Dion and I spent Saturday morning with TJ, and we both held him again. We really enjoy doing this and feel TJ is enjoying it as well. The nurses also seem to agree and say he reacts differently to our voices and touches than to theirs.
We left him at lunchtime so we could go home and eat with the others, and Brandon, Noah, and Holly arrived home from the health center shortly after we got there. Just as we were getting ready to eat, Danny pulled into the driveway.
“We weren’t expecting to see you this early,” said Dad as Brandon rushed over to greet his hubby when he came through the door.
“Things are beginning to settle down now, so I’ll be working my normal hours again from here on out. I may have to make occasional exceptions from time to time, but hopefully not too often.”
“That’s great to hear, and it’s nice to have you with us.”
“Did you make enough for lunch so I can join you?”
“There’s always enough, so go sit down with the others.”
“I just want to wash up first and then I’ll join you.”
The kids were happy to see Danny as well and questioned him about it as we were eating. They also told him about their trip to the farms the previous day, and Dion and I filled him in about how things were going with TJ.
“That’s great and it means you may be able to bring him home sooner than you thought.”
“He just needs to gain a half pound more first,” I replied.
After we finished our lunch and had taken care of the dishes, Dion and I asked Danny and Brandon if we could speak with them in private.
“Sure, what’s up?” asked Danny as we headed to the living room.
“There are a couple of things. First of all, Dion and I were thinking about taking the boys shopping for school clothes and supplies after dinner. What do you and Brandon think about joining us?”
“That’s not a bad idea, and we can include those leaving for college as well and take care of everything at once. I’m sure they’ll also need to pick up a few things.”
“Yes, I’m sure they will. The other thing is that Dion and I are going to speak with Wyatt about his upcoming birthday and thought you two should get the twins and join us.”
“We felt we should all do it at the same time,” added Dion, “since Wyatt and the twins like to celebrate their birthdays together. I know their birthdays aren’t until October, but there will be a lot going on between now and then and this will give us plenty of time to make whatever plans are necessary.”
“I think it’s a great idea,” agreed Danny.
“And if they want to have a theme party, like last year, it will give us time to work out all of the details,” added Brandon, “such as acquiring the necessary supplies.”
“Yes, that’s what we thought too,” I concurred.
“Danny and I will also have to sit down with Tristan, because his birthday comes before the twins’ birthday,” added Brandon. “And I also like the idea about the shopping trip. Elliot will be leaving for Yale a week from tomorrow, on the 18th, and even though we won’t have to purchase anything for him, we will for the others and they’ll be leaving shortly after Elliot.”
“College is a problem we don’t have to deal with yet, but it makes more sense now why you suggested we hold Dad’s birthday party next Saturday, instead of on Sunday, which is his actual birthday. I originally liked the idea, because it would be easier on those having to travel to get here, and now it makes even more sense with Elliot will be leaving for college on Sunday.”
“It actually worked out better this way for everyone, because now no one will have to rush to get home or to their campus after the party.”
“Yes, that’s very true, and it reminds me that there’s something else I need to mention to the two of you.”
I then took a few minutes to fill Danny and Brandon in about my conversation with Ryan previously, when he asked if I thought he’d be getting a car for college. I also mentioned his concern about the two of them driving him to the campus and taking the other boys with them.
“Well, he certainly can’t drive to his campus, because he doesn’t have a car and probably won’t be getting one. However, we’ll discuss whether we’ll take the younger boys with us when we drive him there.”
“Look, if it will help out, we’ll be happy to watch the other boys for you, if you want to leave them here when you do that,” I offered.
“We’ll let you know about that after we have a chat with Ryan.”
“Ok, no rush.”
Now that these things had been taken care of, Dion and I returned to the hospital to spend the afternoon with TJ. We held him again as we carried out our normal routine, and the time passed by quite quickly. Dion and I were convinced that TJ recognized us, if not by sight, he certainly recognized our voices. He would get very excited when we showed up and the nurses reiterated that he never reacted that way when one of them or any of the doctors were there. It only happened when we showed up, and it gave us a good feeling when they told us this.
