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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

The Full Suburban: When the carnival life becomes your home life

Cousin Dallin, Henry, Emmett and Hyrum Ditto show off a portion of their “carnival” – directly in front of the entrance to the kitchen.  (Courtesy of Julia Ditto)
By Julia Ditto For The Spokesman-Review

If you could see my house at the very moment I’m writing this, you might be induced to weep as I have been. The waning days of summer have brought out a bit of a creative streak in my youngest sons, and they, along with a cousin who is visiting for a few days, have been busy creating an indoor “carnival” throughout the main level of our house.

Messy and concentrated conveniently in the middle of our hallways and at the entrance to our kitchen, the carnival has turned into quite the cash cow, with the boys charging 25 cents per game (and no freebies, even for a mom who just handed you a cookie). Tips are optional but encouraged.

While chaotic, this creativity is delightful on a number of levels. The boys have been completely enraptured by the whole carnival experience for two days now, and it is heartwarming to see them so involved in something that doesn’t involve a device or a screen.

They have invented (mostly from cut-and-taped cardboard pieces and stray plastic cups) diversions for passing siblings or parents who have a quarter to spare: ring toss, ball toss, magnet toss, bowling and even a snack shack. Free of charge is a slide down the basement stairs on a couch cushion, which I tried before going to bed last night and really got the thrill of a lifetime.

Slightly less delightful is the mess that comes along with three little boys cutting up scrap pieces of cardboard for 24 hours in a row. There are cardboard bits, markers, papers and pieces of tape strewn and/or stuck literally all over the first level of my house.

If aliens landed here right now with big plans to take over the earth, they would take one look at what was going on at the Ditto house and turn right back around. “Not worth it,” they would say as they sped off to conquer a different, tidier planet.

I’m blaming this big-picture carnival atmosphere on my husband who – although a mild-mannered dentist – did in fact work one summer in high school as a carnie (or “annoyingly loud carnival worker”). He’s never really grown out of it.

If you’ve been reading this column for a while, you know that Logan is Captain Fun; if there’s a way to do something bigger and crazier than the average person would do it, he will take that bull by the horns.

A couple weeks ago, we hosted his company barbecue in our yard. When the party was first in the planning stages, he approached me with his Big Idea: “I want to make a 50-foot waterslide down our front hill,” he said, his eyes glinting like a kid getting on his first roller coaster.

“All I’d need to do is run some thick plastic sheeting down the hill and then arrange some hay bales at the bottom to form a pool and then line everything with plastic. And I guess I need to come up with some kind of hose-spraying contraption that provides a constant stream of water going down the slide …”

I stared at him in disbelief. “And when are you going to find the time to create this masterpiece?” I asked him. “You’re, like, the busiest man alive. Now you’re talking about making a 50-foot waterslide with your bare hands?” “I mean, you guys can help,” he said. “And I’ve got the tractor.”

Ah yes, the tractor. Sometimes I wish he was less capable at literally everything because then he would never get these ideas into his head in the first place, and we could do normal-family things on a Saturday instead of spending four hours spreading two tons of hay into a horseshoe-shaped pool in our front yard.

But alas, he was undaunted. The waterslide was built. Fun was had by all. And now, the carnival continues. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t counting down the days until school starts again and I no longer have a waterslide in my front yard or a full-blown ring toss blocking the entrance to my kitchen.

But these chaotic days of summer have a certain charm to them that I’m a little sad to see go. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a carnie barking in my ear that the snack shack is open for business.

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