Follow us on Twitter or Facebook

Now available

Click image for amazon.com link

FAMILY GAMES FOR THE GREAT RECESSION

The bad times may be over, but the good times aren’t going to return any time soon.

For many of us, that’s troubling. But it can also be inspiring – especially when it comes to finding appropriate ways to spend quality time with family.

Kick The Can(didate)

Family members divide up into two groups: Democrats and Republicans. Democrats try to prevent Republicans from kicking the can, just like in the classic childhood game, but have to put on blinders and argue among themselves, making it very easy for a lone Republican to come out of nowhere and kick the can.

Alternately, family members don’t divide up into Democrats and Republicans at all, but just play as a single group of Democrats who work against each other to both kick the can and prevent the can from being kicked, turning the whole game into an ugly, shameless, ultimately un-winnable waste of time.

Liar’s Dice, The Wall Street Edition

In the traditional game, players roll a handful of dice and then try to lie about how many 1’s, 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, 5’s and 6’s they have. If one player doesn’t believe another, he or she says “liar.” If the accused is actually lying, he or she loses a die; if the accused is telling the truth, the accuser loses a die.

The game continues until there’s only one player left.

This version is played the exact same way, except that whenever a player lies and loses a die, he or she gets to replace it with one provided by the Treasury Department for as long as the government has adequate dice reserves, or can borrow dice from China.

Tea Party

The point of this game is to pretend to spontaneously gather around an imaginary table drinking imaginary tea from imaginary cups until the media believes it’s real, and then form a grassroots special interest group to force everybody to move to the right.

Duck Duck Goose

Each player pretends to be a homeowner and sits in a circle with the other homeowners. One player – representing a soon-to-reset adjustable rate mortgage, crushing equity line, further decline in housing prices, prolonged period of unemployment or other form of bad luck – walks around and taps each of them on the head, saying “Duck… Duck… Duck…”

This goes on for an inordinately long time, with all the anxious homeowners hoping the bad luck will just go away.

It doesn’t.

When bad luck finally says “goose,” the player he or she just tapped sits there quietly in a complete state of denial, then wanders off leaving an empty spot in the circle.

This goes on for an inordinately long time, too, until even the remaining homeowners are too depressed to continue.

What’s my party line?

Throw a blanket over your TV set and then randomly tune it to Fox News, CNN or MSNBC and see if you can tell what party’s talking points the supposedly non-partisan/independent/”fair and balanced” experts are secretly touting.

I Spy

Just like regular “I Spy,” only with the more apropos subjects: “I Spy, with my little eye, something that begins with F… a foreclosed house.” Or “I Spy, with my little eye, something that begins with O… a one-term president.”

The Telephony Game

Start with any of the promises Banks made when they needed to be bailed out – to take fewer risks, not put profits first, learn from their mistakes, help homeowners modify bad loans, etc. – and play the telephone game to see if any of these phrases end up making any sense at all.

Pin The Tail (Of Blame) On The Donkey

Much like ‘08s most popular game, “Pin The Tail on The Elephant,” this one substitutes a donkey and uses a much, much bigger tail.

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Big, Bad Wolf

Players divide into three teams, and then each team builds a house.

The first uses straw, which represents a “no-doc” loan, the second uses wood, which represents a zero-down, adjustable-rate mortgage, and the third uses brick, which represents a 30-year fixed-mortgage with 20% down that will never, ever cause problems.

They then wait for the Big Bad Wolf to huff and puff and try to blow their houses down.

Obama Limbo

How low can President Obama’s approval rating go? Put on “The Limbo Song” and see.

Republican Hokey Pokey

You put your right foot in, and then instead of putting your left foot in, you put your right foot in even farther unless you want the Tea Baggers to knock you over.

Ghost in The Graveyard Shift

Similar to the classic childhood game, except when word gets out you’re playing, 10,000 people show up.

(To see family games from last year, click here.)

MEMO TO SCHOOL PARENTS

TO: PARENTS

FROM: YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT

RE: 2009/2010

Greetings.

