A Doll House for my Daughter

As a dad who can’t get enough of being one, I am always trying to find a way to prove that I am a better father than the next guy.  Not really, but I do feel the need to be thought of as a good father.

The fact is, I’m a little cheap.  I don’t like to spend a lot of money on something I could do myself.  My father was a general contractor, and I inherited all of his toys.  There’s nothing like needing to hang a picture on the wall, and knowing that all I have to do is step into the garage, turn on the 6 ft. tall Campbell-Hausfeld compressor and choose which nail-gun I want to use.  Oh, yeah.  So whenever I see an overpriced toy that I think my kid needs, I think, “I could make that.”

The last time it was a set of bins for her toy that were twice as large as the ones at Ikea, and cost me half as much (if you don’t count the trip to the doctor when I shot a nail through my thumb).

So, with my daughter’s third birthday arriving in a bout two months, I have decided to build…a doll house.  My niece has a cool one that is three stories tall, one room deep, and has the whole back half open for easy access.

I looked around and these things go for around $300.  Of course, I thought, I can build one of those.  I have been thinking about it for a few months now, and collecting materials along the way.  Last month, I did a rough sketch and bought a couple of pieces of MDF and a piano hinge.

I did some more drawing, and realized that I needed another piece of MDF.  So, I finally decided that last weekend, I would have to start it if I were to have any chance of finishing it before her birthday.

I decided that I would not hide it from her for several reasons.  The first was the fact that hiding it would be difficult.  The second was the fact that I thought she would appreciate it more if she saw the effort that it took to make it.  And of course, if it made her love for me grow greater, that would be even better.

So I asked my mother to come and watch her Saturday, and got to work.  It was not that difficult, but it was hot, and as with anything like this, the time seems to fly by when are actually doing it.  By Saturday evening, I had the whole frame put together, and the piano hinge on the roof.  The wood for the interior walls had been cut, and I had decided that a lot of the work from this point on could be done in the house where there is air conditioning.

Since Saturday, I have done a little work every day.  The interior walls are in now, and I have cut the wood for a couch, love seat and chair for the living room, and a couple of beds.

As with most things that I do like this, I have gotten carried away.  I tend to build things that are a little more elaborate or just plain big.  This would fall into the ‘big’ category.  It is 57 inches tall, 49 inches wide, and 18 inches deep on a 24 inch deep base.  There are 10 rooms including a living room, study/library, dining room, kitchen, pantry, full bath, master bedroom, nursery, child’s room, and kid’s playroom.

I plan to make as much of the furniture as I can.  My focus will be on functionality rather than reality.  For instance, I want to make a chair and table for the dining room that will last if my daughter wants to play with it for years, not an ultra-realistic piece of miniature art that will break the first time she plays with it.  And, I want it to be big enough for Barbie when she gets one.

Special thanks to my wife.  She has done most of the measuring and marking, and without her assistance, it would not be done at all.

I have enjoyed it a lot more than I ever thought I would, and I will continue to document this process in case any other parents out there decide that they want to attempt it.  Stay tuned for pictures, and further documentation.

Cost so far:

3 pieces MDF: $22.00 each

48 inch Piano Hinge: $15.00

Screws: $0 (already had these)

Nails: $0 (already had these)

Tools: $0 (already had these)

Scrap Wood: $0 (already had some of this. Also took two small pieces from a trash pile at a home being built in the neighborhood)

Total: $81.00

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Dating Disasters

Analytical guys, like me, often do not have a lot of luck in the dating scene while they are growing up.  Females are a mystery, the ultimate ‘x’ in any equation.  The more you evaluate the possibilities, the more frightening they become.  Most of the time, I would simply procrastinate in asking-out a girl that I liked until she was no longer available.

That being said, I did actually get up the courage to ask several girls out while I was in high school, and surprisingly some of the young ladies actually said yes, even though I am sure I was visibly shaking when I asked, and made a hasty retreat once they said, “Yes” because I had not planned for what to do if they actually responded positively.  Once these girls had accepted my offer, there was the obvious panic of what to actually do on the date.  This required extensive planning, but was usually curtailed by my financial realities.

There are four particular dating disasters that occurred before I finally was able to get married and free myself from this continual torture.  The first was my first real date.  I had met a shy and very pretty girl at church.  She was blond and had a nice body also.  I decided that the best way to trick her into going out with me was to incorporate her love for her God into a date with myself (genius).  So, I asked her out to a Christian concert (obviously, I had no thoughts of ‘making a move’ on this date).

I picked her up in plenty of time to go see the ‘Carry the Light’ tour at Reunion Arena in Dallas.  I was driving a 1977 Cougar, and it was a ‘boat.’  I picked her up, and she looked nice.  We went to eat dinner, and then got onto I-35 heading south.  Almost immediately, I realized that I had made a tactical error.  I-35 was going through a makeover where there were machines eating about a foot of back-top off of the road in order to get to the old concrete.  Eventually, the highway department put a nice new concrete road in, but on this day, the project was still a work in progress.  Even though I was traveling against the flow of traffic, it was awful.  I was literally inching along and the 90 degree plus weather quickly took a toll on my ten year old car.  Soon, the gauges on my dash were informing me that my engine was overheating.  So, after apologizing, I turned the air conditioner off, and asked her to roll down her window.  Later, I actually turned the heater on for a minute in the hope that this would help dissipate the hot air from the engine compartment.  I’m sure she was loving all of this, but the car was making it.

