March 29, 2005

Bonding with the teenagers

I should have known better than to accept a challenge from Boy in Black. I mean, this is the kid who routinely pulls off what we call the Rubik's Cube scam. He'll pull a Rubik's Cube out of his pocket when no one is looking and leaving it lying somewhere. When people pick it up and start playing with it, he'll say casually, "Oh, it doesn't look that hard. I bet you five dollars that I could do it in under five minutes." And of course, once the unsuspecting person takes the bet, he does the Rubik's Cube in less than two minutes. His record is 51 seconds. And it's not that he likes to brag about his skills - he's actually a shy, quiet kid - it's that he likes to make money off unsuspecting friends. Modest, but mercenary. That's my son.

So I should have known better, but when Boy in Black suggested a game of Scrabble the other day, I willingly agreed. Phantom Scribbler has been talking having Family Time every evening, and I thought to myself, oh this will be some nice bonding time with my son.

And the game Scrabble? I mean, really. I used to play Scrabble as a child. Long before this sixteen-year-old brat was born. I felt confident. I knew I could beat this modern computer geek boy at an old-fashioned game. Boy in Black might be freakishly smart at math, but Scrabble is all about words. I am good with words.

Here's how our tender mother-son bonding time went:

Boy in Black: Want me to give you some kind of handicap?
Boy in Black: I could spot you 50 points.
Me: Don't insult me, you little brat.
Boy in Black: You aren't afraid of losing?
Me: Of course not.
Boy in Black: Oh, that's right. You should be good at this.
Boy in Black: I mean, you are an English teacher and all that.

Silence as we arrange the board, me positioning it so that I can see it right side up and Boy in Black gets the upside down view.

Boy in Black: So what kind of stakes are we playing for?
Boy in Black: I mean, if you think there is any chance of you winning.
Me: I am good at Scrabble, you little brat.
Boy in Black: Well, if you win, I will clean the garage for you.
Me: Really? Okay, then, let's get this game going.

Shaggy Hair: What if Boy in Black wins?
Me: He isn't going to win.
Boy in Black: Well, just in case I do ... I ought to get a prize
Boy in Black: How about a deluxe Scrabble game?
Me: We ALREADY have a Scrabble game.
Boy in Black: But we could get the one with the turntable so I don't always have to play upside down. And it's got those ridges so the letters don't move when I drum on the table.
Me: How about maybe you learn not to drum on the table when we are playing a game?
Shaggy Hair: And a cloth bag to put the letters in.
Me: Why would we need more than one Scrabble game?
Me: You materialistic little brats.
Boy in Black: Only four people can play at a time. And we are having a tournament.
Me: A tournament?
Boy in Black: Yeah, on Friday night. Here. I already invited people over.
Shaggy Hair: It's educational.
Me: Fine, Shaggy Hair, you play too.
Me: If either one of you wins, I buy the Scrabble game.
Me: But if I win, you both clean the garage for me. Thoroughly.

We start drawing tiles to see who goes first

Boy in Black: I am so going to kick your butt.
Me: Is that any way to talk to your mother?
Boy in Black: When I am playing Scrabble, it is.

The game begins. Soon Boy in Black is in the lead. The phone rings.

Me (into the phone): Hello
Daughter: Hey
Me: Hey, Daughter
Me: (whispering) Can you look something up in the dictionary for me?
Daughter: What?
Me: I am playing Scrabble with the boys.
Daughter: Ha! No one can beat Boy in Black.
Daughter: I hope you weren't stupid enough to take a bet.
Me: If he wins, he has to clean the garage.
Daughter: Oooo. High stakes.
Shaggy Hair: Mom, stop trying to cheat.
Me: (into the phone) I'll call you back later.

The game continues.

Me: Oh, come on. You can't fool me.
Me: Qadi?
Me: That is not a word.
Me: That cannot possibly be a word.
Me: You are making that up.
Boy in Black: It's a word.
Me: Tell me what it means.
Boy in Black: A qadi is a judge in a Muslim community whose decisions are based on Islamic law.
Me: Oh, come on. YOU CAN'T FOOL ME.
Me: You made up a word and then made up a definition.
Me: You expect me to fall for that?
Me: You've stolen that method of cheating from me.
Me: I perfected it.
Me: I can remember the time I convinced everyone that zeit was short for zeitgeist.
Boy in Black: It's a word. Look it up.
Me: What? Just because you say it in an authoritative voice, you think everyone is going to believe you?
Me: You think everyone is going to believe you because you've got a deep voice now?
Boy in Black: Look. It. Up.
Me: So now you are trying to pull that "I've got a deep voice and sound like a man so no one is going to question my authority" thing?
Shaggy Hair Boy: Uh, Mom .... look at this.
Shaggy Hair Boy: In the dictionary.