As we kick off the new school year, we thought it necessary to take a few moments to discuss some of the challenges we’re facing this year. As many of you know, the economy is still struggling and we have been hit particularly hard by state budget cuts.

Again — wasn’t Obama supposed to have fixed everything by now?

As a result, we have undertaken a series of steps to deal with this unfortunate situation, and ask for your understanding in this difficult time.

The first and most obvious change is a slight reduction in the total number of days school will be in session this year. In addition to usual holidays, we will also be observing Halloween, All Saints’ Day (in a non-denominational way), Dia De Los Muertos, Guy Fawkes Day, the Winter Solstice, The Great American Smoke Out, Pearl Harbor Day, World Religion Day (again, in a non-denominational way), The Day The Music Died Day, Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, Good Samaritan Day, The Ides of March, St. Patrick’s Day, April Fools’ and Arbor Day.

We had planned to observe Cinco De Mayo as well, but since the last day of class will now be April 15th, school will already be closed.

Our vacation schedule is undergoing some adjustments as well: Thanksgiving Break will now go through the end of the November, Winter Break will last until the day after Martin Luther Kind Day, and Spring Break will be March.

We will also be closing the school February 16-20 to give all parents a chance to take part in — depending on your situation — either a “Take Your Child to Work Week” or a series of field trips to The Unemployment Office, Health & Human Services, and various shelters and soup-kitchens.

We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause, but would like to point out that because these additional closure days will be unpaid, all teachers and administrators will be available for babysitting at the standard rate of $9/hr if your child is well-behaved, $25/hr. if he or she is not.

(If you’re not sure which category your kid falls into, ask the principal or one of the teachers to check the secret “trouble-maker” list in the office, or ask your child directly — though if talking to your child is not something you normally do, just go ahead and assume you’ll be paying the higher rate.)

In addition to schedule changes, we have also been forced to make adjustments to what we call “non-core classes,” or what most students refer to as “fun.”

Where we used to offer music class and after-school guitar, violin, flute and coronet lessons, we will now just have an iPod filled with classical music in the library that students can check out.

Art class will continue, thanks to the generous corporate support of Exxon, but will consist solely of students painting pictures of happy animals frolicking among oil derricks and pipelines in a global-warming-free world. And not with pastels or water-colors, either, but only oils.

The biggest change will be to shop class, which will be mandatory for all students, and will focus exclusively on offering them practical, hands-on experience, beginning with re-tarring the gymnasium roof, which was supposed to be paid for with federal stimulus funds, except the governor rejected them.

In light of all this, we are also revising our official “Back to School” supplies list to include the following:

  • Work gloves
  • Hard hat
  • Safety goggles
  • Notarized liability waiver

We have also changed the required quantities of the selected items.

Instead of:

  • 1 roll of tape

Students will now be required to bring:

  • 10 rolls of tape so the old torn-up text books that were pulled from the incinerator just before they were scheduled to be burned can be taped up and used for one more year

Instead of:

  • 2 oz. bottle of Whiteout

Students will now be required to bring:

  • 120 oz. bottle of Whiteout to correct any outdated information in the above-mentioned text books such as references to the 48 states, the U.S.S.R., American economic dominance or The Great Depression — not because this type of information is incorrect, but because we don’t want students reading about it and freaking out that it still might happen again

Given increasing concern about Swine Flu, we also recommend each student bring:

  • Medical-grade hand sanitizer
  • Rubber gloves
  • A hospital mask or filtered respirator

And where in past years we have discouraged students from brining an apple for their teacher out of food-safety concerns, we now not only encourage it, but suggest canned goods, cereal, grains and shelf-stable dairy products as well, as their pay has recently been involuntarily de-raised by 20%.

We appreciate your understanding and ask that any parents who are able should join us next Tuesday for a bake sale, where we’ll be offering a wide variety of donated cookies, cakes and pies all starting at $172.50 each.

Signed,

Your School District

P.S. We are also looking for unpaid volunteers, specifically five parents who just happen to have teaching certificates and can commit to spending five days a week from 9:00 am to 3:15 pm with between 20 and 30 students for the rest of the year.