We made it all the way to the point where cars were attempting to get into the parking lot.  It was stop-and-go once again, only this time there were three lanes of traffic trying to get up a hill into the parking lot.  This was simply too much for the Cougar, and it died.  As I sat there in the center lane wondering what to do, a bus hit the back of my car (no kidding) while trying to get around me.  Defeat.

Eventually, the nice policeman who was directing traffic into the parking lot decided something had to be done.  He stopped traffic and allowed me to push my car backward across the intersection, and up against a curb (facing the wrong way on a one-way street).

I, however, would not admit defeat so easily.  We walked the rest of the way to the arena, and I was sure that I would never see my car again.  I called my dad collect on the way into the venue, and told him of my dilemma.  He told me to enjoy the show, and meet him near the end so that he could help me with my car.

I do not remember a lot about the show other than a guy playing classical guitar with his feet (amazing).  I do not remember that we said two words to one another, and before the end of the show, we left to find my dad who had already shown-up and put water in my radiator for me.

This is when the one good thing in the whole evening occurred.  The nice policeman who had helped me park my car, had come back after I left and had written a personal note on the back of his card asking other officers who might happen by not to give me a ticket of have my car towed.

After getting my car restarted, I drove her home in complete defeat.  I never asked her out again, and I really don’t remember talking to her much after that.  She did not seem to mind.

Another dating disaster occurred about a year later.  I had gone out with a girl to help her to feel better after she had had a bad breakup…, big mistake!  She formed some sort of quick attachment to me, but the truth was that I was infatuated with her best friend.  I really liked her friend a lot, and she was probably my first real crush.  She was a short, cute brunette who had a very nice body.  She did have a glass eye (hardly noticeable), but that did not bother me at all.

I finally got the nerve to ask her out, and she agreed to go to dinner and a movie with me.  We went to a decent restaurant and then set off for the theatre.  I chose a terrible John Candy movie called Summer Rental.  Oh, if he’d only died before he made this abomination.  The movie was bad enough, but I once again made a tactical error.  I had planned to ‘make a move,’ and put my arm around her during the movie, but as we went to sit down, I realized that I had entered the row on her left, The Side With Her Bad Eye!  This froze me.  I kept wanting to put my arm around her, but in my mind, I kept seeing her jump or even scream as she wondered if a rat or something worse were crawling across her shoulder.  For the most part, I sat in paralyzed frustration for the rest of the movie.

After the movie, I took her home, and actually worked up the courage to go for the ‘good night kiss.’  This worked out for me, and she later said that she would go to the Homecoming Dance with me.  However, her friend felt some sort of a betrayal in the fact that the two of us had gone out, and began to treat us both badly.  A couple of weeks later, I got a note from her explaining that she wanted to be the other girl’s friend more than she wanted to be my boyfriend.  Defeat.

Later, in college, I had determined to get more dates.  I asked out the girl that eventually became my wife.  I remember meeting her that week because there was about a foot of snow on the ground, and this was very unusual for Shawnee, OK where I went to school.  I asked her to go see Rain Man which was big at the theatre, and it turned out to be a good date movie, for once.  The main problem I had with this particular date occurred early in the day, as I went out to my car (the Nova, pronounced ‘No-Vah”- Spanish for ‘it does not go’).  I walked up to the car, and saw that my right front tire was completely on the ground beneath the snow, so I decided to change the tire in a foot of snow.  I was wearing jeans which were by no means waterproof, but they were the best thing that I had for the job.  I lay down and scooped out the snow from behind the tire and up under it so that the jack would fit under the axel.  I got the car jacked up, and then realized to my horror that the wheel was frozen to the axel.  Oh…F…u…d…g…e!  But, I didn’t say ‘fudge.’  I then found a hammer in my trunk and actually tried to beat the tire off of the axel for several minutes with no luck (this seemed kind of dangerous).  I finally lowered the jack, put the car in gear, and felt the wheel break free of the axel.  I was then able to change the tire after jacking the car back up.  When I was finished, I swear that I could have stood my frozen jeans up against the wall.  The date that night, however, went well.  The same could not be said for our next movie date.  It should be noted that my wife (who I was dating at the time) had led a somewhat sheltered life up to that point in a small town in Western Oklahoma.  Her family never really went to the movies, and most of their television watching involved The Waltons or Little House on the Prairie.  I, on the other hand, considered myself to be a man of the world.  I saw most of the big movies every year, and tried to see most movies that were nominated for Academy Awards.  That year, there was a movie that was getting a lot of Oscar buzz, and so we decided upon my recommendation to go see… The Accused.  I remember feeling sort of dizzy the first time they went through the rape scene, and then looking over to see the horror on my date’s face.  You would think that showing the same violent rape five or six times from different points of view in a movie would desensitize the viewer to some degree.  This, however, was very much not the case.  I probably should have just left, but a familiar paralyzing fear had me in its icy grip.

The only good move that I made that night was when I reached over and hugged my future wife to me, burying her head to protect her from having to see the violence one more time.  Suffice it to say. The Accused IS NOT A GOOD DATE MOVIE!  In the end, I guess it all worked out for me because she said, “Yes” when I asked her to marry me later (no, not that night).  I guess at that point she was just too frightened to say, “No.”