The boys were hyper from the minute they woke up on Thursday morning, although we got them to settle down slightly while they were eating breakfast.
“We can’t wait to do this,” the twins said in between bites.
“Yes, I can tell.”
“Should we start taking stuff up there when we’re done eatin’?” followed Tristan.
“You can take your sleeping bags up there, and then you can take up the lantern and your laptops. We’ll leave the snacks and drinks until after lunch, because Dion still has to run out and purchase a few more items. He’s also going to pick up a broom that you can leave up there, so you can sweep it out after you eat the snacks.”
“K, and can we eat lunch up there too?” asked Wyatt.
“I suppose we could fix each of you a sandwich and give you an applesauce cup and a couple of cookies to go with it, along with a juice pouch.”
“Yeah, that sounds great,” agreed Revin.
“Joshie, do you and Benny want to eat your lunch up there with us?” asked Wyatt.
“No, we’ll eat lunch down here and wait and go up there with you after dinner.”
“So, you’re not comin’ up there until then?” questioned Hunter.
“We are, but only to help you get everything up there, including our sleeping bags.”
“Can we eat dinner up there too?” wondered Hayden.
“I think you should join us for dinner, and you’ll also come down here to take your showers later as well,” replied Dion.
“I hope there’s enough room up there for all of you,” I added.
“We’ll decide where we’re gonna sleep after lunch,” replied Benny, “but I’m sure we’ll all be able to fit in.”
“That’s good, because I was a little worried about that.”
“We’ll just put the chairs out on the porch when we’re ready to go to sleep,” added Joshie.
“Don’t they take up a lot of space in there?” asked Dion.
“Not too bad,” replied Benny. “We took the four smaller wooden chairs from the play-room up there earlier, along with some folding chairs, but they don’t take up much room when no one is usin’ them.”
“What do you do for tables?” continued Dion.
“Grandpa Jake hooked the table tops up to the walls on hinges and with chains that allow them to only go down so far,” replied Joshie. “They’re there so the boys can use them when they eat up there or they can put their laptops on them when they’re playin’ games.”
“So how do they stay in place and out of the way when they’re not in use?” I wondered.
“There’s a hook on the wall and an eyelet on the underside of the table that you can put the hook through to hold each one against the wall,” continued Joshie.
“Ah, that was clever.”
“Yeah, it was,” agreed Benny.
Xander never said anything during this conversation, but I could tell he was taking it all in. I suppose he wanted to get a better feeling for how he was going to interact with the older boys first, before he opened his mouth and said anything, or offered any suggestions.
After we finished our conversation, the boys went to get their sleeping bags so they could take them up to the tree house, along with Dobby and Flash, while Dion ran to the store. I went out with them to see their reaction, because they hadn’t seen the slides yet.
“Whoa, when did you put those up?” Tristan asked while pointing at the slides.
“Grandpa Jake and the older boys installed them last night.”
“Come on, let’s try them out,” urged Wyatt.
They then raced up the ladder so they could take turns going down the one on the tree house first, and then they crossed over the bridge so they could try out the one hooked up to the deck next. To my amazement, the puppies followed them down the slides when they were up there with the boys, without being coaxed.
“That was fun,” the twins gasped when they reached the bottom.
“Yeah, it’s easier than climbin’ down the ladder,” agreed Revin.
“I’ve only been on straight slides before,” said Xander, “and this was a lot more fun.”
“I’m glad you’re all enjoying it.”
While they were trying out the slides, I returned to the house and discussed how to pack their lunches with Ryan, since he would be getting them ready. I wanted to make sure they were all done the same way before we sent them up to the tree house.
“If I put everything in a lunch bag for them, do I have to put their name on it so they know which one is for them?” he wondered.
“No, they’ll all be the same, so they can just grab one.”
“Oh, yeah, I didn’t think about that.”
“But you’re learning.”
We then set about doing our own thing until Dion returned, and then we set the things for the tree house off to one side and the items for lunch in the fridge until it was needed. We put the drinks in a smaller cooler and we’d add ice to it before the boys took them up to the tree house. They’ll have to be careful when they put it in the larger cooler, but the smaller cooler should fit nicely into the one they use to lift everything up there.
We didn’t see the younger boys again until Dion and I carried their lunches out and placed the bags in the cooler so they could pull them up.
“Thanks,” they all chirped as they grabbed a lunch bag.
“We placed a treat in the cooler for Dobby and Flash too, so they won’t bother you while you’re eating. Just don’t forget to sweep out the crumbs when you’re done,” stated Dion and then he let them know he was going to toss up the broom.
“We won’t,” confirmed Tristan as he reached out to grab it.
