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.

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

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

Seeing Double at Fairmont Hot Springs

It’s just a coincidence that my family’s two favorite hot springs destinations are both named Fairmont Hot Springs.

Both have comfortable, and affordable, lodges for their guests. Both have large, clean pools filled with soothing hot mineral water. Both are extremely family friendly. Your vacation needs are covered either way, so you only have to decide if you want to grab your passport or not.

One of them is in Western Montana, while the other is in British Columbia, Canada. Continue reading

Sharing Memories

I’ve been away for awhile, sharing memories with my wife and kids.

Last year I traveled to England for an 86-mile charity walk along the Hadrian’s Wall Path. It was quite successful, both for the charity and for me.

I made some awesome memories.

Then, I came home and agonized that my family did not share these memories. They could not know the thrill of following in the path of the Roman Centurions, of exploring ruined forts and castles, or of looking out over the windswept crags to imagine what life must have been like 2000 years ago.

Of course I told them about my week-long walk and the people and places I experienced, and they eagerly listened at first. But, after awhile, they were bored. They just couldn’t relate to my amazing adventure.

So, I decided to do something about that. Either I would keep my memories to myself, or I would find a way to share them for real.

You already know that I shared rather than shut up.

First chance we had, as school came to a close two weeks ago, we packed our bags and headed for England’s north country.

My family walked the wall!

No, not all 86 miles of it, but we covered nearly five. The best bits between Housesteads and Birdoswald Forts.

We also climbed to the top of St. Paul’s, wandered the streets of Carlisle, and visited the castle where the Harry Potter movies were filmed.

In short, my memories are now their memories. That’s just the way I like it.

You can certainly expect a few blog posts about our family adventures in Great Britain. Like our brush with Charles and Camilla, or my daughter helping us escape from a locked Tower of London.

In the meantime, however, we have school to finish up. The kids will have no problem coming up with topics for their next history paper.

The One and Only Snow Day

I realize that most of the world has been inundated with snow this winter, but here in North Idaho we’ve seen very little of it on the ground.

While it was nice to have the year off from shoveling the driveway and sliding around on the roads, we missed not having at least one decent snow day for having a bit of fun.

So, up to the higher altitudes we went on Saturday, seeking out the snow of Schweitzer Mountain in Sandpoint, Idaho, for a day of tubing and snowball fights.

It was a beautiful day for hanging out with the kids. We didn’t let the blood-gushing head injury at the end put a damper on our fun.

From here, I will let the pictures (and a video) do the talking.

Schweitzer skiers look out over Lake Pend Oreille

Schweitzer Ski Resort

Ready for tubing!

Down the hill

Schweitzer Sunset

Schweitzer Sunset

Ending the day with an owie

Strange Changes

I’ve made some changes to the blog… First, I moved all of my blog rolls to their own pages. It’s getting more difficult to keep up with all the parenting blogs that are coming and going.

Second, I installed Google Reader’s post-sharing feature. It’s over there on the right, down below the AllPosters ad. I labeled it as “Phil’s Friends”… Basically, whenever I see an interesting post among the 140 or so blogs I subscribe to through Google Reader, I can “share” that post and it will appear in the box to the right. A very cool new feature from Google!

I’ve also been fiddling with my FTP features. If the blog is all messed up, someone will let me know… right?

In parenting news, we’re going furniture shopping this weekend to buy my daughter a bed. She’s been on a twin mattress on top a simple metal frame, but we talked with her about getting some kind of girly four-poster type of bed that she could be proud of and feel good about sleeping in all night.