Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A job well done!

As mentioned in a previous post, Neil has been hard at work in the garage for the last several weeks preparing for Christmas morning. Santa gave him quite the assignment this year: 3 bookcases and a train table! But Neil, being the hard worker he is, conquered his task like a champ. Even with a slight interruption, which I'll talk more about in a minute, he met his deadline a day early, and Christmas morning the kids were presented with a much better functioning (and looking) play room!

Around mid-November, as we were examining our loft, we decided the first thing it needed was some kind of storage system. The toys and books had no shelves or bins to call home, and Chloe was using a large tupperware container as her coloring/"restaurant" table. Classy, I know.  Besides that, the area was just huge and needed some space fillers. In our last house the kids' toys were scattered between their bedrooms, and it worked just fine. But because we had a designated play area in the new house, we really wanted to utilize it and keep all the toys there.

After some searching, I tracked down some bookcases and a train table I liked. Neil looked them over in the store, drew up plans in his head, and made a Home Depot run for wood and supplies.  By Thanksgiving, he had made decent headway with the bookcases, and was on his way to finishing everything well before Christmas.

Then, he did what he does every Thanksgiving morning: played football with the boys.

About 5 minutes into the game, this happened:

He caught his right ring finger in someone's pocket, and CRUNCH!  Pretty much shattered it from the knuckle down.  He thought he had just dislocated it, so he stood on the side lines for a few minutes while the guys started playing again, trying to pop it back into place.  After a few more minutes he concluded the pain was not going away and he needed to call it a day.  I felt so bad for him when he walked in the door only 30 minutes after he'd taken off to go play.  He was tough though, hardly complained, and simply wrapped it up against a popsicle stick.  I wish I'd gotten a picture of it those first few days.  It was pretty ugly, swollen and bruised.  I guess it just didn't occur to me since Neil wasn't making a big deal of it.  Well, a week passed, then another.  The finger wasn't getting any better.  He couldn't even begin to bend it, and it was still hurting a lot.  Finally, he went in for an x-ray to see what the trouble was all about.  Within 48 hours, he was scheduling surgery!  Crazy.  And all because of a harmless game of Thanksgiving flag football.

Surgery took place December 10th (my dad's birthday).  They actually had to put him under for it, which he wasn't too thrilled about.  Here he is shortly after he came out of surgery. 

The surgeon told us that he had to re-break the bone because it had started fusing back together on its own. Apparently Neil went a little longer than he should have between the initial break and the surgery.  Ouch. The surgeon also placed 3 pins in the bone to ensure it would heal properly.  Double, or should I say triple Ouch! (1 for each pin - get it?).  Neil went back last week to have his stitches removed, and goes back again next week to have the pins removed.  They are underneath the skin, so I'm sure that's going to make for a fun doctor's visit.  It will probably be a while before things are completely back to normal.  Neil says what drives him the most crazy is that he can hardly bend his finger.  He has been working at it, but it's definitely going to take some time and patience.  Especially considering the break was on (and just below) the knuckle.

So back to this Christmas assignment!  This finger business naturally slowed Neil down.  But I was really amazed at how quickly he was back out there working, despite his fat, dysfunctional finger.

Here are some pictures from along the way.

These were taken December 1st, just before Neil's surgery.  The bookcases were fully assembled minus the back (beadboard panels), which Neil didn't screw on until just prior to the final coat of paint.

December 4th - Neil started the train table while I sanded down the bookcases.  What a job that was!  Thank goodness for an electric sander!  Thank you, Dad and Mom Halliday for the early Christmas present!

December 23rd - Neil adding the back paneling to the bookcases.  You can see the train table in the back.

And then below is sweet Ryan inspecting Daddy's work while enjoying a sugar cookie!

We did the second and final coat of paint that same evening.

Thank goodness for a sprayer too!  That made this process so much easier (and faster)!  And the finish couldn't have been more perfect.  We did a little research before starting the project and found some very helpful tips for achieving that smooth, professional finish.  It really worked!  They turned out so beautiful!

So here is the finished product (inspired by this).  I am planning to break up the monotony of toys and books with some baskets, and I'm envisioning a canvas United States map up on the wall centered above the middle bookcase.  Thoughts?  I'm not a decorator by any means.  It's just what I have in mind.

