Category Archives: Personal Best

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What I Learned Making DIY Backyard Ice Rink

“This isn’t the first time I’ve made a backyard ice rink on my property”, says Keith Travers Eastview Homes, Oakville area contractor, “we’re a hockey family.”

Its a breathtaking accomplishment. As I came through the back of Keith’s suburban bungalow, I spotted the attraction in the backyard. Behold twelve hundred square feet of ice, six inches thick, rimmed with plywood boards.

Keith Travers in his D.I.Y. backyard ice rink in Toronto

Proud of his accomplishment, Keith boasted “You’ve got to come back in the evening when its all lit up and we have all the neighbour kids over playing hockey, and free skating”. He pointed out the mercury vapour lamps (same as in the local arena but smaller) that he has affixed to poles on the perimeter.

“Next year I’m gonna add some benches on both sides.” Keith says, “That’s one thing I learned. There’s always a crowd here by the steps.”

Keith’s backyard is perfect because the contractor made it that way; the area was specially leveled and landscaped and all the small trees were removed when he first bought the property a few years ago.

The rink boards were cut last year. They’re 4×8 plywood sheets ripped lengthwise into eight foot long boards. Keith could have used cheaper materials, particle board OSB, but he had some 3/4 inch plywood left over from a job and he knew the ice rink was a project he’d be repeating for years to come. The braces, two on each board, are more perishable; they’re made from salvage cut from old pallets and other bits of scrap wood.

Keith learned last year to run the hydro for the lights first- the power cords are safe from sharp skates under snow and ice, right on the ground. Keith also evolved a sound system this winter; he has two small stereo speakers plugged into a radio in the kitchen.

TIMELINE of a backyard ice rink – first you clear the area and run power for lights and put up the boards.

“I leave the grass long in the fall in case we get a good snowfall, and I can do the snow pack method to save the liner.’ There are two methods of making a liner. First, if there’s a lot of snow the you can use the snow pack method, which involves tramping down the snow with your boots until its hard packed and will hold the water.

Or you can buy some very large sheets of thin plastic and fashion your own pool liner or in this case a ‘rink liner’. Painters’ drop sheets are too thin and the wrong size. They won’t work unless you can figure out how to bind them together with duct tape to create a watertight surface. The thicker the plastic, the easier the tape applies, right up until the plastic is too thick.

The hardest part for Keith this year was just waiting for the ground to freeze as the weather by the lake is so variable.

It wasn’t until late December before Keith had the courage to call the water truck service. He ordered three thousand gallons of water to make a six inch slab, and if readers are seeking to replicate this rink they can use this handy pool volume calculator to calculate their own needs. Keith learned last year that six inches is the ideal (or most efficient) ice thickness to avoid pressure cracks and create an immovable solid ice mass.

pool volume calculator

 

 

Safety is always top-of-mind when making a kid friendly backyard attraction.

Keith has evolved a more kid-friendly ice rink this year even though he claims his rink is entirely injury free. Despite the flawless safety record, or maybe to help ensure it continues, the building contractor took the time to eliminate protruding stakes and sharp edges that can cause more harm to anyone slipping, losing their balance and falling. The wooden perimeter rises about a foot above the ice surface and this year the corners and top edges are smoother and all the stakes have been hammered down flush with the top of the boards.

And finally, lets not forget, ice rink makers have to think ahead to the spring melt. Where is all that water going to go? Keith runs a line to his neighbour’s in-ground swimming pool, which is right next door and downhill. He made a deal with this friend after concerns were raised that the melting ice rink could otherwise flood both their basements.

Keith Travers – DIY Ice Rink in backyard.

Does having a property with a big backyard improve the quality of life for a young family in the summer and in wintertime? Absolutely.

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on Teaching Gratitude to Children

Hi Dads!

I am so thrilled and excited to be here with you all, and to be able to write for HeadsUpDad.

In fact, I feel so grateful about it that I think I’d like to write about Gratitude. Gratitude and Appreciation are enormously important qualities for parents to instill in their kids, but most often all that folks can manage to teach them is polite manners. And while it’s nice to see a kid say “Thanks” when someone passes him the butter, that’s not exactly what I mean here. This is especially true today, because parents don’t spend as much effort teaching polite behavior as they once did.  But your grandparents probably didn’t care too much about how deeply their kids felt appreciation – they just washed your parents’ mouths out with soap if they happened to not use the right words at the right times! No, this generation really tends to care a lot more about teaching values, rather than just prescribed behavior. But the problem is, how can anyone teach that?! The crazy answer is – you really can’t. Kids are kids, and there’s a certain level of unthinking selfishness that just comes with the territory (along with incredible sweetness, as you know). And if little Julie finds exactly what she wanted under her Christmas tree, she’s going to be a lot more interested in the immediate joy of playing with it than she is in the deeper pleasure of writing a beautiful thank you letter for it!

