Monopoly House Rules

Not sure if anyone else caught the news last week: Hasbro is calling for submission of house rules that people typically institute when they play. In their press release they list a number of pretty common house rules that people play by – though I have to admit I’ve never played with most of those rules.

My family used to play board games during the summer months when we had a rainy day. I always loved Monopoly the most. I’m not really sure why, but I did tend to win it the most. (OK, I admit it – that’s exactly why I liked it the most). Who knows, maybe it was a good predictor of my turning into a landlord later in life?

When we learned to play we never read the instructions. We played on a set that had the remains of at least three old sets: plenty of cash with the same denomination having multiple shades (they tweaked the colors over time), duplicates of pieces and a handful of them missing, and a ton of houses and hotels. So it’s safe to say, we pretty much never played by the real rules. With our amped up bank holdings and property supply we tended to get into some long epic battles. We also never played by the rule to auction off properties not bought when landed upon. We could play Monopoly over the course of an entire rainy weekend and still not be done. For the record, I typically chose the cannon or shoe. We lost the top hat and race car, and sadly the cannon is no longer a standard piece.

Out of that list, we tried out the “See the Sights” rule where players must do a lap of the board once before buying – but that rules never stuck.  But our house rules tended to consist of Free Parking, Fast Cash and the Frozen Assets Rule. That taxes and fees collect int he middle of the board and get redeemed when landing on free parking; and that jailed players couldn’t collect rent, respectively.

Slate has an interesting take on the plans to move some house rules to become actual rules for Monopoly. They cite an economist who argues the freer money supply encouraged by many rules better mimics the real world economy and leads to a less conservative playing approach. If that’s the case, he would have loved our cash-a-palooza version cobbled together from multiple sets worth of money.

Any of you guys have your own odd take on the Monopoly rules?

Expecting

My son is now just shy of 15 months old. Two years ago, when my wife and I learned that she was pregnant, I was flooded by a number of emotions. We had both decided to try and we each wanted a family – but I can remember very clearly that the largest emotion I felt was stress. I didn’t need a monitor to tell me – I knew my blood pressure was through the roof. I took lots of walks to try and clear my head. It was obvious, and I couldn’t hide it from my wife. How do you fix a head filled with angst and anxiety about the unknown that lies ahead?

We had talked at length about having a baby – starting a family. I wanted it more than anything. In fact, that’s why my first marriage ended, after my ex-wife decided post-wedding that she no longer had any intentions to start a family. So why the heck was I so stressed?

Well, looking back, I can say it was just a monumentally scary thing to me. I would be responsible for another life, forever. Over time that stress level faded some and as we reached his birth the day-to-day, minute-to-minute business of taking care of him made those larger fears disappear. I was too busy changing diapers and trying to calm my little banshee to worry much about if I’d do a good job raising a good, self-sufficient man. I tend to worry and plan for the long-term, but the immediacy of the short-term crowded out those concerns.

And, even a year back I would have laughed hard when asked by family members if we intended to have another. Let’s face it – having a baby is like jumping into the deep end without ever learning to swim first. For months we were drowning in a sea of screams, burps and vomits. Our little man had a temper from the day he was born. It took him a while to adjust to life on the outside. I can admit he drove his parents to tears more than a few times.

And then we endured the fits and starts towards sleep. We expected the three hour shifts of feeding, changing and sleeping as a newborn. What we didn’t expect was the broken sleep to continue for quite so long. My wife and I traded off shifts, weary soldiers passing in the night. He’d suddenly sleep long stretches, sometimes even for 8 straight hours! Taunting us into thinking we’d made it through. And the next day he’d wake up every hour. He went through a period where he lost his pacifier every 15 minutes and wasn’t able to find or replace it himself. Those were some long nights.

At seven months, the skies cleared and suddenly he was happy, healthy and sleeping well. Our son, who had driven us to tears was suddenly the happiest, cutest, most adorable little boy we had ever seen. His temper turned out to be a small part of his strong passionate streak – he can get angry, certainly, but much more often he’s happy. Incredibly, adorably happy. Coming from two parents who aren stoic, it is amazing to see how he is just full of smiles and joy. And it’s contagious.

