opportunity to capture the treasure or miss the rescue helicopter. This game rewards those who can communicate with others. That’s why it works so well when you’re sick: it forces everyone to slow down and make time for every member of the group.

The age recommendation for this is 10yo but Nefarious has been playing with little guidance since he was 6yo. If you have spawnlings who can read, who can talk through ideas, and who genuinely want to give it a go working with the rest of the family then this game will be fine for you.

Pandemic (Z-Man Games) – 8yo+

Interestingly enough, Pandemic comes with a lower age recommendation and yet I would put it slightly higher on the complexity. Nefarious and Sinister have been playing this with us for a few years, and often require a little guidance. If I were to make suggestions on age: I would be fine with the spawnlings taking Pandemic to school for the Year 5 classes and above; Forbidden Island possibly year 3 or year 4.

Pandemic is really the perfect game for playing when you’re sick. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing you can take a whole continent down on this influenza trip with you. It is also a great lesson for teaching the spawnlings how easy it is for a virus (like influenza) to travel around the world. They have a healthy new respect for the World Health Organisation and vaccinations.

Pandemic 01

The Aim of the Game is: to spread your team across the world to treat and cure diseases. Like Forbidden Island, each player has a separate role with their own unique skills aiding the team. As you meet up, you can exchange cards to discover cures and set up treatment/research centres. If your team can cure all four diseases, you win! However, once again The Game is out to stop you. For each player’s turn, The Game also has a turn, spreading infections and outbreaks across any country.

It’s a real shock to the mind as you watch the ‘virus tokens’ slowly build up across the board and then suddenly burst into an epidemic. At one point, I was tempted to simply pour a bottle of Panadol all over ‘The World’ and walk away, like some bad-ass pseudo-pharmacist pretending to stop the spread of disease (and really just hoping that sucker will disappear during my next nap).

If it sounds a little similar to Forbidden Island, then you may recognise the same game designer Matt Leacock. He is a game-guru when it comes to designing cooperative games. The difference between Forbidden Island and Pandemic is in the mechanics of the player movements. You are still limited to where you can go and subsequently how much you can do, however, Pandemic has clearer paths to plan with. There is also a greater sense of “big picture” with Pandemic, while Forbidden Island has a more isolated story-line to it. I know of some parents who also use Pandemic as a geography learning-tool. I can definitely see how that works.

 

The good news is we have survived the Evil Genius Influenza of 2017. The better news is we maintained our sanity and camaraderie, with the help of some nifty tabletop games. All three age groups entertained equally and without electronics and bloodshed—if that’s not an EG Parenting win, I don’t know what is!

Orchard was provided to me for review purposes, both here and on GeekMom. Forbidden Island and Pandemic are our own copies. All games can be purchased through Good Games, both online and in-store. I do not receive any financial benefit or sponsoring from Good Games for this article, though I will not deny that my local store knows me by name and credit card number…

And The House of Pun

My grandmother is always telling me:

“Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.”

Yeaaaaahhhhhh… that doesn’t fit our household.

We pretty much live in a cyclone of sarcasm, dry wit, and punishing puns. 

Seriously. We have pun wars. At the dinner table. Regularly. Sometimes they are really really bad. And those are often the best ones. 

It’s like a garden of puns. And none of us can leave it alone. 

… hehehe …

There are rules: 

  • Nothing personal, especially no name calling;
  • Must be contextual, stick with the theme of what’s happening right now;
  • Must be with good intent, encouraging others to join in. Nobody wants to excluded or ostracised.

It’s all fun and games until the spawnlings throw it back at me.
Tonight I had to go and remind the two older spawnlings to quiet it down. Zaltu was already asleep and I said “I swear… if you wake her … I’ll … make your holidays …”

Yeah. Lame. And it really sucks because I know that they know I’m pathetic at empty threats. Especially since they replied, with pitch-perfect sarcasm:

“And remind us again, exactly what that would involve? Like, step by step details…”

Damn. Them. 

They kept to the rules. And they called my bluff. I don’t usually bluff. I suck at lying so if I say something, you know it’s going to happen.

There is nothing as frustrating as the anger at your spawnlings throwing your own words back at you… and the pride of them doing it in the best way possible.

Go on. Share stories of your kids using your own words against you. We’re all friends here. I won’t tell…

How to Survive a Heatwave with Your Kids

It’s a little hot in the EG Lair today.


In this type of weather, no-one is a happy camper.

We don’t have aircon, and we’re OK with that. It used to be only a few days each Summer that actually required serious cooling down, and on those days we would drive to the closest shopping centre. 

But the hot days are increasing in numbers and intensity. To put it simply, we are having heatwaves. And more of them.

Want proof? Sydney has just broken a 125-year-old record of the most days in Summer breaking 35C (about 95F?).

I’m not a Summer kind of gal. The spawnlings handle it far better than I do, but even they are having trouble sleeping and keeping calm in the sibling battles.

