REED CITY — Little Ella Dienes is at an age when she loves a lot of things. Let’s see. There’s mom and grandpa and grandma, and, oh yeah! There’s the doll house. A special gift from a very special person.

It was the very last doll house, her mommy’s grandma ever built. This one was meant for Ella. It came home to live in Reed City some time back when Great-grandma Marilyn Vandenbeldt of Kalamazoo passed away.

It needed lots of work done on it, but thanks to mommy’s imagination and craftsmanship, Ella was up to the task. In spite of needing work done on the outside, the inside, painting, furniture, and a little girl to love it to life, Ella’s mom, Katie Denies of Reed City recalls the family stopping at a gas station on their way home with it some months ago.

“And some people offered me $500 for it,” Katie said. “But this is Ella’s doll house. This is the one she actually gets to play with, with her friends.”

Katie built most of the furniture by hand. Her latest addition to it is a mom-created swing on the front porch of the doll house. “I just cut the wood, used a hand sander, and she was playing with it this morning.”

This doll house is one inch to one foot scale, Katie said, “and she’s had this one a year. It really came from my mom and dad. They have another one Grandma built.

This particular one needed lots of restoration, including painting, “re-wallpapering, shingles put on, and curtains made. The attic isn’t done yet, but that’s where her piano stays. Ella loves that little piano.”

And not surprisingly, for her mommy plays the piano for real.”

The doll house sits on an antique school desk, Katie noted, adding that, “Ella has a whole bunch of dogs that she lets live in her house. Now we’re going to make some flower pots, and the patio is coming for her birthday, and the outside will be painted for her Christmas.

“Grandma has put in a fireplace. It only had one staircase, but now I consider the second one my biggest accomplishment, I copied my grandma’s work.”

For Katie, it’s not only fun to share the ongoing project with her little girl, but to revisit the memories of the grandma who built it. “Hopefully,” she predicted, “by Christmas we’ll have electric in it.”

Dolls already have moved in. “She has a mommy and a baby, but that’s all,” Katie said of little Ella’s doll house family. They even have a set of dishes. Must be dirty. They’re piled in the sink right now.”

Ella loves to invite children to come over and play with her, and she often lays claim to an old Strawberry Shortcake as her doll house “family member” first. “I think that has to be her favorite one,” her mom said.

The doll house is a heavy one. It takes “at least three people to carry it,” Katie said, “so the kids don’t move it much. Me either. In fact, not at all. It stays pretty close to one spot.”

And in that spot, it knows frequent visits from little children. Katie said the kids will make up stories especially about farms and just talk away about their farm and the animals and all the things that must get done.

Ella doesn’t just let mom do all the work. She helps with the sanding, and she loves to swing a hammer. Mom loves to keep the hammer put up. Ella chose the material for the curtains. Yellow. “And it was Ella who decided her doll house needed a big old farm mailbox outside.”

Katie loves sharing her talents with her little girl. “I was born poor, I guess you’d say, but I’m working hard now.” That she is. In fact she plans to finish school and graduate as an RN in 2013, and said she’s attending Baker College. For now, she does home care, and “I’m with Hospice.” In addition she loves to hunt and fish. “Ella loves to fish too, with me and with grandpa.”

But the love for that little girl and the little girl’s love for her mommy and the doll house keep popping up in conversations. “The walls were totally bare,” Katie said. “In fact, they were totally nasty. Not now.

“It’s an on-going project for my little girl and me. But it’s worth it. Really worth it.” No doubt.