Sunday, May 26, 2013


When I was little, we had a tree house we could play in.  It was a fantastic place to hang out for long stretches, and provided an excellent foundation for countless games of imagination.  I'm pretty sure it was mostly a space ship, but it was probably also a pirate ship, a submarine and who knows how many other things.

The yard where we live now doesn't have any decent sized trees.  None of them are big enough to climb, let alone support a tree house.  Since we're also raising two young boys (2.5yrs and 5yrs), something had to be done.  After thinking about it for a while, I decided to get some redwood and build an elevated platform NEXT to a tree (so technically it's not a treehouse but it's pretty close!)  If I kept it at or under 64 square feet, I wouldn't have to get a permit for it - but it HAD to be big enough for the boys and I to camp out occasionally, so I figured 8'x8' would do it.   I made a very rough sketch of the vague plan so I would minimize any mistakes (in years past I would tackle something like this without writing down a thing, and I ALWAYS ended up cutting a critical piece a few inches short!)

I started out by digging two post-holes a little less than eight feet apart, and about a foot from the back wall.  I dropped in the posts, rigged them plumb and poured in cement.  After they set, I took some measurements and started digging the next set of holes.  As luck would have it, I dug straight into a buried sprinkler pipe (and of course broke the pipe with the post-hole digger).  Then I got to spend some time digging out enough space around the pipe to repair it.

Because of the sprinkler pipe I had to move the second set of posts closer than planned to the first two - only four feet apart instead of the five I had planned.  It still seemed like it should be sufficiently sturdy, so I wasn't too worried.  I nudged the next two posts into position so they were more or less square, then cemented those in as well.

The next weekend I added two 2x6 beams on each post, and then 2x6's across the front and back, finishing the base of the platform.  Everything still measured square and was coming together nicely.  Joists were added, then corner braces.  After that, it was time to put the decking down.

Of course any decent treehouse needs a hatch for entry, so as I was putting down the 1x6 flooring, I cut four planks even with the joist.

After I had half the floor nailed down, and the rest of the planks up on the frame ready to be lined up and nailed, the work site was deemed "safe" for early trials.  The boys carefully joined me, and helped.  They both had a chance to shoot a few nails with the nail gun :)

I added the last posts and started the railings, then got to work on the hatch and finishing off the railings by adding 3/4" square uprights.

After the hatch, I built the stairs from two 12' 2x6's, and was done!  (For about a day...)

I thought it looked pretty good, but it didn't look like a house.  It also only had shade over half the platform, so on a hot summer day it was unlikely to see much use.  I also expected to spend a lot of time here on my work from home days, so it was going to need some shade.

The addition of about 40' of 1" PVC and a sail shade we had left over from a previous incarnation of our back yard solved the problem.  It's probably not sturdy enough to stand up to the santa anas we get, but luckily it can be easily removed in the event of heavy weather.

So far the boys have only sustained one injury.  Anderson was climbing up or down when I had the aluminum ladder there, and managed to get down to the ground without using his hands.  Or his feet.  Mostly he just used his head :(  But he was none the worse for wear the next day, and it hasn't deterred him at all - hopefully it's just made him a tiny bit more careful on the ladder!

It's already a popular choice for reading stories, and they're both pros at getting up and down and opening and closing the hatch.  We're looking forward to spending a lot of time up there in the years to come - I'm especially excited to see them having new adventures up there on their own just like I did when I was growing up!

(All the pictures are here)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Nathan's Five Year Stats

Nathan had his five year doctor appointment & I think this was one of the easier appointments with him!  He had a hearing test & passed with flying colors.  Then he had a vision test, which he didn't care for too much.  At one point he started making up shapes (he was looking at a shape chart).  His vision is 20/30, but it could be better since we don't know for sure if he could or could not see some shapes.  For the first time he got to wear a hospital gown for his appointment which he liked.  

Here are his stats:
Height: 42.5" - 37%
Weight: 44 lbs 8 oz - 72%

For his height he is normally in the 25% range, so it is nice to see this percentage go up.  Even though he is at 72% for weight he has leveled off and he wouldn't technically be called overweight; in years past his BMI would put him at being overweight even though he didn't look like it!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Holy Piñata!

Nathan's birthday is coming up and he wanted a piñata. Trying to find one that fits into the reptile theme is a little hard.  I had found a tutorial for a spider pinata from Oh Happy Day and was thinking about doing that, but it didn't quite fit my reptile theme for Nathan's birthday party.  I was then scrolling through the awesome pinatas featured on Oh Happy Day and came across this Alligator Pinata.  This was PERFECT!  I read the instructions and it didn't seem that hard to do.  It also helped that we just made a trip to Ikea and bought some shelves, so I had the perfect cardboard box to make the pinata.

Assembling the cardboard part was really easy and took no time at all.  The next part, the fringe, was where I experienced the challenge!  First, I didn't get the kind of crepe paper she recommends.  I just used green tissue paper that I found on sale.  It would have to work for me.  Cutting fringe takes A. LONG. TIME!  Luckily, I had my super birthday helper that wanted to cut the fringe.

This pinata took a lot longer to make than I thought it was going to take.  The fringe alone was a half day project.  And by half day I was really working on it the whole time with little breaks.  I think that it was all worth it because the finished product looked awesome!  

It looked even more awesome in person

Watch out for those teeth!
Since I've never made a pinata before I didn't know how this one would hold up.  I figured that it would do okay since it was cardboard, but I didn't know how the seams would hold up since I just used masking tape.  I thought about using duct tape, but then I thought that it might never break.  We loaded up the pinata with lots of toys.

Now came the time for it to be destroyed :(.  It was a little sad to know that kids would pound on this and break it after all of the hard work that Nathan and I put into it.  

Luckily, it made it through all the kids but one.  Where it ended up breaking was at the top and that was because I didn't think about a great rigging system for how to hang it, so the top wasn't the strongest.  Just a small chunk fell off.  The pinata hardly got any damage at all on the sides of it.  The cardboard did a great job.  Oh, and we also used this lightweight plastic bat.  One the kids wanted to keep the pinata and I was going to let him, but Christopher said that we should keep it and use it again.  Excellent idea!  

Mr. Alligator pinata will be making another appearance in a year or so at a future birthday party for Anderson.  Hopefully, he will still be holding up well.  I'm sure that I'll also reinforce some areas with duct tape :]!

More birthday pictures soon!