Chapter 1: Active - October 2024
How to Be a DiNozzo
Shorts of the DiNozzo kids being kids…
Chapter 1 – Active - October 2024
The kids had a four and one half day weekend; early release, teacher workdays, and the Columbus Day holiday gave them a mini-vacation from school. Delilah was TDY to Chicago and the NCIS MCRT was deep into a case, so Ziva offered to have all of the cousins stay over at the DiNozzo house. After rainy weather for almost three days, the sun had finally broken through the clouds on Monday morning. She sent the nine kids and two dogs outside to play and run off some energy.
After getting a load of laundry started and sending Tony off to the superstore with a grocery list, Ziva looked forward to some quiet time in the family room with a book. She could hear the sounds of the children playing in the back yard. She grabbed the mystery novel by one of her favorite authors and curled on the loveseat; Callie, the calico cat who preferred Tony, snuggled next to her. With her classes, reading for pleasure had become a novelty and she was determined to seize the opportunity today.
The quiet was interrupted by LJ bursting through the door to the deck from the family room, "Ima, Ima!" the little boy called out for his mother. "The Frisbees are all on the shed roof again; we need you to get them down."
"Slow down, motek, why do you need the Frisbees?" she retied the hood on her youngest's jacket, hoping it would stay on his head.
"We're using them for alien detectors, Ima; Tali says that the aliens throw them on the shed," he replied very seriously.
Ziva nodded, "Does your sister have a plan to get them off the roof?"
"She used the rake to get some, but the others are too high. They sent me to get you to help, please," he gave his Ima the best puppy eyes he had.
"Okay, but if they get thrown up on the shed again…" Ziva extracted herself from the cat and put her book on the end table. She grabbed her jacket and followed LJ into the yard. The other kids were standing by the shed trying to retrieve the Frisbees with a leaf rake.
Ziva was about to step in a leaf pile when Rivka stopped her, "That's a lava pit, Ima. You can't step there." She looked around the yard; the kids had raked the leaves into various piles and formations around the yard. Several pathways seemed to be marked off with leaves as well.
"Yeah, we chase the aliens into the lava pits with the Nerf guns and our swords," John held up his weapon and a stick. Each of the kids had sticks and Nerf guns, cannons, or bows and a bag of ammo.
"But we gotta watch out for the evil Gremlin who lives under the shed," Charles added and pointed at a hole Asher had dug by the back side of the shed.
"We got two teams, Ima; DiNozzos and others," Beth pointed to the leaf forts on the sides of the yard. Stockpiles of Nerf ammo were in the area under the playset as well as near the two forts. Ziva did not realize that her kids had so much Nerf stuff!
"Okay, let me get the remaining Frisbees," she took the rake from Tali and pulled the three discs off the shed roof. "Tell the aliens that the discs should stay off the shed roof, please."
Tori grinned, "We'll try, Aunt Ziva, but Tali says those aliens do what they want when they want."
The kids ran back into the yard and continued their 'adventure.' Ziva paused on the deck to watch them play; all nine were actively participating in the game they were playing and running and laughing together. She smiled; her five would never be accused of being 'couch potatoes.' They were too active, constantly in motion, and every one of them had a very active imagination. Her kids were normal kids; whatever that meant, and she was very grateful for the life she and Tony had worked to give the five young DiNozzos.
Chapter 2: Batteries - February 2026
Chapter 2 – Batteries – February 2026
"ZIVA!" Tony yelled in the direction of the kitchen from his recliner in the family room.
She peered around the corner of the doorway, "You bellowed?"
"Stupid remote isn't working again," he whined and then sneezed three times. He hated being down with the flu, and having to rest was driving him crazy when he could be outside, at work, or anywhere else for that matter.
She walked over to his side, and pressed the button to power on the TV, cable box, and Blu-Ray player; nothing happened. She tried again with the same result. "Remember that the doctor said that you should be gentle with your vocal chords and lungs," she reminded him as she shook the remote and pressed the power button a third time.
"Told you it isn't working," he grumbled.
"Did you try the remote for just the TV?" she gestured to the stash of remote control units sitting on the end table next to his recliner.
He handed it to her and had a coughing fit. She pressed the power button and the TV came on. She picked through the pile of remotes and found the one for the DVD player. She pressed the power button and the device came to life.
"I don't want to watch a disc; I want to watch the classic movie channel," he complained.
"Fine," she walked over to the cable box and pressed the power button on the device. It powered up to the default channel quickly. "What channel number is the one you want?"
"Three-twenty-four," he replied as she entered the channel number manually; the classic movie channel appeared on the screen. "What if I want to view the guide or change the channel?"
She sighed and walked back to the end table. She picked up the universal remote and opened the battery door. "I see the problem," she had to keep from grinning. "Your battery thief is at it again." She showed him the empty battery compartment.
"Little brats take after…" she shushed him before he could put his foot in his mouth.
"They are half you and half me; I will replace the batteries and be right back," she headed to his office to retrieve new batteries and couldn't help but smile. One or more of the kids had been pranking their father with the remotes on and off for the past month. Today's culprit had managed to snag the batteries between breakfast and heading out the door to the school bus. The loose batteries were found within a day or so, never in the same spot. The last time, the batteries had shown up on the kitchen counter behind a cup of pens.
As she was replacing the batteries in the remote, she heard a noise from the family room. Tony was holding up the missing batteries, "Found them in the side pocket of the recliner. Touché to the battery bandit!"
Chapter 3: Crayons - September 2025
Chapter 3 – Crayons – September 2025
"Tali, are you sure we can do this?" Anthony asked his older sister as he and the others broke the old crayons into small pieces.
Tali nodded, "Ima said that we can use the microwave. We're going to melt the crayon pieces in the microwave to make new crayons." She dropped several of the varying shades of blue pieces into one of the paper liners for the mini-muffins. "Besides, she keeps threatening to throw all these old crayons in the trash."
"If you say so," he still wasn't sure they wouldn't get into trouble for melting the crayons in Ima's microwave. "Does it tell how to make the swirl crayons on that website?"
"Yeah, but you can't mix too many colors or it'll just turn out brown instead of multi-colors," she plucked some of the green pieces out of the cup filled by her sister Rivka. "Only red and yellow, Riv; the green will make it turn brown in color."
"'But I want to make a Christmas crayon," the younger girl protested. "Red and green stripes or swirls."
Anthony thought about his sister's request, "How about if we put it like stripes, a row of red, then a row of green, and repeat? If we watch it when it's melting, we can keep the colors from blending together, I think." Riv grinned at her big brother and nodded; she liked his idea. The two started filling a paper muffin cup liner using the strategy they'd devised.
LJ looked at the pile of crayon pieces, "I want orange and yellow and brown, like a lion!" He grabbed one of the paper coffee filters and began placing the crayon pieces to make a lion's face. "See, brown and orange for the mane and yellow for the face. I need some black for the eyes, nose, and mouth," he reached for the pile of black pieces. His other hand slipped on the table and crayon pieces flew everywhere.
"LJ! You made a mess," Beth scolded her little brother. "You gotta pick it up now."
He made a face at her and retorted, "You're not the boss; you don't tell me what to do."
"The rule is if you make the mess, you clean it up," she shot back. The little boy sat back in his chair and pouted with an angry glare at his sister. "Tali, LJ isn't cleaning up his mess," she stuck her tongue out at her younger brother.
"Beth stuck her tongue out at me, and she is not in charge. Ima and Abba said that you are in charge, Tali," he lashed out angrily. "HEY! Meanie-head!" he yelled as the younger twin deliberately put her hand in his lion face crayon bits and stirred it with her finger.
Rivka smirked as she and Anthony worked on their striped Christmas crayons. "Now they are both gonna get in trouble," she spoke softly to her older brother. The two continued to place the crayon bits into alternating stripes as they silently watched and listened to how their big sister would handle the conflict between the two youngest siblings.
Tali carefully put the paper cup of crayon bits that she had been carrying into the microwave and closed the door. She set the timer for two minutes, as suggested on the website. She turned to her siblings and quickly crossed the kitchen to the breakfast nook table.
She stood between LJ and Beth and crossed her arms; Anthony glanced at his sister's face. He would later swear that she was channeling Ima at that moment just from the glaring eyes alone. "If you two insist on making trouble, Ima and Abba won't let us stay by ourselves again," she spoke quietly but purposefully. The other four looked at her as she continued, "They trusted us to behave and get along while they went to get Abba's truck from the service center. Ninety minutes to two hours is what Abba said. So, do you want to be able to stay by ourselves again, or do you want to have to get dragged along for something boring like getting a vehicle from the service center?" The microwave beeped at just that second as if to emphasize her point.
Anthony thought about his sister's words before adding his two cents' worth, "Tali's right, guys. If we can't get along when Ima and Abba are out, we won't earn their trust." He turned to his little brother, "I'll help you clean up the mess, LJ." The two boys started picking up crayon pieces from the floor and unused chairs. Beth helped her brothers and Rivka fixed the lion face picture that her little brother made with the crayon pieces.
Tali smiled to herself as she turned to check the melted crayon piece; she opened the microwave door. The blue crayon pieces had melted into a patty-shaped solid in the paper cup. She slid the paper onto a hot pad to cool. So far, so good; it appeared that the first attempt to make a new crayon was successful.
"Next one to melt?" she called to her siblings. Anthony and Rivka carried over their two Christmas striped creations. Tali checked the instructions on her tablet for the larger sized muffin cup papers that they'd used; three minutes each. She placed one in the microwave and started the heating. The other was placed on the counter to wait its turn.
LJ's lion face in the coffee filter paper was almost ready as well. He and Beth carried it over to the counter by the microwave. The instructions suggested five minutes for the larger shape. She decided to do the large one last and get all of the smaller pieces melted one at a time.
Just as she pressed start for a three minute crayon, her cell phone rang. She glanced at the caller ID, "Ima." She swiped the screen and answered the call, "Hi, Ima." She listened for a few seconds and then replied, "Everyone is being good; yes, that is the microwave." She listened some more and then said, "Okay, Ima," ending the call.
Four pairs of questioning eyes looked at their big sister. She grinned, "Ima and Abba are getting some groceries, so they'll be a little later than they planned. Ima said they should be home in about forty minutes."
Rivka looked at the remaining crayon pieces, "Let's all make a picture for Ima and Abba with a coffee filter paper. That way they can see that we were good and earned their trust." The others nodded in agreement and soon all five were placing crayon bits in a design.
Tali took the last of the small pieces from the microwave and put LJ's lion face on the glass turntable. She set the timer for five minutes and went back to help her siblings finish up the design for their parents. Anthony carried it to the counter while Tali watched the seconds counting down on the lion face. LJ pulled the stepstool over to the counter so that he could see his lion face.
The timer beeped and Tali opened the door of the microwave; she carefully slid the paper filter to a hot pad and placed it on the counter to cool. LJ was excited to see his design and he tugged at the edge of the hot pad while Tali put the design for their parents in the microwave and started the five minute heating.
"OW!" LJ's fingers touched the hot melted crayon in his eagerness to see his lion face. Tears started to form in the little boy's eyes; his fingers hurt. Tali reacted quickly, pushing her brother towards the sink so she could run cool water over his fingers. The other three were at the table trying the new crayons they'd made on some plain paper from Abba's printer.
"Is he okay?" Anthony walked over to his younger brother at the sink.
Tali nodded, "Just scared him, I think. There's no redness or blistering, so I think he's going to be okay." As she was checking LJ's fingers a second time, the children heard the garage door open. Tali moved LJ's lion face to the table and made sure the countertop was clear; she knew that both Ima and Abba used that space to unbag groceries and sort what went where.
She was drying LJ's hand when the door from the garage to the kitchen opened. Ima had four bags of groceries and Abba had seven.
"We're home," Abba announced to everyone. "Were you good?"
"Yes, Abba," all five said together.
Ziva glanced at Tony; the children had responded rather quickly and together. He shrugged at her and looked around the kitchen. "I need two helpers to put away pantry goods," Ziva started pulling items from the bags. Rivka and Beth appeared at her side and began carrying the items to be put away in the pantry.
Anthony helped his father put the refrigerated items up and Tali and LJ cleared the breakfast nook table, putting their creations to one side. Ima started getting dinner ready as the others went to the family room, their own rooms, or the play room. Tali was setting the dining room table when her Ima called out.
"TALIA ELISHEVA DINOZZO!"
Uh-oh… Tali walked in to the kitchen to see Ima looking at something in the microwave; she remembered the melted crayon image they'd created for their parents. She'd forgotten all about it when LJ burned his fingers and then her parents arrived home.
"We made that for you," she explained to her mother's glare. "All of us worked on it." Ima said nothing as Tali gulped. "You said that we could use the microwave."
"I did; for food," Ziva looked at the multicolored blob in her microwave. She picked up the coffee filter paper and placed it on the counter. The design was a heart shape surrounded by flowers; she had to admit it was pretty. But she was not too pleased that the children had melted crayons in her microwave.
"We made a bunch of new crayons from the old ones you were going to throw out; plus some designs. LJ's lion face came out pretty cool, and…" Tali trailed off wondering if she was making things better or worse with her continued talking.
Ziva smiled at her eldest, "Next time, please ask first. Crayons are non-toxic, so there should be no harm. And thank you for the beautiful design." She reached over and pulled her eleven-year-old into a hug.
"You're welcome, Ima."
Chapter 4: Dirt Piles - April 2024
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."
Chapter 5: Eggs - April 2023
Chapter 5 – Eggs – April 2023
Tali motioned for her younger siblings to come quietly to where she was standing; she'd found a bird's nest with three little blue eggs in the hedge at the side of the yard. She put her finger to her lips to remind them to be quiet as they came nearer. Tali put her hands under LJ's armpits and lifted the little boy so he could see.
LJ peeked at the nest first, "Ooh, eggs! Dey baby?" Just as he spoke a screeching sound could be heard from the tree a few feet away from the children. Tali dropped her little brother to the ground making sure he was still on his feet and ready to run.
She looked at the tree and spotted the angry robin, "I think we'd better move away from the nest for now. Momma robin is not happy." As she spoke a brown streak came at the kids; they ducked and ran away from the hedge.
"I didn't get to see the nest," Beth complained. "I want to see the eggs too." Her twin nodded agreement.
"Maybe later, when Anthony gets home, you three can sneak back out and see if the mother bird is off the nest again. Right now she's not too happy that we were near her nest. She might try to chase us away and we could get hurt."
"Okay, Tali," Riv sighed. "Promise?"
"Yeah," her big sister replied. "If we are nice and try not to bother the mother bird, maybe we can watch for the babies to hatch. That would be so cool to see the baby birds in the nest."
Several days later, Tali took the twins out to see the nest and eggs. She'd researched how long it took robins' eggs to hatch with Abba and they'd estimated that the eggs would hatch about ten days after she first found the nest. Rivka wanted to touch the nest and eggs, but Tali warned her little sister about the mother robin getting angry. She also reminded all of her younger siblings that if they wanted a chance to see baby birds, they needed to be careful around the nest and leave it be.
Nine days after Tali found the eggs, Anthony came running inside from the backyard calling for his sisters and brother. "I saw a baby bird!" he called out. "And it looks as though another egg is hatching!" The five kids ran out to the deck with their Ima right behind them.
"Remember to approach the nest slowly in case the mother bird is there or watching nearby," she reminded the excited children. "I would suggest only two or three at a time as well."
"Okay, Ima," Tali replied. "I'll take the twins and you can take the boys." Riv and Beth followed their big sister to the hedge. They peeked at the nest; inside was a baby bird that appeared to have hatched several hours ago and a newly hatched baby bird that was still wet.
"Look, Tali!" Beth pointed to the third egg. There was a small chip missing from the shell. "It's hatching!"
Tali looked at the egg, "Let's give Ima and the boys a chance to see." She heard a sound from the tree and saw the mother robin watching them. "I think we need to leave," she said quietly. "Momma bird is watching from the tree." She led her sisters to the deck and pointed out the mother robin to her Ima.
"One egg is just starting to hatch and there are two baby birds in the nest," Tali told the three who hadn't seen the latest developments. "The momma is watching from the tree."
Ziva led her sons to the nest; they were fascinated with the baby birds. She held LJ so he could see and he tried to lean to touch the nest. "We do not touch, LJ," she reminded the toddler.
Anthony was watching the egg that was in the process of hatching. "Look, Ima; the crack is bigger and I see the baby bird inside," he pointed excitedly to the egg. "I wonder how long it will take."
Ziva remembered the information Tony and Tali found on the website about birds in northern Virginia, "I think the website mentioned that the full hatch takes about eighteen to twenty four hours."
"Oh," Anthony had really hoped that he could watch the whole process.
"We will check on the babies again tomorrow, motek."
Ziva saw the mother bird move in her peripheral vision. "I think we should leave the nest area now." She pushed Anthony along and kept a firm hold on her youngest. Even so, the annoyed robin swooped at the three DiNozzos. Ziva ducked as the bird flew over her head; she also instinctively protected LJ's face and head with her hand. Anthony ran to the deck.
"That was close, Ima!" Riv had watched the whole dive-bombing attack from the safety of the deck. "The bird almost got in your hair."
Ziva led the kids inside, "I think we should stay away from the nest for the remainder of today. We can check on the babies again tomorrow."
"Momma instinct strong, huh?" Tony grinned at her from the window near the sliding door.
Ziva put LJ down and kissed her husband, "You are home early. Are you talking about the bird or me with the mother instinct?"
He grinned, "Both… you know me too well." He pulled her to him and kissed her again. "I'm not complaining; I love how you watch out for our kids."
Chapter 6: Flames - October 2026
Chapter 6 – Flames – October 2026
Tony just happened to look out the window by the deck door in the family room when he was passing through from his office to the kitchen. He’d had a sixth sense about the need to check on the kids in the backyard.
“HOLY SHIT! ZIVA!” he yelled in the direction of the laundry room where she was putting a load of towels into the washer. He rushed to the sliding door as he called to her again. “COME QUICK; the kids set the yard on fire!”
What he’d seen out the window was Anthony and Beth dragging the hose from the garage side of the house towards the back of the yard. When he looked out further, Tali and LJ had the other hose, from near the deck, out along the back fence. They were spraying water on the flames that were fueled by the fallen leaves in the yard.
He was no sooner on the deck when he heard Ziva behind him rushing out the door. “How?” she gasped as she saw the flames and smoke along the rear fence line. Both parents ran to the rear of the yard; Ziva grabbed a rake that was leaning against the shed as she ran by.
“Get on the deck; all of you!” Tony grabbed the hose from Anthony as he started directing the spray at the base of the leaves. “Ziva, you start on the other end and we’ll see if we can get this out.” She grabbed the other hose from Tali and handed her twelve year old the rake.
“Move any unburned piles away from the burning leaves while Abba and I work on the flames,” she commanded. She aimed the stream of water at the burning leaf pile nearest to where she stood.
A gust of wind stirred up the burning leaves and several embers flew to a new pile. Tony yelled out to his oldest, “Call nine-one-one on your cell NOW!” Have Anthony wait out front to bring them into the yard when they get here.”
Because there were twigs and small branches in a pile near the already burning leaves, Tony was concerned that the fire would get out of control before he and Ziva could extinguish the flames. The flames were also getting closer to the wooden privacy fence around the yard. The two managed to hose down the fence nearest to the flames to keep it from burning.
Within five minutes, the firefighters arrived and laid a hose to the backyard. Rivka and Beth had put both dogs inside and locked the pet door. When the firefighters came into the yard, both Asher and Daisy paced along the inside of the sliding door and barked at the intruders. The remaining fire was extinguished by the firefighters within a few minutes. Tony thanked them for their help and walked out to the driveway with them to the firetruck. The kids followed and the firefighters showed them the equipment and let each child sit in the driver’s seat of the firetruck.
Once the gear was packed back in the truck, the family said good bye to the firefighters and Tony rounded up the five young DiNozzos.
“Everyone is going to help put up the hoses and the rakes, and make sure there are no more hot spots that could flare up and reignite,” he directed his brood. He looked at Ziva and shook his head. “I don’t know if I’m angry, impressed, upset, or thankful,” he spoke low so only she could hear him.
“All of the above,” she replied just as quietly. “There WILL be consequences of their actions!”
Tony nodded, “For sure; and some ‘splainin’ to do.” At her puzzled look, he grinned, “I Love Lucy; classic TV…”
Ahead of their parents, the five youngsters were talking among themselves.
