Amber Martens’ sons flew out of their second-story window — and onto a bright yellow slide.
One by one, Kaeleb, 6, and Markus, 8, reached the first landing and shimmied to the second slide, landing safely in their backyard.
This is one of the kid-friendly attractions in their Duluth Heights home. Martens also equipped their top-floor bedroom to resemble a forest with a sky, trees, leaves — the works.
They wanted a treehouse, she said, but: “How many months can you use that in Minnesota?”
Walk up the stairs to see two pod hammock swings hang from the ceiling.
One wall is a little library with “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,” “Night Sky Dragons” and “Z is for Zamboni.” On another wall is a shelf of Legos.
Step inside another room to what looks like a thick, old tree.
On one side of its trunk are circular holes meant for little faces, and on another side are larger window-like openings, or bunk bed entrances.
"This is my bed, this is 8-year-old's bed," said Kaeleb, before scurrying into the bottom bunk.
On top of the brown trunk are a slew of decorative “leaves” in many sizes, all of which Martens pasted with a hot glue gun.
There’s a camouflage play tunnel and a matching tent with an electric-powered bonfire inside. Green vines and string lights adorn the brown walls, and the ceiling is painted a baby blue with a crescent moon hanging toward the ceiling.
You have to walk around the “tree” to get to the window, which is the start of the slide.
When winter rolls around, Martens will be able to close off the slide. She’ll add a combination lock, so the boys won’t get any ideas, she said.
Martens and her brothers, Ben and Luke Bergh, teamed up on this project.
For the treehouse bunk beds, they bought six pieces of basic plywood, cut them to the same length, painted, cut and — voila.
Martens initially wanted a hammock in their bedroom, but it might have led to fighting, she said. So, her sister found and sent them the pod hammock swings.
“Everybody’s had a part in this,” Martens said.
On a recent visit, Markus bundled up in one of them and spun around, one foot hanging out.
One of his paintings hangs in the corner, next to a floating shelf. On it is a figurine of a mother, holdings two boys — a gift from a friend after Kaeleb was born.
Martens snagged items at IKEA, Target and Amazon. The slides hail from Wayfair for about $500 each.
They arrived in pieces, and took eight hours to erect. Her brothers worked on the structure, supporting it for about four days.
“We just winged it, figured it out as we went along,” said Ben Bergh of Duluth.
It wasn’t a difficult process, he said, but they took steps to keep it stress-free. They worked on the slide supports for a couple of hours each day, which helped minimize any pressure. He advises making up blueprints, so you can plan your materials, he said, recalling several trips to the hardware store.
The slides were their late-summer project, and for now, the boys are using them every day, all the time, she said.
When they moved into the house three years ago, Martens wanted to prioritize their bedroom. “If they’re going to be secure and safe and loved and happy and healthy, it’s going to start here,” she said.
While there’s a makeshift fort and a zipline on their 1.6 acres, Martens has plans for a rock wall, maybe a rope bridge and an obstacle course. She wants her sons to have options and space to be creative.
Reflecting on her own childhood, Martens recalled camping in her backyard.
She grew up with seven siblings on 40 acres in the country. “The outdoors was our place to explore, that was our wonderland,” she said.
While Martens doesn’t have a “fancy bedroom” in their home yet, seeing her kids’ excitement has proven this was the right choice.
“When you’re a working parent, you miss out on stuff. You don’t get to be at all the things," she said. "I’m not there every time they wake up or go to bed, but I can do this.”