DIY: A Swing Set Made for A Princess

How a few hours on a Saturday can lead to hours of fun

We have an aging redwood playset that my kids have had since my nine year old was two and a half. It’s been a lot of fun, but it is badly aged, and both kids are too big for it. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on a new swingset, since both kids will likely age out of it in the not-too-distant future. But with Covid still on the rise, and the parks being too risky, we decided to DIY a simple yet sturdy swingset they would enjoy.

First, we bought four treated lumber 4X4x8 posts, a treated lumber 2x6x10 board and one treated lumber 4x6x10 post. We also bought metal swing set hardware from Amazon.

We started by inserting the 4X6 posts into the brackets to create both A-frames.

Repeat on both sides and then insert the 4X6x12 to make the top of the swing set. When all of your boards are inserted into the brackets, stand it up (with help- don’t do this alone) and tighten the bolts with an impact driver.
Then, make sure the ground under your swing set is completely level. If it isn’t, move it around to where you want it.
Cut your 2×6 in half and use wood screws to attach it to the 4×4 posts. This will stabilize it and create your A-frame.
Double check your lag screws and make sure everything is tightened down.
Install your swing hanging brackets. We used six of these and we measured before drilling.
Then, hang your swings and you are done! We reused the swings and trapeze bar from our old playset.

Looks like the tiny Lumbers approve!

The (Affordable) Parents’ 2021 Winter Survival Kit

By Emma Grace Brown, guest writer

No matter what, winter is always a challenging time for parents. It’s cold out, there’s not a ton to do, and kids and parents alike start to get pretty stir crazy. However, this year promises to be an even tougher time for many. Lots of families aren’t going to be comfortable with the sort of indoor activities and gatherings that have been winter-weather go-tos in previous years. 

We want to help you come up with ways to make this winter fun, despite the difficulties. To that end, we’ve come up with this 2020 Winter Survival Kit. We know money is tight for many families right now, so we’ve gone out of our way to make sure the list includes tips to keep these items budget-friendly. We hope it inspires you to have a safe, healthy, enjoyable winter: 

Outdoor Gear 

If you plan to meet up with people this winter, odds are it’s going to be outdoors. Since indoor gatherings are far higher risk than the alternative, it only makes sense to get out in the fresh air to see the people we love. If you want to meet outside in winter, however, you need good, comfortable, and most importantly, warm gear so it’s actually pleasant to be outside. 

Start with warm winter coats for the whole family. Grown-ups might be able to keep using their coat from last year, but kids tend to grow out of seasonal items before the next cold snap comes around. Outlet malls and shops like Nordstrom Rack are great options when buying for kids. You’ll get high-quality items without the sticker shock. Consider donating the coats your kids have grown out of to a local coat drive to help kids in need stay warm. 

Virtual Activities 

Using virtual means of connection, such as Zoom calls or video games, allow your family to stay in touch with non-household loved ones without risking catching or spreading COVID-19. If you don’t have a video game console, however, it’s easy to feel left out of the virtual fun. The good news is, there are tons of ways to play games with people virtually, no console required. 

There are plenty of online board games that only need a laptop, phone, or tablet for players to join. You can also check out hidden identity games such as Spyfall. Since this kind of game is based more on conversation and interaction than pieces or movement, it naturally lends itself to the video chat experience. Even party games like charades work surprisingly well over video chat! Stay creative and keep an open mind, and you’ll find tons of fun ways to connect online. 

Creative Play 

Finally, we recommend picking up art supplies and embracing creative play over the coming months. Studies have shown that, while the pandemic has made creativity harder, it’s also made it far more important. Art and other creative tasks go a long way toward working out the stress and anxiety the pandemic causes. Moreover, arts are notoriously underfunded in schools, so it might introduce your child to a passion they might not have discovered otherwise. 

A great way to find affordable art supplies is to look for a local second-hand craft shop. These are becoming more and more popular as people become more focused on reducing waste. If you can’t find one near you, you can also check out sales and coupons for local art and office supply stores. 

This winter, focus on finding low-cost ways to keep the whole family connected and entertained. Go gentle on yourself if the stress starts to wear on you, and give yourself space to mourn the winter you might have had. It’s always a challenge to be stuck inside, but creative thought (and lots of self-compassion) can make it easier. 

See more home and parenting hacks at Lumber in My Minivan.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Five Friday Favorites: our favorite apps for staying organized in the new year

Most of us enjoy being organized, and others of us want to be more organized. Some of us fit into both of those categories. Better organization and a more simplified life is at your fingertips…look no further than your smartphone.

There are a few apps that have proven indispensable to our family and I’d like to share them with you.

1. Cozi family organizer (free, premium version available)

Do you have two or more children with several activities on the calendar? Do you struggle to plan meals, keep track of schedules and to-do lists? Cozi is for you!! We use it to catalog recipes, share shopping lists and keep track of schedules via the calendar feature. Each week, it emails all members of your family the events for the week.

