As soon as Brenda and Pat left, Elliot came over to ask us a question. "Do you have anything special planned for the rest of today or tomorrow?"
"No, we don't have anything definite lined up, except that we'd promised Joshie and Benny that we'd watch the last of the Lord of the Rings movies tonight."
"That's cool, but what if I wanted to take everyone out to do something else today?"
"I suppose that would be alright too, as long as the others agree they'd like to do it as well."
"Ok. I was thinking I'd pay to have us all go to the trampoline place after lunch and then tomorrow I wanted to take everyone out to dinner. It will be my way of welcoming Benny to the family."
"I thought you were leaving tomorrow," I countered, looking at him with a skeptical stare.
"I was, but now I'll leave Monday morning instead. I don't have a class until 3:00, so I'll have plenty of time to drive back, as long as I don't make any stops, except to get gas. I'll even be able to drive the speed limit too." He gave me a satisfied look after adding that last remark.
"I guess it would be alright then, and it's very nice that you want to do these things in Benny's honor, so we'll make sure he knows that," Brandon responded. "However, I think you'd better wait an hour or more after they finish lunch before we go to the trampoline place, unless you don't mind if the boys barf all over everything."
"Yeah, we can wait, because that's not something I want to see," he replied with a grin.
"You can ask the boys if they want to go while we're eating lunch," I suggested. "That way they won't be hyper all morning while they're waiting to do this."
"Ok, I can do that too."
The boys pretty much entertained themselves for most of the morning, as the younger ones watched Nickelodeon and the Disney channel, while Noah caught Elliot up on everything he'd missed out on since leaving for college. This included how he was doing at the high school, since it was his first year there, as well as filling him in about his soccer season and how his friends helped with the Haunted House. We didn't see any of the boys again until we called everyone to the dining room to eat, which was merely grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. During the meal, we let Elliot tell them what he wanted to do later.
"How would you guys like to go play on some trampolines in an hour or so?" Joshie and Noah shouted 'yes' immediately, but Benny had a question.
"What's a tampalean?"
"A trampoline is something you can bounce up and down on and they're a lot of fun," Joshie answered. "If you're brave enough, you can jump really high too."
"So you think I'll like doing it?"
"Yeah, you'll love it," Noah chimed in.
"Ok, then I want to go too," Benny agreed.
"I'll drive and you can all ride with me," Elliot offered next, but I had to point something out.
"We won't all fit in your car, so if you want to do this then we'll have to take the SUV."
"Oh, yeah. I didn't think about that."
Now that everything had been agreed to, the boys chatted with each other as they planned what they were going to do once we got there since Noah and Joshie had been there before. They were so worked up and hyper when it was time to leave that I thought about tying them to the roof rack, rather than having them buckled in their seats. I resisted the urge, though, but I regretted my decision later because they were very rowdy and boisterous. They also kept bumping into the front seats with their legs while I was driving, which was annoying, and then, they all let out a loud cheer when I pulled into the parking lot.
Once Brandon and I got them inside, we started off just jumping on the regular trampolines, as Benny and Wyatt got a feel for what they were like. Brandon and I were instructing Wyatt while still letting him do it on his own, but I was also keeping an eye on Joshie and Benny to see how they were doing. They were on another trampoline with Elliot and Noah, and Joshie was doing fine because he'd done this before, while Benny was just finding his sea legs, so to speak. As he was gaining confidence, he also seemed to be getting bolder and jumping higher, so I merely yelled over and told Elliot not to let him get too carried away.
After we'd been there for a while, the four boys came over to ask a question. "Can we try the trampolines in the other area that have basketball hoops at either end?" Noah wanted to know. "We want to see if we can dunk on them."
"That might be alright for you and Elliot, but I'm not sure Joshie and Benny will be able to do that."
"Don't worry, Noah and I will help them so they'll be able to dunk too," Elliot assured us.
"Ok, but just be careful and don't get reckless."
"We won't," they agreed before taking off.
As soon as they'd disappeared, Brandon and I got on either side of Wyatt, grabbed hold of one of his hands, and then we began to jump, taking Wyatt with us as we went higher in the air. Wyatt was thrilled doing it this way, because he was able to go even higher with our help, so he didn't want to stop when Brandon and I were ready to call it quits. After taking a short break to catch our breath, we started jumping with Wyatt again, much to his delight. We did this until Wyatt agreed to stop so we could go over to the other area to see how the rest of the boys were doing.
As we peeked in, we saw Elliot and Noah each bouncing on the trampoline and dunking a basketball. Then, we watched as they jumped with Joshie and Benny while holding on to the younger boy's waist and then lifting him so he could dunk too. The younger pair were thrilled and proud of their accomplishment, and it showed on their faces. In fact, Wyatt noticed this too and began teasing to try it as well.
"Pwease, Unka Danny, can I do dat too?"
I looked over at Brandon to get his input. "You'll have to take him, because I'm afraid I'd drop him or cause him to hit his head on the rim."
"Ok, I'll do it then. Come on, Wyatt, and Uncle Danny will help you do this just like your brothers."
He didn't seem to notice my use of the plural noun and instead merely focused on the fact that I had agreed to let him try this. When the other four saw what we were up to, they stopped and cheered Wyatt on.
"You can do it," Joshie shouted.
"Put the ball in the basket," Benny added.
"Do it like a big boy," Noah said encouragingly.
"Yeah, show us you can do it just like Joshie did," Elliot urged as I jumped with Noah until we were high enough for him to toss the ball through the hoop. He was ecstatic when it went in and turned his head proudly to look at the others.
"Way to go," Joshie screamed as the ball dropped through the net.
"You did it better than me," Benny added, smiling.
After a while the boys got tired, so we quit and headed home. They were still pumped up about what they'd just done, but I knew they'd calm down quickly after we got back since they were exhausted. In fact, it worked out just like I'd expected and they went in to relax and play video games until dinnertime. We were told later that Joshie and Benny would play a couple of games against each other first, and then they'd allow Elliot and Noah to play one of Noah's new games against each other. That process seemed to be working out well, so Brandon and I were pleased that they'd found a way to enjoy the PS4 without arguing.
After we finished eating, we told the boys we wanted them to take their showers before we watched the movie, so this time Elliot showered with Joshie, while Noah did the same with Benny. Brandon gave Wyatt his bath in the downstairs bathroom at the same time, which once again made us thankful that Dad had installed multiple hot water heaters for this purpose.
After the boys were in their pajamas, Brandon and I went with them to watch the final Lord of the Rings movie, 'The Return of the King'. Joshie sat on Elliot's lap this time, while Benny sat on Noah's lap, and Wyatt moved back and forth between Brandon's lap and mine. They were all very cuddly at first, but then they really got into the movie. The three little ones were extremely impressed with the elephant like creatures in the big battle, but that wasn't enough to keep them from falling asleep before the film ended. I guess their time on the trampolines and stuffing themselves at dinner were more than enough to make them very drowsy.
As soon as I turned off the TV, Brandon carried Wyatt upstairs and Elliot did the same with Joshie, while I followed behind with Benny. Since they were already in their pajamas, we simply put them in the same bed with Noah and Elliot again, while we let Wyatt sleep with us.
Brandon, Wyatt, and I awakened the next morning before the other boys, and Brandon had gone downstairs to start breakfast and feed Wyatt while I was shaving. I was only half finished when I heard a commotion emanating from the bedroom the boys were using.
"What the heck?" I heard Benny scream. "Elliot's head just rolled off the pillow and fell on the floor!" he continued, although what he'd said made no sense at all.
I rushed into the bedroom and saw Benny on his knees beside Elliot, who was lying on his side, and Benny appeared to be in a mild state of shock. Behind him were Joshie and Noah, who looked as though they'd been awakened by the commotion.
"What's going on in here?" I demanded as I walked into the room. Benny looked at me, his eyes wide.
"I don't know h-how it happened, but I b-bumped into Elliot and I think I knocked his h-head off. It f-fell on the floor and I h-heard it bounce!" Benny stammered, while trying to make sense of what just happened. Suddenly the other pair burst out laughing.
"Elliot must have played a prank on you!" Noah announced in between giggles.
"What's a plank?" Benny countered.
"A PRANK, not a plank," Noah replied. "It's when someone plays a joke on you."
"But I heard his h-head bounce on the f-floor!" Benny insisted, as he pointed toward an area of the floor on the other side of Elliot's motionless form.
I walked over to investigate and spotted what Benny had heard. I picked it up and showed it to him. It was a very large doll's head that Elliot must have placed on his pillow so it would roll off when Benny started moving around.
"This is what you heard," I announced as I showed it to him. "I think it was Elliot's way of welcoming you into the family."
I then reached down, grabbed the blankets, and pulled them off of Elliot's body. His head was still bent against his chest so Benny would think he'd actually been decapitated, and when Benny saw Elliot his mouth dropped open.
"Hey! That was mean!" he shouted. "I thought I hurt you."
"No, it was FUNNY," Elliot corrected as he rolled over to face Benny. "I just wanted to see how you'd react."
"I don't like pranks," Benny stated defiantly. "I'll get even with you for that."
"Oh, no! You've just created another Ricky," Noah moaned.
"Who's Ricky?" Benny asked innocently.
"He's one of your uncles that you haven't met yet," I informed him. "He has a reputation for pulling pranks on people. In fact, I remember a Christmas a couple of years ago where Ricky and Elliot spent much of the holiday pulling pranks on each other."
Benny's mouth dropped open and he stared at Elliot, so Elliot felt he had to defend himself. "Hey, Ricky started it and I was only getting even."
"Then I guess you'll understand when Benny gets even with you," I added, flashing him an evil grin. "He may require a little assistance, though, since he's new to the wonderful world of pranks."
"Don't you dare. I swear I'll get even with anyone who helps him," Elliot roared.
"Then be prepared to get even with everyone in the house," I responded, "because I'm sure they'll all want to help Benny after learning about the trick you just played on him."
"It was only harmless fun. I didn't do anything mean," Elliot insisted.
"Nice try, but I don't think anyone else will agree with you," I stated. "Besides, whatever we do to you will just be harmless fun too. Just out of curiosity, though, where did that doll's head come from? I've never seen it before."
"I drove around to some garage sales with one of the guys in my dorm, because he wanted a ride to find a small table for his room. I spotted the head at one of the places we stopped at and knew I could use it for something like this, so I bought it and brought it home with me. I was going to do this yesterday morning, but Grandma Brenda thinks we're all innocent and really nice and I didn't want her to change her mind."
"So you'd planned this all along," I observed, and Elliot merely grinned in response.
Now that this discussion had come to an end, I believe Elliot was hoping we'd soon forget about what he'd done and not try to get even. That wasn't going to happen, though, because I noted the expression on Benny's face, which told me he wasn't about to forget this. And I, for one, was willing to help him get even.
"How come you got whip cream on one side of your face?" Benny asked next as he looked at me. That made me realized he'd probably never seen a man shave before.
"It's not whipped cream, it's shaving cream. I use it when I want to shave the whiskers off my face." Benny looked at me mildly confused but let the topic drop, although I planned on explaining it to him in more detail later.
I then told the boys to head downstairs for breakfast, as I went back to finish what I'd been doing. I joined them a short time later and we ate together. When the meal ended, the younger boys left to watch Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel, so I was surprised when Noah agreed to go with them. He only did it after Joshie and Benny teased him for awhile, although Elliot didn't join them. I automatically assumed he'd done this to give Benny a chance to cool down and hopefully forget about what had happened earlier. Elliot merely went to his bedroom and called his boyfriend, Ian, instead. Ian hadn't come home from Stanford for the holiday, so Elliot was curious to see what Ian was up to and to find out when he'd be coming home for Christmas.
Since the boys were all doing something else, it gave Brandon and me time to wash the dishes and clean up the kitchen. Then, we started thinking ahead to what we were going to fix for lunch.
Before we called the boys to eat again, Elliot came down to talk to Brandon and me about something else. "I'm going to take everyone out to eat tonight, but I want us to go someplace really nice."
"Is this a bribe so we won't try to help Benny get even for this morning?" I teased.
"No, I told you I wanted to do this before that happened and it's just something I'd like to do. I'm going to pay for it too."
"I'm glad you have your own money and you're willing to spend some of it on the family, but I don't think the boys will want to get dressed up in suits just to go out to eat. They would probably be just as happy getting pizza."
"Then what if we go to the Italian restaurant instead. That way they won't have to wear suits, just something nice. They can get pizza or anything else they want, because I know they all like Italian food."
"Yes, that would work. Benny's mentioned to us before that spaghetti is his favorite meal, although he calls it 'sketti', but this will depend on whether he's willing to forgive you and sit at the same table."
"I'm sure he will, but will you go with me just in case he doesn't want to go?" I nodded and followed Elliot when he went to tell the boys about his plan.
"Are you doing this because of what you did earlier?" Benny wanted to know, thinking the same thing I had.
"No, I was going to do it anyway, and Dad Danny will back me up on that because I told him yesterday that I wanted to do this," Elliot assured him, and I nodded in agreement. "It has nothing to do with what happened earlier, but it's just something I want to do for all of you, but it's mainly to welcome Benny to the family."
"I thought that's what you did this morning," Noah joked.
"No, that was just for fun, but this time I'm serious."
The boys all said they'd like to go and thanked Elliot for his offer after I reiterated that this was entirely Elliot's idea and he was paying for everything.
"Do you have lots of money?" Benny asked Elliot next.
"Kinda. My dad left me quite a bit when he died, so I can afford to do this for all of you."
"My dad didn't leave me nothin' and I never even seed him."
"That's too bad and I'm sorry to hear you never got to know him. My dad and I were really close and I miss him a lot, but I'm glad I got to come here to live after he was killed, because now I have two great dads."
"Yeah, me too," Benny concurred, and then Elliot stayed in with the boys and they played video games after that. I also heard the piano, so I figured Joshie had talked Elliot into playing the 'Peanuts Theme Song' again.
Dion and Trey arrived home shortly after we'd finished lunch and they were both smiling broadly. All of the boys came out to welcome them back, but then they returned to the family room to continue what they'd been doing.
"I take it you two had a good time while you were away," I said after the boys left.
"Good? It was fantastic," Dion responded. "Trey reserved us a suite at the Hotel Hershey and the weekend was absolutely perfect."
"Did you two even get out of bed?" Brandon teased after seeing how happy they both were.
"Of course, but we had some good times in bed too," Dion responded with a grin. "We ate each of our meals at a different restaurant, seeing they had so many at the hotel, and we spent time at the spa as well, which was really nice and relaxing."
"How about you, Trey? I haven't heard you say anything yet," I teased the other grinning fool.
"I did it as a special present for Dion's birthday, but I had a great time too," he replied. "We not only relaxed and enjoyed some really delicious meals, but we also pampered ourselves in the spa and went outside to walk around the grounds too."
"Wasn't it kind of cold there?" Brandon asked.
"It was cool, but not cold, and some of the leaves were still on the trees, so it looked beautiful too," Trey answered.
"And we rode on the special Hershey trolley that had a singing conductor," Dion added.
"But the guy wasn't nearly as good as Dion," Trey added.
"He still had a nice voice, though," Dion countered.
"And on Saturday afternoon we were able to get tickets for the matinee performance of 'Les Miserables'. It was a traveling Broadway troupe and they were very good, so we really enjoyed going to see that too," Trey continued.
"The entire weekend was magical and I didn't want to leave," Dion finished. "How were the boys while we were gone?"
"They were very good and I think they all had a great time as well," I answered, and then I filled them in on everything we'd done while they were away.
"Wow! It sounds as if they had a really great time too," Dion observed.
"And I doubt they even missed us at all," Trey mused.
"Oh, they missed you, but we just kept them busy so they didn't have time to think about it," Brandon replied. "They were really good, though, and they both seemed to like having Elliot around, especially Joshie."
"That's good and I'm glad that Benny got to spend some more time with Elliot," Trey added.
"Most of the time they've been really close, almost like they'd been brothers forever, but there was a moment this morning when I thought Elliot might have blown it," I confessed.
"Why? What did he do?" Dion pressed.
"He pulled a prank on Benny that didn't go over too well," I confirmed, and then I explained what he'd done. "Even after that, I still think they'll be sorry to see Elliot leave, and I imagine they'll probably be looking forward to him coming home for Christmas too."
"Speaking of Christmas, are we going to start decorating the house now?" Trey followed. "I want it to look nice when Dad comes home, and I'm sure some of the others will be dropping by too."
"Oh, I'm sure of that," I concurred, "and we can start pulling the decorations out of storage during the week."
After we finished chatting, Dion and Trey went upstairs to unpack, and then they spent some time with their sons. I was surprised when I saw Trey in the kitchen getting ready to fix
"Didn't I tell you that Elliot was taking us all out to eat tonight?"
"Yes, but he shouldn't have to take our family out too," Trey countered, making a face. "I know he has money, but he should spend it on your family and himself."
"I think he'll be upset if you don't go. Let me get him so he can tell you himself." I then called Elliot out to join us, without telling him the reason why.
"Hey, what's Uncle Trey doing in the kitchen? Didn't you tell him I was taking us all out to eat?"
"I did, but he doesn't want you to have to pay for his family too."
"Don't be silly. We're all going and it's my treat!"
"Are you sure. It will be pretty expensive."
"I don't care. We're all going together, so don't argue with me."
"I think you're being silly, but ok. It's your money."
When we got to the restaurant, Elliot told everyone to order whatever they wanted, so each of us got our favorite meal. I've got to admit that it was nice getting treated for a change, instead of doing the treating. Brandon and I also took turns assisting Benny as he downed his spaghetti and meatballs, because he was having difficulty with the long strands of spaghetti.
When the meal ended, Elliot urged everyone to order desserts, but we were all petty stuffed from the meal. He insisted we get something, though, so we decided to merely share a dessert with one of the others. Joshie and Bennie split a sundae, but they let Wyatt have some of it too, while Elliot and Noah split a large slice of Bavarian chocolate cake, and Brandon and I shared a slice of cheesecake topped with cherries. Dion and Trey had the same thing as Brandon and me, and Wyatt ended up having some of their dessert as well. It was a nice ending to a wonderful meal and we all thanked Elliot again before heading home.
As soon as we got back to the house, most of us grabbed a drink before going into the family room to see what was on TV. We were still looking for something interesting when Jake arrived home, so we all hurried out to the foyer to welcome him back.
"How's Dad, Shannon, and Nick?" we all wanted to know after telling him we'd missed him.
"They're doing well, especially Shannon. The casts are off and he was able to enjoy his meals with us, including Thanksgiving dinner. Josh outdid himself for just the four of us, though, so we ended up having leftovers on Friday AND Saturday too." We all chuckled after hearing this.
"So did he say when he'd be home for Christmas?" Dion asked directly.
"Yes. Nick's parents are taking some vacation time to visit Nick and Shannon and they'll be arriving on Sunday the 21st. Josh will fly back on Tuesday the 23rd, since he couldn't get a ticket for Monday. I'm going to leave directly from work and drive to the airport to pick him up, and then I'll let him drive on the way back."
"Sounds good and at least he'll be here for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day," Brandon stated.
The boys then went back to the family room to watch TV, while the rest of us went to the dining room to enjoy another cup of coffee while we discussed other things.
"The four of us were talking earlier about digging out the Christmas decorations during the week and getting the place spruced up," I mentioned so Jake would be aware of our plans.
"You boys can take care of decorating the inside and I'll put the decorations up outside."
"You can't do that by yourself," Trey objected.
"I'll just ask Noah to give me a hand, because I won't need a lot of help. He can assist me when I bring the things down from storage, and he can also stabilize the ladder while I'm on it, but that's all the help I'll need."
"If you're sure, but don't be afraid to ask if you need more help than that," I urged, to make sure he knew he could ask.
"Ok, I can do that too, but I don't think I'll need to."
We also agreed to sit down one night after the boys were in bed to talk about what we were going to get them for Christmas. This way we could coordinate everything so no one got duplicates or one boy didn't end up with more than the others. Jake was really tired after the flight and the long drive home, so we told him to go to bed and we'd see him the following night, seeing he'd be returning to work in the morning.
Once he was heading to his bedroom, Dion and Trey chose to turn in too, because they were also extremely tired. They merely gave Wyatt a quick bath and then turned in for the night, since we told them we'd take care of Joshie.
When the boys didn't find anything they wanted to watch on TV, we decided to turn in early as well since we'd all be returning to work or school the next day and we didn't want the boys to fall asleep in class. They showered in pairs, but Benny chose to shower with Noah again, which indicated he was still slightly upset with Elliot over the prank.
Someone must have awakened during the night to pull a prank of his own, because Elliot was upset when he came downstairs to join for breakfast the next morning. "Ok, what did you guys do with the duffle bag I brought home with my things in it?"
"Us? We didn't do nuttin," Benny answered, but then all three boys began to giggle.
"This isn't funny and I have to get ready so I can drive back to campus!"
"Maybe a ghost took it," Benny offered before they all started giggling again.
"I'm serious. I have to leave soon so I don't have to speed or end up missing my class."
"Check the rec room," Brandon suggested. "I might have seen it back there when I went to get the sausages out of the freezer."
Elliot raced back to the rec room and returned carrying the missing item. He set it on the floor as we sat down to eat, and after downing a big breakfast together, Elliot got ready to leave. When he was set, the boys said goodbye and thanked him again for taking them to use the trampolines on Saturday and then out to dinner last night. Even though Benny was still slightly upset with his oldest brother about the prank, he went with us as we walked Elliot to the door. He also joined the others when they told Elliot they could barely wait for him to return for Christmas. I think all of the boys were a little teary eyed as Elliot prepared to head out the door, and this included Elliot.
"Hey, where's my car?" he shouted after taking only a couple of steps outside.
"Right where you parked it," Brandon answered.
"No it isn't. It's not there and I've got to go!"
Brandon, the boys, and I went outside and began looking around. After a few minutes, I turned to address Elliot. "Is that your car in the neighbor's driveway?" The house was about a half mile from ours.
"Yeah, what's it doing there?"
"Were you drunk the last time you came home and parked it in the wrong driveway?" Brandon followed jokingly.
"Come on. I know I parked it here or I would have spent the night with the neighbors too."
"Well, it's not here now, so just carry your bag down there and then you can take off," I reasoned.
Elliot gave me a disgusted glare before he hugged Brandon and me and began walking down the road.
"Did you move it there?" Brandon asked as soon as Elliot was out of earshot.
"Yes, to pay him back for what he'd done to Benny. I knew the neighbors had gone away to visit their daughter out of state and wouldn't be back until tonight, but I didn't know the boys had also exacted a modicum of revenge of their own."
"It's too bad he had to leave, cuz we would have let him suffer longer," Noah added, with Benny nodding his head vigorously in agreement.
We all waved at Elliot as he started pulling out of the neighbor's driveway and began the long drive back to his campus. It had been nice to see him again, even though he'd pulled that prank on Benny. Brandon and I were also looking forward to spending a little more time with him over the Christmas break, but now we all had to leave for school and work.