School started on Monday and all of the boys looked nice when they left the house.Danny and Brandon took Xander to the elementary school before they went to work, so they could enroll him.They also took Wyatt with them so he could help to show Xander around after they headed to work.They told me later what happened, so I’ll relay that information now.
They went to the office first, filled out the required paperwork, and were told which teacher Xander would have.They then took him to the classroom and introduced him to his teacher, and then they asked Wyatt to show Xander around the school until classes started.
During their time with the secretary and Xander’s teacher, Danny and Brandon explained about his problem.They also told each one that they’d put an extra pair of disposable briefs in his backpack in case he got nervous and had a major accident.When they felt everything was understood, they went out and found Wyatt and Xander so they could say goodbye before they headed to their offices.
Once Danny, Brandon and the two youngest boys left the house, the other boys rode to school with Dion and Trey.They dropped Tristan, Revin, and the twins off at the middle school first, and then they continued on to the high school.Although Dion taught at both the high school and middle school, he was required to be at the high school today, and I’ll explain why in a second.
Since this was Joshie and Benny’s freshman year, Trey informed them about what they needed to do.
“The freshmen are all going to meet in the auditorium for a brief welcoming message by the principal.He’ll also introduce the teachers you might have, including the two of us, but before you go inside, check the bulletin board in the hallway for your class schedule.He’ll tell the others to do the same thing when they leave, but this will keep you from getting caught up in that mob.”
“Thanks.That will help out a lot,” the boys confirmed.
I was the only one at the house until they returned home later, and I was a little lonely.Oh, the puppies kept me company for a while, at least until I went to the hospital to spend some time with TJ.I said hello to the nurses on my way in, and then I went to wash up before going in to see TJ.
I looked over the books that Trey kept there and chose what I wanted to read.I was amazed at the number of books Trey had brought here – he must have taken most of the age-appropriate volumes that we kept in the play room.I’m not sure if he brought them all in when they had to use the UV light on each of the pages, or if he’d brought others in later, after TJ was doing better and that was no longer necessary. No matter which way it happened, there was definitely a broad selection for me to choose from.
After I selected the books to read, I took them in with me and placed them between the arm of the rocking chair and my side.I then waited for the nurse to take TJ out of the incubator and hand him to me.I cradled him in my arm and sung to him first, starting with the Itsy-Bitsy Spider, and I followed it up with You Are My Sunshine.I know that one isn’t exactly a children’s song, but it expressed my feelings about him.
I had chosen the books carefully and started out with Bambi.I even tried to mimic the voices of the different animals from the Disney film, but I don’t think I was very successful.I followed that up with The Princess and the Frog and right on cue, TJ fell asleep about halfway through that story.Eventually, the nurse returned and took TJ from me so she could place him back in the incubator and change his diaper as I was leaving.
When Dion, Trey, and the boys returned home later, they told the boys to change and do their homework first, if they had any, and then they came to speak with me.
“We’re going to the hospital to be with TJ and we’ll return in time to have dinner with the rest of you.How did it go in this morning?”
“It went well.I enjoyed being with TJ, and I think he enjoyed it as well.”
They seemed pleased and then they took off.Although I was hoping to go to the hospital with them, I knew they wanted to spend as much alone time with TJ as possible before they left for the weekend.I understood how they felt and didn’t interfere.I couldn’t have gone with them anyway – someone had to stay at the house with the other boys and fix dinner.
Once Dion and Trey had gone, I went to check on the boys and made sure they were doing what they were told. I also asked them how their first day went.
“It was ok,” said Wyatt, “but there are some different kids in my class this year.”
“Yes, the teachers like to mix up the class lists and break up the groups that spend too much time fooling around with each other.”
“Yeah, but it kinda sucks, cuz those were my friends.”
“Then don’t goof around as much this year, so you don’t get separated from your new friends next year.How about you, Xander?How was your first day?”
“It was good.I like my teacher and I made friends with a boy in my class.”
“That’s great and I’m glad you got off to a good start.”
“Me and Tristan are in some of the same classes this year,” Revin told me, “but not all of them.”
“What do you mean?” asked Xander.“How can you be in some classes with him and not others?”
“That’s because in the middle school you have a different teacher for every subject and move from room to room,” I explained.
