Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Journal of Penny Grant - July 17 - What is that thing?

Not long after I left Buddy talking to his dad when my phone rang.

"Oh, hey Emerald."

"Yes, Nick did come over and he is still here."

"Send the boys?"

"No, I don't need James or Stephen to come over and remove Nick. I said he could stay."

"Don't worry, Em. He will earn his keep. I can promise you that. Starting with permanent night shift and potty duties."

"Thanks for the offer. Would you and Brad like to come for dinner? No? Okay, that's fine."

Nice of Emerald to be worried that I might needed help making Nick leave. That phone call brought home to me that there was no one in our family in Nick's corner. His parents, especially his mother, and sibs were taking my side just as much as mine own were.

That wasn't quite true. Buddy seemed to be firmly on Nick's side. He was chattering to Nick after so long of barely talking at home at all. Much as it pained me to see Buddy giving Nick getting so much attention when I’d had so little; I was happy to see Buddy opening up to someone.

And I have to give Nick some credit. Since getting home, he’s been very attentive to the toddlers. Potty training, trying to teach them to talk. He has two years of getting to know them to make up and he seems determined to make it up in a couple of months.

He never tries to initiate a conversation with me. Wise, waiting for me to decide to start a conversation. At the moment, there's not much more to say than I did when he first came home. Which I think he did hear quite a bit about that first night.


It was 2 in the morning when I woke up thinking about the toddlers. Since I was awake, I decided that I might as well get up and check that all was fine. Usually at 2, one of them wanted food or a cuddle or something.

After I flipped on the lights, there was a groan from near one of the cribs. When my eyes had adjusted, I saw Nick in the rocking chair with Ruby in his arms.

"Hi Penny," Nick blinked a few times sleepily at me. "You can go back to bed. I have this."

I glanced around the room and noticed a sleeping bag rolled up near the desk. "You sleeping here?"

He nodded. "Easiest way for me to know if any of the toddlers needs attention. You did tell me that I'm supposed to watch over the toddlers past 10. You really can go back to bed, I have this."

I watched Nick slowly rocking with Ruby. "All right. Good night." I flipped the light switch back off and left the room.

The next day, Nick quietly left for work with the triplets deeply asleep. Buddy ate his breakfast and then gathered his stuff for school. I heard a car pull up outside and wandered outside for a look.

To my surprise, it was my cousin, Jerod. I hadn't seen Jerod in ages. Then again, I don't go to Stephen's bar while I hear he does all the time. “Hi, Penny. I don’t know if you’ve met my little sister Rocio? She’s Elmer’s twin.”

I shook my head. “I don’t believe we have. Nice to meet you, Rocio.”

Rocio smiled at me. “Nice to meet you. I can’t stay long but after Jerod told me that you were the most appropriate person for the thing we found, I really wanted to come and talk to you.”

“Most appropriate person for what?”

“It's something special for an explorer. Jerod says you have the itchy feet of the family and we found this thing in storage box way in the back of a room that no one uses.” My curiosity was building. What was this mysterious thing that they found?

“I’ll go get it from the car,” said Jerod. He went off to fetch whatever this item was.

“Jerod also said you have triplets. Seriously?” Rocio asked.

“Oh yes, that’s true. They’ve recently turned two and they are all sorts of trouble.”

“I can’t imagine. I only have one baby and that’s plenty. How do you cope with three?”

“You do what you have to do, I suppose. My family pitched in to hire a butler and I don't know what we'd do without him.”

Jerod came back and Rocio left saying that she had to get to work. Jerod was carrying a huge axe. “Jerod? What the hell?”

“We were digging around, cleaning out some old stuff in the family home, and we found this axe. As far as I can tell, it’s the Axe of Pangu which was found by our great grandfather. Rocio doesn’t travel, and the damn thing creeps me out no end.” Jerod smiled at me. “That’s when I remembered that Uncle Phillip said you love to travel. So Rocio and I decided you should have the family heirloom.”

I took the axe from Jerod and I could swear that it spoke to me. It told me that it was ready to destroy any obstacles in our path. I can see why it gave Jerod the creeps.

Jerod leaned toward me. "I hear your husband has stolen my title of the black sheep of the family."

"Thoroughly, Jerod. I think you'd have to murder someone to get that title back."