“Tali, are we in trouble?” Beth was the first to ask.
Anthony nodded, “I hope we get to tell OUR side of the story…”
“It WAS an accident,” Riv added.
“Where did we leave the magnifying glass?” Tali looked at her little brother, who had been the last one to use it.
He shrugged, “I dropped it when the flames started and we all went to get the hoses.”
Tali looked at her siblings, “After we get the hoses put away, we need to find that magnifying glass. I took it from Abba’s desk; if we lost it then there will be even more trouble. LJ, do you remember where you had it last?”
The little boy thought about his sister’s question; “Um, I THINK… it was by the birdbath… no, maybe by Ima’s memory garden… I don’t know for sure.”
LJ and Anthony helped their father with the hose from the garage side of the house while Rivka and Beth helped their mother with the other hose. Tali and LJ used the rake to check for any missed hot spots and also to look for the missing magnifying glass. They didn’t find any spots still smoldering but they also did not find the tool. Anthony and the twins came back to the rear of the yard and helped look for it; Abba was calling the kids to come inside when Rivka spotted the magnifying glass on the table under the playset.
“Thanks, Riv!” Tali was relieved that they’d found the missing item; now Abba had one less thing to get angry at them. She grabbed it as they ran by the playset headed to the deck.
“All DiNozzos to the family conference table,” Tony spoke sternly as the five youngsters entered the sliding door to the family room from the deck. Ziva was already waiting in the dining room for the rest of the family.
“Sit,” she commanded her brood. All six took their usual seats around the table; Tony and Ziva on the ends and the boys on one side and girls on the other. She glared at each of her five children with her lips pursed tightly.
“Uh-oh,” LJ nudged Anthony as the two boys sat down. He nodded in the direction of Ima; all the kids knew their mother’s angry and very angry looks. “This is the very, very angry look,” he whispered.
Anthony nodded in agreement, “Yeah, we’re in it deep…” He quickly shut his mouth at another glare from Ima. He looked over at the girls; all of them were looking at the table or anywhere else to avoid eye contact with their parents.
“Setting the yard on fire; have to admit that is a new one,” Tony began speaking quietly. The five kids all shared a look; if Abba was this quiet he was as angry as Ima. “One at a time, I want to hear your side of this; we’ll start with LJ,” he glanced at his youngest, who was now fidgeting in his chair.
“We were playing investigator; we are all part of NCIS MCRT and we were looking for clues,” the little boy began. “We used the magnifying glass to see things up close. I was looking at a clue when the leaves started smoking. Then there were flames and they spread really fast. We tried to put out the fire by stomping on the burning leaves but it grew. We got the hoses to try to put out the fire and then some wind blew the burning leaves around.”
When LJ fell silent, Ziva asked him if he wanted to add anything else. When he shook his head to the negative, she looked at Beth, “You are next, Elizabeth.”
Beth gulped; Ima used her full name. “Like LJ said, we were playing investigators. We used Abba’s magnifying glass to look at clues and accidentally started the leaves burning. We tried to put out the fire but the wind made it worse. It spread the burning leaves and started more leaves on fire.”
“Yeah, and we tried to put it out with the hoses and the rake, but we couldn’t,” Rivka interrupted her twin. “It wasn’t our fault.”
“Rivka Abigail, you will have a turn. Do not interrupt your sister again, please,” Ziva glared at her middle child. Riv looked down at her hands and then glanced at Abba. He had a scowl on his face; not a good sign for the five young DiNozzos.
“Yes, Ima,” she mumbled without looking at her mother; anything to avoid the ‘Ima glare!’
“I don’t have anything else to add,” Beth felt bad for her sister; nobody wanted to be the one on the other end of the ‘Ima glare,’ not even Abba. Today even Abba was glaring though; what that meant for the children was yet to be determined. When Abba AND Ima were both glaring and speaking softly, no one wanted to be a DiNozzo on the opposite end of those glares.
“I believe it’s your turn, Riv,” Abba spoke for the first time since they began telling their versions.
The girl thought a minute, “I don’t have any more to add, Abba. We tried to put out the fire that started by accident. The wind made it worse and we couldn’t get it all put out.”
“Okay. Anthony?” Ima took over the interrogation again, letting Abba stew at his end of the table. The switch in parent did not go unnoticed by any of the five.
“Like the others said, we were playing investigators and looking for clues. We were using the magnifying glass to look at things and it accidentally started the leaves burning. We saw the smoke and tried to stomp it out and then when the flames started we got the hoses. We had some plastic bags from the superstore as evidence bags and the fire burned those up too. The wind blew the bags into the flaming leaf piles.” Anthony paused to think if there was anything he left out of his version of what happened. “That’s all.”
Tali sighed, “I guess it’s my turn. As the others said, we were using the magnifying glass to examine clues as we played NCIS investigators. LJ was looking at some interesting spots on some leaves and the leaves suddenly started smoking. He backed up and put the magnifying glass down as the smoke suddenly became flames. We tried to stomp out the fire but it grew too fast for us. I sent the others to get the hoses and a rake to try to put it out; I DID stay back by the fire to watch it and to try to get some of the unburned leaves out of the way.
“We were getting the water from the hose on some of the fire, but the wind blew the burning leaves and then it spread even more. I was just about to send LJ inside to get you when Abba came outside. We tried to put out the fire, Ima and Abba. It started by accident and it spread too quickly for us to be able to put it out.”
All five children looked back and forth at their parents who were just sitting at the opposite ends of the table and glaring (still!) Neither one said anything for several minutes, making the kids squirm in their seats. If they were going to be in trouble and get punished, they preferred to just get it done and not have to wait for Ima and Abba to think. The longer they took the worse the punishment could be.
Finally, Abba spoke quietly, “This seems to be an accident, so I am for not punishing you this time. Ziva?”
His wife nodded, “I agree. But we hope you learned a lesson today.” She looked out at the five young faces; five children she could never deny were hers or Tony’s. All five had the same look as she remembered seeing on their father’s face so many years ago when he’d pissed her off at NCIS. Contrition mixed with puppy eyes mixed with love; that was the only way she could think of to describe it. She met gazes with Tony and grinned.
“What?” he grinned back at her and noticed the looks on the kids’ faces; he knew instantly what she was thinking.
“That case where you…” she started and he cut her off by coming around to her end of the table and kissing her on the lips.
Chapter 7: Gardens - May 2026
Chapter 7 – Gardens – May 2026
"Any ideas for what to get Ima for Mothers' Day this year?" Tony asked the five young DiNozzos. He'd offered to take them all to get haircuts while Ziva got some 'me time.' She had appreciated his gesture; it had been a tough week with too many after school activities, Ziva working at NCIS two days instead of one, and Tony stuck in conferences all week.
"Chocolate ice cream," LJ piped up. "With chocolate fudge topping and chocolate sprinkles on top. Oh, and chocolate candy too."
Beth laughed, "That's your favorite, LJ. Ima likes chocolate, so we could buy her some candy. How about some flowers?"
"No, too common," Anthony added. "We have to find something special; something that will make Ima think of us when she uses it or sees it."
"How about some plants for her garden?" Rivka loved to help Ima with the raised flower beds of flowers and shrubs. Ima taught her about the various plants and how to care for them as the two worked side by side.
"I like that idea, Riv. We could go to the garden center and get some plants," Tali was thinking out loud. "I know she wants to put more plants in that raised bed she made in the back corner of the yard."
"But we have to make it special; not just any plants," Anthony replied to his older sister. "They have to be plants that are important or make her think of us or someone else."
Tony glanced at his older son, "I think you're on to something, Anthony. What if we make a memory garden for Ima? We can put in plants that represent people we want to remember forever. Maybe even put some memory stones with names…"
"YES!" all five chorused in response to their Abba.
Tali remembered someone and turned to her father as they walked to the store front for the salon, "Will we put a stone for Grandducky? Please?"
"For sure, Tals. And we can put stones for your Doda Tali, your namesake; Dod Ari; Savta Rivka, your sister's namesake; Saba Eli; Senior, Anthony's and my namesake; and Grandma DiNozzo, Beth's namesake," he replied.
"What about me, Abba? Do I have a namesake?" LJ piped up.
"Yeah, you have two; Grandpa and Grandpa's father. So, yes, we will put a stone for Jackson Gibbs as well." Tony was glad that the kids seemed to like the idea of a memory garden; the more they talked about it, the more he liked it as well. It would be not just for Ziva, but also for all of them to remember family and friends who were no longer with them. As the twins were called for their turns for haircuts, he started making a list of what they'd need to get for the garden.
As the boys' turns came, he pulled up the website for the local garden center and looked at the varieties of plants available. The kids chose hostas, Virginia bluebells, camellias, lilac shrubs, plumerias, and tulip, daffodil, gladiolus bulbs from the pictures on the website. Tony added the plants to his wish list on the site so that when they went to the store, he could pull up the list to shop.
On the website for the home improvement store, he found kits to make the memory stones. The kids helped him pick which ones to get and he completed a buy online, pick up in store order that would be ready the following day. By the time it was his and Tali's turns for haircuts, the six DiNozzos had the garden mostly planned.
On the way home, they stopped at the garden center and looked at plants. Tony had several held for him to pick up the following day when he made the run to the home improvement superstore for the items he ordered. The kids chatted about the memory garden all the way home. They were excited to plant something special for Ima.
When the family walked in the house, Tali made her siblings promise to keep the garden a secret from their mother. All four of the younger DiNozzos agreed that it would be fun to make the garden a surprise; that lasted all of ten minutes.
LJ was listening to his parents talking about dinner plans. The family was going to their favorite pizza place for dinner. "That's the one next to the garden store, right?" he asked. "The one where we put the plants for Ima on hold?"
"Shh, LJ!" Riv scolded her little brother. "It's supposed to be a secret about the garden for Ima!"
Ziva looked at the two children, "What garden?"
"We're not supposed to tell," LJ grinned at his Ima. "Tali made us promise to keep it a secret that we are making a memory garden for you."
"LJ! You just told!" Beth sighed in exasperation. "A secret means you don't tell."
Tali came into the room as her sister spoke. "What did he tell?" she asked Beth.
"About the memory garden we are planning to make for Ima. He TOLD Ima!"
"Oh." Tali glared at her little brother.
Sensing an impending argument among the siblings, Tony decided to intervene. "Maybe it's better that Ima knows; that way she can help choose the plants and other decorations." He looked at Tali, and then at the others. "It would have been difficult to hide that we were working in the yard anyhow."
"I love this idea!" Ziva hugged LJ, who was feeling bad about spilling the secret. "We can all work together on getting the plants in the ground. Maybe I will even share some stories about your Savta and Doda Tali."
Chapter 8: Hijinks - June 2026
Chapter 8 – Hijinks – June 2026
Tony kissed Ziva after he loaded the last of the dishes in the dishwasher. The two had just finished a meal of olive chicken and rice pilaf with grilled asparagus.
"Thank you for my favorite meal," he kissed her again. "While you finish up putting the leftovers away, I'll go get a movie set up in the Blu-ray."
He walked to the family room as Ziva carried a stack of plastic food storage containers to the refrigerator. She put the food on the shelves and wiped the counter with a damp cloth.
Tony picked up the universal remote for the TV, cable box, and Blu-ray player. He pressed the power button; nothing happened. He tried again and still nothing. Ziva came into the room as he tried a third time.
"Battery thieves at it again?" he commented to Ziva as he pried open the battery compartment of the remote. Sure enough, the batteries were missing. He held it up so she could see the empty battery compartment. "I thought we'd seen the last of that back on April Fools' day."
Ziva shrugged, "I guess it is good that the children are all at the McGee house for the night."
"Why? So I can't interrogate them again?" he grinned at his wife sheepishly.
She took the remote from his hand and placed it on the coffee table; she wrapped her arms around him and locked her lips on his. "There is only one thing I am interested in… Perhaps there are other ways we can spend the evening?" she whispered seductively in his ear when they broke for air.
"Oh? And just what do you have in mind, Mrs. DiNozzo?" he purred as she ran her hand under his shirt.
"Something that does not require batteries," she grinned and waggled her eyebrows at him as she grabbed his hand and pulled him in the direction of the master bedroom. "Last one there is on the bottom…"
As he watched her sway her hips as she headed down the hallway, he swore he saw the outline of three AA batteries in her back pocket…
Chapter 9 – Ice – February 2027
"Ima, is it okay if we play with the sleds in the front yard?" Tali asked for all seven DiNozzo and McGee children. John and Katie were spending the Presidents' Day holiday weekend with their cousins. The DC area had a major snow and ice storm on Wednesday and Thursday of the week before, putting nearly a foot of snow on the ground and then a layer of ice over the snow. For the kids, it meant two extra days off from school and a snow-filled play paradise in the yards of the two houses. The DiNozzo front yard sloped away from the front of the house towards the street making it a perfect sledding area.
Ziva looked at the seven faces waiting for her reply, "You may, however, remember that if you decide to use the gate to go to the backyard, please close it. I do not want the dogs to get out of the backyard." She really was not worried about the dogs running off if they did get into the front yard without leashes, but there was one neighborhood cat that both dogs consistently chased if it came into their yard. She did not need to be running after a dog on the ice and snow.
"Yes, Aunt Ziva."
Seven children rushed to put on warm coats, scarves, hats, gloves or mittens, and boots. They went out through the garage so that they could get the six sleds easily. Ziva smiled to herself as she heard the garage door closing; someone of the five young DiNozzos remembered their Abba's warnings about leaving the garage door open in cold weather. She passed by her husband's office on the way to her own; he looked up and gave her a thumbs' up gesture.
"They remembered," he grinned.
"You have practically beaten it into their brains," she teased. "But, yes, they remembered, or one of them did." She entered her home office as Tony turned back to his computer screen. He'd been working from home since Wednesday because of the weather conditions; he was glad that his job allowed him that luxury. Ziva had one more transcript to finish for NCIS for the week; she hoped it would be one that would go quickly.
She was just about to start her transcription when her cell sounded an incoming text. She picked up the phone and noticed the message was from Delilah. She quickly read the message and decided to call instead of text her reply.
"Hello, Dee. Glad you and Tim are still getting your weekend away."
Delilah chuckled, "I'm glad you and Tony were able to get our kids from school before the storm hit on Wednesday. Tim was trying to get out of the Navy Yard but they kept getting more and more breaks on the case they were working and you know Gibbs…"
"Too well; I do not miss those days. We do not mind having the twins here at all," Ziva replied with a laugh. "They are all playing outside now; they were getting tired of being stuck inside. Have you been home at all?"
"No; neither has Tim. I am so looking forward to our weekend in Atlanta! It will be an escape in more ways than one."
"Have fun; and do not worry about John and Katie. You and Tim need a break," Ziva was glad that she and her sister of the heart had worked out a rotating schedule to give each set of parents a weekend break once per quarter.
"Thanks, Ziva," Dee ended the call and Ziva started her work.
Outside, the seven cousins were using the snow shovels to make sled lanes in the snow in the front yard. They took the small icicles off the bushes along the front of the house to mark the paths. Anthony was about to get more icicles when he spotted the cat that their dogs chased sitting on the north side of the house near the fence. He ran to chase it away and stopped in his tracks when he saw the huge icicles hanging from the eaves. Each one had to be nearly six feet long, and there were at least two dozen of them hanging down.
"You guys gotta come see these icicles on the side of the house," Anthony yelled over to the others. "They're HUGE! Bring the sleds so we can get some of them for our paths!"
Tali scoffed, "Stop exag…ger…a…ting…holy…cow! Those are HUGE." She spotted the large icicles as she rounded the side of the house; for once her brother hadn't over-hyped something. Those icicles were the largest she'd ever seen; she'd bet even her parents hadn't seen any ice spikes that long.
"WHOA!" John came around the side of the house next, followed by the others. The seven kids stood in awe of the large formations for several minutes.
Tali spoke first, "We need a plan to get them down without breaking them; then we have to move them to the front yard in one piece. Any ideas?" She looked at the others; she could see John thinking already and examining the icicles from all sides.
LJ looked at the sleds and then the icicles, "They are too long for the sleds, Tali. I think we will have to carry them to the front; maybe two people carry one icicle?"
"That's a good idea, LJ, but first we have to get them down," Rivka was with John, looking over the icicles from all sides. "WITHOUT breaking them…" she added.
"What if we just tug on it? Like this…" Katie and Anthony grabbed one of the icicles and yanked it. The ice snapped about three quarters of the way up from the tip. The two managed to hang on to the piece they broke off.
"That's heavier than I thought it would be," Anthony commented as he and Katie laid the icicle on one of the sleds. The other kids all came over to inspect the large stick of ice. It was about three inches in diameter at the top end where it broke off; the length was close to Katie's height.
John was looking at the larger end; he looked up to where the icicle had been hanging. "There's got to be a way to get all of the icicle when we break them off. We got most of this one but there's still a part we didn't get. Maybe if we hit the top of it with something when we yank on it?"
"Or rock it slowly back and forth to make it break higher up?" Riv was thinking out loud. She'd watched her brother and cousin break the icicle by yanking on it quickly; maybe breaking it slower would get more of the icicle.
John motioned to Riv to grab the icicle with him, "On three, we rock it back and forth… one… two… three." The two slowly pushed and pulled on the ice and were finally rewarded with a loud crack when it broke almost near the top of the column. They grinned at the others as they carried their icicle to a second sled.
"Definitely longer than the first one," Tali declared. "Let's try for another one." LJ stepped up to his big sister and the siblings grabbed a third hanging icicle and used the gentle push-pull until they heard the loud crack as the ice broke near the eave.
"Success!" LJ yelled as he and Tali carried the icicle to a third sled. It was about as long as the one John and Riv had broken off.
"Let's get these three to the front and we'll come back for more," Tali pointed to the front yard as she grabbed the rope for the sled nearest her. John and Riv tugged their icicle to the front as did Katie and Anthony. LJ and Beth stayed behind and grabbed a fourth icicle to break off.
The siblings grabbed hold of the large icicle and started to use the push-pull motion that the others had used successfully. As they started the second movement in LJ's direction, Beth's feet slipped on the ice-covered snow and she fell forward into the icicle. The ice column broke loose and gravity took over; it and LJ fell to the snow-covered ground and slid towards the evergreen hedge on the side of the yard.
The other children rounded the corner just as LJ landed on his back with the icicle on top of him. They tried not to laugh at his surprised face. Tali rushed over to her little brother to make sure he wasn't hurt; by the time she got to him, he was laughing.
"It didn't break," he giggled, laying on his back with a six-foot plus icicle atop his forty-three inch little boy body. "But I can't get up. Please help, Tali." He eyed his big sister and cousin Katie.
"You got the longest one so far, LJ; wow, you even got the very top part where it was attached to the eave," Katie pointed to the wider part at the top end of the icicle. She and Tali lifted the twenty-five pound ice spear from the little boy and the three carried it to the front yard as the others continued to pull down icicles.
In the front yard, the children stood the icicles on the end that had been attached to the house with the pointy end upwards and lined one of the sled paths that they'd made. In all, they pulled twenty nine icicles from the roof and only two broke in transport to the front yard.
The seven stepped back and admired their handiwork; the front yard had multiple icicle-lined sledding paths from the house to the street. The large icicles gave the impression of a fantasy land pathway as they glistened and stood taller than the children.
They each took a turn riding a sled along the path; just as the children were starting a second round, Ziva opened the front door to call them inside for lunch.
"Ima, you have to see our icicles!" Riv called to her mother.
"You need to take a turn on the sled; it's so cool to ride between the big icicles; it's like Frozen!" Katie added.
Anthony grinned at his mother, "Abba should get a turn too." Just as he mentioned his father, Tony appeared at the door with his coat on.
"I saw what you made out the play room window; gotta get a picture of that. Impressive indeed," Tony grinned at the kids as he stepped outside. Daisy and Asher were behind him as he came out of the door.
The neighbor cat chose that moment to set foot on the driveway; Daisy spotted the cat and took off after it. Asher saw Daisy running and ran after her; he spotted the cat and the chase was on. The cat decided to run across the DiNozzo front yard instead of turning around and going back to its own yard.
Ziva and Tony ran after the dogs and the kids all tried to get the cat to leave the yard; it ran towards the front of the house. LJ stood in the cat's way and it veered towards the icicle-lined sled run. Ziva ran towards the bottom of the run while Tony followed the dogs to the house end of the run and then into the sled path.