When it was time to leave, we hurried home to see if we could help with dinner, but once again Ryan and Dad had everything under control.
“He’s getting really good at this,” Dad said after telling us dinner was just about ready.
“Yeah, I really like cooking and Grandpa Josh has been teachin’ me some new stuff.”
“We’re glad to hear that,” I replied, “but it makes us wonder if you might want to change your major in college so you can do this for a living?”
“Nah, I don’t want to do that, but if I had roommates I’d be willing to do all of the cooking, if they did the dishes afterward.” He then released a devilish laugh after saying this.
“That sounds like a fair trade, and I’m glad you realize that knowing how to cook is a good thing.”
“Yeah, and I’m glad you taught me.”
“You know, I was also thinking that maybe the younger boys could start helping out a bit as well. You could let them take turns doing some of the simpler tasks, like mixing the ingredients once you’ve put everything in the bowl. You could do it with the scrambled eggs, pancake batter, and a few other items.”
“So, you only want me to let them help with breakfast?”
“No, they can help at lunchtime as well. They could mix the tuna after you’ve chopped it up and added the mayonnaise, or if you are making grilled cheese sandwiches you could let them butter the bread for you.”
“Oh, ok. What about Joshie and Benny?”
“I’m going to start teaching them how to cook once you leave for college. I just wanted to give you a chance to learn everything first and I didn’t want a large crowd milling around in the kitchen.”
“Oh, ok. That makes sense, and when are you gonna tell them?”
“We’ll do it Sunday night.”
“And I can help you teach them as well, if you want,” offered Dad.
“Yes, that would help out a lot, especially once school starts. We were only going to work with Benny and Joshie on the weekends, but I’m sure Dion and I will be spending a lot of that time with TJ, so we’d definitely appreciate any assistance you can give us.”
“But I thought you were teaching them how to do the laundry,” said Ryan.
“We are, but they can take turns switching off between doing the laundry and the cooking. They can take turns doing one of those things on Saturday and the other on Sunday, but I think they should do each one every week for a while, so they get in the habit and don’t forget what they’re doing.”
“Yeah, cuz I might have forgotten some of that stuff if I wasn’t doing it on a regular basis.”
“That’s what I thought, and we’re not going to make them do all of the laundry or cooking, just enough so they know what they’re doing when they’re on their own, just like we did with you.”
“Yeah, I can see why you did that now.”
“We knew your dads wouldn’t have time to teach you, so we offered to lend a hand.”
“I’m glad you did.”
At that moment, Dad informed Ryan that dinner was ready and he needed to take it out of the oven before it burned. “You’ve got to learn to keep focused on what you’re doing and not let other things distract your attention,” he urged.
“Yeah, I know, but I knew you were kinda watching over it too.”
“Well, don’t assume that anyone else who is helping you will be watching over what you’re doing too, or both of you could end up with burnt food!” laughed Dad.
As Ryan and Dad were removing dinner from the oven and putting the other items in bowls, we told everyone that dinner was ready and to go wash up before they came to the table. Then, we all sat down to eat.
During dinner we mentioned that we were going to take everyone shopping after we finished eating and told the kids about the types of things we were going to get. “We’ll let you pick out what clothes you want, but they must meet with our approval,” stated Dion.
“The same goes for us,” added Brandon.
“Do we have to stay with you guys while we’re shopping?” Noah asked.
“No, you, Holly, and Ryan can shop on your own, and you can just give us a quick buzz on our cell phones if those items need to be paid for in that department,” answered Danny. “Otherwise, we’ll tell you where we’ll meet up later so we can look at the things you’ve selected before we go to the checkout.”
“Ok, that works for me,” replied Noah, with Holly and Ryan quickly agreeing that it also met with their approval.
