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Bill W

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  1. Yes, they don't yet know that COVID-19 is going to ingerfere with their plans.
  2. Yes, Ricky's been tamed, as has obviously Dustin and Cole. Have to keep the wives happy. It's always fun to see kids having fun on sleds and toboggans, and this won't be the only time we'll see them out enjoying the winter weather.
  3. We had been up until 2:00 putting the presents under the tree and getting everything arranged, so it was fortunate that the boys let us sleep until 7:00 before they started waking us up. Xander and Wyatt had slept together in Xander’s room and woke up first, and then Xander went to wake up Danny and Brandon while Wyatt did the same with Dion and me. Once we were up and moving, they went to wake up the twins, and then the four of them raced through the house yelling: “Wake up. It’s Christmas and there’s lots of presents under the tree.” Apparently, they had snuck downstairs to take a peek before they woke the rest of us up. This also woke TJ and prompted Dobby and Flash to bark as they chased the boys around, and when TJ began to cry Dion went to pick him up and calm him down. It was his first Christmas and we wanted him to look happy when people were snapping pictures or filming what was going on. Dion changed his diaper and I went to warm up his bottle, because we knew this would be the fastest way to put him in the best mood. Tristan and Revin were also excited and quickly joined Xander and Wyatt in waking up the others, but the older kids grumbled and said they wanted to go back to sleep. While they were trying to get the older kids out of bed, I called Becky to let her know she should come to the house so she could see Revin open his presents. Since we’d told the boys that we wouldn’t open presents until we were all together, including Becky, the boys turned their attention to bugging the older ones until they got up and came down to join us. The living room was full of presents, and they weren’t just under the tree. They were also stacked on the furniture, against the walls, and covered much of the floor, so we directed everyone to wait in the dining room or foyer until we were ready to get started. Once Becky arrived and we’d poured her a fresh cup of coffee, we got started. Dion had finished giving TJ his bottle, so he handed him to me as he and Danny began passing out the presents. After each of the kids had one, there was a flurry of wrapping paper flying in all directions before they started holding their presents up so we’d all see what they got. I opened TJ’s presents for him and let him play with the rattle and ring of plastic keys, and Dobby and Flash got chew toys and some treats, so they were also happy and didn’t bother the rest of us. We’d arranged the presents so the ones for those staying at the house were readily accessible, and the gifts for the others were the ones that were farther under the tree or stacked between the furniture. We continued passing out the presents until those at the house had opened all of their gifts from Santa Claus and the rest of us, and then we took a short break to have breakfast. When the others began to return to the house a short time later, we exchanged gifts with them, although most of the presents were for the kids. Since the family has grown so large, Dad, Pop, and all of Dad’s children, both biological and adopted, had agreed to only buy presents for the grandchildren. However, each of our families also gave a gift to Dad and Pop, and those of us living at the house bought presents for each other as well. This continued until the last group arrived for Christmas dinner, and most of them came in carrying side dishes or desserts to add to the meal. Before long, everyone who had been with us for Christmas Eve dinner were also with us for Christmas dinner, and we gave thanks before digging in. “Another wonderful meal,” said Katie when she had eaten half of the food on her plate. “I don’t know how you manage to do so well for these large events, but I wish you had shown Dustin how to cook when he was growing up.” “I agree with Katie,” chimed in Beth. “I wish Cole could fix a meal every now and then too.” “I taught each of them enough so that they could survive if they chose to live off campus at college or if they lived alone or with roommates later, but nothing as fancy as this.” “That’s a shame,” said Katie, “because it would have helped me a lot if he could fix a meal a couple of times a week.” “You can still teach him.” “I’ve tried. He said he’d learn how to cook if I was willing to learn how to fix an air conditioner or a heating system.” “It only seemed fair,” chimed in Dustin. “Grandpa Josh and Uncle Trey are teaching Joshie and me how to cook, and they taught Ryan and Noah too,” added Benny. “Then that will make your wives, or husbands, very grateful,” replied Beth, with the other women nodding in agreement. “Just make sure you pay attention,” urged Aunt Sally, “because you couldn’t have two better teachers.” “Yeah, they taught me too,” added Jesse, “and my roommates are all grateful for that. Most of them can’t cook and have trouble boiling water, so I fix the meals and let them do the dishes and clean the house.” “That sounds like a fair trade,” agreed Aunt Mary, “but I hope they’re better at doing those things than they are at fixing meals.” “Eh, they’re not great, but they do alright.” Throughout the remainder of the meal, various individuals were urged to tell us about one or two gifts they received that they appreciated the most. Even though it was difficult to choose, and they didn’t want to hurt any feelings, we all urged them to do it and promised no one would get upset if they didn’t mention the gift they had given them. It helped to turn this into a very enlightening exchange, although some of the kids couldn’t narrow it down to just one or two items. Many of them stated several gifts, and then they tried to add a few more while someone else was taking their turn. It was a fascinating and interesting process. After dinner, the adults got together in smaller groups, while the boys went off to play with the new gadgets they’d received or investigate those items more closely. Basically, the older group split into