He laughed. "I guess I'll have to live without it. I wasn't planning on murdering anyone in the near future. Unless you have a special request?" He gave me a sort of serious look with one eyebrow arched.

"If you are asking what I think you are, then thank you but no. Besides, I think you'd have to take a number. I do have two older brothers, you know."

"True, but they don't have a reputation in the family." He cocked his head for a moment. "Guess I don't have a reputation either, now." He gave me another grin. "But if you want me to do something, just send word."

"It sounds like you are in the family gossip loop. With the triplets, I'm really don't hear much. Anything new in your life?"

"My oldest married last week.  It didn't take him long at all to settle well to domestic life and his new spouse. I guess that means grandchildren on the horizon. The idea of a grandchild though, that's utterly terrifying."

"Just think, a baby you can cuddle and spoil to your heart's content. Then hand back to parents when they get annoying."

He nodded. "That part sounds good, but I don't feel like I should be a granddad yet. And the youngest will probably be leaving the nest soon. Elsa and I aren't looking forward to that. You won't like it when that happens to you."

"Jerod, that's a long long time in my future. Like after an infinite amount of pottys and schooling and..."

"It seems like forever now but it won't be. Look, I have to go but do call me if you need anything."

"Bye Jerod."

Jerod and Rocio's visit had given me something to really consider. The plane tickets that Nick gave me were sitting on my side table in the bedroom. I hadn't given them much thought since Nick handed me the envelope.

But now, I had that axe. An axe meant for exploring. An axe that my great granddad Sam once handled. A huge, badass axe.

Could I trust Nick with the family? Could I go back to China and renew my quest to be a master of martial arts?

Well, no, I certainly can't trust Nick alone with my toddlers. Not yet. But I did have backup. If I asked, my family would check on things.

And it would be my first time away from home since before I was pregnant. It's been a long time. Who should I ask? Veronica was out, her job was too much. My parents would try but I hate to put them to too much bother at their age. Vincent? Stephen? Just trust Jake?

Bonus pics and a bit of ancient history.

It is true that their great granddad Sam earned that Axe of Pangu when he was alive. He only got to use it a few times before it disappeared from the inventory.  I wanted Penny to have it but it might not have respawned in the temple. Since Rocio does live in the house where Sam and Rachel raised their tribe of 5, she and Jerod may well have found it and that's my story. :D

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Journal of Penny Grant - July 14 - Changes

I was busy with Daisy when my phone rang. "Hello?"

“Mrs Grant, this is Kayla Hill. I’m your son’s teacher.”

“Ms Hill,” I paused while I tried to think of an appropriate pleasantry as my mind raced through a dozen possibilities of why Buddy’s teacher would call. Was he sick or injured? Had he forgotten a school project? “I’m pleased to finally talk to you.”

“You won’t be soon. Look, can you come by after school today? We need to talk. Sooner will be better, Mrs Grant. Can you and Buddy’s father make it?”

“I’ll try, Ms Hill, but I can’t make any promises. I have triplets and it’s not often that I can get away. And Buddy’s father is overseas. He’s not due back yet.”

“I need to talk to you, Mrs Grant. Please try to make it.”

I ended the call. Obviously Buddy wasn’t sick, but what else would his teacher want to talk about? And I realised that Nick was due back relatively soon now. When he’d left, the babies weren’t that old. It was only about a month or so before his tour of duty was over.

“Jake, I have to go see Buddy’s teacher at around 3. Will you be all right?”

“Of course, ma’am. That should be the toddlers nap time. If they don’t sleep, they do have plenty of toys to amuse themselves with.” Jake nodded reassuringly at me. “We will all be fine.”

So I left home just before 3 and headed for the school. It took me a little while to find someone who could tell me where Ms Hill might be. I found her and Buddy in the library.

“Thank you for coming, Mrs Grant.”

“Please, call me Penny. Mrs Grant is too formal for me.”

“In that case, you should call me Kayla.”

“So Kayla, why did you ring?”

She sighed. “This is never an easy discussion. Penny, Buddy is bullying the other children in his class.”

“A bully?” I looked at Buddy but he was staring at his hands and refused to look at me. “I know he doesn’t like school but...”