Now that everything was settled, as soon as the meal was over and the table had been cleared, we had the kids split up between the two SUVs. Once they were all buckled in, Dion and Danny drove us to our favorite store to shop for clothes.
“You mean you don’t shop at Good Will or Walmart?” asked Xander totally amazed. “That’s what they did at my other foster homes.”
“No, we buy most of our clothes here,” Brandon told him before they got out of the vehicle.
“This place looks a lot nicer,” observed Xander.
“Yeah, it is a lot nicer than those other places,” Hunter answered.
“We know, cuz our mom used to take us to Walmart,” added Hayden.
“Walmart isn’t a bad place to shop, but this store has a higher quality of clothes, which means they will last longer and wear better,” said Dion.
Once we were all together in the parking lot, we made our way to the building and entered. Noah, Holly, and Ryan immediately split off from the group, because they knew where they wanted to go, and the rest of the boys followed the four of us as we made our way around the boys’ department. We let them look over the various items, and when they selected something, we merely checked it to make sure they had the right size and there weren’t any flaws in the material. We also checked to make sure there wasn’t anything about the items that would go against the school rules before continuing on to the next area.
We also had the boys try things on from time to time, especially Xander, because we wanted to make sure each item looked good over his absorbent briefs. Brandon had him change into a fresh pair before we left the house, so there wouldn’t be any chance of leakage while he was trying on the new clothes.
“I don’t have as many accidents now, since I started taking those pills,” Xander told Brandon.
“Good, it means they’re working.”
“And it means I don’t have to increase the dosage,” added Danny.
We continued working our way around the various display tables and racks, and from time-to-time Danny or Brandon would leave when they received a phone call from one of the older kids. As soon as we had everything we were going to purchase, we made our way to the checkout.
“Man, I never got this many clothes at one time before,” said Xander as the different items were being rung up.
“We want you boys to look good at school so you’ll make a good impression on your teachers and the other kids in your classes.”
“I’m not gonna be in the same grade as any of the others, am I?” asked Xander.
“No, you won’t, but you’ll be in the same school as Wyatt and he’ll help to look after you,” explained Dion.
“Yeah, I will,” confirmed Wyatt.
As soon as we’d paid for everything, we carried the packages out to the SUVs and loaded them into the back. We then drove to another location where we went inside to purchase a new backpack for the younger boys and pick up whatever supplies we knew they were going to need.
“How do you know what the teachers will want us to have?” asked Xander.
“It’s because we do this every year,” answered Brandon.
“We know there will be other things you’re going to need,” added Danny, “but we’ll get those after you bring the note home from your teacher telling us what you should have. That way we’ll know what we still have to get for you.”
When we reached the house, we helped the boys take the tags off the various items and then we put everything in our room.
“How come you’re doin’ that?” Xander asked.
“It’s because we want to wash everything before you wear them, and we want to make sure they aren’t washed with the other clothes you boys have already.”
“But they’re new, so why do you gotta wash them?”
“It’s because we don’t know who has handled them or how they’ve been treated before we bought them, so it’s better to wash them first, just in case they’ve got other stuff on them.”
“But why don’t you wanna wash them with the other clothes?”
“These clothes are new and the colors might bleed, and we don’t want to have that happen and ruin your other things. Dion and I will wash these in smaller loads to make certain nothing gets ruined.”
“K, I just didn’t know you had to do that.”
“It’s always best to be on the safe side, and that’s why we do this.”
Since it was getting late, Brandon, Danny, Dion, and I agreed that we’d wait until the following night to talk to Wyatt, the twins, and Tristan about the kind of things they might want to do for their birthday parties. We weren’t sure how long it would take or how involved the conversations might get, so we told the boys they had a half hour to do whatever they wanted before we sent them upstairs to get ready for bed.
After they showered and we’d tucked them in, the four of us went downstairs to chat before we did the same thing. As soon as we were all together, along with Dad and Pop, I spoke first.