HOW TO EXPLAIN THE ECONOMIC CRISIS TO YOUR KIDS

KID: Are you sick?
PARENT: No.
KID: Then why do you look like you’re gonna throw-up?
PARENT: The President is talking about the economic crisis again.
KID: What’s an economic crisis?
PARENT: Well… Basically, it’s when everybody in the country suddenly realizes they’re fucked.
KID: GASP! You said a bad word.
PARENT: I’m sorry.
KID: You’re not supposed to say bad words.
PARENT: You’re right. Even with a situation as bad as this, I shouldn’t swear.
KID: Why is the situation so bad, anyway?
PARENT: The cost of living is going up. Real wages are going down. People’s houses are worth less than they owe on them. Nobody can get credit any more. We can’t seem to find a way to use less energy. And now the experts are saying the very foundation upon which our entire economy is based is cracked at best, and may actually be broken beyond repair.
KID: Wow. We are fucked.
PARENT: Now you said a bad word.
KID: Sorry. Do I have to wash my mouth out with soap now?
PARENT: No, but only because we can’t afford any.

REALISTIC NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

  • To go to the gym three days a week for two weeks, then once a week for the next three to five weeks, then three time a week for a week or two, then twice a week for one week before stopping entirely and resolving to resolve to go to the gym more next year.
  • To go on a diet until something happens to necessitate a massive intake of comfort food that will lead to the slow, steady return of the bad eating habits that become entrenched in 2009.
  • To talk about going on vacation someplace new and different, but then go to the same place as last year and the year before and the year before that because it’s easy and cheap and who needs the stress and uncertainty of a big trip anyway?
  • To buy a lot of books about getting organized, but never have time to read them, let alone utilize any of their tips and suggestions.
  • To spend more quality time with the kids, but only when its convenient and/or they’re not being needy, loud, destructive, insolent or pouty, which is probably never.
  • To be greener, but only in ways that don’t involve hardship, self-sacrifice or extra work because, let’s face it, the environment is important but there’s just too much going on right now.
  • To try to cope with the stress of modern life in a productive way, but eventually give up and just over-eat, drink an extra glass of wine or two each night, and take a variety of prescription medications.
  • To save more and spend less, unless there’s a really great sale.
  • To be anxious about the economy, health and well-being, work, family, marriage, saving for college and the future, but hopefully not all at once unless there’s a bottle of wine handy.
  • To come home after a difficult day at work and yell at the kids for no apparent reason, but then feel more guilty about it than normal.
  • To tell the kids again and again to “be careful” and then not be completely surprised when they aren’t and must be rushed to the emergency room for stitches and/or a cast.
  • To worry less about what other people think, unless those other people are the neighbors, selected co-workers or somebody we want to impress.
  • To find meaning and purpose in life, but then forget what it is thanks to chronic sleep deprivation, the never-ending demands of work and our household’s perpetual state of chaos.
  • To maintain a positive mental state, even though it still looks like we’re all screwed.

OBSERVATIONS ON THE DMV

  • Even if you are the first person in line, first thing in the morning, you will end up waiting an hour and a half.
  • Anything that can be screwed up will be screwed up.
  • Just because you are half-blind, senile, psychotic or drunk doesn’t mean you can’t renew your license — though if you’re half-blind you’ll have to take the vision test.
  • The fact that you’re supposed to take a number when you walk in only confuses the people in front of you who never learned to count.
  • Instructions are in Albanian, Arabic, Bosnian, Cambodian, Chinese, English, Farsi, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Korean, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somalian, Spanish, Turkish, Thai and Vietnamese, but stupidity seems to be the same in any language.
  • If your car gets stolen, it is likely the person who stole it is waiting in line in front of you.
  • Saying you “work at the DMV” is kind of misleading – a more accurate description would be to say you “do as little work as you possibly can so you don’t get fired from the DMV.”
  • No matter how fat you are, there will be a woman ahead of you who weighs at least 100 pounds more than you do. (This may be the one positive thing about the DMV.)
  • One couple waiting in line will get into a huge, screaming argument.
  • One couple waiting in line will dry hump each other until a DMV employee asks them to stop.
  • Somebody will video this couple and post it on Youtube.
  • If you think a set of instructions are so simple even a moron could follow them, the moron in line in front of you will prove you wrong, and require up to 25 minutes of redundant, repetitive picture-based explanation before he or she realizes you can’t just take the driver’s test and get a license, you must actually pass it first.
  • If you accidentally marked “A” even though you know the answer is “None of the above,” you still have to re-take the test.
  • If the fee is $25 and you only have $23, you are $2 short no matter how many times you say “Please” or “Couldn’t you just cut me a little slack?”
  • Even if there are 50 open seats, somebody will sit down right next to you.
  • The person who sits down next to you will make you consider leaving and coming back tomorrow, even if you have already waited two hours and are next in line.

