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

The Bachelor Exploits a Child

I watch a lot of Reality TV.  I have watched every season of Survivor, The Mole, The Amazing Race, and several seasons of American Idol and The Apprentice.  I have also watched several reality failures like the recent pirate debacle.

 

However, I have never enjoyed any of the programs based on relationships especially dating relationships.  I think that a marriage is simply too important to suggest that people should act as if they could ever enter into it though a television program where money is used as bait.  I also am uncomfortable with them men and women on these programs who use sex or their sexualityto help them get ahead (I know I am a little inconsistent here with regard to Survivor).  It is seedy and unseemly.

 

So, when I saw the touching commercial for the new bachelor program where the male contestant is a single father, I wanted to puke.  It was clear from the advertisements the his young son was going to be a big player in the plot of the show.  It is one thing for these people to screw around with each other’s emotions, but it is something else entirely when you involve a child and exploit him.

 

I find it hard to believe that no one at ABC objected to this, but I am sure that they thought all they had to do was to make a ‘touching’ commercial, and people would be all over it.  It is one thing for these despicable programs to present their warped ideas dating and marriage, but it is something else entirely when a child is brought in, a child who probably is looking for a mother figure.  So, they will put him on the program where these women will attempt to form emotional attachments with him in order to curry favor with his father in hopes that the father will choose them, and they will win the money.  The young boy will also get to see them throwing themselves at his father in a sexual way,… nice.

 

Shame on his father for using his own son to further a career in entertainment.  Shame on the women who use him for the same thing, and to win some money.  Shame on the producers for thinking up this tripe.  Shame on ABC for allowing this abomination to happen, and promoting it as if it is a good thing, and shame on everyone who helps this program in the ratings by watching it.

There is Nothing Wrong with ‘Xmas’

I remember when I was a child how offended my mother would get when she saw the word ‘Xmas’ on a commercial or at a store.  She would really become angry saying, “There they go again trying to take Christ out of Christmas.”  On some level, I can understand her unhappiness.  Today, with the ACLU and the court system actually trying to remove any reference to Christmas, it is understandable that Christians would be on the defensive.  Almost daily we are faced with stories about long-time traditional festivals that are replacing the word “Christmas” with “Holiday” or “Festival.”  Seinfeld sublimely underscored many of these attitudes with the famous “Festivus for the Rest of Us” episode.

However, Christians who become offended at the word Xmas, simply have not studied what the word actually connotes.  In early Christianty, the X was actually a Greek letter pronounced “Chi” or “Kai.”  It was the first letter in the Greek word for Christ.

Due to persecution, early Christians would use the X as a symbol meaning Christ and denoting themselves as Christians.  The familiar Fish symbol seen on many cars goes back to this tradition.  The symbols that look like IXOYE (pronounced ‘ixthus’ or ‘icthus’), are really a Greek acronym denoting: Jesus, Christ, of God, Son, Savior.  The Greek word is actually an acrostic that spells out ‘fish.’

So, you see, when you spell Christmas with an ‘X,’ you are just paying homage to 2000 years of Christian tradition.  You can even use it as a tool to teach others when you hear them asking, “Why is Christmas spelled with an “X”?

Things that I am Thankful for

As I edge toward Thanksgiving Holiday, I ask myself what it is that I am actually thankful for.  Daily, it seems that we are being bombarded with news of the bad economy, and being a Republican is nothing like it was a decade ago, but here goes.

I am thankful that I am a Christian.  I may not hold to many of the more fundamentalist (or liberal) views of modern Christian denominations, but I believe that Christ died for my sins, and am thankful that my God is a god of grace who loves me in spite of my many failings.

I am thankful for my family.  I am thankful for my lovely wife and my wonderful little daughter.  Every day is a new adventure when you have a two year old.  My wife and I may be a good pair, but it is the little girl that completes both of us.

I am thankful for the grandparents.  My mom is wonderful with my daughter, and she does everything thing she can to help us through the everyday life situations that sometimes come up.  My in-laws are also great.  This year, there were a couple of times when I had to work some extended hours (once I put in an extra 155 hours in a month).  My mom and my in-laws really came through by coming to stay with us for weeks at a time so that the baby would not have to be in day care for eight hours a day or more.  To top that all off, this summer while I was having to work so many hours, my father-in-law practically put in a bar that I had been planning to do by himself, and it looks as good as a master carpenter could do.

My sister, her husband and my niece who is slightly older than my daughter are also a blessing.  We will not be spending Thanksgiving together this year because we will be at the in-law’s house, and my sister, who would normally be at her in-law’s house, will be staying at home because she is pregnant with what will be my new nephew.  Yeah!

I am thankful that I was born an American in Texas and in the Dallas area.  There is no place I’d rather be.

I am thankful for my education, the fact that I have a good job, and a good boss who appreciates the work that I do, and I am thankful that I have a customer base that, for the most part is easy to work with.

