Is it a good idea for married folk to carry heavy things together? You’ll be surprised by the answer. Just kidding you won’t, it’s a no.

You think you have a happy marriage, right up until you start carrying heavy building materials together…

Actually heavy anything is probably more accurate.

As newlyweds we moved into an apartment and filled it almost exclusively with IKEA furniture. We just assumed we loved each other more than all the other couples who cautioned us to never carry heavy things together.

My sister-law told me about a furniture moving with my brother so harrowing she was devising a murder plot. That is if she didn’t die while carrying said furniture. Another brother of mine went so far as to make himself an elaborate furniture strap/backpack so he could move heavy furniture solo and live a long blissful married life.

This is us in our first apartment back in 2011. That couch weighs maybe 20 pounds…


Turns out Brett and I just hadn’t carried a whole lot of heavy crap together. We did foray into this realm during the bathroom reno when we had to carry a wicked heavy vanity with a marble top. The thrill of throwing money down the toilet, by breaking it, and the possibility of throwing out our backs, by which I mean dying, trapped under the weight, made it almost too fun to stand.

Good thing those memories were buried deep down so we went full steam ahead with the next steps of our project. Brett had gone to Menards and got these massive sheets of treated plywood, 4×8 and 3/4 inch thick for the roof of the fort. Luckily they were also soaked, so they weighed approximately a bajillion pounds.

Now I’m not saying I don’t work out. (That’s a joke. I don’t. I’m not even sure I believe in the whole premise of working out). But if you look at the average American, then consider that those who find themselves in the hospital could be considerably less healthy and with considerably more girth, then consider who is boosting them up in bed. Yup. Nurses. But somehow that skill set doesn’t exactly translate to carrying heavy things. Generally nurses don’t do a lot of carrying of patients. Except for one of our old favorite nurses on the CARE unit who was so good about getting people up and walking, he half carried them around the unit.

All that to say Brett ended up carrying 7/8 of a bajillion pounds while I carried the other portion (1/8 for those of you who are into fractions). I would also yell things like I’m going to drop it as I was dropping it. Brett loved that. Just when I was starting to think maybe I won’t die (this was after carrying the plywood out of the van and across the yard), Brett explained how we were now going to have to lift the plywood up a good 8 feet above our heads. Then slide it up the steep portion of the roof and then up and over the roof line to the other side.

I said “well, let’s give it a try.” Brett really was of the opinion we shouldn’t just try since there was no real exit strategy for hoisting a huge sheet of plywood above your head. Brett stayed on the ground to hoist from the bottom. I think my job was guiding it or pushing it or something.

This is Brett up on the roof with the piece of plywood we got in place.


If it sounds haphazard, it’s because it was. You’ll be happy to know after six years of wedded bliss we do still love each other. It does however, make me seriously question our judgment. Our neighbor literally asked, as I was almost dropping the plywood, if we needed help, we laughed and said “no, we got it.” Is that a sign of becoming a crazy person?

If you feel like you got scammed with this blog post. You did. We have one sheet of plywood up. But we got them all out of the van… so there is that. And last post I felt like we were on the verge of over-delivering. So consider this post of the lower-your-expectations variety.


So much progress that we are on the verge of an identity crisis.

We are right on the verge of over-delivering.

We started just over a month ago. This is on track to be one of the biggest projects we have ever undertaken and the fastest. I may very well lose all four of you. We could simply become no longer relatable.

I know those people. I actually got a couple I’m related to. The kind that like projects. The kind of crazy people that say things like “I don’t feel good about the day or like I’ve accomplished anything unless I do projects.” Not me. I can feel accomplished doing little to nothing.

There was some serious risk in taking on this project. Our usual motivator of it’s-getting-awful-annoying-to-have-a-toilet-a-tub-and-a-vanity in our living room, just isn’t there. The project is outside, can you ever really get annoyed enough with random wood lying around outside to motivate progress? I mean sure there is the risk of becoming dumpy neighbors, but with one neighbor that has a farm of cockleburs for a backyard and another who mows only the outside edge of his yard… That still leaves us with a considerable amount of time to let the project linger.

Maybe it’s the threat of winter, or maybe it’s because of the day I accidentally took Brett’s work computer with me to Minneapolis, leaving him with an unexpected day off work, but we don’t really recognize ourselves.

Since we last checked in, we have finished up the framing of the other two walls and the roof.

First up is the roof/wall that will be the climbing wall side of the fort.IMG_20170912_191030351

Luckily Brett’s dad had done most of the thinking for this part so we could really just execute the task. Leaning into our strengths really. You’ll notice there was no shortage of angle cuts. Luckily for us we hate math, fractions and angles.

The slope of the hill made things a little extra tricky.


After building the initial structure we went back through and blocked. Which just means adding support and strength to the structure. The horizontal pieces of wood in between the long vertical boards beef it up to support the weight of kiddos climbing.

And shucks, this is just the boys being cute. Gideon promised he was looking at the camera for the picture. Weird how trippy pictures can be, since it totally looks like he is looking somewhere else.


Here is the front wall all framed out. This perspective is from inside the fort, looking toward the front door.



