Today is a guest interview with one of the most fun couples I know: Crystal and AJ Martin!
From navigating time changes with littles, to puddle jumping, to marking special milestones and throwing parties, these guys know how to infuse fun into family life.
But why does this matter?
Think about the last time you had a good laugh.
What did it do to you?
When was the last time you had a good belly laugh. Ever laughed so hard that you cried?
Fun does something to you. Laughter does something to you.
I’m guilty of undervaluing fun for the sake of productivity.
Accomplishment. Perfection. I’m not proud of that, but I think it’s true. Anyone with me?
Sometimes I think fun doesn’t “accomplish” anything so I end up forgetting about it… right?
Fun accomplishes some of the most meaningful aspects of the human experience. Laughter has even been proven to make us happier and healthier – and who doesn’t want that? (Here’s a little “the science of laughter” 101 if you’re skeptical 🙂 )
On a really personal level, what happens when we have fun?
When we’re having fun, we’re more present.
When we’re having fun, we relax. Let our guard down.
When we’re having fun, we connect with and enjoy the people around us.
It probably doesn’t really take a lot of convincing to say that fun is an important part of healthy family life. Yet, we can get so caught up in the projects and the lists and the cleaning and the errands and the work and the schedule that… fun just gets squeezed out.
Which is why I’m so happy to talk to Crystal and AJ about this! Follow them on Instagram for 10 seconds and you’ll see why.
They’ve got two busy boys under the age of 5, they both work full-time, they volunteer for causes close to their heart, and they’re a couple of the best people around.
AJ and Crystal know how to have fun! And how to infuse fun into their family rhythms.
I’m excited to spread the fun here!
In a nutshell, what does an average week look like in your family?
Weekdays are the usual whirlwind – school/work/daycare, make dinner, bedtime and a couple hours of adult time that could include chores, Netflix, games night or one of us out at a personal activity.
Saturdays are for some sort of family fun – pretty much always something out of the house because we are a bit stir crazy by Saturday. Sunday is church, afternoon naps and lower key playtime at home.
What would you say having fun together as a family or a couple does for your family?
Super honest answer? It reminds us that we like each other. Because we really do, but the details and responsibilities of everyday life don’t always leave a lot of room to appreciate the people you live with.
When we take some time to have fun together, in small ways or big, we are reminded that we are meant to enjoy our spouse, enjoy our kids, not just survive life with them.
Does fun come as naturally to you as it looks? Or do you have to be intentional about it?
It’s definitely intentional. It’s so easy to get caught up in the to do list that the people around me can become another thing to check off my list.
Sometimes being intentional means planning something fun to do on a Saturday and sometimes it means letting your son help you make dinner even though it takes twice as long because it makes him feel important and helpful.
It means looking for opportunities to be in the moment, to adjust your plans and expectations and to see the world from your kids’ point of view.
Who is the master fun-maker in your house? 🙂
AJ gives a resounding “Crystal” and although I am usually the one to plan fun things for us to do and make a big deal about special occasions, AJ is so great at spontaneous fun. Impromptu wrestling matches or reading a book we’ve read a thousand times, but changing the story in a hilarious way. We are a good balance.
What are some simple ways you infuse fun into your daily rhythm?
Honestly, we don’t always do this.
Some days are just about getting stuff done and the kids go play in the playroom or basement. And I’m ok with that.
It’s good for them to not need to be entertained by us all the time. But we also try to be mindful of breaking from that efficiency like when it’s a beautiful day, deciding to have a late dinner and going for a bike ride together or playing ball hockey on the driveway with the boys.
Spending some extra time reading before bed it always welcome and is great quality time.
When you’re celebrating a milestone (think birthdays, starting school, losing a tooth, getting a new job) how do you decide how to make it fun?
I think it’s important not to feel like you have to do it all. Everything doesn’t have to be a big production.
For me, starting school is already exciting enough, so I do a sign for my son to hold with the date and grade and sometimes I buy a special after-school snack, but that’s about it. Others might do a special dinner or a sign when kids get off the bus, etc., and that’s great if they’re up for it.
When my best friend recently got a new job, I stopped by and left flowers for her and sent her a text with good wishes, but a text or call can be just as meaningful for people.