three areas, with Dad, Pop, Uncle Steve, Aunt Mary, and Aunt Sally staying in the dining room while sipping another cup of coffee. Most of the others went to the living room to talk, while the college group and those closer in age to that group went to the family room to chat. It gave us all a chance to get closer to those we hadn’t seen in a while. This continued until each group decided to take a break and have dessert, but they didn’t all do it at the same time. There was a lot to choose from, and with each group going separately we didn’t get in each other’s way as we were deciding. There was plenty to go around, so no one was going to lose out. “You made chocolate cake again!” shouted Wyatt in delight. “Yes, I knew how much you boys liked it, so I made it just for you,” replied Dad. “Whoa, I wanna piece of that,” stated Lucas. “And there are pies and a pineapple upside-down cake for the others, as well as some of the cookies the boys made, so everyone should be able to find something they like,” I added. When we finished, we went back to our groups for a while longer, and this time we heard the TV playing in the family room. It seemed some of that group wanted to watch A Christmas Story, which had become one of their Christmas traditions. Eventually, we all decided to stop and have a snack to tide us over until bedtime, and once again we did it by groups. Dad’s group was the first to do this, and Dad fixed each of them something to eat, even though much of it was merely warming up the leftovers that remained from dinner. The next older group was the next to stop, and Brandon and I fixed them a little something, and when the movie ended, the grandchildren decided they were also hungry. To my surprise and delight, Ryan, Noah, Joshie, and Benny announced they would fix something for that group to eat, because they were eager to impress the others with their newly acquired skills. Once everyone was full again, each group spent a little more time together before we called it a night. Uncle Steve, Aunt Mary, and Aunt Sally were the first to leave, but they, along with the others, agreed to return the following day. We hadn’t exactly decided on anything special to do yet, but we knew we enjoyed each other’s company and wanted to continue being together for as long as the others remained here. When we woke up the following morning, we discovered that it had snowed overnight and a couple of inches of new snow covering the ground. This helped to get the kids excited again, so after they ate breakfast, they dressed warmly before we let them go outside. By the time the others arrived, the kids wanted the rest of us to come out to see what they had done. Reluctantly we agreed, and we put on our heavier clothing and followed them out the front door. “We built snowmen,” said Xander proudly. “Yeah, Elliot and Noah helped us,” added Wyatt. “You did a great job,” replied Danny. “Yes, this one’s just like Frosty the Snowman,” added Dion. “It was fun doin’ it,” said Kylie. “Yeah, we each rolled a different size snowball and then Elliot and Noah helped us put them together,” added Lucas. “You all did a wonderful job,” Pop stated, and the rest of us agreed. The boys were eating up this praise when Joshie made a suggestion: “Let’s have a snowball fight. It will be the adults against us kids.” We didn’t have time to respond before we started getting pelted with white, circular projectiles, so we started making snowballs and throwing them at the kids. Needless to say, we were on the losing side of the battle, but the kids had fun doing this, and I think the rest of us did too. “Grandpa Josh, do you still have the toboggan that we used when Grandpa Pat and Grandma Brenda were here for Christmas?” asked Benny. “Yes, I believe it’s in the basement in the same room where I stored the Christmas decorations.” “Can you help me get it so we can go sledding?” “You should probably ask your fathers first, and I’ll get the toboggan for you if they agree it’s alright.” “I’m not sure we want the younger boys to be doing this alone,” commented Brandon. “Noah and I will take turns going down the hill with them,” suggested Elliot. “We had fun doing it with Grandpa Pat and Grandma Brenda, so we’re willing to do this for the younger kids too.” “Ok, then I guess you can go, since you’re all dressed warmly already,” the parents all agreed. “Thanks!” they all screamed before running off, and Dad took Benny down to the basement to dig out the toboggan. From the bits of discussion I’d overheard, I believe Ricky was trying to convince Tiffany to let him go tobogganing with the younger group, but she kept saying no. “Let them do it without you taking up room on the toboggan so one of them won’t be able to go.” Ricky wasn’t happy about this, but he heeded Tiffany’s advice. After the kids left to take advantage of the same hill some of them had ridden down with Brandon’s parents when they were here the last time, the rest of us went back inside and took off our winter clothing. Brandon and I made hot chocolate for everyone, to help warm us up after being outside for so long. “Damn, I forgot to bring out the Christmas candy yesterday,” I stated, since the term ‘hot chocolate’ reminded me of candy. “That’s ok, just go get it now,” Pop urged. “What do you have?” “We bought chocolate covered cherries and chocolate bells, Lindt chocolate truffles, holiday Hershey kisses, and old-fashion hard Christmas candy. I also bought holiday M&Ms, chocolate Santas, gummy Santas, sour gummy trees, Lifesaver candy canes, and regular candy canes, but those are primarily for the kids. They’re in a couple of bags in the rec room closet.” “Go get them and we can have some now with our hot chocolate,” urged Dad. “And we’ll make hot chocolate for the kids when they return, and then they can choose some of the candy to eat after lunch.” While I was getting the candy, Dad went to get the box he stored a bunch of candy bowls in, because we didn’t use them very often. After we washed each one and dried it, we put the candy in them so the others could choose what they wanted. “I love chocolate covered cherries,” said Sarah. “And I’ve been dying for a Lindt truffle,” stated Tiffany. “I guess I’m still a kid, because I’m going to take some M&Ms,” added Elizabeth. “I think I’ll just take a