Cody isn't like me. I'm a gift giver by nature; it's my love language. I love seeing a present and knowing that someone loved me enough to go pick something out for me. When I want someone to feel better or know I care, I immediately make them something or go buy them something. It's about thinking through their personality, and finding something that really fits.
But Cody isn't like that. He's a service guy. He loves doing things for someone else, and he is pretty handy at it. He will clean the house, repair my steam mop, or take care of the kids while I go out to make me happy. So when it comes time for his birthday, it's hard to decide what to give him. Even if it's an expensive, amazing gift, it won't be as meaningful for him. Not to mention his birthday comes less than 3 weeks after Christmas, so there's not much opportunity to find a need. This year, I just couldn't find anything I knew he'd really like. So, instead, on his birthday (as I mentioned before) I took him to the hardware store and let him pick out what he wanted. I was hoping he would pick electrical wiring and outlets, and he did.
I did some research before we left so that we would know what to get. We bought 14/2 wire, a box of 10 outlets, 6 wall boxes, plate covers, and wire nuts, and 2 15 amp breakers. The copper wire was by far the most expensive part, but the whole bit cost less than $100. We came home and did more research and eventually called an electrician friend of ours to come over and teach us what to do. Cody mounted the boxes first; that was the easy part. For the ones that were going upstairs where there's sheetrock, we bought some special sheetrock boxes that have wings that tighten against the rock when you screw them in, so they don't have to be nailed to a stud. So, it was a matter of choosing the location, leveling it, carefully cutting out a piece of sheetrock, and popping it in. But before we popped it in, Cody went downstairs and drilled a hole through the base plate of the floor so we had a hole into the inside of the wall. I stood up stairs while he fished the wire up through the floor. He used a piece of tubing to help the wire stay tight. I caught it when it got up to the hole in the sheetrock. Then the box went in and the wire came through the hole in the back. Cue electrician friend. He showed us how to wire the outlet and how to make pigtails on the wire so that we could have a double outlet. We wired it up. Cody repeated on the other outlets, mainly in the basement (until now, we've had just one outlet in the whole basement. Considering I craft down there, the kids watch movies, and Cody works, that's pretty annoying) and ran the wires to the breaker box, although they weren't hooked up to anything yet. Cue electrician friend once more. He helped us turn off the main to the house--we did this part during broad daylight and with a flashlight on hand, making sure the house was plenty warm before we turned off the electricity--and then we opened the box, installed the new breakers, and ran in the wires. I learned that the hot wire goes to the breaker, and then there's a neutral port for all the white neutral wires, and then a ground port for the copper ground wires. He said that when the electricity is on, you don't even want to mess with it. Some crazies are willing to wire it live, but NOT US. We left the breaker off, turned the main on, and then flipped the switch, and voila! We had power! It was super exciting.
Cody then built a small, "invisible" shelf behind where our new TV is mounted in the living room. It's not big and is built at an angle. The goal is to hold just the receiver and maybe the Wii, and to hide completely behind the TV. Some screws, putty, caulk, primer, and paint, and it's done.
At last, we put up the electronics, plugged it all in, put the TV back on the mount, vacuumed up the small bit of sheetrock dust and saved the scrap copper, and...
Beautiful, clean, project! Cody loved his birthday present. He got to learn a whole new skill and he had so much fun figuring this all out. I love that he's so handy and skilled. We may need to call our electrician friend again some time, and we definitely owe him some free babysitting; but we think we can apply this knowledge to wiring the rest of the basement, when the time comes. Pretty awesome.