I got sweaty. I was itchy. I had dirt, twigs and leaves in my hair. A caterpillar was crawling on my back. And I felt like a kid again!

A new fort has been built, thanks to the hard efforts of my boys. During a visit to "" over Labor Day weekend, my 9-year-old and 4-year-old were getting along surprisingly well.

They breathlessly ran up to me after disappearing into the woods for some time and announced, “Mom! We have a new fort!”

This was music to my ears. So often I hear the opposite...“I’m bored,” or “There’s nothing to do.”

But this might just be the beginning of a new phase of boyhood. Or should I say “childhood,” since I also enjoyed the pleasures of fort building as a young girl. Many bedtimes have passed when I’ve recounted stories of “When mommy was a little girl, she loved to play in the woods and build forts!”

Clearly the thrill of it hasn’t left me.

Intrigued by their enthusiasm, I followed their lead as we walked past the orchard, across the grassy field, by the barn and down a hill toward the hollow by the pond. Under the shade of a black walnut tree grew a bush. Under the bush grew a fort.

The perfectly arched branches provided enough shade and shelter to give it a cozy feel, while the moist earth offered a cushy seat. Memories flooded back of my own childhood.

As far back as I can remember, one of my most favorite pastimes at the farm and at home was making forts. No supplies necessary--just natural materials and a little imagination.

Like riding a bike, my fort-building skills quickly returned. I hunkered down beneath the bush, breaking off dead branches and cleaning up leaves from the dirt floor. I told the boys to search for logs or rocks to use as our ‘chairs.’  

My older son became the “Stick Collector” as he picked up debris from my pruning efforts. Assuming the role of “Dinosaur Egg Collector,” my younger son gathered black walnuts in a shallow pit in the dirt. We had a dozen within a few minutes, just in case we needed to boil up some “dinosaur egg stew” to sustain ourselves.

This creative fun brought me back to what’s important. Family time is the most essential gift you can give to your kids. These treasured memories are worth more than gold.

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