“Dion and I are going to skip going to church with the rest of you in the morning so we can spend time with TJ, but you can use our SUV,” I told Dad and Pop.
“Thank you for that,” replied Dad, “and we’ll be happy to watch the boys for you.”
“We will too,” said Danny. “When do you want to talk to them about their birthday party?”
“We can talk to Wyatt and the twins after dinner, but you can talk to Tristan any time. You don’t need us to do that.”
Now that this had been agreed to, we went to bed as well.
In the morning, Dion and I helped to make sure Wyatt and Joshie were ready for church first, and then we said goodbye to them before we left for the hospital. We spent the morning with TJ and did the same things we normally did with him, and then we headed over to the diner to see if the others were there after church. They were, so we went inside to join them.
“I was wondering if you were going to show up,” said Dad as we reached the table.
“Yes, we also did this last week, and even though we didn’t go to church, we still have to eat.”
“How is TJ doing?” asked Danny.
“I was going to ask that as well,” added Becky.
“He seems to be getting stronger every day. We’ve even started to hold him during our visits, and he seems excited when we’re there. Even the nurses agree that he acts differently after we show up.”
“That’s wonderful,” stated Becky.
“What would you say if I came to the hospital this afternoon to examine him?” asked Danny. “I just have a couple of other things to do first.”
“That would be terrific,” I agreed, since I knew what he was referring to. “We’d love your opinion on how TJ is doing.”
After we finished eating, the others headed home and Dion and I returned to the hospital. We’d been there for a little over an hour before Danny arrived, but he didn’t come directly in to see TJ. We saw him talking with the nurses first and looking over TJ’s chart, and then he came in to speak with us.
“TJ’s gained a little more weight since you last informed us about it, and his records show that he wasn’t as badly addicted as we’d all feared. His mother obviously wasn’t taking the OxyContin during her entire pregnancy, and it appears she only started up again during the last few weeks before giving birth, when the pain in her back became unbearable.”
“That’s great news!” shouted Dion, although he quickly caught himself and lowered his voice.
“Yes, it is,” continued Danny, “and it means you’ll be able to take him home sooner than we first figured. From what I knew at the time, I told you that it probably wouldn’t happen until the end of September, but now I’m moving my prediction up by a couple of weeks. After noting the way he’s been gaining weight, you might be able to bring him home at the beginning of the month instead, possibly right after Labor Day.”
“That’s terrific,” Dion and I said at nearly the same time.
Danny then took TJ from us and placed him on the infant scale. After he weighed and measured him, he gave him a quick examination. Danny had obviously grabbed his stethoscope when he was at the house and then placed it in the pocket of his suit; because he took it out to do his examination.
“Yes, he’s doing very well and is approaching the five-pound (2.27 kg) mark, so bringing him home right after Labor Day looks pretty good.”
“That will work out great,” stated Dion. “It means that school will have been in session for a week and the boys will have had time to adjust to their new classes, and it will also allow the boys and TJ to get used to each other before the birthday parties.”
“This is going to work out a lot better than we could have ever hoped,” I added.
“Yes, and if you want, you can have the nurses change the records to indicate that I’m now TJ’s pediatrician.”
“Yes, we’ll do that before we leave.”
“Oh, and Brandon and I talked to Tristan about his birthday and he wants to have a bowling party. He said that last year he heard some of the older boys talking about doing that and they claimed they all had a blast, so he wants to try it this year.”
“That will work out well then,” I replied. “We can either have his cake and presents at the house or do it at the bowling alley.”
“Yes, Brandon and I still have to work out the details, but now the four of us can speak with Wyatt and the twins about their birthday party after dinner.”
“Great! And thank you for coming here to check out TJ for us.”
Once Danny left, Dion and I spent a little more time with TJ, and we used the time to tell him about his brothers, cousins, uncles, and grandfathers, as well as a little about the house. Dion and I felt he was being very attentive, although I suspect that TJ would probably have reacted the same way if I was reading him a story.
