It Is Finished – The Naked Truth About Building A Tree House Update

DSC_0453I’m exhausted, my house is a mess, and I think I’ve only showered once in the past four days. But I couldn’t be more thrilled.

It is finished!

The tree house – aka the eyesore, thing, or as we have recently nicknamed it the Clemens Cabin – is done.

If you would have told me five months ago that it would take this long, involve several phone calls to the police and a couple of excited journalists, I would have laughed in your face.

All over a tree house?

Yes. All over a tree house.

DSC_0422But this tree house has taught me and my family more than we could have ever imagined.

We started out learning to budget and ended up learning how to compromise.

We learned how to work as a team, how to support one another. How to stand up for ourselves and what we know is right.

We learned that people might not have the same opinions as us. And that may cause us some discord – some major discord. But we also learned that many, many people love and support us.

DSC_0441I still can’t repay all of the people who helped us work on the tree house, watched our kids while we worked, and prayed for us that we could find a way to make it all happen for our family.

We wanted to teach our kids to measure, hammer and work. We ended up teaching them that we could do hard things … together.

Thank you to all of you who helped me laugh through all of the stress. Thank you to those who let me rant to you behind closed doors. Thank you all for helping me realize I was not absolutely crazy.

Last of all thank you to those friends and family who were willing to come over and hang out with us despite the pin-ups posted along our backyard border.

DSC_0192Thank heavens for freedom of speech, right? God bless America. And God bless that sexy lady wearing the stars-and-stripes  bikini who watched over us for several weeks. May I never see her or any of her friends again.

Now it’s time to PLAY!

If you missed the tree house saga, check out the following posts:

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Back Building – The Naked Truth About Building A Tree House Update

IMG_20160521_150237I woke up Saturday morning with a pit in my stomach. I had a feeling of dread – similar to the feeling I get when I know I have to do a bunch of laundry or take a trip to the grocery store.

But underlying this dreadful feeling was a big layer of anxiety and stress.

After more than a month off, our family was heading out to build again on the tree house. And we had no idea what we might encounter in our back yard.

The tree house started out as an exciting, happy family project last March, but has since taken more crazy twists and turns than I can even remember. We still don’t know how the story will end. If you are wondering how it started click here. Hopefully it’s nearly over.

My husband and I took deep breaths and tucked our cell phones in our back pockets – in case we needed to call the authorities – and headed to the back yard.

Our kids were in and out of the house helping here and there while we put the railing on the tree house deck and placed the windows in to their framed holes.

We worked for a couple of hours in peace.

It was amazing.

There were no new sexy signs placed along the fence line. No billowing smoke. No blasting music.

There really was actual peace.

download_20160525_225420There were a couple of moments when we could tell our neighbor was working in her back yard while we worked in ours and yet there was no confrontation.

The truce has been upheld.

We made sure to get our tall evergreen trees planted before we started building again. That was an ordeal all in itself. But I think they look great. They cost a lot more than we ever wanted to spend but peace in my back yard has become a priceless commodity.

We got the rail done and the windows in. Next we’ll build steps to get up to the tree house, the roof and then cover it in wooden siding and hang the door.

I can’t wait to play in there.

Hopefully the next time I post about the tree house it will be when it is completely finished and not because there has been another incident. Cross your fingers!

The Truce – The Naked Truth About Building A Tree House Update

The white flag has been raised. The nearly naked pics are down. A truce has been called.

Call it a compromise, call it a deal, I don’t care what you call it. Our neighbor has agreed to stop her shenanigans in our back yard.

I am thrilled! My husband is cautiously optimistic.

What happened? How did we get her to take down the 13 sketchy pictures you could see from ground level towering over our cement fence in our back yard?

I’m not exactly sure. But here’s the Reader’s Digest version of recent events:

A week and a half ago we decided to spend a Monday night family night working on the tree house. To make things go quicker, I cut a bunch of wood during the day so when my husband got home we could get working as fast as we could. We were hoping to get the rail and deck finished.

We worked for about an hour in peace – until our neighbor came home.

She was very upset. I’m guessing she expected us to work on the weekends but we must have caught her off guard by building on a Monday night.

Long story short, she shouted some terrible, terrible things through the fence and then above the fence after we kept ignoring her.

It was the first time that I realized I could no longer just dream that she would stop. I could no longer sit idly by. No longer was she simply quietly putting up posters and smoking us out (sure her music was loud sometimes but she wasn’t). She had crossed a line.

I spent the next couple of days working with the police to see if there was anything we could do.

Meanwhile we were scared to go in our own back yard.

I decided that I was going to need to call the police every single time she did something – putting up more posters, blaring her “Jamaican music,” lighting fires right next to our fence – anything that seemed like it was directed at us.

