Category Archives: Coach’s Corner

oakville custom home builder

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.

Take Advantage of Your Tipping Points

As we mature we pass through tipping points where a coin drops and we figure things out. If you can keep track of your tipping points you’ll probably discover that many of them are hints of what to do ‘more of’ and what to do ‘less of’. When we’re doing more of the right stuff and less of the wrong stuff we’re naturally going to be more focused on what works best for us.
So, say you want to focus on making more money and decide that your strategy will be learning and professional development.
Here’s one way:
Almost everyone watches too much TV. If you trade in TV watching time for success building activities you’ll prosper.
Step one:
Make a list of learning activities you can do on your own [e.g. reading, internet research, networking].
Step two:
Schedule to do one instead of watching a specific TV show. For example, I going to read one hour of Peter Drucker on Management instead of watching CSI Tuesday night.
Start slowly and add more over time. Overloading a new strategy often gets in the way.

When in Doubt: Seek Support

One of the very best ways to cope with a stressful environment is to reach out to others and nurture connections you have. Narrowed vision, as if we had blinkers on, is a natural response to stress. Blinkers are good when we need to focus but bad when we need to be creative. Working with others in a creative and supportive environment is an effective antidote to modern day stresses.
Develop a group of supporters who can help you when you need it. Do this in advance, as part of your professional networking. It’s not the kind of thing you can do at the last minute. Many people form support networks in groups they join, like a Goal Setting Club or a professional association.
A goal setting kind of club which meets regularly is a good idea for people who work alone and even for people with jobs who need a professional outlet away from work. The key thing is to have handy access to people who know you, your situation and what your strengths and weaknesses. Their input and ideas will job your own creativity.

What about you?

Who do you reach out to when you need some help through challenging times?

Career Self-Reliance

Whether my clients have a job or not I like them to act like they are self-employed to maximize their inclination to take care of themselves. Here are some suggestions to make that happen.

Shine a light on what’s most important everyday.

If you’ve done your own critical thinking you’ve got specific goals, strategies and tactics in mind. It is really smart to know what the best use of your time and do some of that everyday.

It is often the case the best use of your time is something you find hard to do. For example, people who sell themselves for a living, like a consultant must be constantly reeling in new clients. That means that the best and most important use of their time is business development. For the most part business development is the starting and cultivating of relationships; networking, calling, following up, persistence.  Many people find that difficult so it must be focused on everyday or lots of time will pass with no investment.

Do you know the best use of your time, something you should be doing some of everyday? If you don’t I suggest you quickly have a meeting with yourself to figure it out. You can do it with a few easy steps. Begin by finding a quiet place where you can concentrate. All you need is a pen and few three by five cards to help you keep track of your thinking.  Sort your thinking into your 1] goals; the end states you wish to happen 2] strategies; the kinds of things that will get you there and 3] your tactics; the actions you have to take on a regular basis.

Once you’ve decided on your best tactic I suggest as often as possible do it first each day. Getting something important, that’s maybe distasteful, out of the way first thing in the day will provide you with a burst of energy. When your brain has to carry around the weight so a task undone, it is weighed down. That’s tiring and stressful. Better to just do it first.