So here are my Top Five Tips For Surviving A Heatwave:

  1. Get thee to a shopping centre–or swimming pool, local library, or the like. Something indoors. Outside options, including the beach, still come with a high risk of heat exhaustion. Movies are good, so are cafes and food courts. Seriously.
  2. Freeze your Fabrics–EG Grandma always puts damp washers in the freezer and they are perfect for calming the odd overheated moment (or seven). Then I moved to Central Queensland and learnt about putting your underwear in the freezer. GENIUS!! It doesn’t last long, but that immediate relief is worth it. Plus the spawnlings love the idea of undies in the freezer!
  3. Ice-creams in your bottle-shop–for those not from Aust, our “liquor stores” are known as bottle-o’s with GIANT fridge sections to keep the beer cold. Often they are located right next door to the corner shop or convenience store. Buy your ice-cream at the shop, walk next door and “peruse” the beers until your ice-cream is finished. You may want to consider buying one for the bottle-o attendant. Just in case they aren’t initially sympathetic. 
  4. Re-appropriate a kiddies pool–you know you’re just a big kid anyway. Fill the kiddies pool with water and a few dozen ice-cubes and chill out. If you place it right, you can even set it up near the TV, with ice cold drinks around you.
  5. Frozen rice–this one is for bed time. You know that wheat pack you have, for all those aches and pains? This works in the same way. Put a cup of rice in a clean sock, tie it off, and throw in the freezer. After at least an hour, you can put in bed to cool the sheets for an easier sleep. Rice won’t melt and make a mess, but does retain cold very well (thanks to Sharlene Hensler for reminding me about this one. Good minion)

Hopefully the heatwave in Aust won’t go too much longer, but each year just keeps hitting more and more extremes. That’s why it is so important we keep our cool while we convince the rest of the world to come to the climate change party.

Stay cool minions. 

The Dental Cost of Pregnancy

I cracked a tooth. 

Eating toasted fruit loaf. 

And not some Han Solo in Carbonite level toasting. I’m talking lowest dial on the toaster. Warmed enough to melt the butter. With a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar. 

To be fair, I cracked the filling. Yes, I have fillings. I have really dodgy teeth. Despite brushing twice a day, flossing, and avoiding a lot of the really sticky sweets like toffee apples and Chupa Chups. I still have dodgy teeth. 


Here’s something they don’t tell you until AFTER you become the vessel for some spawnling: pregnancy is really bad for your teeth.

So here I am at the dentist. The day after The Crackin’ (I like that …) because they couldn’t give me a seat until the next day.


I haven’t eaten. I haven’t had a cuppa tea. I am not a happy camper. It’s not like the benchmark is high; I am yet to meet a person who enjoys going to the dentist. But today I’m a little more grizzly than usual.

And the dentist senses that. I see him flex his fingers, wary of putting them anywhere near my choppers–except for the fact I need his fingers working to fix my tooth.

“So how many kids do you have?”

Three spawnlings.

“You know, you can kind of blame them for some of this tooth decay…”

And with that little sentence, he has rocketed into first place of all the greatest dentists. Ever.

Now let’s get something straight: dental hygiene is more important than you probably give it credit.

Most of us know the routine; brush twice a day, floss daily, rinse after every meal, avoid sticky sweets. 

There are also heaps of unsubstantiated stories of why pregnancy effects your teeth; the baby leeches your calcium, mum’s too busy to brush, morning sickness brings too much acid to your mouth, excess blood in the gums increases your risk for gingivitis.

The thing is, some of these are kind of true…and there’s not enough detailed research to confirm anything. Typical of any pregnancy-related research.

So which parts can I blame on my spawnlings?

  • Babies leech your calcium reserves during pregnancy: true but when they do, it will come from your bones first. Apparently, any leech-able calcium in your mouth is found first in your saliva, not your teeth. While small in quota, any calcium in your saliva is beneficial for coating your teeth and adding to the enamel protecting your pearlers. If your teeth are losing any of their structure, your problems go far beyond the symbiotic relationship with your unborn;
  • Morning sickness rots your teeth: true in that morning sickness… No ALL-DAY sickness will upchuck more acid into your mouth, throwing out the delicate balance of bacteria-fighting acid and enamel-protection. Add to this any reduction in the calcium in your saliva, and Holy Teeth, Batman! 
  • Extra blood increases your chance of gingivitis: true, for some but not a blanket concern. Increased blood flow can make your gums swell and bleed in pregnancy, but this is also because of a build up of plaque. Vicious cycle–you can’t brush your teeth properly because your gums are bleeding, but then the plaque builds up and causes your gums to bleed. Add those pesky pregnancy hormones to the mix and your gums are even MORE susceptible to infection. 

Here’s a bonus for you: the pregnancy hormone Relaxin loosens up your ligaments. ALL of your ligaments. Including the ligaments supporting your jaw. So when you’re lying in the dentist chair with your mouth wide open, be aware how loose your jaw will be… 

I found out the hard way, at 2am when I dislocated my jaw yawning. Yes – yawning. The day after a long session in the dentists chair, my jaw was so loose it was dislocating every time I yawned. 

