We Built a Swing Set!

We Built a Swing Set!

This post has been a long time coming.  Life with 2 very mobile and energetic kids just gets busy (which is why I needed an outlet for their energy in the first place).  Throw in several weeks when of 3/4 of us had pneumonia, and the past couple months have flown by.  However, we’ve had plenty of time to test out the new swing set and I can report with confidence it is a winner!

I first started thinking about building a swing set last spring and was beginning to research the idea when Shane broke his leg.  I looked into the Costco sets that you buy ready to assemble, but they were just way out of our budget.  In addition, we had seen some in people’s yards and they just seemed really dinky.  I didn’t want to put forth a lot of money, time, and effort to have the kids outgrow it too quickly!

I looked at complete DIY builds and directions I found via Pinterest and Ana White.  I also looked at other sets that come with pre-cut wood and the hardware and you just assemble it (similar to the Costco sets, but less expensive).  We ultimately decided on the Wrangler set from Swing’n Slide.  The kit included the swings, accessories and the hardware for assembly.  We would just purchase the screws and cut the lumber to size ourselves.

I spent a couple months planning, getting lumber quotes, and figuring out exactly which tools we would need to purchase.  We finally ordered and picked up our lumber mid-November.  By that time, we figured we might as well wait for Black Friday to purchase the other tools that we would need.  We scored pretty big, getting a circular saw, a new drill and several other things for very little money!

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Loading the lumber into a borrowed horse trailer

Shane and I spent a couple mornings cutting the lumber down to size, following the directions included in the Swing’n Slide kit.  That was probably my favorite part of the whole thing! I really like using a saw! I really wanted to get a 12″ compound miter saw, but due to some budget constraints, I had to settle for a circular saw. There were a couple hairy moments trying to contain two little ones while using the saw, but we got that managed without any injuries.

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Still in PJs, Tristan tries to get a piece of the sawing action

Once the lumber was ready to go, we set aside a Saturday when some family members were able to help us out with assembly.  Working until just after sun-down, we managed to get most of the clubhouse part put together.

A couple days later on Shane’s “weekend” (it was a Tuesday), he and I set aside another day to work.  That quickly derailed when we ran out of screws.  We had purchased the poundage of deck screws the Swing’n Slide directions indicated, but that clearly was not enough.  Instead of driving the half hour into town to Home Depot, we decided to just head to the closer Ace Hardware to get what we needed. Naturally, they didn’t have any outdoor 3″ screws at all.  By that time, we had to stop and feed the kids lunch and half the day was already gone.  We flipped ahead in the directions and tried to accomplish everything we could without the 3″ screws.

The goal was to have the swing set completed for Christmas – it was a joint gift to the kids from their grandparents and us.  I left town for a week in December to attend a class, and I was hopeful that Shane would be able to get some work done on the swing set.  This is where we ran into several hiccups.

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Our progress by mid-December, before I left town

The rest of December it just poured and poured and poured rain, stopping any outdoor assembly work.

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The pigs in action

Along with the rain, we had a large family (about 9 or 10) of wild pigs move into our property, completely destroying 90% of our yard.  You have no idea how much damage these darn pigs can do! It was an endless battle of them digging up the grass and me attempting to replace the divots large pieces of sod they twisted and moved (when it wasn’t raining).  They damaged so much of the turf on the side yard, we had to change our plans as to where we were going to place the swing set.  We then had to wait for the availability of extra hands to reorient and move the clubhouse so that we could continue with the assembly.

In the meantime, we went to work on drilling the holes in the beam that would hold the swings.  Enter another problem.  The directions had indicated that we needed a “long” 5/16″ drill bit, but didn’t specify any more than that.  Back on Black Friday, we purchased the longest 5/16″ drill bit that Home Depot had in stock, which was 6″ long.  This was not long enough to drill the necessary holes.  I jumped on Amazon and ordered a 12″ bit, but even with Prime shipping, everything takes longer to get here.

