A Backyard Zip-Line (and other Iowa awesomeness)

by | Aug 4, 2013 | Best Grandad Ever, What I Wore Sunday | 20 comments

Just to further confuse those of you who thought we lived in LA, but then thought it seemed liked we lived in Chicago, I’m currently blogging at you from Ames, Iowa: home of the Cyclones and my lovely sister and her family.

We’re on a vacation-in-a-vacation as it were, stopping by Iowa for a week as we wind up our two months of staying with my husband’s family in Chicago before heading back home (to LA, where we live). My parents are here visiting as well, and my sister’s property is uh-mazing. It’s like being at a fancy wilderness lodge. We’ve all been having a really great time.

If you read my blog regularly, you will have seen my other Best Grandad Ever posts, which have featured projects my dad has built with or for the kids. They include an X-Wing Bomber, a swimming pool submarine, and a leaf-blower hovercraft. So it won’t surprise you any to learn that Grandad, Uncle Bryan, and the kids threw together a 250 foot-long zip-line in the back yard yesterday afternoon.

This is actually the second zip-line Grandad has installed. The first goes into their pool at home in San Diego. It’s made of cable and rope and a spare toilet-seat (and, of course, awesome). This one is quite professional, with a real zip-line seat and everything.

He ordered all the parts from Amazon, and Jack, Grandad, and Uncle Bryan had the whole thing installed in about an hour, even with the able assistance of two very helpful little girls and one bow-and-arrow sniper.

My Dad’s going to make a how-to video, so that will probably be up here on Friday, but in case you want to order the supplies right now, here’s what you’ll need:

  1. A huge awesome backyard with a downward slope (not sold at Amazon)
  2. Zip Line Trolley Kit with Seat (that one’s not available right now, but this one with a disc seat instead of the swing is)
  3. Tow Strap
    to attach to the trees (cut in half)
  4. Cable
  5. Wire Rope Clips
    (need 2 packs) 
  6. Comealong with 2 Hooks
  7. Stop Bungee Cord
  8. Snap Hook Round Swivel Eye
    for Bungee wire slider
  9. update: Jennifer reminded me that you also need trees! You CAN get those on Amazon, but then you’ll need to wait like 20 years.

The kids love it, obviously. My favorite thing about it is that in the backyard, there aren’t any minimum-wage teenagers to keep pregnant ladies from doing fun stuff!

Speaking of fun stuff, that was not all. Oh, no that was not all.

We also fished in the pond:



Why yes, that IS a pink princess fishing pole. Thank you for asking.

We waded in the creek and swam in the pond and walked on the paths and kayaked and floated and made mud pies:

And then we made actual cookies:


And that was only our first day!

Today, we got all gussied up. Here’s what I wore:

Dress and Shrug: Motherhood Maternity; Bump: 23 weeks


Pearls: a gift from my parent’s trip to China; Pocket-watch: my Grandmother; Photo-bomb: Frankie; Shoes: Zappos (Funny story about those shoes. I had a maternity dress from last go-round that I wore with some brown platform sandals. Then the sandals broke. So, I bought these new shoes to go with the dress. But THEN when I put the dress on, I found that somehow it had shrunk and was too short. So, I had to go to the mall and buy this dress to go with the shoes. First-world problems, right? But I really like it. It’s cotton. I hate that all maternity dresses are stretch jersey. Yuck.)


My photographer and her associates (including cousin Emma). Blue polka dot dresses are from Orient Expressed. Their stuff is beautiful and old-fashioned and if you skip straight to the sale page, it’s not TOO terribly expensive. (Thanks Nana!) Shoes: target; Sweaters: Old Navy; Aloha Frankie is courtesy of Gymboree (one of the few remaining things from when Jack was a baby!)

After the photo shoot, my parents and the kids and I went off to the Catholic Church in town and my sister and her husband and their kids went to their Protestant Church. The girls were so sad to be separated. It was a lovely reminder of how tragic are the divisions within Christianity. 