Now you may be thinking to yourself that seems like a relatively small door considering the size of the average American. You’d be right. Now it’s hard to say for sure, since we haven’t completed that part yet, but I’m pretty sure a beached whale approach would get you in. Assuming you enjoy entering places belly first. Which let’s be honest who doesn’t? After taking that into consideration, we have decided to add a more normal sized door on the wall to the left.

Remember this wall, from last time? This faces the street and to the right is the above picture with the hobbit door entrance. We plan to add a door on this side. It would be more like 5 feet tall and could be entered with more of a head/shoulder dip. We want to side it and make it not terribly obvious that it’s a door. Like a secret. Only not since I just told you and made it even less secret with a paint addition that clearly labels the door.

door pic

Here is the hobbit entrance from the outside looking in. This captures a bit of the magic of entering in through the bushes. The bushes have made it obnoxious at times to get around and build, but are what make it feel hidden and magical.


This little entrance was tricky to configure. Really to work around some of the larger branches we couldn’t make it much taller or wider and still allow for a door to swing out. I’m still dreaming of a living moss roof on this little overhang over the door.


Our next steps are plexiglass windows and plywood for the roof. Anyone with a killer idea for a roof material that is waterproof, not blazing hot, and not super scratchy for our climbing wall part of the roof?

See you next time!

If we stopped now at least we’d have a deck

When we last checked in we had some nice concrete footings and 4 posts. Had we stopped there we would have been limited to standing on one foot contests, on top of the posts. Luckily we have moved onto something slightly more useful.

Brett and I followed that up with building the structure of the deck. Turns out the back portion of the structure is a little loosey goosey. Now, I don’t want to say we built it wrong, but both Brett’s dad and my brother Jon thought it could be more “secure” or some other nonsense. But building is kind of like bowling right? If you throw a strike every time, do you really have the ingenuity and grit to get yourself out of a bind? (you know like a split- to keep with the bowling reference). We have a plan to beef up the back portion of the deck, so Levi and Gideon can invite any and all their friends husky fit pants or not. (That’s a reference for my brother Josh, who was once a husky fit kind of kid, to see if he actually reads this.)

Our nieces and nephews were over a couple Saturdays and were eager to help build the fort. Nothing like free child labor to really move our project along. Lucky for us it rained pretty much constantly in August, so we all got especially good at balancing on a slope, in a mud pit, while it was raining. But kids love that kind of crap, so we had a blast.

Next we laid down the decking on top of our joists. Brett and I did the bulk of it before his folks came down to help us build some walls. We really aren’t picky about free labor. That’s the best part of having a limited construction skill set, chances are whoever you con into helping you, could very well be more skilled than you. I have to say one of Brett’s greatest contributions to any project we undertake is to talk up whatever project we are working on. He somehow, not only manages to get people to help us figure out how to do it, but gets them excited about it. Before they know it, they find themselves at our house working on our latest scheme.

Being parents who love their kids can get you into trouble. Brett and my contribution was a killer idea and plans that include a cardboard mellow yellow model. Brett’s folks came Labor day weekend with an arsenal of tools and can do attitude.

Now we could have stopped here. With a surprisingly square (like right angles square- because I know some of you are thinking it sure looks like a rectangle and you folks would be right) deck.

IMG_20170902_131254643_HDR.jpgWe could have lazed about perched above our neighbor’s backyard, staring creepily, watching their every move. It would be like an in your face version of binoculars really. But alas we decide to proceed with the fort.

We then began the process of building walls. It was here Brett and I began to see a very different workflow. We are the kind of people who discuss the next step, not steps, very briefly. We execute that step. Then we see each problem as it hits us in the face. Brett’s dad, Dan, prefers more of a calculated approach. He thinks through multiple steps and anticipates problems. Now I don’t want to go too far, but you could almost say he goes out looking for trouble. Where is the hope for the best, “close enough,” my dad always taught me when it comes to projects?

The thing I’ve found myself saying multiple times while building this is: my dad built a fort elevated in the air, that still stand 20 some years later. I asked him about footings- he couldn’t remember. What he did remember was he had no plans and didn’t measure much.

dads treefort


I didn’t really think about it until now, that both Brett and I had forts growing up and now we want to build one for our kids. Which leaves me thinking:

We are becoming our parents or worse yet maybe our parents were cool back in the day…

Back to progress.

This is the first wall up. Across the top is the long window for looking out down to the street. In the summer it’s pretty dense in the lilac and huckleberry bushes, but in the winter it’s much sparser. We also decided to add a secret door access on this wall for those less inclined to crawl in. Or for those who have a fear of ending up like Winnie the Pooh stuck in rabbit’s hole. (Anyone? Am I losing you with the bowling and Pooh references?)


The kiddos did surprisingly well being right in all the action and keeping all their fingers and toes. Gideon and Levi like to be very close at hand during every part of the building process.

This is the second wall that went up. It faces the neighbor’s backyard. The square will be a plexiglass window. The angled slope is the roofline that will make up the climbing wall side of the fort.IMG_20170902_192552082

That’s all for now. Tune in next time for the other two walls and whatever else we get done in the meantime.