Once the drill bit finally arrived, we were able to finish installing the hardware for the swings.  Shane and I then managed to attach the 12-foot long beam to the A-frame support.  Then by some miracle, just he and I were able to maneuver it from the patio, out to the yard, and ultimately attach it in place.  That was probably our proudest moment! There’s no way 2 people should have been able to do that. In fact, I would advise against it.  At least having a third, if not fourth, person would be much, much better (and safer).

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Whew! Finally securing the swing beam!

To complete our swing set, we installed a cargo net for added climbing fun! Part of the problem with living on an island is we have difficulty getting some things shipped here.  Despite my best efforts, I could not find anyone who would ship a slide here.  At first it was frustrating, but we figured our little monkeys might like an additional climbing element.  So, we simply replaced the slide with the cargo net as an alternative to climbing the ladder to the top of the clubhouse.

We had to purchase a couple more 2″x 6″ boards to build out the frame to secure the cargo net to the clubhouse.  This was pretty easy and straightforward.  However, the directions had a glaring error that I didn’t realize until the boards were already cut.  Those who know me know that I’m very much a color-inside-the-lines, follow-directions-to-a-T type of person. So that’s what I did.  I cut the boards as they specified and when I went to dry-fit them on the frame, realized that the long board they had me cut was 9 inches short of what it should have been! It ended up not being too big of a deal as we just shifted it to fit. It was supposed to run the full length of the clubhouse frame and now it ends awkwardly right below the ladder.

The Swing’n Slide hardware is really great.   We have no worries about swings coming unattached and the bolts and plates used to secure the frame are solid.  That swing set has already withstood a 4.0 earthquake! My only real complaint with the Swing’n Slide kit is their directions.  Mind you, I read the directions front to back about 6 times before we even started building at all.  I found them to be vague (like when they called for a “long” 5/6″ drill bit) and inaccurate in places (as with the lumber measurements for the cargo net). They should have also called for 4 lbs of 3″ deck screws instead of just the 3 lbs listed in the directions.  You’d think a company that makes its money designing and selling these kits could be more accurate in their directions! If things hadn’t been inaccurate or vague, it definitely would’ve saved us time and frustration.

I will say this was a brave undertaking for two DIY novices.  On the other hand, we now feel quite confident we can tackle many other projects around the house!

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Over all we are quite happy with our swing set! The kids have plenty of room to grow into it! In fact, Shane and I are planning on adding a rock climbing wall, and a disc swing on the arm that extends from the top of the clubhouse.  We also have a fourth spot on the swing beam to add something else.  To do that, we will have to order another set of hardware so that we can hang a fourth item. We currently have one regular swing (the kit included 2, the second is in storage), the bar/rings combo, and a Fisher-Price infant/toddler swing for Rosie.

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It’s been really fun to have this in our yard and to not always have to load everybody up in the car to go to the park! I’m so glad we did it!

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Rosie’s 1st Birthday

Rosie’s 1st Birthday

I’m a wee bit behind on this post, seeing as today marks Rosie as 13 months old.  If you haven’t heard, I’ve been pretty ill for the past couple weeks with severe pneumonia.  It finally landed me in the ER a few evenings ago, but I’m happy to say that I’m now on the mend.  Of course, Tristan is now fighting pneumonia as well.  It’s been a rough few weeks, for sure.

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A month ago, however, we were celebrating our little girl’s first birthday! My mom and dad  arrived on Rose’s actual birthday and we were able to have a mini celebration that night, with her first taste of a cupcake.

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We hosted her garden-themed party on the following Saturday at our house.  With a name like Rose, I couldn’t resist.  All in all, it was a simple and sweet DIY party that I seriously could not have pulled off without my mom and dad’s help!

