Tag Archives: sleepover

A Rocky Start: Chapter Eight Continued

Image1-17_edited-1Sunlight was coming in through the seams of the tent when the girls woke up. As soon as talk was coming from the tent, Taylor appeared at the door flap. “Daddy’s making french toast,” she announced.

“My dad makes the best french toast,” Laura informed them. “He makes it with thick slices of bread, and he puts cinnamon in the mixture.”

After downing two servings each, the girls went to Laura’s room to get dressed.

“I don’t have my bike here,” Amber suddenly realized. “I’ll have to walk to the senior center.”

“Mandy will let you borrow hers,” Laura assured her. “I’ll go ask her now.”

At ten o’clock on the dot, the girls arrived at the senior center. They quickly checked the bulletin board to find their assignment. After going down the list several times, they were convinced that Mrs. Snow had forgotten to assign them a job. To make matters worse, Amber noticed that her flyer was missing from the bulletin board.

“Maybe it fell off,” Laura suggested.

“I don’t think so,” Amber said. “See, here’s the corner where I put the tack. I think someone pulled it down.”

After several minutes of looking, Amber located her flyer under a small table. She dusted it off and stuck it back on the bulletin board.

As they had been instructed by Mrs. Snow, the girls went directly to Walt’s office. They found him at his desk and explained the situation.

“Mrs. Snow isn’t here today,” he said. “Let’s go take a look at the list. Mrs. Snow said she was going to have you girls set the tables for lunch. Your names should be on the list.”

Walt checked the list but couldn’t find their names. “It looks like it was there, but someone erased it. I’m going to take you over to meet Bob Stone. He’s the lunchroom manager. He’ll show you what to do.”

Bob Stone was a big man with sandy-blond hair and a mustache. He was dressed in jeans and a T-shirt, with a large white dish towel tied around his waist. Bob smiled broadly at the girls and talked fast as he filled them in on what they would be doing.

“Usually, the ladies’ auxiliary from the Community Church sets up our lunch on Saturdays,” Bob explained. “But they’re working on table decorations for next Saturday. We’re having a big Easter luncheon. You will need to put out a plate, silverware, a glass, and a napkin at each place around the tables. Usually, we just put out forks and knives, but since we’re having pudding today, you will need to put out spoons as well.”

Bob showed the girls where to find everything. Then he left the Happy Helpers to set the tables and went back to preparing the food. Laura took charge of explaining proper table setting to the other two girls. She told Amber to put out a plate and glass at each place. Then she put a napkin and fork on the left side of each plate. Melissa placed a knife and spoon on the right side. In about forty minutes, the girls had finished their work. On the way out, they waved to Gus, who called them over to where he was sitting with some other guys.

“Like you to meet my cronies,” he said. “Here’s Al, Bert, and Norman. We’re planning our Monday-night poker game.” Gus gave the girls a wink.

“It’s nice to meet you,” the girls said.

“Tell them a joke before they leave,” Bert told Gus.

“Okay, try this one,” Gus said. “Why did the boy eat his homework?”

“Was the boy named Spike?” Amber asked.

“Okay, why did the boy eat his homework?” Laura played along.

“His teacher said it was a piece of cake.” Everyone laughed.

“That’s a good one, Gus,” Melissa said. “You’re a pretty funny guy.”

“We’d better get going,” Laura reminded Amber. “Your mom will be at my house to pick you up.”

“See you later, alligator,” Gus called after them.

“After a while, crocodile,” the girls called back a little awkwardly.

Out in front of the senior center, the girls saw Chris and Logan sweeping the walkways.

“Where’s Spike?” Melissa asked. “Isn’t he one of the Handy Guys anymore?”

“He went inside to use the bathroom,” Logan answered. “He’s been gone for a while though.”

“Are you volunteering here now?” Chris asked.

“We are,” Laura announced. “We just finished setting the table for lunch. It’s kind of fun.”

“Some of these old guys are really great to be around,” Logan said.

“You mean like Gus?” Amber asked. “He just told us a funny joke.”

“Why did the boy eat his homework, right?” Chris laughed.

“That’s the one,” Laura said.

“Kind of corny, huh?” Logan asked.

