Do You Want To Build A Snow Fort?

IMG_5229Do you want to build a snowman?

Well, no, not really.

Actually, my kids would rather build a snow fort.

A huge, awesome, epic snow fort. Big enough to fend off an army of snow goons and abominable snowmen.

Some people view winter as a time to avoid outdoor activities. If they aren’t skiers, then they prefer to curl up next to a warm fire on a comfy couch, hibernating through the cold and snow until spring brings them out into the sun again.

That’s too bad, because winter can be filled with awesome family fun. It doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated, and it can even be right in your own backyard. Getting outside in the snow is a great time to make memories with your kids.

Especially the planning and construction of your very own snow fort.

Call it an igloo, or an ice palace, or a snow fort. Whatever it is, go beyond stacking up some snow, sticking a carrot in it, and calling it Frosty. Hey, building a snowman is fun, too, but an actual structure takes a lot more imagination. And, at the end, it becomes functional.

snow fort

My kids and I built this snow fort using a smooth plastic storage box to create blocks of tightly packed snow. We then stacked them up to about 4 feet, making parapets, windows, and secret doors along the way. They improvised as they built, and learned a few lessons about structural integrity. The nice thing about snow, you can change things up any time you want.

After a few hours, the kids had the idea to sleep in the fort that night, which they did, under a pile of quilts and blankets. I stayed out there with them, enjoying the warmth and comfort of our hand-built shelter.

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But as nice as it was, and as tough as I like to think I am, I would not have made it through the night without some help from Fisherman’s Friend, the strongest, most effective throat lozenge on the market. Originally formulated in 1865 for the deep-sea fishermen of Fleetwood, England, these extra strong, extra soothing lozenges are perfect for cough and cold relief. It’s exactly what you need to tough it out during the long winter months, when the cold wind seems to blow right down your throat every time you open your mouth.

I’ll never buy another brand of lozenge when I have a cough or cold. Fisherman’s Friend is the perfect all-natural menthol relief, available in cherry flavor and sugar free formula. They’re perfect for anyone over the age of 2 in need of instant relief of sore throats, coughs and congestion.

Whatever you do during the winter months, make sure you get outside. Build a snow fort! Okay, build a snowman too. Ski, snowshoe, dig tunnels, play disc golf, have a snowball fight. Just get outside and enjoy the snow. Carry a packet of Fisherman’s Friend lozenges and you’ll be tough enough to do anything.

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Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Fisherman’s Friend for this promotion.

Carry That Weight

“Carry me, daddy!”

My son, all of 5 years and 50 pounds, did a little dance in front of me, waving his arms in the air, insistent that I bend down and let him climb up onto my shoulders. It was a place of great comfort to him in his early years.

Daddy’s shoulders.

With his hands firmly clasped around my forehead as if to stay, “I’m steering now, I’m in charge.”

There was no better place to be than up on daddy’s shoulders, surveying the wonderful world from a place of majestic height.

And security. It was always safe up there on daddy’s shoulders.

That day, my son’s playful plea came while we were hiking a dusty trail on the top of Silver Mountain in North Idaho, where we’d come to ride the gondola and chairlifts during the warmth of summer. I didn’t tell him the place used to be called Jackass. He would never stop giggling.

We were over a mile into our hike, and my son had already walked and ran and skipped for hours. He’d even jumped in a bounce house back at the lodge. Now his little toddler legs were tired and it mattered not that mine were as well.

When I heard the words, “Carry me, daddy,” I gladly did as I was told.

I could never have imagined the sudden emotion of dread that came over me after he climbed up and settled into place.

An unwelcome voice quietly grunted from my subconscious, “He is too heavy now.”

Immediately, I knew that this was the last time I would carry my son on my shoulders. I just knew it. Even though you can’t always be aware of “lasts” with your kids, this one felt final because he was in the middle of a growth spurt and he had passed the point of no return as far as my muscles were concerned.

With each struggling step, I covered my grimaces with smiles. I wanted to remember all of this happy time. Would my son remember it too?

