The Nonchalantdad: Make your Own Cheap Fun

Economy got you down? Finding yourself a little worried about any number of things these days? Want to burn some energy and connect with your kids? Well, if you're anywhere where it's cold and you've got your fair share of snow.... why not build an igloo? Actually, my kids were so excited after seeing some of the pre-inaugural footage of soon-to-be President Obama that they wanted to go to Washington DC to be part of the festivities. Of course, this being out of the question for one reason or another, I announced to the kids that we'd build our own White House in case the President of the United States ever wanted to drop in and stay. We took advantage of the 6 or more inches of snow piled up here and there in our yard and chose our spot.

At first, the kids didn't quite get the full picture I had presented them. By the time I could gather snow and create the foundation my little girl wandered off back into the house to play and my son seemed to find more fun in throwing snow balls at the back of my head. But, I had the mantra 'YES WE CAN' playing in the back of my head and I wouldn't be deterred. Really, I just needed some fresh air and a moment away from the bills, but I also knew that once I could get the first few balls of snow laid out the magic would start to come. Pretty soon, I had enough of a foundation that my son started to use it as his base for a one-sided snowball fight against me while I shoveled snow and brought it over. Well, I soon put a stop to that little insurgency by coming behind him and dropping a whole shovel of snow on his head.

Now, we had something going on. My son soon grabbed his shovel and both of us start collecting snow at a faster pace. The walls were climbing on our White House. My son was getting more and more excited the more he could see the thing take shape. We would stop occasionally and discuss seriously how we'd formulate a stronger wall with him inside butressing the structure while I was on the outside laying the snow balls. Together we were building this thing.

Some three hours later.... yes, nothing like 3 hours straight of shoveling snow and carrying it over to the igloo, then bending to form snow balls of various size - my mind was well off the financial worries. Instead, I must admit, there was a point where it was on the fact that maybe, just maybe, I hadn't planned this thing out to well and that I wouldn't be able to get the snow (this fluffy white kind) to bend over far enough to create the ceiling. No worries, I thought, I would just go for a kind of tepee look, instead of the round kind. My son didn't care, by the time the walls reached his head he was fully into the idea. Soon enough, the time flew by and we had our finished igloo!

I must be honest. I wasn't sure how well the idea would go over. I just wanted to get myself and the kids outside for a bit. If you had told me that it would take a large portion of my front lawn to come up with all the snow it takes to build an igloo - and that for several hours my poor back would take a good kicking I might have decided otherwise. But, I didn't - and I'm glad I didn't. By the time that roof came bending over and the last snowballs met to form one big structure, my son and daughter (who came back out when she saw the final process) were loving it.

They both would crawl in it, lay down, come back outside and run around it - even climb over it (which certainly tested my amateur engineering skills). By nightfall, my son was outside with a flashlight: off and on, off and on, off and on. You couldn't ask for better. And you know what? It was totally free, totally natural, and some great time with the kids. Try it - you'll see what magic it can do. And who knows, make it strong enough and it might qualify for a rental property.....
In our case we decided to make it the White House - my kids ran inside and grabbed a flag... I guess that makes it official. And, oh yah.... no snow for you poor folks suffering out on the west coast - try making a huge sand castle. Same idea - same success I suspect!