When Brandon and I arrived home on Monday, Dad came over to tell me something. “You received another package and I put it in your bedroom.”
“Thank you. Do you know where Ryan is?”
“I believe he’s up in his room doing his homework.”
“Great. After I check in with the other boys I’ll go up and see if he’s ready to take a break. If he is, I’ll open the box so we can see what’s inside at the same time.”
When I went to say hello to the other boys, I also asked if they had any homework and urged them to get it done as early as possible. Then, I headed up to the third floor to see Ryan.
“Hey, are you busy?”
“Kinda. I have to read this chapter before tomorrow.”
“Is that your only homework?”
“Yeah, I finished the other assignments already.”
“Then if you feel up to it and think you can stop for a short time, our other package arrived today. If you can spare the time, come down to my room and check it out, and then you can come back up here to finish reading afterward.”
“Yeah, that sounds great,” he said as he leaped off his bed.
We walked down to my bedroom and opened the box together. I then pulled out each item, one at a time, so we could inspect it together.
“Damn, every one looks as good as the first one, and some look even better,” Ryan stated after viewing each of the masks.
“I agree, and they’re all worth what we paid for them. Let’s check out the animated devices now.”
After checked each one out, Ryan looked at me and spoke. “They all look fantastic and this is gonna be great. Can we show this stuff to my friends when they’re here on Saturday?”
“Yes, of course. Before they arrive I want you to carry the package you’re keeping in your room down to the rec room and I’ll bring this box down as well. The other boys know they’re not allowed back there, so I’m not afraid of leaving these things down there after we show them to your friends.”
“Fantastic and I can’t wait to see the looks on their faces when they see all this stuff.”
“I agree and it will be a good test on how the other kids will react to these items too. Even though your friends won’t be seeing them for the first time, since we showed them the photos already, and they won’t be seeing them under the same scary conditions, it will still give us a good indication.”
Once that had been cleared up, I put the box in my closet before I changed, and then I went downstairs to tell Brandon about it. He had changed while I’d been chatting with Dad and Ryan and I wanted to fill him in about everything so he’d know what was going on. He, Trey, Dad, and Pop had said they didn’t want to see any of these things in advance, but it didn’t mean they wanted to be kept totally in the dark. They merely wanted to experience them for themselves when they walked through the Haunted House with the younger boys on the practice run.
The remainder of the evening, as well as the following couple of days, went smoothly as we prepared for the next event on our calendar. It happened on Thursday, Hayden and Hunter’s actual birthday, and as we’d done with Wyatt and Tristan, we wished them a happy birthday at breakfast and then had our family party for them after dinner. Their cake had the two ‘eight’ candles on top from the joint party, and once again they made a wish before each boy blew out one of the candles. After we had the cake and ice cream we gave them their gifts, and Brandon got a beautiful snapshot of their reactions when they opened the package from us.
“You bought us both a laptop?” Hunter squealed in amazement, while his brother was stunned into silence.
“Yes. It’s not as good as the one we gave Holly, because she needed a much better computer for college, but it’s more than adequate for you to become proficient and to help with your schoolwork.”
Suddenly, all of the other gifts they’d opened and had been so excited about only moments before were temporarily forgotten as they asked me to show them how to connect it to our Wi-Fi.
“I’ve already taken care of that, so all you have to do is turn it on and you’ll be connected.”
They were a little more capable on it than I’d expected, and then they explained that they’d taken a computer class at their old school and they had also been working with Tristan when he used his laptop. Between the two, they’d learned enough to be able to use a browser and search the web. After I discovered this, I told them I would teach them how to use OpenOffice so they could write reports and do other things with it. I’d already downloaded it on both of their laptops, along with a few other apps that I felt might come in handy. I chose Apache OpenOffice for them to use instead of MS Word because OpenOffice was free.
