Mapping Monopoly

monopoly_carAs much as the classic game Monopoly was a perennial favorite at family gatherings when I was a kid (and I look forward to the day when my son is old enough to start learning to play) I have to admit that I never gave even a moment’s thought to the properties arranged around the board. They were just abstract things that you needed to own plenty of if you wanted a chance at winning the game.

I suppose that way down deep, I might’ve had some vague notion that the Monopoly squares were named after actual locations but I never had any notion of where that was or what those locations might really look like. Well sure enough, the properties up for grabs in the game are indeed named after real locales in and around Atlantic City, New Jersey and Nick Carr at Scouting NY recently paid a visit to those sites represented on the Monopoly board and showcased the images from his trip.

Now that I’ve seen some of the real locations that correspond with the places on the board, it gives the game a little different perspective on those deeds you buy and leverage in the game. Knowing about the Absecon Light lighthouse makes Vermont Avenue that much more appealing. And here’s a glimpse of the real version of the highly-coveted Park Place:

The real Park Place from Monopoly

Does seeing the real locations that the Monopoly properties are based on give the game a different feel for you? Does this make you wanna dust off the old classic and play it again?

Soccer 2013

This year Liam played soccer for the first time. The jury is still out on whether he liked it enough to play again. I enjoyed it much more than T-Ball because it is faster paced and the season ends just as our temperatures start hitting triple digits! Yesterday was the final game for the season and the kids were very excited about getting trophies. Liam is so proud that he carries his trophy all around the house with him.

Liam’s 7th Birthday

We celebrated Liam’s highly-anticipated 7th birthday this year by doing something different and having his birthday party at a private gymnastics facility. We thought it was an original idea but now it seems like everyone else is doing the same thing this year. It’s a welcome relief from the jumper/arcade/pizza parties and I sure do prefer the private parties to being mixed in with the crowds at the public facilities.

Liam’s chosen theme for this year’s party was Batman, which made it pretty easy for us to put together. Instead of the traditional 1/2 sheet cake, we did a cupcake cake (a bunch of cupcakes iced together to look like a cake). I made the mistake of not asking what color the icing was going to be so we ended up with lots of blue faces at the end of the party. Note to self: only do white icing from now on!

The kids (and a few of the adults) had lots of fun jumping on the trampolines, walking the balance beams and tumbling on the mats. It’s definitely something I would do again!

I can’t believe my baby is now 7 years old. The last 5 years have just flown by so quickly that I know I’m going to wake up one of these days with a teenager on my hands and I’m just not ready for that! Until then, here is my sweet baby boy having fun at his birthday party.

Liam jumping off of the balance beam
Liam on a trampoline
Batman cupcake cake

No Trouble At All

Trouble board gameRemember the old board game Trouble with the “pop-o-matic” die-rolling bubble in the middle?

Dede bought Liam this game for his birthday back in April and we’ve been playing a couple or three times per week as time permits.

Initially of course, he moved his pegs (painfully) slowly around the board, stopping at every hole and often losing count. It was all new to him, so his plays were random and not goal-oriented. Honestly, it was a bit of a chore to get through a game.

But now…

Now, he jumps his pegs in increments around the board rather than 1 hole at a time. He’s always looking ahead to what his next optimal dice roll should be to land on another player’s peg, and putting some genuine critical thought into which piece is the best to move depending on each roll of the die. And of course, he’s talking trash to intimidate the other players along the way!

Sure, we’ve always been big believers in playing analog (not electronic) games and encouraging tactile activities, so ok, maybe this is nothing truly miraculous and shouldn’t come as such a great surprise to me, but it’s just such an unexpected thrill when you actually see firsthand how much this has boosted his math and decision-making skills. You can practically see synapses forming, his dexterity improving, and of course, the big confidence boost he gets when he wins.

All that, from playing a simple little board game. Genius!

There may not necessarily be anything wrong with digital games—Liam sure loves to play Angry Birds and Cut the Rope on the iPad—but I believe huddling around the table, playing a physical board game has to potential to be so much more enriching. It’s a shared experience with all sorts of social, practical, and cognitive lessons lurking just out of sight. It’s fascinating to watch as your child develops new skills and masters new concepts. And it’s just fun!

This makes me nostalgic for the days when all of us cousins would play board games at Pampaw or Uncle Truett’s during holidays. And it reminds me of Rich schooling me on Monopoly.

So, now it’s your turn… Are there board games that you’d recommend for those with young children? What were some of your all-time favorite board games?