sample of each,” followed Robert, and his brother and brothers-in-law all agreed with his suggestion. When the kids returned later, they were covered in snow, so we asked them to brush each other off outside before they came indoors. While they were doing that, Brandon and I started making hot chocolate to warm them up. “That was a blast,” said Xander. “Yeah, it was a lot of fun,” agreed Hayden. “I hope the snow doesn’t melt, so we can do it again tomorrow,” added Hunter. “There aren’t any good hills where we live, so we don’t get a chance to do this,” said Lucas. “I really had fun.” “Did you all thank Elliot and Noah for doing that with you?” asked Dion. “Nope, we forgot,” answered Wyatt. “Then why don’t you do it now,” suggestion Danny. “Thank you, Elliot and Noah!” the boys all shouted. “Yes, thank you,” added Holly, Megan, and Kylie in a normal voice. “We had a great time doing it.” “But we should get another toboggan, because that way we wouldn’t have to wait so long between rides,” said Benny. “You’re right, so after I’ve finished my hot chocolate and lunch, I’ll take Noah with me and see if we can buy another one,” replied Elliot. “Or maybe two more, if we can find some for sale.” “That would be great!” the others agreed. “And if you get a third toboggan, then I can take a group down on that one,” offered Holly. “Sounds good to me,” Elliot agreed, “so why don’t you come with us when we go looking to see what’s left in the stores.” “Thanks, I’d love to do that,” she agreed. After they finished their hot chocolate and had warmed up a bit, they had a quick lunch. After that Elliot, Noah, and Holly changed quickly, since they were wet now that the remaining snow had melted and soaked into their clothing. Elliot didn’t want them sitting in his car in wet clothes, so they agreed to change. Once they were ready, they put on another heavy coat and headed out to go shopping. I’m not sure the day after Christmas was the right time to be doing this, but they seemed determined. “Just drive carefully,” Brandon told Elliot. “I know, Dad. This isn’t the first winter I’ve driven in weather like this.” After they left, we let the others have some of the candy, and when Elliot, Noah, and Holly returned, we let them have some as well. “Did you find anything?” asked Dad while they were eating the sweets. “Yes, I went to the same store where we bought the other one, when Grandpa Pat and Grandma Brenda were here, and they had a whole stack of them.” “Yes, Elliot bought two more for us to use, but we left them outside with the other one for now,” added Holly. “We figured we could go back out and do it again before dinner,” continued Noah. The other kids were all cheering and thanking Elliot, since he had used his money to purchase them. However, I would talk to Brandon, Danny, and Dion about chipping in and paying him back, since he shouldn’t have to pay for amusing our sons. When I saw him later, I asked how much he had spent. “They didn’t cost that much,” he replied. “Maybe not, but we’d like to reimburse you for them.” “Nah, it’s my gift to my brothers, sister, and cousins. It made me feel good watching them having so much fun earlier, and now it will be even better.” “I know they all appreciate it, and I want you to know that we do too. You’re a great son, brother, and cousin.” I think he blushed slightly before walking away, and before long he was leading the others outdoors again and heading for the hill. He was pulling one toboggan, Noah another, and Holly had the third one as the others followed them, and I noticed that this time Ricky was going too. Obviously, he’d talked Tiffany into letting him do this, and I concluded that by having three toboggans she didn’t feel the others would miss out as much with Ricky joining in. It was a couple of hours later and we were starting to get a little worried, because it was nearly dark and they hadn’t returned. We wondered if maybe they had an accident or something went wrong, and since Ricky was with them it was a definite possibility. We were all greatly relieved when we saw them all laughing and joking around when they came inside a few minutes later. “That was awesome,” said Megan. “We got to ride a lot more this time and we even raced.” “Yeah, that was awesome,” said Tristan. “Uncle Ricky kept fallin’ off the back when we went over a bump,” added Wyatt gleefully. “That’s because Joshie kept aiming for it. I think he knew it would happen,” snapped Ricky. “He knew I couldn’t grab onto one of the smaller kids to keep my balance, so I was bound to fall off.” “Come on, you know we can’t steer those things,” challenged Elliot. “Then you must have known where those bumps were and aimed at them before we started down the hill.” “But the same thing happened when you rode down with Benny too.” “Then he must have been in on it with you.” “But the same thing would have happened if you rode down with Holly,” stated Benny in support of Joshie. “Then you were all conspiring against me!” “It’s a field and there are bumps everywhere,” stated Holly. “And you were the one who invited yourself to go with us,” pointed out Joshie. “See, I told you not to go and spoil their fun,” added Tiffany. “You’re at least ten years older than any of them and you should start acting your age.” “He actually made if more fun,” said Benny. “It was a riot watching him sliding down the hill on his butt after he fell off.” “Ok, I think that’s enough of this,” urged Dad. “Let’s talk about something else.” There was a brief pause before Revin spoke up. “Mom, I’m glad you’re lettin’ me stay here with these guys.” “I knew you’d prefer being with the other boys, and it helps me too. I’ll be retuning home in a little while to bake my pies, and then I’ll be coming back for dinner. The Curries have invited me to have dinner with them every night while you’re here.” “Good, I’m glad.” “Are Uncle Steve, Aunt Mary, and Aunt Sally coming back too?” asked Joshie. “No, they won’t be joining us again until New Year’s Eve,” answered Dad. “Are we gonna be able to stay here until then?” asked Lucas. “You’ll have to ask your parents that question.” “But can we stay, if they say it’s ok?” “Yes, I don’t have a problem with that.” “Can we?” Dad’s biological grandchildren asked their parents simultaneously. “How would you get home?” responded