His feet slipped on the icy run and he went down on his backside, sliding after the dogs and cat. The cat scooted around Ziva as Daisy barreled into Ziva. She wrapped her arm around the Border collie as she fell. Tony and Asher slid into the other two resulting in a heap of dogs and adult humans near the end of the sled run.
Tony sat up, "Are you okay?" He looked over to Ziva as she also sat up and nodded. Each had hold of a dog's collar; Daisy was panting and trying to lick Ziva. Asher had a full-on greyhound grin.
"Yes; are you okay?" she replied.
"I think so; my jacket padded my fall somewhat, but I may be sore in a few hours."
Tali and the others came over to the adults and dogs. Tali held up her cell phone, "I video-ed the whole thing! You guys sure looked funny on the sled run on your butts!"
Thanks for all the kudos, comments, and just reads so far; plenty more to come!
Chapter 10: Jelly Beans - Easter 2022
Chapter 10 – Jelly Beans – Easter 2022
"They are all finally in bed," Tony announced as he entered the baby's room where Ziva was nursing LJ one last time before putting him down for the night. "I swear if we could bottle the energy from the twins we'd make millions. Where do they get it all?"
Ziva sighed, "I do not know. And this one is going to be just as energetic…" LJ shifted slightly so he could see his Abba as he fed. His nightly feeding was the last of his nursing; he was beginning to wean to a lidded cup. Ziva knew she would miss the routine and bonding with her baby when he stopped nursing altogether, but at the same time, she was also looking forward to his growth and learning to eat table foods.
Tony leaned in to kiss his wife as the little boy's eyelids drooped; LJ would slide into a milk-induced sleep very soon. "You know you are incredibly sexy when you feed our son," he whispered. He placed a soft kiss on the baby's forehead, "Laila tov, LJ. Abba loves you."
Ziva placed the almost asleep little boy in his crib after kissing his cheek, "Laila tov, motek." LJ grinned sleepily and closed his eyes; the parents quietly left the room after making sure the baby monitor was on.
Tony walked into the playroom to tidy up a bit as Ziva made the rounds of the other bedrooms to kiss each of her children good night. He picked up two baby dolls to put back in the doll beds and heard a crunch beneath his foot as he stepped. He felt whatever it was flatten beneath his foot.
"Damn," he swore under his breath as he put the dolls in the bed. He lifted his foot and examined the underside of his shoe; stuck to the bottom was a crushed jelly bean. He slid the shoe off his foot and held it so the sole was facing up. He put his socked foot back on the floor and took another step towards the box of tissues on the end table by the loveseat. As his foot came down on another jelly bean, he felt the pain ripple through his foot. Who knew that stepping on jelly beans could be as painful as stepping on small toys?
"Damn," he swore again and looked up to see Ziva standing in the doorway to the room. "Jelly beans are painful on shoeless feet," he pointed to the bottom of his shoe and lifted his foot to show her the crushed candy stuck to the underside of his sock.
"I stepped on several earlier today," Ziva commented. "I thought the twins ate their snack in the kitchen, but perhaps they put the candy in their pockets for later." She grabbed a tissue from the end table and handed it to her husband. Tony pulled the sticky mess from the bottom of his sock and then from his shoe.
"No biggie; it hurt stepping on the candy in just my sock. Not as bad as stepping on Lego bricks though."
A few days later, Ziva was picking up toys in the family room while the twins and LJ napped. She found two piles of jelly beans by the sliding door to the deck that had not been there that morning when she vacuumed while the kids played. Anthony was at preschool and Tali was at her school, so it had to be one of the younger girls who put the jelly beans by the door. She made a mental note to ask Rivka and Beth about the candy.
As she was preparing their afternoon snack, Ziva asked the two little girls about the jelly beans, "Did you put any jelly beans by the patio door?" Rivka and Beth looked at each other and then ran to the sliding glass door.
"Ima, dere no jelly beans," Riv shouted to her mother.
"Yeah, no here. Easter bunny gots dem," Beth added, rather loudly.
The girls ran back to the kitchen and grinned at their mother.
"You funny, Ima. No jelly beans dere."
Ziva looked at the two toddlers, "No there are none now, but I had to pick up two piles while you were napping. Did either of you put them by the door?" She looked from one to the other as the twins shook their heads.
"Easter bunny gots dem all," Beth added.
Riv nodded with a very serious look on her face, "Tali say Easter bunny takes dem."
"I see; the Easter bunny is the one who put the candy by the door?" Ziva asked her little ones.
"No, Ima; Easter bunny take dem," Beth explained as her twin nodded and grinned. "So we get lots in our basket."
Rivka grinned more, "Yeah, Tali say dat."
Ziva placed the snacks for the twins on the table and made a note to self to have a talk with Tali about just what she had told the two-year-olds about the Easter bunny. She had a feeling that the jelly beans appearing around the house had something to do with her eldest's active imagination and knack for telling stories to the younger kids.
As the twins finished their snacks, Ziva got LJ from his crib and changed his diaper. She had him on her hip as she entered the kitchen to check on the little girls. The two were just finishing the last of their crackers and juice. Ziva's phone chimed with an incoming text message.
She pulled the phone out of her pocket to read the message from the neighbor across the street. She was headed to the house with Anthony. Ziva was glad that she and Tony had worked that he took Anthony and the younger son from the neighbor to preschool every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning and then the mother across the street picked up both boys in the afternoons. She then walked Anthony across their street, usually with her son and their Border collie, Daisy, in tow. The DiNozzo kids all loved Daisy and kept asking their parents for a dog.
"Anthony is home," she said to Riv and Beth as she headed to the front door to meet her older son. LJ knew the routine and started bouncing in excitement on his Ima's hip. The two little girls ran ahead of their mother and LJ.
Ziva opened the front door as the neighbor, boys, and dog walked up the walkway from the driveway. Daisy wagged her tail when the twins ran out to greet everyone.
"Thanks, Donna," Ziva greeted her neighbor. She held a hand out for Daisy to sniff as LJ leaned towards the dog. Beth and Rivka were petting her back and giggling. Ziva hugged Anthony and greeted him, "Hello, motek. Did you have a good day?"
"Yes, Ima. We played with slime today. First we made it and then we got to play with it," Anthony grinned. "Mine is orange!"
Ziva helped LJ pet the dog's head as she listened to Anthony tell about his day. "Did you have a nap today?"
Anthony shook his head, "Just a rest, Ima. I wasn't sleepy, so I just rested my eyes. I was quiet like I am supposed to do though." He grinned at her again, his best DiNozzo grin, so much like his Abba. Ziva was thankful her son had listened to their talk about disturbing other children who were trying to sleep during nap time. Anthony had been getting up from his cot and trying to get others to play; they'd had three notes from the preschool teachers so far since winter break. Tony had also had a conference with the lead teacher that morning.
"Very good, thank you for minding your teachers," Ziva hugged Anthony again as the DiNozzos headed inside. "Would you like a snack?"
"Yes please, Ima. Do we have any cheese crackers?"
"Ken; you may also have some jelly beans if you want," Ziva poured some cheese crackers into a small bowl for her son. She put it on the table in front of him and helped the boy with the straw for his drink box. LJ reached for the crackers from Ziva's hip.
At the mention of jelly beans, Rivka and Beth sat at the table and looked at their Ima with puppy eyes. All three children responded, "Yes, we want jelly beans!" Ziva put a handful of the candy in three small paper cups to give to them. She put LJ in his high chair and gave the baby some O-shaped cereal as a snack.
While the kids were eating their snack, the alarm on her phone signaled time for Tali's school bus to arrive. She left the four younger kids with their snacks and opened the front door just as Tali stepped off the bus at the end of the driveway.
"Ima!" Tali ran to greet her mother, giving and getting a hug before mother and daughter went inside.
"Come get your snack; your brothers and sisters are in the kitchen finishing theirs." Ziva put some cheese crackers and some jelly beans into a bowl for her eldest while Tali got a juice box from the refrigerator.
Riv and Beth finished their jelly beans and placed the paper cups in the recycling bin. Anthony soon finished his snack and the three went to play. Tali ate her snack while Ziva checked her backpack for homework; she had none so she was allowed to go play with the others. Ziva took a prepared casserole out of the freezer and set it on the counter to thaw before baking for dinner. LJ was ready for a diaper change, so she carried the baby to his room, checking on the older four first.
Ziva was walking from the family room to the kitchen when a spot of pink caught her eye. She back-stepped and looked at the window sill; seven jelly beans were lined up along the sill.
"DiNozzos, front and center," she called to the children who were playing a video game. Tali, Anthony, Rivka, and Beth put the game on pause and looked over at their Ima. LJ even stopped playing with his shape-sorter toy and looked up.
"Who put the jelly beans on the window sill?" she asked the four older children. She started to pick them up when the twins ran over.
"No, Ima. Dey for Easter bunny," Beth tried to stop her mother.
"Yeah, Tali say dat Easter bunny…" Rivka added. Both girls looked to their older sister.
Anthony nodded, "Ima, Tali says that we have to leave the jelly beans for the Easter bunny so he knows to bring us lots of candy." He looked at his big sister.
Ziva also looked at her eldest, "Explain, please."
"Ima, I just told them a story. I didn't tell them to put the jelly beans in the window. I told them that the Easter bunny looks for all the colors of the jelly beans so he can know where to leave lots of candy in Easter baskets," Tali tried to explain. "Abba told me that the jelly beans had lots of colors as special messages to and from the Easter bunny."
"You were not quite three when Abba told you that story in Paris," Ziva was surprised that her daughter remembered the story about the jelly beans Tony made up when they had to hunt around the city for the candy. She turned to the others, "Please, no more jelly beans any place other than in the kitchen or in your tummies. We do not need to attract ants or other insects into the house. Understand?"
Chapter 11: Kisses - November 2023
Chapter 11 – Kisses – November 2023
"Kiss for you Ima," two-year-old LJ put a sloppy kiss on his mother's cheek as she helped him pull up his pants in the hall bathroom. "Love you lots." The little boy skipped away to the playroom as Ziva smiled to herself. Her baby was such a loving child; she would never tire of his hugs and kisses.
She dried her hands on the towel and nearly walked into her middle child standing in the doorway with her hands on her hips. Her dramatic child…
"Ima, I got something 'portant to tell you," Rivka motioned her mother to come closer. "I gotta whisper it in your ear." Ziva squatted down to the little girl's level and nodded. Rivka kissed her Ima's cheek and whispered, "I love you Ima!" Ziva wrapped her daughter in a quick hug before the child scampered off towards the playroom.
She went back to the family room and picked up her book; a novel assigned for her Literature class. She had just turned to a new chapter when Beth came up next to the loveseat. The little girl watched her Ima closely; she waited until her mother turned a page and then leaned in and kissed her mother on the cheek.
"Love you Ima," Beth added quietly; her shy child was rarely ever loud on her own. The times she did get louder were usually when her twin was being rowdy or if the children and their cousins were playing outside.
"Love you too yaldati," Ziva wrapped the preschooler in a hug. "You give good hugs."
No sooner had Beth gone back to the playroom than Tali appeared with a bottle of water and a chocolate chip cookie. "For you Ima; love you," Tali placed the snack on the end table and brushed a kiss on her Ima's cheek.
"Toda, Tali." Her eldest child, the family caretaker; Tali had a knack for looking out for the others and also for worrying about her family. "Did you finish your homework?"
"Ken, Ima. I left it on the kitchen table so you can see," the girl grinned and then turned to go to the playroom to join her siblings.
Another five or so minutes later, Tony popped into the family room from his office. He kissed his wife on the lips and pushed a curl out of her face, "I will make lunch for everyone today so that you can get your reading done."
"I would get it done faster if everyone stopped kissing and loving on me. Not that I am complaining, but I just get started reading and one of the kids or you are here," she locked gazes with him. "What did you do?" she narrowed her eyes to slits and stared at him.
He held up his hands, "Nothing; can't a man give his wife some loving just because?"
"What did the kids do?" she was still suspicious.
"Nothing that I know of," he shrugged. "We all love you, that's it." He kissed her again and headed towards the kitchen to see what he could prepare for lunch for the family.
Daisy the Border collie nudged her head into Ziva's arm. Ziva absently put a hand on the dog's head and scratched behind her ears. Daisy licked Ziva's hand, and leaned into the ear skritches. Asher spotted Daisy getting attention and trotted over to his human. He put his head on Ziva's arm and gave her his best greyhound 'love me' eyes. She sat up putting the book down on the end table.
"Good boy Asher," she scratched behind his ears as he licked her face. "Okay, that is enough. Go find Abba or one of the kids for more loving." She looked up to see Anthony standing with Daisy.
"Hi, Ima," said her son who was his Abba's mini-me. "Can I give you a kiss?" Her kind, considerate, and caring child, who at six and one half years old had decided that hugs and kisses were 'girl stuff.'
She nodded and he gave her a peck on the cheek and mumbled, "Love you Ima."
"Love you too motek," she ran a hand over his cheek. Anthony blushed slightly and then ran to the kitchen. She heard him call out to his father.
"Abba! We got three more; me, Asher, and Daisy! How close are we to one hundred?"
Ziva's curiosity was piqued; one hundred what? She stood up and stretched and walked into the kitchen where Tony and all five kids were talking. "What about one hundred?"
LJ ran over to his Ima, "One hundred kisses for Ima!" He grinned at his mother; she saw the impish grin of his Abba on all six faces of her family.
"Happy birthday Ima!" the kids all shouted.
Tali grinned, "Abba says we are at ninety seven kisses and he is going to give you the last three."
Tony moved over by his wife wrapping her in his arms and locking his lips on hers. "Yom huledet sameach. Ani ohev otach, Ziva." One kiss, two kisses, and a third lingering kiss…
"EWWWW, they're kissing," Anthony ran from the room followed by the three younger kids and the two dogs. Tali grinned to herself and quietly slipped from the kitchen to give her parents a moment alone.
Chapter 12: Ladybugs - October 2028
Chapter 12 – Ladybugs – October 2028
The kids were the first to notice the swarms of ladybugs that fall. They'd been outside playing in the backyard and were headed inside for lunch when a ladybug landed on Beth's arm.
"When a ladybug lands on you, it means you will have good luck," Tali told her younger sister. "Count the spots and that is how many years of good luck you'll have."
Anthony looked at his sister's arm, "One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight." As he was counting a ladybug landed on his hand and he counted that one's spots as well. "Mine has nine spots, so nine years of good luck for me."
"Didn't Grandpa tell us that about the ladybugs?" LJ reminded the others about the story they'd heard two summers ago when all the grandkids had been at Gibbs' cabin for a week.
"Yep, and," Rivka replied, "Ooh, look, I got one as well! Mine has nine spot just like yours, Anthony." She held up her arm so the others could see her ladybug visitor.
LJ looked around; he wanted a ladybug to land on him now. He spotted several of the insects on the side of the house. Then he saw the swarm to the side of the window, "Holy moly, look at all those ladybugs!" He pointed to the mass of red and orange beetles.
The kids walked over to the massive accumulation of ladybugs just as Ziva stuck her head out of the sliding door to call them inside for lunch. "It is time for lunch; come inside please."
"Ima, you gotta come see all the ladybugs," LJ pointed to the wall as he spoke to his mother. "They are landing on us and bringing us good luck!" One of the insects alit on his hand as he pointed, "It tickles when it walks on me." He counted the spots and announced that he would have good luck for ten years.
Ziva moved over near the children; the side of the house by the window was nearly covered in the ladybugs. As the six were looking at the insects, Tony walked past the window inside looking for the rest of the family. He came outside to see what they were watching.
"Ladybugs, Abba," Riv showed her father the one still on her arm. "Grandpa says they bring good luck when they land on you."
Tony smiled at his middle ninja, "My Nonna DiNozzo used to say that if the ladybugs swarmed in the fall, it was going to be a very cold winter." He looked at his arm as something tickled his skin.
"Abba, you got a ladybug," Tali grinned. "But yours has no spots!" All of the others had to look at the ladybug with no spots.
"Abba, does no spots mean that you are giving the ladybug good luck?" LJ was curious about the insect having no spots at all. "And do all these ladybugs on our house mean that we have a lucky house?"
Chapter 13: Money - March 2025
Chapter 13 – Money – March 2025
Thanks to Sandie (sl_52311) for the idea!
She almost missed it; the dollar bill origami butterfly was hidden in the leaves of the ficus plant in the family room. It had been laid on a leaf that was partially covered by others. Ziva finished watering the plant and carefully extracted the money butterfly so that she did not damage any leaves.
She wondered who had placed the butterfly in the plant; all of the children had recently tried dollar bill origami when Tali brought home a book from the school library. Surprisingly, Anthony had been the most successful of the five. He'd even created a few of his own. LJ tried a few of the simpler shapes, succeeding in making a heart on his own by following along with his big sister when she also made a heart.
It was those same shapes that showed up a day later when Tony was filling the dogs' food. He'd opened the large tote of dog food to find two dollar bill hearts sitting in the scoop for the dog food. He showed the hearts to Ziva.
"Found these in the dog food," he handed one of the dollar bill hearts to his wife. "Weird place to find them."
She nodded, "It is. I found a butterfly made from a dollar bill in the ficus in the family room yesterday. I put it on my desk." She took the two hearts from Tony and put them on her desk with the butterfly.
The following day, all of the kids were out at school or preschool, and Ziva decided it would be a good time to clean windows. The family room window had a way of attracting dog nose-prints, kids' fingerprints, and cat hair. As she raised the blinds, she noticed something on the sill near the corner of the window. Closer inspection revealed a tiny cube made from a dollar bill. She finished cleaning the window and put the cleaning supplies away in the cabinet in the laundry room.
Ziva put the cube with the hearts and butterfly already on her desk. Before she started her work for the day, she sent a text message to her husband with a picture of the tiny cube.
'Found this in the family room window'
Her message alert chimed as she opened her school email to check messages. She glanced at the screen; Tony had replied.
'Weird that all these dollar bill origami shapes are showing up around the house all of a sudden. Found a peacock in my lunch bag.'
Ziva typed a reply, 'Has to be one or more of the kids. Wonder why?' She made a mental note to question the kids when they all came home.
The day got crazy and Ziva almost was late to pick up LJ, Beth, and Rivka at their preschool. She had to wait in the line of parents queued on the school driveway and into the parking area. Usually she was one of the first vehicles in the line.
"Hi, Ima," Rivka led her twin to the family minivan and climbed in to her booster seat in the third row. "Beth was worried that you weren't coming. I told her that you would be here."
"Was not! Riv was the one upset, not me," the youngest DiNozzo daughter sat behind her Ima, buckling herself into her booster seat.
Her twin stuck out her tongue, "Uh-uh; you almost started crying…"
"Girls! That is enough; I am here," Ziva glared at the twins. They seemed to be irritating each other on purpose lately. "Where's LJ?" She looked at the crowd of waiting children; her baby wasn't in the group.
Riv answered, "He had to go to the bathroom, Ima. I think Miss Tomi took him." Just as the five-year-old finished explaining to her Ima, LJ appeared from inside. He ran to the van and climbed into his booster seat as Ziva pressed the 'close doors' button.
"Hi, Ima! Did you see a leprechaun?" he grinned at his mother. "He's supposed to bring us candy soon."
Ziva turned and looked at her youngest, "Why would a leprechaun bring you candy?"
"For Saint Patrick's Day," all three answered together.
"Oh; who told you that?" Ziva suspected her oldest had filled her siblings' heads with yet another tale.
"Mrs. Dooley," Rivka replied. "She told us to hide money for the leprechaun to find so he will bring candy for Saint Pats' to all the good children. She and her sister and brothers did that when they were little kids like us. Every year the leprechaun brought them a bag of candy."
"Yeah, when she stayed with us when Abba had to help Uncle Tim with his car. You were at school, Ima; 'member?" Beth added.
LJ spoke up and added, "Anthony makes the pretty shapes with the dollars and we hide 'em. The leprechaun found the butterfly and the hearts; that means we are going to get candy from him. Right, Ima?"
Mrs. Dooley was the next-door neighbor on the north side of the house. She was an older widow who lived alone with her two indoor cats. She was a grandmotherly type, and the kids adored her. She kept trying to get Ziva and Tony to just call her Sue, but when Tony said that she reminded him of his mother and his aunts, neither one could quite get the motherly image from their minds. Hence, the whole family called her by the more formal Mrs. Dooley.