“We knew that someone was bullying some of our other students. Sometimes one of the girls would be crying after recess. We’ve been notified by parents that their children was giving away lunch money. Finally though, we caught it on a surveillance camera.” She motioned toward the small tv in the corner and started a tape playing.

It took a few minutes to get to the critical scene. But I couldn’t deny that it was Buddy, first shouting at one little girl until she burst into tears and then shaking a boy until he was handed something. A few minutes later, he went over to the sand box and the two children in it scrambled to get out before he arrived.

I turned to look at my son. “Buddy, why? Why are you picking on them?”

He just shrugged. “Don’t know. Don’t like them.”

I turned to Kayla. “Do you have any suggestions of where to go from here?”

She nodded. “The school has a counselling service. I would suggest that Buddy regularly has a chat to a counsellor and see if that helps.”

“Is that all?”

“Until we can be sure he isn’t bullying the other children, he’ll have to be supervised by a teacher while he’s on the school grounds. No hanging around before or after school since he might be able to bully someone again.”

Buddy was frowning deeply. But I couldn’t deny that the other children weren’t safe around him. “All right, that makes sense to me.”

“I won’t,” declared Buddy.

Kayla and I looked at each other. “You won’t what?” I asked my son.

“I won’t talk to the counsellor, I won’t be nice to the cry babies at school. I won’t!”

What was I going to do with him? “Thank you, Kayla. I appreciate you letting me know. I’ll talk to Buddy, and see if I can get him to listen.” I stood up and reached for Buddy’s hand.

He resolutely moved his hands away from me. “I’m not a baby. Just leave me alone.”

“If you insist, Buddy. It’s time to go.” I was relieved to see that he also stood up and grabbed his books. We left the building and Buddy hurried ahead. I assume so he wouldn’t be seen with me.

After we’d been moving for a few minutes, Buddy suddenly spoke. “This isn’t the way home.”

“We are going to visit your grandparents,” I explained. I didn’t know if any of them would have any useful suggestions but it would be worth asking.

“Which grandparents?” he grumbled.

“Both of your grandfathers, I hope. Since they live next door to each other, it shouldn’t be hard.”

Buddy slumped in the seat of the cab still grumbling. Fortunately, it was only a few minutes before we had arrived. I rang the doorbell first and while waiting for someone to open the door, rang up Brad to ask if he could come over.

Dad was the one who answered the door. “Penny? What’s up?” He looked around to see if I’d managed to bring the triplets as well as Buddy.

“Buddy, why don’t you go find something to play with?” I knew that Mum and Dad had never changed our room much so there were plenty of toys in the house. Buddy let out a loud sigh then wandered into the house.

“Dad, it’s about Buddy." I noticed that my father-in-law was on his way so I waited for him to arrive. "I just found out that Buddy’s bullying some kids at school and he’s not talking to me about it. I was hoping that maybe he’d talk to one of you.”

Dad winced. “Penny, I can’t promise he’ll talk to us either.”

I gave my dad a brief hug. “I know Dad, but maybe he will talk to one of his granddads when he just won’t talk to his mother. His teacher suggested a counsellor but I don’t know if that's going to work.”

"You have a chat with your mother while we see if Buddy responds to us," Dad said. He and Brad walked back toward what was our bedroom when Veronica and I lived at home. Mum was at the computer but she was willing to have a chat instead of working on another novel.

Some time later, Dad and Brad came back. "Sorry Penny but your son is stubborn. We tried but I don't think we made the slightest impression on him."

"That child is a Kane," declared Brad. "We do stubborn like nobody's business."

"Thanks for trying. I hope he doesn't start picking on the triplets too."

"We asked. Buddy looked shocked. I don't think he ever considered bullying the babies."

I nodded and went to collect Buddy. We went home, my son still unwilling to talk to me.


Unfortunately, weeks of counselling provided by the school also did nothing to change Buddy's behaviour. If he thought he could get away with it, he still bullied the other kids. The school started sending me suggestions about sending Buddy to a boarding school. Probably more to get him out of their school than to change his ways.

I was concentrating on what needed to be done for the triplets when the doorbell rang. I finished changing Joey's diapers, everyone who visits this house knows that it can take a while before I can answer the door.

When I finally opened the door, I saw nothing but wrapped packages. “I’m sorry, I would have hurried if I’d know you were carrying this much.”