TOO DEPRESSED TO PLAY WITH YOUR KIDS?

Don’t let the credit crisis, the housing slump, gas prices, global warming, the cost of groceries, layoffs or the generally sad state of world affairs stop you from enjoying quality time with your kids.

Instead, let these troubles inspire you with the following games:

Mortgage, Mortgage, Who’s Got The Mortgage?

Kids sit in a circle with their fists closed, pretending to hold a button, which in this case represents a mortgage. As you go around the circle, everybody says “Mortgage, mortgage, who’s got the mortgage?” and then whoever’s turn it is says “Billy has the mortgage.” Billy must then open his fist to show everybody if he has the button/mortgage or not. The joke, of course, is that he doesn’t. In fact, nobody does, because credit is still so tight nobody can get one.

Stock Market Limbo

How low can it go? There’s one way to find out: put on “The Limbo Song” and see if you can make it under without collapsing.

Time Travelers

Take an imaginary trip to the future without leaving home. Just unplug the air conditioner, shut off the water main, and set the thermostat as high as it will go. The first person to pass out from heat stroke loses, the last one standing gets a half-glass of dirty water and a chance to play “An Inconvenient Truth: The Home Edition.”

The Crumbling Infrastructure Game

Just like “London Bridge is Falling Down,” only substitute something local.

U.N. Election Monitor

Help ensure the spread of democracy with this variation on “Kick The Can.” Select one U.N. Election Monitor, then divide everyone else up into two groups: voters and henchmen. While you turn your back and pretend every- thing is going really, really well, “voters” try to run up and kick the can before “henchmen” stop them.

Magic 81/4 – Ball

Buy? Sell? Forget your broker’s “opinion” and just ask the Magic 81/4 – Ball. It couldn’t be any worse.

Filibusted

Pretend you’re Congress and you’re trying to do something to re-ignite the economy, only you get so bogged down in partisanship you just stand around calling each other names.

The Coupon Game

What kid doesn’t like to cut things out? Here, you put yours to work helping you find enough coupons to make up the difference between what you make and what you spend. (While technically not a game, it would probably be helpful. Plus, you can give your kids bonus points if they find any coupons that are good for discounted liquor or anti-depressants.)

Chinese Toy Russian Roulette

Toxic? Non-toxic? Line up the toys and use a home lead-test to find out.

THE ABC'S OF UNEMPLOYMENT

A is for “anxious,”
or why you’re awake.
cause B is for “boss”
with a decision to make.

C is for “cut-backs.”
Oh, when will they end?
Is D for “Depression,”
where no one can spend?

E is “economy,”
ours seems to be toast.
F is “You’re fired!”
the phrase you fear most.

G is for “Google,”
where you search for a job.
Joining H as in “horde,”
the great job-seeking mob.

I is not you,
but the “infinite” masses,
who flood all the “J-O-B” boards,
’til they’re slow like molasses.

401K was your net,
but it’s taken a hit,
meaning L is for “loss,”
why you don’t have shit.

M is for “Me!?!?!?!
I’m supposed to be blessed!

But N is for “No!”
You’re as screwed as the rest.

O is for “out of,”
what your luck seems to be.
And P? That’s “percent”
unemployed: 9.3.

Q is the “question:”
“What do we do now?”
“How do we “Recover”
from a financial KA-POW!

S is the “stimulus,”
which didn’t do squat,
T is the “Treasury,”
and the Main Street they forgot.