We didn’t hear from them until we spoke to them when we called them down to wash up for dinner. Before we all sat down to eat, the others began asking the younger boys questions.
“Do you have everything you’ll need up in the tree house?” asked Brandon first.
“Yep, it’s all up there,” replied Hunter.
“And thanks for puttin’ up the slides, Grandpa Jake,” added Hayden.
“Yeah, they’re great,” agreed Xander.
“Your dads were the ones that purchased them. I just put them up.”
The boys then thanked Brandon, Dion, and me, while saying they would thank Danny later.
“If you haven’t noticed,” announced Pop, “there’s a basketball next to each slide. We want you to roll it down the slide to chase out any animals that might be in there.”
“We was wonderin’ what those were for,” confirmed Tristan.
“We felt animals might try to hide or nest in them, so roll the basketball down first. If it comes out, then you’re fine to go down it, but if you don’t see it, then climb down the ladder and come tell one of us. We’ll have to see what was blocking it.”
“Ok,” they all chimed back in unison.
“And don’t forget to put the basketball in the cooler afterward, so you can take it up there to use again.”
“But what about the deck?” asked Tristan. “There’s nothing to pull it up over there.”
“I suppose I could hook up something over there as well, or you could use the same cooler to take it up or just toss it up onto the deck.”
“Is there going to be enough room for everyone in the tree house tonight?” asked Dad.
“Yeah, we’ve got it all worked out,” answered Joshie. “Grandpa Jake built a loft in the tree house for storage, but since it’s empty Benny agreed to sleep up there with Tristan and Revin. I’m going to sleep with the other boys down below.”
“We just have to watch about bumping our heads in the loft,” interjected Benny, “cuz it’s not very high in some places, since the roof slopes slightly.”
“I see, so please be very careful,” urged Brandon.
“It’s gonna be great doin’ this!” enthused Xander.
“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself,” responded Dad.
“Yes, we all are happy you’re having such a good time in the tree house,” added Brandon.
“Yeah, I like it up there a lot,” replied Xander. “And I like it here too.”
“I’m glad you’re all enjoying the tree house,” added Pop, “because we put a lot of time and effort into it.”
“We are,” they boys chirped back.
“Ok, but Jake and I have to leave now, because Cole and Beth invited us to dinner at their house.”
“Drive carefully and have a good time,” offered Dion.
“Jake’s driving and I’m sure he’ll be careful, but they only live about a mile and a half (2.4 km) away.”
“Most accidents happen close to home,” stated Brandon, “so drive carefully.”
“I will, Mom,” joked Pop.
As soon as they left, the rest of us sat down to eat. The younger boys weren’t saying much and wolfing down their food, obviously in a hurry to get back out the tree house.
“Slow down and chew,” scolded Brandon. “We don’t want you choking to death because you’re in a hurry.”
They slowed down a bit after that, but you could still see the sparks from the forks hitting the plates, because they didn’t slow down too much. However, we ended the meal without incident.
As soon as they finished eating, the boys hurriedly took their dishes out to the kitchen. After scraping off their plates, they rinsed off their plates and silverware and placed each item in the dishwasher, and then they raced out the backdoor and headed toward the tree house again.
“When did they start doing this?” asked Brandon once they were gone.
“I told them that seeing the family was growing they could start helping out and do this after every meal.”
“And I’m going to add some other tasks they can do later, once this becomes a routine for them. I didn’t want to add too much at once, or they might revolt.”
“You’re probably right about that, but I like what you’re doing. It’s easy to tell you’re a teacher and work with kids, because you’re always thinking one step ahead of them.”
“Thanks, although I’m not sure Joshie and Wyatt are as happy about that fact.”
The rest of us enjoyed a nice quiet evening, and when the sunlight began to fade, we called the boys in to shower and change. Wyatt was showering with Xander this time, and Brandon made sure that Xander put on an overnight brief before going back outside with the others.
“Don’t forget to make sure Dobby and Flash do their business before you take them up to the tree house,” warned Dion, “otherwise you might have to clean up a mess in the morning.”
“Ok, we will.”
Brandon, Dion, and I took turns sneaking out there from time to time in order to make sure there weren’t any problems. Everything seemed to be going well, so we eventually stopped doing it.
Danny got home later than usual, and while he was eating, we asked him why he was late.
“Was there a problem?” wondered Brandon.
“No, I was just talking to the OBGYN and asking if there was anything else we should know about baby TJ. Another pediatrician is taking care of TJ for now, but he’s been keeping in touch with the OBGYN, so I felt he’d know how things were going and if there had been any further developments. He said the baby appeared to be holding his own and doing fairly well.”
