Minnehaha Falls

Minnehaha fallsThis weekend we hiked around at Minnehaha Falls, just south of Minneapolis on the Mississippi River. The waterfall is puny by most standards, such as height and volume. But by other standards, like freezability, it stands out. After a few weeks of low temperatures near zero, the entire fall ices over.

The best views are from the underside.

Minnehaha falls        Behind Minnehaha falls

Behind Minnehaha falls        Behind Minnehaha falls

Some notes for anyone planning a visit: The stairs on both sides of the creek are “closed for the season,” but still accessible. The staircase on the west side gets a lot of traffic and has been polished into one long icy slide (see video below). The east staircase, which we discovered on the way out, was much more like a staircase. Also, once you disregard the second warning sign, and fence, it gets real d-icey. Crampons would help.

Snow Tunnel Sled Slide

snow tunnel sled slide entrance

As with the quinzee, we took advantage of a large and very well placed snow bank outside our apartment. After about 30 minutes of carving and molding we had ourselves a snow tunnel sled slide. It was like Splash Mountain at Disney Land, minus the water, and the Disney Land, plus some snow. So it was more like Splash Mountain and the Matterhorn combined.

The kids took turns playing the abominable snow man, bombing huge snow clods from above. Obliterating us in the face was probably the best part for them.

snow tunnel sled slide side

snow tunnel sled slide exit

As you’ll see in the video, the kids weren’t sure what was happening – maybe they were passing through a warp zone? Who knows. To be sure, I had to peek and caught my face on the arch going down. Twice. It’s not a warp zone.

How to Build and Indoor Swing

Background

The Minnesota winter is upon us and kinderclaustrophobia is setting in. I guess it’s not really a phobia, more like a hysteria, resulting from prolonged exposure to rambunctious children in a confined space. Either way, what we need is a swing in our living room.

I’m not talking about a traditional swing, the kind at the playground with two ropes, the one-dimensional kind that only moves forward and back. Even better is the tire swing type – with a single connection point up top you get a second dimension, swinging and spinning in all directions.

It gets better. By inserting a trampoline spring or two you can swing in the third dimension: vertically. Three dimensional swinging, indoors.

Materials

  1. Stud finder
  2. Large hook screw(s), 5/16″ x 4″ works well
  3. Carabiner(s)
  4. Trampoline spring, max load should be above 60 lbs
  5. Rope, 1/4″ is perfect
  6. Dowel, 1 inch thick, a foot or two long
  7. Drill with 5/16″ bit
  8. Sand paper

Indoor swing materials   More indoor swing materials

Assembly

  1. Find a stud – First, I used the cheapskate method, knocking around till my knuckles were raw, then hitting a nail through the sheetrock until it stuck into something wood-like, which it never did. After many nail holes in the ceiling, I bought a $10 stud finder at the local supercenter.

  2. Stick in the bolt – A friend gave me a solid loop bolt thingy that he found at Ikea – they sell a little indoor swing kit for pretty cheap. I put that one in the living room. In the kids room I used the hook screw, which is cheaper and just as strong.

    Indoor swing bolt   Indoor swing hook screw   Lots of indoor swings

  3. Rig up the trapeze – you can cut the dowel to any length, but I made mine about two feet long, enough to sit on, or dangle from by ones knees. Drill a hole in each end, just wide enough for the rope to pass through, and tie some knots. PVC pipe also works, but you’ll need some grip tape. This twisted clove hitch works too.

    Indoor swing dowel   Indoor swing dowel knot   Indoor swing pvc handle

There you have it – in about 30 minutes, a flippin swing, in your house. By nature, kids need to put in a certain amount of acrobatics every day. Now, the ninos can release their wiggles without dangling from the curtain rods or the chandelier.

Variations

A simple rope swing works nicely, but my kids don’t have the grip strength to hold on. They can stand all right on a huge knot tied in the end, but one of those disc seats would be perfect.