I lead the way to the table. "Let me help you with those. Are they heavy?" A neutral grunt was the only reply.

I put several packages on the table before I finally saw who was behind them. "Nick?" He nodded and carefully put down the last of the packages.

All the feelings of anger, frustration, loneliness, and depression I'd had in the past two years suddenly came gushing back. I started yelling at Nick for leaving us with no warning. There was definitely quite a lot of cussing and name calling involved. I vaguely remember shaking him at one point and slapping him at another.

Nick never once moved. He didn’t flinch, he didn’t retaliate, he just stood there while I released two years of pent anger and frustration. It wasn’t until I’d nearly worn myself out that I realised Nick had been quietly talking the whole time.  He was repeating, “Penny, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” over and over again.

“Why, Nick? Why did you sign up for a tour of duty? Why did you abandon us?”

“Before I explain, I want you to know that I’ve been trying to come home. I’ve asked each of my commanding officers if I could have leave or get reassigned here. They pretty much stop seeing me after the first couple of weeks. But I did try.” He took a deep breath. “Remember what it was like just before I left? Neither of us had enough sleep, and we were both tired and stressed out?”

I glared at him. “It didn’t get any easier here without you.”

“I’m sorry. Truly. That first day back at work, a couple of guys and I shared a few brews. The booze went straight to my head and so when I saw a sign asking for a few people to transfer to a unit that was due to be posted overseas, I signed up. It seemed like a great idea, there was a pay increase and overseas bonus. Plus I wouldn’t have to cope with three little strangers.” I noticed that he started to reach for my hand but stopped himself. “It was about 3 days after we arrived when I finally got over the jet lag and it dawned on me what I’d done. How I'd just left my wife, my family with no warning at all. After that, I turned on my phone to find I had about a dozen very angry text messages from my mother.”

He looked at me but I just shook my head. I wasn’t sure what to say. “That’s when I wrote the first letter. I was told that you didn’t open any of my letters but I still wrote every week. They all start exactly the same way. ‘Penny, I love you. I hope that you’ll forgive me some day.’ I know I haven’t the right to ask that yet. But I hope very much that you’ll let me earn that right.”

He motioned toward the packages strewn over the table. “Those are the gifts for the kids. I bought you something as well.” He pulled a long white envelope out of a pocket. “I asked your dad what would be the best thing I could give you.”

“My father spoke to you?” I growled.

“It took me about 6 months of sending him grovelling messages before he finally responded. I thought he’d block my number or change his before he’d answer me. Eventually though, he gave in and told me that the best gift I could possibly give you was this.” He handed me the envelope.

I opened it and found plane tickets to China. “The dates are completely flexible.” Nick said softly as I stared. “You can fly over when you want and return when you are ready.”

I shook my head. “I can’t go to China. The triplets need so much attention.”

“I’ll look after everything here.” I started to shake my head again. “Look, Penny, I know that you don’t trust me. But we both know that everyone in our families would be watching. I wouldn’t dare fail.”

“Nick, even then, how can I believe anything you say?” I stared at those lovely tickets in my hand. The thought of going back to China and resuming my martial arts training was so attractive. But I would never risk the triplets.

“All I ask for is a chance, Penny," he pleaded. "Could I go see the babies at least? My mother frequently sent me messages about them but she refused to send even a small blurry picture.”

“Yes, Nick,” I said reluctantly. “You can see the babies. You are their father after all.” He headed toward their room before I’d even finished the sentence. "Wait, they are out the back in the swings."  I followed along after he changed direction. “Emerald didn’t say she was writing you.”

“I think she didn’t want to upset you again. But I’m pretty sure that she used her rank to ensure I didn’t have much fun overseas.”

“What do you mean?”

Nick picked up Joey and started to cuddle him. “I left home because of these adorable little ones. God, they've grown so much. While overseas, I would just be getting used to the unit I was attached to when I’d get reassigned. It happened every couple of months, toward the end of the month, I’d get papers assigning me somewhere else. Which meant every couple of months, I had a new group of people to deal with and a new CO to boot. And it’s always the tradition that the newer soldiers in the unit get the worst jobs. I’ve peeled mountains of spuds and mopped hundreds of floors.” He put Joey back in the swing and moved on to Daisy. “I’m pretty sure it was my mother pulling in some favours. No one else was getting transferred every two or three months.”

