I must remind myself that this time last year our house didn’t even have sheetrock or toilets so I can’t feel down that we don’t have a brilliant patio, garden, playset, and yard. I’ve been working hard and I can say we do have a fairly cool playset and 1/4 of a garden structure. I got semi-firm timing on when the builders will be able to finish our yard grading and the grass is after that. I know I’ve posted a little about the play structure already but for the sake of complete info, here is a pretty complete summary;
1. I purchased this set* from Amazon since it came with hardware and swings and I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel. It was a good choice and I learned some nice tricks from the instructions that I used in my extra structures. I did need to buy the GIANT drill bit and spade bit but they proved useful in all other parts of my building so an extra $30 well spent. It took me about a week in little bursts to get the base set done. If I just ‘did it’ I estimate 6 hours and you absolutely need a 2nd person for at least one part but I did the vast majority alone. Let’s just say that time in the gym isn’t wasted because I lifted a lot in making this. (*I get nothing from you buying, just telling you what I got)
2. I had this set of monkey bars from when we had them in our old house. I originally thought I would put them from the platform end but once I saw the 3d version I scrapped that plan and moved the monkey bars over to the end. The plan was to use the A at the end for one of the supports to increase stability. This could have been done in about an hour but took me 4 days because of the lack of an hour in a row.
- I measured and dug holes for the other 4x4x8 3 legs based on the anchor of the swing set
- I assembled the bars 17 inches apart on the 2x6x12s set onto a set of saw horses so I didn’t have to use a ladder. This did create a pretty heavy thing to lift up and bolt so my solution was to put a couple screws half way into each leg at about the goal height to lift and prop the monkey bars on top of. It isn’t safe to leave this way so make sure you have time to do at least 3 of the 4 legs or just put it down again.
- With the bars up lifted up (team lift) and resting at the height, we decided on (78 inches) based on the scientific method of having the kids reach/jump and show me where they wanted – I bolted the first ‘corner’ to the swing set using 3/4 x5 bolts and these nifty washers that nail into the wood. I sunk each in about an inch and drilled using my giant drill bit purchased for the swing set.
- From that first point, I leveled the system on leg number 2 (same side, other end). I generally ignored the level left/right at that time and things stayed reasonably steady on their screw rests. I could pretty easily lift the little bit to make it level and then reused the screws to fasten it while I made the bolt hole.
- Turned around and did the 3rd bolt, leveling left/right and repeating the screw, drill, bolt procedure.
- Last leg, I had to level both lengths and left/right but it was pretty easy with the other 3 set tight.
- Finally, I cut scrap to add bracers/steps and attached them.
The monkey bars were a wild success and my monkey children loved it. After a few days it got a left/right wobble on the end away from the swing set. I didn’t use concrete or set them super deep so that would be a good choice if you want to eliminate this issue. Personally, I didn’t concrete because I didn’t know how long this will be up, and, I didn’t want to mess with it. Instead, I added a flip bar to add to the fun, and, stabilize the system.
- I purchased another 4x4x8, a 3/4in 45inch long threaded stainless pipe (they come that way at our store) and 2 floor flanges.
- To be super stable we sunk this 4×4 super deep, so deep we hit water. There is at least 4 feet below the ground (FYI the reason why we don’t have a basement).
- I already had the giant drill and the spade bit from the swing set and I easily drilled a set of holes and banged the pipe through.
- thread on the flange and screw it onto the posts, not like it was going anywhere but now it really isn’t.
The flip bar was actually the easiest thing because I already had the tools and really it was already 1/3 built because it latched onto leg 3 of the monkey bars. Amazing what not going to the store does for the speed of a project.
Future plans for this structure include a balance beam on the other side of the monkey bar to further stabilize, although it is pretty good now. I’m also adding a ninja line at some point too, still researching the right one for us.
If you found this because you want to DIY a backyard swing set or playset this worked for me. I would say I have medium building skills and I read the directions many may times. For the part I ‘made up’ it is all about keeping stuff level and bolting it together. The rest of the yard is not much to look at but the kids have a playset now and that was goal #1 of the yard.
I missed recording a few things in my crazy little life here.
Most importantly; #2 is now 9! As we say ‘It’s time for 9″. She claims she had to wait FOREVER for her birthday and all her friends are older, however, given the number of birthday parties we have attended for her friends this month, she was born peak season. We did another sleepover with a fun painting project to pass the time. All the girls did great with everything and eventually went to sleep. The party was on a Friday night to have a prayer of fitting into graduation/recital season and we actually had everyone attend and the bonus was we still had the weekend. On her real birthday, we had lunch together at school and she skipped jujitsu to hang out with me and then we went for sushi. It was a full day and I think she enjoyed it.