Ziva had to think fast; she made a mental note to self to text her husband when they got home to get some candy for the kids on his way home. "Have you been good?"
"Yes, Ima!" She really had not expected any different response from the three.
Back at home, she gave the kids a snack; they went to play in the family room while waiting for Tali and Anthony to get home. Ziva refilled the cookie jar and found a shamrock made of four dollar bill hearts in the pantry. It reminded her to text Tony about picking up some candy at the superstore on his way home.
'The dollar mystery is solved. Pls stop at store on your way home and get some St Pat's themed candy for each of the kids. Also something a bit nicer for them to take to Mrs. Dooley. Thx'
She put her phone on the counter and started preparing a baked chicken dish for dinner. She had just placed the pan in the oven when her incoming-text alert sounded. Tony was on his way home; today was one of his early days.
'Will do; want the WHOLE story when I get home :-) '
'From me or kids? :D ' Ziva hit send and noticed the time; Tali and Anthony's bus would be there in less than five minutes.
Chapter 14: Nature - July 2026
Chapter 14 – Nature – July 2026
Tony stretched as the final credits rolled on the movie he'd watched on his tablet. He took the earbuds from his ears and noticed the message light blinking on his phone. He picked up the phone and swiped the screen. He had a voice mail.
'Hi, Tony. It's Sue Dooley, next door. I know you are there alone with the four boys for the weekend. Just want to give you a heads' up to check on them in the backyard. Boys will be boys, if you get my drift.'
He listened to the message and quickly got up to look out the sliding door. His two boys, plus John McGee and Charles Palmer were at the house for the weekend while Ziva, Delilah, and Breena were at a women's retreat. The five girls were split between the other two houses; Tali and Tori were at the Palmer house, and Katie, Rivka, and Beth were with Tim at the McGee house. The kids had chosen how to split up when given the option to stay where they wanted.
Tony did a double-take when he looked out; all four boys were completely naked! They'd gone outside in swim trunks after lunch supposedly to play with the super-soaker water guns. Thinking back to Mrs. Dooley's message, he had a good idea of what she'd seen them doing. He slipped his feet into his sandals and opened the sliding door.
Out on the deck, he rang the bell that Ziva had him put up last summer to get the kids' attention so that the adults didn't have to shout or go out into the yard. All four boys looked towards the deck as Asher ran out into the yard. Tony headed down the steps behind the greyhound and motioned to the boys to come over to the picnic table under the trees.
"What's up Abba?" Anthony slid onto one of the benches; the other boys joined them quickly.
Tony looked at the four young faces; his own nine-year-old and four-and-one-half-year-old (and LJ would be quick to add that one half if anyone failed to include it) and the two eight-year-old nephews. Four faces of childhood innocence; something he knew all of the parents worked hard to maintain, especially him and Ziva.
"Whatcha playin'?" he asked casually and trying to hide his curiosity as to why they had on no clothing.
"We're castaways, Uncle Tony," John grinned. There were times that Tony would swear that the McGee offspring was secretly his and Ziva's child; his grin and his appetite rivaled the DiNozzo cousins.
LJ grinned at his Abba, "We got shipwrecked and then a typhoon messed up the island where we landed. We have to find new places to build a hut and store the food we gather."
"Did this shipwreck and typhoon take all your clothes?" Tony smirked at his youngest.
"We washed our clothes in the lagoon and put them on logs to dry. Then the monkeys stole the clothes," Charles explained seriously. "We are trying to find the monkeys and where they hid our clothes!"
"I see; so in the meantime…"
"We are in our natural state!" Anthony declared. "Men in the wild."
Tony tried not to laugh as he wondered where his son heard that one; he had to admit the kid had a point. "What if the girls were here?"
"We'd find leaves to hide our boy parts so they can't see," LJ gave his father a look as if to imply that the answer was obvious to anyone.
"Yeah, we can't look at their girl parts, so they can't see our boy parts," Charles nodded. "Unless it is mating season. Then we get to show off our boy parts so the girls can choose a mate."
Tony nearly choked on his own saliva; where the heck had the mini-gremlin heard that one? "Say what?" escaped his mouth before he could bite his tongue. "I mean, um, uh, show off your parts? Uh… never mind…"
Charles sighed and put his hands on the table as if he had to explain a difficult concept. "The males have to let the females see their penises by showing off for the girls. That way the females can choose the mate they want to put the seed for a baby in their uterus."
Tony coughed as he choked; what had the kid's parents told him or where had he acquired this information? He swallowed hard, trying to think of an appropriate reply. He knew what he and Ziva had told their boys about human reproduction, but was unsure how much John had been told by his parents. The last thing he wanted to do was have John learn about babies from his cousins and uncle when it should be his parents' place to inform the kid when and what they chose.
As he tried to regain some composure, Charles continued with his cousins listening intently, "The male puts his penis in the female and gives her the seed to fertilize her egg to make a baby. The baby grows in her uterus…"
Tony cleared his throat loudly, effectively cutting off the mini-gremlin. He knew Anthony knew some of what the kid said, but LJ did not. John seemed nonplussed, but that didn't mean that Charles' words were not new to him. "Guys, it's not mating season for one. Two, you are still boys. Three, you and everyone else on the planet should remember that society has some basic rules. One of those rules is to keep your boy parts covered when others are around.
"Another rule of society is that we don't discuss the reproduction process as general conversation. Making a baby is a highly personal and private decision between two adults…"
"You mean sex?" Anthony interjected.
Tony nearly fell off his seat; this conversation had turned awkward in a heartbeat. "Um, yeah, Anthony… But that's not the direction that I intended this conversation to take. You boys are outside in our yard; the neighbors can see you in some places in the yard. We really don't need them to see ALL of you; understand?"
"Oh," all four replied at once.
"So, here's what we're gonna do. You all put your swim trunks or at least your underwear on now. No more naked in the yard. Also no more peeing in the yard," he watched the boys exchange looks. Suddenly he had the feeling that they'd done THAT before today… He tried for some levity to break the serious mood by grinning, "I know, we got that advantage over the females, but we can't show it off… society rules, remember? Who wrote his name on the fence or on the concrete?"
The boys giggled and exchanged looks again as Tony added, "I know I did more than once…" At his boys' incredulous look, he grinned, "I was a boy once too, you know."
"A LONG time ago," Anthony quipped. He ducked as his Abba's hand aimed for the back of his head and missed.
"Get your clothes on, NOW!"
Chapter 15: Ornery - February 2023
Chapter 15 – Ornery – February 2023
January 2067 - "Do you remember that year Ima almost shot the twins' piñata?" Anthony asked his siblings as the five were breaking for lunch while cleaning out their parents' house of food and clothing after the elder DiNozzos had passed.
There were chuckles all around as they reminisced; LJ had some memories of that day, but most of what he knew was from the stories told by his siblings and parents over the years. He'd only been sixteen months old at the time…
~19 February 2023~
Ziva put the last of the paper goods on the dining room table alongside the cake for the twins' birthday. They'd decided to have the party on Sunday, 19 February so that family and friends could attend. The weather cooperated to make for an unusually warm day for that time of the year in DC. With the Presidents' Day holiday the next day, the family would have time to celebrate again with just the seven DiNozzos.
Tony finished rigging the brightly-colored piñata in the shape of a mermaid on the deck. He had tied a rope to the hook at the top of the piñata and draped the rope over one of the beams for the pergola covering part of the deck. He tied the other end to one of the deck rails; with the rope he could raise or lower the piñata to the height of the person with the stick. He rested the two sticks, handles from brooms long ago past their usefulness as sweeping devices, against the deck railing.
The guests started arriving about 1300; Rivka and Beth were wearing matching outfits that they'd chosen from the children's store at the mall. Rivka's dress and leggings were in shades of blue and Beth's were in reds and pinks. They greeted their cousins as they arrived.
When all the guests were there, Tony announced that it was time for the piñata. "First the birthday girls, then the other kids; if the piñata is still not broken, the adults will have turns until it breaks." He handed the stick to Rivka.
"Ready, Riv?" She nodded and he grabbed hold of the rope as she swung. The first swing missed completely, but he lowered the piñata a bit as she readied for her second swing. It connected with a big thud, but the piñata didn't break. "One more swing and then give the stick to your sister." The little girl gave it her best swing, but just another thud.
Beth took the stick from her sister, "I'm gonna break it!" She tried three swings, and each one landed on the piñata with a loud thud. After the three hits, the piñata was still intact.
The other kids all took several swings and connected with most of them. Tali hit the piñata so hard with her third swing that Tony's grip on the rope slipped and the papier mache mermaid fell on the patio. Ziva examined the piñata before her husband raised it on the rope again; still not a dent or crack.
"This piñata must have been designed for adults," she decided and handed the stick to Ellie.
All of the adults who wanted a turn tried to break the piñata. Nick took a mighty swing and hit the piñata with a very loud thunk, causing it to swing wildly. He caught the swinging mermaid and examined the sides.
"I thought for sure that it would break; there's not even a crack!" he was surprised as he handed the broomstick to Ziva.
She lined up the piñata in her sights and aimed the stick like a javelin, trying to stab a hole into one side. The stick bounced off the piñata; Ziva swore in Hebrew under her breath. She handed the stick to Tim and grabbed the pellet gun from its rack. They kept it on a high rack to scare off squirrels from the bird feeders near the deck.
"NO!" Tony let the piñata drop to the deck. "Ziva, you DON'T want to try to shoot it. The pellets will ricochet and may hurt someone."
Ziva stopped, "You are correct." She placed the pellet gun back on its rack. Before anyone could react, she pulled her folding knife from her pocket and stabbed two holes in the piñata. She then connected the holes with a circular cut and removed a section of the bottom of the papier mache mermaid.
"Raise it now, Tony," she said as she folded her knife and put it back in her pocket. "Rule 9."
"Never go anywhere without a knife," almost everyone replied automatically as Tony raised the piñata and the candy poured out.
The kids all ran under the piñata and grabbed candy from the deck.
Tony quipped to anyone who would listen, "This will be remembered as the birthday that Ziva nearly shot a piñata!"
Chapter 16: Plants - April 2029
Chapter 16 – Plants – April 2029
Rivka helped her Ima load the new plants into the bed of Abba's truck. The two had gone plant shopping at their favorite nursery after deciding to add to the memory garden in the backyard.
"Ima, did you remember to get the fertilized soil for helping the plants we transfer adapt to the garden?"
Ziva looked up from securing the plants and decorations they purchased, "No, I did not. Thank you for reminding me!" She finished securing their purchases and headed back into the store for the special soil.
While her Ima went to the soils and fertilizers department, Rivka quickly slipped over to the garden decorations department. She made a beeline for the twelve-inch gazing ball that she and her siblings had picked on the website for a Mothers' Day gift for Ima.
"Hi, Mrs. Anderson," Riv greeted the one of the store's owners. "I need your help while Ima is getting some of that special transplanting soil."
"What can I do for you today, Rivka?"
The girl pointed to the gazing ball on display, "I want to get one of those gazing balls. We are getting it for Ima for Mothers' Day. Does it come with the stand?"
"Yes, and I think you've made a great choice," the woman smiled. She knew how much the DiNozzo kids liked to make their mother happy. "Do you want to get it today or put it on lay-away?"
"Can we get it in the truck without Ima seeing?" Riv replied. "I can fold one of the rear seats up and cover it with the blanket Abba keeps in the truck."
The store owner grinned and nodded, "I think we can; let's get the sale rung up and I'll get Billy to help you carry it out."
Riv grinned and pulled her wallet out of her pocket, "How much do I owe you?"
"With the stand, your total with tax is seventy-two fifty seven." Rivka counted out the money from the hundred dollars that she and her siblings had put together for the gift for their Ima. With the money she had left, they could also get Ima some chocolates and a nice card.
"Billy," Mrs. Anderson called to her grandson. "Please get one of the blue glass gazing balls with the swirls from the back and help Rivka get it out to her father's truck."
"Thank you, Mrs. Anderson. I think Ima will like it; it reminds me of the water in Haifa at the beaches on the Mediterranean. I hope it reminds Ima of Haifa also," Riv grinned at the happy memories from family trips to Israel and the beach at Haifa.
Billy put the boxed globe and stand on a dolly and followed the girl to the parking lot. Ziva was just putting the last bag of soil in the truck bed so Rivka motioned for Billy to hang back for a minute.
"Hi, Ima; I was talking to Mrs. Anderson," she explained to her mother. "Do you need any help?"
Ziva looked up from securing the last bag in place, "Jeff helped me load the soil; I just have to take the flat dolly back inside and then we can go home."
"Okay, is the truck unlocked? I'll wait here," Riv replied.
Ziva pressed the unlock button on the key fob, "I will be right back." She pushed the flat dolly towards the entry doors as Riv waved to Billy to come over to the truck.
"We gotta move fast; Ima is taking that dolly back inside and coming right out," Riv opened the rear door on the passenger side and found the lever to fold the seat up. Billy lifted the two boxes into the rear seat area of the truck and helped the young DiNozzo cover them with the blanket.
"See ya, Riv!" Billy waved as he headed back in the store as Ziva came out of the doors. "Bye Mrs. DiNozzo. Have a good day!"
"Thanks, Billy; you as well." Ziva climbed into the driver's seat and started the engine.
Once at home, Ziva backed the truck to the wide gate to the backyard. Tony brought the three garden wagons and the wheelbarrow along with the other kids to get everything unloaded and placed near the memory garden.
Rivka named each flat or container of plants as her siblings unloaded them; four flats of coneflowers, three flats of dianthus, two forsythia bushes, a young pussy willow tree, and six flats of strawberry plants. Ziva took over directing who did what in the backyard as Riv corralled her father and older brother.
"Abba, Anthony, I got the gazing ball we all picked out. It's in the back seat of the truck under the blanket. Would you help me move the boxes so Ima doesn't see them?" she motioned for the two to follow her to the truck.
"Zi, I'm going to close the gate and move the truck back to its usual place," Tony called out to let his wife know where he was going. She waved at him to let him know she'd heard.
The three hid the two boxes in the garage by putting them near the Christmas stuff, figuring that no one would be near that shelf any time soon. The family spent the remainder of the weekend working together to expand the memory garden and get the new plants in the ground. All of them were looking forward to having fresh strawberries in June and July.
On Sunday evening, Ziva went inside to start dinner as the others put garden tools away and cleaned up the yard from their planting. As soon as Ziva was out of earshot, Rivka got the family together.
"I bought the gazing ball we picked out online at the nursery yesterday along with a stand for it. Abba and Anthony helped me hide it in the garage. Do we want to put it out now while Ima is inside cooking or do we want to wait until Mothers' Day?" she asked her siblings.
Anthony spoke first, "We hid it by the Christmas decorations, so hopefully Ima won't see the boxes. I vote to wait."
"You know Ima guys, if it's a secret, she will find out somehow. She always does," Tali reasoned. "I vote for putting it out now."
LJ thought about his sister's comments, "I agree with Tali; Ima will most likely figure out or find the boxes and then we won't have a surprise any more. I vote for putting it out now."
Beth nodded, "I agree with Tali and LJ. What about your choice Riv?"
"I really like the idea of waiting until Mothers' Day, but I also agree that Ima will somehow find out or find the boxes. We can't slip anything past her," Riv gave her opinion. "I vote for now. Abba?"
"Is this the only gift you will have for Mothers' Day?" he asked the children.
"I have about twenty-seven dollars left of the hundred we started with; we each put in twenty. So we have money to buy something else closer to the actual day," Rivka explained.
Tony grinned, "Then let's get the gazing ball set up now and surprise your mother." The six went out the gate and opened the garage. Tony lifted the two boxes from the shelf and handed them to the kids. Tali took the box with the glass ball and Anthony and LJ carried the box with the stand. Beth held the gate open for her siblings and then relocked it after everyone was back inside the fence.
After trying a few different spots in the memory garden, the six DiNozzos finally agreed to place the gazing ball between the two rose bushes near the center of the garden area. They anchored the stand and set the glass orb with its blues and greens that reminded all of them of the waters of the Mediterranean near Haifa.
"Let's get Ima," LJ suggested. "We can blindfold her and then surprise her."
Tali shook her head, "Ima doesn't do blindfolds, remember?"
"I'll go get your mother, you kids wait here," Tony directed as he sprinted to the deck door.
In the kitchen, he moved up behind his wife as she stirred the pot of beef stew. "Turn it to a lower flame and come outside for a minute," he wrapped his arms around her waist as he spoke.
"Dinner is almost ready, can it wait?" she replied.
"Dinner can wait a few minutes, sweet cheeks."
Ziva chuckled, "Tony DiNozzo saying dinner can wait! Are you feeling okay?"
"Fine; just come on outside for a few minutes. The kids are waiting." He led her to the sliding door to the deck. "The kids wanted to blindfold you, but Tali reminded them…"
"I guess this is a surprise then?" she asked. "I can close my eyes as we get closer if you hold my hand."
He took her hand in his and replied softly, "I'd hold your hand anyway, neshama sheli." The pair walked to the back of the yard where the five young DiNozzos were standing in a group, hiding the gazing ball behind them.
"Surprise, Ima!" the five yelled as Ziva stood in front of them. They moved apart to reveal the glass globe.
Ziva stared at the gazing ball; its colors reminded her of Haifa and the beaches of Israel. "Toda raba, it is beautiful!" She hugged her five offspring.
"It's like the waters of the Mediterranean at Haifa, Ima," Rivka commented.
"Yep, it reminds all of us of Haifa," Anthony added. "We thought you would like it."
LJ grinned at his Ima, "And since that is a memory, it's in the perfect place!"
Chapter 17: Quarters - Christmas 2032
Chapter 17 – Quarters - Christmas 2032
LJ helped his big sister carry the baskets of clean and folded laundry to her car. He put the basket he was carrying on the rear seat.
"Thanks for helping, LJ," Tali grinned at her not-so-little brother. At eleven years old, he was almost as tall as she was and still growing.
"Any time, Tals," LJ hugged his sister. "I miss you."
Tali hugged the preteen just a bit tighter, "You know you can call or text any time; if I'm in class, I'll answer when I get out. I miss you too, kid."
"It's just not the same without you here," he lamented.
"But I usually come to visit on the weekends," she added.
LJ smiled a small smile, "Yeah, but you are almost always doing laundry when you're here."
Tali ruffled his hair knowing it annoyed him, "I don't always have quarters for the machines in the common area of the apartment building. One load of laundry takes two dollars in quarters; five for the washer and three for the dryer. If I have more than one load, that's a bunch of quarters!"
"Yeah, I get it…" he hugged her again before she got into her car. "See you next weekend."
Tali signed 'I love you,' as she backed out of the driveway. LJ sighed as he walked inside; he missed Tali already. He wished there was a way to have an endless supply of quarters for his sister so she didn't have to spend a chunk of her time at the house doing her laundry.
As he was getting ready for bed that night, he came up with an idea. He'd get the others to help collect quarters for Tali to do her laundry so that she could spend more time visiting when she came for dinner on the weekend.
Over the next several weeks, he collected quarters from his siblings and a few days before Christmas he went to the bank with Abba. His check for the one hundred dollar prize at the fall art show converted to rolls of quarters to give to Tali. The ten rolls of quarters, four hundred coins, weighed five pounds. He also purchased empty roll papers at the dollar store to put the loose quarters from everyone into rolls. On Christmas Eve, when he put the rolls of quarters into a box to wrap for his big sister, there were thirteen rolls in all; six and one-half pounds of coins.
On Christmas morning, LJ watched as Tali lifted the box with his gift. "Whoa, that's a heavy one," she remarked. "Wonder what it could be?" She shook the box; no rattle or other tell-tale sound.
Tali tore the shiny silver paper from the box and used her knife to cut the tape on the box. She opened the flaps and laughed. "LJ thanks," she looked at her little brother. "This will wash a lot of clothes!"
"Merry Christmas, Tali. Maybe I was a bit selfish, but I wanted to have a way for you to spend more time with us when you are home instead of having to do laundry," he grinned at her.
Tali grinned back at him and pulled the boy into a hug, "Love you, kiddo. It's not selfish to want to spend time with each other."
Chapter 18 – Rebels – October 2056
"We got off easy with our five," Ziva remarked to Tony after the couple had discussion about teenaged-behavior with Tali and Chaim. Grandson Elijah was going through a rebellious phase according to his parents. The teen was staying out past curfew, going out and not telling his parents where, with whom, or when he'd be back, and then either turning his phone off or ignoring their calls and texts.
