Played on Monday, 7/31/17

Awesome Level: 3/5

Recommended Age: 9+

Play Time: 45 minutes

Learning Curve: Easy – Medium (10-15 minute teaching time)

Description: Galaxy Truckers is a competitive tile-laying game played in 2 phases: Building and Flying.  In the Building phase, players must build the best ship they can in a limited time, all while other players raid the same pool of pieces trying to build their own ships.  Once all ships have been constructed, players enter the Flying phase and venture into treacherous space.  They may run into meteor showers, abandoned ships, planets full of goods to cash in, or even dangerous space pirates!  At the end of the journey, players cash in what goods they still have on their ship, and get extra space cash for arriving quickly and keeping their ship together.

The game progresses over 3 journeys in total, each time upgrading the ship size and capacity, as well as the rewards granted.  At the end of the 3 journeys, the player with the most cash wins.

Further Thoughts: this is a curious game.  On the one hand, it offers frenetic, fast-paced creative decisions in the form of little square pieces that each correspond to an aspect of your ship (and putting them together in limited time is probably the BEST part of the game as you struggle to create the best ship you can to survive the treacherous trip through space).  On the other hand, its high luck ratio can really mess up players.  Build your ship a little risky?  One wrong roll and it’s ripped in half.  Oops.  But the game makes up for this by offering 3 rounds, and moving quickly, so players can learn from their mistakes without feeling cheated.

The game likes to poke fun at futuristic corporate and its obvious that the rule writers have a sense of humor.  That being said, there are a few things I recommend doing to keep things running smooth.  1) Each round, let players choose 1 good (no Reds) to put in their ship.  Because only 8 cards are selected to represent your trip, you may NEVER pull a planet to get more goods, in which case your purpose is immensely diminished. 2) Have a pre-build without the timer so players can get used to what pieces they’re looking at and learn the rules of how they must connect.  …then clear the boards, flip the timer, and get ready for the mayhem!  3) Play through the game twice if you have the time.  You learn A LOT in that first play-through, and repeat plays are the best way to experiment with more crazy builds.  (just be careful not to break the Laws of Physics – they fine you for that sort of thing!)

It’s silly.  It’s funny.  I highly recommend it for any gaming group and/or family looking to play something that is greatly aware of its own humor and can be a blast to play over and over again.

Galaxy Truckers is published by the Czech Games Edition, and designed by the awesome Vlaada Chvatil, with art by Tomáš Kučerovský and Radim Pech.  You can find it in most board game hobby shops and always on the great and wonderful Amazon.com (it has 2 expansions out now, as well as an anniversary edition).

NEXT TIME: Steampunk Rally! 8/14/17

 

 

We’ve learned that the food movement is a real thing.

People are getting SMART. They’re getting educated. I’ve lost track of how many conversations we’ve had about the impact the food we eat has on our bodies and brains. The two topics that tend to come up the most are ingredients and nutrients.

Recognizing the impact of what ingredients are being used in food comes up a lot. Parents have been reduced to tears as they talk about their child being transformed by a simple dietary change. They tell us stories of positive behavioral changes, or getting off meds for ADD, or the profound effect food has on their autistic child. It’s inspiring.

They’re reading the labels, and steering away from things that have a long list of chemicals we can’t even pronounce. It is so cool hearing them ask Felita about what’s in the dressings we make from scratch, or how much they appreciate the fact that our Mac & Cheese only has six ingredients. No food dyes, extra sugar, or hydrogenated oils. Even the kids are paying attention. I had a 10 year old boy checking to see how much sugar was in a drink before decided whether he wanted it. It was awesome to see 🙂

Understanding micro and macro nutrients has been a huge topic of conversation as well. Balancing protein, fat, and carbs is something our guests are taking into consideration when building their meal. They’re also paying attention to the fact that carbs or fat aren’t bad…it’s all about understanding which foods provide you with healthy sources of the nutrients we need.

