The Best Two-Player Games

91sn9inwqbl-_sl1500_This post contains affiliate links to Amazon. :) 

Andrew and I are crazy about games. It’s probably our favorite thing to do when we have a free evening and Caleb is down for the night. Over the years we have collected a number of tried-and-true games that are really fun and successful with just two players. Usually this means they are games that are designed for two players. We find that most 2-4 or 2-6 player games technically work with two, but aren’t all that fun. That is not the case for these games! I am listing them in order of my favorites, which would differ slightly from Andrew’s order. :)

Jaipur

This game reminds me a little bit of Dominion, another game I love, but one that isn’t so fun with two people. Jaipur is played in three rounds that take approximately 10 minutes each to complete. Every turn presents multiple strategy options, and my favorite thing about this buying and selling game is that you really can’t tell until the end of each round who will come out on top! I’d say it took us about 25-30 minutes to master the rules the first time. We’ve played it on the ferry, in coffee shops, and at home…it’s always a winner.

Patchwork

Patchwork is so different from your mainstream board and card games. It’s fast and easy to learn (a huge plus for me because I hate rule books), and with a variety of options each turn, the strategy element is definitely there, with just a bit of chance. I enjoy the fun element of piecing together your “quilt” in a strategic way.

Lost Cities

Speaking of easy rules, Lost Cities is incredibly fast to learn but it’s surprisingly fun to play–over and over again. It is designed to be played in three rounds, and the scores from the three are added up at the end. This card game falls into the category of chance more than strategy, so it’s surprising that I love it so much, but we find ourselves returning to it over and over. It requires little brain power, so it’s great on lazy nights when you just want to chill.

Empire Builder

Okay, I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE this game. Andrew has only played it once with me, so I’m not sure how much we’ll break it out together, but I play it with my brothers whenever I am back home. It takes a good hour to learn and 1-2 hours to play with 2-3 people, but it is seriously the best! You have to think ahead and plan out your turns, work efficiently and frugally, and pace your spending carefully. Definitely a fun one for Christmas break or a late game night with board game geeks…but not for your casual board gamer. :)

Pandemic

Designed for 2-4 players, Pandemic is fun with more but still really great with just two. It’s cooperative, so if you’re looking for an option that doesn’t make you butt heads, this is a good one. ;) I love the unique aspect of playing together against the game to eradicate diseases across the globe. It does take a little while to learn the rules at first, as it’s more complicated than the first three games I listed, but it’s worth the time you put in at the beginning!

Gobblet

A lot more fun than Checkers but less brain-intensive than Chess, this is a fun, old-fashioned-feeling game for two. We learned it on our one-year anniversary getaway and I still enjoy it whenever we pull it out, which is probably only a few times a year now. The rules are insanely simple, so it’s good for the people in your life who don’t like to read rule books.

Set Cubed

If you’ve played the card game version of Set, this is similar, but turn-based…none of that frantic, crazy yelling and grabbing for sets. I.e. it’s relaxing. It can be played by up to four people but is truly just as fun with two, an unusual characteristic that sets it apart.

Monopoly Deal

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of this game anymore, I burned myself out on it…but because Andrew still loves it so much, I had to include it. If you love Monopoly but don’t have the patience for hours of play time, this is a fun alternative that requires no setup and can be played in minutes. It’s just a pack of cards, so it’s easy to travel with, too!

I’d love to hear from you! I’m always on the hunt for good two-player games. Please share your favorites in the comments!

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{Marriage Journal} A Baby Is Not An Escape

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Here are a few thoughts I drafted one month before Caleb was born, but never posted. 15 months later, I’m convinced more than ever that a solid marriage is the best foundation from which to begin adding children to the mix! =) 

Andrew and I are bursting with excitement to meet our first child sometime in the next several weeks. It’s truly a day we’ve talked and dreamed about for years, and it’s finally here.

Goodbye, Just Us

Saying hello to this beautiful new season of life called parenting has meant bidding farewell to an equally amazing time as just the two of us, and that makes me sad. Andrew is my very favorite person and best friend, and no matter how much one-on-one time we are blessed with, I could always enjoy even more. I’m never tired of his company, and when he is at school, I look forward to his return all day long. Sometimes we can’t even wait through his 20 minute commute and one of us calls the other when he’s out of class so we can start talking while he drives. =)

This is not to say that we do not sin against each other, behave selfishly, hurt one another’s feelings, have conflict, and hit bumps in the road, because we do. But thanks entirely to the grace of God, our relationship is characterized by unity and camaraderie. He has enabled us to establish the habit of keeping short accounts, so that matters of conflict are addressed quickly and willing forgiveness is granted regularly. This makes for an imperfect but oh, so sweet friendship. Praise God!