I am thankful that my wife likes some of the programming that I like to watch on television, and that she is willing to sit beside me and act like she likes some of the other programming that I watch.  I am also thankful that I live in the age of the DVR.

I am thankful that I live in an area that has a lot of sports related outlets.  Between, the Cowboys, Rangers, Stars and Mavericks, Dallas covers the sports world well, but it would be nice to see a World Series come through here.  We even have a professional soccer team, FC Dallas.  There are also three professional minor league baseball teams, several universities, and Texas high school football to satiate the sports fan.  And, of course we have the best local sports radio in the country, Sports Radio 1310, the Ticket.

I am thankful that I live in a safe, affordable neighborhood with good schools that my daughter will one day attend.

I am thankful that Texas still does not have a state income tax.

I am thankful that I have a few friends that go back as far a high school, and that I know I can trust at least one of them with pretty much anything.

I am thankful that I will not have to do anything to assist with the cooking of Thanksgiving dinner this year, and I am thankful that my father-in-law finally paid for the local channels to be put on his Dish Network plan so it will not be snowing during all of the football games that I plan to watch this week.

I am thankful that I live in a time, and in a country where I can publish any opinion that I wish to anyone in the world who wishes to read it, for free (thanks, WordPress).  Being a student of history, I know that freedom of speech has been a rarity throughout the history of mankind, and I respect a person’s right to have an opinion even if I do not agree with what the person is saying.

I could go on forever, but suffice it to say, I am thankful.

I Love Peanut Butter, as Any Good American Should

I did not need to have Obama come along with his quick-witted repartee in order to know the greatness and potential of black people as a race.  I knew the first time that I heard that a black man, the great George Washington Carver, had invented peanut butter that they had something.

I have always been a big fan of peanut butter, and if I know there is peanut butter in something, I’m probably going to try it.  Some of my earliest memories of my father are of him mixing up some peanut butter and syrup, and then eating it scooped up on some Wonder Bread with a glass of milk.  Yummm….  I, personally, have always been a fan of the Elvis- Peanut butter and banana on white bread with a glass of milk.  Ohhh Yeah.

Of course, everyone knows that the best peanut butter is Jif (creamy).  Though, almost any peanut butter will do in a pinch.  However, I’m sure everyone remembers the time when they were kids, and their mother decided to get that nutritional crap that purports itself to be peanut butter.  You know, the stuff that has to be refrigerated, and separates, and when you try to spread it on a piece of bread, it simply tears the bread up so badly that it can no longer be used in a decent PB&J.  Disgusting.

Of course, the pinnacle of peanut butter came when those two lovers ran into each other.  She got chocolate in his peanut butter, and he got peanut butter on her chocolate.  The greatness of the Reese’s peanut butter cup was born.  The original cup is still the best, though Reese’s has come out with a plethora of variations that are not as good in recent years.  That perfect blend of sweet chocolate and salty peanut butter is great.  Too many candies and cookies (especially chocolate chip cookies) do not realize that it is that little bit of salt that puts it over the top.  You can usually tell when you have a peanut butter candy that is not made by Reese’s.  They are the sickly sweet ones.

As I said before, if it has peanut butter in it, then I will probably try it.  I have had some great peanut butter cookies of all sorts, but I still am in search of a truly great peanut butter pie or cake.  A few years ago, when I moved to the Fort Worth area, I found a frozen custard (ice cream to the masses) place that would mix peanut butter in their ice cream.  I swear it tastes like real peanut butter on a ratio of one to one with the ice cream.  You can even order an Elvis there where they mix in some banana along with the peanut butter in the frozen custard.  Greatness.

The other day when I was having an Elvis at Sheridan’s, I was remarking to myself once again that no one (at least no one that I have tried) makes peanut butter ice cream that tastes this good and this much like peanut butter.  Suddenly, a memory flickered.  I was brought back to my college days when I discovered the greatest peanut butter treat that I have ever purchased.  For a few years, in the early 1990’s Mar Inc. produced a candy bar it called the PB MAX.  All apologies to Reese’s, but this was better.  It consisted of a crunchy cookie about two inches square.  On top of this was what looked like a heaping tablespoon of real (possibly even Jif) peanut butter.  On top of the peanut butter, several small pieces of cookie were sprinkled.  And, finally the whole thing was covered in chocolate.  Unfortunately, the PB Max only lasted a few years, but it will always have a found place in my heart.

Hey Mars, bring it back!

 

A Christian Family Halloween.

Last night my family got together for Halloween.  It included my wife, my two year old daughter, my mom, sister, her husband and my niece.  My bother-in-law’s father, sister, niece and his brother-in-law also were there.  On top of that, my sister is pregnant with my future nephew, as is my bother-in-law’s sister with his.  This was by far the largest family gathering of this sort since my sister’s wedding about 12 years ago.

