“We are gathered here again,” I begin. “To mark the beginning of another year.”

Three sober faces stare back at me, hanging on my every word.

“As usual, we will mark this special day with a series of challenges. We will all experience the glory of dominating a challenge or two, and we will fail with extreme gusto in others. We will encourage one another, lift one another up. We will laugh, hopefully until our stomachs hurt. Although we will try not to cry, tears will be shed when a measure of hopelessness sets in,” I pause, to take measure of my audience. One pair of eyes stares off, clearly having given in to the beckoning of the memory of a particularly challenging portion of an earlier DS game. Another stares at me with amusement, wondering what 3/4 of the words I am saying mean when strung together while at the same time appreciating the delicate balance of wisdom and silliness I have achieved, if I do say so myself. And the final pair of eyes rolls, as it beckons my attention to the gesture of his hand, giving the universal sign for let’s-wrap-this-up,-Brutus.

“In fact, we will likely be yelled at for crying, and desserts will be taken away,” I finish. “Let the games begin!”

The game board has been created the morning of the event. We all know the routine—a series of 10 challenges. Three stickers for first place, 2 for second, 1 for third, and the loser gets skunked.

OlympicsThree winters ago, during our first winter in this house, Chi-beria visited for the first time ever. You remember—with wind chills at negative 60, we all boiled water to throw it in the air to make instant snow. Like Arizonans in summer, we cracked eggs on our driveways, except instead of boiling, they turned to eggsicles in seconds. Wally Ben had only 6 total days of preschool that January, because apparently children’s fingertips and noses are more important than the sanity of cabin fevered parents. Something had to be done.

When school was cancelled right after Christmas break had ended, in a moment of desperation and inspiration, I gathered buckets, balls, and had 4 year old Wally help me make a sign. The Olympics that winter were in Sochi, so we invented the So-Chilly Olympics. Husband Wally was home, and he couldn’t resist joining in.

Since Vivvi was 1.5 years old, we had to be fair. All games included either a toddler-adjustment or were totally based on chance. As you can see, chance is a fickle shrew, and she allowed a baby to beat me.

OlympicsAlthough the results were hogwash, it was a perfect way to while away a day in which our doorhandles were covered in icicles. Thus, family olympics became a New Years Day tradition.

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The challenges vary based on our games, gear, and gadgets each year. We play traditional board games.

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We incorporate new toys…

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We try to include a few hallway games…

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…and preferably one or two where we have the chance to throw, sling, or shoot something at the children.

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And an annual favorite is a holdout from that first year, bucket ball. We gather varying sizes of balls at the top of the stairs, and then varying sizes of buckets at the bottom. Every bottom bucket is worth 1, 5, or 10 points based on the size of the opening. Players push 5-6 balls down the stairs, one at a time, and the one with the most points at the end wins. You won’t believe me when I tell you that the game is incredibly fun. So fun, in fact, that we leave the buckets at the bottom of the stairs for the whole of the winter, stepping over them every time we go down, in case we ever want to play.

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At the end of the day, we host a very serious medal ceremony, with medals that the ultimate loser creates for the three on the medal stand in the 5 minutes before the medal ceremony (because we have, inevitably forgotten about the need for a medal ceremony until the moment of crowning winners is upon us). You will be disappointed to find out that chance, the blood-sucking vampiress, has remained my nemesis since that first fateful year—although I have always offered 100 percent effort, I have yet to make the medal stand. This suits the Wallys, the most competitive humans in the land, quite well. And it suits Vivvi, because although she cares not a shred about winning and cuddles her beanie boos as she throws balls at targets, she appreciates having something shiny to hang around her neck at the end of the day.

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I encourage you to join us in celebrating the New Year in this way (or even just passing a winter Saturday). May the odds be ever in your favor!

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