I heard the school bus in the distance which reminded me about Buddy. I was at wits end about how to handle Buddy. He simply didn't listen to me at all. “Nick, I’ll let you stay here with a few conditions.”

His attention went from Joey to me. “Really? I thought I’d have to take Dad up on his offer of sleeping in a dog house. I thought he was joking until I heard Mum comment that it would contaminate the dog house if I slept there.”

Em was so outspoken that it could be harsh sometimes. “Buddy has taken to bullying kids at school. I’ve talked to him. Both our fathers have talked to him. He sees a counsellor at school twice a week. None of it is making any difference. He won’t really talk about it and he won’t stop doing it.” I pointed at Nick. “For you to stay, you have to agree to work with Buddy and take care of the triplets if they need any attention from 10 at night to 6 in the morning.”

“Yes, Penny, I accept. Anything else?” Nick replied quietly.

“I don’t know what we will do about you sleeping here. You are certainly not welcome in my bed. Buddy and the butler have the only other beds…”

The front door slammed loudly, announcing the return of our oldest son. “Buddy, could you come outside please?”

We could hear the stomping and the grumbles as Buddy approached. Nick put Daisy back in the swing and turned to wait for Buddy. The door was shoved open.

“Hey, Buddy. How’s my little man?” asked Nick.

“Daddy?” replied Buddy as his eyes grew wide. “Daddy!” Buddy flung himself at his father.

I decided that for the moment, I’d leave the two of them together. I quietly left the room. I didn't love Nick. I didn't trust Nick. But if he could do something about Buddy, I'd let him stay.


it may be that Penny does love Nick.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Journal of Penny Grant - July 10 - The Neverending Birthdays

“Mummy, do I have to go to school? I don’t like it.”

I suppressed a sigh, every day was the same battle to get Buddy out the door. “Yes, Buddy, you do have to go to school. Leisure day is coming, you’ll have a whole day off.”

He gave me a look of disgust. “It will never get here.”

“It will get here, I promise. And do you really want to stay home with all the babies?”

“Babies are yucky,” he agreed. “I wish daddy were here, he wouldn’t make me go to school.”

I wanted to tell Buddy a few things about his daddy but now wasn’t the time. “He would make you go. Education is very important, so go to school Buddy Grant.”

He slowly trudged out of the house and to the waiting bus. I watched him go, sad that my little man so disliked school.

After Buddy had finally gotten into the bus, I went and cuddled the babies. When they were all cuddled and ready for another nap, I prepared to go out. “Jake?” I called.

“Yes ma’am,” he appeared in that magical butler way. One moment, you’d swear he wasn’t even in the house and the next, he was right beside you.

“I’m going out for the morning. Gym, coffee shop and then pick up the things for the birthday party. You’ll manage?”

“Of course, ma’am. Now that the babies are on the same schedule, they aren’t too hard.”

“Thank you, Jake.” My parents were right. A butler was a blessing. Jake took everything in stride, and I could get away for a few hours from time to time.

First stop was the gym. I needed a more thorough workout than the board breaker at home could do for me. The local team was holding a place for me, once I was done with maternity leave. And I have every intention to shine. To do that, I have to be in top shape.

When I’d finished working myself into a good sweat, and taking a shower, I went over to the coffee shop for a quick caffeine fix. I double checked the list of party supplies that I was to get. Jake had a few requirements for food. I wanted to make sure we had enough decorations to suit each of the triplets. Three birthday cakes, a small expense but I’m sure that it will be easier if we don’t have to try to have three toddlers blow out the candles on the same cake.

It was nearly evening before everything was ready and the guests started to arrive. I'd invited the family.  Dad, Brad and Em, Stephen and Abby, and Veronica made it. Mum, Vincent and James didn't.

The fact that Mum didn't come worried me. I think Vincent stayed home to keep an eye on her. Every time I see her, I'm worried that it will be the last time.

I looked at the pile of presents that Brad and Em had delivered earlier in the day. “Did you buy all of this?” I had a feeling about the answer. There were two new chests with presents piled on top. The upper most present being an especially fluffy stuffed toy, one for each of the babies.

A look passed between them. “Well, Penny,” Brad said. “We didn’t. We brought you these,” and he handed me a couple of gifts. “The rest are from Nick. They arrived a couple of weeks ago for the triplets birthday.”