I have to say, this was the most enjoyable Halloween of my life, and that includes when I was a kid.  I got to watch my two year old Daughter who has no fear.  She is amazing.  She watched her 4 year old cousin and her cousin’s cousin for the first few houses, and I even had to retrieve her from one house when she walked right in past the owner.  After a few houses, she had the hang of it, and at years old she was the one who got to the door first and knocked.  She would say, “Trick or treat! (it sounded like ‘tick-tee’)” and, “Thank you!”  Often, she needed no prompting, and she made me very proud.  There were a few times that she asked me to carry her to the next house, but when she saw the light on, she would run to the door.  She loved it and there was a couple of time when she grabbed me around the neck and just started giving me hugs and kisses repeatedly.  I guess she was just that happy.

The other thing that got my attention was the number of adults that were participating.  Almost every other house gave out candy.  The people were all very nice.  Some sat on their porches, and a few came down to the sidewalk to meet our children.  I noticed the ages of these people, and most were old enough that there children were out trick-or-treating on their own, or they probably already had grandchildren.  This made sense, as most couples with small children were roaming the streets getting the candy themselves.  This means that the numbers actually participating in the festivities were even larger than the numbers giving out candy.  Kind of amazing.  Isn’t America great?  All of these people could have been sitting in their respective living rooms, but they decided to take the time to give out candy that they bought from their hard owned money just to make people that they did not even know happy.

I wrote a post a couple of week’s ago about Christian Attitudes Toward Halloween.  Since, then I have been extremely busy with overtime work commitments, and have not had a lot of opportunities to write, but I have monitored my traffic and the search criteria that people have used to get to my posts.  The Halloween post has generated a lot of interest, though there have been no comments.  I was surprised about that because of the controversial nature of the subject.  It seemed like the people for and against were about even when looking at their search criteria.  I personally think that those who were against Halloween who read my post either did not stay long enough to read the article once they saw that it did not confirm their own ideas, or they, unfortunately, like most Christians do not take the time to form their own opinions and wait to be told what to think about ideas like Halloween by other Christians who often have no better reason than the fact that someone told them what to think.

I feel sorry for the Christian parents who did not take part in the festivities.  I was pretty nice about it in the last post, but now, I am just going to say it flat out.  They are wrong.  There is really no Biblical justification for their attitudes.  They are the kill-joys that drive people including their children from the churches.  It is a shame because it does not have to be that way.  Their noble intent of protecting their children will often build up resentments in these same children.  They, the children, as they grow up will know that the negative attitudes toward things such as Halloween are wrong, but often there is no one who can help them resolve the truth about the situation, and they end up becoming disillusioned with the whole Christian life because of the few problems that denominational Christian churches have including negative attitudes toward anything secular, including Halloween.

On Thursday, my family went to one of the Fall Festivals at one of the local Baptist churches.  We had a lot of fun, but it could have benefited from a little more organization.  That being said, they did not have to do it at all, and it was a nice attempt at a hospitable ministry to the community.  It is often hard to get a church to embrace these types of ministry activities because they cost money, they do not generate money, and they do not directly lead to converts during the activity, for the most part.  They are effective, however, because they bring in tons of people to meet the nice members of your church, and will result in people joining the church that may not have done so.

However, I read a couple of blogs last week that defended the “Fall Festival” idea last week.  These people felt that their party was being criticized as hypocritical by Christians who were against Halloween.  They went on to split hairs between taking part in Halloween, and attending their “festival” where you dress up, play games and give candy to children.  This is where I agree with the fundamentalists who hate Halloween.   If a Church has a “Fall Festival” as an alternative to Halloween, and denigrates the holiday at the same time, they are indeed being hypocritical.  But, where I differ from the fundamentalists is that I think having a “Fall Festival” or even a Halloween party at your church in accord with the generally accepted Halloween observances is a great idea, and a good ministry tool.  Let’s just not condemn Halloween while observing it in our churches.

In the end, it’s a shame on Christianity, my religion, when we allow the world to ‘show us up’ in the areas of hospitality, neighborly love and friendship, and if we continue to go down this road, we will become more and more irrelevant.

Ah, Sweet Bitterness

I have been a connoisseur of bitterness for a few years.  Wine is a good analogy for bitterness, because when it is done well, and aged to perfection, it can leave the objective observer with feelings of amusement and maybe even a little sympathy.  Often, it leaves you with a nice after reading piquant of, ‘Wow, at least I’m not like that guy!’ or ‘At least I’m not having his problems’ or even perhaps, ‘I wish I could be that bitter!’  Bitterness can go bad or rancid just like wine or, for example, in the case of unbearably crotchety Andy Rooney (Oh, if CBS would only figure this out.), but most of the time, good bitterness leaves me with a pleasant smile on my face.  I hope you enjoy these stories as much as I do.

 

I want to give a plug for the first story that I found on GordonKeith.com.  Gordon is a local radio and TV personality in Dallas who is otherwise known, appropriatly as ‘the prince of darkness.’  I posted a link to his blog on my blogroll.

 

With all of that being said, I would like to present this touching tribute.  Remember, you can’t get the last word in…when you’re dead.