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:

Inks Lake State Park Hiking and Camping Trip with Friends

Some of us crazy moms decided to take our 14 kiddos on an overnight camping trip without our hubbies.  Really?  What were we thinking?  Actually though, it ended up being a lot of fun and there is definitely strength in numbers.  We made so many memories on that trip.  I lead a hiking group of area homeschoolers, and we had a hike planned for Friday, October 27th at Inks Lake State Park.  I noticed there were surprisingly a lot of limited use cabins available for the night before, so I posted on our group page to see if anyone else would be interested in staying overnight the night before the hike.  6 of us moms accepted the challenge and I think we are all glad we did.  The weather was gorgeous on Thursday night.  We had smores, told ghost stories, explored, came across lots of critters (snakes, racoons, cool bugs) and have so many crazy stories to take away from this night.  A cold front came through that night though and it was WAY colder that next day (the day of our hike).   Check out the differences in attire from the first day (shorts and t-shirts) to the second day (winter wear).

On our way!

Our "limited use" cabin. The kids were working on their Junior Ranger badge activities. 

The first thing Luke did when we arrived was begin climbing the gorgeous trees outside our cabin. 

Some of the littles chatting around the fire.

As more kids arrived, more were in the trees.

The little kids loved playing hide and see around our cabins. 

Smores were a hit!

The boys loved playing and exploring all around our campsites.  I believe they were pretending to be adventurers searching for a sea monster.

Luke, Abbey and I shared a cabin with our friends, Ilene, Mason and Bella.  There were two sets of twin bunk beds in the cabin. Ilene and I slept on the bottom bunks, Abbey and Bella on the top bunks and our boys on air mattresses.  Us moms had a difficult time sleeping.  At one point, I needed to use the restroom (it was probably 1am).  So, I grabbed a flashlight and sneaked out of our cabin quietly as I didn't want to wake anyone.  The restroom was a bit of a walk away from our cabin.  Ilene didn't see me sneak out, but awakened and noticed a flashlight shining around our cabin (my flashlight).  She thought I was still in bed and that, perhaps, a park ranger was shining their flashlight around our cabin.  Afraid, she called her husband (who was back at her house) and told him that she thought someone was near our cabin.  Then, as I returned she was really afraid as she saw the flashlight again and heard the door handle jiggle as if someone was trying to enter the cabin (ha--I was).  She really freaked out as she saw someone enter and then approach my bed.  Once she saw the person get into my bed, she realized it was me.  But until then, she thought someone was approaching my bed to hurt me.  Ha!  We have a funny story to tell now.  

Hiking the next day:

Abbey and her friend, Bella.

Our crazy group of hikers, photo taken by our awesome hiking guide.

checking out a vernal pool.

Luke and Abbey and their friends, Mason and Bella earned a Junior Ranger badge.
Such a pretty campsite we had and amazing memories!
I can't wait until the next camping trip!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Halloween 2017

We thoroughly enjoy getting dressed up each Halloween in our group costume.  We usually plan months in advance what type of "theme" we are going to dress in.  That way, we can begin searching for deals or find used costumes.  When you buy used, then you can usually sell used at the same price as you bought it for--which means you are out no money for something the kids think is very fun.  It makes some pretty great memories.  This year, I found an Ironman and a Black Widow costume at the disney store outlet on super clearance back in April.  They are awesome costumes and I think I paid something like $7 each. So, I have known since the Spring what our family theme was going to be.  I ended up finding Drew's whole costume from someone near us who was selling used and then I found mine new for even less than Drew's.  I already had the blonde wig for myself and the red wig that Abbey wore (thanks to American Cancer Society and chemotherapy treatment).  Here are some photos from our fun Halloween.

The Sunday before Halloween we participated in "Trunk or Treat" at the church where the kids go to AWANAs.  They had so much fun.   We snapped a few photos of the kids at home and then headed to Trunk or Treat.

Luke and Abbey and some of their friends.


Then, on Halloween, the whole family dressed up in our Marvel themed costumes.  I was Valkyrie, Drew was Thor, Luke was Iron man and Abbey was Black Widow.

We trick or treated near our house with our friends. 
It was so much fun!  I wonder what we will be dressed up like next year.