Speaking of parties – in the past 2 weeks, we have had 4 kid birthday parties, a house warming, a bridging ceremony, a graduation, and 2 grad parties that we got to. It has been an intensely social couple of weeks. Most of these were in succession, going from one to the next to the next. A few were concurrent where we dropped a kid at a birthday and went to another celebration and back in time to pick up again. Exhausting but exciting and fun to see so many friends achieving things in their worlds.
The weather… has been a factor in all things. Currently, it is raining, again. Yesterday it was perfect. That is the way, we get a couple gorgeous days and a couple soggy days. I have two lists at all times; things to do outside and things to do inside. It also has been mild to cool here still. I know other places are melting already but we are still using layers. I wonder if I can ever put away all the winter?
Remember when I said I was doing a lot of field trips this month? This past week I went on a 3 day trip ‘up north’ with the 5th grade. It was thoroughly educational and the staff at the place was incredibly good with kids and making science exciting. Every activity had a running dialogue of history and science and social interactions that was like sneaking veggies into a cookie. We spent tons of time in the woods, in the ponds looking at micro-organisms, and even some classroom time. They have a magic formula going up there I’m glad to have participated in. It was worth the time, however, three days away still has a price in things NOT done elsewhere and it was also not exactly relaxing keeping track of 130 kids.
We also got a new minivan. This was a process that spanned about 4 months but we finally got it this Saturday. It is still a little amazing to be in, so new and full of tech to learn. We decided on the Pacifica – great safety and stats – but we needed one that had 6 seats in the back. That turned out to be a special order but it was worth the wait because since we were factory ordering we could get or leave out any option we wanted so no compromises because it was ‘on the lot’. I listed our Oddysey and hope it sells to a nice person. That will be its own post someday because it truly was a good car. We have always done a trade in so it is odd to still have our old car too.
Between parties and rain storms, we have gotten more of the play set up, I added monkey bars and then a flip bar that is both fun and helps keep the system stable. The kids are enjoying it both for its built purpose of swing/monkey bar/flip and also as a centerpiece of imagination games that I can’t even start to describe. Let’s just say my 3 have no shortage of crazy imagination scenarios that they can play all day. This set lures them out of the house. There is still a list of building projects not to mention yard work in general. We did get our yard mowed. Note I didn’t say grass…. we are waiting on the builders to finish some drainage fixes so we didn’t plant yet, however, plenty of volunteer green items were filling the void and we mowed them to a socially acceptable level. Next year we might have grass… maybe.
Sports were dominant this month with #1 doing track and #2 doing softball and #3 doing gymnastics and they were all stacked on Monday and Tuesday making them crazy afternoons. We survived though, the last track meet was Monday and #1 did very well. She was 3rd overall for the 800m and had fun on all her events. Everyone got t-shirts and ribbons and I got to see parent friends from all over I wasn’t expecting. Now we ‘just’ have softball and gymnastics (and jujitsu) but the schedule is much less crazy.
Last but not least, I looked and there are less 2 weeks of school left. This year flew by but we did do quite a lot so we earned our summer. The next 2 weeks are full of end of year things, a final field trip, #2 has a wax museum presentation that parents are invited to, and I need to do one last birthday party.
I’m closing in on 1000 words here so that is plenty to read with your coffee, I will keep ‘blogging’ on my list for inside time and hopefully, I get back to a bit more regular schedule when things click over to summer life.
ps. while uploading pictures I was reminded that I also went to school for their field day, a 5th-grade concert that was actually really good, we dealt with our first major behavior in school issue, we attended the agriculture fair at the high school and got to pet the baby goats and I helped a friend rehab and stage his house to sell – reminding me I don’t really like packing but packing someone else is more fun. Now I don’t feel so bad about the basket of towels that just never seems to get folded.
Today we were *supposed* to be building a swing set, however, my hardware is not here yet so we jumped onto a project Lars has been really wanting for a long time.
We got super lucky that a friend had a pile of deck wood in his yard that was 2x6x14. (This made our project virtually free) This time Lars did all the research and after a year of using a really bad stand and then searching the internet, he found this target on youtube that was the ‘best’ in many respects. I watched it a few times and figured out the dimensions as we went. In the video he says he uses 2×6’s but they really didn’t look like 2×6 to me, but, I just went with it figuring that if you are using 4×4 blocks a 2×4 would be a little skimpy. After acquiring all the 2×6’s and making the frame I found in the comments that he actually used 2×4’s. Oh well, mine is stronger. He also used bolts and I used screws, again, preference. So, up to you if you use 2×4 or 2×6 or a mix; here is my how-to so you can save some time on dimensions.
- 4×4 – enough to make 100 4in blocks
- 2×4 and 2×6 – I am skipping a precise list here because it depends on the length wood you have what you need, look at the cut list instead.
