A/N This is it. Thanks for reading.
"The girls will be home any minute! I cannot wait to meet Tyler!" Lena squealed to Stef as they made dinner. Maddie was out of timeout and had brought out Candyland to play with Jude on the porch while they waited. Jude played cautiously knowing that her competiveness is what got her in trouble with their mom earlier. He, unlike Stef, did not mind letting her win, so their game was going well.
Suddenly the little girl jumped up disturbing the board "They are coming!" She yelled. "I can see the car, Jude!" Jude had to remind her to stay on the porch. As they pulled up she started calling for them continuously as she hopped up and down, "Callie! Mariana!" As the girls approached with Tyler her calls and hops became louder and faster. When they came up the porch Maddie leaped into Callie's arms and kissed both of her sisters before being placed back on the ground. Jude also hugged both of his sisters.
"Tyler, this is our other sister, Maddie, and our littlest brother, Jude. Guys, this is Tyler." Jude stood up to shake Tyler's hand and gave him a half hug while Maddie latched onto one of his legs.
Stef chuckled to herself as she saw the girls walk in the door with Maddie still attached to Tyler's leg and Jude following along behind. "Well, if it isn't two of Jude's coconspirators." Stef held out her hand and Callie smirked and slapped her five. "No, darlings, I would like your phones, please, this is not a choice."
"Are you kidding..." Callie started and then seeing the look on her mother's face, she sighed and handed over her phone and Mariana followed with an eye roll. Tyler looked on with interest. Callie had described her family as the type of people who hugged, kissed, and said "I love you" constantly. This greeting didn't fit with the image he had in his mind nor with the enthusiastic greetings from Callie's younger siblings (one of which was still on his leg).
"Thank you. By the way, welcome home my babies and my baby's friend! I have missed you both so much!" Stef grabbed her two older daughters in a group hug and kissed the heads before turning to Tyler and shaking his hand. This seemed like more the greeting he was expecting.
"Mom, this is Tyler, Tyler, this is my mom, Stef. And yes she did just take my phone. Not sure why, but that is what happened."
"It is nice to meet you, Tyler. Your girlfriend seems to not understand that if I am still paying the cell phone bill, I have the right to ground her from said phone for calling me in the middle of the night to distract me from catching her little brother. Make yourself at home, just not so at home that you also get your phone taken away…" At this comment Callie turned a little red and Tyler laughed nervously. Stef pried Maddie off of Tyler's leg and sent her towards the kitchen. Jude just watched with amusement.
"When do I get my phone back? I mean, it isn't safe for us to drive back to LA at the end of the weekend without a phone…" Callie started looking hopeful.
"Tyler, do you have a phone? " He nodded. "Perfect, you will both be safe going home with Tyler. Iwill be sure to give him Brandon's phone number before he leaves as Jesus and Jude will also be phoneless. Or perhaps if you run into trouble you can call Maddie instead of just me or your mama. I know you all prefer to handle these things yourselves."
Lena entered the room rolling her eyes as Stef said her last bit. "Dinner's ready. You must be Tyler. I am Lena, Callie's mama. Don't mind Stef, she is just upset that the kids teamed up against her. Girls, you will have your phones back before you leave for the weekend, I promise. Although, I would like to know why none of you told us what was going on?"
"Well…" Callie started looking at Mariana.
"We will have plenty of time to discuss this topic after dinner…"
"Is Jesus coming over for dinner tonight?" Callie asked trying to change the subject again.
"I would call him for you, but I don't seem to have a phone anymore…" Mariana started. Stef just smiled and put her arm around her daughter again.
"That won't be necessary, I see him pulling up right now." Originally Jesus was not coming over until Saturday, but when he heard that Tyler was coming, he decided to spend the weekend at home as well. Stef went out to Jesus's car to greet him and also take his phone. Stef followed Jesus back into the house with a smile on her face. Inside the house, the kids were talking and laughing together. Lena said she could not really ground them from their phones long term, but at least for tonight, her kids, other than Brandon, would all be phoneless. She was planning on a family movie night tonight followed by a family slumber party. All great ways to get to know Tyler better.
After dinner, Tyler volunteered to help with the dishes. Stef and Lena volunteered Jude and Maddie to help him. They decided it was a good time to gather their older three and Brandon on Facetime and have another serious talk. "Before we get started, do any of the four of you want to tell us what you were thinking?"
"My only part in this was being Jude's designated driver. I got him home to you safely. For that, I lost my phone and I am not sure why. I was just taking my job as a big brother seriously." Jesus started.
"Jesus, that would be great and all, but why didn't you use that same phone to call Mama and me and tell us he was safe and on the way?"
"I guess I didn't think about it. He sounded scared so I just did it."
"Jesus, you are nineteen years old. You have to quit acting impulsively and think. We were super worried about him a simple phone call would have cleared it up. We will discuss sentencing with you all in a moment. Who else wants to talk?"