“Oh, I didn’t know that.”
“Yeah, and last year we didn’t see each other very much, so this year will be waaay better,” Tristan added.
“That’s good, as long as you don’t fool around, talk too much, or get into trouble,” I warned.
“We won’t,” they both agreed.
“This year’s not that much different than last year for us,” Benny told me, “except now we’re the youngest ones at the school.Last year we were the oldest, and that was a lot better.”
“And nearly all of the older boys are bigger than us, so that kinda sucks too,” Joshie added.“They were callin’ us the baby class.”
“Yes, that happens when you graduate from one school and go to the next.It happened when you left the elementary school and moved to the middle school, and now it’s happening again as you move up to the high school.You’ll get through it, though, and in a couple of years you’ll be at the top of the food chain again.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” they agreed.
I then went to fix dinner, and only stopped to chat briefly with Becky when she stopped to pick up Revin.I had the meal ready by the time the others arrived home, but the table seemed slightly empty, since Ryan, Holly, and Noah weren’t here with us.During the meal, Dion, Trey, Brandon, and Danny asked their sons about how their first day went, and the boys told them the same things they’d told me.The boys then asked Dion and Trey how TJ was doing, and they told them TJ was doing great and things were looking up for him to come home soon.
“In fact,” Danny added, “I’m scheduled to go to the hospital tomorrow after lunch so I can examine him.I should be able to let you know tomorrow evening when he might be able to come home.”
“That’s great!” we all enthused.
When we finished eating, we went to the family room to watch TV together.We did that until their fathers sent the younger boys upstairs to get ready for bed, and once their dads tucked them in, they sent the older pair up to do the same.
The next morning, Danny and Brandon left for work before the others left the house, and then Dion and Trey dropped all of the boys off at the various schools.I was told Dion and Trey were nervous wrecks all day long, as they waited to hear from Danny about TJ.They were even hoping the nurses might be able to give them a hint when they went in to see him, but the nurses claimed they had no idea what Danny had decided.
As soon as Danny walked through the door that evening, everyone surrounded him and wanted to know what he’d decided.
“TJ is doing very well, but he still hasn’t hit the five-pound (2.27 kg) mark yet.I agree with his previous pediatrician that it’s an essential goal, especially living in this house with all of the potential germs these boys might bring home from school.He’ll also need to weigh at least that much or more to withstand the mauling he might get as they handle him, so you’re going to have to wait at least another week.”
I could tell everyone was disappointed, but they all seemed to take it in stride.
“Ok, you’re the doctor so we’ll do whatever you say,” Dion stated first.
“Yeah, what’s another week or two,” Trey followed.“Our primary concern is that he’s safe and healthy.”
The boys concurred as well, so it was unanimous.We all agreed that Danny knows best, so we’ll follow his advice.
The next three days went about the same.I spent the mornings with TJ, and then his dads went in to be with him after school, including on Friday afternoon.After Dion and Trey brought the boys home from school that day, they left the SUV and drove their car to the hospital, as usual.
As soon as they had gone, Joshie and Benny took our flex hose outside, hooked it up to the spigot, and washed the SUV for their dads.They also used the car vac that hooks up to the car’s lighter and cleaned the inside as well, and then they loaded the suitcases into the back before their dads returned home.
“Why can’t we go with you?” Wyatt asked his dads while we were eating dinner.
“Dion and Brandon went with you boys to Texas, while Danny and I stayed here,” Trey explained.“Since we weren’t with them during that time, we wanted to spend some time alone with our husbands as well, so we planned this trip.You boys will be staying here with your grandfathers and they’ll keep an eye on you for us while we’re gone.”
“Oh, ok,” he muttered, but it was obvious he wasn’t happy.
“And we’d like to thank Joshie and Benny for washing the SUV for us,” Dion said.“It looked really good when we pulled in after coming home from the hospital.”
“Yes, you did a great job!” added Brandon.
Joshie and Benny seemed to sit up a little straighter after they heard those comments and their chests swelled out a little more.Then, as soon as they finished eating, Danny, Brandon, Dion, and Trey all hugged their sons and said goodbye before going out and getting in the SUV.We followed them outside and waved as they drove away.
