In Episode 79 Wolf Pack, I shared our Christmas morning as the kids opened up their big gift.
The gift was an experience to the Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. They were so excited that day, but not nearly as awestruck as the actual trip. Upon leaving the resort in January, I promised the staff that I would share our trip over 3 quarterly posts in 2017. My intent was to give the Lodge free publicity for how awesome they were to our family. I mentioned Corey Muldoon in my prior article for how thorough he was during the sales process to hook us up with our room and rate. The service was even better in person. Corey continued to check on us throughout our stay. Even his manager, Melissa Onorato (Director of Sales and Catering), was complimentary and grateful. They really get it there at Great Wolf. People are important. Create an awesome & memorable experience for families and business will never lack. This culture starts with Melissa and funnels down through Corey and the entire staff.
Okay, let’s talk Dadnamics now! This first post-Great Wolf video captures the most notariable piece of the Lodge — The Water Park.
FUN BIT #1 We went with another family, which made the trip SO much more fun. I let the parents go on some water slides while I watched their two younger boys. My goal was to entertain them without moving (I was a little tired). Thus, I sat in the shallow section of wave pool, next to 3 water jets. Then, Dylan helped me name each water jet and we played a silly preschool game where “Bob” was not listening and had to go into “Time-Out”. Basically, he kept shooting me in the face. Dylan was cracking up, having a blast. Their 9-year old Nolan was even laughing at me (or with me, not sure).
FUN BIT #2 There are 7 large water slides in this particular Great Wolf. I had my 2 olders and the other families’ 2 olders for 30 minutes and decided to throw down the Challenge.
“Can we get down all 7 slides in under 30 minutes?!”
I was halfway up the first set of stairs when I figured out their answer. The clock was ticking. It was so much fun and it truly helped that the park was empty in early January. Our families are both home-schooled and self-employed, so it was easier to choose an off-peak time. By the 7th slide, we wondered how close it would be…
My son hit the beeper on his watch as we exited the raft of the final slide. “Dad, 24:58!”
Not only did we beat the 30-minute goal, but we beat 25 minutes!
FUN BIT #3 After our friends left, we stayed one more day on a promotion from (you guessed it) Corey Muldoon. That gave us one more 2-hour shift in the water park. We took full advantage and captured this video at the end. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you might call this “Aquamenti“. If not, it’s just a Great Wolf Splash!
The Erastus Corning Tower stands at 590 feet through 44 floors, which ranks it #1 in the state of New York outside of NYC. That’s saying something. The observation deck is inside with a 270 degree panoramic of the area. There’s no time limit or people waiting to nudge you back to the elevators. There is plenty of space and time. It was the perfect break to a fun-filled day of family learning as we saw a kid’s juggling science show in the morning and were on-route to a state capitol building tour in the afternoon.
But we didn’t consider one small detail as we embarked upward…
“Dad, I’ve got to go.”
“Where?” I said to my 5-year-old son.
I didn’t really need to ask as body language spoke volumes.
This observation deck also has restrooms! I offered the customary invitation to all the boys in our party and moments later, we were all in the bathroom relieving 590 feet of pressure. My 5-year-old was not so speedy. He had breakfast and lunch to resolve, thus I wasn’t going anywhere for a while. What could I do to pass the time?
As my oldest son and his friend were washing their hands (I was leaning against the back wall, waiting), I threw down the challenge!
“Alright, which of you two men (and they were 11 at the time) can do a pull-up!?” Directly in front of me was a wall mounted urinal and perfect pull-up bar above.
They weren’t sure if I was serious, so I demonstrated how to do a few pull-ups.
“That’s how it is done. They are called ‘pull-UPS’. If you can’t get your chin over the bar, it’s just a ‘pull’. Which of you can do a ‘pull-UP’?”
The gauntlet had been thrown down, 590 feet above the city! Could they overcome the pressure and thinning air? The video shows they were man-enough for the challenge.
Do you know what else the video shows?
That’s the irony of Dadnamics. I see it over and over again. We spent all day doing and seeing cool things, but what do they remember?
You already know that answer.
Trust me! These videos are not staged or planned. I never leave the house with the intention to “make a Dadnamics video“. I can’t! I’m not that good.
Think of it this way. Dadnamics has become a way of life. A habit. Creative ideas flow when I am WITH my kids. Thus, for the second week in a row, the best tip I can give you is to find more ways to be WITH your kids.
Can you do that? Of course you can! Just live your life.