"True," he replied. "Tali was hardly ever a problem. We had a few issues with her when you first came back to us in 2016 and then in middle school."
"Yes, but that middle school incident that was what I consider her worst moment was partly our fault," Ziva reminisced. "We should have told her more about her first two and one half years than we did to that point. She was upset with us for a good reason."
Her husband grimaced, "That was rough; although when she started calling us by our first names that was kind of funny. But, we all survived and in the end we were stronger as a family…" He chuckled and remembered another of Tali's acts of rebellion. "Remember when she was angry at her seventh grade history teacher?"
Ziva laughed, "Oh, yes. She was actually quite creative about it as well. Writing every assignment backwards must have taken some concentration and effort. She had to have done the assignment and then written it backwards from a correctly completed paper."
"I had to leave the room when our daughter responded to the teacher that all she had to do was hold the paper up to a mirror to read it. I mean, the woman was dumbfounded and didn't believe Tali that it would work," Tony smirked. "I wanted to head-slap her…"
His wife grinned at the memory and changed the subject, "Now Anthony had to have known we were on to him when he was sneaking out of the house to spend the night with Katie. That entire summer before his freshman year at Ohio State if he spent three or four nights at home all night, that was a lot. I wonder if he still believes that we did not know what he was doing."
"He thought we didn't know; sneak out about 2200 and sneak back in about 0530 the next morning. I wonder if Tim and Dee knew at the time."
"I am sure they figured it out at some point, Tony. Of course, the drunken night with his cousin John has to be the worst Anthony rebelled. He paid for that one with the hang-over he had for three days," Ziva reminisced. "His funniest was the zip-ties on the toilet paper rolls at the middle school…" she grinned.
Tony looked at his wife in mock shock, "You thought that was funny? I seem to remember you giving me and Tim the stink eye for laughing and high-fiving." At her look, he grinned back, "Oh, I get it! You were being the responsible adult parent at the time… My bad."
He paused to reflect, "The twins… the protest and sit-in. I was the adult parent on that one, you gotta admit. You were almost as rebellious as them…"
"The reason for the protest was valid; the students' lunch period time was cut in half. Nobody should have to eat a meal in twenty minutes; nobody… Besides, you were the one who went bonkers when Riv and John had that love nest weekend. And you were the one who wanted to drive after Beth and Charles when they took off for that music festival in Hershey and were gone for almost twenty-four hours," she reminded him.
When he looked over at his wife, he could still see remnants of the fire in her eyes from helping the twins organize the protest outside the school cafeteria and then the sit-in a week later. "My rebel ninja," he kissed her cheek and smiled. "See? You did acquire the DiNozzo food genes by osmosis."
Ziva laughed, "I have been a DiNozzo for more than one half of my life, Tony. I think I have also acquired DiNozzo traits, yes?"
"Oh most definitely, and you have added to them," he kissed her lovingly. "Our children have acquired most of them too. LJ certainly got the Ninja skills…"
"He did have a way of just appearing seemingly out of nowhere!"
"Our littlest ninja was also a bit of a prankster," Ziva added. "That fence…" she laughed as she recalled what should have been punishment for her youngest.
"Oh, god, yes," Tony laughed. "How could we ever forget that one? He was told to paint the fence after he used the Sharpies to make the knots into pictures. So what did our boy do?"
"He painted 'artists need outlets too' and 'you squash me, you squash the arts' in big bold letters. Then he declared 'I PAINTED the fence as told'."
"You know, Ziva, all in all, we have some pretty awesome kids. They turned into cool adults too. I mean, if we can look back and laugh at the things they did as teens to rebel, it's gotta be good, right?" Tony grinned at his better half.
Ziva grinned back, "Pink hair with green tipped spikes and all… and that from our quiet rebel! I am so very glad they got to be kids and grow up with a real childhood; something neither of us had."
"Yeah, we both got what we wanted for them, didn't we?"
"A NORMAL childhood?"
A/N See "Teens In the House" and "Prank You Very Much" for some of the stories mentioned here.
Chapter 19: Strawberries - May 2027
Chapter 19 – Strawberries – May 2027
"When are we getting the strawberries, Ima?" LJ was bouncing in his seat in the family minivan as his Abba drove them to the local pick your own farm.
"LJ quit kicking my seat!" Anthony was sitting in the middle row seat directly in front of his little brother.
LJ tried to sit still, "Sorry, Anthony; I'm just too excited to sit still. Abba said that we are going to fill all of the buckets in the back with strawberries. I counted eight buckets, so two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen… Sixteen gallons, it is gallons, right Abba? That is a lot of strawberries. And we get to eat all of them!"
His sister chimed in, "Two times eight is sixteen; you can do the 'rithmetic that way." Riv and Beth were learning simple multiplication in school. Riv added, "Four times four also makes sixteen."
Almost thirteen-year-old Tali rolled her eyes; her three youngest siblings were constant chatterboxes. She pulled out her ear buds and tuned the twins and LJ out with her music playlist on her phone. She closed her eyes and pretended that she was in her own bubble in the universe; no siblings, no parents.
Tony was lost in memories; strawberries were one of the first ways he connected with Tali eleven years ago. He'd taken her grocery shopping, hoping the little girl would show him things she would eat as they cruised the aisles. "Tutim!" she pointed and yelled out as father and daughter passed display of strawberries. "Tutim!" She had jumped up and down in the seat of the shopping cart.
"Strawberries," he said the name in English. "Tutim; strawberries."
"Taw-bree," Tali tried with the English word. "Tutim; me want." She pointed again to the packages of berries and rubbed her tummy. He nearly burst out laughing at her antics. Oh, she was definitely his child.
"Penny for your thoughts," Ziva put a hand on his arm, bringing him back to the present.
"Just remembering an early trip to the grocery store when Tali was first with me; she wanted tutim," Tony spoke softly. "We connected over food." He intertwined his hand with his wife's and squeezed gently. "Sometimes it's hard to believe it has only been eleven years… other times it seems like it's been a lifetime in those eleven years."
He turned the van into the parking lot for the farm; there were several other vehicles already in the lot. He was glad Ziva had insisted that they go early to pick berries; she reasoned that they would avoid the crowds of the after-1000 group, and that they would have better and more berries to pick in the early hours.
The kids piled out as Ziva obtained three garden wagons from the check-in stand. Tony arranged the two-gallon buckets on the wagons, three per wagon after Ziva bought a ninth bucket to fill. She handed each child and Tony a wooden quart basket to gather the berries as they picked.
"Three teams of DiNozzos," Tony called out. "Ima's team, Tali's team, and my team. The rest of you choose a team."
Anthony quickly moved to stand next to Tali, hoping that the other three would choose one of their parents. LJ and Rivka stood with Ziva and Beth grabbed her Abba's hand. Ziva led the family into the field of strawberry plants. She stopped at a pathway that divided several groups of rows.
"We will spread out over this section; there are no others picking here," she gestured to the rows behind her. "Remember we want to pick berries that are firm, but red. Avoid the ones that are dark red or have soft spots. Also try to not pick ones that have much white, they are not ripe yet."
"Ima, are we allowed to eat any?" LJ tugged at his mother's shirt.
"Yes, you may eat some," she replied to her youngest's grin. "We stop picking when all of the buckets are full."
Tali and Anthony walked to the far end of the group of rows. "We'll leave our wagon at this end and work our way from the other end of the rows. That way we are working towards the buckets and when they are full, we will be close by."
"Works for me," Anthony grinned at his big sister. As the two walked to the far end of the rows, he asked her about fifth grade. "What's it like being the oldest kids in the school? Did you like fifth grade?"
"It was okay; the best part was having different teachers for some of the subjects. I guess it's sort of getting you ready for changing classes in middle school," she replied. "The hardest part was keeping up with when each teacher had assignments due."
"Oh? How did you do that?"
"Ima helped me organize a planner by day. I wrote the assignments on the day they were due as we were assigned them. It was a bit hard to remember to write them in at first, but after a few weeks, it was easier. You have to find a system that works for you, Anthony. Ask Ima to help; she's good at organizing things."
Anthony nodded, "Yep. She keeps the calendar of all of our after-school activities straight. I'm glad she does! She even keeps Abba in line."
The two worked side by side, filling the baskets and in turn, the buckets with strawberries. Sometimes they talked about various topics, sometimes the siblings worked in companionable silence.
Several rows over, Tony and Beth used a similar strategy to Tali and Anthony. Tony filled the quart baskets faster than his number three mini-Ninja, so when he filled a basket, he would trade with her and she took the full basket down to the buckets to empty it.
"Abba, did you pick strawberries when you were little?"
"No, but we used to go to a farm stand to buy fresh berries. My Mom would drive out to her favorite place early on Saturday morning. I think it was called Lewin's Farm. We bought strawberries in June, blueberries in August, and peaches in early September. Sometimes we also bought corn in the summer and potatoes in October. Uncle Angelo got some of his fruit for his pastries from them, too," Tony shared with his daughter.
"That's neat. Was your mother a good cook like Ima?" Beth sometimes wished she could have met her grandmothers. "Ima says Savta was a good cook."
"Your Grandma DiNozzo cooked some things, but mostly we had a cook make our meals. I don't remember if she had a favorite dish to make though," he got quiet as he reminisced. His mom had not cooked that he remembered since he was about six and she started with the sickness.
"I love you, Abba," Beth wrapped her arms around her father's neck bringing him back to the present. "Thank you for sharing about my Grandma; Ima says it's hard for you sometimes."
"Yeah, yaldati, it is hard sometimes, but sharing happy memories with you and your sisters and brothers is a good thing. I'm glad you like hearing stories about her," he hugged his youngest daughter. "Toda, ani ohev otcha."
He handed her a full basket of strawberries, "Now, let's get our buckets full before the other teams!" Their matching grins sealed the pact; the team of father and daughter would do their best to get their buckets filled first.
"Ima, why did you leave this strawberry?" LJ pointed to a dark red berry on the plant. 'Is it okay if I eat it?"
"Yes, you may eat that one. It is too ripe for us to take home. By the time we get home this afternoon, it would be soft," Ziva explained. "Remember that we are going to have to do a lot of work with the berries once we get home."
"What kind of work, Ima?" Rivka looked up from the plant where she was currently picking the ripe and almost ripe berries.
Ziva stood up to move the next group of plants, "We will have to remove the hulls, sort the berries into groups to eat now, groups to freeze for later, and groups to make jam. If we get enough large berries, we can also make chocolate-covered treats."
"Yum… I like when we have the berries dipped in chocolate," Rivka grinned at her Ima. "They are so good."
"Yes; that is one of my favorite ways to have a special treat with the strawberries. I also promised Abba that we would have strawberry shortcake for dessert tomorrow when we have the family dinner," Ziva handed LJ a full basket of berries to take to their wagon of buckets. She watched the boy run down the row of plants. If only she could bottle that energy…
LJ ran back with the emptied basket, "We all have to get our strawberry shortcake before Uncle Tim! Abba says that Uncle Tim will eat whatever is left because it's one of his favorites."
"Do not worry motek. I always make extra for Uncle Tim," Ziva assured her son. "We will all have plenty to eat."
"Okay, Ima. Are we going to fill our buckets before the others? We have three and they both only have two people picking berries on their teams," the boy commented. "I looked and Beth and Abba have more in their buckets than we do."
Ziva tickled his belly, "Maybe because more are going in your tummy?"
Almost two and one half hours later, the buckets were all finally full of berries. Ziva handed out water bottles to the family as Tony paid for the eighteen gallons of strawberries. Back at home, the seven DiNozzos worked together to hull and prepare the berries for freezing, for the strawberry shortcake for the next day's dessert, and to have for dessert with ice cream that night.
"That was fun, Ima," Anthony remarked at dinner. "It was a lot of work, but we all helped."
"Yeah," Riv added, "Let's do it again next year!"
"I second that," Beth agreed with her twin.
LJ grinned at his family, "Let's make more DiNozzo family strawberry memories!"
Chapter 20: Toys - August 2067
Chapter 20 – Toys – August 2067
Anthony carried the two empty boxes into the play room in the house in which he and his siblings had grown up. "Here's two boxes to start," he placed them on the floor in the middle of the room. Beth was sitting on the floor by the dolls and doll furniture; Riv was sorting through various jigsaw puzzles in boxes; and Tali and LJ were pulling stuffed animals from one of the plastic storage bins.
Tali held up a red plush bear, "Anthony, look, your Ferrari bear!" He grabbed it from his sister and brushed some creases out of its fur.
"I wondered where he was," Anthony looked over the well-loved bear. His Abba had given him the bear when he was a baby; it had been his favorite toy for a long time. He looked at his older sister, "And, no, he is NOT going in the donation box."
LJ chuckled, "I hear you, bro. I still have my lion and every time Savannah threatens to toss him, I have to find a new place to keep him safe. That lion has too many memories to just throw him out…"
"I still have Kelev," Tali spoke quietly. "He's been through a lot with me… Chaim made him a special display." The plush dog that had been with her from her first Christmas was now in a wooden rocking chair just his size made with love by her better half. Kelev now sat on Tali's home office desk in a place of honor.
"Is that the dog that travelled from Israel with you, Tali?" Rivka was trying to remember, "Or is that the one Abba got for you in Paris?"
Tali glanced over at her sister, "I totally forgot about that other one; Kelev was with me when I was brought to Abba. The other dog, Abba bought for me to take out when we left the apartment; he didn't want me to lose Kelev, so he got me a travelling puppy. The two looked similar; I used to have the outside dog tell Kelev all about the places we went." She rummaged in the tote box of plush toys, finding what she wanted near the bottom. She held up the second plush dog to show her siblings.
"Chien! I think I'll take him home to Kelev…"
Beth watched her big sister cradle the plush toy in her lap and continue sorting through the tote. "Almost everything here as some memories connected to it; all these doll beds and the other furniture were made by Grandpa. How can we ever get rid of any of it?"
"And Ima made a lot of the doll clothes," LJ added. At his twin sisters' surprised looks he grinned, "What? I used to like to play with the dolls with you two. Remember that you always made me the dad? At least two of those dolls were given to me as well."
"I remember when the twins got their Bitty Baby dolls for their third birthday; LJ you cried because you didn't get a doll so Ima got you one for Easter that year. You took that thing everywhere; even named him Bruce. Where in the heck did you come up with that name?" Anthony chuckled at the memories.
"Hey, I was eighteen months old; I have no idea, to be honest," LJ retorted. "Didn't Ima make him overalls to match my favorite pair? The ones with the lion on the pocket?"
"Yep," Tali laughed. "You would have worn those overalls twenty-four seven if Ima had let you. I remember one time that you sat by the dryer waiting for the laundry so you could wear your overalls."
Riv held up a wooden tray puzzle with a lion that she'd found in the box of puzzles, "Speaking of lions, LJ; look what I found!" Her little (okay not so little) brother grinned when he saw the puzzle that had been hand-made especially for him.
"Leroy the lion; hand-made by Grandpa!" LJ took the wooden tray from his sister. "I need to save this for the grandbaby on its way." He looked around the playroom. "We could save most of the stuff in here for the grandkids, you know."
Beth looked up from the dolls, "We are planning to have family gatherings here for the foreseeable future; why not have toys for Ima and Abba's great-grandchildren? Almost everything here has some memory attached to it, from the books Ima and Abba read to us, to the Hot Wheels from Aunt Abby that Abba, Uncle Tim, and Uncle Jimmy always tried to play with, to the wooden puzzles, doll cradles, and games that Grandpa made. Let's just keep it all?"
"I'm thinking out loud here, but what if we used some of the memories of the toys and what they mean to each of us as part of the continuation of the Soul Mates project? I'd bet that our kids all have memories associated with many of these toys as much as we do," Anthony mused.
"Or we could tell the stories to the younger generation and you could record it," suggested Tali. "Just thinking about what we shared here now, I know we have a lot of different stories and memories to share."
"Yeah, that would be cool," LJ gave his brother a thumbs up gesture. "It would be adding to the video journal of our family for future generations, too."
Chapter 21: Unstuck - September 2026
Chapter 21 – Unstuck – September 2026
"He shoots, he scores," Anthony lobbed the foam basketball at the lamp on the end table by the family room sofa. Daisy jumped up to catch it and bumped the table. LJ and Anthony watched the lamp crash to the floor, breaking the ceramic base into about a dozen pieces.
"Scores big trouble with Ima," LJ groaned. Both boys moved closer to inspect the damage. Daisy watched her master and his little brother from under the piano. The crashing noise had sent her running and under the piano seemed to be a safe choice for the Border collie.
Anthony gingerly moved the largest piece, "Think we can fix it before she gets home?" He looked over the pieces of ceramic; luckily the light bulb was intact so they didn't need to worry about sorting out broken glass from the ceramic shards.
"Can we Superglue it?" LJ asked his older brother. "Grandpa always says to use duct tape, but I don't think that is going to work for this one."
"Superglue what?" Abba's voice startled the two young DiNozzos.
"Um, nothing, Abba," LJ tried to block his father from seeing the broken lamp. At the glare he received, he gulped, "It was an accident, Abba."
Anthony stepped aside so his father could see the damage, "Maybe we can fix it before Ima gets home?" He looked at his Abba with pleading eyes. It was just the three of them at home for now. Ima would pick up Tali from her piano lesson on the way home from work and Grandpa would bring the twins home from gymnastics shortly after.
"Yeah, I think we can probably Superglue it back together, but we're going to have to tell Ima at some point," Tony unplugged the lamp as he spoke. "Anthony, go get the top of the box from the case of paper in my office. We'll carry the pieces to the kitchen in that. LJ, go get some of the newspaper out of the recycling bin. We can cover the kitchen table with it."
The three carried the pieces of the lamp to the kitchen table; LJ had spread the newspaper across the top of the table as his father asked. He then got the vacuum and made sure there were no tiny fragments in the family room carpet that would get into feet, human or animal, while Anthony and Tony made a plan to reassemble the lamp base.
LJ finished vacuuming the carpet and put the vacuum back in the laundry room cabinet. He entered the kitchen as Tony and Anthony were completing the plan to reassemble the lamp. They had the pieces laid out in the order in which they would glue them to the base. They were just about to explain the plan to LJ when the front door opened.
"La'azazel," Tony swore under his breath; he hadn't noticed the time and would have sworn it was too early for Ziva to be home.
Anthony and LJ giggled at their Abba cursing; both boys had heard curse words in as many languages as their parents spoke, but mostly in Hebrew, Italian, and English.
"In the kitchen," Tony called out; he turned back to the broken lamp pieces and nodded to the boys. "We got this, and maybe it's a good thing we have more hands to put the lamp back together…"
"Hi, Abba," Tali came into the kitchen. "Mrs. Pearsall brought me home; Ima called. She's stuck in traffic on the Beltway. She said she tried to call you, Abba."
Tony remembered that his phone was still on his office desk, "Hi, Tals. Yeah, we had a bit of a disaster here. My phone is on my desk; would you go get it in case Ima calls again, please?"
"Will do; how'd the lamp get broken?"
"Long story; we'll fill you in as we put it back together," he replied. Tali quickly retrieved her father's phone and handed it to him. He swiped the screen and saw two missed calls and a text message from Ziva. He decided to reply to her text since she was probably driving. 'All okay here; Tali home. See you when you get here.'
He turned to the kids, "Okay, we are going to build this like one of your 3-D puzzles. We'll Superglue the pieces and build upwards. If we need hands to hold, LJ you go first, so we can use height as needed. Questions?"
"Got it, Abba."
"All right then, here we go," Tony put several drops of Superglue on the first piece and carefully put it into place. "We'll give a few minutes to set and then add the next pieces." He was about to put the glue on the second piece when his phone rang. He looked at the caller ID. Ziva.
He picked up the phone from the table and swiped the screen, "Hey sweet cheeks."
"I am still sitting on the Wilson Bridge; the signs say there is an accident just the other side of the bridge," Ziva informed her husband. "Would you or Tali put the pot of chili on the stove on low? That way it will be started heating when I do finally get home."
"Sure thing, do you want us to get anything else ready?"
"I will get Anthony to help me make the cornbread when I get home," she replied. "I think the twins will be home before me today. I will call when I get closer. Love you."
"Love you too," Tony ended the call on his end and returned to the kids. "Now where were we?" He grabbed the Superglue and added drops to the second piece, carefully positioning it. "LJ, please hold this piece in place while I slide the next one in."