We had tea sandwiches and other pupus (appetizers, for you mainland folks) as well as sweet treats, including Fairy Bites.  Seriously, the fairy bites were my favorite – and addictive.  I strongly recommend checking out the recipe! My mom got fancy and made a watermelon basket for the fruit salad too.

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My dad did an amazing job with the floral arrangements! I had picked up an assortment of flowers at the grocery store and my dad mixed them all up in some mason jars that (no joke) we literally dug up from the yard.  We had found them buried when clearing and leveling the mass of weeds in front of the driveway.  A little washing and drying and they cleaned up perfectly.  I loved my dad’s arrangements so much, I skipped the ribbon I had planned to tie around the jars.  I really wish I had a good picture of the flowers.  I loved putting the jars all throughout my house after the party and enjoying the flowers in several rooms!

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Other decorations consisted of bakers twine strung up by the food tables with a picture of Rosie for each month clothes-pinned to the twine.  We also loaded a digital frame with many, many more pictures of her throughout the year.

Favors consisted of “Thanks A Bunch” wildflower seed packets I ordered from American Meadows.  They were so cute and easy to slip into thank you notes for the folks that weren’t able to make it to the party.

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We (me and my parents) even DIY-ed a “1” piñata for the party.  My dad is a whiz with cardboard construction and my mom helped me with the ombre tissue paper.  We made it as a pull-string piñata, which I figured was more age-appropriate and less dangerous for our little guests.  Every kid grabs a string and we all pull at the same time.  All but 1 or 2 strings just slip through a slit in the bottom of the piñata while the “winning” strings (I had 2) pull open a flap on the bottom and let the treats out – in our case fruit snacks and Annie’s cookies and crackers.  GIF courtesy of our friend Sean.

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After that, there was of course cake!

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Rosie was not shy about digging in and enjoyed everyone singing to her.  Again, GIF courtesy of Sean.

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Other memorable moments included Rosie dancing to her favorite song, “Shut up and Dance with Me” by Walk the Moon.  That girl loves a party!

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We have been so blessed with her addition to our family over the past year 13 months.  I can’t imagine our family any other way.  We love you Rose Pomaikai!

 

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Christmas 2015 – Recap

It’s hard to believe the holidays are just about over. I actually get a little down every year starting December 26. I tend to feel like someone burst my bubble and I’m suddenly back in the real world. I try to hang on to Christmas as long as I can. 

After all, the Twelve Days of Christmas only begin on December 25. I’m totally that weirdo still rocking out to Christmas music. My tree and decorations may come down in the next few days, or I might leave it all up until Three Kings Day, also known as Epihany, which marks the end of the Christmas season on the church calendar. 

Before New Years and it’s suddenly January (!), I wanted to stop in and share a little bit about our Christmas. 

In my last post, I mentioned that the Sunday School Christmas program was the following morning. I’m not sure that I shared that it was a family affair. It’s a pretty small church, so Rosie, Shane and myself were drafted to play Jesus, Joseph and Mary. Tristan played both a scribe to the Wise Men as well as a [wandering] sheep. 

  
The whole thing is on YouTube, if you’re so inclined. It’s about 24 minutes long. There’s two different perspectives available, actually. One of the high school youth wrote the play. It’s a comedy that focuses on the Wise Men and I found it hilarious. 

Tristan’s shining moment as scribe is about 5 or 6 minutes in. 

  
The rest of the week consisted of fudge and pizzelle-making, the crafting of paper snowflakes and a visit or two with some family. 

   
 Shane was working, so I took the kids to church on Christmas Eve. They were adorably excitable throughout the service. It all went well except for the part where Tristan nearly lit Rosie’s hair on fire during Silent Night. Thank you, Jesus, for letting us avoid that disaster!

  
Christmas morning started early, especially early for Shane who worked until midnight Christmas Eve. I’m not sure who was more excited, me or Tristan. He came up to our room about 4:30am, which is typical for him. He’ll usually snuggle in and go back to sleep until 6 or 6:30. 