Let’s join the Holy Father in praying for Christian Unity! 

Thanks to the ladies at Fine Linen and Purple for hosting What I Wore Sunday.



  1. Chris

    What a fun post…thanks for sharing your terrific family and the wonderful summer you've been having!

    Granddads are the best, aren't they?

    Be well and God bless!

  2. Anonymous

    Those shoes are all kinds of awesome…as is your zip-line. I'm sure jealous..my kids would love one of those (so would I).

  3. October Rose

    Love the dress! And I agree about cotton vs jersey. It's why I haven't bought many maternity skirts, much as I'd rather be wearing them this summer than the shorts I've been living in.

    You look great. My 23 week bump has already taken over my lap. 😛

  4. Anonymous

    Hello. I found your blog through a friend's sister. We are a family with 6 kiddos and we just moved to San Pedro,CA (military transfer). I noticed you live in LA. Do you also homeschool? We're desperately trying to find fellow homeschoolers and fellow large families. I love your blog!

    • Kendra

      Yes I do and we've got a great homeschool group! I've emailed you the details.

  5. Molly Makes Do

    We were up in Ames this weekend! Well technically in Kelly (little town outside of Ames) visiting some family! Did you go to St. Cecelia's? That's my husband's chidhood parish. If you are heading to Chicago via I-80 and need any recommendations for food or fun let me know. We're Iowa Citians. =)

    • Kendra

      Yes we did go to St. Cecilia's! I loved it. No cry room and LOTS of joyful noise from lots of little ones. They have a resurrection cross instead of a crucifix (not my personal taste) but this one is particularly funny. Jack asked, "Is the cross blasting off behind him?" and it kinda is – blasting off in four separate pieces.

  6. Kathryn

    We lived in Ames for two years for grad school at ISU. St. Cecilia was our home parish. Loved, loved, loved that place. So many beautiful witnesses to the vocation of marriage surrounded us. Your bump is adorable, as is that dress!

  7. Laura Rydberg

    AAAHHH, Sweet Iowa! I've only been following your blog for um, about a week, so I s'pose it'd be creepy to go down to IA to see you (and take a turn on that zip line). So, in lieu of that… as a former Iowan, I'll just inform you that you are in God's country. If you can, say hello to the ground for me! I won't make you kiss it.

    • Kendra

      Not creepy! Email me and we'll see if we can figure it out. (Your comments aren't connected to an email address, so I can't email you.)

  8. Blair

    Your family is so fun! Love it! And love the dress and the adorable sandals. So cute 🙂

  9. Ann-Marie Ulczynski

    I am so impressed that one can just "throw together" a zip line. It looks like you all are having an amazing time. I love the story that goes with the shoes/dress.

  10. Kris

    Awesome zip line! Cute outfit! And I feel the same way with my own family – of all the siblings I've got two practicing-ish Catholiocs, one who has become Episcopalian and one who doesn't go anywhere. It's sad not to be in full communion with your own family.

  11. Keeley L.

    Your sister appears to have quite awesome property. And Dad (grandad) is as awesome as ever. I'm so glad everyone is so happy!

  12. BritneyAgastha

    People are now a days becoming very conscious about what their children are up to and what kind of sports they are engaged in. I think the above blog post about installing Back yard Zip line is quite informative and will surely enhance the one's skills of any individual's sportsmanship.

  13. Alicia

    Hey Kendra, That's so awesome to read about your connection with Ames, IA. I am currently living in AL but have close connections with several Catholic and/or home schooling families there in Ames Iowa. And your blog is such a God send for me right now as a young, introverted mother with toddlers. Brilliant.

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

For twenty years now, I’ve been using food, prayer, and conversation based around the liturgical calendar to share the lives of the saints and the beautiful truths and traditions of our Catholic faith. My own ten children, our friends and neighbors, and people just like you have been on this journey with me.

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