Jason Mikula was obsessed. For one month in the summer of 2014, the father of two could think of little else besides finishing the tree house in his Killington backyard. When his wife, Polly, asked him what he wanted to do after work each night that July, he'd reply incredulously, "What do you mean? I'm working on the tree house."
He had good reason to hustle. He was building the structure for his kids, Emery, 8, and Sam, 6, who live with their mother in Denver, Colo. He visits them regularly, but at the end of that month, they were coming to stay with him and Polly for the first time.
Jason knows carpentry basics, but he'd never built a tree house. He and Polly scrolled through Pinterest for inspiration, and their final plan included a zip line and a hammock. They ordered a bunch of pressure-treated wood and got to work.
There were mishaps: They initially selected three trees to build the house in, only to discover, when one collapsed just days before they began construction, that all of them were dead. Jason learned the hard way that it's foolish to attempt to hang a zip line by yourself (especially late at night, after a tiff with your wife, when balancing on a wobbly ladder in the dark).
He also worried about the project's structural integrity. "I had nightmares that Sam was going to be in the hammock and this whole thing was going to fall down on him," Jason admits. "That's why we did bring in a professional just to look at it and tell us it wasn't going to fall over."
When the Mikulas pulled into their driveway on the first night of Emery and Sam's visit, "they jumped out of the car and ran up into [the tree house]," recalls Jason. "They were blasting on the zip line until 10 at night."
This story originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of Kids VT.