Your job, since you can’t really teach gratitude, is to help foster a growth of that sense for when the child matures.

Here are a few suggestions on how to do just that:

1. Teach by example.

Papas, you’ll hear me say this one over and over and over.  About 90% of what kids learn from their parents comes from observation (which is, of course, how kids manage to learn to walk and talk, two of the most astounding achievements of any human’s life).  If you live with a sense of gratitude, your children will pick up on that. When your babysitter makes the kids dinner because you forgot to leave something in the fridge, do you just accept that, or really thank her for going the extra mile?  When someone in traffic lets you cut in, do you give a ‘thank you’ wave?  Your kid will see what you do, and learn from it.  And even more importantly, do you show gratitude to your kid when they do something kind?  That’s the best lesson of all.

2. Talk about Gratitude when it is expressed by others.

When you throw a poker party for some buddies, and one of them emails you the next morning to thank you for it, mention to your kid how good that made you feel.

3. Let them help you with acts of gratefulness.

I know this is a bit phony, but it’s still good:  Let’s say you want to send out a bunch of letters thanking people who’ve helped you in your work this year.  Have your kid stuff the envelopes or put the stamps on.  They’ll get the idea that thank you letters are what cool grownups like Daddy do.

4. Apologize when you forget to be grateful yourself.

All humans make mistakes, and there will always be times when you forget to thank someone, or even to feel as grateful as you should. Let your child see you catch yourself in that error. And let them see you apologize and try to make up for it. That’s a huge teacher.

5. Teach them gratitude by rote.

Okay, and the boring one: Yes, I’m saying that you should teach your ungrateful little brats to say “Thank You” for getting the butter passed to them, and to write letters thanking Aunt Martha for the boring book she gave them, and even to thank their teacher for giving them extra homework to help them master something they’re having trouble with in school.  No, they won’t feel the gratitude at all.  But they will learn the right ways and times to express it when they do.

And then, I also want to add a big “Don’t” to this list.  Do Not Guilt Trip!  Children live in a world that’s all about themselves.  They’ll grow out of it, and you should encourage that, but don’t make them feel bad for not being there yet.  Telling them things like “You ought to feel more grateful” or “You’re too self-centered,” or worst of all “You’re spoiled, you got too many presents” don’t teach Gratitude; they teach Shame, which is the total opposite (If you really feel your kid got too many presents for her birthday, then be the adult and tell her there’s simply been a mistake, and she needs to give five of her toys to others.  It’s not her fault!).

Then, of course, the best role model any kid can ever have for Gratitude is one of us!  We dogs will show how much we appreciate every treat, every scratch on the head, and every time you let us in the house – every time!  And oh do we let you know we appreciate you humans when you come home from school or work!  And the more that your kid sees us do that, and senses how much they love the way our gratitude makes them feel (yes I’m emphasizing that thought!), the sooner they’ll develop a healthy sense of empathy, which will lead them to the true sense of gratitude you want them to own.

So those are my thoughts. Good luck with them. And in the meantime, from the bottom of my heart…

Thanks for reading!

 

About the author:

Shirelle is a busy dog. In between her posts from the Dog House at HeadsUpDad, she hosts a great web site offering friendly, down-to-earth advice for kids, teens, and parents called AskShirelle. Please check it out.

 

 

FLOWING WITH THE GOOD GUYS

It was with great sadness that I read about the recent Norwegian terrorist attacks. A tragic ordeal for any country to have to experience, yet there was a point in the story where I found one Norwegian’s comment to be equally absurd as the attacks were cruel. A woman’s response to the killings was, “Why are they killing us? We’re the good guys!” Most of us think the same way; we are the good guys, the ones who know what’s best or what is right. Adolf Hitler was convinced that his Nazi movement was the best solution for the world’s problems. And through his eyes, it was. The same can be said for Osama Bin Laden or George W. Bush and it is with this lack of awareness upon which most of mankind operates.