Jake and I stayed outdoors and played bean bag toss and lawn darts with the younger boys until it got dark, and Joshie and Benny played with Dobbie and Flash so they didn’t interfere with our games.We let the younger boys stay up a little longer before we sent them upstairs to shower and get ready for bed, and when they finished, Jake and I went up to tuck them in and say goodnight.
“You don’t usually come up here,” Hunter said.
“No, we usually leave the upstairs to you and your fathers, but since they’re not here we came up to tuck you in and say goodnight.”
“Thank you,” the boys all said in unison.
The next morning, I got up and made breakfast for everyone, and then I left Jake to watch them as I went to the hospital to spend time with TJ.I sang I’m a Little Teapot to him first, and then I followed that up with BINGO, and TJ kept his eyes on me and smiled the entire time.
Once I finished singing, I read Sleeping Beauty to him, and when I finished, I read The Emperor’s New Clothes.TJ was asleep before I finished and the nurse came over to take him from me.Before I left, I told her that I’d be back after lunch.
When I returned home, I got ready to make lunch for all of us, but Joshie and Benny approached me first.“Our dads said we had to start learnin’ how to cook, so will you teach us too?” Benny asked.
“Sure, but I was only planning on having hot dogs and macaroni and cheese today.I figured each of you could either have a fruit cup or applesauce to go with it.”
“Yeah, that’s ok,” Joshie concurred, “but we’d still like to do this.”
I took out a large pan, had them fill it halfway with water, and place it on the burner to boil.We put the hot dogs in it as soon as it was ready, and while we waited, I got out a couple packages of Velveeta macaroni and cheese and walked them through the steps to make it.
“I’m only using this because I’m in a hurry and want to get back to the hospital to spend more time with TJ.I’ll teach you how to make the macaroni and cheese from scratch another time.”
They were both satisfied with that, and once everything was ready, we called the others to the table.As we were eating, I asked the boys what they had done during the morning.
“We just went out and played in the tree house,” Hunter responded, answering for himself and the other younger boys.
“Me and Benny did some of the laundry,” Joshie answered, “and we’re willing to help you with dinner later too.”
“You mean, ‘Benny and I’ – not ‘me and Benny’,” I corrected.
“Yeah, ok, and we’ll probably have spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, and a salad tonight, so it won’t be too difficult.”
As soon as we finished eating, Jake urged me to go back to the hospital again and said he’d have the boys help him clean up the kitchen and dining room.I didn’t have a problem with that and took off.
When I got to the hospital, I went through the same routine as earlier and selected two different books before going in and sitting in the rocking chair.As soon as the nurse handed TJ to me, I sang Old McDonald Had a Farm, and TJ smiled and seemed to laugh as I made the animal sounds.I followed that up with The Wheels on the Bus, and TJ seemed to like that one as well, because his arms and legs were flopping about as I sang.
When I finished, I pulled out the first book, Lady and the Tramp, and read it.I followed that up with The Three Little Pigs, and I was a little surprised that TJ didn’t fall asleep this time until after I’d finished reading.His eyes appeared to be getting heavy, but he fought off closing them, so when I stopped reading, I lifted him against my chest, rubbed his back, and rocked him.It only took a few minutes until he fell asleep, and then the nurse came over and asked if I wanted her to take him.I told her I did, and then I went home to fix dinner.
I had Joshie and Benny help out with every step, including making the meatballs to put in the sauce.I had taken out a package of ground beef earlier so it would be thawed by the time I was ready to do this, and now I grabbed it from the counter.
“I think Ryan used frozen meatballs and just heated them up when he made spaghetti,” Joshie pointed out.
“That’s ok too, but you should also know how to make them from scratch.We’ll put them in the oven to bake after we’ve made enough for all of us, and then you can add them to the sauce.”
When everything was ready, we called Jake and the younger boys to the table to eat.During the meal, the boys asked me questions about TJ.
“Are you doing the same things with him that our dads do?” Wyatt wanted to know.
“Pretty much, because I sing him a couple of songs first, and then I read him two stories.The only difference is that I’m doing all of those things, where your daddy does the singing and your poppy reads the stories.”
“Does TJ like it when you do those things with him?” Xander asked.
“I think so.He smiles a lot and didn’t fall asleep this afternoon until after I finished the second story.”