When he gets excited over a new toy he runs in place doing his “happy feet”. When he sees anyone he recognizes, or even any stranger who smiles at him? He flashes a gigantic smile, his round cheeks jutting out behind his pacifier. He chases our cats around, giggling at them and playing peek-a-boo through the pet door down to the basement. He has the most adorable, infectious laugh – and he loves me to wrestle with him and chase him around and tickle him. I cannot get enough of that laugh, it can wash away the stresses and problems of a thousand years’ worries. He is the love of our lives.

So, it is with tremendous happiness that my wife and I are announcing that we’re expecting another baby later this year. No long walks, no high blood pressure this time. I have my little man to chase and tickle to remind me that there’s no reason to worry. It may be difficult and it may take some time. But it will all be worth it and more.

Catching Up

Wow, long time no post, eh? Life got in the way, and once I stopped posting, it became hard to get back up and going. So let’s just jump right into it.

Over February, my wife, my son and myself flew down to Florida to see my parents. We stayed for a week down in their “deed-restricted” community. That’s fancy talk for saying it’s an old people community. The restrictions on the deeds are that owners must be 55 years or older. So it’s a quiet little neighborhood of retired folks living about an hour outside of Tampa. Not exactly the hustle and bustle or typical entertainment of a standard vacation – but my parents sorely missed their grandson, and we had never checked out their winter home. They bought it back a few years when the real estate market crashed and these little double-wides were available on the cheap. So now my parents are both officially snowbirds and officially living in an old folks’ community. It makes you feel old yourself.

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Burst Pipes, The Norovirus and the 2014 Grammys

I know this is a personal finance blog, so we should be talking about money. And frugality and saving and early retirement. That’s great, but top of mind today is this weekend – and well that wasn’t very money focused, but maybe we can find a pearl in there.

The Grammys

First, let’s talk about the Grammys. Did anyone watch all the way through? The entire reason I decided to watch was to see the Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl and Lindsey Buckingham collaboration. That’s right, a super group composed of the drummer from Nirvana, the singer from Nine Inch Nails, the guitarist from QOTSA and the guitarist from Fleetwood Mac. Awesome, right? Except, apparently the Grammys knew that everyone would want to see them so they had them close the show. At like midnight. I couldn’t hold out that long. My wife warned me I’d be mad if I had stayed up and watched like she did. (Why my wife is up at midnight watching TV in another room on a Sunday night is another topic. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.) Continue reading

…And a Sick New Year’s Too!

Yikes, we had one heck of a vacation. As regular readers already know, we had a sick baby over Christmas – leaving us with no sleep and lots of family parties to attend. And then on top of that our family car had the transmission go just a couple days later. This is actually the second car to have a busted transmission in the past few months (my winter beater, a 2002 Dodge Neon went back in September). Then my wife and I managed to come down with the cold our son had, and we went car shopping and took delivery of a new car on the day of a huge winter storm!

Needless to say, things didn’t go as planned.

Seeing as I espouse frugality and avoiding debt, the fact we bought a new car may strike you as odd. Or at least against the normal advice. And I agree partially, but I figured I’d go through the thought process here.

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First American Trappist Brewery!

Following on the heels of my recommendation to try out home brewing, there’s more beer related news: That’s right, America is getting it’s first Trappist brewery. I know, I know – 99% of you just don’t care.

Saint Joseph’s Abbey has been brewing up batches since October, but the availability of the beer is still TBD. You can check our their website in the meantime, or like them on Facebook.

This is the first Trappist brewery outside Europe, where there are eight of them – six in Belgium alone. I’m a fan of a good beer and they make some good ones: Achel, Chimay, La Trappe, Orval, Rochefort, Westvleteren, Westmalle and Stift Engelszell. So, naturally I’m excited there may be a closer alternative – which will hopefully mean cheaper prices.

And lastly some Chimay Fun Facts: I actually recall my first tasting of Chimay – I enjoyed it so much I wrote a note down in my phone to remember so I could grab some when I got home from visiting my cousin in Connecticut. I have also met a couple who named their Saint Bernard Chimay after the beer. They had a room full of beer steins finished in all wood to look like an old tavern from Europe.