Tim, which caused all of the kids to stop and look at each other. “I’ll still be on vacation, so I can bring them back,” offered Dion after quickly conferring with me. “But we don’t live that close together,” stated Michael, “so that would be a very long trip for you.” “Then Dion can take Jordan, Megan, and Lucas home, because you guys don’t live too far apart, and I’ll take Nicky and Kylie,” offered Elliot. “Are you guys sure you want to do that?” “Yes – that’s why we’re offering,” Dion and Elliot each replied. “Ok, then you can stay until Friday,” Michael responded for all after conferring with the others. “That way Dion and Elliot won’t be tired out from staying up late and partying on Wednesday.” The kids were all cheering now, and then they thanked their parents before taking off to discuss with each other what they were going to do during that time. Once they’d left, their parents spoke to us. “Thank you very much for doing this,” stated Andrea. “Now we won’t have to try to figure out ways to entertain them for the rest of the holiday.” “Yes, this will help out a lot,” agreed Marie and Elizabeth. “And it will allow your husbands to watch the football games on New Year’s Day without interruption,” added Pop. “Not completely,” replied Andrea snarkily. “It’s still our pleasure to do this,” said Dad. “I don’t get to see them as often as I’d like, so this gives me a chance to spend a little more time with them too. And I want to thank Dion and Elliot for helping to make it possible.” “Not a problem,” replied Elliot simply. “And I’m happy to do it too,” agreed Dion, “because they’ll be helping to entertain our sons while they’re here.” Dinner that evening was a very joyous time. Revin happily told his mom about his day since she had gone home during that time. He told how they’d spent most of it playing in the snow, building the snowmen, having a snowball fight, and sliding down the hillside. “Wow, it sound’s like you had an amazing time while I was gone,” responded Becky. “Yeah, it was great, and thank you for lettin’ me stay here when you went back home.” When we finished eating, the kids took off and Becky spoke to Dad. “When you offered to let him stay here while I went home, I didn’t expect that you’d do so much for him.” “I didn’t do it. My other grandchildren did most of it.” “Yes, and since you have so many grandchildren, it ends up helping me out as well.” The next couple of days went pretty much the same way, with the kids spending most of each day sliding down the hill. It snowed a little more overnight on Friday and continued to snow lightly throughout the day, which gave them plenty of snow to slide down on. Fortunately, Elliot, Noah, and Holly didn’t get tired of lugging the toboggans back up the hill so they could take the others for another ride down again, and it seems as if everyone had a great time. They did the same thing on Saturday, but that night we had a going away dinner for their parents, since they were leaving in the morning, after they had breakfast at the hotel. That meant we’d also be saying goodbye to them tonight, so Brandon and I helped Dad fix a huge meal with a large roast for the occasion, and then we sat down to eat. “I really appreciate that the eight of you took time off from work and other things so you could spend some time with us,” Dad said before we started eating. “Having Christmas here is always such an amazing time,” replied Michael, “and it’s obvious that our kids enjoy it too.” “Yes, this is like a holiday and a mini-vacation all rolled into one for the kids,” added Marie. “I wish we could do this every year.” “Well, next year you’ll all be here for Thanksgiving, and although I can’t promise snow, I promise we’ll still have a good time.” “Maybe we should all see if we can take off a couple of extra days that week too, so we can spend more time here,” suggested Robert. “I wish we could,” responded Andrea, “but it depends on when the kids are available that week. They usually don’t get off from school for more than Wednesday and the rest of the week.” “That’s right! I forgot about that since we don’t have children yet.” “Then get working on it,” joked Adrian. “We’ve been doing that,” replied Sarah, “but I’m afraid nothing has happened yet.” “Then I hope it happens soon,” added Elizabeth. Once dinner ended, we all said goodbye to them before they went back to the hotel. We gave them a little time alone to say goodbye to their children and give them a few parting words of advice, and then they headed out to their vehicles. “Drive carefully and call me when you get home tomorrow,” Dad said as they were walking away. “Come on, Dad. We’re not kids any longer,” replied Michael. “You’ll always be my kids, so call me when you get back.” No one argued with him this time as they got in their vehicles and drove away. It had been a wonderful Christmas holiday, and it wasn’t over yet!
  4. Those chapters will be coming soon and we'll see how the Curries deal with the pandemic.
  5. Thanks, Jrm. I'm glad you and the others have enjoyed this story and continued following it, and the Curries will continue their love and devotion to one another.
  6. Yes, that was a rough time when two of Josh's biological children didn't want anything to do with him and wouldn't let his grandchildren spend time with him. I'm glad that situation is behind us now.
  7. Did we forget the Classic Updates section this week? Just curious.
  8. That's great news, Butcher, and I'm glad things are improving for your son. I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and a joyous Christmas. You definitely have a lot to be thankful for and can use the time to count the blessings.
  9. You're forgiven and Sarah will appear more often, if this story continues. However, that's not a certainty at the moment, because you'll soon see we're pretty much caught up with reality, chronologically. That means I'll have to wait before the story moves on, otherwise I'll be writing science fiction, not just fiction.
  10. Yes, Joshie got had again. That's why I told readers to wait when they suggested he should be getting coal in an earlier chapter. Robert came with his wife, Sarah. You must have missed that. Christmas is always great at the Currie house, so no one should miss it. I'm glad you enjoyed this chapter.