T-Ball

We live in the sports haven of Texas. For those of you that have seen the movie or TV show Friday Night Lights, that was our school and the city where we live. Rob & I catch a lot of grief from our friends for not being sports fanatics. It’s been a great concern to many of them that our child be raised proper and put into sports at an early age so that he will one day achieve greatness by being chosen to play the ultimate of all sports, football. I say whatever to that!

I’m lucky to have a husband that isn’t all about sports. We are of the same mindset in that we want Liam to find his own way and will encourage him to try anything that interests him. So far, he has taken swim lessons and gymnastics classes. This month we enrolled him in the YMCA T-Ball program. The YMCA program is non-competitive and they don’t even keep score at the games. All the kids get to play and it’s just about learning some basics and having fun. Sitting out in the heat for practice isn’t my favorite things to do, but it was all worth it yesterday seeing him play in his first T-Ball game.

It’s hilarious to watch because the kids are clueless on what to do. Once they finally hit the ball, they usually forget to drop the bat and they have no idea where first base is. I was actually quite amazed at how well they did at their first game compared to their practices. I guess something just sort of clicks when they play another team.

Getting ready for the big game

It's a hit!

Taking his job at first base serious

I’m not sure if baseball will be his “thing” in the future but for now he seems to like it and has made a friend or two which is always good.

Snoopy vs. Red Baron Redux

Snoopy WWI Flying Ace postage stampIf you know anything at all about me, you know that I love Snoopy.   So you can imagine how jazzed I was to learn about the eye-popping upcoming videogame Snoopy WWI Flying Ace. *

Autumn always rekindles fond memories of the great old Peanuts animated holiday "specials" we always watched as kids.   Snoopy’s heroic World War I fighter waged aerial battle and crossed imaginary wartime France as a downed pilot in Charles Shulz’s "It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" in October 1966.

Smart Bomb Interactive’s new game, scheduled for release in the 1st quarter of 2010 for all major consoles, once again pits Snoopy against Manfred von Richthofen, a.k.a. the Red Baron and the rest of those dastardly wartime Germans.   From the sneak preview trailer, it looks like they’ve certainly met their match!

If you can’t get enough of the Flying Ace, there’s even a Snoopy Flying Ace USB hub for your desktop.   Just plug the hub into your PC’s USB port and watch Snoopy & his faithful Sopwith Camel come alive!

And though you’ve probably seen it countless times, just how well do you know "It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown?"

* Okay, never mind that we don’t even own a game console — I can still get excited about a game, right?   Maybe this will push us over the edge?
 

Monopoly Trivia Answered

A few days ago I asked the Monopoly trivia question:   What’s the formal name of the game’s mustached mascot.   Bob made a good guess, but no cigar.

Rich Uncle Milburn Pennybags” first appeared in 1936.   It’s believed that the character is at least partially based on legendary capitalist & financier J.P. Morgan.   He was officially rechristened “Mr. Monopoly” by Hasbro in 1999.

By the way, the sad fellow behind bars is “Jake the Jailbird” and “Officer Edgar Mallory” is the cop who patrols the “Go To Jail” square.
 

Monopoly Madness

Rich Uncle Milburn Pennybags a.k.a. Mr. MonopolyIt seems that the drive for immediate gratification has corrupted yet another element of my childhood. Maybe I’m just a nostalgic atavist, but when I learned (from Dede) that the newest versions of Monopoly use plastic instead of paper money, I was crushed.

Yup, rather than shipping with traditional compliment of $15,140 in cash, Monopoly’s colorful paper currency has now been replaced with 5 shiny debit cards that you swipe in a digital reader when purchasing properties, paying rent, or making other transactions. That’s just disturbing.

Ok sure, it’s just a board game, but it always had an educational aspect as well. Monopoly was the first exposure most of us had to handling cash, investing in property, saving for improvements, negotiating power deals, entering into financial partnerships, and planning for future expenses—like making sure you’ve got enough money to weather the fiscal devastation should you fail to successfully hopscotch through your brother’s “Hotel Row” via Community Chest, Luxury Tax, or one of those blasted railroads.

So, do you feel that debit cards ruin the classic game or does the electronic angle give a tired old game a compelling new twist? Post a comment and let us know what your take is on this!

Related Trivia: Extra bonus points to whoever can correctly give the formal name of Monopoly’s mustached mascot. (No fair Googling the answer!)

Update: Discover the answer to the Monopoly trivia question!