Thursday, November 2, 2017

Our Ultimate Tree Fort is Complete!

When we looked at the property where we currently live for the first time, I instantly had all sorts of dreams of things we could do with the space.  As a child, I always dreamed of having a treehouse.  One of my favorite places to be was up in a tree.  But, we never had a treehouse, since the home that had the perfect trees for one was one which we moved to when I finished 8th grade.  Although I certainly would have still loved it at that age, I understand that it made sense not to begin building one at that point.  When we stepped onto our current property, I immediately found the perfect spot for a treehouse.  We moved in during the month of March 2015.  It was then that we began planning and dreaming about our ultimate tree fort.  We decided not to build the structure using the trees for support, because we wanted to make sure not to damage them at all.  Instead, we would build the structure under and among the trees.

It took quite a while to research the subject and figure out exactly what we wanted ours to look like.  This was going to be a big investment of time and money and we wanted something that would be enjoyed for many, many years.  We finalized our plans and then tried to figure out how to go about building it ourselves (even thouugh we are not carpenters and don't have tons of spare time).  After months of trying to figure out how to start and how to go about building it safely, checking out library books and doing lots of research on the subject, we finally decided to contract out the building of the main structure.  We wanted to ensure it was going to be safe for everyone since it was such a large structure.  Plus, if we tackled that part, we would be working on it for years. Therefore, I drew out the plans and had several contractors bid on the project.  In April of 2017, we selected our contractor and began construction.  The contractor ended up building the large main structure and also stained it. (They didn't do a great job staining it, but at least that was one big part we didn't have to do.)  They finished up within a week and a half or so. 

After the main part was constructed, we began adding components, such as the cargo net, tube slide, zip line, stair railing, border of posts around the bottom of the structure to hold all the mulch in, hanging hammock swings, the bolt-on rock holds for the rock climbing wall, the door for the treehouse part, the climbing rope, solar lights on the outside, a fold up attached table from Ikea and window screens.  All of these extras have taken a while, but the treehouse was finally completed in late September!  It is my dream treehouse and we are really enjoying it.  I am so glad we constructed this!!

Here are some photos of the end result.  I just went outside and snapped these today with my phone--which is not a fancy one.  So, the quality isn't the best, but you can still tell what the treehouse looks like at least.  Also, I generally don't like photos taken in speckled shade, as it is difficult to see the details.  But, today was very bright and sunny, so there was a lot of speckled sun/shade on the treehouse (which is completely covered with trees).  Someday I will take photos of the tree fort when it is overcast out or when the sun begins to set. 

Our tree fort.  I believe the size of the top deck (not including the bridge) is 10 feet by 16 feet.  The bridge is probably another 8-10 feet or so long and 2-3 feet wide.


My favorite place to sit is in one of these hanging hammock swings!

The rock wall--this wall goes up 16 feet.

The treehouse also had solar lights around the top of it.  We would like to add some more along the railing, because it is really magical with those lights at night. 

That bridge goes out to a zipline--which is 100 feet long.  It is really fun and pretty fast!

This shows the cargo ladder.

There is a little deck/patio area on top, where we currently have a picnic table and a lounge chair. 


The bridge going over to the zipline.

The inside of the house--which is about 8 ft by 8 ft in size. 

We found this little table at Ikea.  It folds down and becomes a little shelf when not in use to save space.  It is a great little table.  The kids enjoy drawing, writing stories, or nature journaling here.

The kids also display some of their nature finds in the house. 





Here is a little video tour in case anyone is interested:


Monday, October 16, 2017

Luke's 8th Birthday Great Outdoors Adventure Party!

Our kids get very excited about parties--especially their birthday parties.  We only do big parties on even birthday years.  Since we skip a year, we do a lot of planning for the parties on the even years to make sure they are extra special.  Luke decided many months ago that he was going to have an outdoor adventure themed party for his 8th birthday.  So, we discussed over several months what types of activities we could do, what kind of food we could have and more.  This was a really fun party for me to plan, because I personally LOVE all things outdoor adventure.  Here is how his party went down:

We divided all of the kids up into two teams.  We decided this before the party to make sure that the teams were as even as possible, and that there wouldn't be any complaints over which teams the kids were on.  We had some competitive kids attending this party and I knew it could be disastrous if we picked the teams at the party.  Minus a few kids who were unhappy about the team they were on, this part went pretty well.  So, as the kids arrived, they received their team's battle symbol on their face in the form of warpaint (courtesy of Mimi).   We came up with the battle symbol for the war paint pre-party as well.

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And some kids were more excited about the war paint than others...


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Excited!

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Rocking the war paint!

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Also rocking the war paint!

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not sure about the war paint...

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not so excited about the war paint.
But for the most part, the kids really enjoyed the war paint and it added to the fun.  Once everyone arrived, we began the team competitions.


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Go Red Team!
The first event was archery.  In this event, each kid got three attempts at earning points by hitting the target in specific areas.  Papa ran this event and added up the points for each kid.  The team's score was equal to the kid's score on that team that was the highest. (This made less math for us to have to do--ha!)


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Cheering on the remaining competitors

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Even the little siblings participated.

The red team won the first event.  Then, it was time for the next event--the obstacle race.  But before we began that, we had to take a quick break for some team pictures.  (Each team came up with their team name before the first event.)

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The blue team was missing several who didn't want to be in the picture. 
Next up was the obstacle race.  Each team raced around many obstacles and the team with the fastest total time won.  The competitors had to race around the balance beam (which outlines our treehouse), run over and under hurdles, complete the in and out ladder obstacle, run around the fire pit, complete 5 jumps with a jump rope (or do 10 jumping jacks), complete the ninja line obstacle, and lastly, throw the weighted ball into a target, and then run and tag the next teammate.