He stacked pieces adding glue to hold them in place; Anthony and Tali were enlisted to hold other pieces. There were two left when Tony heard the front door open. He slid the penultimate piece in place and held it.
"I am home," Ziva called out as Asher raced to greet his person. She gave him some scratches behind his ears and then the two headed to the family room.
"In the kitchen," Tony called out. "All of us…" He moved his hand and the piece he was holding wobbled so he put the hand back in place and added another drop of glue.
"What… are…" Ziva stopped with her mouth open at the sight; Tony and the three kids were around the table holding on to what had been a lamp from the family room. "What happened?" she narrowed her eyes and glared at her husband.
Anthony decided to be the brave one, "It was an accident Ima. LJ and I were playing with the Nerf basketball and I threw it. Daisy jumped up to catch the ball and bumped into the table… We got it almost fixed…"
Tony grinned at his better half, "Just one more piece to be glued in place… we could really use an extra set of hands." He gave her his best puppy eyes.
"Fine," she huffed and put some glue on the last piece. She slid it into place and held it to set. "Now what?"
"We hold everything for another minute or two and then slowly let go," Tony explained the plan to everyone. "We start at the bottom, so LJ you let go first."
LJ nodded and tried to free his hands, "Um, Abba, I'm stuck to the lamp."
Anthony and Tali tried to move their hands with the same results. Tony tried not to panic as he realized that he too was glued to the lamp. Darn Superglue. He smirked at Ziva.
""Go ahead, tell me 'I told you so' and get it over with," he watched as she tried to move her hand away from the final piece.
"I seem to be attached to the piece I put in place," Ziva put a hand on Tony's arm and tried to use him for leverage to remove her other hand. No luck and when she tried to pull away from her husband, her fingers were glued to his arm.
"OW! PLEASE don't rip your fingers away; you'll take my skin with them," Tony grimaced. "Acetone, nail polish remover; that's what we need."
"I have some in our bathroom, but none of us is going to be able to get it," Ziva commented.
Tali nodded, "I have some in my room also. What time will Grandpa get home with the twins?" All of them tried to see the clock on the microwave. "Microwave says six twelve."
"They usually get home between 1815 and 1830," Ziva noted to the others. "When they get here, no one let either Beth or Riv touch any of us. We do not all need to be stuck together."
LJ grinned at his brother, "Well, you know, Ima and Abba, you always say we should stick together and have each other's six."
The family chuckled; LJ did have a point. Luckily, they didn't have a long wait as the twins and Gibbs walked in the front door at 1817.
"We are in the kitchen," Ziva called out. "And we need your help!"
Rivka and Beth put away their bags with their gymnastics clothes and hung their jackets on the coat tree by the front door. They shared a look at their mother's comment. For what could the entire family possibly need their help?
Gibbs and the two girls entered the kitchen to the five DiNozzos all standing around the kitchen breakfast nook table. They were all holding on to what looked like one of the family room lamps.
"Don't ask," Tony sighed. "Riv, I need you to go into my and Ima's bathroom and get the nail polish remover. Beth you go get Tali's from her room."
Ziva added, "It's in the second drawer on the left side," as Rivka took off in the direction of the master suite.
"On my nightstand," Tali called out to her sister, "With the bottles of nail polish. There's also a box of polish remover wipes."
The twins returned with the bottles of remover, the wipes, and a box of cotton swabs. Gibbs carefully swabbed with the acetone to free each DiNozzo, one at a time, starting with LJ. He had each of the kids wipe their hands with the acetone wipes to remove any remaining Superglue from their skin and then sent them to wash their hands with soap and water.
After Tony was freed from the lamp, Gibbs freed Ziva's hand from the lamp piece and handed the bottle to Tony to free Ziva's hand from his arm.
LJ came running into the kitchen just as Ziva and Tony were finally unstuck. "Ima, what's for dinner? I'm hungry!"
"Crap; the chili! I forgot to put the pot on the stove," Tony gave his wife a sheepish grin. "I'm sorry…"
"It is no big deal; you were stuck elsewhere," Ziva quipped to laughter from the family. "I think we should order pizza for dinner and we can have the chili another night."
Tony called in the family's usual pizza order as the kids set the table. Ziva made a salad from the vegetables in the refrigerator and within thirty minutes the family was enjoying the meal.
Gibbs shook his head, "Gotta admit; you do stick together."
Beth nodded with a mouth full of pizza. She smiled and spoke with her mouth full, "Yep, DiNozzos stick together always."
"We got each other's six," Anthony added.
"Yep, we are DiNozzos, and we stick together," Tali summed up.
"LIKE SUPERGLUE!" the others added as one.
Tony grinned at Ziva, "I think we just came up with a family motto. We are DiNozzos and we stick together; like Superglue!"
Chapter 22: Volume - August 2026
Chapter 22 – Volume – August 2026
The fact that the TV volume had been at full level when he pressed the power button on the TV after he started the Blu-Ray disc playing should have been his first clue. The blast of sound caused him to startle; he quickly grabbed the universal remote off the coffee table and pressed the volume down key while aiming the remote at the TV.
"La'azazel," Tony swore as nothing happened. He pressed the TV button and then volume down; still nothing. He grabbed the TV remote; no response when he tried to lower the volume. Same thing happened with the Blu-Ray remote. He swore again and walked over to the TV to press the power button and to pause the disc playback on the Blu-Ray player.
Suspicious now, he pried open battery covers on the remotes. As he suspected, none of the three he'd tried had batteries. He picked up the remotes for the sound system and DVD player; not a single battery to be found. After a quick check around the family room for the missing batteries, he headed to his office to retrieve the package of twenty-four double A batteries he'd bought the day before.
He yanked open the top drawer of his filing cabinet; yet another curse word escaped his mouth. Instead of the brand new package of batteries, the empty clamshell packaging mocked him from the inside of the drawer.
All he wanted was to watch this short film in peace; none of the rest of the family had expressed an interest, so while the kids played flashlight tag in the yard and Ziva read on her tablet, he'd planned to use the time to see the documentary.
Tony yanked the sliding door to the deck open. Ziva was on one of the outdoor lounge chairs with her tablet. The kids were scattered around the back yard. He flicked the yard lighting to get the kids' attention and moved over near Ziva.
"All DiNozzos, family room; front and center!" He called out to them; he turned and offered Ziva a hand to get up. "You as well, sweet cheeks."
She gave him a questioning look but followed him and the kids into the house. Tony looked at the six other family members. He motioned for them to follow him to the coffee table where he'd lined up the remotes for the various audio and video components.
"We are all well aware of the pranks with the remotes that started earlier this year," he began. The kids shared glances and smirks. "Tonight, we end this once and for all, got it?"
"Yes Abba," all five chorused. Ziva said nothing but watched her husband and the children.
Tony picked up the universal remote, "Who has the batteries for this one? The universal remote?" Tali fished into her pockets and grinned sheepishly.
"Here you go, Abba. And yes, every time the universal remote was missing batteries, it was me," she explained with a sly grin.
"TV remote," he held up the device and looked at the others.
Rivka pulled three batteries from her pockets, "TV was always me. Here are the batteries…" She placed them in her father's outstretched hand and grinned.
"Blu-Ray remote was me," Beth chimed in. She handed her father the batteries from her pocket and grinned at the others. "I was also the one who unplugged the HDMI cables a few times."
Tony looked at the two boys; Anthony shrugged and pointed to the DVD remote.
"I got the DVD remote when we drew for who got what," he explained as he handed his Abba the batteries from his pocket. "I also helped Beth with moving cables a few times."
LJ stepped up last, "I got the sound system remote. I'm also the one who put the volume on high or on mute sometimes." He pulled batteries from his pockets and handed them over. "We were all in on it, Abba… ALL of us." He looked at his Ima as the other kids did as well.
"OH?" Tony turned to his wife. "Even you?"
Ziva smiled and put her hand on his cheek, "Not at first, my little hairy butt, but…"
Beth nudged her big sister, "What did she just call him?" Tali shushed her younger sibling.
"I'll tell you later," she whispered.
Ziva continued, "After being the one who went to get you replacement batteries several times, I started taking more than just how many you needed at the moment. Did you not notice how quickly the batteries disappeared from the new packages you bought?"
"Hmm, yes, but I just figured we were using them up. We do have a lot of battery-operated electronic devices in this house," he replied. "So you took all of the ones that were in the most recent pack of twenty-four?"
Ziva nodded and flashed a grin at the kids, "I confess; they are in my desk."
"Tali and Anthony came up with the idea, and we all added to it," LJ added to the conversation. "We wrote out the device names on slips of paper and drew to see who got what device. When Ima caught Anthony taking the DVD batteries one rainy day, she said she would help if we gave her warning when we turned the volume way up or when we switched cables around."
"Ima is the one who came up with taking all the extra batteries," Anthony explained. "And she sometimes kept you distracted so one of us could take batteries out of a remote."
Riv grinned at her siblings, "It was fun to hide them where you would find the batteries a day or so later, Abba. I still think the best one was when Tali slipped them into the pocket of your recliner." All five kids giggled and grinned at each other.
"Well, it was fun while it lasted, but no more. Okay?" Tony looked at each of the six others in the family, starting with LJ and ending with Ziva. All of them nodded agreement.
"We're cool, Abba. Besides now we can come up with another prank," Beth smirked at her siblings as all four gave her a thumbs' up.
"You have been warned," Ziva quipped to laughter of the others.
Chapter 23: Water - July 2025
Chapter 23 – Water – July 2025
Tony jumped as the icy cold water fell over his head. He heard laughter off to the side of the deck from at least three of the offspring. He suspected all five were in on the latest prank. He'd opened the door from the master bedroom to the deck to step outside to check on the kids and pets. About a gallon of ice water cascaded over him as he exited the master suite.
"Very funny," he commented in the direction of the laughter. "Good thing it is hot as blazes out here today. Now that I am over the shock of the ice water, it actually feels good."
Asher trotted over and licked the water off his arms and hands. "Were you in on it, too?" Tony scratched the dog behind the ears. He got the infamous greyhound lean as a response.
"We gotta get Ima next," one of the twins told the others.
"Yeah, Ima would be a good one to dump ice water on," LJ laughed.
Anthony grinned at his siblings, "We could blindfold Ima and tell her we have a surprise; then lead her out into the yard and dump the ice water on her…"
"Hey," Tony called out to the kids. "We need to have a talk about pranks and Ima before you plan anything."
Tali looked up at her Abba, "You just want in on it." She gave him his own grin and mischievous eyes as she spoke.
He shook his head, "No, well, heck yeah, I want in. But there are some things we just don't do when it's Ima being pranked. We need to talk about those things, so you know."
"You got your serious face on, Abba; this must be important," Beth looked at the others and at her father as she spoke. "Are we in trouble?"
Riv nodded, "Yeah, are we in trouble, Abba? Or are we going to be in trouble?"
Tony motioned for the five kids to come closer, "No one is in trouble, but there are just some things that you all need to know. Let me talk to Ima and then we'll have a family conference." The children all nodded. "Ten minutes, usual place," he called over his shoulder as he headed inside to find Ziva.
She was working at her computer, so he knocked on the office door. When she looked up from her screen, he stepped into her office.
"Hey," he began. "Got a few minutes for a family conference?"
She looked him over from head to toe, "You are wet; prank?"
"Yes, and that started a small discussion with the kids. They wanted to prank you next and some of the ideas they had aren't things you would be okay with," he explained. "Are you good to talk about generalities with Somalia and your early life?"
"Being blindfolded, sudden loud noises and explosions, that kind of stuff."
She sighed and nodded, "Yes. I suppose we have to tell them things some time; now is as good as any."
Tony put his hand in hers, "I'll do most of the talking if you want. And you can anchor yourself to me…"
"Toda; let us go get this done," she squeezed his hand in hers. "I will be okay with your help."
The couple walked hand in hand from the small hallway with their offices, through the kitchen to the dining room where the five young DiNozzos were already sitting around the table. They'd put bottles of water at each place while they waited for the parents.
Tony moved Ziva's chair to the same end of the table as his own. He held it for her to sit and then grabbed the water bottle from her place and placed it in front of her as he sat.
"Serious family conference," he looked around at the five kids. Each one was a mix of him and Ziva; Tali was Ziva's mini-me with his eyes. Anthony was his mini-me with Ziva's eyes. The other three were more of a mix of features, although each of them had brown eyes and varying curliness in their hair. The twins had his lighter hair. One thing all five did get from him was the trademark DiNozzo grin.
"Tali, you know how you don't like fire? Anthony, you are not so fond of spiders. Riv and Beth, snakes just aren't your thing. And LJ, we all understand about how thunder scares you. Remember how these things make you feel."
"I want to run from snakes; I get really scared," Riv shuddered to think about the reptiles.
"Uh huh," Tony continued. "Well, Ima has some things that she gets scared about just like I do and you all do. Sometimes, that fear is more than a fear; it triggers a reaction in the body called a panic attack. I used to be that way around kids; totally freak me out…
"Anyhow, Ima has had a very different life before we became a family. Things in her life weren't always very nice; some things were even terrifying." He felt Ziva squeeze his hand as he spoke. He looked at her, "Some places Ima had to go for her job before she worked for NCIS and even after she came to the team were not very nice places at all."
"You mean like when Doda Tali killed was in the bus explosion?" Tali asked.
"Yes," Ziva nodded at her eldest. "I did not see that happen, but exploding vehicles are not something I want to see." She turned to look at her husband; their look to each other left many unspoken fears open to the two.
"Well, one of the things that happened to Ima many years ago is that a bad person took her captive. That bad person tied Ima's hands together, and put her in shackles. He also put blindfolds and bags over her eyes and head. So all of those things are not good memories for Ima at all. If someone were to blindfold Ima now, her mind could remember the bad time and put her into a panic attack…"
Ziva cut in, "My mind would play tricks on me and convince me that I am back in that bad place. It would be hard for me to breathe, my heart rate would increase, and I would feel as though I needed to escape any way possible. When one is in a panic attack, the mind stops working rationally. It becomes fight or flight to survive." She paused and unscrewed the top of her water bottle. Tony put a hand on her thigh as comfort and to let her feel his support.
The kids sat silently, waiting for either parent to continue. LJ grabbed his water bottle and took a drink. Beth fidgeted with her water bottle and Anthony played with the cap on the top, twisting it open and then closed. Riv reached over and grabbed her big sister's hand under the table. Tali squeezed her sister's hand in support.
Ziva took a sip of water and then continued, "Your Abba was captured when he came to find me. I did not…" she choked back a sob. Tony pulled her to him and placed a tender kiss on her head.
He picked up the story, "I was scared, but I could not live without your Ima, even then. But that is another story for another day. The main point today is that there are some things we just do not do as pranks to some others because of prior history. For example, I would not put a spider in Anthony's bed, ever, because I know how much he is afraid of them."
"Thank you Abba," Anthony replied softly. "I would not put an open flame in Tali's face because I know she is afraid of fire."
"So, if you are going to prank Ima, remember that she does not like blindfolds or other things over her head and eyes. Sudden explosion sounds are not a good choice either. Binding her hands or feet would be something to avoid also," Tony concluded; he squeezed Ziva's hand in his as he spoke and locked gazes with his soulmate.
The seven DiNozzos sat in silence for several minutes. Tony could see Ziva doing her controlled breathing as the children absorbed what they'd been told. She turned to her love, and sighed.
"It was not as bad as I thought it would be," she spoke softly to him. "Thank you for understanding," she spoke to her offspring. "We can have fun, but we just need to keep in mind that some things are better off avoided.
"Now, I have a paper to finish for my class before dinner, so I am going back to my office," she stood. Each of the kids gave their Ima a hug before she left.
Tony turned to the kids, "Now about that prank on Ima…" Five pairs of mischievous eyes with DiNozzo grins looked back at him.
Chapter 24: X - September 2026
Chapter 24 – X – A rainy Saturday in September 2026
Ziva spotted yet another black letter X on the floor; this one was in the hallway from the laundry room to the family room and kitchen. The four from earlier that morning were in the family room, playroom, and living room.
She bent to pick up the poster board weight letter from the floor. A voice from end of the hallway stopped her.
"NO, Ima; that's an evidence marker," Rivka spoke from behind her mother.
"Yeah, Ima; you're in our crime scene," LJ appeared at her side, seemingly from out of nowhere. Of all the children, LJ seemed to have inherited his Ima's Ninja sneak skills the most, according to Tony. She was inclined to agree with her husband; LJ could just appear from skinny air sometimes.
Ziva smiled at her two children, "Oh, I shall move then. Who is the lead on this case?"
"Anthony," both responded quickly.
LJ added some details, "Stolen diamonds in a basketball and four missing sailors. Since it was Anthony's idea, it's his lead. Rule 38."
Ziva nodded, "Sounds like an interesting case; have you been working on the same one all morning?"
Beth joined her siblings, "Nope. This is our third case today; my case was a missing body from autopsy, but we found the body at the city morgue. Riv's case was about stolen computer hard drives with sensitive information. We wrapped that one about an hour ago."
"And Tali and I are going to lead a case together since she's the Director now," LJ piped up. "Hey, does that mean she gets to boss Grandpa?"
Tony came around the corner from the offices and laughed at LJ's comment. "LJ, you five don't need to boss your grandfather at all. He'd do just about anything for any one of you kids, including your cousins."
"ABBA!" Riv shouted at her father. "You contaminated our crime scene," she pointed to the black X under his foot.
"Oh no; I'm sorry. You need some crime scene tape," he backed off the X and grinned at Ziva.
"Tali's trying to make some for us," LJ held up his hands. "I wish we had some real stuff though."
It was Ziva's turn to grin at her husband, "I will be right back. Hold that thought." She disappeared into the garage for several minutes. The kids looked at their father as Anthony came looking for his siblings.
Tony shrugged, "I have no idea…"
"FOUND IT!" Ziva came back inside holding up the remnants of a roll of yellow crime scene tape. "I think there are about a hundred feet on here still, judging by the size of the roll."
"WOW!" Anthony and the younger three had mouths open. "Is that real crime scene tape?"
"Yes, and if you are careful and put it back on the roll when you are done, you can reuse it many times," Ziva replied as she handed the roll to her older son.
"Thank you, Ima! We need to show this to Tali," Anthony and the others ran towards the playroom.
"I forgot we had that," Tony commented. "You made the kids' day."
"Good," she kissed him on the cheek. "It is also one less thing cluttering the garage. Let them have some fun with it; eventually it will become trash and be out of the house…"
Tony followed Ziva into the kitchen; she handed him a loaf of bread, the tub of spread, and a package of cheese slices. "You make the grilled cheese sandwiches, I will make the tomato soup," she suggested. As he nodded and put the ingredients on the counter while he heated the griddle, Ziva went into the garage to take a container of tomato soup base from the freezer.
"This really is the perfect lunch for this dreary, rainy day," she returned with the soup base and dumped it into a large microwaveable pot.
"Yeah, it is; and I have been craving your tomato soup," he grinned at her as he placed the first four sandwiches on the griddle with plenty of space between them. He claimed the extra space was his "secret ingredient" that made his sandwiches taste much better than others.
They heard Anthony talking in the family room, "DiNozzo, take the suspect to interrogation. He knows something and we're gonna find out what." The familiar clink of Asher's tags on his collar could be heard as the dog followed the boys to the playroom.
The parents met gazes and grinned at each other. Anthony sure sounded like their memories of being on the MCRT with Gibbs at the helm.
"Do you think any of them will go into law enforcement?" Ziva asked quietly. "Not that I think it is not a good thing, I just… well… I…"
Tony leaned over and kissed his wife on the cheek, "I know… I don't want to stop them from being whatever they want to be and whatever they are meant to be, but…" He sighed, "Law enforcement is, well, we KNOW what it takes from a person…"
"Sometimes too much," she leaned against her lover as he wrapped an arm around her.
"But on the good side, it brought us together, sweet cheeks. That is one thing I will NEVER regret about choosing the career path I did," he placed a gentle kiss on her head and then on her lips as she turned to face him.
"Ima, Abba, when is lunch? I'm hungry!" LJ ran into the kitchen. "Anthony is interrogating the suspect and he sent me to find out about lunch."
"Takes after another SFA I know," Ziva chuckled. She turned to her son as Tony flipped sandwiches, "Twenty minutes or so; depends on how fast Abba can make sandwiches."
"Thanks, Ima," LJ turned and ran out of the kitchen in the direction of the playroom. "TWENTY MINUTES!" he yelled as he ran.
