Every year I wonder if this will be the year that I am tired of the harsh season. This year, winter was blessedly slow to arrive, but now it is here. I find my excitement rising and while I must admit to spending more time indoors the older I get, I still love the snow. Putting on another layer, I pray my car stays on the road.

When I was a kid one of our favorite winter activities was building snow forts. We used huge chunks of snow to build precarious walls for a three-sided fort. When they reached our waists, maybe slightly higher, we were satisfied with the accomplishment. A snow fort always meant a snowball fight to the neighbor boys, and that was my cue to go in the house … I couldn’t throw a snowball and hit a target if my life depended on it, but I sure made a good target for them! Best defense is to not be there, so there you have it.

My son, as a young boy, also loved snow forts. We had a long driveway with nowhere to push the snow. As a result, we had a huge snow pile in our backyard next to the garage. Our son loved to climb, slide and eventually dig into the mountain of heavily packed snow. He headed out every day after school and, with the help of a friend, dug a cave. He carved a small hole in the side of the roof and ran an extension cord through the hole. Then he mounted one of those work lights with a metal sleeve around it to increase luminosity to the inside of the cave. This young man built himself a snow cave with electric lights! The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. A week before Christmas, Lakeville received a foot of snow. His eleven-year-old son and younger brothers built a snow fort in the backyard. Then they modeled a sled run down the deck steps. There were a few bumps and bruises as they slid down an entire flight of steps, but no one complained. Sadly, their snow melted completely. The last I heard the ground was still bare. Sadness.

When my eldest granddaughter came for a visit a few winters ago, I taught her how to play fox and goose in the snow. We also made snow angels and ended the day by making a very cool (pardon the pun) snow fort under the deck. It was fun to build, but as dark descended and the evening grew cold, we went indoors, she returned home and the lonely snow fort valiantly fought for life until spring.

This winter our daughter from Iowa came to visit during Christmas week. Her husband, an engineer and daddy, took all four kids outside to play on the lake. As they say in Minnesota, we walk on water, and these southern grandkids love it! Ironically, this son-in-law grew up in Mexico and is the biggest snow enthusiast of the family. Together they built a snow cave that is tall enough for kids to stand up in. I suggested he point the opening toward shore so the prevailing northwest wind didn’t fill it with snow, he didn’t listen, and I was wrong! He poured water over the structure and let it freeze to make it very strong and safe. 200 pounds of man and boys stood on the top and it held! They invited me to climb in, but I was too busy at the time — maybe another day. The igloo completed, they started rolling huge snowballs and eventually constructed three life-sized snowmen. The largest was as tall as a man, with the next two incrementally smaller. The family is safely back in southern Iowa now, leaving quickly Sunday morning to escape the threatening storm. FYI, both the fort and Frosty and friends withstood the storm that dropped over a foot of new snow and huge drifts earlier this week. I keep telling myself I need to find time to explore the “ice home” on the lake … I wonder if it feels warmer inside than out …

OK, I got so excited writing about the igloo that I went out and experienced it firsthand. Donning Eric’s gigantic snow pants and borrowing a belt to hold them up, I stepped into my Boggs (very warm boots), pulled on a bomber hat and mittens and forged knee-deep in snow to the fort. The opening, which I expected to be filled with snow, was very accessible. The engineer did a fabulous job of situating the doorway where the prevailing winds didn’t bother it. I shimmied through the small doorway into the structure, which was amazing. It was sound, cozy, and warmish (if anything outside in the winter can be called warm), with enough room to move about slightly, and in the rear to almost stand up. I found a small shelf that could hold a cup of hot chocolate, and another ledge for snacks. There are enough small holes that an extension cord could be run through for lights. Voila! Home away from home … if you’re 10.

It’s snowing again … get used to it. Snow will be our life for the next few months. Enjoy winter! And have a Happy New Year!

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