By the way, here’s a link to an earlier post I wrote about the impact of eating “clean”. Eating this way has absolutely changed my life. Check it out: Food and Optimal Health

Our regular guests are coming up with some awesome meals from our menu. If you’re not familiar with how we do things, we provide some pre-made suggestions – my “Macrobowl”, for example, is super popular. It’s just chicken, veggies, sweet potato and brown rice cooked in coconut oil.

Or you can choose from a variety of healthy proteins, fats, and carbs, the build your own meal. You can bowl it (warm in rice or quinoa), wrap it (in a sweet potato wrap), bed it (we make amazing salads, or plate it (a lot of kids like their food separated on a plate).

In the end, we’ve learned that more and more people are taking control of what goes in their bodies. They’re asking good questions, preparing healthy food options for their families, and feeling better because of it. Their energy is better, their moods are more stable, and they get sick less often.

My favorite story has been watching a dear friend of mine lose over 50 pounds in about six months by just eating simple, balanced meals that consist of real, healthy food. He didn’t cut out carbs, or do some weird diet. He just ate healthy, balanced meals and avoided processed foods.

Even my granddaughter is exited to learn about food. I’ll leave you with a little video with her that always makes me smile 🙂

We’ve learned that adults can put down their phones

I watched two moms play Chutes and Ladders in the cafe while their kids were taking a class. It was awesome. Everywhere you look in the center, you see adults focusing on each other, on their kids, and on their friends. They are perfectly content to put their phones down and be present.

We have some older couples that come in regularly for tea and to play cards in the cafe. Families play board games, parents knit together, kids play with puzzles…everywhere you look, you see people interacting without any digital assistance.

And they’re happy about it. I’ve had so many parents thank us for not allowing tablets or electronics in the park. Their kids are playing checkers, or tag, or playing with trains, or reading. And while the kids are engaged, the adults are having conversations with friends that seem so long overdue. People are communicating face to face. There’s eye contact, and facial expressions, and nuances from tone of voice.

We’ve learned that if the environment allows for it, most of us are perfectly willing to focus on the human being right in front of us. Sure we’ll take some pictures of our kids, and maybe the occasional selfie. We’ll share it with our friends and family who cannot be there in person. Yet overall, we’re happy about the opportunity for real-time human connection.

Sometimes it feels like we’re all being portrayed as these mindless zombies wandering around staring at our phones. It’s just not true. We just need space and opportunity, and then we are happy to be the social creatures we are wired to be.

If you see me buzzing through the center and you catch me smiling at you while you play cards with your kids, it’s because I’m happy for you. I’m grateful that you get it. Thanks for recognizing what’s important.

I’ll get out of your way now – it’s your turn to “Go Fish” 🙂

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We’ve learned that kids love to play.

Thousands of kids have visited Pebble Park in this first year. They will run, jump and climb for hours. They come out beat red and sweaty, and still they want more. It makes sense. They have such limited opportunities to move in school, and so many of their extracurricular activities are structured.

We’ve learned that kids love a little chaos. The want to run like maniacs while screaming at the top of their lungs. They bounce off of walls, and each other, and just go, go, go. They need time to just let their bodies and minds take them down the most random paths of expression imaginable.

It’s been interesting to watch the increase in focus for the kids that get to play in the park before they transition to a structured class like dance or martial arts. Their focus is better, learning seems like less of a chore, and they have more patience with both themselves and others.

It can be really funny to watch. I’ve seen a kid spin in a circle clucking like a chicken until I’m positive they’re going to puke. Ten minutes later that same kid is dialed in for a ballet class, or chess, or a creative art project. It’s like two different children occupying one body.

Kids don’t just need to move, they need to move freely. They need to completely abandon any sense of structure once in a while. For those of you who have kids, it’s worth remembering. The emotional outburst, the lack of focus, the crankiness…whatever it is you’re seeing from them may be a result of the fact that they just need a release.