Here’s what I did not know: That I would never stop carrying my child.

When your children are newborn, so light and precious that you never want to put them down, you have no idea of the burden that is to come, and just how heavy it’s going to be. Nobody can truly warn you about it.

My son is a teenager now. Almost an adult. And, even though he has not sat atop my shoulders in a dozen years, I feel the weight of him there.

The weight of his worries and his fears. The weight of his struggles and accomplishments. The weight of his journey from adolescence into adulthood.

It’s monumentally heavy, and I feel every ounce of it.

You will say that it is not my weight to carry.

And you would be right.

But how does any parent not empathize with their children each and every day? So, yes, of course, I have that weight bearing down upon my shoulders just as sure as when my son was a toddler and he looked up to me to say, “Carry me, daddy!”

As he has moved through the teen years, dealing with all of the emotional and physical changes that come with them, I have watched him and felt almost paralyzed by the weight of his responsibilities.

My son doesn’t know why I am so tired. Why I stoop a little lower and move a little slower these days. He doesn’t know how much I work each and every day to keep my mouth shut so that he can figure things out for himself and carry the things that weigh him down without my help. Even though I’m feeling every painful step right along with him.

He thinks I’m just getting old.

I hope I’ve taught him well. I hope others have too. He’s very close to adulthood now, preparing to go away to college next year. Where, hopefully, he’ll develop brand new muscles to carry all of his burdens through life.

Even when he’s away from home, I’ll still get up each day and feel that heaviness that only a parent can know, and I will think of him. Maybe I’ll begin to feel lighter as he grows and changes on his own, and I am reassured that he can face life’s challenges with all the skill, strength, and confidence that I know he possesses.

I will always carry my son. I will always feel his weight upon my shoulders, for as long as I live. I’m used to it now. I like that it’s there, even on the days I wish I was free from the worries and strife that go along with parenthood.

Like gravity, it holds me to this world, the one that has defined me as a father over the past 18 years. There is a certain sense of comfort and security in it.

Without the weight of my children’s lives, I might just float away.

Family Vacation to Mt. St. Helens Volcano Monument

Mt St Helens

I will never forget that day in 1980 when a mountain in Southwestern Washington suddenly exploded with the force of several nuclear bombs. The deadliest volcanic event in U.S. history laid waste to hundreds of square miles around Mt. St. Helens.

It sounds like an unlikely destination for a family vacation. But, in fact, the Mt. St. Helens Volcanic Monument in Washington is an amazing place to spend a day with kids. From areas of utter devastation to hidden hollows teeming with new life, a trip to Mt. St. Helens will be both fascinating and educational.

====> Continue reading my article at TripAdvisor’s Family Vacation Critic blog.

The Power of Kindness

wind

I sat in the darkness of the living room, anxiously waiting for the roof of our house to be peeled away by the storm raging outside.

That night, we experienced the most destructive wind storm in our area for at least the past 100 years. Four people died, thousands of trees were split or uprooted, hundreds of buildings were damaged, and over a million people lost power.

No, our roof didn’t blow away. It sure sounded like it might. We only lost one tree in our backyard, a 20-foot Austrian Pine that was pushed over to a ridiculous 45-degree angle.

We were lucky. Many were not. Our power was back on within 8 hours, but other families in our town were told that they would be without it for days, even weeks. And this at a time when temperatures were dipping to below freezing at night.

At about this same time, my family was asked by KIND Snacks to seek out kindness in our community. It’s always been KIND’s mission to make the world a little kinder, and they now wanted our help in celebrating the art of being kind. We spotted the usual random acts of kindness all over town: donating food, holding doors for others, volunteering, drivers allowing other cars to pull in front of them. We found that kindness was all around us, working its magical powers in little ways.

But after that wind storm, suddenly kindness reared its beautiful head in a big, big way.

Everywhere in our community, people realized that their friends, neighbors, and even strangers were in need of some major and very specific acts of kindness. I saw groups of people rallying to deliver hot meals to those without power. I saw men with chainsaws offering to remove massive fallen trees from yards. I saw friends opening up their homes to those who needed a warm place to sleep for a few days.