Twenty three minutes later, each place had a bowl of soup and a plate with sandwiches. Tony was always amazed at how fast a loaf of bread disappeared with the seven of them. Each sandwich-sized loaf made a dozen sandwiches including using the heels. He and the boys usually ate two each, while Ziva and the girls had one and one half each. He took the sandwich with the heels; he actually liked his grilled cheese better with the bread heels.
The kids were chatting about wrapping up the case before lunch. The suspect, Asher, had confessed and was taken to jail. Tali and LJ were discussing their case quietly. At a break in the conversation, LJ stood up.
"Ima, Abba, we have a big case that we need some extra investigators; would you please be on my team?" the boy asked with his best puppy eyes.
"I think that would be fun," Ziva looked to Tony. "Let us clean up from lunch and then we can all investigate your last case for the day.
"Sure, why not?" Tony agreed. "Who has lunch clean-up chores today?"
LJ high-fived his big sister, "I TOLD you they would play!" He grinned at her.
Beth and Anthony cleared the table and loaded dishes in the dishwasher. Ziva put the last serving of soup in a smaller container and put it into the refrigerator. Tony cleaned the griddle; Tali, LJ and Rivka went into the playroom to plan the case.
Once the kitchen and dining room were cleaned, the four entered the playroom.
"Team DiNozzo reporting for duty, ma'am," Tony informed Tali.
"Everybody take a seat; Riv, you ready?" Tali took charge with LJ at her side. When her sister gave a thumbs' up, Tali continued, "We have a big case involving missing pets from base housing."
Rivka put images of the family pets and other animals on the laptop screen, "Missing dogs, cats, rabbits, and other pets," she pointed out.
"So our job is to figure out who is taking these pets and why; and to recover and return as many as possible to their families," Tali looked at her team. "LJ's team will start looking for clues at the homes of the pets; Riv, you check how many have been micro-chipped. Anthony and Beth, check with the local animal shelters to see if any have been turned in. Any questions?"
When no one spoke up, Tali turned to her little brother, "Let me know if you have any problems with those two." She pointed at their parents and grinned.
"Will do," he grinned back. "Okay, DiNozzo and DiNozzo, let's go investigate." He waved his arm for his parents to follow him to the entry way. "Anything and everything that might be a clue should be marked, photographed, and bagged and tagged." He handed his mother a stack of the black X cutouts and handed his father a large zip-lock bag.
Ziva spotted a clump of pet hair near the side of the front door. She dropped an X by it and pointed it out to LJ and Tony. Tony bent down to pick up the clump of hair to bag it as Ziva leaned in to mark a piece of shed claw casing from one of the cats. The two made eye contact and grinned at each other.
"This is kinda fun," he whispered. "Wish our cases had been this easy."
"Yes. Thank you for agreeing to play along." She moved closer and brushed her lips on his.
THWACK; both felt the slap on the back of the head and looked up to see their youngest glaring at them with arms crossed.
"DiNozzo, rule twelve. No kissing on the job. And no flirting either," he gave his parents his best glare.
"I swear, all he needs are the steely blue eyes," Tony spoke softly hoping the boy wouldn't hear him.
LJ glared more at his Abba, "Say something DiNozzo?"
Ziva spoke up, "I thought rule twelve was never date a coworker."
LJ nodded, "It is Leroy Jethro's rule twelve. Leroy Jackson's rule twelve is no kissing on the job. Get to work!"
"Yes, sir!" the DiNozzo parents made the mistake of meeting their gazes and both broke into laughter.
At LJ's scowl, Ziva was quick to explain, "Motek, we are not laughing to make fun of you. It is just that you seem to be channeling your grandfather…"
"Yeah, kiddo," Tony ruffled the boy's hair. "Grandpa would be proud of you, Probie."
An hour later, all DiNozzo pets were officially "found" and returned home. The plus side was that by gathering 'evidence' they'd picked up most of the loose pet hair from around the house and discovered that Simba had slipped into the garage. He was wailing pitifully near the door to the kitchen when Tali found him.
Seven DiNozzo humans and six DiNozzo four-leggeds sat in the family room to wind down the afternoon to watch Cats and Dogs.
Chapter 25: Yummy - Christmas 2026
Chapter 25 – Yummy – December 2026
Tali hung the last of her annual ornaments on the Christmas tree; this year's ornament was one she'd made in her art class in school. One of her seventh grade electives was three dimensional arts and despite some reservations when it had been one of two choices that fit into her schedule, she actually enjoyed the one semester class. The final project before the end of the term had been painting and etching glass ornaments.
"Done," she announced to her siblings who were also hanging their annual ornaments on the tree. She watched her little brother hang his newest ornament, a ceramic chocolate ice cream cone. "LJ, that ornament is so you," she laughed.
"Chocolate ice cream is my favorite food!" the little boy declared to his siblings. "Well, also Abba's root beer floats and Ima's 'loaded' baked potato soup. Especially when she adds the cheddar cheese to the soup."
"Speaking of food, did Ima say how long to dinner?" Anthony chimed in. "I'm starved and since Abba is making spaghetti, I'm so ready to eat. I think that is my favorite food; plus Ima's lasagna."
Tali teased her brother, "You'd eat Ima's lasagna out of the dogs' bowls."
Anthony grinned at his big sister, "I would; so would Abba! What are your favorites?"
She thought a minute before responding, "Definitely Ima's beef stew that everyone seems to love. Let's see, Abba makes some good food… I like his spaghetti… Hmmm… But, definitely his pancakes are my fav. I think in part because of the memories. I remember Abba making pancakes for me when I was little, like about two. He put chocolate chips in them and made a smiley face."
"Time to eat," Ziva interrupted her children's conversation. She nodded her approval of the tree. "Nice work, thanks for getting all the family ornaments on the tree as well."
"Just yours and Abba's left," Riv pointed to the large box containing her parents' ornaments. "We want to see the new one too!"
Ziva smiled, "I have not seen it yet; this year was your father's turn to buy the ornament. All I know is there are two boxes in his office and he is being very mysterious about them."
The family headed to the dining room for dinner. Tony had the pasta in one bowl, the meatballs and some gravy in another bowl, and the extra gravy in a third bowl. Ziva's garlic bread was in two baskets, one on each end of the table. A tossed salad was in individual bowls at each place.
"Pass the sauce please," Beth asked her older brother. Anthony glared at her.
"Elizabeth Shannon DiNozzo, you are part Italian. You KNOW better than to call it sauce! It's GRAVY!" he admonished her. "Nonna DiNozzo would roll over in her grave, or so Abba says."
"And Aunt Isabella, and Senior, and all of the generations back," Tony added.
"Technically, there is no word in Italian for gravy," Ziva added her two cents' worth.
"It is what my family called it and I am sticking to it."
The kids ate their food while listening to the 'debate' over language that they'd heard before. Anthony took second and third helpings.
"Doesn't matter to me; I think Abba's spaghetti is the best food he cooks," the boy chimed in.
Tali smirked at her brother, "Yeah, you even admitted you would eat it from the dogs' bowls! Ima's lasagna as well."
"So what? Those are my favorite foods," he retorted. "Just like you and Abba's pancakes or Ima's beef stew."
Rivka broke in, hoping to keep her siblings from arguing, "My favorites are Abba's grilled cheese sandwiches, and Ima's chicken and rice casserole. How about everyone else?"
Her twin replied quickly, "That's easy. I could eat Ima's olive chicken every day; same for Abba's mac and cheese."
"Abba makes the best root beer floats; and Ima makes the best potato soup ever," LJ grinned as he took his second helping of spaghetti. "But my favorite food is chocolate ice cream."
The family finished dinner and after cleaning up, all seven headed to the family room to finish decorating the Christmas tree. Tony brought the two boxes from his office and set them on the coffee table.
"This one," he pointed to the package wrapped in blue and white snowflake designed paper, "is for the whole family. The other one is for our annual ornament, Ziva." He handed her the box wrapped in shiny red foil paper and grinned. "Open it."
She unwrapped the box and noticed the logo from a local jeweler on the top. As she lifted the lid, she grinned and gasped at the same time. She held up the two-toned gold hearts that were intertwined forming a third larger heart shape.
"Sweet Cheeks… my little hairy butt," she read from the two individual hearts. "One soul, two bodies, 2026" she read from the side where the two joined into one shape. "It is beautiful, Tony. Shall I hang it on the tree or you?"
"Together!" Tali, LJ, and Rivka said at the same time. Their parents grinned and stood up together to hang their new ornament on the tree. Tony gave Ziva a quick kiss as they hung the hearts on an eye-level branch.
"Who's gonna open the other one, Abba?" Beth eyed the box still on the table. "Is it really for ALL of us?"
"Yes it is a family ornament; something special and different for this year," Tony explained. "I think we'll let Tali be the one to open it…" He handed the box to his eldest.
She tore the wrapping paper off and revealed a second box from the same jeweler.
"Hurry up, open it," LJ was impatient; he wanted to see what was in the box.
"I think," she paused, "that Abba should open the box or Anthony?"
Tony pointed at his second-born, "Let Anthony have the honors." Tali handed the unwrapped box to her brother.
Anthony opened the lid and held the open box for all to see. The white gold ornament had seven people shapes, one for each of them, with their names. Underneath on two banners, was engraved: '2026' and 'We are DiNozzos and DiNozzos stick together like Superglue.'
Everyone laughed as Tony explained that since they had come up with a family motto, it was a good year to have a family ornament. Anthony handed the ornament to LJ to hang on the tree.
"Merry Christmas DiNozzos," LJ shouted as he hung the family ornament. "We are DiNozzos…"
"And DiNozzos stick together like Superglue!" the others joined in as the whole family moved into a group hug.
Chapter 26: Zoo - October 2022
Chapter 26 – Zoo – October 2023
"Happy birthday, big boy," Tony put the stack of chocolate chip pancakes in front of his two year old. "Eat up; we have a big day ahead of us." As LJ dug in to his food, the others brought their plates of pancakes and turkey bacon to the table.
"Zoo," LJ grinned with a mouthful of food. "Pet the animals!"
"Ima, what animals are at the petting zoo?" Beth was eagerly anticipating getting to feed and pet the animals at the attraction. She had seen the pictures of several of the animals when Abba showed the kids the website.
"There are horses, ponies, sheep, goats, cows, donkeys, deer, alpacas, giant tortoises, pot-bellied pigs, rabbits, guinea pigs, peafowl, chickens, ducks, and geese, and zebras," Ziva listed the various creatures from the petting zoo's website. "You can interact with most of them."
Rivka looked up from her food, "Can we ride any of them? I want to ride the zebra."
"Zebras are not built to have human riders. They are smaller than the horses and their bone structure does not support weight of a rider well," Tali recited what she remembered from her report on zebras from last year's science class.
"Tali is correct; the website says that you can ride the horses and ponies though," Tony added. "LJ gets a special ride for his birthday. Ima arranged the birthday package for him."
Anthony licked the remaining syrup from his plate, "Abba, are there any more pancakes? I could eat lots more." Tony nodded and took the boy's plate to the kitchen. He put the last three pancakes on the plate and took it back to his older son.
Ziva informed the family that they would leave in an hour to go to the petting zoo, "Wear pants or leggings, please," she looked at Riv as she spoke, "and comfortable shoes or sneakers. Bring a light jacket as well."
The kids went to get dressed; Tony and Ziva cleaned up the kitchen and packed some water bottles in a cooler. Ziva packed a tote with individual snacks for everyone. As Tony loaded the cooler and tote bags into the back of the family minivan, Ziva checked on the kids.
"LJ, that is a pajama top; you have to wear a regular shirt to go out," Tali tried to explain to her little brother.
"But dis my fav'rite; it got lions," he protested.
Tali sighed in exasperation and turned to see her mother entering the room, "Ima, LJ won't put on a shirt…"
"I will handle it, Tali. Please go check on your sisters; make sure they have brushed their hair," Ziva replied to her eldest. She turned to her little boy, "How about we find that new shirt that you got with the lion on it?"
"Shirt with lion on pocket?" LJ grinned as Ziva pulled the top from his closet. She helped him remove the pajama top and watched as he slid the polo shirt over his head. His mother had him sit and put on his socks (with lions of course) and his sneakers.
"Ready to go, birthday boy," Ziva placed a kiss on her toddler's head. "Let us go find the others." LJ skipped towards the front door as his mother followed behind.
Tony did a quick check to make sure all were at the door, "DiNozzo zoo bus leaving in five minutes; load up!" The kids ran out the front door towards the minivan; the three younger kids climbed into the back row and settled into their car seats. Tali helped LJ buckle his harness and then pulled her seat belt across and latched it in place. Anthony climbed into his booster seat and Tony helped him secure the seat belt.
Ziva pulled out her phone after securing her seat belt in the passenger seat. "I will text Dee and let her know we are headed out."
The kids all chatted about the animals as the family drove to the petting zoo; they met the McGee family in the parking lot. John and Katie slid in with their cousins as all eleven headed to the entrance.
Tony paid for the group and handed each one the paper ID bracelet to wear while inside the zoo. Since Ziva had prearranged for the group to have a special birthday tour, LJ also got a cardboard crown to wear that said 'It's my birthday!'
Tony placed the crown on the toddler's head noting to Ziva that he figured it would stay on the kid's head for all of fifteen minutes.
"Okay, everyone listen up," Tony corralled the group to a set of benches away from the entrance. "Kids, buddy up. Stay with your buddy at all times. If you want to switch buddies, tell an adult. LJ, you are my buddy, okay?"
LJ grinned as he grabbed his father's hand, "Okay, Abba. Keep you not lost."
Anthony and Katie moved together and Delilah offered to be the adult with them. John and Tali went with Tim; Rivka and Beth paired with their Ima as the four groups headed to the animal exhibits. At each area, there was feed available for the visitors to offer to the animals. Stacks of plastic cups were next to vending machines that took quarters to dispense about a half cup of feed.
The families moved through the different animal areas and when they came to the goats, the sign noted that it was nearly time for the baby goats to be bottle fed. Riv and Beth wanted to get bottles, so Ziva went with them to line up by the pen.
Tali and John fed the goats, but they were more interested in watching the peacocks strutting around with their tails spread open. Delilah, Katie, and Anthony decided to feed the pot-belly pigs. LJ saw the goats in their pen and pointed to them.
"Abba; feed goats. Please?"
Tony nodded and the two headed to the entrance to the goat pen. The zoo assistant for the goats noted LJ's birthday crown in his father's hand. She handed Tony a bag and explained it was special 'birthday feed' for kids to give the goats. He also purchased a bag of regular feed labelled 'goat chow.'
Father and son were let into the goat pen and when Tony opened his goat chow bag, several goats quickly came in their direction. He handed LJ the bag and showed him how to hold the food pieces in his palm for the goats. LJ giggled at first as the goats took the pieces from him. Tony opened the special 'birthday feed' bag and more goats started surrounding the pair.
Tony switched bags with LJ so the boy could give the goats the special feed. He glanced up to note where the others were. He could see Ziva and the twins giving some baby goats bottles. The girls were grinning from ear to ear. Tim, Tali, and John were across the way taking pictures of the peafowl.
"ABBA!" a cry from LJ directed his attention back to the goats. About a dozen animals were surrounding the little boy trying to get their noses into the bag of feed. "Abba, I scared," the toddler started crying and trying to hold the bag up.
Tony stuffed the remainder of the regular feed in the bag into his pocket and grabbed LJ. He swung the boy onto his hip and soothed him.
"Abba's got you, big boy. It's okay now," he put a soft kiss on the little boy's head as LJ leaned against his father. The cries reduced to sniffles as Tony rubbed LJ's back with his free hand. "Hey, motek, it's okay to be scared," he said softly.
LJ sniffled and nodded, "Okay, Abba." He looked at the goats still around them waiting for their treats. Tony was just about to suggest they feed the rest of the food together when something bumped into him from behind.
"What the?" he turned to look and saw a billy goat glaring at him. "Let's get the rest of the feed to these goats and get out of here." He pulled a handful from the bag that LJ was still clutching and offered it to the goats.
WHAM! The billy goat butted him again from behind. Tony stepped a few feet and again took a handful of feed from the bag. LJ also had feed in his hand. Tony bent forward so LJ could offer his feed to the goats.
WHAM! The billy goat butted Tony's butt nearly knocking him on his face. Had his hand not been outstretched to feed the other goats he probably would have gone down.
"Bad goat!" LJ yelled at the billy. "Not nice."
Another goat was nudging at Tony's pocket on the opposite side from LJ.
"Hey," he turned to the goat as it tried to put its nose in his pocket. Two more goats bleated at them and one nudged LJ's bottom. The toddler started crying again as his father tried to get them away from all of the goats.
WHAM! The billy goat was relentless. The goat nosing at Tony's pocket tried to pull the bag of feed out of the pocket. The two nudging at LJ were trying to get to the bag of feed that the little boy was clutching in his hand.
"I scared, Abba!" LJ wailed. "IMA!"
The billy butted yet again as Tony pulled the bag of feed from his pocket. He quickly dumped the contents on the ground on the side away from LJ. He took the bag of feed from the boy and dumped it as well.
Ziva looked over at the goat pen when she heard the cries from her baby. She nearly burst out laughing at the sight of Tony trying to get away from the goats and when the billy rammed him yet again, she did laugh.
Tony noticed his wife watching and laughing, "A little help here would be appreciated, Zee-vah." He backed away from the goats that were now eating the food that he dumped on the ground. LJ clung to him and cried softly.
"Shh, LJ, we are going to get away from these crazy goats," he pulled the toddler to him and looked around for the billy goat. It was about six feet away glaring at him. "Evil eyed goat," he muttered as he backed towards the gate to the pen.
"Bad goat," LJ confirmed. "Not nice."
"Not at all, motek. If we never see another goat that is fine with me!"
The pair finally got to the gate to the pen and exited quickly. Ziva rushed to calm her baby. The others had been watching from outside the pen. Once out of the goat enclosure, LJ was all grins again and laughing at Anthony pretending to butt into his father.
The rest of the animal exhibits went without incident and the group headed to the gift shop after feeding the zebras some hay. LJ looked at all of the toys and books about animals before he made a selection.
"Dis one, Abba," he held up a plush goat with a story book about goats attached.
Tony groaned to the laughter of the others, "Rub it in, kid…"
Chapter 27: Alphabet Soup - Stormy Day in August 2026
Chapter 27 – Alphabet Soup – A Stormy Day in August 2026
Tali and Anthony teach the younger kids the Hebrew alphabet
"Alef," Tali pointed to flash card with the Hebrew letter א. "Some words that start with alef are Abba, Ima, and Asher."
"And Anthony?" asked Riv.
"Well, actually in Hebrew, my name is Gedalya," her older brother replied. Anthony held up flash card with the next letter ב, "Bet; some words that start with bet are boker (morning), Be'ersheva, and basar, meaning meat."
Anthony picked up the next letter card; before he could say the letter name ג, Rivka spoke up.
"That's gimmel!" she was excited; she actually recognized one of the Hebrew alphabet letters. "It's on the dreidel. Gimmel for gadol in nes gadol haya sham; it means great, right Tali?"
Tali nodded and grinned at her younger sister, "Words that begin with gimmel are geshem (rain), gelidah…"
LJ interrupted his big sister, "ICE CREAM! I know that one."
"Next is dalet ד, as in dod (uncle), doda (aunt), and degel (flag)," Anthony held up the flash card for his younger siblings.
Beth grinned, "So like Doda Tali, and Dod Ari, Ima's sister and brother?"
Tali went through the next three letters, "Hay ה for horim (parents); vav ו as in veradim (roses). And zayin ז as in zeev (wolf)."
"And Ima's other name, Ziva," LJ added.
"Het ח as in Chanukah, challah, and khatul (cat)," Anthony started the next three letters. "Tet ט for tiyul (hike); and yod י for yom (day) and yorekha (moon). The way to tell vav and yod apart is the length of the letter." He pointed to the two letters, "Vav is longer than yod."
"Kaf כ for kokhav (star) and …" Anthony was cut off by Beth.
"Kelev is dog!" Beth grinned, "I know that one from Tali's favorite stuffed animal."
"What's next?" Riv pointed to the card for lamed ל.
Anthony replied, "That's lamed as in lev (heart) and the next one is mem מ for Magen David and matzah."
LJ sighed, "How many are there? How do you tell them apart?"