“Yeah, but we’d never tell Gus that,” Chris added.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon



A Rocky Start: Chapter Eight


At five o’clock, Mary dropped Amber off at Laura’s house. Her mom hadn’t mentioned the meeting with Ms. McGuire, and Amber had no plans to bring it up. Melissa and Laura came rushing out to help her bring in her gear. Laura lived in one of the fancier homes in Bluesky. Her dad, Bill Thomas, was a banker. He worked at a large bank in Marshallville. Laura’s mom, Emma Thomas, had trained for a career as a ballet dancer when she lived in New Orleans. Now she was a dance teacher. She had a small studio in Bluesky where she taught tap, ballet, and hip-hop along with gymnastics.

There were four girls in the Thomas family. Fourteen-year-old Amanda was the oldest. Everyone called her Mandy. Laura, who was having her tenth birthday, was next. They had two younger sisters, Molly, who was six, and four-year-old Taylor. All the girls were dancers, except Laura who tried ballet but changed to gymnastics, which she liked better. Laura’s mother and her three sisters all had long straight brown hair that was pulled into a bun when they performed ballet. Laura liked to keep her hair cut short. She said it was easier to do tumbling without a knot on the back of her head.

Out in the backyard, a tent was already set up, and the girls helped Amber put her things inside. Unlike Amber’s backyard, the Thomases’ was carefully landscaped. Matching lawn furniture was arranged artistically on the patio. A stone walkway led to a gazebo in the middle of the carefully manicured lawn. Neat planters filled with bushes, and flowers lined the fence. Amber knew that once it was dark, Mr. Thomas would turn on the decorative lighting. There would be lights bordering the planters, rope lights on the edges of the patio roof, and tiny twinkling lights in the trees. Taylor called it the fairyland.

Each girl selected a lawn chair and sat down. “Tomorrow we’re going to the senior center, right?” Melissa asked.

“That’s the plan,” Laura said happily. “I wonder what jobs Mrs. Snow assigned us.”

“I hope it’s not doing the dishes,” Amber groaned. “I hate doing the dishes.”

Mandy came in with a tray of lemonade. “We’re not going to make you do the dishes,” she insisted.

“We’re talking about the senior center,” Melissa explained. “We’re volunteering there tomorrow.”

“That’s a really nice thing to do,” Mandy said. “I’m sure they need lots of help.”

“We even put up a flyer in case any of the seniors needs help at home,” Amber added.

“Have you gotten any calls?”

“Not yet, but we just put the flyer up on Monday.”

Bill Thomas came out onto the patio to light the gas barbecue grill. Laura’s mother called her through the open sliding door, and Laura got up and went inside. Amber followed her in.

“Could I use the phone?” she asked Mrs. Thomas.

“Of course, help yourself,” she answered.

“We’re having individual gourmet pizzas,” Laura informed her. “We’re going to cook them on the grill.”

Amber noticed a tray with a variety of pizza toppings: chopped meats, peppers, onions, olives, mushrooms, and some other things she didn’t recognize. There were bowls with red and white sauces and several types of shredded cheese. She was sure this was Laura’s idea, since cooking was her passion. Laura’s little sisters were busy making their own pizzas to cook in the oven.

“Where’s the pepperoni?” Molly asked.

“These are gourmet pizzas,” Laura explained. “You don’t put pepperoni on gourmet pizza.”

“That’s the kind I like,” Molly said.

“Me too,” Taylor added. “That’s the kind I like.”

“Don’t say everything I say,” Molly scolded, and Taylor hung her head.

“Be nice to your little sister,” Mrs. Thomas reminded her. “You were the baby once yourself.”

“I’m not a baby!” Taylor insisted.

Amber had just finished putting the toppings on her pizza and had given it to Mr. Thomas so he could put it on the grill when Mandy called her name.

“Kyle’s here to see you,” Mandy said, her face obviously red.

“I wonder what he wants,” Amber said as she walked in the house.

“Here’s what you forgot.” Kyle handed her a birthday-card-sized envelope.

“Thanks.” Amber hung her head. “I thought Mom would bring it.”

“She’s busy,” Kyle said. “Come here a minute.”

“What are you looking at?” Amber asked.

“Just making sure your head is attached to your shoulders. I wouldn’t want you to leave it anywhere.”

“Brothers!” Amber spouted as she walked back outside. “Be glad you both have sisters.”

“We have little sisters,” Laura reminded her. “Need I say more?”

When they finished their pizzas, Mandy came out with a tray full of graham crackers, Hershey bars, and marshmallows. “S’mores!” Amber and Melissa shouted together.