We allowed them to continue playing with their laptops until it was time to get ready to shower, and then Brandon and I helped them carry the other gifts up to their bedroom. Brandon and I then went downstairs again until they’d finished washing up and were ready for bed, and then we returned to read the next chapter of Dragonsinger to them. After we finished we tucked them in, kissed them on the forehead, and bid them goodnight, and then we wished the twins happy birthday one final time.
Friday was the lull between the storms, or in this case the interim between the birthday parties and the next meeting about the Haunted House. We used that time to our advantage, and after dinner we went in to watch a movie with the boys. While searching through the listings I discovered that How to Train Your Dragon was on, and since we’d been reading Dragonsong and Dragonsinger to the younger group, we decided to watch it. Even Ryan, Benny, and Joshie agreed to stay and watch it with us, and it was a nice, relaxing way to spend the evening.
When the movie ended, we sent the younger group upstairs to get ready for bed, and while they were in the shower Ryan and I carried the boxes with our Haunted House materials down to the rec room. I went upstairs again in time to read the next chapter to the boys before they went to sleep.
I asked Ryan to join me when I met up with the other adults after I finished up with the younger boys, and we used the time to discuss the pizza party. First, we asked Ryan what toppings his friends might prefer on the pizza, and after Dad told him about the salads he was going to prepare, we asked how many slices we should plan on for each of his friends. Once we had that information, we determined exactly how many pizzas we’d need to order and wrote it down so Dad could call the order in as soon as our favorite pizza shop opened the next day. Besides telling them how many pizzas we needed and what toppings to put on each one, he would also tell them that we would pick it all up at 5:45, so we could eat at 6:00.
While Brandon and I were at work on Saturday, Dion and Trey picked up the drinks, and shortly after we got home and had eaten lunch with the family, I met with the boys helping with the Haunted House. One of Ryan’s friends had driven today, and when he showed up he had multiple corn stalks in the backseat of his car so we could use those as well. We decided to connect a bundle of the corn stalks to either end of the picnic table, and then he came up with another idea about what we could put in between them.
As we walked around the area, the boys said they wanted to use the cemetery with the tombstones of the mass murderers again. They also wanted to use the short suspension bridge that Dad had put together, along with the ghosts that floated down the guide wire that ran from the family room roof to the old apple tree. Those, however, were the only previous items they wanted to reuse outside.
Now that we’d reached an agreement, I led them to the basement to retrieve the materials we needed for those attractions, and then we took everything outdoors to clean and repair them. At the same time, another group was busy building a new prop that we’d need, and I walked around supervising the work. By the time we finished getting all of this done it was nearly time for dinner, so we carried all of the items into the rec room and stored them there for now. Once that had been taken care of, I had Ryan, Benny, and Joshie show the other boys where they could wash up, because they had all worked up a sweat and managed to get more than a little dirty.
When they met up with me again a little while later, we told them about the various pizzas, the different salads, and what was in the coolers for them to drink. We also explained that we had set up the banquet table in the foyer for them to use, and then we let them fill their plates and begin to chow down.
I’d warned them not to talk about what we’d been working on, since I didn’t want the younger boys to know what to expect when they went through the Haunted House. With that in mind, they chatted about a variety of other topics as they ate.
As soon as everyone had their fill, we all gathered around the dining room table as Brandon lit the ‘one’ and ‘seven’ candles on the sheet cake, and then we all sang Happy Birthday to Ryan. His friends gave the song a loud and humorous twist as they called him ‘Ryan baby’, and then he made a wish and blew out the candles. Brandon let him make the first cut on the cake, and then he finished slicing it and put a piece on a plate before I added the ice cream.
Once we finished, Brandon and I gave those needing a lift a ride home, and I took my group in the SUV while Brandon used the car. When we returned home after we’d dropped them off, we spent a little time with the other boys before sending them upstairs to get ready for bed.
After we read to them and tucked them in, we met with the other adults and thanked them for their help with Ryan’s party. “Hey, we do whatever is needed for the boys,” Pop stated, and then the others chimed in their agreement.
