Friday, April 4, 2014

Family Fun Day

Family fun days are not always full of family fun.  They are sometimes a kind of well-meaning torture. No sooner do you step out your front door than the whining starts -- someone needs the bathroom, someone's thirsty, someone accidentally put on shoes they outgrew two years ago.

The worst is when you realize you forgot your directions and/or tickets to some event on your desk.  The second worst is when you realize after you've hit cruising speed on the highway you forgot to put your youngest in the car and she is still standing in the driveway.

(never done that but came damn close)

I've taken to a lot of teeth grinding when we all go out for family fun days.  It's an overwhelming challenge to keep everyone in the same place and get everyone happy at the same time.  More than once I've become a manic-eyed Clark Griswold -- "This is a QUEST, a QUEST for FUN" -- as I've shuttled my family members from one area of the city to another.

Sometimes there are parks involved

 Sometimes carousels

Sometimes the overcrowded treehouse playground at REI, where you can hunker down at the adjacent World Wraps and dull your family fun anxiety with a Black-n-Blue smoothie. 

All that to say -- I'm pleased to announce we have finally found a winner for family fun day.  It's a family fun activity that is actually fun.  It's the only thing we've ever tried that has won enthusiastic, joyful approval from all members.

Boing boing boing

Boing boing boing

Trampolines.  Ridiculous, yes, but magical.  When adults jump on trampolines, it instantly erases years from their person.  They get giddy, and have way more fun than their kids, and it's about time.

If you're not into jumping around aimlessly and prefer a little more structure to your trampoline experience, perhaps you would enjoy trampoline dodgeball.  It's like reliving the horror of junior high dodgeball except you're bouncing all over the place and can't control your body and look like a total spaz -- actually yeah, just like junior high dodgeball. 

The above game was dads vs. kids.  The dads smoked 'em because kids are small and can't throw very well.  A kid would give a wildly inaccurate throw, it would land ten feet from its intended target and the dad would respond by pointing and laughing at them for a minute before BOOM, beaming one right back at their face.  It may seem heartless but everyone knows there's no compassion in dodgeball.

Lucien dragged Coco onto the court with him for the savagely fought "big kids" game.  Coco's no dummy.  She knew what to do --

Here's hoping trampolines never lose their novelty so I don't have to go to the aquarium or the science center or, god forbid, the library ever again.

I've recently started going to a co-working site to work on my Paris book.  It's impossible for me to write a book at home.  The lure of the laundry, or the home repair projects, or the snack cabinet is too great.  There were many times I sat down to write but then jumped back up to lip-synch some rad tunes into a large spoon.  I am prone to procrastination when I'm afraid of something so I guess writing that book scares me very much.

I needed some accountability in the form of other bodies.  Not that those bodies would stand over me and hit me with sticks if I didn't write, but more they would notice if I sat there and stared at my laptop screen doing nothing.  Then they would probably think, "She's the dumbest writer ever because she never writes anything" and I don't want people to think I'm a dumb writer so I would write a ton out of fear of judgment.

The co-working movement, if you haven't heard, is about having a place to go for people who work from home.  It's a way to combat the loneliness of working alone and to rid oneself of the distractions of home.  Instead of puttering around getting nothing done at home, participants in the co-working community gather in a place, each focused on their own pursuit, and get nothing done together.

I was nervous walking in my first day not knowing anyone.  I may or may not have given myself a few pacing pep talks before getting into the car.  It's hard to put oneself out there, walk alone into what you assume is a well established community, and beg them to love and accept you. 

I reassured myself that if I walked in the front door and realized it wasn't my scene, I could backtrack silently, cover my eyes and walk slowly backwards putting my feet in exactly the same places they had been when I walked in, and nobody would ever know.  Or perhaps they would all be sitting there and clearly see me doing that and think I was a lunatic but who cares, I'd be gone. 

There was no need for nerves.  The co-workers at my site are pathologically friendly.  Now that I'm settling in nicely, being in a co-working space is much like having regular co-workers.  We all work silently, heads down, the only sound in the room the "tap tap" of laptop keys until suddenly someone stifles a giggle.  Moments later the rest of us receive an email because a fellow co-worker has found something delightful on the internet they need to share right away.  That's how I came to have "Vladimir Putin Gay Dress-Up" in my inbox. 