2. Spotify Family

I was already a Spotify Premium user and I originally tried to share my account with family. This worked great until we all wanted to listen to something different at the same time. For less than $20, you can have up to five members on one account…not much more than one Spotify Premium account. We also take advantage of their under 12 account, where you can block explicit content and see what your kid listens to.

3. Poshmark

Are you cleaning out closets for the new year and getting rid of outgrown clothing? Make a few extra bucks by selling those clothes on Poshmark. You can also save a few bucks by purchasing gently used clothing for your fast- growing littles. We do!

4. My Macros

Take charge of your diet and fitness by keeping track of your daily food intake with My Macros! I have used this app for about a year and a half now and I love how easy it is to track my calories, fats, carbs and proteins. I highly recommend it.

5. Instacart

No time to grocery shop? Uncomfortable going into the grocery store? Give Instacart a try! I have been making a weekly grocery cart, adding to it throughout the week, and finalizing my order when it’s finished. Then, I arrange a pickup time, drive to the store, and pick up my order. I pay online so my stuff is already paid for when I get there, and they even load it for me. It saves me so much time.

What apps do you use to keep your family, food and fitness on track? Comment below!

What I learned in 2020…and why I’m not writing a typical “year in review” post.

Every year, I write a “year in review” post where I list the biggest and most important things that happened throughout the year. Since 2020 wasn’t a normal year, I’m not going to write a normal post.

2020 was a difficult year- I don’t do well with the unknown. I’m a planner and a control freak, so not knowing what comes next is super hard. As a Christian, we are called to trust God always, but sometimes it’s hard to let go of YOUR plans and trust in HIS plan. I learned some things from this crazy experience we called 2020.

  1. Things can change in an instant.

We were doing life and everything was great and normal, and then a global pandemic showed up. I thought we’d be out of school for two weeks. We went back to school eight months later. Then, all of our additional activities were shut down. We literally had nothing to do and nowhere to go but we spent lots of time together and we made it work. We even managed to have fun.

2. Be grateful for what you have.

You may not have everything you want. Most of us don’t. When you actually have time to stop, sit still and reflect, you will find you have more than what you need and plenty to be thankful for. 2020 taught me to be more gracious and actually make time to do so.

3. Find joy and beauty where you can.

bright blooming goldenrods on thin stems in field
Photo by Ellie Burgin on Pexels.com

I very clearly remember walking with my neighbor one day and noticing a goldenrod flower on the side of the road. Goldenrod is a weed, and it’s pesky, since most of us are allergic to it. However, the flower was a vibrant yellow and even thoughI typically regard it as a nuisance, I noticed just how pretty it really is. Have you ever seen an entire field blooming with goldenrod? It’s beautiful.

Put your hope in the right thing- JESUS.

Jesus is the only thing that can bring us out of the place we are in. Healthcare, vaccines and practicing good hygiene are all important, but they can’t save us. If there is one thing 2020 has taught me loud and clear, it’s that Jesus is the only thing in my life that is constant and certain. Everything else can change in an instant, but He will always remain. God has a plan, and while we rumble through this life not knowing his plan or why things happen, He knows. That’s sometimes hard for me to swallow, but it’s true.

Lessons aside, 2020 wasn’t all bad. We had to cancel a vacation, but we were able to save some money. We were finally able to complete a large remodeling project we have been trying to finish for seven years now. We were also able to spend a large amount of time with one another and enjoy each other’s company. We were adopted by a stray cat and a stray dog who have both become members of our family. We finally replaced our aging, no air-conditioning van. Some good things happened in 2020, too.

I genuinely feel like we learn something every year. 2020 taught us a lot. While it wasn’t all bad, I am sure I’ve never been so happy to see a year end before.

Happy New Year, friends. May 2021 bless you and bring you great joy.

Traditions for Christmas Week

So many of our regular Christmas traditions have been completely busted this year. There are no Christmas parties, no Christmas parades, no visits to out-of-state family and no Santa visits. Instead of focusing on what is canceled and impossible this year, let’s focus on the traditions we still have.

1. Look at Christmas lights

We always love to grab a cup of hot chocolate and drive around to look at the pretty Christmas lights. This year, we have seen so many lights, since we really don’t have anything else to do.

2. Holiday Cookie Party

We love to invite people over and have a holiday cookie decorating party but covid changed that. There is no reason you can’t have your own private cookie decorating party and make some gingerbread houses.

3. Read The Night Before Christmas

We read this beautifully illustrated edition of The Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve. You should do this!!

4. Watch some Christmas movies!!

When you want to spend a quiet evening at home, just watch some old fashioned Christmas movies! Introduce your kiddos to the classics.

5. Do some pretty Christmas puzzles

Each year we buy some pretty Christmas puzzles and we work them together. This year, we bought four of them.

I hope this post gives you some fun ideas for family togetherness during this pandemic Christmas season.