The next week was interesting, because I noticed Noah and Ryan were together a great deal of the time. Dad even asked about it and wondered if they might be fooling around. I merely told him it was possible and explained that the boys knew we didn't mind, as long as they both agreed to whatever they were up to. He merely smiled and walked away without making any further comments.
Saturday, after we returned home from our weekly swim, I got the boys together so I could discuss something with them. "Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, so I thought I should explain to you why it's called that and why we celebrate it. I'm doing this because I don't want any of you to be embarrassed because you didn't know these things, and then possibly end up having others make fun of you."
I was telling them mainly for Benny and Ryan's benefit, but I had each of the boys sit in so Benny and Ryan didn't feel that they were being singled out. I also thought it would be best if they were all on the same page when it came time to go to church. When I finished my explanation, Benny and Ryan thanked me for the information, seeing neither knew any of it before I'd filled them in. I was somewhat surprised that Noah and Joshie thanked me too, but in their case it was for the refresher.
That evening the movie Spartacus with Kirk Douglas was on TV, so I talked the boys into watching it with Brandon and me. I felt it would be good if they saw a visual representation of what it might have been like to have lived in the Roman Empire, as Jesus had. Although I knew the movie wasn't historically accurate, it would give them a rough idea of what it might have been like, as well as the opportunity to see Spartacus and his followers crucified. It would help Benny and Ryan better understand what Good Friday was about at the end of the week.
Sunday morning we got the boys up a little earlier than normal, because we would all be wearing our suits and they'd need the extra time to get dressed. After Brandon and I were ready, we went to help the boys, because we knew they'd need some assistance with their ties. When we were all set, we loaded into the vehicles and headed to church.
Benny and Joshie rode with Dion and Trey this time, because it was easier for them to fit into the backseat with Wyatt and his car seat. It also allowed Dad and Pop to ride with us, which was a little more comfortable for them. When we got to the church, I noticed everyone was dressed up for the occasion, as I knew they would be. The boys all looked very handsome and I was proud to walk with them and stand in line as the minister greeted everyone. Then, we split up and headed to our Sunday school classes.
When we met up again for the church service later, Ryan sat next to me and whispered in my ear. "Man, I'm glad you told me that stuff last night, cuz I would have looked really dumb today if you hadn't done it."
"I had a feeling that might happen, so I'm glad it helped."
The service today was what I'd expected for the occasion, and once the sermon ended we took the boys out for brunch. Before going inside the restaurant, however, we told the boys to be very careful and not get anything on their suits, because they'd be wearing them again the following Sunday, for Easter. They said they would, and then we went inside. We had to wait a short time before we were seated, because the staff had to clear and group together several tables to accommodate our group.
After we ordered, the boys wanted to talk about some of the things they'd heard at church earlier, so we answered their questions as we waited for our meals to be delivered. Then we ate without any serious incidents, except that Wyatt got some of his meal on his pants, but I thought one of his fathers could take care of that when we got home.
After we arrived at the house, we told the boys to change and hang up their suits, so they wouldn't get wrinkled before they used them next. Brandon went up a few minutes later to make sure they'd done it correctly, and to straighten out any problems he saw. I told you he was a stickler for details.
We didn't see Noah and Ryan for quite a few minutes after that, so I figured they were helping each other get their rocks off again. When I saw them later, they were both smiling and in a good mood, so I assumed my hunch had been correct. Nothing was ever said about it, though, so I concluded they must both be satisfied with what they'd just done.
Shortly after that, the boys reminded me that March Madness was in full swing, with the Elite Eight games being played today. Joshie, Benny, and Ryan agreed they wanted to watch the games on TV, and I was a little surprised that Ryan wanted to do this too. He hadn't wanted to watch the high school game with the other two before, but maybe this had more to do with Dad offering to work with all of them. Since we had two TVs now, I agreed to watch the games with them in the family room, then anyone who wasn't into sports could find something else to watch on the TV in the living room.
Dad and Pop joined us too and got comfortable in the recliners, while the boys sat with me on the sofa. During each game, Dad would point things out to the boys, and I think it turned out to be a pretty good learning session for them. Both games were fairly exciting, as we watched the Michigan State Spartans beat the Louisville Cardinals in overtime, before the Duke Blue Devils defeated the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
Later, when we went up to tuck the boys in after they'd showered, we discovered that Ryan was naked when we got to his room. It was the way he'd been sleeping lately, so that wasn't what surprised us. When Brandon and I walked into the room, Ryan looked down at his crotch, then up at me and said, "It's not doin' it tonight."
I think Brandon wondered why he'd said this, but he didn't say anything about it, at least not until after we'd tucked Ryan in, said goodnight, and then left his room. As we were walking downstairs, he looked at me and asked, "What the hell was that about?"
"Ryan sprouted erections a couple of times when I was talking to him about different things, such as what he and Noah were doing with each other. He was a little embarrassed at first and told me his penis did it a lot lately, so I merely explained that it was a fairly common occurrence for teenage boys. I think that's why he was jokingly pointing out that it wasn't happening this time."
"I see, and I'm glad that's all it was. For a moment I thought he was hinting that you should do something to make him hard."
"You know me better than that, but it's not due to his lack of trying. I've repeatedly told him it will never happen, so I think he was just having fun joking about it, as well as letting us know that he's completely different, compare to when he first got here."
"Yeah, but sometimes I question whether the change was for the better, especially when he's trying to get you to do those things with him. In a way, I find it quite amazing that he seems to be throwing himself at you now, especially after he was so adamant and vocal about not doing those things when he first arrived."
"I think the difference is that this time it's his choice, where the other time he was forced to do it."
"I know, but I still find it a bit unsettling and wish he wasn't so focused on you."
I didn't respond to that particular comment, because Brandon already seemed upset, so I thought it would be best to just let the subject drop for now. I knew he wasn't worried about me giving in to Ryan, but I think he was more than a little perturbed with Ryan for continually trying to entice me and for blatantly hinting about what he wanted.
The following week was fairly hectic, since we had a lot to do to get ready for the weekend. Brandon and I stopped to pick up the treats to put in the boys' Easter baskets, as well as making sure the house was clean and in good shape. Those who lived locally would be coming to Easter Dinner with us on Sunday, so Dad was busy shopping and making sure he had everything for the meal.
On Friday, Dad had the boys stay in their school clothes when they got home, because we would be going to the Good Friday service at church later. We ate quickly so we wouldn't be late, and then we headed to church for the service. During the sermon, the minister began by talking about the Last Supper, progressed through the betrayal and the disciples claiming they weren't with Jesus, before talking about the crucifixion. I think it had a little more meaning for Benny and Ryan now, since they'd seen a less extreme example of that barbaric act when we'd watched the movie 'Spartacus'.
We didn't go swimming on Saturday either, and instead focused on the house. We had the boys help us set up the banquet table and then carry in the folding chairs for the next day. After we'd finished doing that, Brandon had the boys assist him with boiling and decorating the Easter eggs, because the younger ones still liked to hunt for them around the house. Since we didn't want them to get too involved or excited before church, we told them they could hunt for their Easter baskets and the eggs after we got back after the service.
We ate dinner a little earlier that evening, because the Final Four games were on TV starting at 6:00, and the same boys wanted to watch them, along with Dad and Pop. As soon as we'd finished eating, I went with them to the family room, while the others planned on watching the TV in the living room.
We all enjoyed the games, although the first one wasn't very close, as Duke beat Michigan State fairly easily. The second game was a little more competitive, as the Wisconsin Badgers defeated the Kentucky Wildcats. The final would be played on Monday night and the boys were already lobbying to be able to watch it to the end, in case it ran past their bedtimes. I agreed it would be all right, since I didn't feel it would end really late, unless there were multiple overtimes.
Once the second game ended, I sent the boys upstairs to get ready for bed seeing we'd be waking them up early for church in the morning. They were all in a fairly good mood as we tucked them in and said goodnight, so I hoped it wouldn't take very long before they drifted off to sleep.
By the time we got downstairs on Sunday morning, we discovered Dad had fixed a huge breakfast, which he didn't normally do on Sunday. We generally only had a snack before getting dressed, to keep our stomachs from growling during the service, but today was different. We wouldn't be stopping to have brunch afterward, because we'd be having company and an early dinner at home instead, so this was to tide us over until then.
Once we were all in our suits and we'd helped the boys with their ties, we got into the vehicles and headed to church. The women were dressed even nicer this week, and many were wearing hats as well. We said hello to the minister, filed inside, and found a pew so we could sit together. The sermon today was about the promise of the resurrection and what it meant to us individually, which was a pretty standard Easter service. There were also bouquets of lilies adorning the altar today, which filled the interior of the church with their fragrance and reminded us of nature's resurrection each spring.
When we returned home, Dad and Trey immediately headed into the kitchen to begin working on dinner. The rest of us spent the time watching the boys hunt for their Easter baskets and the eggs we'd hidden after they'd gone to bed the previous evening. Once they had found everything, we spent the remaining time setting the tables and making certain everything else was taken care of before the others arrived.
Before long, Kevin and Vinnie, Cole and Beth, Dustin and Katie, Little Ricky, Jesse, Uncle Steve and Aunt Mary, and Aunt Sally had all arrived. We spent a few minutes chatting with them, before we went out to the tables and sat down to eat.
As usual, the meal was delicious and we enjoyed all being together for the day. Even though we lived close to one another, it didn't mean we saw each other often, so we enjoyed the time we shared on the various holidays and other special occasions that we got together. For the most part, I think the boys also enjoyed the extra attention they received from our guests, but it wasn't always the case. Occasionally, it would embarrass them, such as when the women fussed over them or pinched their cheeks.
When the boys weren't around, Uncle Steve asked if we'd decided when we were going to hold the adoption ceremony. We explained that we were still working on it and hadn't figured everything out yet, but we'd let him know as soon as we had reached a decision. He said that was fine and he was merely curious, because he was anxious to see the boys officially become a part of the family.
Aunt Sally mentioned how pleased she was to see how well Ryan and Benny were doing and asked if there was anything she could do to help out. We told her not at the moment, but she'd hear from us if anything came up.
A couple hours after we'd eaten dinner, we returned to the tables for dessert. Dad had baked both an apple and cherry pie, while Trey had made a cake, because he knew most of the boys would prefer that instead. Shortly after we finished sating our sweet tooth, our guests thanked us, said goodbye, and returned home, but Jesse opted to spend the night again. It had been a wonderful day and we'd all enjoyed it, but now it was time to prepare for the week ahead.
That night we watched the movie 'The Ten Commandments' with the boys, since the network always showed it on Easter Sunday. I've never been able to figure out why the network executives chose that particular movie every Easter. The only thing I could come up with was that it was because Jesus was crucified just prior to the start of Passover, and the movie focused on the origins of that celebration. I would have thought, however, that it would have been more appropriate to show a movie like 'The Robe', which directly dealt with the crucifixion.
When we went to tuck Ryan in after he'd showered, he had a question he wanted to ask us. "Does everyone come here for dinner on all the holidays, cuz Benny said there wasn't as many people here today as there was at Christmas?"
"Yes, the others come to join us for most of the major holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter, but sometimes we have cookouts too."
"I've never been with so many people for dinner before, but it was kinda nice. They all talked to me and asked how I was doing, and Noah said most of the guys were my uncles."
"Actually, they all are, and the women are your aunts. Most of them are legally related to us, while Uncle Steve, Aunt Mary, and Aunt Sally are honorary members of the family, since they do so much for us."
"Wow! So I'm related to all those people?"
"You sure are, and that's only a portion of the family. You haven't met a lot of them yet."
"You mean there's even more?"
"Yes, quite a few more, in fact. They usually only come when they'll be able to stay overnight, because they live and work out of town. You'll get to meet them eventually, so be prepared."
"K, and from what you told me, I must have as many relatives as there are kids in my grade at school."
"Maybe as many as are in your class, but not nearly as many as are in your grade. There are still a lot, though, and you'll get to meet them all at some point."
Once I'd clarified this for him, I tucked him in and kissed him on the forehead, before Brandon did the same. Then we both said goodnight as I turned off the light and closed the door behind us.
As soon as we got home on Monday, the boys reminded me that the NCAA final was on later. I told them I remembered and was planning to watch it with them, and they were all excited. It's not that any of our teams were playing, since the boys liked to root for Penn State, Pittsburgh, and Syracuse during the season, but it should be an interesting game.
The boys were all acting kind of antsy throughout dinner and continually discussed which team was going to win. In the end, the boys, Dad, and I all thought Duke would be victorious, while Jake thought Wisconsin would come out on top. I think he and Dad had even made some sort of bet on the game, but we'd all know the outcome before we went to bed.
It was an exciting game and close the entire way, but Duke edged out Wisconsin at the final buzzer. The boys were all jumping around as if they'd been playing and had just won the game, while Dad was razzing Jake about losing the bet. I wondered exactly what the wager was, but then again, maybe it would be better if I didn't know.
As soon as the game ended, we made the boys hurry upstairs and get ready for bed, because it was past their normal bedtime and they had school the next day. They would be in school this week and next, and then they'd have the following week off for Spring Break. The school district scheduled it then, instead of right after Easter, because they felt the weather would be better by then. Even though the snow had already melted and it was starting to warm up, I'm sure it would be even better in a couple more weeks.