The girls made eye contact and decided they could go together. "Well, Mari and I called you guys. We really did have things to say…"
"Callie, your phone call was obviously a distraction. Try again."
"Mama," Mariana started trying to appeal to Lena who had been fairly quiet so far. "Callie and I feel very badly for not telling you both what was going on. We were not very involved, though. All we were told is to call you and that is what we did."
"Okay, so when I looked at your phone earlier, I did not see texts between you and Jesus and you and Jude, right?" Stef said winking at her daughter.
"Stef, we are very sorry. I did realize later that it was not a good plan. Jude is my, well our, little brother and we also just wanted to see him get home. I did not speak with him by text or by phone…"
"Right, because you were on the phone with us while Mari used her phone, still not off the hook. That brings us to you, Brandon. How do you plea?"
"Guilty. Jude called me. I knew better. When he called me I should have either called you or told him to call you. Instead, I came up with the plan for the girls to call you while Jude found his way home. If anyone deserves to be in trouble, it is me as the oldest for not taking my responsibility seriously and bringing everyone else into it."
Stef was obviously moved by Brandon's explanation. "I am going to start with you all as a group. I will tell you same as your mama told Jude. The purpose of your phones is to communicate with us and with each other. You did great on the later, but you failed on the first." She looked at Mariana and Callie to stop their interruption as they did call. "I cannot take away your phones long-term, so instead, you will all be paying your own cell phone bill this month. Be sure to answer all phone calls from us or be prepared to pay next month as well." Groans came from all four. "Next, Jesus, Jude has a dentist appointment next week and Maddie the week after. You are so fond of picking up your siblings to help us out, so I know you will not mind taking them there and bringing them home afterwards. I will let you know if there are other errands in the next few weeks. Got it?"
"Got it, Mom. Can I go?"
Stef and Lena agreed he could and then they turned to the girls. "You two are further away, but a little more responsible. You were on the phone with us and didn't tell us that you knew Jude was out of the house but safe. At nineteen and twenty I expected more from you. Jude is only sixteen. In addition to paying your own phone bills, we have found a place in LA and volunteered you both to work there for 20 hours. Your job will be taking phone calls for troubled teens and keeping them on the line until help arrives. See, it is perfect for both of you. You love to distract people and keep them on the phone, right?"
"Right…" They both mumbled.
"You are both free to go. Now Brandon… You are correct that you are the guiltiest, besides Jude of course, as the oldest and as the one who came up with this plan. Jude trusted you, as his big brother to give him good advice and you let him down. Did you actually think Jude could sneak back in and pretend to be sleeping? For real, we knew he was missing from the house. You are right, you should have called us and told Jude to call us. The phone bill obviously applies to you also. However, the worst part for you has to do with where you live. Tonight, we are having a family movie night which will almost certainly be followed by a family sleep over in the living room. You will miss both. That's no popcorn, no cheesy G rated movie, and no family bonding time."
"Wouldn't I miss that anyway? I mean I am all the way across the country…"
"I am not finished. I also found a Big Brother organization in your area. You will be meeting your new little 'brother' on Monday at 6 pm. You will be committed to hanging out with me once a week for the rest of the semester. Please show good judgment and guide him well."
"I will Mom. For what it is worth, I am still very sorry. I love you guys and I hope your weekend with Tyler is great. I met him last week over Facetime and I really like him"
"What? Did you met Tyler before us? Again, better at communicating with each other than with us… Oh, well. I love you, too, Brandon. Have a sad lonely weekend without us."
"I love you, too, Brandon. Bye!" Lena added at the end. She hung up the phone and turned to her wife. "Well, Love, I think you handled that perfectly. Finding ways for them to help their communities was inspiring."
"Thanks. It helps to have connections with cops all over the country… Hark, is that arguing I hear coming from the family room?"
Both Stef and Lena got up and looked through the door. Inside they saw Tyler looking bewildered and their kids all holding a different DVD they were intent on watching for their family movie night. Each trying to talk above each other, Jesus decided to throw a pillow at Callie. She didn't see who threw it, so she threw a pillow at Jude. Now along with promoting their movies, they were in an all-out pillow fight. The two mothers quietly slipped into the house. Callie was the first to see them. "Uh… Hey Stef, hey Lena…."
The last pillow hit the ground the kids all seemed to freeze. Then Maddie spoke up. "Callie," she cried urgently as she got out from behind the couch, "I really need to talk to you."
Callie picked up the girl and hugged her close. "What is it Maddie?"
"Jude says that we are really special people. That's because we are the only group of kids in the whole wide world who get to be Mommy and Mama's kids."
"That's right, Maddie, Jude is pretty smart. We are special."
"Well, I am a lucky that I have five kids bigger than me to learn from, but you don't. I am littler than you, but you can learn from my mistakes so you don't get timeout like I did." Maddie leaned into Callie's ear and whispered loudly (like a typical four year old). "Mama says that it hurts her heart when I call her Lena. If you are one of the special ones, too, you might get a timeout for hurting Mama's heart."