“Do you think that means he likes you doin’ it better than our dads?” Joshie asked.
“No, I just think it means that he’s getting older and can stay awake longer.”I was trying to be diplomatic when answering this question, because I didn’t want the boys turning this into a competition between Dion, Trey, and me.
“So, do you think it means he’ll be coming home soon?” Hayden followed.
“Danny just wants him to gain a little more weight first and I believe that shouldn’t take too much longer.”
When we finished the meal, the boys went off to do whatever they wanted, and Jake and I had a chance to sit down and talk.
“Are you going to church in the morning?” Jake asked.
“I really want to do like Dion and Trey and go in to see TJ both before and after lunch, if you think you can handle the boys at church.”
“I’ll be picking up Becky and I think the two of us can handle things.”
“Thanks, I appreciate that and I’ll meet you guys at the diner for brunch.”
The next morning, before I left for the hospital, I helped Jake make sure the boys were ready for church first.Danny and Brandon had left us the key to their SUV, so Jake grabbed it and they all loaded into it to head to church, while I drove the car to the hospital.
When I arrived there, I went through the same routine I typically followed upon entering.After washing up, I selected two more books on my way in, but I sang to him first.This time I started out with Are You Sleeping, Brother John, which some of you might know better as Frere Jacques, and then I followed it up with When You Wish Upon a Star.I’d selected that song because one of the books I’d chosen was Pinocchio, and Jiminy Cricket sang that song in the movie.
After I read Pinocchio to him, I followed it up with Jack and the Beanstalk, and once again TJ stayed awake the entire time, although just barely.I wasn’t certain if it was because the stories I’d chosen were more exciting or because of the way I read them, but I’d have to inform Trey that TJ was staying awake the entire time.
I left after the nurse took him from me, and then I went to meet everyone at the diner for brunch.Since I didn’t have to fix a meal, I got a chance to chat with Becky and Jake, and they told me the boys were very good at church.Becky also told me that Revin seemed happy that he was in more classes with Tristan this year, which I already knew, but she seemed to feel good about it.
When I went to the hospital in the afternoon, I sang Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to him first, and then I sang the Alphabet Song.I guess it’s never too early for him to start learning it.I followed that up by reading Beauty and the Beast, and concluded with a book based on the Disney cartoon Robin Hood.Once again, TJ didn’t fall asleep during the second story, so I rocked him and rubbed his back until he fell asleep, and then the nurse took him from me so I could leave.
I picked up a couple of pizzas on the way home for dinner, and then we each had a salad with it, because I had a lot to do in order to be ready for the cookout on Monday.As soon as we finished eating, I taught Benny and Joshie how to make the potato and macaroni salads. After those were completed, I fixed a casserole dish of Grandma Brown’s baked beans with a little butter and brown sugar so I could heat them up quickly after returning from the hospital in the morning.I also had the boys help me make some homemade biscuits, but I wouldn’t tell them what those were for, and once everything was completed, we cleaned up and went to bed.
In the morning, I made breakfast for everyone before I left for the hospital, and when I got there I told the nurses that I wouldn’t be back in the afternoon, because we were having a cookout at the house.
“It’s a holiday and you need to unwind too, so don’t worry.You’ve more than done you duty this weekend and we’ll take care of TJ for the rest of the day.”
On the way in to see TJ, I realized that nearly all of the books were in the ‘read’ pile, but I dug through it until I found two stories I hadn’t read.I had to sing some of the songs over again, though, because I’d depleted my repertoire.I then read Dumbo to TJ, and I followed it up with The Aristocats, and since TJ was so attentive, I not only showed him the pictures, but I pointed things out to him as well.He seemed to like that, because his eyes seemed fixated on the pages and he smiled the entire time.Before I left, I kissed him on the forehead prior to turning him over to the nurse.
“I’ll be back to see you again tomorrow and your daddies will be here in the afternoon,” I told him, “but I won’t be coming back today.I feel bad about that, and I can’t wait until they’re able to bring you home with them, because then we’ll be spending lots of time together.I love you and don’t give the nurses any trouble.”