Valentines Day is usually a last minute trip to CVS for chocolate and cards. It may even include a trip to the grocery store for $8 flowers. I knew this routine was pathetic, so I sought to change it with a Willy-Wonka-style creative gift. We live nearby Saratoga Springs, NY, where the famous horse track brings in hundreds of thousands of tourists and summer residents. As a result, the town of Saratoga is awesome! It’s packed with quaint, 1950’s style shoppes and boutiques. Many people walk Broadway for the experience of it. They usually stop by the Merry-Go-Round, the duck pond & park, and a handful of their favorite stores like the Tea Shoppe, the Gelato store, and of course, the Saratoga Candy Company.
We had never been to the Candy Company before, so I thought it would be a perfect V-Day experience for my family.
Do you know the expression, “like a kid in a candy store“? Oh my, that is so profound. All of us were buzzing with excitement with the sights and smells of covered chocolate and candy assortments. I don’t know how we left that place without spending $100 (because candy stores are very expensive).
By the time we reached the car, the giddiness turned into a dadnamics video.
**WARNING: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS CHOCOLATE, LOTS OF IT.***
Don’t go out with the intention of “doing Dadnamics“. That never works. It’s not authentic and falls flat. Dadnamics works best when you live your life WITH YOUR KIDS. That’s paramount.
Trust me. Kids are creative and funny already. All you have to do is live life and be open-minded to the risk of public embarrassment. And fret not men! You may do something that YOU think is embarrassing, but as long as your kids are laughing and smiling, others will not see it the same. They will smile and think, ‘We need more of that guy in the world.’
In an earlier episode called “Puck Luck“, I took my daughter to a local college hockey game. In the blog, I listed 6 things we did together that were part of “The Game Away From the Game“. Think of it this way. There was a live hockey game in front of us, but my daughter doesn’t like hockey. Therefore, I created an experience with 6 other games or activities to seal the memory with dad.
The 4th item on that list was:
“After the game, we walked to the car a round-about way. We descended the Metal Staircase of Danger, ran across the Black Ice Palace, and jumped off the Wall of Wisdom (sounds like we were in the Elf Movie). The wall jumping was the most fun.”
It was now the boy’s turn to attend a hockey game with dad. The game part was a lot of fun as the boys enjoyed watching it and “The Game Away” was even better! We hit the Metal Staircase of Danger and approached the Wall of Danger and Destruction (okay, I may have altered the name a bit).
And now we get to it! There is a big difference between boys and girls when it comes to approaching a wall. Typically, the girl will find a peaceful way to get down and the boy will find a way to dangerously scale or jump it. There are always exceptions. My daughter was one. She wanted to jump, but that’s because I encouraged her.
My boys loved the next 30 minutes. While the other hockey fans herded to their vehicles and drove off, we remained, teetering upon the Humpty Dumpty Wall.
The night was a success. The game was a success and “The Game Away From the Game” was a success. Something really cool happened as a serendipity. My 12 and 6-year-old sons really bonded.
Connection from father to son can lead to brother to brother. Isn’t is amazing how much power we Dads hold?Continue reading
Mornings are always tough to leave when the kids are up. Sadly, it’s easier to leave the cave before the bear cubs awake. I remember as a new dad, I worked as an engineer for GE and had to leave at the same time every day (like many of you). My wife would be holding little Kenny on our apartment balcony as I agonized a goodbye wave and kiss. I just wanted to ditch the job and cuddle up with them instead.
Can any of you relate, especially as a new dad? We want to stay in the cave, but if we do, the mama bear and cubs will starve out. Thus, we put on a positive countenance for our family, leave the cave, go kill something, and bring it back.
As we changed careers and became self-employed, goodbyes were easier due to the flexibility of my schedule. They were still hard! What could I do? Well, in truth, it happened quite organically. When dad bear gets home, dragging his kill to mama bear and the cubs, he gets the “Daddy’s home!!!” parade. This is the best part of the day. To hear the joy of my kids when I get home. It would be followed by, and let me know if you get these too?
“Dad, can play rough?”
“Dad, can we go outside and play?”
“Dad, can you build Lego’s with me?”
“Dad, can (you fill it in)?”
For those that enjoy reading my blogs over watching the video, this one is not for you! The video tells the full story of how I transformed my son’s Tenth Birthday into something he will NEVER forget.
I am not suggesting that you copy me. Not at all. I am not looking to create a Clone Army. On the contrary, I want to inspire you to take more action, be more creative, more silly, more YOU.