“I know, but we couldn’t have pulled this off without you. However, we now have something else to discuss with you”
Although we were hoping for a little break from the constant planning, we weren’t that fortunate. The following weekend was Parents and Family Weekend at Penn State and we had promised Noah that we’d attend so we could spend some time with him.
“We’ve already talked to Ryan about whether he wants to go with us next weekend when Brandon and I head to Penn State to see Noah, but he said he prefers to stay here and work on the Haunted House. I don’t really want to take the younger boys either, because they’ve already been to Penn State once, so would you guys mind watching them for us?”
“Of course not,” Dion answered without hesitation. “You’ve watched our sons and taken them with you on trips, so we’ll be happy to do this for you. I’ll even work with Ryan and his friends on the Haunted House to make sure no one gets injured while putting the props together.”
“And the rest of us will help too,” Pop added.
“Thank you. We really appreciate this.”
“Don’t tell me you had doubts that we’d do this for you?” Dad followed.
“Not really, but I didn’t want to take you guys for granted either.”
“You’re not and we’re happy to help out,” Trey added.
“And we’ll even drive the other boys home if they need a ride,” Pop confirmed.
“And I’ll take the twins to visit their mother while you’re gone,” Dad offered. “Working together like this is what makes this place go,”
“You guys are terrific,” Brandon stated for both of us.
We chatted a little while longer before turning in, because we’d be attending church in the morning. Damn, the weeks are flying by.
Unfortunately, we got off to a rocky start after we woke up the next morning. When Brandon went to the twins’ room to wake those three up, Wyatt announced that he wasn’t feeling well, so Brandon had me take a look at him while he went to inform Dion and Trey. They came into the room just as I was finishing up my examination of Wyatt.
“Is he ok?” Trey asked.
“He has a slight fever and a sore throat. It appears he has tonsillitis.”
“What should we do for him?” he demanded.
“Have him gargle with warm salt water first, and then give him a children’s Tylenol. Also have him use his own bedroom for a few days, because this can be contagious. He’ll also have to stay home from church and he’ll probably miss a few days of school, but he should be fine in three to four days. I’ll keep an eye on him, just to be sure.”
“Thanks, and I’ll stay home with him today,” Trey announced.
“Ok and I’ll have Brandon change the bedding in this room while I check on Hayden and Hunter to see if they show any signs of having this as well.”
“I hope they didn’t catch it from Wyatt.”
“If they did it’s not a big deal and I’ll just have three patients instead of one.”
Neither of the twins showed any symptoms, but I’d keep an eye on them just the same. Brandon had changed the bedding on the bunk beds, and then we all had to hurry to get ready for church so we wouldn’t be late.
When we picked up Becky she immediately wanted to know where Wyatt was, because he generally rode with us. “He’s a little under the weather this morning so Trey stayed home to take care of him.”
That seemed to suffice, and as we were walking to our Sunday school class I mentioned something else. “Brandon and I won’t be around next weekend, because we’re leaving for Penn State as soon as we get out of work on Friday. It’s Parents Weekend.”
“It’s also Tristan’s weekend to stay with us, so would you mind if I pick him up on Friday and keep him both nights?”
“No, that would be fine. I’ll just let the others know, because they offered to watch the boys for us while we were gone. I’ll leave the SUV at home for Dad to use, so he’ll probably be the one picking you up next Sunday.”
“How are you getting to Penn State then?”
“We’ll just take the car.”
“Oh, that’s right. I keep forgetting you have a car too.”
We then sat through our Sunday school class, followed by the church service. While we were at the diner I suddenly thought of something I needed to mention to Dion. “On your way home you might want to stop and pick up some popsicles for Wyatt. It will help soothe his throat.”
“Great idea and I’ll buy enough for the other boys too, because I’m sure they’ll want one at the same time.”
“Yes, you’re probably right.”
While we were waiting for our meals, we also told Tristan and the other adults that Becky was going to take him on both Friday and Saturday nights. No one had a problem with this, so we merely chowed down when the food came and then headed home.