“Trey and I want to go to the hospital and spend some time with him this weekend,” announced Dion. “Things will be too hectic tomorrow, because Dad will be packing for the trip and the boys will still be hyper about the sleep out, but Brandon will be here over the weekend, along with Noah and Elliot.”
“Yes, you should be able to slip away so you can spend some time with your new son over the weekend,” confirmed Danny. “So how are things going with the sleep out?”
“Everything seems to be going well and the boys seem to be enjoying themselves,” answered Brandon.
“And Xander is fitting in?”
“Yes, although he’s quieter than the other boys, but he’s letting us know that he’s having a blast.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
“The other boys have made him feel wanted and part of the group, so he appears to be fitting in nicely.”
“I was hoping that’s what would happen and I’m glad it’s working out. I got the results of the tests back this afternoon and Xander doesn’t have an infection and his bladder appears to be fairly normal in size. This means I might be able to put him on a medication that will help him control his problem a little better.”
“How will that work?”
“The medication will relax the bladder so it doesn’t attempt to expel the urine as frequently as it’s been doing, so Xander shouldn’t have as many accidents. It may also give him a better warning when he does have to go, so he’ll be able to get to the toilet in time.”
“That would be a big help.”
“It’s not a perfect solution and he may still have accidents from time to time, especially overnight, but it should improve his situation slightly.”
“I’m sure he’d appreciate that.”
“We’ll just have to see if he can swallow pills or if I should prescribe the liquid version of the medicine instead.”
“I can give him a children’s ibuprofen over the weekend, because that won’t hurt him, and it will give an indication on how he handles pills.”
“But those are chewable tablets.”
“I’ll just tell him to swallow it instead and then I’ll watch how he deals with it.”
“Ok, that will be a good test.”
Dad and Pop arrived home before Danny finished eating, so we all sat down at the dining room table together.
“So how was your meal?” I asked.
“It was good, and we were also served with a surprise,” replied Dad.
“What kind of a surprise?” followed Brandon.
“Beth announced that she’s three months pregnant. She’s due at the end of March.”
“So their baby will be less than a year younger than TJ,” mused Dion.
“And they’ll be going to the same school, possibly even in the same grade,” I stated.
“Won’t TJ be a grade ahead of their baby?” asked Pop.
“It depends. If TJ shows signs of slow development, we may hold him back a year. Dion and I have already discussed this.”
“Ok, that makes sense.”
“Yes, it never hurts to be a little older than the other students,” confirmed Dad, “as long as it’s not too much older.”
Danny had finished eating by now and we’d finished our discussion, so he and Brandon headed upstairs to get ready for bed. Dion and I did the same thing a few minutes later, but Dad and Pop said they had a few things they needed to take care of for their trip before they turned in. We merely said goodnight to them as we headed up the stairs.
The next morning, I went out to see how the boys were doing and they were just starting to wake up. A few minutes later, the first group was coming down the slide and heading toward the house to have breakfast. I sat down to chat with them as they were waiting for Ryan to prepare their meal.
“So how was it?” I asked once they were all sitting at the table with me.
“It was wicked fun,” answered Tristan first.
“Yeah, I liked it,” agreed Xander, “and one of the dogs slept on top of my sleeping bag with me.”
“That was Dobby,” announced Wyatt, “because Flash did the same thing with me.”
“They didn’t have their bed up there,” I stated, “so I guess they thought it was their next best option.”
“I like that he did it,” squealed Xander. “It was fun and I knew he’d protect me.”
“Yeah, they would have,” offered Tristan, “and so would Benny and Joshie.”
“Protect you from what?” I followed.
“We heard some animals walking on the roof and on the porch,” said Revin, “but Joshie and Benny told us there was nothin’ to worry about and it was probably just some raccoons or possums.”
“And that’s why we wanted them to sleep out there with us, in case there were animals comin’ round the tree house,” chimed in the twins.
“Smart move! I’m glad it worked out for you and you all had a good time.”
“Yeah, we did,” agreed the younger boys.
Joshie and Benny came in to join us a few minutes later, so they didn’t hear what the younger boys had said about them, but they seemed fine with having slept out there as well. In fact, the younger boys thanked them for staying with them the previous night and I could tell this made Benny and Joshie feel special that the younger boys felt they had kept them safe.
As soon as they finished eating, the younger boys went out to the tree house again, while Benny and Joshie headed upstairs to their bedroom. I wondered if they were going to go back to sleep and thought it was possible that they didn’t sleep very well as they watched over the younger group. I went up to check on them a little later and they were both sound asleep, so that must have been the case.