  11. Thanks, Butcher. Christmas is a very special time of year when we gather with the family members that we love. It's too bad that this won't be the case for us this year, but we have to stay safe and protect our loved ones from this terrible disease. May all of you have a wonderful holiday season this year, no matter what religious traditions you adhere to.
  12. I'm sure most of us have special memories of moments like that, with the exception of the families that were in such dire straights that they couldn't afford to celebrate Christmas. Yes, I'm sure there are some with those memories as well, but those of us with the wonderful memories of the Christmases of our childhood should be grateful for the special attention our parents and other family members gave us at that magical time of the year. May all of you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas this year as well, even though we may be physically separated from those we love, but there are other ways to stay connected with them, so enjoy as best you can.
  13. Yes, it always heartwarming and validating when when hear things like that, especially in non-traditional families with half-siblings and step-siblings. I'm glad that moment touched your heart.
  14. As happens every year, the month of December was very hectic because there were so many things to do. We had to find time to go Christmas shopping, attend the boys’ concerts, and perform other seasonal related functions, while still carrying on as a normal family. No matter how crazy things got, Dad still found time to call the pastor of the Presbyterian Church and have a discussion with him. He told Rev. Cleary about our situation and asked him his views on same-sex relationships, and he was very encouraged by what he heard. Rev. Cleary said he had performed same-sex marriages and he welcomed the LGBTQ community to attend his services. Dad thanked him for his candor and told Rev. Cleary that our family would be attending his church after the first of the year once Rev. Kirk had retired. Now that this had been settled, we could all look forward to the holidays. Dad and Pop were willing to cover for Danny, Brandon, Dion, and me and offered to watch the boys so we could go shopping on Saturday. Afterward, when we arrived home without any packages, the boys started asking questions. “Where’s the stuff you bought?” Tristan wanted to know when we came inside. “We didn’t find anything that you boys wanted,” replied Brandon. “Why not?” screamed Wyatt. “I guess the things you asked for are so popular that they must have sold out already.” “Everything?” the younger boys all yelled in unison. “It looks that way.” The boys then went to the living room to discuss the situation and I overheard their conversation. “They probably just put everything on layaway,” suggested Joshie. “What’s that?” asked Hayden. “They just give the store part of the money for what they bought and then the store keeps everything for them until it’s paid off. That way, they don’t have to bring it home early, cuz they’re afraid we’re gonna snoop.” “How do you know about that stuff?” asked Hunter. “I have a friend whose parents do it every year so he won’t find his presents early.” “Oh, I’m glad you told us, cuz I was gettin’ worried,” responded Xander. “Nah, don’t worry,” said Benny. “They wouldn’t have spent so much time shoppin’ if they didn’t find anything to buy.” Now that this was settled, the boys went off to do other things. It was a good thing Joshie told them this, because the same thing happened when we went shopping the following weekend, as well as when their grandfathers went shopping. If Joshie hadn’t explained it to them the way he had, then the younger boys might have been basket cases by Christmas Day. Around the middle of the month, we found out something else when we were at school: the boys who’d cooperated and pleaded guilty to the indecent sexual assault charges for groping Tamara’s genitals or fondling her breasts appeared in juvenile court. The judge explained that their sentences were contingent on their cooperation at the trials of the other boys, but if they did that, then they would receive a sentence of five years probation. If they finished the probationary period without committing any other crimes, their records would be sealed and it would appear as if they didn’t have a criminal past. It was shortly after we’d heard that news when the boys’ holiday concerts happened on three consecutive days, starting on Tuesday, December 17th. The elementary school concert was first, so we all went to watch Xander and Wyatt perform. After we watched the kindergarten and first graders take their turns, it was time for Xander to walk out and climb up the risers with the other second graders. He looked sharp in his dress shirt and tie, and since this was the first time we’d seen him do anything like this, we were wondering how it was going to go. We weren’t surprised to see him looking around until he spotted us, and then he gave us a shy little wave, like many of the others in his class did with their parents. However, he didn’t shout out his greeting as one little girl did to her mom and dad. We were very pleased that he didn’t hesitate when the music started and the music teacher gave his group the cue to begin. He stood fairly straight and belted out the two songs with the others, much to our delight. When they finished, his group walked down the risers and followed their teacher back to their classroom where Brandon and Danny would pick him up later. Wyatt’s class was up next, but he was an old pro at doing this, since he’d participated in the concerts every year since Kindergarten. Dion had also been practicing with him at home, so we weren’t surprised that he appeared more self-assured and professional than the others in his grade. When the third graders finished their two songs, they were led back to their classroom while the fourth graders took their turn. Once that group finished, Danny, Brandon, Dion, and I walked down to the classrooms to pick up our sons, while the others waited for us so we could head out to the SUVs together. “You two did great!” I said after we’d rejoined the others and were walking out to the vehicles. “I liked doin’ that,” said Xander. “I did it at my other schools too, but nobody came to see me sing.” “Then how did you get to the school?” asked Wyatt. “I walked over to my friend’s house and his parents took me with them.” “I