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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The Full Suburban: Ditto Fun Machine keeps our close family together

By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

A few weeks ago, after I wrote about surviving our final family ski trip of the season, a good family friend – a self-described homebody like myself – made a comment that was spot-on: “Being married to a Ditto has seriously got to be so exhausting,” he joked. “They are always going.”

Well, that is certainly the truth. I have barely begun putting away all the winter gear, and already there is talk of getting ready for waterski season, which, if you’re a Ditto, begins around mid-May. I cringed last weekend when I heard that one of my brothers-in-law was already de-winterizing his boat.

Like zombies stirring at the slightest sound, all the Dittos similarly began turning their thoughts to the lake, and I am left alone to yell, “Hey, how about a day just spent inside having a movie marathon? Sound good? Can anyone hear me???”

I like to think I’ve built up a resistance to getting rolled over by the Ditto Fun Machine, but it still takes my breath away sometimes. There are a lot of Dittos (15 adults and 34 grandkids), and they love to have fun.

They jump off cliffs, go skydiving on birthdays, hike for days on end, enjoy hourslong rounds of cards, play volleyball late into the night and wake up before sunrise for a game of basketball. If Elon Musk ever found some way to harness the energy that exists within the extended Ditto family, I am confident that he could quadruple the reach of his space program.

Then there’s the quirky way Dittos approach wedding receptions (and with seven kids, there have been a lot of them). When a Ditto gets married, a garden-variety wedding reception simply won’t do.

For some reason – I’m chalking it up to a tradition emanating from Canada, the homeland of my mother-in-law, Debbie – a Ditto reception is not complete without a full-blown talent show. We’re talking jazz dances, lip-synching, guitar solos, skits. There was even one reception where a Michael Jackson impersonator made an appearance.

Does it make any sense or follow some theme? No. Is it fun? Yes. So, we do it. I’ve been part of this family now for almost 20 years, and each time someone new has married into it, I’ve felt it my duty to help acclimate them to the Fun Machine.

Any time I see one of my new brother- or sisters-in-law getting a thousand-yard stare while waiting for everyone to gather for a meal, or load up into cars so we can head to a bowling alley, or just fall asleep for heaven’s sake so the adults can talk about something without being interrupted every 10 seconds by a bouncy ball being thrown through the room – I have wanted to lean over and whisper gently, “Just go limp. Let the Machine roll over you.”

Being a Ditto has its perks, of course. For one thing, we all just really love being around each other. There is no drama. In fact, as soon as I’m done typing this, I am packing a bag and heading out for a quick weekend retreat with Debbie and five of my sisters-in-law.

We all love being together, and I am looking forward to a few days of sleeping in, eating delicious food that we don’t have to cook ourselves and talking about kids, jobs and everything in between.

But perhaps the most endearing thing about being part of this family is the fact that if any Ditto needs help, every other Ditto will come running. “This is like a good old-fashioned barn raising,” my brother mused years ago when he was in town for a visit and witnessed the Dittos converging on my mother-in-law’s house to get it ready to sell.

The same treatment is given to Thanksgiving dinner, yard cleanup after a storm and replacing worn-out brake pads. Everything seems less daunting when you know you have an army on your side ready to come help the minute you need it.

Being married to a Ditto certainly can be exhausting in the way that marathons, childbirth and pie-eating competitions are exhausting: totally worth it 100%.

Julia Ditto shares her life with her husband, six children and a random menagerie of farm animals in Spokane Valley. She can be reached at dittojulia@gmail.com.

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