Albeit slowly, an increasing number of the world’s population is adopting a different viewpoint (or philosophy, or truth) that there is no right and no wrong, there simply is. This is not to say that whatever happens in the world is acceptable. It is to understand that only the flow of nature exists and that everything happening is a part of that flow. It is the understanding that there are no shoulds or shouldn’ts, only choices. The difference is that should’s and shouldn’t’s are constructs of our mind, while clear choices (I will or I won’t) come from the heart.

I recently witnessed a parent become very frustrated, claiming that her toddler was supposed to listen to her, as if it were her child’s job. In reality, her child’s only job is to act naturally, which is to be aware in some moments and unaware in other moments. If the mother chooses to parent consciously, then it is in fact her job to find a way to be in relationship with her child, discovering ways to flow with both her child’s awareness and lack thereof.

Essentially, life is about relationships, or how we relate to each of our experiences. Have you ever experienced physical pain and thought “This shouldn’t be happening!”? When we don’t flow with nature, believing that something should or shouldn’t be happening, we create suffering for ourselves. A common reaction I’ve seen after reading of earthquakes is “Why would God make such a thing happen!?” Conversely I recall many comments made of the Japanese response to their recent earthquake/tsunami experience, as they largely exemplified acceptance around what happened, while then responding to what needed attention. When we flow with nature, working with what is, we create more ease for ourselves.

Consider that all the ‘unnatural’ deaths that have ever occurred are serving to build our global collective pain that is now bringing about our planet’s current shift in consciousness. Consider that every cubic ton of pollution we’ve created thus far is serving to awaken us to the point where we once again realize the true value of our planet. Many sacrifices have been made in order to create the opportunity that lies before us all. Consider that there is no right and no wrong—only countless opportunities to, through awareness, healthfully flow with what is. After all, we’re all the good guys, each of us sharing a common desire: to be happy, as each of us does our best to find our way.

How to be “good” at waiting…

 

“Waiting is painful.

Forgetting is painful.

But not knowing which to do

is the worse kind of suffering.”

~ Paulo Coelho


Imagine never waiting for anything again. Ever.

For sure, life would never be the same, but not for the reason you think.

Realistically, to wait is to suffer. The suffering can come in many forms. It can come in the form of being or feeling irritated while waiting five whole seconds for a YouTube video to be buffered before it starts to play (Irritated—really? Its coming from outer space!). Or suffering may also show up as anguish while you wait for your doctor’s phone call regarding the results of your biopsy. Simply put, this suffering is your spirit’s warning system that you’re missing out on life in some way, because you’re not present. Your spirit (or soul or heart) wants you to enjoy life and is devoted to guide you there in the healthiest way possible–if you’re willing and able to listen to it.

Waiting

My life changed in some way the day I learned that there are dialects in the world which contain no word for boredom. These would be languages (such as Hindi and Swahili) which emerged from a time when humans were much more interconnected with both their inner and outer environment. This is not to say that these old world cultures received everything they wanted through immediacy, yet were more in touch with their interconnectedness, particularly by way of their bodies being their guides. When one is connected in this way, one is aware, and when one is aware, one doesn’t wait. In a situation where we don’t immediately receive what we want, we can practice the art of being, or being present. And when we’re present, boredom doesn’t exist as there is no possibility of waiting.

Think of someone in your life whom you consider extremely patient. Your Mom? Your Dad? Your Grandfather? This would not be an example of a person who is ‘good at waiting’, but someone who easily finds acceptance around the things which take time to materialize. What other qualities does this person hold which can be related to their awareness? How about gratefulness, humility or wisdom? Interestingly the word patience has its origin in Latin, stemming from the verb pati or ‘suffering’. Meanwhile acceptance also has its origin in Latin; accipere or ‘to accept, or to take’.

Waiting

The person who appears extremely patient is likely accepting what is happening, or taking that time, that opportunity to be in that very moment.

 Consider the gift that comes with having to wait. For the student on a conscious path, waiting is the opportunity to check in and notice how the suffering is being self-created.

How can you become more aware and in the present?

Have you tried meditation? Take twenty minutes each day to just “be” on your own. Studies show that individuals who practice meditation can clear distracting thoughts (like impatience) from their minds more quickly than individuals who don’t meditate. That sort of ability comes in handy when you are sitting in the Frankfurt airport waiting for your connecting flight which has been delayed—again.

You can prepare for moments when you need to wait by spending just 20 minutes a day meditating. You don’t have to do anything actually. Just sit in a quiet place and focus on your breath going in your nose and out your mouth. Whenever a distracting thought pops up, don’t allow yourself to go there. Just note the thought, let it go, and focus back on your breath. With practice, your mind will quiet down, and your ability to dismiss unwanted thoughts will improve. Being aware and in the moment will come to you.