  
This year, however, he knew to check to see if Santa left gifts. On his way to our room he stopped to check out the gifts under the tree. All were wrapped except for a new play tent, which he started asking about once in bed with us. Shortly after, Rosie woke. Everyone was squirming around and we realized nobody was going back to sleep. Thus, gift opening began at 5am. 

Tristan was so excited to figure out which present had his Kylo Ren lightsaber. Rosie was just totally content to toddle around holding scraps of wrapping paper. 

Once the much anticipated lightsaber was located, the dueling commenced, using the Anakin/Vader lightsaber he received last year. My kid has a thing for the Dark Side. Much of the morning (and the past week, actually) looked like this:

  
Gifts were pretty simple this year. Apparently Shane and I are of an age where gifts are [mostly] practical and received in advance. We didn’t exchange gifts with each other since we got power tools to build the swing set (post coming soon!)

  
We set a strict budget for gifts for the kids – and lucked out when we scored a few new-to-us items from friends that were moving. Rosie’s big gift from Santa was a sing & learn dog. However, I think she was most excited by the jingle bells in her stocking. 

  
Between coffee, pizzelles, more lightsaber duels, and ripped wrapping paper, we Facetimed with our family on the mainland before heading to brunch with Shane’s dad and Anita. 

  
Shane had to work that afternoon and evening. The kids took a nap when we got home while I assembled one of their gifts – an art easel – and watched Elf. The three of us had a simple dinner and called it an early night. 

  
All in all, it was a great Christmas! Don’t mind me, I’ll be hoarding candy canes to make it through to next Christmas season. 

Christmas Week Begins! 

Christmas Week Begins! 

I’ve been at a training on Oahu for the last week and feel like I hit “pause” on Christmas. I’m so excited to get back home and have some Christmasy activities this week with my two kids! I think there is some fudge and cookie baking in our future!

I am obsessed with Christmas and it is my favorite holiday. I present evidence I am a Christmas nut:

  

(Sadly I did not purchase that hat). 

We decorated the tree a few days before Thanksgiving. I’m usually strict about decorating the day after, but Shane was off work and I knew I was going to be gone for a week. I didn’t want to miss out on the decorations for a whole week, so I did it early! 

  
  

More evidence I’m a little nuts about the holiday:

  

Once the tree was up and decorated I was able to get pictures of the kids!!! It’s a little bit of a lean year for us financially, so we only sent 9 cards. (Thank you coupon code for 10 free cards, Shutterfly). Don’t think we forgot you if you don’t receive a card. They pretty much only went to grandparents. 

I used these two photos on the cards we made. 

   
 It was so fun because both Tristan and Rose are wearing clothes that belonged to me and my brother. My mom actually sewed Rosie’s romper for me on my first Christmas. How fun it is to have my daughter wear it for hers! 

We’ll be kicking off our week with the Sunday School Christmas program tomorrow morning at church. This year it will be a family affair. Rosie, myself and Shane will be playing Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Tristan will be a sheep again. This always makes me think of the Charlie Brown Christmas specials. Haha!
Besides the baking there will be lots of Christmas music and maybe some paper-snowflake-making. What will you be up to this week?

The Holidays, Unplugged

The Holidays, Unplugged

Don’t worry, there’s plenty of lights twinkling on my Christmas tree! If I had it my way, our house would be the Griswold House, 2.0. Lucky for Shane, and perhaps our neighbors, electricity costs an arm and a leg here and we’re in the middle of nowhere. No Christmas light display on our home’s exterior. [Insert Allison sad face] But, I digress.

My Facebook friends already know this, but I’m taking a social media break, my holidays “unplugged,” if you will. It’s kind of an early New Years resolution kickstart. I found myself forming bad habits ignoring my children, to be perfectly honest, in favor of scrolling my newsfeed. Since I recognize my weakness, why wait for the new year to make changes?