Laura noticed Molly and Taylor with their sad faces pressed up against the window. “Come on out,” she said with a sigh. “You can make s’mores with us.”

“You’re not supposed to cremate the marshmallow!” Laura yelled at Molly. “You are supposed to toast it lightly a little at a time. Watch me.” Laura put a marshmallow on her stick.

“I like it burned,” Molly insisted.

“No, you don’t,” Laura said. “Who would like burned marshmallows?”

“Me,” Amber said. “The more burned, the better, as far as I’m concerned.”

“Well,” Laura said, “you’re both weird.”

“Because we’re not marshmallow gourmets?” Amber asked.

“Because you like burned food,” Laura corrected.

Just then, Taylor held up her stick with a melted marshmallow dripping onto the patio. “I didn’t burn mine,” she said with pride. Everyone started laughing.

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas came out to the patio, carrying a birthday cake and gifts. After the traditional singing of “Happy Birthday,” Laura blew out the ten candles on her cake. There were gifts from her parents and from each of her sisters. Mostly, they were clothes and hair clips or jewelry. The gift from her mother was a cookbook for young chefs. Melissa gave her a CD she’d been hinting about for weeks, and Amber gave her a gift card to her favorite store. Laura thanked everyone appreciatively. With help from Melissa and Amber, she toted her gifts off to her bedroom. The girls decided to put on their pajamas and then go get into the tent to listen to music. At ten o’clock, Mr. Thomas came out to tell them to turn off the music so they wouldn’t disturb the neighbors.

“If Logan, Chris, and Spike were the only boys on earth,” Melissa suggested as the girls sat in the dark tent, “which one would you want to marry?”

“If Spike was the only boy on earth,” Amber said, “I would be single for my entire life!”

“He is kind of cute,” Melissa said.

“You think every guy is cute,” Laura responded.

“What about you, Laura?” Amber asked. “Who would you choose?”

“Logan’s so serious,” Laura said thoughtfully. “He doesn’t seem to want to have fun.”

“Yeah,” Amber agreed. “Chris seems like the most normal one, but personally, I couldn’t imagine being married to any of them.”

“Lucky thing there’s more fish in the sea,” Laura sighed.

“What does that mean?” Melissa asked.

“It means you don’t have to choose the first guy who comes along,” Amber said.

With that, the girls burst into laughter.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Seven


Domino didn’t know it yet, but Monday was going to be a life-changing day for him. That was the day that Mary would be taking him to the vet for his surgery. Mary had taken the day off from work. Domino didn’t seem to understand why nobody fed him that morning. He was whining and pushing his food dish around with his nose.

Amber brought the flyer to school so she could show it to her friends. She had worked on it for two hours on Sunday afternoon and was pretty pleased with the results.

At the top of the flyer, in her best fancy lettering, Amber had put the name of their group, Happy Helpers. Then she wrote their names: Melissa, Laura, Amber. Beside each name, she drew a little picture. Then she printed these words: “Helpful jobs we can do—dusting, sweeping, window cleaning, yard work, and shopping. Call when you need help around the house. We will be happy to help.” When she was finished, she showed it to her mother, who told her it was perfect. Melissa and Laura agreed.

“We’ll put it up on the senior-center bulletin board after school,” Laura said. “We might get some calls right away.”

“Then the Happy Helpers will be in business,” Amber said with glee.


After school, the girls rode their bikes to the senior center. Mrs. Snow accepted their applications to become junior volunteers. She explained that the volunteer assignments are posted every Monday afternoon.

“It’s too late to put you on this week’s assignment list,” Mrs. Snow said thoughtfully. “But if you can be here at ten o’clock next Saturday, I’ll have a job for you.”

“Just a minute,” Laura said, “we need to talk about something.”

With their heads together, in whispered tones, the girls talked about Laura’s sleepover on Friday. They all decided that if they didn’t stay up too late, they could be at the senior center by ten.

“Okay, Mrs. Snow,” Laura said at last. “We’ll be there.”

“When you get here on Saturday, check the assignment list. That will tell you what to do and who to report to. If you have any problems, Walt should be here all day.”

“Thanks,” Amber said. “There’s just one more thing. We have this flyer to put up on your bulletin board.”

“Isn’t that nice,” Mrs. Snow said. “Who’s the artist?”

“That would be me,” Amber said proudly. “I’m the one who made the flyer.”