Yoga? If you are practicing yoga, bring it back to your practice. Invite your awareness inside the body and notice it’s attempt to generate more ease, relaxation and stability. 

‘Wait and see’ is a commonly used phrase in the English language–one that often creates suffering. Rather than suffering, empower yourself by turning this phrase into a choice; ‘wait or see’.

What works for you? Let us know.

Haven’t tried any of these yet? Why not give it a try?

Until next time,

Don

Toxic Chemicals in personal skin care products?

Dirty_hands

I have been doing a lot of gardening over the past couple of months and it has been great. Lots of fresh air, hard work and I am learning a lot.

It’s killing my hands though. Shovelling, digging, gettting dirty, washing, getting dirty. Washing again has taken its toll. I use a lot of moisturizers but it does not seem to make much of a difference. It feels good once I put products on, but as soon as my hands are back in the dirt and back into the tap water, dry as a bone and chafing. It occurred to me that maybe these moisturizers aren’t really doing such a great job after all.

After looking into some other more effective options for skincare products that might heal my busy, abused hands, I learned a lot that really surprised and alarmed me. Did you know, that most of the products you buy at the drugstore, or at the grocery store, contain a bunch of nasty stuff that is toxic and harmful to humans? The more I dug, the more I discovered how everyday personal care products are laced with stuff you would never want in your bloodstream if you knew it was there.

If only we knew about the hidden toxic chemicals that can be found in everyday personal care products… Chemicals that are cancer-causing, hormone-disrupting and allergy-inducing.

The presence of these toxins isn’t new:

They have been there all along.

We think it’s time to shed the light on the hidden, dangerous toxins that exist in body care products for men. But we need your help. We need you to roll up your sleeves and help us flag the products that you would like to know more about.

Cologne, bar soap, deodorant, shaving cream. These are all common products that we use everyday. Used by us, by our sons, brothers, fathers or husbands. On a daily basis, these products are rubbed and absorbed into our skin, with very lax regulations on the ingredients used to make them.

Environmental Defense

Environmental Defense is an organization that looks after us, fights for us and helps make the government take action on our behalf. Their new Just Beautiful campaign is all about testing products we use everyday to see just how safe they are to put on our skin. How safe are the personal products we use on our bodies? The answer: nobody knows. The cosmetic business is a deregulated wild west.

They would like to test ten common products that are part of the basic morning routine many men go through on a daily basis. And, reveal their findings to you.

As a parent myself with a young daughter and two small boys, I want to know whether the products I use daily are safe for me and for my kids. We thought you might too. With our children’s health in our hands, we need to ensure that we are taking each step we can to protect them – today, tomorrow and as they grow older. When we can’t do it for ourselves, its great to know that people like Rick Smith from Environmental Defence has got our backs. He did it already with Bisphenol A in Baby Bottles and now he is on the case searching for hidden toxins that we know are lurking in our everyday personal care products.

By identifying the ingredients hidden in these products, we can continue to push for stronger federal regulations and accountability. But, this research will not be cheap.

As each product is put through a series of laboratory tests to detect different chemicals, testing will cost $710 per product.

Can we count on you to help Environmental Defense make men’s personal care products safe from harmful chemicals? Will you make a donation today?

Each gift will help cover the cost of a product to be tested. And, what better time than to do it today!

How to heal your dry, chapped skin without slathering on harmful toxins?

If you are looking for some great options for effective skin care products that are all natural, non toxic and free from dark, hidden secrets there are options out there. They are just not as easy to find. One place you can look is Made From Earth Organics.


I have been using some of their products recently and I really love them. I have a couple of bars of lovely soap that gets me and my kids dirty hands clean without drying them to a chafe. I also use an amazing face wash that cools, cleans and refreshes after a long day without stripping your skin of its natural moisture. I am a chapstick guy who always travels with one in my pocket and another in my car. You will love theirs. Blows the drugstore variety off the shelf. The only problem is, now that I am addicted to these, I will never be able to buy a cheap and cheerful drugstore product again.

Do you have any questions, products you would like Environmental Defense to test or men’s grooming products you would like us to review and share with our audience?

Please feel free to comment below, email me directly or send us a tweet @HeadsUp_Dad

Men’s Health : A Decade by Decade Primer

Shawna and her best Man Magnus

You want to live a long and happy life? Live right by the decade you are in!

