Playhouse kit offers bonding opportunity

The sole Christmas gift my children received from me last year was “My Very Own Playhouse.” This 4’ x 4’ outdoor playhouse kit was 25% off at Lowe’s the day after Thanksgiving. It sounded like just the ticket for delighting the kids while at the same getting me out of further Christmas shopping and wrapping.

I should have noticed elsewhere in the sales flier the ad for “My Very Own Ulcer” kit, for parents who naively thought “My Very Own Playhouse” would be a good idea.

Assurances were required before I made the purchase. I made the kids individually swear on the family bible and sign a six-page customized contract stating they understood they would be receiving one large Christmas gift, and ONLY that one gift from mom in 2007.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Connor said. “We know it’s our only gift and it was very expensive. You’ve told us that a hundred times. We’re not to ask for anything else or you will take it back.”

But my kids aren’t stupid. They knew there was no way a 200-pound carton I had to hire someone with a truck to pick up for us was going back. So the lobbying for other Christmas gifts commenced.

As soon as the snow melted, the kids demanded I erect the playhouse using tools I don’t have. I put in a few phone calls to friends and relatives, picturing a barn raising party of miniature scale where I would bring heaping platters of food out to the hard-working group once finished.

My fiancé, Boy Kerry, was the only person to respond. I fed him a can of Campbell’s soup when he was done. It was the only thing I had the energy left to make.

“Have I thanked you yet for buying a kit rather than building one from scratch?” Boy Kerry asked. “This should be a piece of cake.”

Thanks for the curse.

We dragged the carton from the corner of the barn and used my nephew’s forklift to move it to the small brush cart behind the riding lawnmower. He drove it to its final destination and made me inventory all materials before we got started. This including counting all 86 finishing nails for the roof.

Really.

We were about five minutes into the project when Boy Kerry’s engineering background reared its ugly head. The manufacturer estimated assembly should take 90 minutes, but Boy Kerry thought we could beat that time if we just thoroughly thought through all phases of the project and possible complications.

I told Boy Kerry I would settle for just putting the thing together. Then I refrained from vomiting when he told me not to worry, he had a vision for the project.

He actually said that.

Construction began at 11:55, following church. I quickly realized I had prayed for the wrong thing there. Pardon the sick and suffering, Lord, but there’s two troubled souls and a small construction project that desperately need your guidance.  Jesus was a carpenter.

The strong spring winds kept blowing away our materials, which were held down with a hodgepodge of tape measures, screwdrivers, rocks, and coffee cups. Roof boards sported splits and trim pieces had knots in the wrong places.

Red, my attack rooster, followed our progress, hoping for an opportunity when I bent, unaware, to retrieve another board.

Forty-eight minutes into assembly, the cheap, shallow screwheads of the kit hardware had eaten all the appropriate-sized bits from both our drills. We stopped the shot clock and drove to Lowe’s for more drill bits and better screws.

As we walked in, I saw an unsuspecting couple leaving the store, wheeling a “My Very Own Playhouse” kit on a gurney. The carton pictured two beaming children leaning their heads out the windows of a colorful playhouse. Adults were nowhere to be seen in the picture. Probably somewhere getting hammered, from the stress of nailing the thing together.

Work resumed at 1:29 PM. We finished by 2:48 PM. Total construction time was 127 minutes; 173 minutes for purists who insist Boy Kerry and I count the time spent going back to Lowe’s.

A week later, the playhouse is still together. More importantly, so are we.

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