Me: Oh. My. God.
Me: Word. For. Word.
Me: (accusingly) You looked up q words ahead of time!
Me: I think that's cheating.
Boy in Black: Prior. Knowledge. Is. Not. Cheating.
Boy in Black: I thought the game was supposed to be educational.
Shaggy Hair: You don't want us to learn new words?
Me: What did you do, memorize the whole q section of the dictionary?
Boy in Black: No, just the ones that don't need a u.
Me: Where did you get this competitive streak from?
Boy in Black: Gee, Mom, I don't know. It's not like you are competitive or anything.

For the record, Boy in Black did not win the game. Shaggy Hair did. Boy in Black came in second. And me a dismal third. Even with help from With-a-Why, who finished his homework and came over to join in. I think family time was more fun when I used to get to win the games.


Scrivener said...

I remember my mother when I was in middle school, maybe a freshman in high school, wishing she had someone to play Scrabble with. I volunteered and she said I wouldn't be any competition for her. So I talked her into playing and beat her three games in a row over a couple of nights. She didn't act all competitive about it or anything, but she never wanted to play Scrabble again.

Phantom Scribbler said...

Me: What did you do, memorize the whole q section of the dictionary?

Boy in Black: No, just the ones that don't need a u.


Why were there no teenagers this cool when I was a teenager myself? I want to do it all over again, only this time I am so hanging out with your family.

Anonymous said...

Heh. I remember a game I once played with D and his mother. Both of them are quite smart _and_ had been playing Scrabble since he was a wee little thing. So not only do they have lots of words to play with, they actually have _strategies_.

They completely wiped me off the board. I don't know which was worse: loosing so badly, or their occasional helpful suggestions about how I could do better.

No, I do know. It was the latter. Even though they were honestly being helpful, I felt a bit condescended to.

So, if Shaggy Boy won, did neither bet get paid out, or were both?


Anonymous said...

Losing. Not loosing.


jo(e) said...

I ended up buying them the Deluxe Scrabble game. That was the deal. So now eight people can play Scrabble at my house at a time. We still usually have some onlookers, too, though. Nothing like having a ten-year-old point out your mistakes to really boost your ego.

And of course they will end up helping me clean the garage anyhow ....

Anonymous said...

Have you ever tried playing Fictionary? It seems like you have the right sort of crowd/family for that. :)

(It is one of my most favorite family games.)


Songbird said...

My husband became a Scrabble genius to avoid his mother's victory dance.
Playing with him makes me cry. It sounds like Boy in Black and Shaggy Hair have a fine future ahead of them.

jo(e) said...

If you mean Pictionary -- the one where you draw pictures and everyone wildy screams guesses at the top of their lungs -- yes.

But if there's another game called Fictionary, I want to hear about it.

Rana said...

Oh, Fictionary is not very much like Pictionary (which I also like). But it is very fun. All you need is a dictionary (the older and more unabridged the better) and paper and a bunch of pencils or other writing implement.

Here's how it works. Game play will move around the group until everyone has a turn (that's one round). You must play at least one round, and you can play as many as you want; just be sure everyone goes the same number of times.

The person who's "it" takes the dictionary and finds an interesting word in it. That person then says the word to the group aloud (just the word, not the definition). If no one in the group has heard of it, it can be used. "It" then says the word again and spells it.

Now everyone writes down a definition for the word, while the "It" writes down the real definition (if there are more than one for the word, he or she can pick as desired). After signing their definitions, people turn in their definitions to "It" who sorts and numbers them. (And gets the early guffaws and eye rolls out of the way.) When all the definitions are in, "It" reads them one at a time, then repeats.

Now the voting: when called on to vote, everyone holds up the number of fingers corresponding to the number of the definition they think was the _real_ one. "It" tallies up the votes.

Then the real definition is revealed, and the authors of the fake ones. Scoring is as follows: if no one guesses the real one, "It" gets 5 points. Each person gets 1 point for every vote their definition got. Each person who correctly guessed the real definition gets 2 points. (So the voting's to encourage people to pick weird and mysterious words, write real-sounding definitions, and to discourage them from voting for things just because they are funny. (Although that does happen, too!))

And, of course, the more flair you can bring to the process, the better!

Another fun word-and-paper game is to take a largeish piece of paper, write a sentence on it, pass it to the next person, who writes a sentence, then folds over the paper so only one sentence is visible, then passes it to the next person. The stranger the initial sentence, the better!

A variation is to alternate a sentence with an attempt to illustrate it, followed by a sentence describing the drawing, which is then illustrated...

jo(e) said...

Rana: Oh, we call that first game Balderdash -- it's been marketed as that. When I was a kid, we called it Dictionary.

The fold-over game is one I do with students sometimes. We call them accordian poems, because you end up with a paper that is all pleated.

It's funny how different games get different names depending on where you are from. In the summer, my extended family always plays the card game pitch, but sometimes friends from out of town have never heard of it.

