Chapter 4 – Dirt Piles - April 2024
It was one of those types of days that he SHOULD have known better than to assume everything would go smoothly. Tali and Anthony had gotten to the school bus stop without a fight, both even eating the pancakes wrapped around turkey sausages that he'd made for everyone's breakfast. Ziva left early for her class on campus to work with a classmate on a project. The three younger kids got themselves dressed without too much of a fuss; LJ even put his shirt on right-side out and frontwards on the first try. The twins hadn't squabbled over clothing as they often did.
It was a beautiful sunny day, warm for early April; he suggested the three children play outside while he checked his work email and voicemail. He promised them lunch at their favorite fast food place; kids' meals all around. All three young DiNozzos had eagerly run out into the backyard with the two dogs following closely behind.
Tony was in the midst of reading his emails when Rivka came into his office. He glanced up from the screen when she asked him if it was okay if she filled the dogs' outside water bowls and the birdbath.
"Yeah, sure, go ahead and fill them all," he replied without thinking.
"Thanks, Abba," the four-year-old ran back outside to let the others know his response. Tony went back to reading the screen and responding to several of the messages.
"Abba said we can fill the birdbath and the water bowls," Riv told her siblings. "Let's use the hose so it will be easier to do and we don't have to carry any water in the pails." The other two followed her to the hose reel and helped her tug the hose out into the yard.
The three finally got the hose out to the birdbath and Beth squeezed the trigger nozzle with both hands. No water came out, despite pulling the trigger completely open. She laid the hose on the ground and ran to the other end followed by LJ.
"We gotta turn the water on," she pointed to the faucet handle. She tried to turn it but the handle didn't move, "Help me turn it LJ, please!" He put his hands on top of his sister's and together they turned. The two children could hear the water start to flow into the hose so they ran back to the birdbath where Riv was holding the nozzle and filling the concrete bowl.
Beth grabbed the nozzle, "Hey, I was gonna fill the birdbath. Gimme."
"Nope, you left."
"To turn the water on; not fair!"
LJ watched his sisters tug at the hose causing water to slosh out of the birdbath and some of it to spray the nearby tree. He jumped out of the way as the two girls turned and the water headed his direction.
"HEY! You almost got me wet," he yelled. "Stop fighting or I'll tell Abba."
His sisters stopped arguing and looked at their little brother; would he really tattle?
"Are you gonna stop? I'm going to tell Abba if you don't," he reiterated.
Riv looked at her twin, "You can fill the dogs' bowls, okay?" Beth nodded her agreement and the two girls looked at LJ.
"What?" he looked back at his sisters.
"Would you please get the dogs' water bowls? Please? You can have my toy at lunch," Beth tried to bribe her little brother.
He thought a minute, "Why not take the hose up on the deck? It's easier than carrying the bowls with the water in them?"
"Nope; Abba will hear us." Beth remembered that Anthony had gotten in trouble the previous summer when he used the hose on the deck without asking Abba first.
Riv looked around the yard, "How about we fill the buckets from the sandbox and carry the water that way?"
LJ grinned, "Okay; that works. I'll carry the pails of water for your toys." He ran to grab the two plastic buckets and placed them by his sister. Beth filled each one and LJ carried them to the deck and poured the water in the dogs' bowls. Daisy followed the little boy and started lapping up water as soon as one bowl was filled.
LJ went back for more water; his sister filled the bucket a second time and the little boy started back to the deck. He tripped over the hose about half way between and fell on one of the mounds of dirt that Ima had ready to be put into the raised flower beds she was making. The water spilled and ran down the dirt pile making a mud trail.
The three children watched the water, fascinated by the way it snaked through the dirt. Beth grabbed another pail and filled it with water. She lugged it back to the dirt pile and poured it in top of the pile. Riv started to make a dam in the mud to see if the water would stop flowing. Soon, all three had muddy hands; they dragged the hose over to the pile and made a pretend rain shower, watching the effects of the water.
When that dirt got too saturated, LJ pointed to a second pile of soil. They continued using the water to see the effects on the pile, digging trenches, making dams, and reinforcing breaches. The kids were on the third dirt mound when Tony stepped out onto the deck to call them inside to go to lunch.
Asher ran up on the deck leaving muddy footprints as Tony stood with his mouth open. The three children were covered in mud and soil and both dogs had muddy feet and legs.
"Hi, Abba," Beth waved a muddy hand at her father. "We're building dams and rivers." She brushed her curls out of her face leaving a mud streak on her cheek.
"We're hy-dro-en-gi… hydro-en… dam builders," Rivka tried to remember the fancy word they'd learned from the How Stuff Works video in preschool.
He was about to ask where they'd got the water when he noticed the hose on the grass; it was covered in dirt, bits of grass and leaves, and dripping water into the lawn. Sighing, he walked over to the kids to see their handiwork of which they were so proud.
"Hydro-engineers," he helped with the word his middle ninja was trying to remember. Two of the dirt piles were now mud pits; the third pile, where the three young DiNozzos were currently playing was not far from a mud pit. "So, now that you are all covered in mud, how are we going to go get lunch?"
LJ grinned at his Abba, "Wash our hands first; that's too easy, Abba." He held up his muddy hands and then wiped them on his pants' legs.
Tony resisted the urge to roll his eyes, "I'm going to go turn off the water for the hose; you three meet me on the deck. DO NOT go inside yet. Please!" He pointed in the general direction of the house and trotted to the water faucet. When he stepped on the deck, all three kids were watching him from the deck chairs.
"Here's what we're going to do. Each of you strip down to your underwear; all muddy clothes and shoes stay outside on the deck. When you go inside, grab your towel from your bathroom and meet me in my bathroom. We're going to shower you off in there, dogs included."
As the little ones removed clothing, Tony used the rag by the door to wipe the dogs' feet and legs as much as possible before letting the animals go inside. The kids ran to their rooms and got their bath towels as he grabbed two of the oversized towels from the laundry room specifically for bathing the dogs. He called Asher and Daisy into the master bathroom; Asher jumped into the large shower stall. Daisy hesitated, but then followed. Tony was thankful that Ziva had trained both dogs to tolerate their baths and not fight getting cleaned.
He used the removable shower head to wash the mud off the dogs' legs and got the second shower head adjusted for the kids to clean off. As the kids came into the bathroom, he had them place their towels on the counter and remove underwear to step under the running water.
Once the dogs were cleaned, he had them step out onto the bath mats and draped a towel over each dog. He patted them dry as the three kids used the removable shower head and the second stream of water to remove dirt.
"Soap and shampoo," he directed each of them. He stepped into the shower stall again to laughter from the three kids.
"Abba, you have your clothes on!" they laughed and pointed. "And you're getting all wet!"
An hour later than originally planned, father and children went to lunch at a favorite fast food restaurant. All three chose kids' meals to get the toy. When the four arrived back home, Ziva was just getting out of her van.
"Hi, Ima," LJ hugged his mother.
"Hello; what did you do today?" she hugged each child.
"Abba took a shower with his clothes on!" Rivka grinned.
"We builded dams and rivers," LJ added.
Beth smirked, "The dogs got all muddy so they had to have a bath."
Ziva met gazes with her soulmate; he just sighed.
"Long story; I'll fill you in later."