promise that won’t happen here,” Brandon assured him. “We’ll come to watch you in everything you do.” “And they mean it too!” confirmed Tristan. “They’re always there to watch us.” Xander didn’t say anything, but his smile did the talking for him. The following evening was the middle school concert. Even though joining the chorus, orchestra, or band was optional, Dion wasn’t about to let Hayden, Hunter, Tristan, and Revin get away without being part of the chorus. The boys didn’t seem to mind though, especially since Dion was the music teacher. They felt they could always say that he made them join if any of the other students picked on them for being in the chorus. We not only listened to them, but we also sat and listened when the orchestra and band performed as well. The band wasn’t too bad, but if you’ve never heard young kids learning to play a string instrument, then I’ll explain what it was like: it sounded as if a bunch of cats had their tails stepped on, one after the other, which caused them to screech out in pain. We managed to get through the entire evening, although we tended to cringe or discretely cover our ears when the orchestra played, and I have to admit the chorus was the best part of the evening. I’m not saying this because my nephews were in the chorus and my hubby was in charge of it, but their performance sounded normal when compared to the other two groups. “Did you like our singing?” asked Hayden when they rejoined us later. “Yes, you boys did really well,” replied Danny. “The band wasn’t too bad, but the other group sounded awful,” said Hunter. “It’s like that every year,” replied Tristan. “The orchestra is never as good as the band or chorus.” “I hope you were polite enough not to say that to the kids in the orchestra, because they were trying their best,” urged Danny. “Yeah, we would never say that to them,” responded Revin. “Cuz most of them are really nice,” added Tristan, “but some of the other kids told them their playin’ sounded like a cat fight.” “We’re glad you weren’t one of those kids,” stated Brandon. However, we weren’t through with the concerts yet because the next night was the high school’s concert. Once again, Dion was in charge of the chorus, and although Joshie was a willing participant, Dion had to use a little persuasion to get Benny to join. “Look, I know you have a good voice because I heard you sing when you were in the middle school. I need you to help me strengthen the male side of the chorus since not many of the boys volunteer to be in the chorus when they get to high school.” “Yeah, and you know I’ll be there,” added Joshie in support. “You’ve got more talent than I do, but as long as we’ll be together then I’ll do it.” And that’s why tonight we were watching them both perform. The stage band and the orchestra were much better at this level, and the entire evening proved to be very enjoyable. Of course, Joshie had a small solo in one of the songs, since he was nearly as talented as his father, but we didn’t think he’d choose to make a living from his vocal talent. Dion said there was probably no way that Joshie would study music in college, because he’d made it clear that he didn’t want to sing opera or classical music, but he might end up as lead singer in a band. We’d just have to wait and see what he was going to do, if either, but being a freshman in high school left him plenty of time to decide about his future. “You both looked and sounded great tonight,” I told them when they came to join us afterward. “Joshie was way better than me,” stated Benny. “But you sounded good too,” commented Joshie. “I know, cuz you were standing right next to me.” “I think you both did a great job,” said Dion, and the rest of us concurred. On Saturday afternoon, the college kids began to arrive home, because just like the local schools, the colleges were closed for the next two weeks for winter break between semesters. It was nice to have them home again, but they weren’t exactly thrilled that they were all expected to attend church with us in the morning. It was going to be Rev. Kirk’s Christmas sermon, as well as his next to last sermon, so that made them feel a little better about attending. Other than grabbing a bite to eat, we spent the entire evening asking them how they thought they had done on their finals and what courses they were going to take the following semester. Most of us were looking forward to listening to Rev. Kirk’s sermon, but the day started out rather tensely when we were being greeted as we entered the church. Rev. Belec was standing next to Rev. Kirk, so after Dad shook Rev. Kirk’s hand, he went to shake Rev’ Belec’s hand out of courtesy, but Rev. Belec didn’t offer his hand to Dad or any of the family. After everyone else went to their Sunday school classes, I waited and looked back at the line, and that’s when I noticed this wasn’t an isolated occurrence. Several other members of the congregation were refusing to shake Rev. Belec’s hand, even when he offered it to them, and that’s when I went inside as well. After the Sunday school classes ended, the family met up and sat together in the pews, as we normally did, however, this time Rev. Belec didn’t sit behind Rev. Kirk. Instead, he took a seat in one of the pews at the very front of the church – and he was completely alone. It was a typical Christmas service up to a point, and then Rev. Kirk changed his usual sermon slightly. “Jesus was not only born into this world to take away our sins, he was also brought into this world to usher in a new philosophy – the Golden Rule. As is recorded in Matthew 7:12, he states: ‘Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets.’ I can’t emphasis enough that you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you, for that is what Jesus has commanded. “A few verses earlier, in Matthew 7:1 he also commanded, ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’ And in Matthew 22: 34-40, he also said this: ‘Jesus said unto him, thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’ Please remember the Lord’s words and heed them while incorporating them into your lives.” After singing the last hymn, Rev. Kirk gave the final benediction and then stepped from behind the pulpit. Before he walked down the center aisle, though, he stopped at the first pew and spoke to Rev. Belec briefly. He then waited a few more seconds, as if he was waiting for Rev. Belec’s response, and when he didn’t get one, he walked down the center aisle and made the journey to the doorway alone. Once he had passed the last pews, the others began to leave as well, and we did the same. When Dad reached Rev. Kirk, Rev. Kirk asked him a question. “Have you found another church yet?” “Yes. I spoke with the minister of the Presbyterian Church and we’re going to attend there after you retire, as you suggested.” “I’m glad to hear this.” “By the way, what did you say to Rev. Belec on the way out?” Rev. Kirk leaned forward and whispered in Dad’s ear. “I told him if he followed the scriptures as they are written, then he should be able to follow the verses I mentioned in the sermon. If he could do that, then he could join me, otherwise I would prefer that he didn’t.” “Obviously, he’s very selective as to which verses he follows literally,” Dad whispered back. “Indeed, but enough of that. I want to wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas.” “And a very Merry Christmas to you and your wife as well.” Before we got to the SUV, several other congregants stopped Dad and asked if he’d decided on another church yet. “Yes, after the first of the year we’re going to start attending the Presbyterian Church.” “I think we’ll have to consider that as well,” several others stated, and then we were finally able to leave. The conversation at the diner was intense, as the others asked Dad if he’d found out what Rev. Kirk had said to Rev. Belec. They had been too far away to overhear the conversation, since it was conducted in hushed tones, but since I was right behind Dad, I was probably the only one to overhear their conversation. Dad told them what Rev. Kirk had said, and then we discussed it. “I guess Rev. Belec doesn’t believe in the Golden Rule then,” said Elliot. “Or most of the New Testament, since his views on gays primarily come from the Old Testament,” replied Dad. “But doesn’t what Jesus commanded in the New Testament take preference?” asked Becky. “That’s the way I understand it,” agreed Dad. “I thought the sermon was directed at Rev. Belec too, rather than at you,” offered Danny. “Yes, I think that’s the way Rev. Kirk intended it,” stated Dad. “It doesn’t sound like Rev. Belec is a very good Christian,” said Holly, and the rest of us quickly stuffed our mouths with food and didn’t reply. After we finished eating, we returned home. The younger boys were more hyper than usual, primarily due to the fact that Christmas was only a few days away. As I mentioned previously, Dion, the boys, and I had two weeks off for the holidays, and this only heightened the situation. In order to get the boys to calm down, we let them watch the first two Santa Clause movies before dinner, and the third one after we ate. We felt that allowing them to laugh at the antics on the screen might calm them down a bit; otherwise, they weren’t going to make it until Christmas Day. Our ruse worked and the boys were much mellower when we put them to bed. Hopefully, we can find other things to distract them over the next couple of days. As soon as the boys finished eating breakfast on Monday, Dad suggested that we let them help us make Christmas cookies. I thought that was a great idea, so we split into two groups to do this. Dad worked with Joshie, Benny, Tristan, and Revin, while I worked with the four youngest boys. We agreed that Dad’s group would work on the counter in the kitchen and use the wall oven, while my group worked in the dining room and used the oven in the stove. While we were getting set up, we sent Dion to the store to pick up a few items that we would need while Holly volunteered to look after TJ. Before lunch, Dad’s group made peanut butter blossoms, which are the cookies with the Hershey kiss in the middle, and they also made chocolate blossoms. Those are chocolate cookies with a Hershey Hugs in the center. While they were doing that, we were making sugar cookie dough, and after we rolled it out, I let the boys choose which cookie cutters they wanted to use. By the time we were ready to put them in the oven, we had multiple trays of Christmas trees, stockings, stars, snowmen, and candy canes, and we prepared the icing we would use on them while they were baking. After having a quick lunch, Dad’s group made raspberry shortbread cookies, with a raspberry filling in the center of each one, and they also made peanut butter snowballs. That’s a peanut butter cookie that they would bake, then dip in a melted white chocolate coating and then they would place them in the refrigerator to harden. While they were doing that, my group made gingerbread men and used a white icing to outline each one, as well as to add two eyes and a mouth. We were all covered with flour and other ingredients when we finished, so after we cleaned up the mess we’d made in the kitchen and dining room, we all went to clean up. Dad and I cleaned up quickly so we could start working on dinner, but there was no mistaking that the house smelled like a cookie factory. Brandon, Danny, and Pop noticed the wonderful aroma as soon as they walked into the house and commented on it, but we told them we wanted to save the cookies until after we ate on Christmas Eve. They understood and didn’t argue, and a few minutes later we sat down to eat. “We helped make the cookies,” Xander told the others as we were eating. “Yeah, it was messy, but it was fun too,” added Wyatt. “And we got to put icing on the cookies,” stated Hunter. “And we got to use our fingers to scrape the leftover icing out of the bowls when we were done,” said Hayden. “It sounds like you had fun,” replied Brandon. “Yeah, we did,” they all concurred. “We made different cookies than the ones the other group made,” said Tristan. “Yeah, we made the cookies that used Hershey kisses and hugs,” added Joshie. “And another kind with raspberry filling in the middle,” stated Benny. “We made others covered in white chocolate too.” “They all sound delicious,” responded Danny. “I can’t wait to try them.” “We made a lot of each of them,” commented Tristan. “And we did too,” added Wyatt. The boys were still telling Danny, Brandon, and Pop about the cookies they made until they went upstairs to get ready for bed. It seems as if we had distracted them from thinking about what they were going to get for Christmas for another day. On Tuesday, the others began to show up. Sammy, Andrew, and Graham arrived first, around mid-morning, and then Dad’s biological children and grandchildren got to the house just before