U is the “upside.”
But what could it be?
Making friends at unemployment?
Watching too much “TV?”

W‘s for the “worry”
that’s become all-consuming.
And X is “Rx’s”
The anti-depressant biz? Booming.

In the end there’s just Y,
your unspoken plea,
repeated each night,
in the absense of “Zzzz


ECONOMIC CRISIS SURVEY

01. The U.S. Economy is in the worst shape since:
’82.
’73.
The Great Depression.
I don’t know – what’s worse than The Great Depression?
02. Because of the economic crisis I have reduced my household spending:
15% across the board.
To the point where it doesn’t exceed my income. (Who’d of thought that would be so hard, huh?)
Entirely - I don’t have any household expenses because I lost my house.
Not at all. (Thank you pre-Bailout Wall Street bonus!)
03. My home is now worth:
More than what I originally paid for it, but nowhere near as much as I owe in home equity lines.
Half what my mortgage broker swore it would be worth when I bought it two years ago using an adjustable rate interest-only loan that I am just now finding out he got a huge fee for talking me into.
It’s the bank’s problem now, so who cares?
04. If I had to describe my outlook for the economy in one word it would be:
Bad.
Badder.
Baddest.
As George W. Bush might say “Badderest.”
05. The best way to fix the economy is:
The House version of the stimulus plan.
The Senate version of the stimulus plan.
Get a loan from Bill Gates.
Make everybody on Wall Street who got a bonus over the last five years give it back.
Hold a really big bake sale and hope everybody in China feels guilty enough about selling us all those tainted products to buy 1 billion $800 brownies.
Pray.
06. I think the government is doing everything it can to fix the economy:
Which is why I think the best course of action is to be optimistic and wait for the turnaround.
Which is why I’m truly frightened.
Or I would think that if I wasn’t numbing myself with prescription anti-depressants and alcohol.
Who are we kidding? The government?!?!? The government got us into this mess in the first place with all that “ownership society” bullshit, lobbyist-written bills, de-regulation and quid pro quo campaign contributions. If the government was trying not to fix the economy then maybe we’d have a chance, otherwise forget it.
07. The one person I think is most likely to fix the economy is:
President Obama, which almost certainly guarantees that every Republican on Capitol Hill will try to stop him.
John McCain, but he didn’t get elected.
Bernie Madoff (which sounds crazy until you realize this is the guy who ran a $50 billion ponzi scheme for 30 years before he got caught, and if he could do the same thing with the $50 trillion U.S. economy, why the hell not? The rest of the world already blames us, so why not take even more of their money and have some fun.)
My 4-year-old son - ’cause his generation will be the ones who actually have to pay off whatever deficit we run up now.
08. If I had the last 8 years to do over I would:
Have bought a lot more property on thin, shaky, questionable credit but sold it all at the end of ’05.
Taken the cash from my home equity line and stashed it in the mattress instead of buying flat screen HDTVs for my bathrooms.
Have bought a big, huge, gas-guzzling Hummer in ’01 because then I would have been able to drive it for a few years without everyone looking at my like I’m single-handedly warming the planet with every mile I drive.
Shorted A.I.G., the Big Three auto makers, Lehman Brothers and WaMu.
Enjoyed it while it lasted.
09. The most important lesson I’ve learned from the economic crisis is:
Spend less, save more.
If it seems to good to be true it probably is.
Greed makes everybody stupid, especially people who live in Washington D.C.
Nothing. (Sad, I know, but at least I’m being honest.)
10. If things don’t turnaround in the next few months I’m:
Moving back in with my parents.
11. Ultimately I blame:
Wall Street.
Main Street for thinking it could make money like Wall Street.
Poor government regulation of banks, mortgage brokers, hedge funds, the securities industry and itself.
George W. Bush.
Bill Clinton (who really didn’t have anything to do with the mess we’re in now but is still my scapegoat of choice for everything liberal).
Sarah Palin (who definitely didn’t have anything to do with the mess we’re in now but is still my scapegoat of choice for everything conservative).
Barack Obama (and if not now, surely by this summer).
My spouse for talking us into buying a house I knew we couldn’t afford.
My parents (because I wouldn’t be going through this hell if I wasn’t ever born).
Myself, even though it’s hard to admit.
God.
All of the above.
12. If I get through this without losing everything, I plan to take to heart the lessons I’ve learned and devote my life to:
Doing something that makes society as a whole a better place.
Finding work I feel is personally satisfying rather than just financially rewarding.
Finding better work-life balance.
Any of the above, but only after I’ve paid off the credit cards I’ve been living on, which will probably take decades.