Here's the train table (inspired by this).  Ryan has been glued to this thing since Christmas morning.  He is absolutely, positively smitten.  And I love it.  I get so much pleasure out of watching his excited little face beam as he pushes the trains along the tracks while repeating the same 3 things over and over again:  "Tug, tug!" (chuga chuga), "Too too!" (choo choo), and, my personal favorite,  "Ahh-bort!" (all aboard).  He is most certainly a boy who loves his trains.  And that is exactly how it should be!

Neil did such a wonderful job.  He has no idea how much his efforts and hard work have meant to me.  I am so blessed to have a husband who not only has these amazing skills, but who actually enjoys putting those skills to work to create something so beautiful and useful!  And to think of how little we paid compared to what we would have spent had we purchased this stuff at Pottery Barn!

So this is what the loft is looking like now.  It doesn't feel complete to me yet, but these additions went a LONG way to help!  Do you like the red and blue slide?  I think it's a bit of an eye sore, but the kids love it, and there's certainly room for it in there. :)    

There are still a handful of things I'd like to do to complete this room (throw some color in, window treatments of some kind and something for the wall), but we'll get to it in time.  Chloe has a play kitchen that she has loved and used faithfully for over 3 years.  It has seen better days, but has held up really well overall.  I recently had an idea to build an extension of hers since we have the space and since it's been such a popular "toy" for both her and Ryan over the years.  As I got to searching around online, I fell in love.  Just look at this!

photo and creation courtesy of Crafting Chicks.

and THIS!
photo and creation courtesy of Blue Eyed Yonder.

Aren't they both adorable? I'm kind of leaning toward the second, though I love them both.  Believe it or not, I'm planning to tackle this one on my own!  Found some plans for it online, and it's a reasonably inexpensive project.  Neil says he'll help.  Should be interesting.  Not sure when we'll get around to it, but hopefully by summer.

Anyway, hats off to Neil, who truly outdid himself with all of this.  I really am so proud of him, especially given the circumstances with his finger.  Thanks again for a job well done!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A "dance" down memory lane...

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of taking my Chloebug on a date to see the Nutcracker Suite performed by Vacaville Ballet, the very company I danced with until 2001.  To say it was a special day would be an understatement.  It was one beautiful dance down memory lane!  Being back in Vacaville, seeing my old instructors who I hadn't seen since I left the company, being back in the theatre I knew so well, watching the young dancers and how so many of them have grown in the 9 years I've been away, recognizing costumes and choreography from when I was up there on stage...  It was all just so, so cool!  Chloe loved it too.  Her favorite dance was Waltz of the Flowers, though she was kind of head over heels for the Snow Queen too.

During intermission we went backstage so I could hug everyone and introduce Chloe.  I think Chloe was a little freaked out by all the excitement initially, but she quickly warmed up. 

Here we are with Miss Heidi, who was my instructor all those years, and her mom, Miss Cheri, who helps run the Academy, designs the costumes, and used to teach the little ones.  I've known these two ladies for as long as I can remember.  They may as well be my family.

{Sadly, this was taken before Chloe decided to warm up.  And Cheri had just come from a local Fire Department Christmas event where she played Mrs. Claus, hence the white wig.}

Then Margene, who is one of the Academy's seamstresses (and mom to a company dancer), suddenly poked her head out of the costume room.  Margene is in my home ward, and holds a very special place in my heart (and my mom's too).  She was Young Women's president when I was baptized, and was very instrumental in that whole process.  It was also around that same time that she announced she was pregnant with this sweet girl, Kimberly (and Kimberly's twin brother, Jared).  I love Margene, and was so happy to see her and Kimberly, who has grown into such a beautiful young lady and dancer.

We all got a little carried away jabbering backstage and before long the second act had started.  Chloe and I watched from side stage for a few minutes before returning to our seats.  It was all so cool, and brought back countless fond memories.  After the performance all the lead roles came out in their glittery tutu glory to greet the audience members and sign autographs.  Chloe was in absolute heaven and wanted to get a picture with each dancer.

{Waiting for the dancers and beaming with excitement and anticipation}

{Chloe with the Doll}

She pretty much couldn't get enough of the Snow Queen.

And it just so happens that this Snow Queen was once a tiny little dancer just like Chloe.  In fact, she was in one of the classes I taught at the Academy!  Crazy what a decade can do!