lunch. Dobby and Flash made sure to greet and welcome each of them as they came through the door. “I didn’t think you would get here this early, let alone all together,” Dad said as he greeted his biological family. “We talked it over and made arrangements so we would all be here together this year, instead of two of us coming at Thanksgiving and two more for Christmas,” explained Marie. “And then we met up so we’d all get here together,” added Elizabeth. “And we all took today, Thursday, and Friday off from work so we’d have more time to spend with you,” added Robert. “I appreciate that,” replied Dad. “So, are you staying at the house while you’re here?” “No, all of the couples reserved rooms at the hotel for our stay, but the kids want to stay at the house, if that’s alright with you.” “Yes, it’s fine.” Dad then introduced them to Xander and TJ, which elicited a comment from Xander. “Man, you guys have a really big family.” “Yes, we do, and we love each and every one of them,” Dad replied. “And now you’re part of this family as well,” he added as we got ready to sit down and eat. Ricky and Tiffany arrived as we were cleaning up after lunch, so Dad asked them if they’d eaten yet. “Yes, we stopped on the way here,” answered Tiffany. “Uncle Ricky, are you gonna stay here?” asked Wyatt. “No, we’ve got a room at the motel. I didn’t want to take the chance that someone would try to tie me to the bed with dental floss again or put another snowman in my car.” After the rest of us stopped laughing, Elliot spoke. “I only did that because of all the pranks you played on us.” “You don’t have to worry, because he won’t be doing that again!” announced Tiffany. “He’s more mature, now that he’s getting ready to have his own family.” “Good luck with that,” Michael shouted. “I know my brother and I’ve heard about all of the pranks he’s pulled. I even witnessed a few of them too.” Tiffany wasn’t ready for his comment, but Ricky was beaming – not because of the pranks, but Michael had called him his brother, not his half brother or adopted brother, and it meant a lot to him. “That’s all in the past and he doesn’t do those things any longer,” insisted Tiffany after a slight delay, while giving Ricky ‘the eye’! “Since this is going to be a very busy day with a lot going on, I want my grandchildren to join me in the family room so they can watch A Christmas Carol with me.” “Is it the one in black and white?” asked Benny. “No, although that is my favorite version, we’re going to watch the one with George C. Scott, and that’s in color.” Once all of the grandchildren were in with Dad watching the movie, Brandon and Dion slipped out and went down to Uncle Steve’s house to put the presents into their SUVs. They would be safe, locked in the vehicles, since we weren’t planning on going out again, and then we could bring them inside after the boys went to bed. When they got back, Brandon and Dion helped to set up the banquet table in the living room and the card tables in the foyer, and Tiffany, Andrea, Sarah, Elizabeth, and Marie helped us to set the various tables while we chatted. Michael, Robert, and Ricky had gone into the family room to watch the movie with Dad and the kids, because it was something they had done every Christmas Eve while they were growing up. They obviously hadn’t outgrown the tradition and wanted to continue doing it with the others, and they dragged Adrian and Tim in with them. Brandon and I worked on dinner while this was going on, and Dad helped just as soon as the movie ended. About the same time, the Shays and Aunt Sally showed up, soon followed by Richard, Jesse, Becky, and Revin. A little while later, Dustin and Katie, Cole and Beth, and Kevin and Vinnie also arrived, so we had them all sit down so we could eat. “It seems like you’re using more and more tables every time we come to one of these dinners,” said Aunt Mary. “Yes, the family is growing,” Dad agreed, “but the more the merrier.” “It’s definitely a house filled with love,” added Aunt Sally. “Indeed, it is,” agreed Tiffany. “I’m glad I’m part of it.” “And I am too,” added Sarah. “And we’re glad both of you are as well,” concurred Dad. As soon as we finished eating and the tables had been cleared and the extra tables taken down, the boys went out to the rec room and fetched the platters of cookies. They carried them into the dining room and set them on the table so everyone could help themselves, and they also told everyone how they had helped to make them. Once everyone had eaten a few cookies, Dad directed them to head to the family room so they could sing Christmas carols. Elliot had agreed to accompany them on the piano, and Dion had selected the songs we would sing, so for the next half hour the house was filled with festive music. It seemed to put everyone in a good mood, and now was the time that Dad read Clement Moore’s A Visit From St. Nicholas, or as we know it now, The Night Before Christmas. Dad did this every year with his grandchildren, and as usual, just as he closed the book, Santa appeared in the picture window. This got the boys excited, in more ways than one. “There’s Santa,” screamed Xander while pointing at the window. “We gotta get to bed so he can leave the presents,” stated Tristan. “Joshie,” a male voice boomed out from the back of the room, and when Joshie turned around, he saw it was Pop who’d called his name. Pop merely shrugged his shoulders and pointed at the picture window to let Joshie know that he wasn’t dressed up as Santa. Joshie’s mouth fell open in surprise, as he tried to figure out what was going on. What he didn’t know was that earlier in the day, Pop had talked Robert into dressing up as Santa this year, because he wanted Joshie to doubt what he’d said previously. Apparently, it worked. While Dad had been reading to his grandchildren, it also gave Danny, Brandon, Dion, and me a chance to get the presents out of the SUVs and put them in the rec room. It would save time later. Now, the kids were all rushing upstairs to get in bed, including Revin. Becky was letting him spend the night, although she would be going home to sleep. Before she left, however, we went out and helped her carry the presents from the trunk of her car to the rec room, so they’d be under the tree when she returned in the morning. There was a great deal of deception going on, but it was necessary in order to have a perfect Christmas morning.
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