The Official List of the Best Board Games

In our house, we have a major obsession (bordering on psychosis, really) with board games. 
It started out when we were first married, we would go to WalMart after work every so often and buy a board game. Eventually, we stopped buying typical WalMart games and started buying a little bit more obscure games online. Now, after a few years, our game closet is completely bursting and every year we add a few new favorites. (Ok, confession: in the last month, between our birthdays and Christmas, we got 7.) 
I don't know if you could call us board game experts (although, go ahead) but we definitely know a lot of good games! Usually whenever someone comes over for game night, we get a lot of "What was that game we played called again??" the next few days.
SO, in an attempt to share some of my wealth of knowledge with you, I compiled a list of our absolute favorites (which I reserve the right to change or add to at any time...)
I separated them by category, but other than that they are in no particular order. Any of the games on this list are ones you should try!
Also, although some of these games may cause some elevated emotions among your friends, they are all guaranteed not to totally destroy your friendships like, say, Monopoly.
You're welcome.

Deception Games

This game starts you off with a secret identity- you're either good or bad, and the only person you can trust is yourself. 
I put these two together because Avalon is basically The Resistance on steroids. (I'm not kidding. They're made by the same people and everything.) We loved The Resistance for a long time, and eventually got Avalon and liked it even more. I will say that although it's one of my favorites, some people at game night just don't love it. This is probably because we have played this game A LOT, and because it's generally the same-ish group and we've all gotten ridiculously good at reading each other, so there isn't much deceit involved in the game anymore. It definitely gets everyone at the table involved and usually ends in a heated argument. I would recommend starting with The Resistance, and although Avalon is fun, it's not totally necessary as they are extremely similar games. Avalon does add some fun new elements for players who already love The Resistance.

Number of Players:5-10

The point of this game is to sneak love letters past all the other characters to reach the princess- and earn those little red cubes. 
Love Letter is easily one of the funnest games we own. It's simple, the rounds go quickly, and it's so addictive to play. This is another secret identity game, but not necessarily a "deception" game, but I put it here anyways because... it's my blog, I can do what I want! 
There are also other versions of the game like Batman, Adventure Time, and The Hobbit, which are all inexpensive and all play the same, so this is a great game to start out with if you just want to test my game-choosing skills. 

Number of Players: 2-4

The premise of this game is that you are villagers trying to run a market, and you have to get your bread, cheese, chickens, and apples past the sheriff... and possibly try to sneak through some contraband. Sheriff switches each round, so the game moves pretty quickly and is a lot of fun.
This is probably my current favorite game in this category. It is super creative and fun, and allows for a lot of interaction and communication between players, and those are my favorite kind of games!

Number of Players: 3-5

Bang! starts you off with a secret identity, and only the Sheriff reveals himself. Everyone is trying to kill certain people and save certain others, and it gets really crazy and confusing- in a good way, of course.
We haven't played Bang! for so long, I almost feel like it doesn't belong on this list. BUT, it was one of the first "obscure" games we bought (if obscure means it's not as popular as Monopoly or Life... Bang! is actually a relatively popular game). It also allows for a lot of interaction between players, and is just a lot of fun!
I would say the only downside to Bang! is that it can take awhile to play, and once you're dead, you're dead. So if you die quickly, you spend the rest of the game sitting around not participating... which isn't fun.

Number of Players: 4-7

Strategy Games

In this game you get to buy rooms and build your own castle- who doesn't want to do that? The creativity and strategy to this game alone make it a lot of fun, but I also love that it works just as well for 2 player, so we don't have to wait for game night to play it.

Number of Players: 1-4

The point of this game is to build a home and farm that is, basically, better than your opponents. There are a thousand different ways to get there, so the game can be different every time. 
This is a really fun game if you prefer working on your own. It's fun to build your own little house and stables, and you can't always tell who is going to win until the end. But the best part of this game has to be the animeeples. Seriously, buy it and you'll see what I mean. 
The one frustrating thing about this game is there is never enough of the wood supply to go around. We basically fight over it for the first several rounds. Maybe one of us just needs a new strategy.

Number of Players: 1-5

The point of Keyflower is to build a village by bidding on tiles and taking actions. Sounds simple, but it is pretty complex.
This one is still really new for us, and it's a really cool game but definitely not one I would recommend if you don't play a lot of board games. Even for us, it took quite awhile to learn and felt a little overly complicated the first time through. But by far my favorite part of the game is the little houses you fold together and stand up to hide your guys behind... I must still be five years old at heart, because they were like tiny little dollhouses and Caleb definitely wasn't as excited about that part as I was.

Number of Players: 2-6

Party Games

In Codenames you start out with 25 cards in a grid on the table, and 2 people give one word clues to their teammates to try to get them to guess their team's words. 
When we first found Codenames, it was listed as "The Best Party Game" and although it's not my favorite game overall, I have to agree that it is probably the best party game we own. Actually, it's so good that whenever we have game nights someone requests it and we always end up playing it all night. (With a closet full of other lonely games!) We've played it so much Caleb and I are frankly getting sick of it, but I think that's a testament to how great the game is.

Number of Players: 2-8+ (Technically you can play with as many people as you can seat around a table. Or standing on bleachers behind them.)

Letter Tycoon is basically Scrabble (but, easier) mixed with Monopoly (but, minus the inevitable bloodshed.) You buy letters, spell words, and make money when other players use your letters.
This is another one of our newest ones, so we haven't had time to get sick of it yet, but I would say it is one of the simplest, funnest games we have. Great for when you are playing with people who don't like to spend a lot of time listening to the rules (ahem, MY family...) or even for playing with younger kids.

Number of Players: 2-5

If somehow you already have all these, here are some games that are still on our list that we haven't tried yet: 

And finally, a brief list of the games you should already own (or else, what are you even doing here?):
Bang (yes, this belongs on both lists.)

And, if this list wasn't at all helpful to you, here is the source of all my powers: We use this site a lot to find new games, and it helps that they are all ranked and reviewed. Go crazy.

NOW... Who wants to have a game night?

My Crazy Week

Just as a forewarning, for some of you, this might be one of those posts where I way overshare about medical stuff. Feel free to skip this one, if ya want.
Also, let me just say that this post is NOT intended to scare anyone, or sway you towards anything you do or don't want to do. When I got my IUD placed right after Dayen was born, I made it a point not to read all the scary stories online. I trusted (and still do trust) my doctor, and didn't want any reason to convince myself something was wrong when it wasn't. Turns out, I'm one of the unfortunate few.
So, this week was pretty crazy. If you read the last post, you know we were feeling pretty watched over and blessed this week. But, apparently I am a major pessimist, because the more wonderful things that happened to us, the more I felt like something really bad was coming.
So on Tuesday, which also happened to be my birthday, I was in a lot of pain from my period. For me, this is kind of the norm. But as it got worse and worse, I finally sheepishly asked my nurse friend if I should be coming in to be seen. She said with an IUD it was probably smart, so we scheduled an appointment for the next day.
That night it got worse and worse, so of course I did a Google self-diagnosis. By the time my appointment came around, I was fairly certain I knew what was going on. I was prepared to ask for an antibiotic and be on my way.
But, guess what guys? I didn't go to medical school. And I was totally wrong. Luckily, my midwife Annie (who happens to be one of my favorite people in the world) is a lot smarter than me and figured we should check my IUD. I told her I was planning on getting it out soon, but not for a few more months. She assured me we could just check it and she would only take it out if she needed to.
So, with my 18 month old sitting on the table with me, I prepared for a two minute procedure. I figured, I birthed an almost 10 pound baby a year and a half ago. I *think* I can handle a simple IUD removal.
Annie told me the IUD wasn't where it was supposed to be, so she was going to pull it out. But when she tried to remove it, I was in immense pain and the IUD broke into pieces, with only a few pieces actually coming out.
My IUD, not really resembling an IUD anymore.

She tried for awhile, while I sat there yelling and wondering if I really still wanted to try to go natural with the next baby, and finally she decided to ask the doctor to come look at it. After spending the entire morning and afternoon at the office, calling my mom to come babysit, and getting a cervical block, the doctor tried to remove it. The pain was so bad I couldn't stand it, so we decided to remove it surgically instead.
After how bad it hurt, I was honestly really relieved to not have to be awake through it. I could deal with the recovery, but not all the pain during.
So, we scheduled surgery for the next day. All of that was fine until he mentioned that the IUD was so deeply embedded, that there was a chance he would have to do a hysterectomy if I started bleeding too badly. He assured me he would only do that if it saved my life, but still, it's not something you want to hear at 26 years old with only one child. (And a cute one, at that.)
The other scary thing was that there was a chance he wouldn't be able to remove the whole thing. That meant after going through surgery, I would be living with this pain every day. This is a 5 year IUD, so in another 4 years when the hormones wore off, there was a chance I could get pregnant. A chance.
Needless to say, I had sort of a rough afternoon. I was trying to remain positive, but it was a really scary thought that one day I had the possibility of more kids, and in 24 hours that possibility might be gone forever. I can't even begin to explain everything that was going on in my head all day. I thought of everything from what it would be like to adopt, to what it would be like if Dayen was our only child. I thought of who I would be if the identity of "mom" was stripped away from me like that. I thought of how Caleb would feel down the road if he couldn't have any more children because of me.
Like I said, it was a hard day.
My doctor, who is also really awesome, went over the possibilities with me, and then asked, "Are you LDS?" I told him I was, and he recommended that I get a blessing before my surgery. This, of course, made me cry even more.
But that night, that's what we did. We asked one of our friends to come over, and they were quick to run over and help. I told a couple people, just in case I would need the support the next day. And, basically, I felt sorry for myself. In the moment, I couldn't imagine a much worse trial to have to go through than losing the opportunity of having more children. Especially over something as silly as an IUD.
So that night, me and myself had to have a serious talk. After I was basically done with my pity party, after I was all cried out over what might happen, I asked myself, "Anndee. Will it really be the end of the world?" And instantly I knew: no, it wouldn't. It would be a challenge, for sure. It would be a loss. But I would still have everything I have now. My wonderful husband, my darling baby, our home and dog and this whole life that I have. So what if it didn't turn out the way I always wanted, even expected? Does losing the idea of something really take away from what you already have?
After the blessing, both Caleb and I were feeling a lot more peaceful. I expected the blessing to assure me that things would be fine, that I would definitely get to have more children. But it didn't. Caleb knew that was all I wanted to hear, and it was probably all he wanted to say, but he didn't. I remember feeling peace from the blessing, but also frustration that I couldn't be assured of this one thing that was making me so anxious and worried.
But I think I understand now: that isn't how the Lord works. When does he ever just give us exactly the answer we want, right when we ask for it? Where is the trial of our faith in that?
Everything with the surgery ended up going really well. They expected it to only take about 20 minutes and it ended up being over an hour. I was really grateful to be asleep for that. The recovery hasn't been the easiest, but I will say our fridge and stomachs are full of delicious food, there are beautiful flowers on my table and my child was taken care of the whole time, and I feel so lucky to have all you wonderful people in my life! Through my very short trial with this, I never felt alone, and I am so grateful to all of you for that. 
After everything, I just can't help but feel grateful. I think all this time I've just been trying to control everything. I was so concerned about when we would have our children, how close in age they would all be and how I could basically plan out every moment of the rest of our lives. Now, I just feel grateful for the chance to have another one, whenever it happens. I think it's the same way with a lot of our trials. We are all flawed humans, and for some reason we never appreciate what we have until it's nearly taken from us. 
But we have a lot. We all do. This experience has made me realize how many people I have fighting in my corner with me. It has made me realize that if this is all I ever had, if life never got any better than this, I could and would be happy. Because what I have is really amazing.
Not to mention totally adorable.