- 1/4 plywood – enough to cover 3.2 x 3.2, I used 2 pieces I had scrap
- 110 1.25 screws
- 28 (min) 3in Spax #10 <- maybe it is overkill but I love these things
- chop saw and circular saw
- measuring tools
100 blocks of 4x4x4. Despite being called a 4×4 it is not 4 inches, my set of 10 measured 3 feet. <- glad I double checked this or it would have been a re-do.
- Uprights; (2) 7f
- Foot/bottom; (2) 4f
- Diagonal; (2) 4f
- cross piece for the bottom; (1) 3f 6in
- top and bottom of the ‘frame’; (2) 3f **double check your row of 10 blocks and adjust to match. If you want a different sized target to adjust to compensate.
- Spacer; (2) 8in apx (scrap ok, big enough to accommodate the wood you use on an angle)
Order of Operations.
There are probably many right ways, this worked for me well.
- Cut 100 4x4x4 blocks. Double check the measure <- Lars did this while I did everything else
- On upright (1) mark 4f from the top of the stand, mark. take your actual lower frame piece (5), line it up at the mark and then mark below it. (sorry I didn’t take any pictures of it on the ground!)
- Lay foot (2) down, put the upright (1) perpendicular 11 inches from the front of the foot. Check 90 degrees with a protractor/square. Fasten with 2 fasteners.
- add the spacer (6) 3in from the back of the foot. Fasten with 2 fasteners.
- Put the diagonal (3) between the spacer and the bottom of the mark on the upright to make a triangle, there will be some sticking out at the top and bottom. At this point, you can either mark the angle and cut to make it neat, or, leave it overhanging. (I left mine, helped on my lumpy ground for stability) Fasten with 2 fasteners on each end. **see pictures below for a visual**
- Repeat 2-5 for the other side, make sure you mirror it so you have a left and right side.
- Stand up a side, with the foot on the outside and the angle on the inside, fasten the bottom of the frame (5) perpendicular at the mark you made onto the upright. After 1 fastener, make sure it is level front/back. Add the second fastener. **Might not be 90 degrees because of gravity, it will be better after the 2nd half is on.
- Stand up other side and fasten bottom of the frame at the mark.
- Put cross piece (4) across the front of the foot at the upright. Check that the uprights are level/90 degrees and fasten.
- Add all your blocks! This is fun for kids. Make sure the end grain is out.
- Insert the top of the frame, there will be extra protruding up. This is another variation from his design, he has the top bolted into the end grain to ‘clamp’ down the blocks. I have had bad luck fastening into end grain and this method clamped just fine. Fasten from the sides, both sides.
- Put the back on, fasten around the sides and then into each block. We used an offcut to make marks where each block is. Does not need to be exact, but, this is a necessary step because it is the best way to keep the blocks ‘in’ when you are pulling knives out of them. Also, when one is ruined it can easily be replaced and the other blocks don’t fall or shift.
We actually moved our frame between step 9 and 10 because I was worried it would be very heavy but whatever you do, don’t move it until the blocks are fastened, you will see why.
This is great for knives, ok for axe. I have a few ideas for axes in the future and if it works out I’ll share.
Sometimes a project is absolutely necessary and so you just do it. Time is found, maybe counters are dirty for a day but the projcet gets done.
Then there are projects that aren’t really neeeeeded right away so you do some planning, then pick up some supplies intending to do it ‘that weekend’ and then step over said supplies for a month (or more). At a certain point, you might actually clean up the supplies to the garage and then have to go find them again. I didn’t get that far this time, I finally finally got some of our storage shelving up today; only took 3 months.
Note I say ‘some’ because, in my mental fog of life+too many projects, I got 8f long shelves and 2 shelf brackets each. Yeah, um, gravity etc. Now I have 1 shelf left to go up and a single bracket. Can I possibly complete a project without going to the store 3x?
I also got a tad frustrated because I had a great plan for spacing. I got a new stud finder because my old one took a little too much head trauma over the past 10 years and it makes noises but not very accurate ones. I marked studs, I marked and measured and used a level. However, on THREE of my brackets, the spot for the screw was EXACTLY where the builder used a screw to attach the drywall. I guess I should be proud I have the instincts of a builder but they got there first so I can’t also use that exact spot. I adjusted around and maybe one of my brackets only has 1 fastener, this shelf is not holding up bricks, but it is up. Do I go to the store for more brackets to finish the darn thing? I’m not sure, once I get shelves up then I just have to clean and organize so if I never get that shelf I can leave it the way it is right?
I’m glad that I pulled myself away from computer work and routine housekeeping to get this done. I always feel better for making headway even if I don’t finish. That last shelf might just decorate the floor for a bit longer but probably not forever.