It isn’t always possible to provide kids with the opportunity to just play. What we’ve learned is that if the opportunity arises, we should take it. Kids love to play. We should give them the time and space to do so whenever possible.

They’ll be better for it 🙂

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What we’ve learned from our first year in business:

Questers’ Way is now a year old, and it’s been quite the ride. So many people have experienced the center in so many ways. Families, teachers, students, and business owners have all become part of our community. We’ve been embraced, and it’s beautiful.

We’ve learned so many things in this first year. I’m not talking so much about the business itself. I’m talking about people. We’ve learned a lot about what’s important to them. And it’s so encouraging.

Behind all of the fun, and food, and learning, our guests and members have demonstrated a profound desire for connection. Connection to each other, to themselves, and to their community. That’s what we had hoped for: that if we created a space that was warm and inviting, that was both fun and educational, and filled with positive energy, it would begin to fill with life. And it has 🙂

I always refer to Questers’ Way as “The Center”. That’s what it’s intended to be: a place that sits in the middle of one’s life. And that’s what it’s become. The center has become a gathering place for everything from a place to share a meal, to an opportunity to learn a skill, to a place for the celebration of a life event.

We’ve learned a lot about people, and I’d like to share some of what we’ve learned here. I’d like to start with something I’ve personally learned. (Or maybe it would be more accurate to say it’s something I’ve been reminded to be true)

You see, It’s been eight months since I’ve touched this blog. I’ve been reminded that, sometimes, you just have to put your head down and do the work. Talking about it comes later. Now it’s feeling like it’s time to talk again. If you know me personally, I could use a little gentle encouragement. Message me with your stories. Ask me some questions. You all inspire me every day, and I’d love for you to add a little more fuel to my fire.

Tomorrow, I’ll share something else we’ve learned. And then again the day after that. From there, we shall see 🙂

Welcome to year two of Questers’ Way!

I’ve been asked to add a little bit of a personal element to this blog, so if you see the title above, that’s just me taking a moment to randomly recognize beauty and the challenges we face. This is the mental ratio I try to keep…five positive thoughts for every negative one. I choose to view the “negative” as a challenge, so there you go. (Special thanks to Martin Seligman and his work, which introduced me to the field of positive psychology)

Grateful times five:

  1. Holding my 3 year old granddaughter and having her rest her head on my shoulder and her hand on my heart.
  2. Listening to a song my wife shared with me while she danced…badly…as we listened. (The song was “Faster” by Matt Nathanson)
  3. Watching Gracie (my Golden Retriever) buzz around like a hummingbird on our morning walk.
  4. I’ve been reading “Superbosses” by Sydney Finkelstein. Hearing the stories of amazing leaders like Bill Walsh and Ralph Lauren has been inspiring. It has also validated many of my personal beliefs regarding how to lead a company and how to help amazing, talented people realize their full potential.
  5. Taking a day off and enjoying the beach with my family.

One Challenge

Completely shredding my AC joint last Thanksgiving. Every ligament tore through, leaving nothing but skin and muscle holding my arm attached to my body.

This resulted in:
Two months of no sleep and immobilization as I tried to hold my arm in place and hope that it would scar up without surgery.

Two more months of PT while trying not to tear any of the newly formed scar tissue.

Another two months of slowly regaining strength and flexibility.

At that point I had lost about 14 pounds due to the inactivity, loss of appetite, and the long days resulting from prepping to open Questers’ Way.

Now, over eight months removed from the injury, I’m about to complete a 12 week compound body resistance training program, have regained the weight and muscle lost, and am pretty much feeling like my old self again.

This challenge taught me A LOT. I learned some new things about fitness and nutrition, as well as managing pain and the patience and perseverance necessary to win at rehabbing from an injury.

More importantly, it gave me a greater sense of empathy for those who wish to care for themselves physically, and are facing their own challenge. It’s frustrating and demoralizing. You can’t really understand unless you’ve been through it. If it’s chronic, it’s even harder. At least I knew that my odds were pretty good that I could make a full recovery. Not everyone is that fortunate.