“You can put it up on the bulletin board next to the one for Three Handy Guys,” Mrs. Snow offered.

“Thanks,” Melissa said. “We really like to help older people.”

“There’s a lot of need,” responded Mrs. Snow. “But sometimes it’s hard for people to ask for help. We all like to be independent.”

“We know just what you mean,” Laura said. “We like to be independent too.”

“You seem like three very capable young ladies.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Snow,” Laura said. “We try to be.”

Amber found a thumbtack and started to post her flyer on the bulletin board. “What if I accidentally put it over the top of Three Handy Guys?”

“I’d never tell.” Melissa laughed.

“That wouldn’t be very nice.” Laura pretended to be shocked.

“I’m not going to do it,” Amber assured her, “But I’m sure we can do any job they can do.”

“And better too,” Melissa added.

The sound of a door closing made the girls look in that direction. “Who was that?” Melissa asked.

“It looked like Spike,” Amber told them.

“Woops,” Melissa said with a little giggle.

When Amber came home from school, Domino was lying on his bed with a sad look on his face. He was wearing what looked like a lampshade around his neck.

“Be careful,” her mother warned. “He’s been through a lot today. He probably doesn’t want to be petted.”

“I’ll be careful,” Amber said as she knelt down to pat his head. Domino nuzzled her arm and seemed to be begging her for help.

“I need to take him outside,” Mary said. “He has to go out every two hours.”

“What is that thing around his neck?” Amber asked.

“It’s called an E-collar,” Mary explained. “It’s intended to keep him from licking the stitches and opening them up.”

“How long does he have to wear it?”

“About a week,” Mary told her. “He should be feeling better in a few days.”

By the next afternoon, Domino was getting around a little better. When Amber got home, she saw her mom returning after taking him for a walk.

“How’s he doing?” Amber asked.

“He seems to be feeling much better. We walked around the block.”

Once they were inside the house, Mary told her daughter to change her clothes right away.

“Kyle has a game this afternoon,” Mary said. “Your dad is meeting us there. Then we’re going out for pizza afterwards.”

By the time Amber and Mary arrived at the baseball field, the game was in the third inning. They quickly located John and took the seats next to him. The Bluesky Bulldogs were playing their rival, the Clear Creek Cavaliers. The score was three to nothing. The Bulldogs had the nothing. The Cavaliers were up to bat with two outs. Kyle was behind the plate, wearing his catcher’s gear. A cracking noise told Amber the ball had been hit hard. She watched as it popped straight up in the air and came down right into Kyle’s mitt for the third out.

Play continued for the next two innings with no runs by either team. Then in the bottom of the sixth, the Cavalier’s pitcher walked the first batter. The next batter hit a line drive down third base. Now there were runners on first and second. A pop fly was the first out. Next came a grounder to center field, and the runners advanced. The bases were loaded when Kyle came to bat. As his bat connected with the ball, the loud crack brought the spectators to their feet. The sound of cheering was deafening as his ball sailed over the left-field fence for a four-run home run.

The rest of the game was uneventful, but Kyle’s grand slam assured his team of a four-to-three victory. Amber yelled and jumped up and down with the other Bulldog fans. But in the back of her mind, she couldn’t help thinking about how living with Kyle wasn’t going to be easy for the next few days.

Later, at the pizza parlor, Kyle had to relive every dramatic moment of the game. If that wasn’t bad enough, every few minutes, someone was giving him a high five or patting him on the back. Then he would start replaying the game all over again.

To make matters worse, Amber spotted Ms. McGuire in a booth with some friends. After their server finished taking their order, Ms. McGuire walked over to the Snyders’ table.

“Hi,” she said to everyone. “You seem to be the hero of the day,” she said to Kyle, who was beaming with pride. “How’s your report coming?” she asked Amber.

“Fine,” was all Amber said.

“She won’t tell us what her topic is,” John said.

“Then I won’t spoil her surprise.” Ms. McGuire smiled at Amber as if they shared a big secret.

“I have something I need to discuss with you, Mrs. Snyder,” said Ms. McGuire. “Would it be okay if I stopped by your office on Friday afternoon?”

“That would be fine,” Mary said. “I’ll be happy to talk to you.”

After she left, Mary shot her daughter a “what did you do?” look, to which Amber only shrugged.

“And the drama continues,” Kyle said, rolling his eyes.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon