Thursday started off much the same as the previous few days. However, this time I surprised Ryan when he asked a question.
“So, what am I gonna learn to make today?”
“I think you should start practicing on the things you’ve already learned to make, so today you can make scrambled eggs, home fries, and sausage links.I’ll just watch you as you do it, to make certain you aren’t doing anything wrong.”
“So, I’m gonna do it all on my own?”
“Yes, you are.”
He seemed to take this challenge seriously and set out everything he would need before he got started.I was pleased to see that he was doing very well, so I never had to say a thing, and when he finished, he turned and looked at me.
“You never said nothin’.”
“That’s because you did everything correctly.”
His chest appeared to swell with pride and he stood a little straighter as I helped him carry the food to the table.When we got there, I announced that Ryan had done this all on his own.
“Then I hope we don’t get sick,” joked Elliot.
“If I knew you were gonna act like that, I would have put somethin’ in what I made for you.”
“Even if you wanted to, it’s not on separate plates so you couldn’t have done that.”
“Next time I might dish it out first and bring your plate to you.”Ryan seemed pleased about getting the last word.
After they finished eating, Elliot made one final comment.
“I hate to admit it, but that was pretty good.”
Ryan smiled broadly as he and the others cleared the table and took care of their dishes, and then they headed out to work on the tree house.
When they came in for lunch, I gave Ryan the same choice and he opted to fix spaghetti.He did just as well with that, so once again I didn’t have to say anything before they went outside to work on the tree house again.
Later, when I called the boys in to clean up before the others arrived home, Owen left to return to his grandparents’ house.As soon as Elliot and Ian had disappeared, Ryan asked to speak privately with me.
“Can we do it while I’m working on dinner?” I asked.
“Yeah, I guess, cuz Elliot and Ian have gone upstairs to Elliot’s room and there’s nobody else around to hear what I wanna talk about.”
“Alright then, what’s on your mind?”
“You know that I’m starting college in a little over a month, but neither of my dads have said anything about getting me a car to drive back and forth.They gave Noah and Holly cars when they started college, so do you think they’ll give me one too?”
“I’m not sure, but I think maybe I should clarify a few things for you and put this into perspective.First of all, Noah got a used car as a combined graduation gift from several different people, and your dads didn’t give Holly a car.Her mother left it for her and your dads just asked Cole to check it over to make sure it would be safe for her to drive back and forth.”
“I graduated too and nobody gave me a car.”
“I know, but that’s because you wanted the newest iPhone and a new laptop to take with you to college, as well as a few other items.In the big picture, what’s more important – the car or the tools you need to be successful in college?You asked for them and your dads gave them to you, so you can’t complain about it now.”
“Damn, that makes sense, but do you think I might still get a car?”
“I have no idea, although I know they made sure you learned how to drive during your senior year and took you to pass your driver’s test, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to give you a car for college.”
“Damn, so that means they’ll be driving me back and forth and they’ll probably bring the younger boys with them when they do it too.”
“I’d say that would be a good guess.”
“That’s like havin’ you guys drive me to the high school and then bring me home afterward.”
He didn’t look happy as he walked away, but I had to be honest with him.
When the others arrived home from workk we sat down to eat, and as usual we talked about our day.Elliot and the others were eager to tell Grandpa Jake about how much they had done on the tree house and after they finished eating, he went out with them to start putting up the handrails around the deck. Hopefully, they’ll be able to finish everything before the others get back from Texas.
By the time Danny arrived home, the kitchen and dining room had been cleaned up and I had his food ready to be heated.He asked me to warm it up while he went upstairs to wash up quickly, and he promised to be back in a couple of minutes before it had a chance to get cold again.That worked out just fine and he was actually able to finish his meal before my phone rang.
“May I ask who is calling?” I said when I answered.
“Poppy, don’t be silly.You know it’s me,” stated Wyatt as the others giggled in the background.“We went to the Alamo today.”
“That’s where Davy Crockett got killed,” added Hunter.
“Yes, it is, but I didn’t think you boys were taught about Davy Crockett in school any longer.”
“Grandpa Pat told us about him before we went there,” said Hayden.
“Ah, I see.”
“And the Alamo definitely wasn’t much of a fort,” said Joshie.“It looked about the same as if we tried to barricade our house against an army.”
“Yeah, so it’s not a surprise that all of those guys died there,” added Benny.“Not only was it a terrible fort, but they were waaay outnumbered by the Mexican Army.”
“Yes, they were,” I agreed, “and the Alamo wasn’t designed as a fort.It was a mission they turned into a fort.Do you know what a mission is?”
“Yeah, it’s like a church,” replied Tristan.
“Yes, it is.The missionaries that traveled with the Spanish soldiers built various missions along the way and then used them to convert the Native Americans to Christianity.They also grew crops and formed a settlement around the mission.”
“The Alamo wasn’t very fancy for bein’ a church,” said Revin, “but Grandpa Pat took us to see some fancier missions after we left there and they were a lot nicer.”
“That’s because the Alamo was the first and oldest mission in that area, and they built it as quickly as they could.They felt it would be better to build a crude mission, rather than taking a long time to construct a more elaborate mission.”
“Yeah, I think the Mission Conception was the nicest one,” continued Revin.
“After we left there, Grandpa Pat drove us to a couple of the other missions,” added Benny.“He said it was thirty miles from the Alamo to the last mission, so we didn’t go to all of them.”
“So, was that all you did today?” asked Danny.
“Nope, we went to a cave too,” said Wyatt.
“Yeah, that was really cool,” added Hayden.
“Dad B made us take long pants and long-sleeve shirts with us in the SUV this mornin’,” said Hunter, “and then he had us put them on over the other clothes we was wearin’ before going into the cave.”
“I thought he was crazy when he had us put them on, cuz it was really hot outside,” added Revin, “but I was glad we was wearin’ them when we got inside, cuz it was kinda cool in the cave.”
“Yes, it was not only cool to see, but the temperature was quite cool in the caverns as well,” agreed Dion.
“Yes, the temperature inside the Natural Bridge Caverns is much cooler than it is outside,” explained Brandon.
“And we went on a guided tour and the man said we were 180 feet (54.9 m) below the ground at one point,” said Joshie.
“And there was icicles comin’ down from the ceilin’ and others growin’ outta the floor,” said Hunter.
“Those weren’t icicles,” scolded Hayden.“Remember, the man told us that.”
“Yeah, the ones hangin’ down from the ceiling are called stalactites and the ones growin’ up from the floor are called stalagmites,” said Benny.“I learned that in my Earth Science class and they’re both formed by the slowly dripping water.The water leaves minerals behind and they harden until they’re like rock.”
“And there was one that was hangin’ down from the ceilin’ that looked like a bunch of bananas,” added Tristan.
“Yeah, that one was really neat looking,” agreed Revin.
“And there was a stone foot bridge too,” said Benny.“That’s how the place got its name.”
“Yes, it’s a 60-foot (18.3 m) limestone bridge,” explained Dion, “and it’s all that remains after the rest of the ground around it disappeared into a sinkhole.”
“It not only sounds interesting, but it appears that you boys enjoyed your time there as well,” said Danny.
“Yeah, it was really neat,” they all agreed.
“So, what are you doing tomorrow?” I followed.
“We’re driving back to Houston so we can rest up and pack our things before flying home,” answered Brandon.“We’re taking an early flight back on Saturday morning, so we should be arriving home sometime Saturday afternoon or early evening, depending on how things go.”
“We look forward to seeing all of you again,” said Danny.
“And we can’t wait to see you guys either,” shouted the boys in return, and then Brandon took the phone off speaker.
After we finished chatting with our spouses, Danny headed upstairs to get ready for bed and I took the puppies outside for the final time.Once they’d relieved themselves, they followed me upstairs and I went through my nightly routine before returning to my bedroom.Along the way, I noticed that both puppies were already in their beds and getting comfortable, and a few minutes later we were all sound asleep.
After breakfast on Friday morning, Ryan, Elliot, and Ian went out to work on the tree house again.When they came in for lunch, I asked them how they were doing.
“We put down the last of the boards on the deck,” answered Elliot, “and when we go back out there, we’re going to start adding the water sealant on the side where we added the handrails last night. After dinner, Grandpa Jake is going to help us add the rest of handrails and then we’ll add the first coat of water sealant to that side as well.”
“It sounds good to me.”
I called them in to wash up before the others arrived home for dinner, and while we were eating, they told Pop what they had done during the day.
“That’s great, so we’re just about done,” commented Pop.
When they finished eating, Pop and the boys headed out to work on the tree house while the rest of us did our own thing.They were still working on the tree house when Danny arrived home, and while he was eating the boys called from Texas.I put the phone on speaker so we could both hear.
“So, what did you do today?” I asked.
“We had to ride a long time to get back to Grandpa Pat and Grandma Brenda’s house,” answered Wyatt.
“And then our dads had us pack our suitcases,” added Hunter.
“That’s cuz we’re flying home tomorrow,” continued Hayden.
“What time is your flight tomorrow?” asked Danny.
“The plane is scheduled to leave at 11:15, but we have to get to the airport two hours early so we can check in and clear security,” answered Brandon.
“I’m glad it’s not leaving any sooner than that, cuz I don’t want to get up too early,” chimed in Joshie.
“Yeah, cuz even now we’re gonna have to get up at 7:00,” Benny grumbled.
“I’m sure you’ve been getting up that early every day so you could visit all those places, and I bet it was worth it.Didn’t you boys enjoy the time you’ve spent with your grandparents?”
“Yeah, we did,” replied the boys in unison.
“And I thanked them for lettin’ me come too,” added Revin.
“That’s good, and I hope you all behaved,” I quipped.
“They were all on their best behavior,” answered Brenda.
“But they tired us out trying to keep up with them,” commented Pat.
“Yes, I’m sure they did,” responded Danny.“Brandon told us how you two have been going to bed early every night.”
“I’m sure he did,” moaned Pat, “because he’s always had a big mouth.”He chuckled after saying this.
“Hey, I do not.I just don’t keep things from my husband,” objected Brandon.
“And rightfully so,” agreed Brenda.“You should never keep secrets from your spouse.”I could tell she was probably staring at Pat as she said this.
“We’re looking forward to see all of you again,” I quickly stated.I did this because I had a feeling there was an ulterior motive as to why Brenda had made that comment, so I hoped to end this part of the discussion before it escalated further.
“And we can’t wait to see you guys either,” replied Wyatt.
“Yeah, Dad B has lots of pictures to show you,” said Tristan.
“And I want my mom to see them too,” added Revin.
“We’ve invited her to have dinner with us tomorrow, so she’ll be here when you get back,” said Danny.“You can show all of us the photos at the same time.”
“That’s super,” squealed Revin.
“I’m glad you approve.”
We chatted with them a little while longer, and then Danny and I got a chance to speak with our spouses.When the call ended, I asked Danny a question.
“Do you have any idea when you and Brandon are going to be able to get away?”
“I feel we should be able to do it over Labor Day weekend.The four of us can start planning when Dion and Brandon get back and then we’ll make our reservations.”
“Do you think we’ll be able to get reservations for then?That’s typically a very busy time for those places.”
“I certainly hope we’ll be able to get reservations, because we’ll be making them about a month-and-a-half in advance.”
“I just hope they’re not all booked up by then.”
“If they are, we’ll just choose another destination.”
“That will work too, as long as they aren’t booked up as well.”
After we finished chatting, Danny went upstairs to get ready for bed and I did a few other tasks until Pop and the boys came inside.They all looked pretty tired, so the job must have been harder than they thought.
“Are you done with everything?”
“Not quite,” Elliot answered.“It’s all built, so all we have to do is add the second coat of water sealant tomorrow, and we should finish doing that by lunchtime.It should be completely dry by the time we get home from church on Sunday, and then we’ll be able to take the boys out to see it.”
“Great, then I’ll take a walk out there tomorrow so I can check it out.”
“You can help us put the water sealant on it too,” said a hopeful Ryan.
“I don’t want to take away any of your glory when you show the boys what you did for them.”
“We don’t mind,” countered Ryan, but I merely ignored him.
“I’m glad we’re just about done, because my arm feels like it’s about to fall off from all the hammering,” complained Elliot.“I hope it’s better by the morning.”
“I have some liniment that will help with that,” said Pop.“How about you, Ian? Could you use some liniment as well?” asked Pop.
“Did you forget that we didn’t let him do any of the hammering,” replied Elliot.“We didn’t want him to injure those surgeon hands.”
“But my muscles are still sore from applying the water sealant,” countered Ian.
“Mine too,” added Ryan.
“And I helped Grandpa Jake with the handrails and my arm is sore too,” explained Noah, “so I’ll use some of that liniment, as long as it doesn’t smell like Bengay.”
“It has an odor, but it’s not as strong as Bengay.”
“Ok, then I’ll use it.”
“Before you old men take off,” I added tongue in cheek, “I want to warn you not to use the liniment until after you take your showers.Water tends to intensify the heating effect of the liniment, so if you use it before you shower it can become very painful when you’re cleaning up.”
“Won’t it do the same if we shower first?” asked Ryan.
“Not if you dry off well.”
“Thanks for the warning and you’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” whined Noah.
“Maybe a little, because I don’t hear your grandfather complaining.”
“Oh, my arm is sore too, but I think my job at UPS has conditioned the muscles so I’m not quite as bad off as they are – especially Elliot.He was doing the hammering for two.”
“See!” shouted Elliot in defiance while glancing around.
“Point made, but I’m sure Ian will be happy to play doctor and massage those muscles for you before rubbing the liniment onto your arm.”
“Yes, I’ll do that for you,” agreed Ian.
The four of them then disappeared to clean up and take care of their aching muscles, and while they were doing that, I made the beds of the boys who would be returning home the following day.Dobby and Flash were getting excited when they saw me doing this and I had the feeling they realized it meant the boys would be returning home soon.I can’t wait to see their reaction when the boys actually walk through the door.
Once that had been taken care of and I was sure the other boys were in their bedrooms, I took Dobby and Flash out for the final time before I led them upstairs to turn in.I showered and brushed my teeth first, and when I came out of the bathroom, I found Dobby and Flash sitting in the hallway in front of the boys’ rooms.
“They won’t be home until tomorrow,” I said, although I wasn’t expecting the pups to understand me.“Come on, because you’re sleeping in my room for one more night.”
I think they understood the ‘come on’, because they followed me to my bedroom and laid down on their beds.Once they were settled in, I crawled into bed, turned off the lamp, and we all fell asleep.
When I woke up the next morning, I took Dobby and Flash outside first, and when I came back inside, I discovered Pop and Danny were also up.Since I didn’t think I should make them wait for the boys to wake up before they ate, I fixed something to eat for the three of us. The boys didn’t stumble downstairs until a half hour after we finished eating, and Danny had already left for work by then.
“How are you guys feeling this morning?”
“I’m still sore, but not as bad as last night,” replied Elliot.
“Same with me,” agreed Noah.
“Yeah, me too,” stated Ryan.
“I’m doing good,” added Ian.
“They’ll need more of that liniment by the time we finish working on the tree house though,” offered Pop.
“I’ll have everything ready for you when you get back,” I replied.
Even though he was sore, Ryan was still willing to fix breakfast for the four of them, because he wanted Noah to see what he could do.He chose to make French toast this time, and even though he had to ask me a couple of questions, he did it all on his own.
“You did this?” Noah asked when the others told him that Ryan was doing the cooking.
“Yeah, Uncle Trey taught me.”
“Damn, it tastes good.He taught you well.”
Once again, this simple comment appeared to please Ryan immensely.
After they finished eating and cleaned up, they went outside to work on the tree house and I went upstairs to strip Danny’s and my bed.I then started doing some laundry, and in between I went upstairs to put fresh sheets on our beds.I wanted everything to be perfect for Dion and Brandon when they got back.I also moved the doggy beds over to the boys’ rooms, but Dobby and Flash were downstairs and didn’t realize I’d done this yet.
When I finished doing those things, I put the leashes on Dobby and Flash so they wouldn’t try to run off into the woods, and then I walked out to see what the others had accomplished.I knew what the tree house used to look like in its prime, when I was young, but it looked even better now.I was totally amazed when I saw the deck the boys had told me about, and it was at about the same height as the tree house, although in another small group of trees not too far away.It looked amazing and would give the boys another area for their imaginary exploits, and they could use the bridge so they wouldn’t have to return to the ground.
“Wow, you’ve done an amazing job.It looks wonderful,” I told them.
“Thanks,” replied the others in unison.
While we’d been speaking, Dobby and Flash were tugging on their leashes and trying to find a way to get up with the boys.That’s when I realized there might be a problem.
“I have a feeling the puppies are going to want to be up there with the boys when they’re using those areas, but I’m not sure how they’ll be able to do that.”
“You’re probably right and I don’t think any of us considered it,” said Pop.After thinking it over for a couple of minutes, he continued.“I might have a solution for that.I’ve been wondering how the boys were going to get stuff up to the tree house, because I didn’t think it would be safe for them to try carrying those items up the ladder.I’ll hook up a rope and pulley system and hook it to some kind of container so they can pull those things up, including Dobby and Flash.”
“Yes, that will probably work.”
I finished checking out the entire area without going up there, since I had the puppies with me, and when the tree house group came in for lunch, I asked how they were doing.
“Except for Grandpa Jake putting up the pulley system, we’re all done,” answered Elliot.
“I’ve got to run to the store to pick up a few items, but I have a good idea about how I’m going to do this,” answered Pop.“One of the older coolers that we use for drinks when we have parties is in pretty bad shape, so I’ll buy a new one to replace it, and then I’ll attach that one to the pulley.It will be plenty big enough to pull the dogs up one at a time, as well as anything else the boys want to take up there.It should only take me another hour or two to finish up after I get back from the store, because I’ll have to pick up a few other things to do this.”
“And I’ll help you,” offered Noah.“Maybe I’ll get to use some of the information I learned in high school physics, cuz the teacher taught us about pulleys.”
“And the rest of you can shower and take care of those sore muscles,” teased Pop.
“And we can’t wait to do that,” added Elliot as he glanced at Ian and Ryan, because they were already gently massaging their sore muscles.
“I’m sure the younger boys will be very appreciative of all your hard work,” I offered.
“I certainly hope so,” mumbled Ryan.
While they were cleaning up, I took Dobby and Flash out for their walk, and when the boys came down, I asked Ryan a question.
“Do you want to make lunch today?I know you’ve been working hard all morning and you’re sore?”
“Yeah, I kinda like doin’ this now.”
“Ok, then why don’t you fix Sloppy Joes and French fries again?And you might want to prepare some corn as well.”
“Ok, I can do that.”
Pop was amazed that Ryan had fixed their lunch and praised him for his effort, and after they ate Noah went with Pop to pick up the other items they would need.When they got back, they headed out to the tree house to hook it up, and when they finished they came inside.
“It’s all done,” announced Pop.
“And the pulley Grandpa Jake hooked up is really neat,” stated Noah.
“I know my physics teacher explained that we could do things like this, but it’s neat seeing it actually working.”
“I’m sure it is,” I agreed.
“And I can’t wait to see the younger boys’ reaction when we show it to them,” added Pop. “These boys should be very proud of what they’ve accomplished.”
“You did most of the hard work,” countered Elliot.“You and your friend fixed up the tree house and put up the frame for the deck.We just had to cut a few boards and nail them into place and add the water sealant.”
“Those certainly weren’t easy jobs either, especially cutting the boards and making sure they were the right length,” stated Pop.
“Yeah, that part was a little tricky,” relented Elliot.
“And I’m sure the younger boys will love it,” I added.“I’m not sure if Joshie or Benny will be spending much time out there, since they’re older than the other boys, but I’m sure they’ll spend some time in it with their brothers.By the way, Ian, how did you get your parents to agree to let you spend the entire weekend with us?”
“I just told them about working on the tree house and they didn’t mind, but I’m not spending the whole weekend here.Elliot and I are going to have dinner with my parents tomorrow night.”
“Ah, ok.I guess that explains it then,” I concurred.