My 1 year old was jealous of her older siblings so I grabbed a bucket seat for $14 at Menards, a hardware store in our neck of the woods. They had a nice build-your-own-playground section with plastic slides and outdoor swing kits, vinyl seat with chains. Home Depot had nothing of the sort, though they were the only place with springs.

My buddy Tim-o, who inspired this project, installed a series of swings in his living room. That’s right, a series. The handles are PVC, each about six inches long, and a few feet apart.

Lego Adventures: Fishing, Saving Planets, Getting Bad Guys

My son made a laser flier digger booster without destroying the Lego picture frame:

Lego laser flier digger
Laser flier digger booster mobile

In his own words:

It’s called a convotomater, because it catches fish, and this robot machine that goes down on this thing actually catches sharks, because some people say that they want sharks, so that’s why they catch sharks. Do you know what the threetow is on this? It’s the thing that spins and shoots the fish out. And what do you think this one is? This sucks up fish and then shoots them all the way to the city so people can eat them. They land in front of their houses, in a bucket.

This one has little bugs on top and you push this button and it goes into the water and it’s poisonous so the fish eat it and die. And this one looks under the water and takes pictures of fish, so they know what kind of fish it is. It’s called a three-moto-headed skywalker.

Sounds like Deadliest Catch, only more inventive and more efficient. From the sea to your doorstep – genius!

The design is all his own, but we do try to balance out the destruction and bad guy getting, which seems to come innately to a 5-yr-old boy, with something constructive like space exploration or rescue missions. The laser flier digger booster, aka convotomater, does it all:

And it can turn into a ship. Actually, this is a space ship, it’s not a water ship. It fixes other ships if they break. And it has special tools and it can fix the planets, so if Zupiter broke they can put if back together with this robot. This one drains holes in the planets so they can put nails in them so fire can’t get in and break the whole planet and it would explode.

And this robot in space keeps electricity in this wire thing that spins around, and gives electricity to any rocket that doesn’t have electricity. And this bullet one shoots out of the front and goes and makes sure the planets aren’t chemicaled.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about the best robot ever. This one on the side that has the rocket launcher on the bottom, it takes pictures of planets so they know which planet it is, and it knows how to spell it. So that’s how this spaceship works. Isn’t that cool?

The coolest. Of course, we’re always prepared for the bad guys:

And if bad guys come it will shoot this laser thing out, and it has cracking chemicals.

Opposite Day Rules

In times of extreme boredom, like after watching movie trailers online for 2 hours, my wife and I may resort to declaring an Opposite Day. It’s foolproof fun. Except, we often just argue about whether or not it’s Opposite Day:

No, because today’s Opposite Day – I’m surprised you didn’t know that.

Wait, today’s not Opposite Day.

You’re wrong, it’s not.

No, you’re right. It is.

Maybe it’s not so foolproof.

So, what are the rules of Opposite Day? You’ve likely asked yourself the same question. Wikipedia provides some guidance:

Usually, a person would say, “After this phrase is over, it will be officially Opposite Day,” and then Opposite Day will be officially started. Opposite Day can also be declared retroactively to indicate that the opposite meaning of what was said should be inferred. Opposite Day games are usually played by schoolchildren. Opposite Day is historically the first Thursday of the Month.

Historically? Schoolchildren? I really like the retroactive option – arguing about whether or not it was opposite day is much more controversial than arguing about whether or not it is. But, you shouldn’t have to qualify it with “After this phrase is over…” Those two guidelines seem contradictory.

And so, the definitive list of Opposite Day rules:

  1. No lying
  2. No biting
  3. No preemptive warnings are necessary because you can never actually initiate an Opposite Day, only remind someone what day it is. Hence, the statement “today is Opposite Day” is invalid, when Rules 1 and 2 are in effect. There is only one way to declare an Opposite Day: “today is not Opposite day.” However, this statement, on its own, has no meaning since it can be made on any day of the year, Opposite or not.

Yes, today is not opposite day. Yes, I’m lying.