When I went downstairs, I asked Dad if I could do anything to help him get ready for his trip, but he said he had everything under control. He also informed me that they’d be driving to Philadelphia in the morning, because they’d be flying out of there for Atlanta, and then they’d return the following Sunday.
“Oh, I thought you might come back on Saturday, so Pop could rest up and get ready for work.”
“He wanted to spend as much time with Shannon and Nick as he could, since we don’t get to see them very often. They’re both taking a week of vacation as well, so we can spend the entire time together. Jake can still rest up on Sunday, because I’ll drive back and will take care of everything else.”
When lunchtime rolled around, we called the boys in to eat, and in between bites they started asking questions.
“Will we be able to sleep out in the tree house again?” asked Hunter.
“Yes, but not right away,” answered Dion. “You’ll probably be able to do it one or two more times before you go back to school.”
“Ok, as long as we can do it again,” added Hayden.
“Yeah, it was fun,” agreed Wyatt.
“I liked doin’ it too,” confirmed Xander.
“And I also had fun doin’ it,” confirmed Revin.
“We could tell you all did, and since there weren’t any problems you’ll probably be able to do it again soon,” I replied.
After they ate, the boys went back outside and headed up to the tree house, and we didn’t see them again until Becky showed up. We had to call Revin so he could gather up his things, but he took his time coming to the house with the other boys following behind him.
“I’m gonna leave my sleepin’ bag here, cuz we’re gonna sleep out in the tree house again,” he quickly announced.
“I take it this means you had a good time and enjoyed yourself?” asked Becky rhetorically.
“Yeah, it was a blast.”
“Ok, then grab your other stuff and let’s get going,” she added before turning toward us. “And thank you for letting him do this with the other boys.”
“It was our pleasure and they all seemed to enjoy it,” replied Dion.
Once they were gone, the boys went back to the tree house until we called them to wash up for dinner. As we were eating, Dad and Pop asked them questions about the previous night.
“So, I take it the tree house didn’t fall apart and you all had a good time,” said Pop.
“Yeah, I had a blast,” answered Xander. I think we were all amazed that he answered first.
“Yeah, you did a good job making the tree house,” followed Wyatt, “and nothin’ fell apart.”
“I’m glad to hear that,” he concurred.
“But we heard some animals walkin’ around during the night,” said Hunter.
“Benny and Joshie said they were probably just some raccoons and possums,” added Hayden.
“That’s good to know,” said Dad. “So, did you all have enough room?”
“I wish the loft was a little higher, but other than that everything was fine,” responded Benny.
“And we had plenty of room down below,” added Joshie.
“And Flash and Dobby slept with me and Xander,” announced Wyatt.
“Yeah, Dobby slept on my sleepin’ bag and Flash did the same thing with Wyatt,” confirmed Xander.
“It’s possible that Dobby and Flash wanted to keep you two safe,” stated Dad, “or they might have just had more room when sleeping with you boys.”
“They prob’ly had more room,” said Wyatt, “cuz they were sleepin’ down by our feet.”
“Ah, I see!”
“Daddy, when you and Poppy go to visit TJ tomorrow,” said Joshie, “would you take pictures of him so we can see him too?”
“I’ll ask first to make sure it’s allowed, but I have a feeling it will be,” I replied, “so I’ll take a few photos with my phone.”
“Good, cuz we want to see what our new brother looks like,” added Wyatt.
“I’ll have to remember to ask Danny what time the visiting hours are,” Dion mused.
“I’m sure he’ll be able to give you that information,” confirmed Brandon.
“Yes, that’s what I was counting on.”
When Danny arrived home, we waited until he cleaned up and sat down to eat before we asked him any questions. He quickly told us when the visiting hours were and stated there was one time in the morning, another in the afternoon, and a final time in the evening. He also suggested that parents might be allowed to visit outside of those times, so we’d asked about that when we were there. In the meantime, Dion and I decided to go in the morning, and then we could always return later if we wanted to spend more time with him.
Once that had been decided, we sent the boys upstairs to shower, and Hayden asked Xander to shower with him again. Hayden was also going to sleep with Xander, and this was working out to our advantage, because Xander never had to deal with sleeping alone in a strange house.
The four of us went up to say goodnight and tuck them in when we knew they had all finished their showers. We found Xander and Hayden lying on their sides facing each other, with an arm draped over each other’s side. It was cute to see and they didn’t react when we came into the room, so they must have been comfortable doing it. Since it was a warm night, we didn’t tuck them in, but we bid them sweet dreams before leaving the room. I also saw Dobby walking between Tristan and Xander’s bedrooms as he made sure both boys were safely in bed, and then he we went into Tristan’s room and laid down on his bed and fell asleep.