Monday night after dinner, I met with Benny, Joshie, and Ryan in the rec room. “As you know, we’re here to discuss our plans for this year’s Haunted House. Ryan and I have talked about a few things already, so I’m going to let him explain his ideas.”
Ryan covered the things we’d discussed and showed them the mask and the animated device we’d purchased, as well as the photos of the other items that would be arriving soon. Benny and Joshie were impressed with what we’d done so far, and then I told them about a few of the ideas that I had.
“In addition to covering the windows with black fabric, I’m planning on hanging a large sheet of it down the middle of the rec room to divide it in half. When the kids come in, we’ll have something set up to the left of the door that they’ll see immediately, and then we’ll direct them to go to the right. There will be other animated devices along the wall that they’ll pass as they walk between those items and the curtain.”
“So which stuff will you have there?” Joshie wondered.
“We’ll talk about that later. When the kids get to the end of the curtain, they’ll turn the corner and get their next surprise, because I’m going to put someone wearing the zombie mask in the closet with the door open. That person will also be wearing a plastic collar around his neck and it will be attached to a plastic chain that’s anchored to the wall. When the visitors come around the corner, the zombie will reach out and act as if he’s trying to grab them, but the chain won’t allow him to actually do it, but they’ll have to sneak past his arms in order to get to the next display.”
“So it’s kinda like the Walking Dead?” Benny followed.
“Yes, that’s where I got the idea. And since we’re not going to use the casket with the vampire popping out of it this year, we’re going to set it up on the pool table as a decoy. While the kids are focusing on that and expecting what we’d done in the past, there will be a person under the pool table dressed all in black that will reach out and grab their legs instead.”
“Let’s put the person wearing the shark head mask under there so everyone thinks it’s trying to bite them,” Ryan suggested.
“Great idea, and then once they leave the rec room and start down the hallway to go down to the basement for their treats we’ll have someone jump out of Grandpa Josh’s bedroom. It’s on the opposite side of the hallway from the door to the basement, so they shouldn’t see it coming.”
“That would be a great spot for the Creepy Clown,” Joshie offered.
“It sounds good to me. When the kids come upstairs again we’ll have someone else leap out of the kitchen at them too. We’ll also have someone standing in the archway to the living room as a distraction so they’ll be staring at him when someone else leaps off the landing of the staircase and lands behind them holding an axe. As they’re heading out the door to leave, we’ll have someone else jump out of the family room at them, and then once they’re outside and walking down the sidewalk, we’ll have someone else charge at them off the porch.”
“That sounds really great,” Benny responded, “but how are we going to make sure the kids just getting here don’t see what’s happening to the kids leaving?”
“I’ve thought about that and believe I’ve come up with a solution. Dion and I will park the SUVs and cars in the driveway so they form a single line, basically cutting the driveway in half. I will also make sure the SUVs are pulled up far enough and close enough together that the kids won’t be able to see the others leaving the house. We’ll also have someone stationed at the end of the driveway to direct those arriving to go along the side farthest away from the house as they enter, and then they’ll leave on the side closest to the house. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best we can do.”
After we’d gone over all of those items, the boys helped me cover the windows in the rec room so people couldn’t see inside. Once that had been taken care of, we discussed the best way to hang the black curtain so it wouldn’t bring down the ceiling if someone grabbed ahold or fell into it.
“Could we run a rope across the room and hang it from that?” Benny asked.
I did a quick scan to see if that would be possible. “Yes, I can put a hook into one of the studs on either end of the room, and then we’ll tie a rope to those so we can hang the curtain from it.”
“What else do we have to do until you do that?” Ryan wanted to know.
“We have to move most of the things out of this room so there will be enough space for the people to move about. Fold up the ping pong table and we’ll store it and the air hockey table somewhere else for now.”
“Where?” Benny asked.
“Let’s put them in Holly’s room, but don’t make a mess in there. We’ll have to move some of the other things in there as well, including the storage chest and the contents of the closet. You’ll have to move everything back before she comes home for Thanksgiving, so please be thoughtful and do a good job.”
“What about the pool table?” Joshie asked. “Isn’t that going to be in the way of the curtain?”
“Yes, so I’m going to ask the other adults to help me move it slightly to one side, and we’ll just leave enough room for our visitors to get past it.”
“And make it easier for the shark to grab them,” Ryan pointed out, causing the other two to giggle.
“Yeah, that will work great,” Benny agreed.
I then helped to direct their activities as we did this, and when we were done I had one final thing to tell them. “Ryan’s friends will be here on Saturday to help us iron out some more details, because we haven’t discussed what we’re going to do outdoors or decided who will wear which masks.”