Hello, Parenthood

The natural progression of life is to start having children sometime after your wedding, and that’s a very good thing. But I think it would be easy to seek this “next step” of parenting as a means of escape from the monotony of a marriage that has become at best boring, or even downright unhappy.

Escape is never the right reason to begin having children. Adding babies to an unhealthy marriage is a sure way to make that marriage even worse. I cannot imagine navigating just the challenges of pregnancy with a husband I’m not close to, let alone trying to raise a little person(s) together. That sounds like the recipe for disaster.

If you happen to be someone currently married and pre-babies, I would encourage you not to crave that “next step” as a way to restore excitement or add a new distraction to your life. It may be wise to evaluate your relationship with your husband and take purposeful steps to help it flourish. (This is always a good idea, regardless of your season of life.) Pinpoint where you are sinning or slacking off in your marriage and ask the Lord to change you from the inside out and grow you into the wife He has called you to be. Communicate with your husband and work together to strengthen your friendship. Of course, all our people problems can be traced back to where our hearts are at with God, so this area of our lives must be addressed first.

Having children should be a joyful step that married couples decide to take as one happy unit. I don’t know this first hand yet, but I have observed that parenting is a team effort and should draw dad and mom closer to one another as they learn to lean on God through brand new challenges and responsibilities that children bring.

You’re Already a Family

Instead of thinking of “starting a family” as the morning you get a positive pregnancy test, think of your wedding day as that moment. You are a family, just the two of you. Soak up this precious season of life as “newlyweds” (even if it’s been years) and build into your friendship with your husband. After all, when the kids are grown and gone, you’ll be right back where you are now. If your littles were your escape from “just the two of you”, that doesn’t sound like a happy way to enter the “empty nesters” phase.

I know there are countless stories of unhappy couples having children, and God using parenting as a tool to refine the marriage and bring the husband and wife closer together. All is certainly not lost when babies are added to a rocky marriage. Praise the Lord! But it is ideal to work toward that healthy relationship before the kiddos come along, so consider how you might do that now. Never view a baby as an escape; instead ask the Lord to create a marriage you don’t want to escape from.

Does Your Husband Buy You Flowers?

IMG_8751One of the many things I’ve learned from being married is that no two marriages will look the same, nor should they. Our culture paints idealistic cookie-cutter pictures of romance and love, but reality is often far from what we have seen in movies or read about in books. (By the way, I’ve found that reality is different, yes, but far deeper, richer, and more wonderful than the culture’s portrayal of it.)

Romance is one of those words that can encompass a million different things, but often gets squished into a few ideas: flowers, a candlelight dinner, hand-in-hand walks on the beach at sunset, etc. Those are all romantic and special ways of showing one another love, but romance can mean so much more!

Andrew is, in general, not a flower-buyer. He is not one of those guys who will randomly stop by the grocery store on his way home and pick up a bouquet of roses “just because” more than once or twice a year. This has never been a “hard” thing for me, but I have teased him over the years about it because he predictably buys me flowers on Valentine’s Day.

The summer I was expecting Caleb, I was dealing with a really difficult situation related to my apartment management job at the time. I left home in a puddle of tears for an errand. When I returned about 45 minutes later, Andrew was just washing the last of a huge stack of dirty dishes in my kitchen. I started crying again because it meant so much and it was such a relief to come home to a clean kitchen. (Dishes hang over my head like no other chore!)

“I was going to go buy you flowers,” Andrew explained, “but then I thought that washing the dishes would mean more to you, so I did that instead.”

In that moment, I realized that every time he voluntarily washes the dishes for me or speaks my love language in another way, it is like his “version” of bringing home flowers. Not only does it take the same thoughtfulness and love, but it really does mean more to me than flowers. I don’t particularly love flowers for the flowers’ sake. What I love is that they mean Andrew has thought about me and chosen to do something to tangibly convey that love. But he does that in a million other ways that are actually even better (to me) than flowers, and when I recognize that, there is no room for jealousy when I hear about a hubby who brings home bouquets on a regular basis.

I drafted this post about a year-and-a-half ago, and finally publishing it today ironically comes on the heels of a surprise bouquet of flowers from Andrew after a hard day. But the message I hope to convey is the same.

