Yellowstone is the crown jewel of our National Park System. It was the first of its kind, and remains the most unique and diverse wilderness experience that you will find in this country.
It’s also an extremely cool place for kids.
But with almost 3500 square miles of lakes, geysers, canyons, and hot springs, there’s too much to see in one short stay. So, after four visits to Yellowstone, and consultation with my own children, I have compiled the following list of park sights and activities that will make your family trip an especially memorable one.
Ten Cool Things For Kids (and Grown-Ups) in Yellowstone National Park:
1. Dragon’s Mouth Spring
How can you resist telling your kids that a dragon lives in a cave near a mud volcano? It doesn’t take much imagination to think that this cavern, with its growls and thumps, and spitting steam, might just hold a real dragon.
2. Fishing Cone
It’s probably just a tall tale, but the story goes that the early trappers and explorers would catch fish in Yellowstone Lake, swing them directly into the Fishing Cone geyser just off shore, and have a meal of boiled fish in just minutes. “Hook and cook,” they called it. Like the dragon cave, another cool sight that will fire up the imagination.
3. Old Faithful Inn
What kid won’t love the largest log hotel in the world? Just walk inside the 100-year-old Inn’s lobby, with its four stories of lodgepole pine balconies and 500-ton stone fireplace, and your kids might just want to sit for awhile. Preferably in one of the many handmade wood rocking chairs. Better yet, stay in one of the Inn’s rooms. Prices are reasonable, and the food in the dining room is first-class. Continue reading →
Parents play so many roles, but one of the most important is that of protector.
I still remember the feeling that came over me when we brought our first child home. Driving away from the hospital, I was on full alert, ready to defend my newborn son with every ounce of my being. I had our car surrounded with a psychic force field the seven miles it took to reach the safety of our house.
Those early years were easy. My job as protector was mostly physical — making sure the house was baby proofed, or that my son didn’t get carried away by eagles. The perceived dangers were clear.
But as he got older and started learning about the world around him, suddenly things got complicated.
When he was three years old an airplane flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. My wife and I couldn’t help but watch TV coverage for days, but we didn’t encourage my son to absorb any of it. “Go play,” we’d tell him. I felt he just wasn’t old enough to think about this kind of evil.
You don’t sit a 3-year-old down and teach him about things like terrorism, rape, torture, and disease.
Eventually, though, they have to start understanding the harsh realities of life.
One of the saddest things about your children growing up is when they start to figure out that the world isn’t a blissful paradise with smiling people living on candy mountains.
I just want these feelings to come slowly. Step by gradual step.
When my son was nine, he took a big leap in his grasp of how cruel this world can be sometimes.
We were learning about Anne Frank, and how her family hid from the Nazis during the German occupation of the Netherlands. We read about the years of isolation, and then the betrayal and arrest of everyone in the hiding place.
At first, my son was mad that somebody had ratted them out. But then he asked me, “So what happened to Anne?”
I answered, “She was sent to a concentration camp.”
“And, she died there.”
He looked up at me suddenly, and I could see it in his eyes, this sort of angry bewilderment. It was like he was thinking, “What the hell is wrong with us that we do these things to each other?!”
He thought about it for a minute, and then the understanding dawned. Yes, this is, was, and always will be a cruel world. Bad things happen sometimes.
I think he really truly gets that now.
As his protector through the years, I’ve slowly guided him toward these moments of wisdom. Because of that, I think he’ll be better able to process the information and make good choices for himself.
But at the same time, I’ve given both my kids the chance to grow up with a foundation of hope and love, to know that the world is, first and foremost, a beautiful place with countless reasons to be happy and optimistic.
Even in our worst moments, I trust they will never forget that.
In just a few weeks, I will begin walking the 84-mile Hadrian’s Wall Path in Northern England, along with 11 other dads. We are raising money to open a new Camp Kesem chapter at the University of Maryland in honor of our friend Oren Miller, who passed away last year. Camp Kesem is a free summer camp for kids that have been impacted by a parent’s cancer.
At Kesem, each child is given a special name tag during their stay. I have seven of these blank tags to bring with me on our week-long hike. For each day of the hike, I would like to wear the name of someone you know who has battled cancer or is currently fighting cancer.
In order for me to wear the name, donate at least $100 through our dads4kesem.org fundraising site. Make sure you list in the comments the name you want me to wear, or send a message to me directly. I will take pictures and video during the hike while wearing the name tag, and will honor your loved one’s memory all that day.
Thanks for any donation you can make. It will be greatly appreciated by the kids who get to spend a week at Camp Kesem.
Becoming a new father changes you in ways that you could never imagine. When a baby is born, a dad is born. I underwent the transformation from dude to dad almost 18 years ago, and most of the changes have settled in, while a few still seem strange and new.
But change is a good thing and, when it comes to fatherhood, change is absolutely necessary. Just don’t be too surprised when you feel them coming on. It might happen the first time you hold your new baby, or when someone refers to you as “daddy,” or in the middle of a particularly messy diaper cleanup.
Just to help you out, here are five surprising ways that fatherhood has changed me.
1. Most bodily fluids no longer bother me. It might not have been during the first diaper change, but it certainly happened soon after. Babies poop a lot, and you just have to deal with it. Your brain quickly adapts to the mess by downgrading its perceived toxicity. What you once saw as a biohazard requiring a Level 4 containment system, you now view as nothing worse than rancid chocolate pudding.