“This sounds great,” Benny said with a great deal of enthusiasm.
“Yeah, this will be the best Haunted House yet,” Joshie added.
“That’s what I told Dad,” Ryan agreed.
“I hope you’re both right, but now I want you to go do your homework and we’ll talk more about this on Saturday.”
Throughout the week I could tell those three were very excited about doing this, and I saw them whispering back and forth on several different occasions. Luckily, they were being very discrete and making sure the other boys didn’t hear what they were saying. They also helped me hook up the rope in the rec room, and now we just had to figure out what we were going to use to hang the fabric from it.
That’s how it went until Saturday. Brandon and I hurried home from work and ate lunch with the others, and Brandon and Trey agreed to keep the other boys occupied while Dion and I met with Ryan’s friends. Dion had offered to give me a hand, and I was eager to explain our plans to him and the others.
When Ryan’s friends arrived, we started outside first and discussed what we might do out there this year. Ryan’s friends had several very good ideas, and before we went inside we had a reasonable plan for what we were going to do as our visitors made their way to the rear door of the rec room. Once we entered the house, I walked them through what we were going to do in there, and then I explained what would happen as our guests exited the rec room and until they left the house.
“It sounds really good,” one of Ryan’s friends stated.
“Now we just have to decide who’s going to wear which masks and where we’re going to use them.”
After showing them the mask we already had and the photos of the others, I attempted to have them reach an agreement about who would wear which masks and what their job would be. It wasn’t easy and didn’t go as well as I’d hope, because some of the boys argued over who was going to wear which mask. I thought one of those heated arguments was going to end up in a fist fight, so I warned everyone that they wouldn’t be able to help if they didn’t settle down. I ended up flipping a coin to decide who would get certain masks, and I had them play rock, paper, scissors when three of them wanted the same mask. Eventually we worked it all out and I made a list of which boy would wear each mask so there wouldn’t be any further arguments about it later.
By the time they were ready to leave, which was nearly three hours after they’d arrived, we had ironed out a great many of the details. Not only had we determined who would wear which mask, but also which of the locations they would be assigned to. All that remained was the hard work of setting up each of the attractions and pulling it all together.
Before Dion and I drove Ryan’s friends home, they agreed to return the following Saturday dressed and ready to work, because we had old props to clean and repair, along with new ones to construct. Dion and I then split up the group and had them get into our SUVs so we could take them home. We thought this would be easier than having their moms and dads pick them up, while at the same time removing the inconvenience of having their parents driving them back and forth. We felt that if we did this then their parents wouldn’t be as likely to interfere with their ability to continue helping us.
When we returned home after dropping off the last one, we had a little over an hour before dinner and Wyatt’s family birthday party. We helped Trey, Brandon, Dad, and Pop get everything ready, and then we had the boys wash up before joining us at the table to eat. After we finished our meal, Trey and Dion went out to the kitchen and came back with the cake and ice cream. Trey was carrying the cake with a candle in the shape of the number seven on top, and Dion was carrying the ice cream. Dad and Pop went out to get the appropriate dishes as Trey lit the candle, and then we sang Happy Birthday to Wyatt.
After he made a wish and blew out the candle, Trey helped him cut the cake, and then Dion and Trey helped make sure everyone got what they wanted to eat. We gave Wyatt his presents while we were eating, and when he finished his cake and ice cream he began to open them. He got some really neat things, including some new video games, and after he thanked everyone, we began to put things away.
A little later, after Wyatt had a chance to try out some of his new video games with the others, we sent the boys upstairs to get ready for bed. When they were ready, we went up to join them and read the final chapter of Dragonsong.
“That was pretty good,” Hunter said when I finished.
“Yeah, I liked Menolly, even though she’s a girl,” Hayden added.
“And I liked the fire-lizards and dragons,” Wyatt chimed in.
“So what’s next?” Hayden wanted to know.
“The next book is called Dragonsinger and it picks up where this one left off.”
“Neat,” they all agreed.
We then tucked them in and said goodnight before making our rounds to do the same with the others. When we got downstairs again, we got together with Dion and Trey to make sure we had everything ready for the joint party the following afternoon.
When Wyatt and the twins first announced that they wanted to have a Harry Potter themed birthday party, the four of us went crazy trying to figure out what we could do that would make them happy. After many hours of brainstorming, we finally came up with a plan, and then we had to pull everything together to make it happen. We just hoped the boys and their friends would enjoy what we’d come up with, because we’d allowed each of the birthday boys to invite two of their friends.
Once again, we’d mailed the invitations to the other boys’ homes after their teachers had provided us with the boys’ addresses, and we asked everyone involved not to talk about this at school. As soon as we felt we were ready to pull it off, we headed to bed knowing that we’d need to be well rested for the next day.