{Chloe stealing one last squeeze from Miss Heidi before saying goodbye}

{And here's one last shot of Chloe and me getting ready for our date}

What a neat day.  Certainly one I'll never forget.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas cards, Christmas cards, it's that time of year!

There are many things I love about the Christmas season.  Of those things, checking my mailbox each day to see which Christmas card is waiting to be opened has to be near the top of the list!  Not only reading updates about all of my favorite people, but seeing their pretty pictures of them looking their best - there's something simply satisfying about the whole shebang!  Then there's decorating my pantry door with said cards, hoping that by Christmas Eve the entire door is covered!  Love it all. 

Just as I love receiving Christmas cards, I love giving Christmas cards!  Each December brings that afternoon where I sit down at my computer and peruse the various photo card options online, select my favorite and submit my order!  It never gets old, and as long as I live, I will probably always mail out Christmas cards.

This year Shutterfly is offering a promotion for bloggers to receive 50 free Holiday cards.  Yes!!!  I am particularly excited about this promotion after looking through Shutterfly's 2010 Christmas card selection.  There are so many I love that it's difficult to narrow down a favorite.  I especially like this one though, and the variety of photo slots it offers:

 Aside from traditional Christmas cards, Shutterfly also provides countless other photo sharing options and gifts like personalized calendarsphoto books, and thank you cards.  Check them out!  And to find out more about Shutterfly's promotion, go HERE.

Happy Christmas card shopping/creating/giving/receiving season to all!   

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Better late than never

Happy Birthday last Thursday to my sweet little nephew, Grant, who turned 2! 

{June 2010 - Colorado Springs, CO}
Sorry you're getting this wish 3 days late, but I hope you had a marvelous day!

And, while we're on the topic of birthdays, here are a few other belated wishes for:

My brother, David, who celebrated a birthday October 21st
{August 2010 - Colorado Springs, CO}

My brand new niece, Katherine, who was born September 25th
{4 days young - Fort Collins, CO}

My sister-in-law, Courtney, who celebrated a birthday September 14th{May 2010 - Colorado Springs, CO}

My best friend and cousin, Wendy, who celebrated a birthday September 4th
{July 2010 - Salt Lake City, UT}

...and who also gave birth to this sweet little angel, Emma on August 31st
{September 2010 - Salt Lake City, UT}

And going even further into August (sheesh!), my dad-in-law, David celebrated a birthday on the 19th
{May 2009 - Nashville, TN}

And last but not least, Grandma Jean celebrated a birthday August 16th
{May 2009 - Nashville, TN}

Wow, that's a lot of birthdays.  Hopefully I can keep up better from now on!  Happy Birthday to all of you!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Funny Chloe & Neil's latest project

As long as Chloe has been around, the one thing she has known about her father is that he can build pretty much anything.  These recent weeks as we've made plans for the new house, Chloe has overheard a lot of our discussion and has seen Neil start to put our plans to work in the garage.  I suppose that explains the reasoning behind this conversation she initiated over dinner the other night:

"Mommy, did Daddy buy you that wedding ring?"

(a bit puzzled)

"Because he doesn't know how to build rings?"

Classic.  Neil and I both laughed.  Out loud.  For a good minute and a half straight.  No wonder she'd think something like this up after she's watched her daddy build and fix so many things over the years.  What's really funny though is that Neil did, in fact, "build" us matching titanium rings during his senior year of college, just after we got married (in one of his engineering classes).  So to answer Chloe's question, "Yes, Daddy can build rings!  In this case, he simply chose to buy one for Mommy instead!"  :)

Here's Neil's current project.

{photos courtesy of Pottery Barn Kids}
We have a large blank wall in our loft/play area upstairs begging for book shelves, so Neil is in the process of building some. He examined these in the store and then wrote up his own plan of attack.  He is building two of the tall skinny ones and one of the short wide ones, though the short wide one will be about a foot wider than the one pictured above (to more precisely accommodate the wall space).  He is just about finished, and then we can sand and paint.  I cannot say enough how amazed and impressed I am by Neil's ability to see something and recreate it, just like that.  He really has a gift, and I am grateful for it and for his passion for wood working in general.  I'll post some pictures once the shelves are complete and the loft area is a little more put together.