My parents always called it Fun Family Time Together, or, abbreviated, F2T2. And there was a LOT of F2T2 during my childhood years.
To be clear, anytime my mom pulled out the F2T2 Phrase in a voice pitched with forced enthusiasm, we knew we were about to enter FAMILY HELL.
Long trip on a rickety train with a questionable safety record through the Indonesian mountains, our mouths raging infernos from cripplingly spicy fried rice we didn’t know how to order “mild,” on our way to our new home where we weren’t at all sure we wanted to live?
“But kids!” my mom would say, “It’s Fun Family Time Together!”
Wildly boring road trip through three states to spend a week sharing a bed with my grandmother who was the nicest grandma in the whole world, and who always let me have peach pie and ice cream for breakfast, and who held six World Records in Exceeding the Snore Sound Barrier?
“It’s F2T2, Bethie!”
My parents even invented a hand signal for F2T2 – a sort of full-arm, stirring-the-soup-pot / let’s-bring-it-all-in-together motion. I invented a secret hand signal for F2T2, too; mine was more efficient, though, requiring just one finger and a flip of the wrist.
Well, here we are on Day One of Winter Break! Day One of 17 Days of Fun Family Time Together, relaxing and sleeping in and bonding and creating beautiful, indelible family memories, minus the relaxing and sleeping-in bits and a little heavier on the magical mess than the more traditional pristine beauty.
Our morning started with stunningly loud sibling screeching, is what I’m saying.
Winter Break is, of course, Not a Break. Except for teachers who feel they’ve done their part by being directly responsible for our kids for a mere 35 hours per week for the past 16 weeks, plus an additional 100 million hours of prep work, grading, conferences, I.E.P. meetings, late nights, early mornings, giving up their free time, etc., etc. and so forth. But is it enough that we heap teachers with unfathomable riches and piles of personal wealth? Nooooooo. We also give them time to be away from our kids. For a Break! As though they’ve earned it.
(Psst… my sarcasm is a cry for help… don’t leave me, teachers! I NEED you!)
And now, all of a sudden, I find I’m the mama in the Fun Family Time Together scenario. The mama making the angry kids hug it out. The mama set on brainwashing my offspring into believing, though my voice is tinged ever-so-slightly with hysteria, that this insanity of togetherness is AWESOME. The mama who – get this – actually believes it’s fun to be together. And that this is a privilege. And that the exhaustion is somehow worth it. And the mess is a symbol of life. And the struggle a symbol of love.
Which is, truly, entirely my parents’ fault and proof that F2T2 Brainwashing works.
I know it works because it was only three weekends ago that we celebrated Thanksgiving with my cousins. Five nights and four days of Family BLISS. Or, as I like to call it, the Dress Rehearsal for, OH MY WORD, WINTER BREAK IS COMING.
Every Thanksgiving since we’ve had kids, we celebrate at either my cousin Jen’s house or mine, driving north or south for hours and hours through the Pacific Northwest with tens of thousands of squirrely kids in our respective cars — none of whom ever have to pee at the same time. And then we have fun.
Real live fun.
With our family.
Which means we ought to never underestimate the power of mothers like mine who are determined to create families who love each other. Those mamas have mad skills.
So, from my family to yours, here’s wishing us all some very Fun Family Time Together.
And, P.S., in case you’re looking for some (actually) fun family activities to add to the usual fun like eating too much and sitting on the couch, here are three of my family’s tried and true ideas:
1. Host a Tasting: Cheese or Apples, Fair Trade Chocolate or Wine… the options are endless. Of course, some tastings are suitable for including children and some, HOORAY, aren’t. But if you’ve been looking to expand your family’s food horizons, this is a fun way to do it. You can have folks take notes or do research or vote on their favorites or you can just, you know, consume it.
This year, my dad hosted Scotch Tasting for the grown-ups.
He did an amazing job. Lots of research. Impeccably sourced liquors. Fact sheets. He was thorough.
Which worked out better for some people than it did for others.
My cousin Jen and me tasting the Islay Scotches.
2. Compete in Family Olympics
In addition to our other family sporting events (see below), this year we added Family Olympics. Now, please understand, although I love to run, exactly zero of these Olympics and sports activities are my idea. Ever. This idea belongs to my cousins, Leslie and Nathan. My ideas tend to center more around meal planning, meal eating, dessert planning and dessert eating, but I have to admit, even when I was faced with the skinny slide portion of the obstacle course and had to decide whether I could send first one of my legs down and then the other, since there was NO WAY both of my legs were going to fit at the same time, Family Olympics was a blast.
We began with the obstacle course at a playground, moved on to the relay event which included hugging balloons ’til they popped and rolling toilet paper along the floor with our noses, and followed up with measuring the capacity of each of our mouths (using water and spitting into a beaker) to decide who has the biggest mouth – an event for which I was the favorite but surprisingly didn’t win (GREG.)
3. Have an Annual Soccer Match or Family Fun Run
Hold your own 5K Family Fun Run. Or send everyone out for an annual family soccer match. If you’re like me, you’ll find an excuse every year to sit this one out and have ONE WHOLE BLESSED HOUR of F2T2 all to yourself. And that, my friends? Really is fun.
I invited the 5 Kids Blog advertisers (see the column to your right) to join me for 7 (and more!) days of giveaways. CHECK BACK for a NEW GIVEAWAY EVERY DAY.
Today, our friend Anne-Elizabeth of Humdinger Goods, a company that offers small batch culinary items, garden art and home goods, is giving away a beautiful Sweet Stuff Gift Basket containing:
1 bottle Tahitian Vanilla
1 jar infused Vanilla sugar
2 cookie cutters
1 Potluck spoon
1 Christmas ornament
Sugar cookie recipe
This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Jessica, winner of the Sweet Stuff basket. Jessica wrote, “I am trying to throw myself into the Fun family time together, i really am…hopefully we all come out unscathed on the other side!”
TO ENTER: Leave a comment on this blog post by 11:59pm (Pacific Time) on Monday, December 23rd. One entry per person, please. A winner will be selected using a random number generator and posted on Tuesday. This giveaway is open to international participants. International shipping provided by me.
Note: The 5 Kids Blog advertisers provided no additional compensation for these giveaways. Anne-Elizabeth of Humdinger Goods is paying for the cost of the giveaway and U.S. shipping. She paid me for her ad only, and this just seemed like a fun way to work together for your benefit. OK? OK.