Don’t let the world’s definitions of love and romance make you miss out on the ways your spouse is already showing affection. Never play a game of comparison, and wish your hubby would be as romantic as your friend’s is. Observe and appreciate the “unconventional” ways he romances you, and treasure the reality that your marriage is uniquely yours, and your husband is uniquely him. He may not buy you flowers, but I’ll bet you can find his thoughtfulness in a hundred other gestures, if you’re just willing to stop and look.

 

But Adoption’s Not For Us, Is It?

DSC_0104As I shared in my most recent blog post, God has used the recent Planned Parenthood “scandal” to awaken my heart to the plight of unborn children in our nation.

But it’s neat to see how, previous to these videos being released and my awareness of abortion being heightened, God was already stirring within me a desire to help needy children.

Around February, I began giving thought to orphans. When I saw firsthand how dependent our own baby was on us for all his needs, and how he responded to the simplest gestures of affection and tenderness, it broke my heart to consider kids who don’t experience even the most basic love and care.

It’s great to be a pro-life, pro-adoption Christian, but how could I act on those convictions? I had never “felt called” to adopt, although I loved seeing adoptive families in action. I wondered to myself, What if “being called” to adopt is nothing more than simply seeing the need and our obligation to help orphans, recognizing that I am equipped to fill the need, and taking the step to do so?

Well, as soon as I thought that, suddenly my heart became very drawn to the idea of adoption and I could hardly get it off my mind. God was definitely at work!

So about this time (March?), I casually raised the topic with Andrew. I wanted to let him know that it was something I’d started thinking about, and hear his thoughts. He shared that while he had never considered adopting, he was definitely open to it, but figured during seminary was probably not workable timing. I agreed.

But over the following weeks, we discussed adoption more and more. I began looking into the various avenues for adopting children and was staggered by 1) the huge need for adoptive families and 2) the astronomical costs for both international and domestic adoptions. Then I began researching adoption through foster care. I learned that while there are huge “risks” and major challenges to this route, it is also affordable…actually, free!

By this time, Andrew and I were talking and praying more and more seriously about pursuing adoption while still in seminary. We had begun reading Adopted for Life together, which approaches the theological, gospel-centered reasons to adopt. The Lord had now clearly laid the same burden for orphans on Andrew’s heart, and we were very much “in this” together, which excited me to no end!

I looked into a local Christian foster agency and made contact. We got more questions answered and sought some trusted friends for counsel. Finally, we pulled the first of many triggers…we filled out the application and scheduled a meeting in August with the agency!

Some of the “downsides” to foster care adoption are…

  • There is no guarantee that the child placed in your home will be adoptable, even after months or years of being part of your family. He/she is likely to be reunited with their parents or relatives, which is the first goal of foster care.
  • Many foster placements require regular visits with the biological family, which can be time-consuming and emotionally draining.
  • Foster children are extremely likely to have mild-to-extreme physical, emotional, developmental, or psychological damage, even when placed as newborns.
  • The process to adopt a child from foster care can drag on for years.

While much of what we learned in our meeting with the agency made us all-the-more passionate about fostering, we learned some new information that seemed to be direction from God that continuing to pursue adoption while in seminary was not wise. We were already “running out of time” anyway due to the fact that Andrew will, Lord-willing, graduate in spring 2017, and the additional details and rules regarding the process just did not mesh well with our current situation.

All of this was extremely disappointing. I had already begun to experience maternal emotions as I prepared my heart to welcome a new child into our home, and it was difficult to have that desire denied for the time being. At the same time, it was encouraging to have clear direction, and Andrew and I were thankful that we were 100% agreed about pressing the “pause” button.

All that said, we are very hopeful and excited that the Lord may allow us to seriously pursue adoption in the future! We don’t know exactly what that will look like, as there are many factors at play, but we are eager to see what child(ren) God might choose to gift us as we follow His leading! Even if adoption is not in our own future, we desire to be more involved in promoting it and supporting others who do take this step. We’ve come to realize that as Christians, we should all love and be involved in the care of orphans, but what that looks like will be different for every family.

I wanted to share all this to hopefully encourage anyone else whose hearts might be stirred toward taking an orphan into their family. It is a huge step, but God will enable and provide if adoption is in His plan for you. I’ve seen him do it for many wonderful families I know. If you begin considering adoption, it is crucial to be unified and communicative as a couple. It has been a wonderful thing to work through and talk about with Andrew! We’ve obviously only begun to scratch the surface of all that God might desire to teach us through this, but I am excited and thankful for where the discussion has taken us so far.

In the meantime, since we will not be pouring hours into getting certified, preparing our home, etc., as we had thought we would, I am finding other ways to be involved in the care of orphans and the defense of life. Stay tuned for some updates on doors God is opening in that area!