So what have I learnt from all of this? Pregnancy is a bitch. Sure, I could go with the wise dentist and blame it on the spawnlings but I reckon that gives them far more credit than they deserve.

The truth with pregnancy is we are not just vessels. We are powerful creators! We are investors in the future, giving ourselves to whatever may come from it. Sometimes that cost can be way too high. It is not always the glowing experience romanticised in marketing campaigns.

In the meantime, my dentist and I are working on a dental management plan. My teeth may not improve, but I have no intention of allowing them to get any worse. 


And The Crackin’? Well, that’s just a reminder of how much I have invested already. 

Yeah, my spawnlings are so sweet they give me toothaches. 

My Spawnlings Drive Me Crazy

There comes a time in every parents’ life when they look at their precious little spawnlings and say to themselves, “Good Gods in Hades. What have I created?”

I used to think our spawnlings take after their father, with a healthy dose of my dry wit to keep them fresh and alert. I now realise how wrong I am, and worse still: It is all my own fault.

This realisation came to me last Thursday when the EG Mobile broke.

my-spawnlings-drive-me-crazy

Short story: Zaltu and I started driving home from the doctors’ (just a check-up) and the battery light comes up on the dash. By the time we have covered the 5km back to our home, every light is on and I have lost power steering. I am still surprised I maneuvered that tank up our driveway.

Because I was able to drive it (and other factors), we figured it was the alternator, not the battery. I called a mobile mechanic, who would be there the next day. No problem. I can walk to school to pick up the boys, and we’ll just miss martial arts that day.

Sinister was first to meet us at the school-gate.

We’re not going to martial arts today, buddy.

“Why not?”

The car’s broken.

“What did you do to it this time?!?”

Now, given he has a fairly good reason for this response. In the last 3 years, I have sideswiped 2 poles. Two stationary cement poles. The first was totally my fault for not checking my mirrors when backing out of a carpark space. The second was totally not my fault since another car was heading straight for me and the only space I had was to scrape the damn pole. I know I should have let the guy hit us for insurance purposes, but since he over-corrected and started heading for Nefarious’ door I think the pole was the better option.

Prior to these events, I have never NEVER crashed my car.

But the spawnlings don’t know this. They just think their incubator shouldn’t drive near cement poles.

For the record, spawnling, I did nothing to the car. The alternator died and needs replacing.

“The alternator? Is that like a fancy word for ‘passenger side door that was taken off by a cement pole’?”

trolling-meAnd there you have it, folks. Sinister is my own personal troll. That’s exactly the same sarcastic wit I have been using as my primary language for the last 40-odd years. Clearly he does listen to me… At times.

Nefarious was next to join us, and I told him the same: Not going to martial arts because the car is broken.

“What did you do to it this time, mum?”

Sinister: “Hey, that’s what I said!”

I can’t even be mad at them. Not only have I created the scenario, but I have total admiration for their quick wit. Both of them.

Suffice to say, both spawnlings have lived to tell the tale to their father, who is conveniently away in the US for work and thus a safe distance to laugh long and hard at his poor suffering wife.

 

Edit: BTW–This isn’t the first time EG Dad has been absent during a household Chaos-Event. Last time was the Broken Wrist v Broken Fridge event. Convenient, don’t you think?

 

Microsoft Xbox Fanfest: Sydney 2016

The next big event on my social calendar work-duty list is the EB Games Expo, starting next week on Friday 30 September. I’m heading in for the day, under the codename “Official GeekMom Writer”, which should improve my chances of scoring some playtime with ‘yet-to-be-released’ computer games. My preview expectations is up on GeekDad/GeekMom.

In the meantime, Microsoft is doing their own special lead-up to the Expo with Xbox Fanfest: Sydney 2016.

xbox-fanfest

The Good News: Fanfest is totally free. I kid you not. This is a free event and it comes with some pretty cool stuff. More on that in a minute.

The Bad News: Tickets are limited to the first 250 people who turn up at the Microsoft Store in Pitt Street Mall at 10.30am Tuesday 27 September. Tickets will be first-come-first-serve, one per person, adult only (no kids AT ALL), and must be there in person ready to go for the next three (3) days.

If you do happen to satisfy all the criteria (including the insanity of lining up early enough to gain the ticket), then you have this to look forward to:

  • A special Forza Horizon 3 launch event at Sydney Dragway (Tuesday afternoon – transport provided);
  • A secret Wednesday activity for Gears of War 4 (late Wednesday afternoon);
  • Exclusive early access to the Xbox booth at EB Games Expo (Thursday night);
  • Fan swag, Xbox fan shirt, and other loot;
  • Meet and greet with some top-notch developers.

Let me know if you score a ticket, Willy Wonka style. If not, don’t stress. There is still EB Games Expo starting on Friday 30 September.

I’ll see you there.