HOW CAN YOU LOSE A HOUSE?

KID: How can you lose a house?
PARENT: What?
KID: How can you lose something as big as a house?
PARENT: No, you can’t really lose a house. When people say that they don’t mean “lose” like when you lose your shoes or a DVD case, they mean they’re going to have to give the house back to the bank.
KID: Why does the bank get it?
PARENT: Well… when people buy a house, they go to a bank and borrow the money they need to pay for it.
KID: Oh.
PARENT: So even though they live in the house, it’s technically “owned” by the bank until they pay the money back.
KID: Did we borrow money to pay for our house?
PARENT: Yes.
KID: So then it’s technically “owned” by the bank, too, until we pay them back?
PARENT: It is.
KID: Awesome. Do we have any orange paint?
PARENT: Why?
KID: ‘cause even though Mom won’t let me paint my room orange, I bet the bank would since that’s one of their colors.

FORECLOSURE ETIQUETTE

  1. No gloating.
  2. If you must ridicule your neighbors for being stupid enough to get an adjustable rate mortgage, do so in private.
  3. And before you do ridicule your neighbors in private for being stupid enough to get an adjustable rate mortgage, check your own mortgage to make sure you didn’t do the exact same thing.
  4. Keep in mind that while neighbors should try to help each other out in times of trouble, this does not mean you should offer to buy their almost-new home theater set-up for 10 cents on the dollar. (Unless they are moving out of the area, in which case, go for it.)
  5. To get back any tools, toys or lawn furniture you’ve loaned them, take the indirect approach. Start by saying, “Oh, say, did we ever return that lawn aerator we borrowed? We should both probably check our garages, just to make sure nothing gets left behind.”
  6. Don’t drop off a tuna casserole. They are not infirmed.
  7. Do bring liquor.
  8. If you’re so inclined, pray (for them, not that the same thing won’t happen to you).
  9. If your kids ask you why the neighbors are losing their house, just say “They’re not losing their house – it’s right there where it’s always been.” And then tell them to get ready for bed before they ask a lot of questions that even the world’s foremost economists couldn’t fully explain.
  10. If anyone from outside the neighborhood asks what happened, lie and tell them the neighbors are trading up, relocating for business, downsizing and moving to a small town in Ohio, getting divorced, etc. – anything but the fact they’re being foreclosed on, as that information could have a negative effect on property values.
  11. Always remember that it could just as easily have been you.
  12. And still might be.

HOW MUCH DO KIDS REALLY COST?

It’s been estimated that the hourly cost to parents for raising a child from birth through age 18 is $1.58. Whether this is shocking or pleasantly surprising depends on individual circumstances, but it certainly is useful, allowing parents to calculate – down to the penny – how many hours their kids will need to work around the house or in some illegal, downtown sweatshop to pay for themselves.*

For comparison, other hourly costs:

-$125
therapy
-$2.86
-$14.21
camp
-$12.00
babysitter (licensed, adult)
-$6.00
babysitter (irresponsible teenager)
-$0.00
babysitter (grandparent)
-$5.35
going to see a movie (excluding trailers, waiting in line, $300 for popcorn and two drinks)
-$38.51
going to see a Bon Jovi concert
-$200 – $600
criminal defense attorney specializing in juvenile offenses
-$0.37
-$7,400,000
-$2100
-$9.50
-$14.85

*When calculating, please keep in mind that in most states parents can legally take any money their kids earn until age 18, which is especially good news for parents who pimp their kids out to Hollywood , because if they wind up with the next Hannah Montana they could enjoy a substantial return on their $1.58 per hour “investment.”