After dropping off Becky and Revin, I took the rest of my group to the house, and then I had Hayden and Hunter hop in the car so I could take them to visit their mother. Almost as soon as we walked in the room, they began telling her about both of their birthday parties.
“We had our birthday party with Wyatt and we got to be wizards,” Hunter told her after giving her a hug and kiss.
“Yeah, we each got a wand, badge, robe, and Harry Potter glasses,” Hayden added.
“And we played a game with the wands against our friends,” Hunter followed.
“I hope… you didn’t… run with… the wands.”
“No, they used them to cast spells in a game we devised that was similar to playing rock, paper, scissors,” I informed her before showing her the video Brandon had taken. Once she saw it, I also showed it to Alice.
“I bet… that was… fun,” Julie stated as she smiled knowingly at her sons.
“Yeah, it was,” both twins confirmed.
“And we had another party on our real birthday too,” Hayden added, “and our dads gave both of us a laptop.”
“Oh, my… they gave… Holly one… of those… too.”
“Yes, but the twins’ laptops aren’t as high-end as the one we gave Holly,” I explained. “She needed a little better one for college.”
“I see… but it’s… still nice… that you… did this… for them.”
“And they’re having a Haunted House for Halloween,” Hunter told her next.
“And we get to go through it too,” Hayden followed with a big grin.
“I’ve heard… about that… before… and I’m sure… it’s scary.”
“Yeah, Wyatt said that too, and he said we’ll like it,” Hunter replied.
Once those topics had been discussed, we were planning on taking them out for a walk, but we looked out the window and noticed that it had started to rain. Since I didn’t want them to get wet and possibly become ill, we took them to the lounge and played rummy with them for the next hour instead.
“That was… fun,” Julie told us as we were getting ready to leave.
“Yeah, we liked doin’ it too,” Hayden agreed.
“Then we’ll have to do it again on one of our future visits, seeing it will soon be winter and most likely it will be too cold to take you outside.”
“Yes, we’d like that,” Alice confirmed.
After we took the women back to their room, the boys hugged and kissed both of them before we left. “By the way, my dad will be bringing them next week, because Brandon and I will be visiting Penn State with one of our older sons.”
“It’s nice… that he’ll… do it… for you.”
“Yes, we cover for each other when things come up like this.”
After we left their room, the boys and I raced out to the car since it was raining a little harder now, and when we reached the house we made a mad dash to get inside. After drying off quickly, I went up to check on Wyatt to see how he was doing.
“How are you feeling?” I asked when I entered his room.
“The popsicles are making my throat feel better,” he responded, although his voice was slightly raspy.
“That’s a good sign.”
Wyatt then let me know that he didn’t want to stay in his room, but I didn’t want him to pass this on to the others. Therefore, I instructed him that he should remain in bed and rest, and then I gave him my iPad to use so he could watch TV on it. That seemed to placate him so I left. Trey, on the other hand, didn’t want to leave Wyatt’s side and had apparently made himself comfortable while we were at church. From what I learned later, he’d only left long enough to use the toilet and Dion brought him something to eat when he gave Wyatt a popsicle, however that all changed at dinnertime.
When Dion took Wyatt’s dinner to him, a bowl of chicken noodle soup and another bowl with Jell-O, he offered to stay with Wyatt. He told Trey that if he wanted to eat he should go downstairs and join the rest of us. Reluctantly, Trey did what Dion suggested, and when he returned to Wyatt’s room later he was carrying another popsicle for Wyatt.
When it was time to read to the boys at bedtime, I sat in a chair in the hallway and read loudly enough to be heard in both rooms. It was sufficient to keep all of them happy without exposing anyone else to what Wyatt had or making him miss out on anything.
When we went downstairs afterward, Dad told Dion and Trey that he’d take care of Wyatt the next day so neither of them would have to take a day off from work. We could tell Trey didn’t really want to leave Wyatt, but he finally agreed, and we eventually turned in to get some rest. It had been an interesting day.