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Cheering on their friends

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Abbey tagging Ryah, the next competitor for the obstacle course.

I wish I had taken a good video of the obstacle course, but I was also snapping pictures, and timing the kids so I am giving myself some grace there.  But, here is a little glimpse of the obstacle course.


One of the final obstacles was the ninja line.  We just had the kids go to the 5th hold, since it was tough (a rope knot).  Here is a little video of Luke recently playing on the Ninjaline, in case you are curious what it is:  


The kids had the option of skipping the ninjaline and throwing the weighted ball into the target 3 times (they only had to throw it in once if they attempted the ninjaline).  

The blue team ended up winning this challenge.  So, the teams were tied up going into the final challenge:  a scavenger hunt.  The kids were each given a compass (which also was one of their party favors). They used the compass and the word clues to try to find each subsequent clue, which eventually led them to the treasure.  Each team had a different set of clues and locations to travel to, before finding the final treasure.  The first team to the treasure was the blue team, so they were the winners.  (I didn't get any photos or videos of this because I was running this particular challenge by myself.)  The blue team got to line up first to select a treasure:  some really beautiful polished rocks we purchased.  The red team also got to pick out a treasure.

(We wanted to let the kids take a turn on our zipline during the party; however, we couldn't figure out how to get over 22 kids in and out of the harness and give them all turns within the time constraints of the party.  That would likely take days.)
 
Then, it was time for cake.  We had snacks out on a snack table inside the house that guests could munch on throughout the party.  In lieu of cake, we were just going to have birthday smores, but I couldn't figure out how to put the candles on that.  So, instead I made pumpkin cupcakes with a cinnamon icing and then we had smores too!


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And apparently Abbey was a little excited about that cupcake and couldn't wait for Luke to blow out his candles before taking her first bite--ha!

Then, after Luke opened presents it was smores time at the fire pit for those who wanted one.

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And we gave each family a little rustic party favor--a pencil holder that Drew crafted from a fallen tree:


 
I just added the bow and the words on the bottom.

Luke said he enjoyed his party and soon it will be time to plan Abbey's 6th birthday (in January).  But, in the meantime, I am going to enjoy this time in between when there is no party planning going on.  Party planning is so much fun and I love seeing the kids enjoy the fruits of the planning, but it is also so much work.   We have so many fun memories from that day though that we get to keep with us forever!



Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Luke is 8 Years Old!



At 4:34am on this day eight (yes, 8) years ago, our sweet son, Luke was born.  He brought more joy than we thought was possible to us on that day, and he continues to bring us so much joy!  For each of the kids each year, I create a big photo book full of my favorite photos of them from the year.  The photos tell a story of our adventures, and really help to describe the kids' personalities.  These books are something that I treasure, and I know the kids do to.  In fact, when others ask our voracious reader, Abbey, about her favorite book series, she often replies, "my favorite books are the photo books my mom makes for us."  She reads them often and has them all memorized.  My plan is to give the kids 18-19 books that describe their childhood to take with them as they move into adulthood.  As I was creating Luke's photo book this year, I realized I had pulled 215 photos from the year that were my favorites and told his story.  Of course, that was WAY too many for the book, but there are just so many different parts of Luke that I want to make sure are represented.

So, here are just some of my favorites of those 215 photos in my annual blog post to him.

Luke, like me, you absolutely LOVE the outdoors.  Whether that be hiking, biking, climbing, jumping in puddles or even exploring our backyard, as long as you are outside, you are in your element.   




















You absolutely love spending time with others.  I often call you my introverted extrovert.  You get filled up by being around other people.   But, you are also very reserved, and not loud, outgoing, nor do you want to be the center of attention. You just love people.  So, your favorite days are ones that you get to spend with your loved ones--whether that be family, or friends.







 














You are a hard worker and enjoy seeing the fruits of your labor.  







You love playing sports.  This past year you played two seasons of baseball and enjoyed it so much!   You were signed up this fall season as well, however, you got a ganglion cyst which made playing very painful.  So, you had to quit after just a couple of practices.  Lately, you have really enjoyed throwing the football every night with daddy.  But, you are game for any sport--and daddy and I can totally relate to that!








You are most definitely a maker!  Every day you are making something--whether that be creating with legos, taking apart old electronic toys and making something new out of them, or making treasures out of our trash.  I often hear from you, "Can I have that?", as I am getting ready to throw something away.  So, I have a whole space in our laundry room dedicated to the storage of used toilet paper rolls, paper towel rolls, boxes, and more, just so you have supplies for your next creation.








building with Legos at a retirement home.

building bridges that can hold two cans at Lego club

you built a car for drive in movie night at AWANA.

Your relationship with your sister continues to grow.   I love the sound of you two giggling early in the morning as you play and pretend together.  As you get older, somehow you seem closer in age.  And although there are plenty of times where you fight, you sure do love each other and enjoy many of the same things.




















Lastly, you are a family guy.  You can't wait for daddy to get home every night (and Abbey and I can't wait either), because our family feels whole again as we reunite.  We have so much fun together as our little family unit.  And just one of the many goals daddy and I have in raising you is to help encourage you to be an awesome husband and daddy someday.  I am pretty certain you are going to make an amazing husband and daddy someday based on what we see in you today. 













Luke, you are such a good kid!  You are sweet, kind, such a good helper, an awesome friend to many, so easy going, and just such an amazing kid.  You are loved by so many, our newly 8 year-old!!!