Of course we had everyone get ready to go to church first, and we picked up Becky, Revin, and Tristan on the way there, because it had been his turn to stay with them. After Sunday school and the church service had ended, we went out for brunch before heading home. We’d already given Becky a heads up about the party, so she and Revin were going to drive up to the house later, because I had to take the twins to visit their mother before the party started. The invitations had told the boys’ friends it would start at 3:00.
After we dropped off Becky and Revin at their place, I drove home to drop off the others, and then I took Hunter and Hayden to Shady Pines. When we got to their mom’s room, the twins told her that we were going to have their birthday party when we got back.
“Why are… you having it… before your… birthday?”
“Let me answer that,” I replied. “Wyatt’s birthday was yesterday and the boys wanted to have a joint party, so we picked a weekend date in the middle.”
“Now I… understand.”
The twins told her it was a Harry Potter party, and I quickly advised her they would fill her in on the details the next time we came to visit. We then took Julie and Alice out for a stroll around the grounds, and along the way the boys told their mom about some of the stories we’d been reading to them. She seemed pleased to see how excited they were and how much they appeared to be enjoying it.
“I’m glad… you’re doing… this with them. I used to… read to them… too.”
“I know, the boys told me and it was one of the reasons we started doing it. We wanted to continue the tradition you started.”
That earned me a huge grin before she said, “Thank you.”
After spending a little more time with them, I apologized and said we had to leave before their friends showed up at the house for the party.
“I understand,” Julie confirmed, knowing the comment would make her sons feel a little better about having to leave.
The boys then gave their mom a hug and a kiss on the lips before going over to hug Alice as well, but they kissed her on the cheek. Then, we said goodbye to both of them and headed home.
We got to the house before any of the others arrived, and then Wyatt, Hunter, and Hayden’s friends started showing up just before 3:00. Once everyone was there, we began to get them organized. First, we had some items to give each one before we got started. As soon as we knew the theme of the party, the four of us had done multiple searches online to find the things we would need to pull this off, and now we were going to give those items to the boys.
To begin with, we’d found a site with an inexpensive eleven piece wand set, so we passed those out first. There was one for each of the birthday boys, their friends, and Tristan and Revin. Then, we gave each one a Gryffindor badge, which was also inexpensive, along with a Gryffindor robe. Once they had those three items, we gave them the final object, a plastic pair of Harry Potter glasses frames without the lenses.
All together, these items cost no more for each boy than it had cost to take the others to play laser tag or go miniature golfing, but now we had to do something that would be exciting for them. We began by teaching them various spells that Harry, Ron, and Hermione used frequently, and after telling them the name of the spell we explained what it was used for. By the end of this session we had gone over accio, alhomora, confundo, lumos, obliviate, protego, relashio, reparo, riddikulus, stupefy, and wingardium leviosa. When we finished, we worked on three more spells, because these were the ones we’d be using in the activity we were going to have them do next.
These three spells were aquamenti, which produces water from the wand, incendio, which causes the wand to start a fire, and expelliarmus, which disarms the opponent. After having them practice saying these spells until they could do it easily, I explained how this was going to work, since I’d come up with the idea.
“We’re going to play a game similar to rock, paper, scissors, but you are going to do it with the wands. Are you all familiar with that game?” They indicated they were, so I continued. “Wyatt, Hayden, and Hunter will each do this with their two friends and they’ll form a triangle. Tristan and Revin will face off against each other, and this is how it will work.
“You will point your wands at each of the others, so you must be fairly close together but not close enough to stab each other with your wands, and I’ll say ready, set, go. When I say ‘go’ you’ll shout one of those spells as you point your wand at the other two. Aquamenti will beat incendio, because water puts out fire. Incendio will beat expelliarmus, because fire will destroy the wand. Finally, expelliarmus will beat aquamenti because the water will only make you wet while the wand is snatched out of the other person’s hand. Any questions?”
“Yeah, what if two of us say the same thing?” one of the friends asked.
“It depends. If the two doing the same spell used one that would beat the third person, then that person will be eliminated and the other two will go again. If the third person uses a spell that would beat the other two, then those two are eliminated and the third person wins.”
There were no other questions, so we did a couple of practice rounds first, to get them used to it. Then we did it to determine a victor in each group. If only one person out of the threesome was eliminated, then the other two faced off until we had a winner. We repeated this process multiple times so each person had many chances to win, and then we declared an overall winner for each group, depending on who’d won the most times. Regrettably, not all of the birthday boys were the overall victors, but they still had a good time.