Babies also throw up a lot, usually on your shoulder, hair, or face. Again, your brain takes over to calm you with the thought that the vomit isn’t too far removed from being food in a dish or breast. And, of course, babies are mucus-producing machines. You will be wiping your child’s nose for the next decade. Get used to it.
Blood? No, you never get used to seeing blood come out of your kid.
2. I’ve lost all control of my emotions. That’s right, once you become a father you are no longer in charge of being happy, sad, angry, confused, scared, and all the other myriad of emotions that you haven’t even discovered yet. Who’s in charge? Mostly your child. They will push your buttons in weird and wonderful ways. You will never see it coming, and you’ll have no idea how to make it stop. They will drag you through the day like a stuffed animal on a leash, completely in control of your various feels. One minute making you cry with pride, the next making you cry with fear. Oh, you’ll also laugh hysterically, bristle with anger, and pull out your hair in frustration, sometimes all in a manner of minutes. Your new baby is in charge of you now, and they won’t even realize it until their teenage years.
3. I know things I never thought I wanted to know. A huge part of fatherhood is introducing new interests and experiences to your kids. And I don’t mean wine tasting or skydiving, although those can certainly come later, much later, on. From day one of being a new dad, you want what’s best for your child. Suddenly, you have to know the nutritional value of baby food, how to change a diaper, and the effects of sleep deprivation. As they get older, you learn about children’s literature, kindie music, and why some poor animated kid named Caillou is so reviled. Before too long, you’re learning the difference between a tenor saxophone and an alto saxophone, and which type of earplugs works best for you. Without my kids, I might never know Lin-Manuel Miranda, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or Gerard Way, all of whom I follow with great interest now. My kids have given me an education greater and more varied than any college degree.
4. I’m broke. I knew children were expensive, I just never realized how much. At first there are all those necessary baby gadgets, like a stroller, crib, and high chair, but then you start filling your home with toys, stuffed animals, and Dr. Seuss books. Me, I got hooked on kids’ books, bringing them home new, used, and in between. My attitude was that books were an excellent investment for a child’s education, which they are, but a costly investment nonetheless. And then you have to feed and clothe your kids. And take them to the zoo. And out for ice cream. And to Disneyland. It never ends, and it’s never as cheap as you budget. So, in the end, despite the best possible financial planning, you’ll be broke.
5. I’ve become a neat freak. Everything must be in its place. That’s the “neat” part. But things are never in their place. That’s the “freak” part. Basically, fatherhood has brought out the part of me that needs order. I want my kids to be safe, free from worry and illness, and focused on personal growth. How can any of that happen in a messy house? I see dishes piled up in the kitchen and think, “There’s an incubator for disease.” I see toys strewn across the living room floor and think, “There’s a tripping hazard.” I find books stuffed onto a shelf upside down and turned around and think, “There’s a waste of knowledge.” The struggle against chaos began even before my first child was born, as I surveyed our home for dangers and baby-proofed everything I could find. Over the years, my pseudo-OCD has only grown worse. And it’s a losing battle, one in which I refuse to wave the white flag.
There are so many other ways in which fatherhood has changed me. Some were expected, some were not. All of them are a part of me now, for better or worse. A man who is not changed by becoming a dad is not much of a man. Diapers are not the only thing that need changing when a new baby comes into your life.
I’d like to thank Pampers for giving me reason to celebrate these changes, and the incredible feeling that goes along with being a dad. Fatherhood is the biggest, and best, role a man will ever take on in his life, and it’s important to recognize that. Whatever changes may come your way with becoming a dad, embrace them. You’re helping your baby have a better, more fulfilling life.
It’s been a long time since a stuffed animal has impressed me, and that’s going back at least 5 years when my daughter went through a significant Webkinz phase.
But the cutest little creature recently showed up on my doorstep.
His name is Flint. He’s missing an eye, has crooked horns and stubby feet, and sports a zipper for a mouth.
And he’s here to eat your worries.
Flint is one of the Worry Eaters, the colorful family of cuddly creatures that can help a child express their fears and concerns in a playful way.
Children are able to write or draw their worry and place it into Flint’s wide zippered mouth, so he can munch on it for awhile. It’s a great way to start a discussion with your kids about the things that are weighing on their mind. Even parents can get in on the act by sharing a worry or two and letting the Worry Eater hold on to it for awhile.
No matter how big or small the worry, it’s good to acknowledge that a problem exists. Giving their worry to a Worry Eater, and then sharing it with a parent or caregiver, is the first step that kids can take toward resolving conflicts and developing healthy coping skills.
Introduced by The Haywire Group, the Worry Eaters come in all colors, shapes, and sizes, guaranteed to be cute, cuddly, and very hungry. There are nearly two dozen to choose from, with names like Biff, Polli, Flamm, Saggo, and Pomm.
And choose you will, if you win my Worry Eater Giveaway!
Use the widget below to enter in several different ways. The winner will get to pick their very own Worry Eater to bring home. See the entire family of them here. All Worry Eaters are washable, either by hand or on machine gentle cycle, and made with quality soft velour. They don’t just eat worries, but they’re also pretty good snugglers.
No matter how big or small the worries, they are all important in the life of a child. Parents can help kids learn to manage stress and tackle everyday problems with ease using Worry Eaters as a tool.
Enter now, and I’ll pick a winner in about a week!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.