That’s what the police said to do initially. They said to call them when she did anything else. But I was hoping that if I ignored her she’d lose interest.

I didn’t have to wait long to call them again.

On Saturday she took down all the posters. We couldn’t figure out what she was doing. But they were only down for an hour or so before she put them up again.

When I saw her haul them out of her shed and prop them into place again I called the police. Three officers came this time and said they’d go talk to her. As they were leaving I asked them if they would see if she would talk to me.

Crazy?! You may say that it was. I honestly don’t know what overcame me. But I really felt like I needed to talk to her. I could no longer live in a place where I was terrified to go in my own back yard.

The officers said they would try to get her to meet with me but couldn’t promise anything.

For whatever reason, she agreed. I took my kids to our friends’ house and my husband and I went to her house to discuss the situation.

With an officer standing by I told our neighbor that I’d like to come up with a solution all of us could live with. I told her I wanted to hear her concerns about the tree house and see if I could address them. (I also told her that taking the tree house down or moving it were not options.)

Her concerns ranged from superficial – the tree house is an “eyesore” – to internal – it may catch fire.

So I offered to get some tall, fast-growing, narrow evergreen trees to block her view of the tree house. They would also create a windbreak and help prevent the tree house from falling into her yard.

I also offered to get a wireless smoke detector so we would know immediately if the tree house started on fire.

She said she’d take down the posters and light fires in a different area in her yard. (She had no idea that the smoke from her fires was bothering us.)

My husband also talked to her about her language and behavior from the Monday night fiasco. She agreed to stop.

She asked what we thought about her music. We told her we didn’t care if she played it. It really wasn’t too loud.

She took the posters down as we walked away.

Now I’m on a mission to find some tall, narrow evergreens. I’ve got a standing appointment with one of my favorite sales guys at our local nursery to go tree shopping when the weather finally clears up.

When the tree house is complete I’ll order that smoke detector.

I still can’t believe it’s over. I don’t know why she agreed to stop.

Maybe it’s because she realized I decided I was going to keep calling the police on her. Maybe she knew it was a news reporter and cameraman who were knocking on her door last week wanting to do a story on this wild adventure. (We told the media we wouldn’t talk to them unless she did.) Maybe it’s because she was able to voice her concerns and we listened.

Certainly it’s because so many of you have been thinking and praying for a resolution. The power of prayer is real.

I can finally look outside without seeing those lingerie ladies.

I’m certain you are wondering what was the reasoning behind the pictures.

We didn’t ask but she felt like she needed to explain. She didn’t put them up to get to our kids. She said we were putting up something trashy so she put up something trashy.

We are going to treasure our tree house even more because of all of this. And because hey, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Teaching My Kids To Budget One Crazy Trip To the Hardware Store At A Time

Budgeting. It’s an important skill I wish I hadn’t tried to teach my children lately.

I want them to know how to live within their means. I want them to think and plan out before making significant purchases. But taking them to Home Depot late at night with a long list of things we needed to price out was probably a mistake.

We have been dreaming of building a tree house ever since we moved into our new house and it actually had trees. Last fall my boys made a long list of things they wanted their dream tree house to include.

So this year we set aside some of our tax return money to buy stuff for the tree house. My husband drew up plans – we included most of my sons’ dream tree house items – and we made a list of stuff we would need.

We had no idea how much everything was going to cost and we were anxious to see if we could get everything within our budget.

So I took the list of supplies we needed and typed them up in Excel. I printed out enough copies for each of our family members and rounded up some pencils.

We headed to Home Depot for family night.

At first it was great. My 9 and 7 year olds were really into it. They would help me find the lumber or the brackets or whatever else we needed and we’d each jot down the purchase price on our papers. Then we’d take turns using my cell phone calculator to figure out how much that would cost us for how much we needed.

It seemed easy.

But about thirty minutes in we lost control.

My three-year-old had to go to the bathroom. Twice. My husband took him while I stayed shopping with the other three kids. Unfortunately I don’t know as much about building supplies as my better half. We wandered around aimlessly, wasting time, until he got back.

That’s when our three-year-old no longer wanted to ride in the cart. The steering wheel of the orange car held no more appeal for him. He was NOT going to get back in.

So he started wandering alongside his brothers. Which probably would have been OK if his little sister didn’t want to do the same.

Without her brother to sit by she wanted nothing to do with the car cart either. So there we were with four kids, six lists, and an empty shopping cart.

If only our little princess liked staying by us. She had a newfound freedom and took advantage. She ran around in front of us while we tried to find that last few things on our list.

But those last few things were hard to find.

Meanwhile, her brothers snuck homemade Harry Potter wands into the store with them. They were sick of writing on their lists so they started wizard dueling in the aisles.

We pushed the empty cart around our tornado of children for what seemed like forever.