Kindness is a beautiful thing. It enriches both the giver and the recipient. How can you not go through your day without naturally choosing to do the kind thing?

When KIND Snacks asked us to recognize kindness in our community, I had no idea that we would witness such an overwhelming number of people being compassionate and giving. I love that KIND has been on a mission since day one to inspire and celebrate just this sort of behavior. Time after time, this company has stepped up to lead by example. Just last summer, KIND donated 40 boxes of their snack bars to our local food bank, where they were much needed and appreciated.

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KIND continues to find new and fun ways to help spread kindness. Today, their #kindawesome campaign allows anyone to go online to recognize an act of kindness. Simply visit howkindofyou.com to nominate someone when you spot them doing a kind act.

As we saw in the aftermath of the wind storm, kindness has the power to ease a burden, brighten a day, and maybe even save a life. That’s the kind of power I want to help spread. If you have a story of kindness, big or small, that has affected you, I’d love to read it in the comments.

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and KIND Snacks for this promotion.

Photo courtesy of KREM-TV

The Afterschool Special Snack

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One of the greatest challenges of my years of parenting has been keeping up with my kids’ everchanging interests and moods. Their likes and dislikes seem to vary from week to week.

Especially when it comes to snacks.

Once upon a time, when my son was a toddler, a simple bag of baby carrots would keep him happy in between meals. As he grew older, his tastes became more complicated. And then simple. And then complicated. Continue reading

The Great American Tailgate

Tailgating at football games has always been a fun family activity for us.

27hs6we84mzwthm5rpg3For nearly twenty years, we’ve enjoyed the festivities at my alma mater, the University of Idaho, on sunny fall weekends in the perfect little college town of Moscow, Idaho. I’ve heard that the NFL version of tailgating is a tad more serious and mature, but I’m content hanging out with my fellow family-friendly alumni in the parking lot outside the Kibbie Dome. Continue reading

Let Your Kids Get Dirty

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Maytag. All opinions are 100% mine.

Muddy miles

Kids are filthy.

There’s just no getting around that fact. From toddlers to teens, your kids are going to find all sorts of different ways to dirty themselves up. Parents should be patient and remember that a little bit of dirt, or maybe a lot of it, isn’t going to hurt. In fact, getting dirty can be quite fun. Continue reading

Family Vacation to Spokane

SpokaneRadioFlyer

When you tell people you’re visiting Washington State, they usually conjure up images of majestic mountains, rugged coastlines, or the urban beauty of Seattle. Most people forget there’s an entire eastern half of the state that has a number of cool and unique places to visit.

On the far eastern edge of Washington is the city of Spokane, which is well worth exploring for a few days if you find yourself traveling on Interstate 90, and especially if you have kids, because Spokane (the “e” is silent, by the way) is a very kid-friendly town.

====> Continue reading my article at TripAdvisor’s Family Vacation Critic blog.

Heat and Kindness

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Everybody told me I would die out there.

A horrible, painful, melting death.

We here in North Idaho are not accustomed to day after day of 100+ degree temperatures, especially in June, when a freak snow flurry wouldn’t surprise most people.

There was no denying that it was unusually, blisteringly hot. But my family didn’t let the fear of spontaneous combustion stop us from going outside, because we had a promise to keep.

And miles to go to keep that promise. Continue reading

Family Vacation to Maui

Snorkeling in Maui

On our recent family vacation to Maui, I knew there was one thing I had to do for the very first time: Snorkel.

I had promised my kids, and myself, that this would be the year I finally get over my irrational fear of the ocean (thanks to repeated viewings of “Jaws”) by donning a mask, fins and a snorkel, and swimming right out into that deep blue water.

First thing I had to do, however, was find a good place for beginner snorkelers, where the water would be calm, clear and filled with ocean life.

====> Continue reading my article at TripAdvisor’s Family Vacation Critic blog.