January 14, 2021 Family Night Game Over! Hi everyone! Today we have a special letter from Max Crumbly! Max is the guy on the right, and he’s playing a board game with his older sister and his little brother in the striped shirt. In case you didn’t know, Max is Brandon’s best bud. He’s asking for advice about the headache of being stuck hanging out with family members all day long for months on end due to the pandemic. I’m sure that many of us are struggling with this same problem. Okay, so here is Max’s letter… What’s Up Nikki,My family is big on having weekly game nights so that we can be together, bond, laugh and all that stuff. We do everything from board games to trivia to video games. But lately, everyone (including me!) is getting really impatient, competitive and a little bit mean about who’s winning. How can we get back to having fun?!Max Crumbly, aka “Grumpy Grumbling Gamer” Hi Grumpy Grumbling Gamer, You know that phrase, “Distance makes the heart grow fonder?” Yeah, I think it’s probably true, because there hasn’t been much distance between the family members in my house lately, and my feelings for Miss Penelope (my sister’s hand puppet) have definitely NOT grown fonder! ☹ Example: Brianna keeps saying that she and Miss Penelope want another sleepover with me in my super comfy bed, but the last time I agreed to THAT ridiculousness, I woke up on the floor (Brianna claimed that Miss Penelope kicked me off the mattress. . . I have my doubts). Seriously, I definitely get what you’re going through—I mean, it’s not easy in a normal year to hang out with my family on a game night. Picture this: One Monopoly BoardOne Hand Puppet (aka, Miss Penelope) wearing the Hat game piece while eating three other game pieces.One Dad reading the rules while wearing a t-shirt saying “This RoachMaster Rules!”One Mom trying to stop our dog Daisy (and my sister Brianna) from eating too many snacks.One Sister stealing fake paper money because she’s trying to bribe the tooth fairy into never visiting anyone again (long story).One ME watching the clock and wondering when I can call my friends and write about all this madness in my diary. You got all that? Okay, now whip it all up and let it bake for about an hour. You want to know the results? Here’s what usually comes out of the family game oven: One Tantrum (most often from Dad or Miss Penelope)One Wildly-Contested Game (with rules that change ALL the time)One Tired Family (who all declare themselves winners by eating dessert) So yes, our game nights are always a little bit messy. But fast-forward to game nights happening more and more often, like they have this year for me and you… Well yeah, that was always bound to blow up like a last-minute, badly-researched, extra-hot-sauce-infused science fair volcano, right?!?! We’ve all been kinda cooped up in our houses more than normal lately, and we’ve been spending lots of extra time with our family, which is AWESOME in some ways and AWFUL in others. Bottom line: it’s normal to have a few stingy sparks flying around on game night. Here’s my advice: Let one family member choose a game for the evening. Respect the choice and play that family member’s game! Rotate the games so that everyone gets to play something that they enjoy now and then.Create a jar of joke breaks. If things get heated, make your Uncle Oscar (or whoever) reach into a jar and tell a pre-written joke! It sounds silly, but so does having your Uncle Oscar tell silly jokes. It’ll break up the tension!Give out strips of paper to everyone at the beginning of the game that say “My Bad!” If somebody’s rude (and others call them out on it), they have to give out a “My Bad!” strip that entitles everyone else to ask for a favor.Rather than having a Game Night, have each family member suggest a different activity that would still encourage togetherness—like having a Zoom meeting with someone you all know, or cooking something together, or watching a movie and doing a book club thing—the possibilities are endless! Okay, readers, now it’s YOUR turn—is spending extra time with your family driving you KA-RAY-ZEE? Do you have any advice for our friend, Max Crumbly?