I’m taking the time to be more intentional with my family and friends and the time I spend with them. I want to make some holiday memories instead of reading about what others are doing. I like hearing “Mom this is fun!” instead of “Moooom, put down your phone!” I realize that my presence, fully in the moment, is the best gift I can give my children and the rest of my family. I’m looking people in the eye when we converse. I’m getting down on the floor and really enjoying playtime with Tristan and Rosie. Shoot! I’ve even been more productive around the house, actually tackling projects that have been stacking up on my to-do list.


Thanksgiving was so enjoyable since I wasn’t worried about taking and sharing the perfect photos or seeing what everyone else was doing. I was able to be truly present with the people by my side – and engage in some hilarious rounds of Cards Against Humanity!

Naturally, as soon as I take a break, something post-worthy happens. On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Rosie took her first steps!!! It took her a little over a week to gain her confidence. The last couple days she’s really taken off walking everywhere she can. I was finally able to get some video of her adorable baby steps. Every time I tried to get it on video she would stop and start crawling again. This is the best I could do. My baby is getting so big!

In other happenings, last week we paid a visit to Santa at the ʻImiloa Astronomy Center‘s holiday party. After dinner we decorated cookies while sipping hot chocolate then went to see the big man. Rosie was reaching out to him while in line but freaked once she got close. Tristan confidently sat on his lap and discussed the new Star Wars movie. Of course he asked Santa for “the red light saber with the side blades.”


After that we got our family picture on the moon! Tristan and I then made shrinky-dink ornaments before calling it a night. As sugared up as they were, we didn’t think the kids would make it through the Christmas star film showing that night.

Imiloa Moon Picture
I hope to be back soon with a post about the swing set. We started assembly over the weekend and it’s going to be awesome!!!

Coffee Art or Memo Board?

Coffee Art or Memo Board?

At the end of this post I mentioned that I had a few more burlap projects up my sleeve. Today I share with you my new kitchen bulletin board! 

  
Let’s back up a little bit, shall we? I haven’t really shown this wall (it’s directly across from Rosie’s bedroom door) because for a long while it looked like this: 

  
The previous owner is to blame for the damaged wall. She hung baskets there for produce. She took the baskets and left boards with hooks sticking out still screwed (and possibly glued?) to the wall. They were hell to remove and I obviously still need to actually patch the wall there. 

I fantasize daily about removing that wall when we save enough money to remodel our kitchen. My solution in the meantime was/is to make it functional. Originally I slapped up a white board and a few fabric covered cork tiles that I already had so we could post information. 

I quit using the whiteboard around the beginning of June and the clutter was beginning to drive me crazy. That’s when I started to brainstorm some ideas about a more functional memo board. 

Back in May, Shane and I spent a weekend on Kauai for a friend’s wedding. It’s always a treat to visit Kauai since it’s absolutely gorgeous and I get to listen to Shane relive his high school days. It’s also where we honeymooned. 

While there, I insisted on stopping at the Kauai Coffee Estate. They are my favorite coffee and we also visited during our honeymoon. 

Cozy with the coffee trees as a newlywed

  
 This time, after a guided tour, we left with several bags of coffee and a couple burlap coffee bags. They have a different design for each year. They were sold out of the 2009 bags (the year we got married). We went home with a 2008 (the year we met) and a 2013 bag (we liked the design). I just had to figure out what I was going to do with the bags. 

Shane being silly

One project idea I had was to do a bulletin board for the kitchen. The project finally came to fruition last month after I snagged a faded cork board for 5 bucks at a garage sale. It was the perfect size for the coffee bag. 

I cut the bag down the middle of the back and then used a seam ripper to pull out the bottom seam. I could’ve used the seam ripper to do the side seam of the bag too, but it would’ve resulted in an off-center design on the board as there wasn’t enough fabric to wrap it that way. It did result in a slightly wonky right side of the board because of the thickness at the seam, but oh well. I actually like that it is imperfect. 