Callie kissed Maddie and carefully set her back down on the floor before turning to her moms who obviously overheard the entire conversation. "Jesus and Jude, clean up the pillows. Mariana and Maddie, go get the sleeping bags, blankets, and pillows. Tyler, you can pick the movie tonight, make sure it is rated G for Maddie. Then I want you all to go get into pajamas for a family slumber party in the family room. If you need to, Tyler, you can borrow sleep pants from Jude or Jesus. Callie, you will be making the popcorn with us in the kitchen." Stef watched as each of them started on their assigned tasks before she joined Lena and Callie in the kitchen.
Lena had already started the popcorn and was sitting at the island across from Callie. Stef could see that Lena was handling this one and decided she could deal mostly the popcorn. "So, I guess Maddie has been in a little trouble this week as well?" Callie asked to ease the tension some.
"It has been a long week, Callie. Your mom got Jude straightened out pretty well today, but in four years I had never seen him act that way. He has been talking back sometimes and very distant other times. Maddie is like a parrot. She imitates everything Jude does the same way as he used what you did. She adores Jude and usually it is a good thing that she wants to be just like him. Maddie got in trouble to using almost the same words as Jude."
Callie waited for what Lena said to sink in. Maddie imitates Jude who spent most life imitating his big sister. Once again Callie was feeling very guilty for her part in both her brother's and sister's trouble. "Maddie said that if hurt you to not be called Mama by your kids. Was she right?"
"Callie, we have never asked you or made you call us by anything other than our names. We didn't even know you until you were sixteen. Jude fell into the habit on his own. Maddie has never had any other parents."
"But was she right?" Callie waited a bit and saw that Lena was tearing up just a little and she knew her littlest sister was correct. Lena secretly felt a little rejected every time Callie called her by her first name. "You know, you guys are ALWAYS saying to come to you if anything happens that hurts me. If you were feeling hurt about this, Mama, you should have come and told me. I feel bad that my baby sister had to tell me something I should have realized myself."
"Honey, it is really okay. Don't make the words of a four year old make you feel guilty. Her time out was more over yelling at Mom while they played Candyland. It wasn't about you, really."
"You guys took me in from juvie, helped me rescue my brother, hunted me down instead of having a honeymoon, agreed to adopt us both anyway, helped me get through high school, and sent me to college. I owe you my whole life. I have known for four years that you were my moms, now it is time for me to give you the titles you deserve to help the rest of the family. Mama, Mom, I love you both." As Callie said this, she stood up hugged both of her moms and kissed each on the cheek. "And if I mess up again, just point me towards Maddie's time out spot…"
Tyler entered the kitchen about this time ready for the slumber party, but stayed out of the way to just watch the interaction between his girlfriend and her parents. "I think Callie needs a Mama sandwich, Babe, do you agree?" Stef asked looking at Lena. They both grabbed her at once hugging her tightly and kissing her several times on the cheeks. All three of them were laughing when they noticed Tyler in the corner of the kitchen. "So, Tyler, did you pick a movie?" He handed over a very worn DVD case. "Interesting choice… You realize this was not Callie's pick, right? Actually, this is Maddie's choice. Which one of my daughters are you trying to date anyway?"
"Well, we could watch Callie's instead…"
"Nope. This was your choice and not Callie's. I am just impressed that you already seem to know that the way to Callie's heart requires getting into Maddie's. Do you have any siblings?"
"No ma'am. I am an only child, but I have enjoyed watching Callie and Mariana together. Now that I see everyone together, I can see that I really missed out having brothers and sisters."
"Well, you are welcome to come home with Callie any weekend you choose. Just so you know, your spot is the couch tonight for our family slumber party… Callie may sit on the couch with you, but when it is time to sleep, she needs to move down to the floor with her siblings. We have to keep everything G rated as we do still have a preschooler in the house. Got it?"
Callie by this time was holding Tyler's hand. "Of course, Mom. Tyler is always a gentleman."
"Well, what you do other places is up to you, but in this house Lena and I are the only ones with permission to…"
"Thanks Mom, but we are done with this conversation…" Callie was blushing by this time and definitely did not want to have a sex talk with Tyler and her mom. "Come on, Tyler, we need to get back into the family room to claim some blankets and pillows before they are gone."
Stef and Lena hugged again and finished making the popcorn. They got out bowls and started taking them to the kids who were already set up all over the floor. As the movie started, Lena snuggled in next to Stef. Tyler was sitting on the couch with Callie laying against him, Marianna sitting next to her, and Maddie laying across them. Jude and Jesus were on the floor throwing popcorn to each other trying to catch it in their mouths. Stef and Lena looked at each other and smiled. Despite the chaos of the week they loved their family and lived for moments like these.