Also, if you’re looking for an inspiring, convicting, true story of sacrificial love for orphans, go watch The Dropbox!

“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)

“Sing to God, sing praises to His name; lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts, Whose name is the LORD, and exult before Him. A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy habitation.” (Ps. 68:4-5)

“How blessed is he who considers the helpless; The LORD will deliver him in a day of trouble.” (Ps. 41:1)

{Mommy/Life/Wife Journal} A Few March & April Highlights

I know I’ve been so quiet here on the blog! I hope nobody has jumped to the conclusion that motherhood has swallowed up my life or that I’m fighting with Andrew and don’t have anything happy to share or that I’ve died. ;) None of the above are true. But, life is very busy these days and I’ve purposely allowed blogging to take a back burner. Here are a few quick highlights from the past month or so…

– Caleb is growing and changing so quickly and I can’t get enough of it! He’s had his first few tastes of solids (avocado and applesauce). He’s scooting around now…on the verge of legitimate crawling! I’m thinking I’ll be able to say he’s crawling before his 5 month mark, but we’ll see. I’m trying not to be the stereotypical first-time mom who thinks her child does everything six weeks before he actually does. ;) Trust me, it’s easy to do. My child is amazing. ;)

– Andrew helped me get back on track with regular, substantial quiet times by printing a Bible reading schedule for us to follow together. We still read separately but then it’s great to have been in the same place and discuss it! It’s a Bible-in-a-year plan but it’s chronological. I have two chapters left in Genesis and I’m finished with Job. Exodus is next!

– Spring break has been such a welcome respite from Andrew’s regular class schedule. We had a wonderful visit from two of my brothers and then from two cousins over Easter. Tomorrow, Andrew’s brother rolls into town to finish off the break with us. And in between, Andrew, Caleb, and I have gotten some quality time. I’m very thankful for each one of these precious memories.

– Backing up further, my mom came and stayed with us for five days last month. I ended up sick for most of the trip, and felt terrible that we mostly stayed home all week, but it was a huge blessing to have her help out around the house while I didn’t feel well, and we still got lots of sweet conversations in. We love Caleb’s grandmas! =)

– God was so gracious in helping us to pre-rent the vacancy we had in March, which meant no tours or open houses!!! We have two apartments vacating at the beginning of May. I’d really appreciate prayer that we’d get those filled quickly, as well. Vacancies can be a ton of work and stress, something we’ve yet to try with Caleb here.

– God’s mercies are new every morning. I feel like I’m in a constant battle with fear and anxiety these days, and needing to speak God’s truth to myself 24/7 to keep my heart focused on the right place. It’s crazy how quickly worry can take over, and I’ve got so much more that I can fret over now that I’m a mom. It’s an opportunity to continue growing in trusting the Lord and truly believing that He is sovereign and good in every situation.

– I’ve got a couple of maternity and newborn photo sessions coming up that I’m very excited about, and in the meantime I keep photographing my favorite little guy! =)

I guess that’s all for now…happy April, dear readers! =)

{Marriage Journal} Why Can’t He Just Remember?

Towel_Rack_1This morning, Caleb was napping and I was working on apartment management items, when Andrew called to me from the other room, “Hey Hon, could you grab me a towel?”

I sighed as I set my laptop aside and got up to retrieve the item that I seemed to deliver quite often. Why can’t he just remember to grab a towel before he gets in the shower? I grumbled in my head.

The thought was barely finished when I realized how many dozens of times I’ve sat down to nurse Caleb and then realized I forgot to pour myself a tall glass of water first. (I am always parched during feedings!) “Hey Babe, could you bring me some water?” Andrew never complains that I don’t prepare better for nursing sessions.

It’s funny how easy it is to notice my husband’s quirks and minor shortcomings without ever stopping to look at my own. If we both picked at each little mistake or got annoyed every time the other’s forgetfulness made a little extra work for us, we’d be at each other constantly. This is everyday life together. This is being married. It means smiling when Andrew forgets the towel or I forget the water. It means laughing when I pick up the dirty laundry that ended up exactly next to the hamper instead of inside it. It means Andrew kissing me on the cheek when he discovers that his earbuds have grown legs and wound up in my nightstand. Sometimes it is in a million of these tiny decisions that a happy or frustrating marriage is made. (There are plenty of bigger factors, too…but small things often become the big things!)

Next time I hear the Towel Summons, I hope I smile instead of grumbling. I hope I say something sweet as I toss it to him. I hope I thank God that He gave me a husband.

And hey–I should be grateful to be married to a guy who showers! ;)

Photo taken from imgkid.com.