Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The End of an Era

About 11 years ago when my youngest daughter was turning four years old my dear wife and I decided that she would need a jungle gym and a swing set in the back yard. Now any normal parents would shop around for a while and pick out a set that they liked, buy it, set it up and watch their kid fall off it and hurt themselves.

Well that method wasn't good enough for us. After all if my kid is going to fall off a jungle gym and hurt herself I wanted her to do it right. Since most home jungle gyms are only about 6 to 8 feet high that didn't seem good enough to me.

Another factor that entered into some of the decisions I made were my childhood. When I was a kid I was always building forts. One day my father backed his truck into the log pile out back of the house one day and the entire pile collapsed into the fort the neighbor boy and I had built in the middle of the log pile. Dad was very relieved that neither of us were actually in the fort at the time it collapsed. But he told me that he would build us a fort in the backyard if I would stop building my own in odd places.

So Dad sunk four poles into the back yard then he built on top of them a 4 by 8 foot by 6 foot high fort that sat about 8 feet off the ground. It had a trap door and rope ladder, and real windows that would open and close. My sisters and I practically lived in that fort. So I wanted something at least as fun for my kids.

So I started acting like an engineer and let my imagination run a little wild. Then I ran down south to Home Depot and came home with a truck load of lumber, cement and other stuff. Then I started building. I didn't really have any plans, just a plot diagram so I knew that my insane idea would fit in the side yard where it was intended to fit.

If you give an engineer who likes woodworking and wants to out Dad his Dad two months, three truck loads of supplies from Home Depot, and four paint colors picked out by an almost four year old and this is what grows in your back yard.


Shortly after this picture was taken I added a sun shade to the top of the large tower and a climbing rope to the swing set. The front tower is 8 ft x 8 ft and 15 ft high at the top of the railing. You enter it from the ladder on the underside. It is connected by an aerial 'tunnel' to the smaller tower. This one is only 5 ft x 5 ft. It has a sunshade top, and a curvey slide. The center of the main tower has some intermediate levels and dividers so, to get to the top of the main tower requires climbing up 3 ladder segments, navigating 6 turns, and opening the trap door at the top.

When the twins were about 2 I added a 50 ft. zip line from the main tower to an anchor on the other side of the yard. That zip line was the biggest attraction at my kid's birthday parties.

When I first finished building this monstrosity our next door neighbor was horrified. She thought it was the ugliest thing she had ever seen. Her husband loved it. But he was relieved that it was my daughter and not me who picked out the colors.

Well this evening my son and I started taking down the jungle gym. We had hemmed and hawed about this for quite a while. The kids were all emotionally attached to the jungle gym even though they rarely ever play on it any more.

In the jungle gym's place is going a new above ground swimming pool. My wife grew up in a house with a pool. I didn't. I always wanted one as a kid. As an adult I never really cared. I just didn't want to bother with the maintenance. But the kids don't use the jungle gym much anymore, and it was getting so it needed a lot of maintenance as well as a new coat of paint. We just couldn't see putting in the time, energy and money to fix up something that the kids were all outgrowing.

When we get the jungle gym removed and the pool installed I'll post a picture so you can see the new side yard.

So an era for our family ended this evening. Our little kids have out grown their jungle gym and swing set. They are excited about the new pool. Their parents are kind of depressed that our babies are growing up.

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