For all of you out there battling to keep yourself functioning both physically and mentally, my heart is with you 🙂 When it gets really bad, take a look around and see if you can find five things (see above for examples lol). You may find a little shift in perspective can help. It certainly helped me 🙂

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We’ve had a couple of families discover us recently. That’s the question they asked. They were kind of good-naturedly offended that they hadn’t heard of us sooner.

There are probably a lot of people in the community who have no idea we are here. Even those who have heard of us are little unclear as to what our center actually is. Is it a Chuck e Cheese? Is it a recreational Center? Is it a Playground? Nope. We’re unique, multi-faceted, and hard to explain in just a few words or with a simple website or mailer.

One of my favorite things to witness is when people come in for a visit and start to “get it”. Especially educators…you can see the wheels start to turn as they start thinking about all the ways we can partner to create amazing learning experiences for their kiddos. Their excitement and energy is positively infectious.

With that being said, word is definitely getting out. We already have people driving over forty-five minutes to visit us. We had one family even call ahead to make sure we had plenty of Mac & Cheese before they made the trip.

Introducing ourselves to the community has been (intentionally) an organic process. We’re just focussing on taking in feedback and working to make sure that every guest who visits us feels that we delivered on our promise of “best day ever”. If we do that well, our guests will tell their friends.

So yes, awareness of our presence is a little uneven. Up to this point, the only way people have heard about us is through word of mouth and social media. There is one other reason we are not spending money on traditional advertising to get the word out.  We’d rather invest in our community.

Since opening the center we have:

  • Sponsored a Willimantic little league team.
  • Sponsored a 5K run to raise money for the Mansfield playground.
  • Donated space and classes to several not for profits.
  • Donated the Cafe and coffee every other Wednesday morning to business networking event hosted by the Chamber of Commerce.
  • Handed out dozens of certificates for free goods and services to local schools hosting fund raising events.
  • Hosted a free field trip full of play and programs for a group of kids participating in a program at Windham Heights.
  • Met with the Windham before and after school team. (We’ll be offering them a free workshop the end of august to help them increase their impact with the students they teach)
  • Visited Columbia, Willington and Mansfield to provide various enrichment programs for interested members of the communities.

There’s more, but I think you get the idea. And we’re just getting started 🙂

Kids and Transitions

kenjcaputo —  July 29, 2016 — Leave a comment

It’s not uncommon to see kids come out of Pebble Park crying.

The reason?

They don’t want to leave.

When a child is enjoying what they’re doing, they don’t want to stop. Even if they’re going on to another fun activity, that’s in the future. They’re having fun right now. Why leave one fun thing for another? It’s an emotional reaction, not a rational one. No way are you going to be able to reason with them. When a child loses it leaving the park, all of the adults look at each other with a knowing, empathetic eye. Every parent has been there at some point, and it’s never fun.

We’ve been working on a strategy that seems to help, so I thought I’d pass it on.

It’s pretty simple. We give them time to get used to the idea of needing to move on to the next adventure, and frame their exit in a positive way. We do this in just a few simple steps:

  1. We get the child’s attention, have them do a “belly breath”, and let them know that they have a few more minutes before it’s time to leave, (several parents have given us a heads up when they are ready to leave so we can do this for them)
  2. After a couple of minutes, we ask them to say goodbye to their favorite thing or person from their visit. Sometimes it’s a friend, sometimes it’s team member, and other times it’s a toy or element they played on, like the yellow slide.
  3. As they leave, we have them point to or say the first thing they’re going to do on their next visit. This is key because it reminds them that they will be back.

To a child, it can feel like they’re leaving forever. We had a little girl say to her mom, “But I can’t leave, this is my home!” My personal favorite are the little ones who are so fast. The parent just finishes getting their shoes on and they sprint back into the park cackling wildly. Usually it becomes a race to see if they can get up into the playscape before the parent can dive in and hook an ankle before they’re out of reach.

