About three weeks before Christmas I sat down with the girls to write out their Christmas lists for the grandparents. (Normally, this is done around the time of Thanksgiving as I start getting pressure from all parties by early November for it...but what can I say, we were late this year.) As scribe, I dutifully recorded requests from each of them as well as the items they both wanted with as much detail as they gave me. When I transferred the list to email so that I could send it, I made sure to write it exactly as it had been dictated to me...good, bad and just plain nutty.
One of the things that had surprised me was that both girls requested a playhouse, tree house or fort. This had NEVER come up in conversation before, although it was something I had long wished for both of them. After all, I had a playhouse when I was a child, and I had loved it beyond measure. It never occurred to me that either set of grands would have any interest in providing it. Christmas lists are supposed to range from practical to fanciful dreams....it's fun to make them and it helps to teach kids that they don't always get what they ask for.
Anyway, you can imagine my surprise when I came home from an evening meeting a few days later to the news that my dad had called Sean because he had decided a Christmas Playhouse was exactly the project he wanted. I was THRILLED! and EXCITED! and AMAZED! (You would have thought he was building it for me. Ahem.)
Dad called me himself the next morning to discuss the plan. He was frustrated because he had initially wanted to build the girls a duplicate of the playhouse he and my grandfather had built me...but after an exhaustive search he had not been able to come up with the plans. (Honestly, mine was built about 30 years ago...and there's absolutely no reason why he should have found them.) Poor man was pretty upset.
Which is where my own magic comes into place.
I interrupted Dad's ramblings.... Dad, I found plans online six months ago for a playhouse that looks exactly like mine. I can't be sure, of course, that they are identical, but the similarity is eerie and according to the ebay listing they were initially drawn up well before you would have used them.
Remember when I said that I had loved my playhouse? and that I wanted one for the girls? Well, that had led me to do some poking about online way back when. I knew Sean and I couldn't justify the expense - not with flooring that needs to be replaced and a dream vacation that was already planned - but it was fun to periodically look at the plans and dream. My playhouse had been a very unique structure - an a-frame with a deck on the side, and with a real door (that locked!) and window. Little did I know...
Dad asked me to order the plans and have them sent to my house, which I did immediately. They took almost a week to arrive, putting us at that point less than two weeks from Christmas. To Dad's surprise, and my satisfaction, they did prove to be the same plans he'd used 30 years ago.
At which point the big hurdle had to be faced. We live in a neighborhood with a Homeowners Association and a set of draconian Covenants and Restrictions. According to that document, outbuildings of any sort are forbidden. Also, our HOA board is known for being rather hateful. I won't bore you with the details - which in any case are rather ridiculous - but I will tell you that Sean didn't think they would approve the playhouse while I maintained hope that they would have no reason not to, both of us using past history to prove our points.
Then...our Christmas Miracle...about four or five days before Christmas Sean got news that the playhouse had been APPROVED! Yay!
The game was on, and I plotted with Dad. All previous plans for Christmas were scrapped so that Dad could surprise the girls by Christmas.
On Christmas Eve my parents and my brother drove to Columbia with a cattle trailer full of building supplies. Dad had done as much as he could at home so much of the framework and base were already done and just needed to be assembled. Mom called when they were 20 minutes out and I hustled the girls out the door for a day of fun around town. (Which by the way, even when doing fun things it is very difficult to keep two small girls away from home for five hours on Christmas Eve.) Less than 5 minutes after we left my parents arrived and construction began. Fortunately, they finished about the time my patience and the girls ability to play along with my crazy plans wore out.
We arrived home in the late afternoon to find my family all inside enjoying coffee with Sean. After greetings and general chatter we sat down to exchange gifts. Dad put the girls on either side of them and gave them a card to read. On the card were instructions to follow the string to their Christmas gift. (Those of you who've been with me for a while know this is a time-honored tradition in my family. The BEST gifts ALWAYS come at the end of a string, and there is always at least one string under the tree.) Down the stairs, through the basement and out the back door they went...
To find their very own playhouse!
You've seen the pictures and probably can imagine how excited the girls were. By the time we came inside, they had planned years worth of play. It was an amazing end to an amazing couple of weeks. In fact, it may have been the best Christmas surprise EVER. (There is some debate as to who was more excited...the girls or me. We shall leave that for others to decide.)
The unseasonably warm weather really helped us out over the next couple of weeks. Dad was able to come down a few days after Christmas and over the course of three days he and Sean were able to get almost all of the work done. (Sean was on vacation from Christmas to New Years.) A few days after New Years, Dad brought the window and door down and finished the work. If we had had a traditional Missouri Winter, he probably wouldn't have had a chance. As is, not only was he able to finish in record time but the girls have been able to play out there almost every day since. In fact, I was rather hard pressed to prevent them from literally moving in as soon as it was done, and I had to explain to Gillian that No, she could not have a slumber party in there for her January birthday!
In the spring I will paint the exterior and will put down some sort of flooring inside. (I'm leaning towards peel and stick linoleum tiles...cheap and easy to clean.) I might also do the interior...but I'm waffling on that a bit. Sean and I are going to then put a path in our backyard leading from our sliding glass doors to the front of the playhouse. We're hoping this will do double duty, helping to keep the inside a bit cleaner and also assisting with an erosion problem we have. The girls have also requested a flower bed on the side opposite the deck, which we're happy to provide. There will be, of course, more pictures to come as all of that comes to pass.
So there you have it...the story of the Christmas Playhouse!