Phantom Scribbler said...

What a great game. We have an unabridged dictionary from the late 1960s -- looking forward to when we can play this with my kids.

Rana said...

Hmm. It occurs to me that there's no reason one couldn't play some of these games in commenting pixie land...

Pilgrim? Heretic?

(Although not tonight. We have two hours of Amazing Race slotted in!)

bitchphd said...

The Deluxe Scrabble game is very very cool; you'll be glad you lost that bet.

We used to play Scrabble all the time; I'm pretty good at it too. Once played someone who is a fairly high-ranked competitive player. She kicked my ass, but I *was* in the lead for a while there....

I love your kids.

Moreena said...

I am so happy that I've started reading these blogs. For some reason I have been insanely terrified of my kids upcoming teen years (still a long ways away), but wow you all have some cool teenagers.

Annika, at 4, is already a board game junkie. Hooray!

Psycho Kitty said...

You are my role model, you realize.

What Now? said...

The assumption that English teachers must be good at Scrabble is why I avoid playing the game. I get anxious and feel that I should come up with better words than "cat" and "go," and I almost always lose!

Nels said...

You are the coolest mom ever.

Dr.K said...

By the way, the muslim judge, holy-man, mayor, whatever he actually is, is spelled "qaid" not "qadi"--did you misspell it, or did he get away with something? I'm a pretty mean Scrabble player, and if I ever get the chance, I'll put Boy-in-black in his place. My voice is deeper than his anyway, and I'm taller too!

jo(e) said...

Hey, K, in our dictionary (Webster's, 2000) it is spelled qadi. Boy in Black does not make many mistakes.

And he's getting pretty tough to beat in any game. Last night in Scrabble, he scored 251 points IN A SINGLE MOVE. The word "quadrant" at the bottom edge of the board.

I think With-a-Why is ready to take you on in chess. He beat Spouse recently ....

Pilgrim/Heretic said...

Hey, Rana had a fine idea there. Family Game Night at my place! With duct tape and cupcakes! Not tonight, but soonly...

Dr.K said...

Couple things: I'll check my Scrabble dictionary, but "qaid" is certainly the spelling in there--perhaps there are two. And anybody who scores 251 points on a single word is playing someone who doesn't know how to defend!--a serious issue in serious Scrabble. And if With-a-Why wants to play by mail, or, I guess, email, tell him I'm ready to get it on. I know my way around a chessboard. I'm teaching Dino-boy now, but he's no prodigy, I'm afraid.

jo(e) said...

K -- We don't own a Scrabble dictionary. We use the regular one.

I think the problem in this household is that the boys gang up on me when we play Scrabble. That move of Boy-in-Black's? One of his brothers helped set it up.

I just gave your challenge to With-a-Why and he said, "Oh, bring it on ...."

jo(e) said...

Pilgrim: Family Game night sounds like a great idea. Will there be prizes?

I can't beat my own kids at any kind of board game, but I bet I could beat David.

Dr.K said...

OK--have him send me the first move. I think you kmow my email, right?

jo(e) said...

K: With-a-Why says that the way to play chess long distance is to go to games on yahoo. I told him that you were old and probably didn't know about computer games ...

Dr.K said...

Oh, of course I know about computer chess and Yahoo. I play chess and go on Yahoo sometimes, and I used to do it all the time. But the way to really learn chess is to play by mail, one move a day. That's what I want to do. It's not old-fashioned either.

Dr.K said...

Oh,and I know that I'll be taking on the combined chess expertise of your three boys, your smart, beautiful, wonderful daughter, your husband, 10 or 15 extra kids, and every kid chess nerd in Snowville they can round up, but that's OK--I'll take 'em all on!

jo(e) said...

K: How is it that I am not included in the list of people in the household you are willing to take on?

Are you worried I could beat you at chess?

Dr.K said...

Do you even play chess? If you do, then, my apologies, and you can help gang up on me too. But I'm not worried. Oh, gosh, I hate to start sounding so cocky. That's kid stuff. I'll be humble, I really will. So, I just hope I'm able to play a respectable game since I'm so OLD and all.

jo(e) said...

Well, actually, I don't play chess. Neither does Daughter or Shaggy Hair. It's just the other three who are fanatics.

But I am insulted just the same.

Dr.K said...

I just figured you didn't play chess, because you're so not the type. Chess is an aggressive, violent, nasty, and cutthroat game of control and domination and awful bloody warfare, and you're just sweet as pie, darlin'. I'm sure you can be all those things when you have to be, and I'm not trying to pick a fight here, but YOU--Jo(e)--play chess? Give me a break!

jo(e) said...

Oh, I can't help it. No matter how obnoxious you are, Dr. K, the minute you say "darlin'" I just start laughing. That accent kills me.

Dr.K said...

Well, now, I think that's real nice. Y'all's accent kills me too.

Dr. Kentucky