“That was really fun,” one of our guests told us when it was over, “and now we can do this with some of our other friends too.”
“Yeah, it was a lot more fun than playin’ other party games,” another one added.
“Do we get to keep these things,” another asked, meaning the wand, badge, robe, and glasses frames.
“Yes, they’re yours to keep and take home.”
Now that their questions had been answered, we led our Harry Potter clones into the house and showed the boys the large sheet cake with a wizard hat, wand, and Harry’s glasses drawn on it in icing, along with the name of each of the birthday boys. There were also three candles on top as well, a seven and two eights, one for each of the boys. After lighting each candle, we had each boy make a wish and blow out his candle, and then we cut the cake and gave each boy a piece, along with some ice cream.
After they finished eating, the boys went outside to have a kickball game, and when that ended Dion took Wyatt’s friends home while I did the same with Hayden and Hunter’s friends. Becky and Revin left in their car to return home at the same time, while Trey and Brandon were busy cleaning off the dirty dishes and putting away the leftovers. When we returned to the house later, the three birthday boys were still excited about the party.
“How did you come up with the idea for that game?” Hunter wanted to know.
“You gave us the theme for the party, so we did a lot of research and came up with a few ideas. We kept bouncing them off one another until we came up with what we did today.”
“It was awesome and a lot more fun then I thought it would be,” Hayden stated.
“Yeah, I wasn’t sure what you were gonna do,” Wyatt confessed. “I thought maybe you’d have us watch one of the movies or pretend to be the people from the books and movies. I never thought you’d buy all this stuff so we could all be Harry Potter.”
“That was awesome and our friends liked doin’ it too,” Hunter stated.
“I’m glad it worked out and you were all happy with what we came up with.”
“Even Revin and I liked it,” Tristan confirmed. “I thought it might be lame, but that was pretty fun.”
“That’s high praise indeed,” I quipped, “and we’re happy you two had a good time as well.”
The boys then took off to play with Dobby and Flash for a while before dinner, and then after we ate I asked if each of them had done their homework. Tristan was the only one who hadn’t completed everything, so I sent him off to do that before bedtime. When he came back later to let me know he was done, I checked all of the boys’ homework first, and then I sent them upstairs to get ready for bed.
While they were doing that, Brandon and I sat down with Dion and Trey. “I’m sure glad you thought of some of that stuff,” Trey stated as soon as we were all together.
“No, we all combined to come up with the things we did for the boys,” I countered.
“To some extent, but you came up with the way to play rock, paper, scissors using the wands, and I think that’s what the boys enjoyed the most,” Dion stated.
“Along with getting the things they could take home with them,” Brandon added.
“Yes, and we all helped with that, because each of us got online and searched for inexpensive items we could use,” I pointed out.
“Ok, so maybe we all played a part,” Trey relented, “but I think your idea made the party an even bigger success.”
We ended our discussion at that point, because we heard the boys upstairs and knew they were done with their showers. Brandon and I then went upstairs to read the first chapter of Dragonsinger to them.
“This is going to be really good too,” Tristan said when Brandon finished.
“Yeah, I can’t wait to see what happens with Menolly next,” Hunter agreed.
The other boys let us know they all felt the same way, and then we had them get in bed so we could tuck them in and say goodnight.
While we were making our rounds, Benny, Joshie, and Ryan wanted to talk about the Haunted House. Each one had more ideas about things they thought we might do, so I told them we’d talk about it all next Saturday when Ryan’s friends showed up again. That seemed to satisfy them, so we said goodnight and headed downstairs.
Brandon and I then got together with the others, as we had a habit of doing, and Dad asked a question. “Do you know what you’re going to do for Ryan’s party?”
“He didn’t want to have one at first, but since his friends were going to be here to work on the Haunted House I talked him into relenting slightly. He’s now agreed to let me order pizza for them to eat, and then we’ll have the cake and ice cream afterward.”
“Ok, then let’s all do that for dinner and I’ll make some salads to go along with the pizza.”
“I take it you’re doing something different for the Haunted House this year,” Pop stated next.
“Yes, to a certain extent. Ryan found some masks and animated devices online and I’ve ordered a bunch of them to use, but we’ll do some of the things we’ve done in the past as well.”
“Do you have all of those masks and other things yet?” Pop followed.
“We have one mask and one device, but the others have been ordered and should be arriving soon.”
“What would you like me to do with the package when it arrives?” Dad wanted to know.
“You can either keep it in your bedroom for me or take it upstairs and put it in our bedroom instead, whichever is easier for you.”
Now that this had been addressed, we agreed to call it a night and turned in. There had been a lot going on this weekend and much had been accomplished, but there was still a great deal more to do.