When there were only a couple things left on our list my kids were exhausted. Let’s be honest shopping – and shopping on a budget – can wear you out! (And we had been at the store for over an hour). Suddenly the car cart was enticing again. That’s when all four of them climbed inside.

I pushed more than my own body weight around inside that little cart the rest of the trip. Which would have been fine except one of our wands went missing.

My oldest son tossed it into the cart and somehow we didn’t notice it slip through the bars.

It was nowhere.

By now it’s past bedtime and I’ve been pushing around my offspring back and forth, back and forth the entire Home Depot store retracing our steps…twice.

My kids were ready to be home, I was ready to be home.

We stopped by the customer service desk three times during our journey asking if anyone had turned in our tan colored homemade wand. To no avail. Young Harry was going to have to go back and get another one at Olivanders.

We left feeling depleted. Yes we were able to price out all of the things we needed. But we were forced to leave without our lost wand.

And what was even worse was we were over budget. Uggh.

My oldest added up all our items on the way home and we were at least $250 over. So we put the list away. We didn’t want to look at it again that night. We went to bed hoping we could figure something out the next day.

That’s when we looked at our supplies again and removed a few items that we don’t HAVE to have. (Like fancy windows and a door. We can add those later. Maybe even with next year’s tax return). Then I did some research and found some lower prices on a few of our items and Lowes as well as a couple of discount coupons we could use.

We were all thrilled when we totaled everything up again and we could afford what we needed.

Wahoo! This is really going to happen. Hopefully building the tree house together will be easier than budgeting for it was.

Our trip to Home Depot was crazy. It would have been much easier for me or my husband to go by ourselves. But I wanted to show my kids what it is like to figure out how to pay for the things we want.

I hope my children (at least the oldest two) will remember how we had to work together to be able to afford our new tree house. I hope they realize that sometimes you can’t get everything that’s on your list. And I hope they know that money doesn’t grow on trees – especially ones with tree houses.

The Walls Are Up – The Naked Truth About Building a Tree House Update

Author’s note: We’ve had some excitement while building our family tree house. Here’s where it all began. Here’s an update from earlier this week. Below is where it stands today.

Today has been another big building day. Thanks to the help of some of our amazing friends Travis was able to get all four of our tree house walls built and standing.

Like some of you expected, with more progress came more posters. Oh and more smoke. Sadly the peace has ended.

While I have been disheartened this week about our backyard drama I have also found great comfort in the love and support of so many friends and family who have helped me laugh and listened to me cry (although we have mostly laughed) about all this mess.

My kids ran around all afternoon today playing with friends with those lame posters towering behind them. If someone new came by they’d briefly point out the ladies in lingerie, then they’d be right back playing as if those pictures were just part of the natural scenery.

Kids are amazing.

Seeing their smiles while they stood on the platform surrounded by their new tree house walls made all this recent drama worth it.

I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next several weeks but I know that we are going to keep playing in our back yard with our new tree house with our friends.

As long as they too can tolerate the new pieces of natural scenery.

The Naked Truth About Building A Tree House Update

Author’s Note: If you are wondering what on Earth I am talking about in this post check back with my post from two weeks ago. No, this is not a joke. This is my real, crazy life.

It’s been almost two weeks since I posted about our neighbor slapping up nearly naked photos next to our family’s unfinished tree house. Today I am pleased to report that the signs, which towered over our 6-foot fence, gawking at us in our back yard, are gone.

I don’t know what happened.

We came home from spending several days on vacation to find them gone.


But I can’t breathe a sigh of relief quite yet. In a way I am kind of nervous. The signs are down, so what’s next? Passion like that doesn’t disappear overnight.

In fact the week that the signs were placed, our neighbor took great care to ensure their impact. Naturally the wind and rain withered the paper posters and turned their rebar stakes. She would straighten and twist them back into place so the lingerie ladies were still staring us down.

That same week she started trying to smoke us out.

My heart was in my throat the morning I glanced outside to check on things and saw a grey cloud settling near the tree house’s base platform. For a split second panic struck as I flashed back to the night last May when my parent’s home burned down.

Thank Heavens it wasn’t on our property. I quickly realized it was coming from her back yard. She started a fire right next to her side of our cement-block fence. This continued for several days. Fighting all natural instinct, I refrained from calling the fire department. I decided that would only fan the flames.

Ironically one of her concerns with us building the tree house was that it could catch fire and fall over her side of the fence.

But we haven’t seen any smoke – or scantily clad photos – since we got back in town Sunday evening.

Do I think she is finished fighting? No. I doubt it.

I am guessing she may be waiting until we start building again to stir things up once more. That or she is waiting until we are served legal documents – she said she’s going to take us to civil court.