While this certainly isn’t a magic cure, it does seem to help. Guess it’s the price we pay for providing our kids with such fun and engaging experiences!

Here is a training video explaining the process to our team. Feel free to check it out 🙂

 

What we really want is to bring value to the world.

This is so encouraging. Especially from the younger generations.

It all started with the Questers’ Way team. Our hiring process was a little unique. Applicants were asked to watch some videos that define our purpose, along with an explanation of the type of person we felt would be successful if they were to join our team. We asked them to email us, and tell us why they felt we would be a good fit for them, as well as how they could bring value to our guests and members.

The response was amazing. I ended up interviewing over seventy people in the weeks before we opened. I was in the mall so much that they put a sign with my name on the bench I would use for the interviews.

All of these applicants were attracted to the idea of being a part of something that would add value to the lives of others. It was amazing. Each neighborhood was represented. From food enthusiasts who wanted to promote the value of healthy eating, to high school students who wanted to bring smiles to kid’s faces in the park, every one of them got it. The idea of a place where they could grow and evolve while helping others do the same resonated deeply.

Over the first three months, this mindset had spilled over into our guests. One adult said to me “I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.” It was a fun conversation that had some interesting parallels to a chat I’d had with a twenty year old.

They both wanted to do more than just work. They wanted to contribute. The older guest (there have been several who have expressed this sentiment) had had enough of working in environments and for companies that had no real higher purpose, or pathway for contribution. It was just work that resulted in a paycheck. The wanted something more. Although the twenty year old lacked the actual job experience, they were already voicing the same thing. They were holding out to find a livelihood that would allow them to make a difference.

Things are little scary right now in the world. The events of the last few years have left us feeling shaken and vulnerable. It’s good to know that there are many of us who really want to serve a higher purpose that brings value to the world. We’re not going to hide. We’re going to step up, be our best self, and make a difference. One day at a time, one interaction at a time, we can bring a little light, and help restore a little balance.

Jim Collins, in his book “Great by Choice”, described a common quality that makes leaders great. On average, these leaders outperformed their peers by a multiple of ten, regardless of the industry or environment.

These “Level Five Leaders” all act on a commitment to a purpose that is greater than themselves. They put this purpose first, and serve it with both humility, sacrifice, and a fierce refusal to be anything less than their best every day.

We need Level Five Leaders, and every day I meet more and more people who are evolving into just that.

The fact that so many of us really want to bring value to the world give me hope.

And inspiration 🙂

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Want we really want is to improve our relationship to ourself and others.

I listened to two moms talk in amazement about how they had been in deep adult conversation for four hours while their kids played without once plugging in to a phone or electronic device.

I watched a family sit down for a meal in the cafe and then stay for an hour playing cards, maybe for the first time in a long time.

One mom described her day at the center: she watched her kids learn to dance, then they played until they were drenched while she got some work done in the cafe, and then they all made simple crafts together as a family.

I listened to so many guests talk about meaningful time invested in each other. They talked about unplugging and working out together, learning together, eating together, and playing together.

It’s almost like this collective sigh of relief at this break from our overly digitized daily routine. There really seems to be this growing shift back towards the value in actually being in the same place with another person and interacting without needing a message app or cell phone.

And then there’s the other half of the relationship equation:

A proud woman who doesn’t have any clothes that fit her because of all the weight she lost.

A family learning about macronutrients and healthy eating.

Kids proudly demonstrating a new skill they learned or sharing an art project they created.

Everywhere we look, people are not only working on themselves, but on how they feel about themselves. They’re engaging in self-reflection, improving their self-awareness, and consciously moving towards the best version of themselves.

Throughout the center, relationships are either forming, or strengthening.

It’s happening on the inside, and the outside.

It’s a beautiful thing to behold 🙂IMG_4140