When we arrived home, we ate dinner with the others first, and then we asked Wyatt and the twins to meet us in the living room after they had taken care of their dinner dishes.
“Are we in trouble?” asked Wyatt looking confused.
“No, we just want to talk to you about your birthday party.”
“Oh, good,” he replied, looking relieved.
“But that’s still a long way off,” added Hunter.
“It is, but it will give us time to plan for it. Do you have any ideas about what type of party you want to have this year?”
The three of them looked at each other, did a little whispering, and then Hayden spoke to us. “Can we have a sleepover party in the tree house?”
“You might want to rethink that, because it’s going to start getting colder out during the nights by then,” countered Danny.
“And we’re not sure if the other boys will have sleeping bags they can use,” added Brandon.
After those three did a little more whispering, Wyatt spoke. “What if we just play in the tree house before the party and then have the sleepover in the family room?”
“Ok, that sounds doable,” Brandon agreed, “but it means each of you can only invite two others, otherwise it would be too crowded in the family room.”
“Ok, but when do we hafta tell you who we wanna ask to come to our party?” asked Hayden.
“Let’s say by the middle of September,” I replied. “That way you’ll have been in your new classes for three weeks and should have a good idea about who you want to invite. Do you have a theme you want to use for when you’re playing in the tree house?”
“What do you mean?” countered Hunter.
“Well, it could be a pirate theme and you could be fighting off the soldiers trying to capture you, or you could be stranded on an island and fighting the natives,” I offered.
“Or you could come up with your own idea,” suggested Brandon.
The three boys began whispering to each other again, and after a couple of minutes Hunter spoke. “How about doin’ Star Wars? The tree house could be the base for the resistance and the deck could be the headquarters of the First Order.”
“Yeah, let’s do that, cuz the next Star Wars Movie is gonna be comin’ out just before Christmas,” added Hayden.
“That’s fine with us,” Brandon, Danny, Dion, and I all agreed.
“And then you can take us to see the new movie when it comes out,” added Wyatt.
“Yeah, it will be released in early December,” reiterated Hayden.
“And it’s gonna be called Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” continued Hunter
“Yes, I’m sure we can do that too,” we all agreed.
Now that this had all been agreed to, we asked Hunter to go get Tristan and Xander for us so we could speak to all of them at once.
“About what?” asked Hayden.
“You’ll find out when Tristan and Xander get here,” I replied.
When Hunter returned with Tristan and Xander, I spoke. “We all feel that you boys can help out a little more around the house, so these are the things we want you to do. First of all, you can take turns helping out in the kitchen, and we’ll show you what you can do.”
“Are you gonna teach us how to cook?” asked Tristan.
“Not cook, but to do some of the other things. We’ll teach you how to do the cooking when you’re older.”
“So, what are we gonna do then?” asked Xander.
“When the ingredients have been put in the bowl you can mix them up for us, or you can do other things, like buttering the bread for grilled cheese sandwiches.”
“We also want you boys to start helping with some of the cleaning too. You can take turns doing the following jobs. One of you can sweep the upstairs hallway and the bathrooms on the second floor, and another one can do the same thing in the foyer, hallway, and downstairs bathroom. Someone else can sweep the kitchen and dining room, another can sweep out the rec room, and the final person can run the vacuum cleaner in the living room and family room. You can either agree who will do which job or take turns, or we can make a chart so you can rotate between the various tasks.”
“Yeah, let’s do that,” offered Tristan and the others agreed.
“Ok, I’ll make up a chart and we’ll keep it in the rec room, so you’ll just have to check it to see what job you’re doing that week.”
“Yeah, we can do that,” they all agreed.
Since that was taken care of, the boys took off and we saw Wyatt and the twins huddling together so they could talk more about their party. After they left, I grabbed my laptop and the four of us began looking online for ideas for the party. We had a lot to do if we wanted to make sure they enjoyed it as much as the previous year’s party.