By the time Friday night rolled around, the boys were already teasing us to take them swimming the next day, and we agreed we'd go. We had only skipped the previous Saturday because of the holiday, and the fact that we had so many other things to do. Now, we eagerly slipped back into our normal routine, but it wouldn't last for much longer. As soon as the weather broke we'd be getting our pool ready for the summer, and then we could all swim at home instead.
Our time at the pool went much the same as our previous outings, but this time when the boys were horsing around with each other in the pool, Brandon and I were listening to what Dad had to say. He was telling us what he planned to do with the boys while they were off from school for the week, since Brandon and I would be at work. I didn't have any problems or see anything wrong with what he told us and was basically pleased that he'd be keeping the boys busy. Of course Dion and Trey would be there too, but Dad would be spending most of his time with the boys.
When we got home later, Joshie, Benny, and Ryan wanted to talk about signing up for summer baseball, because it would be taking place fairly soon. Joshie and Benny would be in Little League, but Ryan was too old for that group. He was worried that he wouldn't be good enough to compete with the boys who played Little League in previous years and had been playing ball longer than him. We suggested that he should just work with Grandpa Josh and improve his skills, and then his grandfather would let us know whether he thought Ryan should try playing this year or wait until next year. Ryan nodded his agreement, although he didn't seem overly enthused with the plan.
That night we saw 'The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe' was being shown on TV, so we sat down to watch it with the boys. Ryan had read the book before and was familiar with the story, but Benny had no idea what it was about.
When the movie ended, we sent the boys up to get ready for bed, and then we went upstairs to tuck them in. We had stopped going up with Joshie and Benny when they showered, but only after we'd convinced Dion and Trey that they'd be fine on their own. We'd only been sitting on the toilet lid and keeping an eye on them while they washed themselves and each other, but it no longer made sense for us to be doing that. Reluctantly, Dion and Trey agreed, and it freed us up to do other things.
The weather was really nice on Sunday, so Dad offered to go out with Joshie, Benny, and Ryan to play catch. Since Noah wasn't interested in doing this, he asked if he could spend time with his friend, Adam, and we consented. Brandon and I went to work on a project we'd been putting off but needed to finish, and then we sat down with Dion so we could ask him a favor. He didn't hesitate and agreed to do it, so that was one more thing we could now cross off our 'to do' list.
Brandon and I went into the family room and stood in the picture window to watch Dad work with the boys for a short time. Seeing so many of us had left our baseball gloves at home after we'd finished playing when we were younger, the boys had found plenty to choose from. Dad was teaching them the various techniques they'd need to know and worked with them to perfect their skills. While we were observing them, Benny was playing catch with Joshie, while Dad was working with Ryan. Dad was doing this because Ryan would have the biggest hurdle to overcome if he wanted to play on a team.
The boys were quite excited when they came inside later and were eager to tell us all about it. "Benny's doin' really good," Joshie informed us. "Do you think they'll put us on the same team?"
"I don't know, but we can ask. We'll just tell those in charge of the league that it would make it easier on us to get you boys to practice and games, since we all live together. That might be enough to convince them to allow you to be on the same team."
"I hope so, cuz we want to play together."
"I'm sure you do. How about you, Ryan. How are you doing?"
"Pretty good, I think. Grandpa Josh was working with me a lot and says I'm catching on, but he said I still have a lot more work to do."
"Then keep working on it and listen to your grandfather."
Sunday night after we'd tucked the boys in bed, I gave Dion the things he would need to do the favor for us. He said it wasn't a problem and he was happy to help out. Since this was the last week of school before spring break, he explained that he and Trey had talked to Dad about a few things they could all do with the boys together that week. Brandon and I were glad to hear this, because it meant Dad wouldn't have to do it all on his own.
On Wednesday, Benny's teacher, Mrs. Argentine, called to talk about a few things. She said she'd received our message and things seemed to be going much better for Benny. He was no longer being picked on, but she also said he was doing much better with his schoolwork too. He'd struggled at first, since he was slightly behind and didn't have a lot of outside experiences to draw upon, because he'd been badly neglected, and she was pleased with his progress. We thanked her for everything she'd done for him, as well as the other things she'd be doing before the school year ended.
When the boys got home on Friday, they were super-hyper and excited about having a week off from school. We told them we'd spend time with them over the weekend, but we expected them to be good for Grandpa Josh, Dion, and Trey during the week. They all promised they would, and we had no reason to doubt that they would keep their promise.