Oh what a fun little holiday. You can ignore it and nobody cares, you can go crazy and nobody minds too much. There is very little debate over ‘the meaning’ and it is almost fun to be the ‘guy who hates valentines day’. Nobody really takes it too seriously so anything you do it all good.
For me, it is one of my 2x yearly I try and get a good picture of my kids. I like to make the cards, I started a few years ago and I’m only sorry I didn’t start earlier. For a DIY craft it is one of the easiest and over the past few years, I’ve refined my technique.
Here is my how-to for photo cards
- figure out your theme. There are tons of great ones on pinterest but this year we did one that was not actually from there (but it will be there soon!). It was my 10 year olds idea, we have a cute dog and she wanted to include her. We have done the holding candy and blowing kisses, both are super cute but I don’t want to repeat.
- Take the pictures. I use my DSLR but a camera phone is just as easy really. Take as many as they/you have the patience for so you have options and be chill with the details. Some of what makes them really great is that the kids add their own style by choosing the outfit or style. I tell them the goal, they fill in the details. One of my favorites was when Fiona insisted on holding the sign with her feet – it was so cute and so her.
- Import your photos into whatever software you like. I still use Picasa but there are plenty that will let you do the layout you want.
- Go to Avery.com and select one of their templates that will fit 4 per page. This is a time saver for me rather than try and do all the sizing on my own like I used to. Upload the picture and if you want to use the Avery collection of clip art and do it up. They also have a pretty easy interface for adding text, I add my text there now instead of in Picasa.
- Save the Avery file as a pdf onto your computer
- go to UPS.com and do their 8.5×11 color printing option. Select 100# card stock and full color and upload your pdf. Double check sizing etc and order. I did 10 sheets to yield 40 cards and it cost around $8.
You can also just print on your home computer but for the price, I like the quality. My home printer is absolutely NOT photo quality. I originally got cards printed via walmart as photos, however, the cardstock is more sturdy and the price is better so I’m not going back.
As they get older I like the idea more. The cards in the store are really intended for younger kids based on the cartoons etc and my way the sky is the limit because I can type whatever message I want. I did one for a friends son and it said “Valentine’s Day? Whatever…” and had an eyeroll style picture that is very him (and also cute). For the parents that don’t have time, I get it, but I count going to the store and hunting up something as more of a pain than sitting at my computer.
For this particular picture, we had a fun time getting the puppy kisses. We were going to use peanut butter but you can see that in the photo so we went with pepperoni. It was a win with the dog and gave the kids a bit of a shiny blush that wasn’t bad at all.
I hope you are inspired! I keep a set from each year in their memory boxes, makes me feel better that at least a few physical pictures exist of each of them.
2018 <- never before published because I was at a funeral this time last year.
2017 – this shape was really fun, perfect for adding a pencil to the back.
I’m about 17 different places. I think I’m developing ADD because I do a little bit on a project then run to the next thing and do something and off to the next.
Yesterday I laid out all the Halloween costumes to make sure I had all the bits and pieces and I didn’t so I had a crafty afternoon. Still a bit to do but nothing too major. When I post daily in November I’ll have DIY Batgirl, Poison Ivy, and Supergirl posts. I’m already too late for this year, might as well do them right instead of rushing.
I’m mid-major library wall project. We would be further along but we got all the shells up and decided the center unit was too small so we had to go back to the store and that is a trip all on its own.
Campaigning is an on and off thing. I’m not a ‘major candidate’ but I still feel like I need to attend everything and keep an eye on issues on Facebook. This grabs chunks of time and attention at unexpected times.
I have an entire post in my head about how we have entered the ‘taxi’ phase of parenthood. A quarter of my brain is dedicated to the logistics of getting 3 other humans to the places they need/want/have to be. It is fun overall and the things I hear in the car are priceless, especially when I have an extra kid in there.
Random house projects are still chugging along. The garage has quite a bit of shelving now and we can, most importantly, park in there now. I have acquired curtain hardware for the entire house, and fabric for upstairs, and we are working through getting that done. Given we live in a giant field, privacy isn’t that much of an issue and now that the sun isn’t rising until past 7am I think we actually waited out the situation. Curtains might be waiting until spring when I get a 5am face full of sunrise.
Family and friend dynamics, like always, are ever in need of attention. Happily given but those who feel maintaining kids, marriages, friends and family and hobby relationships take no effort might look around one day and have very few. Same with the poor neglected blog; I feel guilty that I can’t do more with everyone, the house is like a newborn! Thankfully I hope everyone who matters understands.
And that is all I have time for today. I need to get back to all the things before they get worse and spawn dangerous things for the neglect…