I often have to remind myself that I don’t HAVE to do something just because I see something wonderful on Facebook or Pinterest. (Oh Pinterest, the source of great joy and great guilt)
There are lots of small and memorable to make things special that don’t have to stress you out or make you feel like a bad parent.
For example, at our house, the birthday person always gets a donut for breakfast. We didn’t do it for my husband’s birthday one year and our kids made us go out and get one! I also discovered that my oldest son loves being part of the planning for things we do, so he helps choose the activities and plan the food, etc. It’s a nice thing for us to do together and he feels a sense of ownership and pride when he sees it come together.
Do you have any tips or tricks for making fun memories on holidays?
As I was thinking about answers for this blog, I thought about the memories of fun that have really stuck with us. And you know what? None of them are big holidays or birthday celebrations.
The fun memories that have really stuck with us are all smaller, intentional moments of time spent together. Yes, we have holiday traditions (an activity advent calendar at Christmas, Easter Egg hunts, etc), but many of those almost plan themselves.
Here are a few things that stand out in my mind as fun activities:
– Geocaching :: If you don’t know what this is, it’s basically a scavenger hunt that everyone can play. You download the Geocaching app (free!) and look up geocaches near you. The compass tells you the direction and distance to the next cache, which is a little tupperware box usually that someone has hidden. Some just have a sign in sheet, but some have toys and trinkets, which is super fun for kids. It’s a great way to get your kids on a hike without them realizing how far they’ve walked. We love it!
– Scavenger hunts :: this is my rainy day go to. Sometimes I print pictures of animals and number them and tape them around the house, but my favourite one is to take some playing cards and hide them around the house. Then, I take close-up pictures of them on my phone. The kids take the phone, look at the picture and go find the card, then they can swipe to the next photo. At the end, I hide some sort of food treat (that I was going to give them for snack anyway!). I also make my oldest son add, subtract or multiply the last two cards he picked up, just to get some learning in there.
– Wrestling with dad :: I have boys so they love this and it gets out some of their energy too.
– Eating dessert before dinner :: just for fun once in a while, they can’t believe we let them do it!
Date nights. How do you keep date nights fresh and fun?
With small kids, date nights are tough. We are lucky to have parents that live fairly close. My mom encourages us to plan a date night every month where she will babysit. Often that “once a month” is all we can make happen.
Both of us keep notes on our phone when we think of a date idea and we’ll look through those. Sometimes there’s a movie we really want to see, but we prefer activities where we’re able to talk. We both like sporting events like Blue Jays games, we’ve done dessert crawls where we’ll go to 3 different restaurants and get a dessert at each, paddle boarding or walking by the water, concerts or games night with another couple.
If you’re willing to do a little brainstorming, you can probably come up with lots of other ideas. Then, keep in a list and when date night comes around, you have lots of choices.
And don’t forget about at-home dates. We love game nights or dreaming about our next vacation or what we’d do with an extra $1,000.
AJ loves when I read out loud so we’ll read a book together, which is a surprisingly romantic activity.
Talk to the busy families out there – what would you say to us parents who’ve got so much on our plate, planning fun feels like “just another thing”?
Start a list of fun activity ideas. Little things that can be done anytime and pull it out once or twice a week…Make jello together, eat dessert before dinner, go for a walk, build a fort, play hide & seek, play a board game, bake.
Obviously, my list is for younger kids who are easier to entertain, but spend an evening looking up ideas for your particular age and add to the list as you think of things. Then the pressure is off.
Facebook events are also a great place to find things to do in your area and then you just get to show up!
And, I can’t say it enough, do what works for you and your schedule and your family’s interests.
Yes, you have to be intentional about adding fun and not getting distracted by life, but your fun doesn’t have to look like someone else’s.
LOVE this! Making little running lists of simple fun things to do is a fantastic idea!
I’m going to start that. 🙂
Thanks to AJ and Crystal for giving us a little window into your world and inspiring us to have more fun.
I’m thankful for the reminder that fun doesn’t have to be grand plans. Fun is also found in the simple moments of daily life when we slow down enough to make them meaningful.
How about you? How do you infuse fun into family life?