The stream of people I've met at co-working are super Seattleish -- artists and software people and web designers and writers and not-for-profit idealists.   One guy has a science-themed radio show.  One guy works for the Beacon Hill Food Forest  (The Beacon Hill food forest is an urban public food forest -- if you want an apple, just take an apple!)  He also partakes in drum circles, which I imagine is obligatory for young Seattle men who work in public food forests.

One woman is an artist and has painted kids room murals depicting children in pink capes flying over Mount Rainier and the Space Needle.  One woman is a writer and community organizer and was one of the driving forces behind the "Hopscotch CD" event we took part in last summer.  Very few of these people have children so I'm a bit of of a foreign specimen.  When I pack up and leave shortly after noon because I have to get Coco at preschool, I am met with puzzled looks.  Most of them have just recently rolled out of bed, you see.  They nod thoughtfully when I explain about the kidfolk and now call me "The A.M. shift."

Lucien's karate class discussed their word of the month, "kindness," this week.  The teacher asked, "How do you show kindness to others?" and one little boy raised his hand and said, "I guess if somebody had hypothermia, I would probably help them, I guess."

Karate: shaping the leaders of tomorrow!

Boing boing boing,


  1. wowee...a trampoline...I want to go to there.

    so glad you are working on the book...your comment posse is very proud.

    1. Thanks, Debbie, I'm feeling good, feeling strong. I will write the damn thing just as soon as I'm finished dressing up Vladimir Putin all fancy-like...

    2. Yes, proud posse!:)

      Can't wait to read the book!:) This is gonna be so great:) Ahhhhh such virtual vicarious memories to cherish:)

      There is no way you could dress Putin that wouldn't give me the creeps. The man is a nasty piece of work. Ewwwww.

      Unlike you, I have been very good at not procrastinating and staying on track on the essay-writing front since the end of the Spring semester:) I have only one essay to go (for which I started research today) in legal theory/philosophy (don't ask…). Hoping to have wrapped it all up by COB on 13 April so I can have a few days off before I head to Brussels on 17 April for conjugal visit number two of the year in Jolly Old!:)) Can't wait! When I think of a terrace and cold cider or beer, I start to speak in tongues! Better stop here and keep all that crazy inspiration for natural law theory:)

      Bye gals!:)

    3. Hi MJ, New to your blog, very fun to read. I found you because I was planning a trip to Paris and have stayed for your wonderful writing and approach to life.
      I can so relate to family fun days being an exercise in futility, went through the same with our sons. (They are 21 and 16 now so past aquarium or trampoline days)
      Sharing with you how I solved the "everyone unhappy" unfun days. We used this strategy mostly when we were on vacation, but it could work for the days you want family time.
      The entire family agreed each of us would get a chance to be the family fun day leader. On that day, the leader got to make all the choices; what we did, when we went, how long we stayed and what and where we ate. All of the rest of us were not allowed to spoil the fun by complaining because that would not be fun for the leader. We could ask nicely or suggest (do you want to go see what's over there?) but no-one could pout, complain or make the leader feel bad. When my boys were very young, I would offer 2-3 options as choices since they would not always know what the options were. When older I asked them to research and pick out what they wanted to do. (gave them a budget instead) It was incredibly empowering for all of us, the leader felt special and accommodated (and they actually learned to pay attention to other peoples needs because not all outings were great and they were responsible)
      For me it was empowering to relax and be in the moment, many great outings I just needed tobe open to spending 2 hours at one spot of the aquarium because my son was fascinated with it. We still do this with vacations, each person gets one day to plan, it's a nice way to learn your young adults interests and activities.
      Hope this gives you some ideas to adapt for your family! Best wishes on the book!

  2. Duchesse! I'm not quite sure what you said up there but it sounds like you're getting your sh*t done, so huzzah to that!

    1. It's the 'speaking in tongues' thing, but you've got the gist:)

  3. Loved your post today but could not really focus once I read the words I have been waiting are writing a book!!!! I will be first to preorder and also give as gifts. I predict best seller in your future! Kathy in Iowa

  4. Thanks, Kathy and Lora. Thanks much. It's gonna happen, it's gonna happen...

  5. Go MJ! Can't wait!! I work from home often (I am doing it right now) and you are my version of lip-synching into a spoon. PS - is there a full moon in the karate picture (one of the super scary black-clad kiddos) or am I hallucinating?