Each of these videos is like adding more seed to the Dadnamics Bird Feeder. But you’ve got to make the choice. Are you going to be the timid chipmunk who lurks behind the bushes waiting for the “best time” to lick up the fallen seed? Or… will you be a bird in flight, swooping in, feeding, and soaring away???Continue reading
Willy Wonka passed away on August 29, 2016. That was a sad day for many, especially the millions who grew up with the excitement of unwrapping a Golden Ticket in every candy bar.
That was me. I relate to Willy Wonka. I am always thinking, creating, imagining the impossible, searching for inventions. I literally kept an “Invention Notebook” as an 8-year-old full of pictures and feats of science. But I am also stubborn, set in my ways, and introverted like Willy. I prefer to be away from people and left alone with my Oompa Loompas a.k.a. my kids. Because I relate so deeply to this movie, the theme song triggers deep emotions from my childhood. Whenever I hear it, I go back in time.
I stress the importance of story-telling into your fatherhood adventure. But I don’t tell you where the stories come from, do I? They come from Willy Wonka. They come from Bastian (The Neverending Story). They come from Luke Skywalker, Bilbo Baggins, Aslan, Rocky Balboa, Perseus, and a host of other books & movies I loved as a kid. They make up my life experience and my brain recalls elements of each as I journey down the road of fatherhood.
Maybe this is uncommon… maybe it’s a superpower. I don’t know, but I do know this — Creating stories around the everyday incites imagination in your kids. Imagination incites creativity and creativity incites adventure and silliness. When these ingredients are combined into your dad time… Watch out!!!
In this adventure with my daughter, we went to the post office and the bank. That’s it. But we brought Willy Wonka along for the ride. So in a small way, we brought Gene Wilder back to life for a small time in our hearts.Continue reading
“Fraggle Rock” was my favorite show as a small boy and at the same time, my most loathed. Here’s the story if you’re interested. The show was the culmination of a great weekend with my dad and the closing credits represented my dad taking me back to mom’s house. It sucked as much as it was awesome.
But I don’t want to dwell on that. I want to key in on my message to fathers today.
Some of you may have wonderful marriages, while others only get your kids on weekends. I get it and I don’t judge you. Either way, I want to be your Uncle Traveling Matt and “Outer Space” represents the creative things I do with my kids. Listen to Uncle Matt and Gobo’s interaction in the very first episode of Fraggle Rock.
“Uncle Matt, it’s really strange up here.” Gobo says.
“You think it’s strange up here. Look out there, boy. Go on!” Uncle Matt replies as he point out through a small opening in the Fraggle Cave.
Gobo gasps. “It’s Outer Space, just as the Legend says.”
Uncle Matt straightens up and proclaims. “And we must venture out into it. It is our destiny.”
“We must venture out… did you say… WE?” Gobo trembles.
“Absolutely. I shall fully explore the reaches of Outer Space, taking notes all the while and send messages back to you. Every few days you must go into this first room and pick up the messages. Promise me you’ll do that boy!”
Gobo stutters and begins to make excuses. He proclaims that he “will not go”. But Uncle Matt wasn’t listening (or was he being a leader), when he turns to Gobo and says, “Thank you for promising me.” Then Uncle Matt pops through the cave into Outer Space.
Will you allow me to be your guide… your Uncle Matt?
Will you become Uncle Matt to your kids? Hear their objections of the unknown and scary, yet have them do it anyway. Fear is simply a lack of control around a certain action. If you’ve never done it, of course your body will tense up. That’s why courage is so important. Take action in the face of your fear. Be courageous.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed or unprepared as a Dad?
Have you ever wondered how you will provide for the needs of your growing family?
How about this one… have you ever felt like the weight of the world was pulling you down?
I have. All the time.
If you answered “no” to these questions, you’re lying!
I hope this video is an encouragement to you, in a figurative sort of way. The weight of fatherhood is a heavy burden to carry. We do it sacrificially and usually without fanfare. We do it day after day because we were taught to provide for our family.
I’m not going to dive into an overused dad-blog topic on the provider roles of dad. Instead, I am just going to admit that provider means “all of the above”. This includes financial, emotional, social, and spiritual. The weight of fatherhood is certainly a heavy load.
Don’t do it alone. Get connected with other dads in community. Check out my friend Larry Hagner’s, Top-iTunes Family Podcast, “The Good Dad Project“. He understands how to connect dads, so we don’t have to travel alone.
DISCLAIMER: NO CHILDREN WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS VIDEOContinue reading