make your own fun

someone recently said to me, “i hope you aren’t bored.” i replied that i’m never bored. which got me to thinking about it. and truly i’m never bored. but why?

i think that being an only child is a big factor. now, i know what you think about only children – that their parents cater to their every whim. i think that that’s one kind of only child, and i’m another – my parents mostly dug having me around when i was a kid but they also had their own lives, and they expected me to be able to entertain myself. some childhood highlights are writing and filming super-8 movies, endless scavenger hunts, and the “children’s craft fair” my friend tammy and i put on (with help from our families). i was fortunate to have a cool big backyard and to grow up somewhere where i could ride my bike and walk around by myself. i had lots of benevolent neighbors on my block, and the fabulous two strike park was just down the street.

also, as a former elementary school teacher and foster parent, i know that i should be prepared. i always have a book with me, and paper and a pen so i can write a letter. i often have my quiddler deck and a pad of madlibs in case there are other folks around to join me in my fun.

as an adult, i think that i continue to make steady progress in the making your own fun department. here are a few examples:

psychic greeting card

this game was invented with an ex while we were waiting for a flight at the portland airport. the gift shop had a rack of greeting cards. we separately went into the shop and picked a card from the rack, trying to intuit the card the other one would choose. we wrote notes on the cards and exchanged them.

now i play psychic greeting card with my friend molly. we choose a theme – the most recent one was “embarking on a new adventure” – and then on the same day we each go to a card store (she’s in california and i’m in oregon) and intuitively pick a card.

molly's most recent psychic greeting card is on my fridge.


i like to make bingo cards. when i’m in a frustrating situation, making a bingo card makes me feel better. i’ve made bingo cards for staff meetings, for a class i took with an especially awful instructor, and for many inservice trainings. yes, it’s passive-aggressive, but it’s a victimless crime. i have a reason to stay interested (i’m rooting for my coworker to say, “we tried that 30 years ago and it didn’t work” because that gives me 4 in a row) and i don’t revert to my default middle schooler mode of smartass. so really, everyone benefits.

you realize of course that you may never make a kriste bingo card.

bingo cards can also be used for good. my 3/4/5 grades class made bingo cards before we went on a hike – we brainstormed things we might see. yep, some kids figured out that they could arrange dirt, grass, a stick, and the sky, all in line with the free space, and more power to ’em. my friend zari and i once created a very complete game of “late show bingo” out of our love for david letterman. i found the cards when i cleaned out my file cabinet this spring. good times.

a lot of good stuff here, but "dave smells the guest" might be my favorite.


when i was teaching primary multiage, i had a student i’ll call pedro. pedro drew a picture of a dinosaur with someone in its mouth. he elbowed the kid next to him, pointed at the mouth, and said “that’s you.” the school leadership leaped into action. i was asked if we should fear violence from pedro. my response was something like, “yep. if pedro has a dinosaur, we’re in a lot of trouble.”

my coworkers and i decided that pedro had a good plan – drawing pictures of our enemies being eaten by dinosaurs was a pretty good way of relieving stress. melanie uses the technique during grading periods:

jaqui has used it as a frustration-management technique with her middle school students:

jaqui's dinosaur-inspired art.

i once enlisted another student’s help in drawing a picture of melanie.

i think that "wha! mommy" was a nice touch.

drinking games

drinking games are similar to bingo cards. in my twenties i made a drinking game for the tv soap “all my children” – i don’t think that i ever played it. the fun was in coming up with it. i enjoy saying, “we should make a drinking game for this” when confronted with frustrating situations. i’m making a drinking game about a frustrating meal that i regularly eat (the kids call that “vaguebooking”). this year i was at a high school graduation with my friend vickie, and during the reading of the names of the graduates we came up with a drinking game. we decided that you should drink when someone has only two names, or four or more names. laughing about it got us through this year, but i’ll come prepared if any of you invite me to a graduation ceremony next year.

make a shirt about it

i like to make iron-on t-shirts. i’ve been known to make a shirt with a quote about someone i’m frustrated with and wear it under the rest of my clothes when i have to interact with that person. i think that i feel a little like what clark kent feels like knowing that he has his superman duds on under his suit.

this is the best shirt i've ever made. velcro letters so i could change the first part. perfect for intimidating opponents.


having a cool name for whatever fun you’re making is important (see psychic greeting card above). my dear friends and childhood neighbors the charnows know this. michael’s hatred of celery has led to an annual party called celeryfest. madalaine had the idea to make an outdoor bowling alley. we came up with a name – the midnight bowlers – and made a portable bowling kit of 10 real pins, a bowling ball, and a long strip of astroturf for the lane. we’d load it up in the car and practice random acts of bowling.

scholars believe that these were the first midnight bowlers.

eventually there were several chapters of the midnight bowlers – “it’s always midnight somewhere.” michael gave madalaine a bowling-themed pinball machine. erin painted captain underpants on a bowling pin for me – it’s currently proudly displayed on my mantel. i sometimes bowl on sunday with friends – we call it the church of the ten pins.

oh. now i see why my grandma called my hair a rat's nest.

card games

when i taught 4th grade, i realized that i had a captive group to play card games with. i like the social skills that can be modeled and practiced during a good card game. and the shared experience of playing a game with a group of people. my two favorites are spoons and i doubt it (you might know it as b.s.).

"do we really have to play i doubt it again, ms. york?"

around that same time, i was developing a serious quiddler habit. quiddler is a card word game – kind of like scrabble but played in rounds and with letters on cards. it’s really, really a great game.

madalaine goes ultimate in quiddler.

now i’m loving apples to apples. if you ever see me with a group of 3 or more people, i’m probably thinking about how i can convince them to play apples to apples with me.

here are a few pros making their own fun:

i guess that the moral is that you can’t always depend on other people to make your fun for you. sometimes you have to make your own. and the more you practice, the better you’ll get.


6 responses to “make your own fun

  1. Kriste, so much great content here. I’m a life-time member of the Bored’s Not In My Vocabulary Club. I’m an only child, but one of *those* that aren’t like the others. I also believe far too many people take themselves, and life, far too seriously. Some comedian said once,
    “Life’s too long not to laugh. Life’s too short not to laugh.”

    {pick me} to join the Fun Party. I’ll bring my pom poms. Woo hoo!

    • you’re in charge of pom poms.

      i used to always say to my kids that i prefer that we do our job AND have fun, but if i had to only pick one i’d have to pick doing our job. we mostly got to do both, always my first choice.

      one of my favorite wise quotes is: “learn what is to be taken seriously and laugh at the rest.”

      thanks for reading my blog. and for commenting!

  2. “If Pedro has a dinosaur, we’re in a lot of trouble.” Yes, indeed.

    We liked to play a genetics game in European ‘places of note’ (museums, palaces, plazas containing statues of prominent people) called Spot the Hapsburg. It’s kind of like the ‘slugbug’ game, in which you shout “slugbug” or the color of said VW Beetle, followed with a shoulder punch. I don’t remember my brother and me punching each other when one or the other of us spotted the telltale hairlip or other Hapsburg characteristic, but we had largely moved on from the punching-each-other-out stage of sibling rivalry by that time. It was enough to one-up each other in a game that made us feel like brainy eggheads.

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