Next, I centered the image and lined up the fabric on top of the cork board. Using plain thumb tacks I picked up at Home Depot for about $1.58, I pinned the burlap to the board along the edges of its aluminum frame. 

Once I finished with my “nailhead” trim, I trimmed the excess fabric on all sides. Pulling the burlap taut, I then wrapped it around the edges of the frame and secured with hot glue on the back. 

I then just nailed right through the board to attach it to the wall. 

  
I took the opportunity to clean up some of the old notes and things we had pinned up. After all, I don’t want to completely obscure the coffee art! I totally need to get on repairing that wall already. 

If you ever find yourself on Kauai, I highly recommend stopping by for a tour at the Kauai Coffee Estate! They do carry some Kauai Coffee at major retailers now if you want to sample. I know they have it at Costco, Harris Teeter for my Virginia friends, and Safeway. They just started selling it at Target here in the last few months. Not sponsored, Kauai Coffee is just my favorite and I’m a little obsessed. 

Another picture of Kauai coffee trees before you go!

  

A DIY Halloween

A DIY Halloween

I’ll share a quick “What we did for Halloween” post before the internets and society-at-large are completely consumed by all things Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas is my absolute favorite, but things that last only a limited time are a lot more special than holidays that are dragged out forever in the name of consumerism, in my opinion.

The Halloween costumes had been more or less decided since February or so. Since Tristan was Yoda for his first Halloween, I allowed Shane to talk me into another Star Wars theme costume. 

Tristan’s 1st Halloween as Yoda

Tristan made a very convincing Luke Skywalker this year. 

Tristan as Luke Skywalker

I DIYed his entire costume. I started off with a pair of $6 khakis from Target that he can both wear again and grow into (they’re a bit big). I then took one of Shane’s old shirts, cut it and sewed the neck line so it fit Tristan a little better and mimicked Luke’s tunic. I cinched the shirt with one of my belts – wrapped twice – around his waist.  
I grabbed a couple ace bandages (idea credit goes to somewhere on Pinterest, not my original idea) and wrapped them around his rain boots and legs. We already had the lightsaber which Tristan got for Christmas last year. The orange thing in his belt is a toy screwdriver he insisted was his green lightsaber for later. Kid loves Star Wars. 

Rosie’s 1st Halloween

Naturally, Rosie was Princess Leia to Tristan’s Luke Skywalker. We requested the Leia bun hat from Shane’s mom who had crocheted the Yoda hat after Tristan was born. 

I originally was going to sew her a dress from a pattern I found on Etsy months ago, but I struggled to find the motivation. I personally have a hard time justifying a huge effort and budget on a costume for one night that can’t really be worn again or the kid will out grow quickly. We have a Princess Leia onesie from Fathers Day that I was going to have her wear. I ended up digging out a white onesie and my fabric markers (from my baby shower when pregnant with Tristan, no less) and quickly drew a belt to match Leia’s. I kept the other onesie as back-up, because babies. 

I wasn’t planning on dressing up at all. Shane was excited to be Darth Vader, but unfortunately had to work most of the day and evening. In the end, I decided it was Halloween and I could be Luke and Leia’s father. 😃

 

Star Wars Family

 
I just donned a skirt and a flowy black shirt that made me think of Vader’s robe and the voice-changing mask (another Christmas gift from last year). I did have fun with that! I also changed Tristan’s light saber from blue to red when I got stuck carrying it. 

I just took the kids to trunk-or-treat at church. Tristan really didn’t need that much candy and he has the dentist this week (what kind of mean mom am I?) After hitting up all of the cars he just ran around and played with his friends. We then went to McDonalds for dinner before calling it a night. 

A successful Halloween in my book and I only spent $6! 

Past Halloween posts may be found here:

2011

2012

2013

2014 – I guess I never posted about Halloween last year. Quick recap: T was Captain America. We trick-or-treated at a friend’s house because it was pouring rain.