In the Christmas Spirit

2016 seems like, for us at least, it wants to go out with a bang. We have had so many incredible and humbling experiences in the last few weeks alone, and I wanted to share today's with you.
Today, I decided to go to WalMart to finish up my Christmas shopping. I needed to fill Caleb's stocking, and that was all I planned to do. But as I walked through the store, I kept remembering more and more things I needed. Several times I went to walk to the check out line, and then veered off to grab something else I remembered.
By the time I finally made it to check out, I had quite a cart full of stuff, including a winter coat for Dayen, presents for my niece and nephews, and even a tube of mascara that I had just run out of this morning. Everything was more expensive than I was planning, and I was kind of stressing about it the whole way through the store. Christmas is just so hard, and I hate spending so much money at once, even on things we need. As I loaded things on to the belt, I started questioning everything I bought. Could I wait until next week to buy this? Should I put this back?
As I contemplated all this, there was an older man waiting in line behind me. His cart was mostly empty, with just two little cartons of orange juice and some eggs. He smiled at Dayen and I, but he seemed to not be paying much attention because he kept bumping me with his cart like he was pushing me out of the way. When I finally got up to the checker, he literally used his cart to force me out of the way.
I turned towards him, surprised but ready to stand up for myself, when I heard him tell the checker, "I want to buy this girl's groceries."
I quickly protested, "Oh no! That's very sweet but you don't have to do that."
"I want to buy them," he said again.
"I have so much stuff here! Really that is so nice of you but you don't have to!" I was panicking now, thinking about all the things I had chosen to buy today that I had been putting off buying for months. That's when the checker turned to me and said, "When someone offers to do something nice for you, just let them!" Then she turned back to the man and said, "She would love to let you buy her groceries!" So I finally smiled and said, "Yes, that is what I meant!"
And I just stood there and watched as he paid way, way, way too much money for his measly two bags of groceries.
After he paid I gave him a hug and said thank you. I told him, "Today is my birthday, so you couldn't have picked a better time!" He asked how old I was and when I told him he looked at the checker and said, "Twenty six! Wouldn't that be nice?" He told me he is ninety-two.
I walked out of the store with him, thanking him the whole way, and just shocked that anyone could be that kind.

Since then, two things have been stuck in my mind:
#1: The Lord is always, always, always mindful of us. It was no accident that I ended up with a cartful of things I needed but couldn't afford. It was no accident that I went to that checkout lane, on that day, at that exact moment. Believe what you will, but I know that I was being watched out for. And with everything going on in the world, to think that God cares about whether or not my child has a coat today... well, it's humbling to say the very least.
#2: It feels like the world is so bad and wicked and evil and going increasingly downhill, but when I really stop and look around, I don't know if I believe it. Yes, of course there is wickedness. People do bad things. Bad things happen for no reason. But that's always been the case. There is still so, so much good.
And to be clear, I don't think it's necessary to pay a ton of money for someone's groceries in order to serve them. But that's the thing: this man had no rhyme or reason for serving me. I'm not homeless or jobless. I wasn't out in the snow with no shoes. I wasn't even scrounging around in my purse for enough change to pay for my meager groceries.
I was just an average person doing a normal thing. I doubt most people would have looked at me and thought, "she could use some of my money." I'm not the most needy. But still, he served me.
That is the most Christlike service I can imagine.
Why do we wait until a friend is in need before serving them? Why do we only bring dinner if they are going through a hard time? Why do we sometimes have to be slapped in the face with a request before we are willing to serve?
You don't have to find the most needy person out there and do the most incredible thing you can think of. The small things count, too. You don't have to search for someone to serve, because we all need service. Because spreading love like that benefits everyone.
I doubt that ninety-two year old man will ever read this blog. But I hope he knows how much it affected me today, and I hope everyone who can read this blog will keep his actions in mind, and take it to heart. If we could all show even a little bit of that amount of kindness everyday, this would be a completely different world we would live in.