Happy Father’s Day to each and every one of you!

I sincerely hope that you enjoyed a wonderful day that was all about YOU!

How appropriate to reach out to you now with a new post this month, because not only is June representative of Father’s Day, it just so happens to be Men’s Health Month too! All the more reason to devote some time to reach out to all of you at HeadsUp Dad!

There’s an expression that says: “You are only as old as the Man you feel”. Wouldn’t you agree that a man’s quality of life is determined by how healthy he feels? At least that was the comment I received recently from both my father and my brother. They went on further to say that ultimate health to them does not mean resembling “The Rock” or simply exuding a fantastic physical shape, but that health is far more all encompassing than that. Feeling vital and virile is about a lot of things—maintaining a healthy body weight, eating right, supplementing smartly, being active with lots of stamina and putting in a good performance. Being fully engaged at work while also having the energy left over at the end of the day to make a meaningful contribution to your family life and certainly to exude a sense of self confidence through good times and bad. Wow—that’s not a lot to expect is it? Is it? How insightful. It got me thinking. We expect a lot out of you guys, not just in your youth, but throughout your whole life, so are you going to be man enough from here to eternity or what?

Kidding aside, the more I thought more about it, the more it occurred to me that life happens in fairly broad stages—doesn’t it? Decade by decade, your life, the demands placed on you and your own personal needs evolve.The roaring twenties so to speak, the thriving thirties, the “making it all happen” forties and the disease fighting fifties and so on. In order to sustain a long and healthy life, it might be worth at taking a look at what is really ideal for a man to concentrate on within each decade, so you can be your best and perform at optimum health, no matter what your age. Ready?

The Roaring Twenties:
For you guys in your twenties, savor the decade! You’re most likely very active, busy and full of energy, so feed the need. This is the time when you can generally out eat your older brethren and not see an ounce of evidence! You can afford slightly higher calorie/fat foods like nuts/seeds, cheeses, dried fruit and egg yolks with the exception of highly processed and deep fried foods of course. More calories doesn’t mean poor calories. You will also need more lean protein like chicken, lean meat, seafood, eggs and beans. And seeing as heart disease begins early, I would encourage eating fatty fish like salmon at least once or twice a week! Its a terrific source of Omega 3’s (Essential Fatty Acids) that are good for the brain, your heart and the prostate.

 

Thriving in your thirties:
Now that real life comes along in the thirties, a home, career and family probably eat up your daily agenda and you’re less likely to be throwing a football with your buddies in your not so spare time. So if you find that your activity has slowed down a little bit, remember that your appetite surely hasn’t! In order for you to keep your pant buttons from popping off, I suggest getting in the habit of eating more often. Instead of eating big, gorging meals a few times a day, consider about 4 or 5 healthy smaller ones. Less is really more.

 

Fab Forties
In your forties, you’re still feeling young and fantastic as you’re able to keep all of your plates in the air, but you also may notice that your health care practitioner is beginning to discuss your longevity and how to begin to pave the way to good heart health, strong bone density, hormonal health etc. Perhaps making a concerted effort to eat more soluble fiber is a good start such as peas, potatoes, apples and brown rice. Fiber acts like a sponge in the body and likes to soak up cholesterol. Your forties is the time to take heart disease seriously, especially of it runs in your family. So work your way up to 35mg/day of soluble fiber and consider adding Vitamin D to your daily supplement arsenal to encourage bone growth, strengthen immunity and improve circulation. Also, really try to work out hard with a well designed exercise program at least 3 times a week.

 

Fighting fifties:
Being in your fifties is about disease busting! Noshing on antioxidants such as colorful veggies and consuming plenty of blueberries, cranberries, strawberries and raspberries is a great way to add disease fighting antioxidants to your body. Be sure to cut down on sugar and fat and to remain as active as possible.

 

Six Oh! Oh My!
In your sixties and beyond, now your body really begins to tally the score. It takes a good look at how well you have taken care to preserve the temple in your earlier years. My best advice would be to wrap up all of the decades into one big healthy bow. Embrace active living, eat lean proteins daily to help counter losses in muscle mass, keep an antioxidant rich diet that is very low in fat and sugar and eat plenty of fiber every day.

 

As you can see, each life stage has its own nutritional emphasis. No matter what age group you are in, start now to make some healthy changes so you can cruise through each decade with strength and vigor.

As always, I’m here for you if you have questions. Your comments and concerns are always welcome—and I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time: eat well, stay fit.

SH