I’d just barely arrived at the house when the others started showing up for the cookout, but it was only those who lived close by.Besides Sally and the Shays, Dustin and Katie joined us, along with Cole and Beth, Kevin and Vinnie, Jesse, and Richard.I heated up the baked beans in the oven while Jake began loading up the grill, and then I had Benny and Joshie help me carry everything out to the picnic tables, along with the cooler of drinks.
We chatted with the others while we were eating and several people asked where Brandon, Danny, Dion, and Trey were, so I ended up repeating that story multiple times.They also asked about TJ and how he was doing, and I told them he’d probably be home by the next time we got together.
After that, Uncle Steve went over to corner Jesse.“I haven’t seen you around much lately.What have you been up to?”
“I live in an apartment with a couple of my friends and usually spend time doing stuff with them.They both went home to spend time with their parents, so I decided to come here.I knew Dad would be having a cookout today and it sounded good to me.”
“Are you still working at the HealthCenter?”
“Yes, I like my job as a radiologist and love working at the HealthCenter.Everyone is so nice.I even let Noah help out the past couple of summers.”
“So, is he going to do the same thing you’re doing?”
“No, he wants to do research.He’s majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology, but he thought seeing how the machines worked would help him later.”
“Ah, I see.Do you like living with your friends?”
“Most of the time, but sometimes we get on each other’s nerves and argue a bit.We’ve never really had a physical fight, though.”
“That’s good, and that happens when you live closely with others.Being confined in the same tight quarters can cause problems.”
“Yeah, I know that from living here, but it never got as bad.”
“I’m sure your dad stepped in before that happened.”
“Yeah, I guess he did.”
After everyone had finished eating, I had Benny and Joshie help me carry the food, back into the house, and this time Katie and Beth offered to help.
“You two should be taking it easy.We can handle this,” I told them.
“We’re only a few months pregnant and not disabled,” Beth shot back.
“Yes, we still do things at home,” Katie added, “and we can help you out as well.”
They’d already let me know they were serious about this, so I didn’t argue with them, and then we went back outside to chat and relax for a while.When I thought everyone’s meal had settled, I asked Benny and Joshie to join me again and took them inside to help prepare dessert.I went to the rec room and took out a big pot of strawberries from the refrigerator in that room and carried it to the kitchen, and I also had Benny and Joshie carry in several cans of whipped cream.When we got to the kitchen, they asked what was in the pot, since I hadn’t let them peek inside.
“I emptied several containers of frozen strawberries in here earlier and let them thaw out, and now I’m going to prepare them so we can have strawberry shortcake.”
I then had the boys take the biscuits we’d made the night before, and I showed them how to slice them in half.I then took one and placed the bottom half on a small plate and showed them what to do next.I added some of the strawberries on that half and then added a little whipped cream on top of it.Once that was completed, I placed the other half of the biscuit over that, added more strawberries, and another dab of whipped cream.
Now that they knew what to do, we started making more together.We then placed those plates on a cookie sheet and started working on the next one.We continued this process until there was enough for everyone, spread out over three cookie sheets, and then we carried the cookie sheets outside.
“I hope you’re ready for dessert,” I announced as we set the trays on the picnic tables.
“Oh, that looks delicious,” Sally said.
“I’ve been thinking about making this for Steve and me, but I just haven’t got around to it yet,” Mary added.
“There’s plenty here, so come and help yourself.Joshie and Benny will hand one to each of the younger boys, so they need to line up in front of them.”
I did this so the younger boys didn’t make a mess of the other ones on the cookie sheets when they were getting one for themselves.Once everyone had a plate, I grabbed the last one for myself and sat down to enjoy it.
“This is delicious,” Katie said with a grin.
“And it’s a nice way to end the meal and this wonderful day,” Beth agreed.
“I couldn’t have done it any better,” Mary added, “so thank you very much.”
“You’re more than welcome.”
“We’d offer to have a cookout at our place next time, but we just don’t have enough room,” Dustin stated.
“I know, and this place is probably the only one that is large enough to accommodate this crowd, as well as the larger gatherings that we often have here,” I agreed.“It’s not a problem because we love to do this and enjoy having all of our loved ones join us.”
We were still chatting with our guests when the other SUV pulled up and parked across the street.Dion, Trey, Danny, and Brandon then got out and carried their suitcases into the house before they came over to join us.
“I’m glad we caught all of you before you left,” Danny said as he walked up and began greeting the others.
