Sunday, November 29, 2009

Twists and Turns in the Game of Life

They say life imitates the arts, but what about board games?  I spent an enjoyable afternoon playing The Game of Life with the kids.  While I do feel quite a bit of nostalgia for the old school car with the pink and blue peg people, I have to say that the new and improved game is pretty darn cool.  Each player gets a "credit card" which you enter into a little machine that keeps track of everyone's accumulated net worth and life points.  So much cooler than fake money!

The board is broken into 4 different life areas:  Learn It, Earn It, Love It, and Live It.  We all decided that we should go through Learn It to get an education, which would maximize our potential salaries later on.  All good, and a great real life lesson I thought.  

But then, Guinness accidentally took a short cut through Learn It, didn't get a college degree, won the lottery, was on the cover of a magazine, doubled his $100,000 investment in a business venture, bought a sports car and mansion, got married, and had twins.  We laughed him for skipping college (he kept saying he was going to go back to Learning and get a college degree - until he won the lottery), but he ended up winning the game with 4 times as many points as the rest of us.

Cayman and Ellington, both frivolously spent their money on expensive sports cars, but at least they got their college educations!   And they came in second and third, respectively.  And I, cursed with rolling ones, basically took the equivalent of 7 years to graduate.  Because we had set a limit of 10 turns, I never made it through the Earn It section to get any promotions in order to reap the benefits of my education!  I took a risky gamble on a business venture and lost.  So I ended up dead last, severely in debt.

What type of life lessons is Milton Bradley trying to teach us!?!?

Well, not much from the content of the game, but great lessons about sportsmanship and empathy from the playing of the game itself.  Guinness and Cayman were so patient with Ellington, helping him to read the cards and telling him how to enter amounts into the machine.  And Ellington felt so bad about me being left behind in Learn It while everyone else moved on in Life that he kept crawling into my lap to give me hugs, promising to come back and "save me".

I really hope life doesn't imitate The Game of Life - at least this particular round.  But I suppose better that than any round of Clue:  yes, I can see my kids trapped in a spooky mansion trying to track down Colonel Mustard killing Miss Scarlett in the billiard room with a candlestick.  

Come to think of it, that's a pretty fun game!  I think a trip to the toy store is in order....

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Halloween Done Right

They say Halloween trick-or-treating ranks among the top ten favorite childhood memories for American adults.  It is certainly one of mine.  As with most memories from childhood, the good and the bad blend into one glowing feeling of warm comfort, brushed hazy from nostalgia.  

Back in the day, the Halloween season usually started at the beginning of October for me, my brother and my cousins, when a large box of home-made costumes would arrive from one of our aunts.  One year I was a medieval princess, complete with a conical hat and scepter.  One year, we received a box full of different colored capes, so we supplemented them with store-bought vinyl superhero costumes.  Forget what Edna Mode told Mr. Incredible; any superhero costume can only be enhanced by a brightly hued cape.  Didn't you know that Wonder Woman had an optional hot pink cape?  The color may have clashed with the red bustier and boots, but it worked for me!

This year, with Halloween falling at the end of the school's mid-term break, I decided to take the kids back to the US for a proper Halloween trick-or-treating experience.  Yes, the expats celebrate it in Hong Kong.  But it's either a party at the American Club or you hit a handful of houses in your small neighborhood.  And yes, they did it before we moved to Hong Kong, but they weren't old enough to really get it.  To enjoy the cheap thrills of scary decorations, to curse the cold clamminess of condensation on your cheap plastic mask, to get caught up in the greediness of collecting and hoarding as much candy as possible (maybe stealing some from your unsuspecting younger siblings or cousins), to give in to the gluttony of stuffing as much candy as possible in your mouth before your mother can stop you.  Was your Halloween not like this?  Not that I'm encouraging this type of behavior, but it's just one of those classic childhood experiences that everyone should have.

And what an experience it was!  My brother, Yung, lives in one of those densely packed suburban neighborhoods where you can hit 100 homes in one and a half hours.  They close some of the streets down to traffic so the kids can safely run around like sugar-crazed maniacs.  And the neighbors go all out with the decorations.  Taped up Halloween posters and jack o'lanterns?  You'd be pegged as the new neighbors who just don't know yet.  Fog machines and spooky music played out the windows were de rigeur.  One neighbor had the motion-detector coffin that popped out a vampire at just the right moment to startle out delighted shrieks from our merry little band.  Another neighbor made a mini-maze out of hanging black tarp with Halloween decorations at every turn.  Cayman got so distracted that she walked right by the old crone/neighbor handing out the candy at the end of the maze.  One neighbor, I kid you not, covered their driveway with a truckload of mulch and recreated a graveyard with crooked old tombstones and body parts sticking out of the ground!

But the highlight of the evening was the house with a child-size figure of the grim reaper with the skeletal face and scythe.  It was strategically positioned at the corner of the front walkway and slowly turned back and forth tracking the people walking up to the front door.  It looked and moved so realistic that Yung called me over from the end of the driveway to check it.  As we were waiting for our kids' turn to ring the doorbell, we stood there marveling over this realistic figure.  Was it plugged in?  It even makes sounds.  Right as we were about the touch it, the kids in front of us cleared out of the doorway, and the little grim reaper silently turned and walked off with his group!  Probably thinking to himself, "those old folks sure are clueless!"