This whole thing still seems like a crazy dream – kind of like Trump running for President. But it’s reality.

I wish all of you could have seen my kids’ faces the first day of building. They were thrilled. It makes me sad that all of this drama happened.

If only we could have kept building in peace.

But then again we’ve learned a lot of lessons since then – lessons on local law enforcement, lessons on city code, lessons on showing love to those who frustrate us and lessons on the definition of pornography.

For now we have decided to not only continue with our tree house plans (as soon as the weather and our schedules cooperate) but we have also decided to invest in a row of Thuja Green Giant Trees.

We’re saving up so we can buy the fast growing evergreens to tower along the property line between our back yard and hers, creating a natural barrier. I hope we can get them this fall.

And I hope that they really will grow two to three feet per year.


The Naked Truth About Building A Tree House

Before you start building your kids a tree house make sure you ask yourself one question: Am I OK with nearly naked photos being posted right beside it by my disgruntled backyard neighbor? If the answer is yes, proceed.

If it is no, don’t even bother.

We started building a tree house last week. We’ve been dreaming of one for years. So when we got our tax return this year we set aside a chunk of money for the tree house fund. (Wait until you read my upcoming post about the night we learned all about budgeting for this tree house. Good times.)

Anyway, Travis and my boys drew up plans and made lists of all the things they’d like to include. Then we got to work.

We borrowed my brother’s truck one night and made many, many trips to the hardware store- with tired, screaming children – in order to gather up all our supplies.

Then last Saturday we secured the posts, laid down the floor and put up the back wall. We were feeling great! We got more done than we ever dreamed of that first day.

But the next day we were deflated when we saw a note on our front door. Our backyard neighbor wanted us to call her about the “thing” we were building next to her fence.

She was upset. She was certain we couldn’t build something like that. I’m not going to get into all the details about what she said, but let’s just say there were concerns about us blocking her view, concerns for her and her pets’ safety, concerns about a fire starting then spreading to her yard, concerns about my children antagonizing her animals, etc., etc., etc.

And she was certain we were in violation of city code.

So I researched codes online and headed straight to the city building office the next day to talk to the building officer. I got there 15 minutes after the offices opened and she had already spoken with him on the phone.

He assured me that as long as the tree house was less than 15 feet high, smaller than 200 square feet and didn’t have electricity or plumbing we could proceed with our plans. And we didn’t even need a building permit.

You could say we were a little ambitious with this tree house. As it stood after the first day of construction it was 15 feet 7 inches tall. So we’re going to have to cut the wall down a foot or two. But the building officer said as long as we did that then we would be all right.

The next day I found out my neighbor started telling people that even if the city said it was legal for us to build the tree house she wasn’t going to stop fighting it. I had no idea what that meant.

Until Wednesday night.

My kids came inside from playing in the back yard with their cousins to tell me that our tree-house-hating neighbor was blasting some Jamaican music.

Whatever. I told them she could listen to whatever she wanted and to leave her alone.

Then they came and told me she had put up some Disney pictures on a post over the fence. That intrigued me.

I peeked outside.

Those were no Disney pictures (bless my naive little boys). There were three nearly naked photos of women posted on a pole in her backyard right next to the fence and near the tree house. And that Jamaican music? It was some serious rap (once again bless my innocent boys).

Say what?? I called the police. I had a feeling there was nothing they could do but I wanted to document what was going on.

They came over and talked to me, then went and talked to her, then brought her over so we could all talk together.

But there was nothing either of us could say to change anyone’s minds. She’s ticked about our tree house and that’s not going to change. I’m excited about our tree house and that’s not going to change.

I did, however, say that I was sorry she was so upset. We had no intention of making her angry. I hadn’t even ever met her until the police brought her to my front lawn. This was not a vindictive move. We just wanted to build a tree house for our family.

So here we sit with several sexy photos in our backyard skyline. (Where is she getting these pics anyway?) She has taken great care to make sure they will be there for a while by putting them in plastic coverings. If you come to our house, consider yourself warned. You may see more than you’d like.

Last night she posted three more pictures and got two more posts ready for others. One of the scantily clad women is wearing a tiny American flag bikini. It reminded me about the wild presidential campaign going on in our country.

I’m not a Trump supporter, but if this gets really bad I think I’ll ask him for some advice on how to build a wall … and then make her pay for it.

I debated about writing this post. Will she read it? Will it give her satisfaction? But then I reminded myself that I have never filtered my content on here before. This blog has always been about the real, raw aspects of motherhood – the good the bad and the ugly. I like to tell the honest truth – even if it is the naked honest truth this time.

The way I see it, those posters are actually helping our family. They are preparing us for when we take our trip to Europe. My boys are going to see all kinds of crap like this when we go to Italy.

So thank you disgruntled neighbor. Thank you.

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