I added Brad and Em’s gift to those of the other guests. My family had done well at getting presents for the babies, there were a lot of new toys and some new clothes as well.

The pile of gifts from Nick wasn’t entirely a surprise. He’d sent at least one gift for every birthday and holiday and he usually sent them to his parents or occasionally mine. I think he sent them to parents so there were witnesses to the fact that there were gifts. I'd never deny my children gifts but since I don't communicate with Nick, he wouldn't know that.

Buddy had been playing in the tree house from the time he got home. In a way, that was convenient, he'd been out of the way while we were setting everything up.

"Buddy, it's time. Come down for the birthday party."

"Do I have to?" was the plaintive reply.

"If you don't, you won't get any cake," I said. While it's still fresh, that is. I have a feeling we will have cake in the fridge for ages.

Even though the guests had started to arrive, the babies were still soundly asleep in their swings.

I hate to have to admit it but I prefer them asleep. While they sleep, they are the best babies anyone could want. Then again, there were three of them and when they are all awake, it's nearly impossible to keep up. Without Jake, I have no idea how I'd manage.

Because I had three cakes, I decided to start the birthdays even though the guests were still talking to each other inside the house. My little gem, Ruby, got to be the first to blow out her candle.

Jake was surprisingly enthused about the birthday. I'm not sure why, it's still going to be nappies and bottles for a while yet.

And Buddy was equally enthused to see his baby sister having a birthday. In fact, Buddy was happy about all of them.

Or maybe it was knowing that there was cake in his future. A little hard to tell with a growing and very hungry boy.

Finally the family made it to the back garden, in time for the first cake to be cut.

"Ronnie, I'm glad you managed to get away from the hospital."

"Penny, you have no idea how glad I am. I barely have time to breath any more. Poor Eddie only gets to see me for about 10 minutes a day, there's just no stopping."

"How are you and Eddie doing?"

"We're engaged," she started to say.

"That's fantastic," I replied.

"Yes, but I have no idea when we will get married. We'll probably have to do a 5 minute civil ceremony at city hall. It's all the time I can get." She sighed. "I love my job but the hours are going to kill me."

Poor Ronnie. The medical profession is very demanding.

The next random baby I grabbed was Daisy.

By now, at least the family had all assembled around the back, though some of them were more interested in the cake then the birthday.

Not that I could blame anyone. Jake and I got so involved in the decorating, we forgot to put any food out, not even snacks. I'm afraid that if anyone is hungry "Let them eat cake" applies.

Ruby decided that there were too many big feet around and she headed off for a quiet corner to play with one of the new toys.

Finally it was time for Joey to blow out the candles.

Everyone was getting exhausted by now. The third round of 'Happy Birthday'. The third round of singing. The third round of opening presents.

It wasn't long after Joey had finished that everyone started to leave. It's always good to see everyone but it is a relief when the house isn't quite so full.

I did notice that Ronnie decided to play with little Daisy for a bit before she headed for home. Ronnie would make a great mother, if she ever could stay away from the hospital long enough to get pregnant.

Jake was my hero after the party. He must be as tired as I am, or even worse but he had to tidy the plates before he went to bed.

How would I begin to cope without him?

And for me? One last snuggle with my little gem before I put her in her crib and go to my own bed.

Oh my plumbbob, tomorrow I have to start toddler taming. Three toddlers, and they all need help to walk and talk.

Bonus pics

Yes, poor Nick would be most surprised to find he's a villain. He's been quite a sweety really.

And the heat of the moment kiss is very cute.

Phillip wanted to look his best before the other guests arrived.

Now here's something I never get to see.

Em and Brad decided to flirt in front of the house.

Mind you, this means they aren't in place for the first of the birthdays. They'd rather smooch for a while instead of watching a grandchild age up.

Good thing it was one of three.

Em, I like the shirt but did you have to do the invisible plate thing?

I had sent Nick to a different lot but I just couldn't make him miss all the babies growing up. Just had to be careful that he wasn't in most of the shots.

Joey as a toddler. He's a definite little cutie.

I still love Stephen. If his younger siblings had been one instead of two, he might have been heir.

Some guests left in a timely manner but Phillip and Veronica stayed foreverrrrrr.