Brandon, Trey, and Dion did the same, but they stopped when I asked them a question.“Have you eaten?”
“Yes, we stopped on the way back,” Trey answered.
“Would you like dessert?I’m sure we have enough left to make each of you a strawberry shortcake as well.”
“Yes, that sounds good,” they all agreed.
“We’ll get it for them,” Joshie and Benny offered, so I stayed outside with everyone else.
“How was your trip?” Steve followed.
“It was wonderful, and the place was fantastic,” Brandon responded.“The room was incredible, the food delicious, and we all had a really nice time.”
“Where did you go again?” Mary asked.
“To Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.It’s southeast of Pittsburgh.”
“Did you guys ever leave your rooms, except to eat?” Jake teased.
“Yes!We all went to the spa and got a massage after breakfast on Saturday, and then we drove to Fallingwater after lunch,” Dion replied.“That’s Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous house and it was only 22 minutes from the resort.”
“I’ve always wanted to see that place,” Steve commented.
“It’s incredible,” Dion confirmed.
“And on Sunday we went to OhiopyleState Park and checked it out,” Trey added.“We took a nice leisurely stroll around the grounds and it was a very relaxing day.”
“And this morning we went for a swim between breakfast and lunch, and then we left shortly after that,” Danny continued.
“The restaurant we had dinner at on Saturday night was rated Five-Star by Forbes Travel Guide and Five-Diamond by ‘Triple A’,” Brandon announced.
“That must have cost a pretty penny,” Jake commented.
“It was all part of the package,” Trey countered.
“Lautrec was the name of the restaurant we just told you about, and last night we ate at Rockwell’s,” Danny continued.“That place served excellent cuts of beef, wild game, and fish.”
“And we had breakfast each morning at Aqueous, which is a Frank Lloyd Wright inspired restaurant,” Dion stated.
“And we ate lunch at LafayetteGarden, which offered all kinds of barbecue dishes, or Barattolo, which is an Italian restaurant.”
“And a couple of times we stopped at PJ’s for dessert,” Brandon offered.“That’s a 1950s style ice cream parlor.”
“It sounds like you had a great time,” I agreed.
“We did, and everything was wonderful,” they all concurred.
“That doesn’t sound like much fun to me,” Wyatt challenged, “’cept for the ice cream.”
“And that’s exactly why we didn’t take you,” Dion shot back.“The weekend was just for adults.”
Now that everyone heard about their weekend away, the others began to announce that it was time for them to go home.
“Thanks for the wonderful time, Josh, Jake, and everyone else,” Mary said as she got up, “but I’m getting old and it’s almost my bedtime.”
“Mine too,” Sally concurred.“The food was delicious and the company wonderful, but it’s time for me to leave.”
“We understand,” I stated.
Over the next hour, all of the others left as well, and each of them thanked us for the wonderful day before they took off.Even the boys seemed to have a good time.
Once the others had gone, we went into the house and Benny and Joshie told their dads about all the various meals they’d helped me prepare.
“Wow, it sounds like your grandfather taught you a lot while we were away,” Trey responded.
“Yeah, he did,” they both agreed.
“And I hope you remember everything he taught you and that you thanked him for doing it,” Brandon added.
“We did,” they replied, and then they thanked me again.
“How was TJ when you were with him?” Dion asked next.
“We had a good time together, and starting on Saturday afternoon, he stopped falling asleep during the second story,” I commented, and Trey looked surprised.“He seemed to be fighting it each time, but he didn’t fall asleep until after I finished, and then he dozed off as I rocked him and rubbed his back.”
“Damn, you must be as intriguing a storyteller as Scheherazade,” Trey quipped.“She told the king stories for 1001 nights so he wouldn’t kill her.”
“I know, but I never threatened to do that to TJ.We just had a good time together.”
“It sounds that way, and now I know he’ll be happy with you while we’re at work,” Dion stated.
“I certainly hope so,” I agreed.
It was getting late, so their fathers sent the younger boys upstairs to get ready for bed, since they had school in the morning, and then they went up to say goodnight and tuck them in.The other two stayed up a little longer, and then they and their fathers decided to turn in shortly after that.Jake and I did the same thing, because it had been a very busy, yet wonderful weekend.