"There are twenty two total," Tali answered. "You practice until you recognize the Hebrew letters as easily as the letters of the English alphabet. After mem, we have nun נ. Namer (tiger) and neer (candle) start with nun."
"Nun is on the dreidel," Riv noted.
Tali nodded, "Yep; next is samekh ס. It starts Saba, Savta, seder, and senai (squirrel). After that is ayin ע for agevaniah (tomato) and ugah (cake). It's like alef in that it can have several sounds."
"Peh פ for perakhim (flowers) and pessaneter (piano); tzadi צ, which starts tzipporah (bird) and tzefarede'a (frog)," Anthony continued through the letter flash cards. "Qof ק for qipod (porcupine)."
"And the final three are resh ר as in rav (rabbi); shin ש, which is on the dreidel. Shin starts shemayim (sky). And finally tav ת as in tapuz (orange) and teom (twin)," Anthony finished the alphabet cards.
LJ sighed again, "That's a lot of letters. How did you learn them all, Anthony? Tali?"
"Practice," Anthony reminded his little brother. "I thought the hardest part was the vowels that are represented by the lines and dots under the letters."
"Remember that I learned Hebrew when I was little," Tali couldn't remember a time when she did not know Hebrew.
"Will you help us learn?" LJ gave his big sister his best puppy eyes. "Please?"
Tali ruffled her little brother's hair, "Of course we will; right Anthony?"
A/N This is a short transition chapter to the second half of the one-shots.
Chapter 28: Aryeh אֲרִי - Lion - October 2022
Chapter 28 – Aryeh (אֲרִי) (Lion) – October 2022
Gibbs walked through the toy store to find the section with the toddler trucks and trains. He wanted to get some inspiration for something different that he could make for LJ's first birthday. All of the older DiNozzos had received handmade wooden toys for their first birthday; LJ would be no exception.
With five DiNozzos, it was a bit more challenging to come up with vehicles for the toddler that had not already been made. He did a quick sketch of one of the helicopters, and also of one of the pieces of road equipment that would be a new vehicle if he could make it work in wood.
With five sketches in hand, Gibbs turned to leave the store. As he was walking towards the doors, the aisle of plush animals called to him somehow. He figured no harm done in cutting across that aisle to get to the exit. About two thirds of the way to the parallel main aisle from which he had turned, a display of plush lions, sitting on their haunches caught his eye.
The animals were well-made and seemed durable enough for a one-year-old. 'What the heck?' he thought. So, on a whim, the infamous lion was purchased for LJ DiNozzo.
Nine days later, on 10 October, the family gathered at the DiNozzo house to celebrate the baby's first birthday a day early. Since all had the day off for Columbus Day, Ziva figured it would be a good time to have the birthday party. She and Tony decided to have the family over for pizza lunch and birthday cake afterwards.
Family began arriving around 1130 and the pizza was delivered shortly after. When Tony took the dozen pizzas from their regular delivery person, he joked about it.
"Feeding the whole extended family today for the baby's birthday, just in case you thought LJ was going to eat it all himself," he quipped.
"We remembered it was LJ's birthday; that small box on top is for LJ," the owner's younger son pointed to a small flat box on the top of the stack. "Pop says it's just for the birthday boy."
"Thanks, and tell your dad thanks; we'll get pictures," Tony grinned. He carried the stack of boxes to the kitchen and placed them on the counter. He separated the plain cheese pizza from the 'DiNozzo special' pizzas.
"What is in the small box?" Ziva noticed the pile of pizza boxes as she placed the large bowl of salad on the counter for family to serve themselves.
"Mr. Canizio made a special pizza for LJ," he explained. They opened the box to see a small six inch pizza cut into bite-sized one-inch pieces. The pepperoni and sausage had been minced to small pieces for the baby to be able to eat them. "I told Joey that we'd take pictures for his Pop."
"How very thoughtful of him," Ziva remarked. "We definitely need to share some pictures with them."
Ziva called the family into the kitchen for lunch. The kids all came from the playroom and the adults from the living room and family room. Plates were filled and the guests and DiNozzos took seats around the extended dining room table; LJ was in his high chair between his parents. Tony and Tim had put in leaves to expand the table to fit the twenty people.
Ziva placed the pieces of LJ's special pizza on a plate and put a few at a time on the baby's tray. He shoved them in his mouth with both hands, grinning the entire time.
Tony cut slices of DiNozzo special pizza into more manageable pieces for Rivka and Beth and put their plates in front of them at the table. The girls had decided to sit on either side of Aunt Dee, so Tim moved their booster seats as Tony prepared the plates.
After everyone had their fill of pizza, there were about six slices left. The salad was just about gone and Ziva handed the bowl to Anthony after he carried plates to the dishwasher. The boy finished the salad and placed the bowl with the other items to be loaded in the dishwasher. Tony packaged up the rest of the pizza and put it in the fridge.
The others drifted to various parts of the house; the kids returned to the playroom and the adults again split between the living room and family room.
"Do we open presents now or wait until after the cake and ice cream?" Tony inquired.
Ziva thought a minute, "I think we should have the cake and ice cream in about an hour or so. Give everyone a chance to let the pizza settle. Perhaps we should get LJ to take a nap so he is not crabby later on?"
"Good idea," he responded. "I'll take him into his room and get him calmed down to sleep. You can visit with the others."
Ziva checked on the adults in the family room; Tim, Clay, Ellie, Abby, Jimmy, and Leon were playing a game on the Xbox. The kids were playing with the dolls, blocks, and Hot Wheels cars in the playroom. She joined Gibbs, Delilah, and Breena in the living room to work on seven hundred fifty piece jigsaw puzzle.
It was nearly two hours later that she realized that she hadn't seen Tony since he took LJ to his room to try to get the baby to take a nap. She excused herself from the group and walked to LJ's room. She gently nudged the door open. LJ and Tony were both asleep in the rocking chair.
LJ stirred and turned to look at his Ima; he grinned at her and reached his arms to her. Ziva carefully lifted the baby from Tony's arms. She sniffed, "Uh oh, someone is a stinky mess." LJ giggled as Ziva put him on the changing table.
Tony's subconscious registered the baby's giggles and he groggily opened his eyes. When he realized that the little boy was no longer in his arms he sat bolt upright. That's when he noticed Ziva at the changing table putting a fresh diaper on LJ.
"Oh, thank goodness; I thought he got away from me!" Tony stretched as Ziva put the soiled diaper in the bin. His back cracked and he sighed.
"Did you have a good nap, my little hairy butt?" she grinned at him as she turned with the baby in her arms. "I came to find you and both of you were asleep."
"Uh, yeah, I guess so. How long were we asleep?" he looked at his watch.
"I realized that I had not seen you for about two hours when I came to check on the both of you," she replied. "Are you ready for cake and ice cream?"
"Yeah, give me a few to freshen up, if you get my drift," he headed towards the master suite as Ziva took LJ to the playroom to be with the other kids. She put him on the floor and walked across the entry foyer to the living room.
"We will be having cake and ice cream shortly," she announced to the three adults still working on the jigsaw puzzle. Gibbs felt a hand on his leg and looked down to see LJ standing by his chair.
"Pa!" the little boy reached his arms to his Grandpa.
"Hey there, birthday boy. Getting' fast on all fours are we?" Gibbs scooped the toddler into his arms as LJ grinned.
"That he is, and he stands without holding on to anything," Ziva added.
"Won't be long."
She smiled at her youngest cuddling with his Grandpa, "Tony says the same thing. It will be soon enough and I will be chasing three toddlers. I am going to go get the cake and ice cream ready. Are you okay with him?"
Gibbs nodded and Ziva headed to the kitchen where she met her husband pulling the cake box from the refrigerator. She'd ordered a half a sheet cake knowing that they would have a good bit of the extended family over to celebrate. The top of the cake had a cartoon lion, similar to the one in LJ's favorite book, and 'Happy Birthday LJ!' on the top.
Ziva grabbed the paper plates and cups from the pantry that had a safari birthday theme. Tony removed the cake from the box and carried it to the table. He returned to the kitchen for the ice cream as Ziva put the party goods on the table. She went back for a cake server and ice cream scoop. Tony put the gallon jugs of lemonade and fruit punch on the table and then went to call the kids and the adults to the table.
Gibbs stripped LJ to his diaper and set him in his high chair. LJ's eyes widened at the sight of the cake and when he saw the containers of ice cream he started banging his fists on the tray.
"Totally DiNozzo," Leon joked. "Needs his food ten minutes ago."
Ziva placed the number 1 candle on the cake as the others took their seats. "Time to sing to the birthday boy!"
The family sang happy birthday to the baby, and he grinned at all the attention. Tony helped him blow out the candle and Ziva cut a piece from the cake and placed it on a plate. Tony put the plate on LJ's tray and both of the baby's hands dug in almost immediately.
"Mmmm," he babbled with his mouth full of cake, eliciting laughter from almost everyone at the table.
Ziva served cake to the others and Tony added scoops of ice cream for those who wanted the cold treat. Tim poured lemonade and fruit punch into cups for the family.
"Ima," Beth tugged at her mother's shirt.
"LJ big mess," she pointed to her baby brother and giggled. LJ had cake on his face, in his hair, and on his arms and chest.
"Eat it or wear it," Anthony had just read the book Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and recited one of his favorite lines from the book.
Clay recognized the reference and high-fived with Anthony, "Those were some of my favorite books as a kid; have you read all five books yet?"
"Just the first one; Ima is going to take us to the Library later this week so I can get the next one in the series. I think it's Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. But I really want to read Superfudge," the boy replied to his uncle. "Girls are kinda yucky unless they are my cousins or sisters, ya know?" he spoke in a half-whisper to Uncle Clay.
Ziva put the remainder of the cake and ice cream away as Tony tried to clean as much cake from LJ's body as he could. Thankfully, he and Ziva had taken turns spoon-feeding the ice cream or the boy would have been even more of a mess. He got most of the cake off the kid and put his clothes back on. Ziva had been smart to dress the baby in a one-piece playsuit that day; made for easy on and easy off.
He put the toddler on his hip and called the others to the family room, "Time for presents." LJ bounced on his Abba; he may not have totally understood the words, but he knew it was all about him. The gifts were piled on the coffee table in the family room and LJ's eyes widened when he spied the pile of brightly wrapped boxes.
"OOOHHH," he pointed and laughed.
"All for you, big boy," Tony sat on the loveseat next to Ziva and held LJ in his lap. "Ima's going to help you open them and Uncle Tim is going to get some pictures." LJ grinned as his mother held a package towards him. He reached out for the box and together he and Ziva tore the wrapping off.
Ziva opened the box and handed the set of baby-sized board books to her son, "This is from Uncle Leon." She made a note on the small pad of paper on the arm of the loveseat. Her plan was to write each gift and the person from whom it came so that thank you notes could be sent out during the ensuing week.
Several piles of gifts of toys, books, and clothes were stacked on the table when LJ opened the first box from Grandpa. Inside were three wooden vehicles, a helicopter, a road grader, and a fire truck. The four older DiNozzos had to inspect them of course and both Tali and Anthony remarked that the new vehicles were different from ones the family already had.
Tony handed LJ to his mother and pulled the large box from them towards the center of the room. Ziva moved to the floor and had LJ in her lap. Tony and Ziva both helped LJ tear paper from the box; the little boy stood up while they were tearing the paper and laughed out loud.
As they pulled the paper away, the others watched and laughed along with LJ. Tony cut the tape on the top of the box and pulled out the Little Tikes 2-in-1 Pirate Ship toy. It was a play toy with pirates and cannon and also a riding toy. LJ clapped his hands and laughed. Ziva set him on the seat and Tony pushed him around the room making pirate sounds. The baby laughed as did the others.
His Abba sat on the loveseat and sighed, "Getting too old for too much of that." He rubbed his lower back as he watched Beth and Rivka check out the pirate ship. Gibbs reached to the side of The recliner and pulled out a bright red shiny gift bag.
"One last gift," he showed LJ. The baby crawled over to his Grandpa and stood up. He looked inside the bag and reached in. He tugged on the toy inside as Gibbs helped him get it out of the bag.
The grin couldn't have been any wider when LJ hugged the plush lion to him and babbled. He wrapped an arm around the lion and reached the other to his Grandpa to indicate he wanted up into his Grandpa's lap.
"PA!" LJ snuggled into Gibbs with the lion firmly in his grasp. He grinned at everyone.
"Guess you like the lion, huh bud?" Gibbs placed a gentle kiss on the baby's head and smiled.
Chapter 29: Basar ( בשר) (meat) – July 2033
Chapter 29 –Basar ( בשר) (meat) – July 2033
"We got any more lemonade?" Anthony was sweaty from chopping wood as he came into the kitchen of the cabin. John, Charles, and LJ were husking corn and washing potatoes as Gibbs seasoned the steaks that they would be cooking for dinner.
Gibbs looked up at the kid; when had the boy turned into a young man? Sixteen year old Anthony was now taller than his grandfather and reminded the older man of a younger version of another DiNozzo. "There's a glass for you in the fridge; figured you'd need it sooner or later."
"Thanks, Grandpa. I got that entire pile split and stacked where you wanted it," he grinned as he sipped the cold beverage. "I like that new splitting maul; gives me a good workout!" He rippled the muscles in his arms and upper torso, showing off.
John ribbed his cousin, "Yeah, my sister will think you are the Hulk…"
"You should try it sometime, cuz; maybe my sister will be impressed by muscle instead of brains for once," Anthony gave as good as he got. "You too, Charles… put some meat on those bones and give my sister a bod to appreciate."
Gibbs listened to the grandsons' banter; he watched the Palmer kid as the others teased him. At barely fifteen, Charles looked more like a preteen than eleven (almost twelve) year old LJ. The two younger boys were the same height and although Charles' voice had changed, he was as skinny as a rail and less defined.
"Dad says I haven't hit my teen growth spurt yet," Charles shot back.
Anthony wrapped an arm around his cousin's shoulder, "You know we're just teasing, right? Your time will come; just don't let LJ beat you to it." He couldn't resist that last tease. "Besides, if I tease you too much, Beth will short-sheet my bed again or worse."
John and LJ laughed; they remembered the last incident when Anthony had been pranked by the younger DiNozzo twin. She'd even painted a note on his ceiling with glow-in-the-dark paint to remind him why. It took four new coats of paint to cover the message.
LJ looked at his brother and cousins; each of them had a girlfriend, well technically only Anthony and Katie were dating, but John and Riv, and Charles and Beth were as good as dating. "What's the big deal with having some girl look at your body?" he asked them.
Gibbs patted the rub of herbs and spices into the steaks as he listened to the teens talking. He smirked at LJ's question and wondered how the older three would answer.
"Little bro," Anthony walked over to where LJ was scrubbing and slicing potatoes and handing them off to John to add seasoning, onion, and bacon before wrapping in foil to bake in the fire pit.
John nudged Charles, "This should be good…" Charles nodded and both teens watched and listened while working on the food prep. Charles had one more ear of corn to shuck and wrap in foil with butter and salt.
"A year or two from now, you will wonder why you even asked such a question. You will understand that as much as we guys look over a girl; they do the same to us," Anthony began. "Goes back to the primitive mating and choosing the best father for her baby stuff…"
Gibbs cleared his throat loudly, "Yeah they look us over as much as we look them over, but this is not about selecting a piece of meat at the store. It's about respecting each other even while checking out the other."
The four boys turned to their grandfather as he continued, "Yeah, it's older than dirt to check out the opposite gender; even the animals do it. But we are humans. Human beings who should respect each other and appreciate each other. If I ever catch one of you boys mistreating a lady, I will personally head-slap you into next year."
All joking stopped as the four listened to the words of the old man, "I expect you to treat every female with the respect she deserves, including your sisters. That said, you know any of you can come to me any time to talk about anything. I may not be the best choice for relationship advice, but my door is always open for my grandkids."
He looked at the four faces watching him; they all looked as though they'd just witnessed a train wreck. "Hey, enough with the serious faces; we're here to have fun. And we got some food to cook…"
"Especially some steaks!" Anthony grinned.
John asked the same question they asked every time the four had a cabin weekend with Grandpa, "Gonna tell us the secret to cooking your steaks?"
Chapter 30: Gelidah גְּלִידָה - ice cream – August 2029
Chapter 30 – Gelidah (גְּלִידָה) (ice cream) – August 2029
"It isn't called 'the pig trough' for nothing," Tony grinned at his family. The seven DiNozzos had just ordered the huge ice cream sundae at a famous boardwalk attraction in Atlantic City.
They'd had to choose the flavors for thirty six scoops of ice cream and up to twelve toppings for the massive treat. Each person got to choose one topping and five scoops' worth of the cold dessert. The family then agreed on two additional toppings that all of them liked, plus the final scoop flavor.
"I am not sure why you had each of us choose five scoops," Ziva commented. "I do not think that I can eat that much ice cream."
LJ grinned at his Ima, "I'll eat your extras!" Everyone knew that his favorite food of all time was chocolate ice cream. Given a choice, the boy would have that for every meal, every day.
"I'm betting that Anthony and LJ will eat the most ice cream," Riv noted to her twin. "Maybe Abba next on total scoops."
Beth nodded, "Either Tali or Ima will eat the least amount. I DO think together we will finish it off though. Three dozen scoops of ice cream is nothing for this family."
Two wait-staff carried the massive stainless steel bin to the table; other staff honked party horns and sirens as the family was presented with the huge ice cream sundae. Except for Tali, the kids all waved at the other customers and savored the attention the family was getting. Tony grinned from ear to ear as Tali and Ziva just sat quietly trying to be inconspicuous in all the revelry.
One of the staff snapped a picture of the family with their spoons poised above the concoction, all of them sporting the trademark family grin. If they succeeded in emptying the trough, the family picture would be placed on the eatery's wall of fame.
"Enjoy your ice cream," the young man who had been their waiter winked at the kids and placed the check face down by Tony. "Let me know if I can get you anything else."
"Thanks." Tony picked up his spoon as the others dug in to the mountain of the frozen dessert with its myriad of toppings and flavors. "Hey, Tals, your mint chocolate chip scoop is over here," he pointed with his spoon. She traded places to reach her favorite flavor.
"Anyone see the strawberry scoop?" Beth queried the others.
Ziva looked at the scoop of mocha chip that she had requested, "It is under my scoop of mocha chip. Let me finish that and we can trade places, if you want."
Tony dug in to a scoop of chocolate covered in butterscotch syrup, "Mmm, there's plenty of chocolate for everyone." When the family ordered, each had requested chocolate, and when the total numbers of scoops were counted, over a third was chocolate scoops.
Anthony put a large spoonful of vanilla in his mouth; the others giggled at the brain-freeze expression on his face. "Dang it," the preteen mumbled as he slowly lost the numbness and regained feeling. "I guess I should pace myself…" He scooped more vanilla with hot fudge and chocolate chips on top.
LJ grinned with his mouth full; he was just happy to have his favorite food for dinner. He ordered three scoops of chocolate ice cream and two of chocolate fudge ripple, saying that he decided to "go bold" and try something different.
The family was mostly quiet as they consumed the vast amount of ice cream; after her fourth scoop, Tali backed away from the table.
"I'm full," she proclaimed. "Four scoops are enough for me." She pulled her cell phone out of her pocket and scrolled through her messages as the others continued eating.
Beth was the next one to stop eating, "Four and done. I can't eat another bite." She took out her phone and she and Tali played a game while watching the others. Riv joined her sisters a few minutes later and nudged her twin.
"I would have bet Ima would have been the first one to step back, and she's still going strong," she observed. "Who's going to quit first, Ima or Abba?"
"Four for each of us; that means two dozen for the others. An average of six scoops per person," Beth did some quick arithmetic. "No way Ima eats six scoops of ice cream…"
Tali watched their father, "I don't know; Abba's starting to look like he's had it…"
"Five scoops; I'm done," Tony announced to the family and sighed. He watched Ziva and the boys still attacking the remaining ice cream.
LJ shoved another spoonful in his mouth and grinned at his father; he was determined to be the last one eating if he had any say about it. After all, ice cream was HIS food of choice. He walked around near the end of the table near Abba, "I'm about to start scoop number six…"
"Anthony's been awful quiet," Tony observed. "Brain-freeze got to ya?"
The elder DiNozzo son just grinned at his father and shoveled more ice cream in to his mouth. He shook his head and after swallowing replied, "The less I say, the more I can eat." He spooned another bite and brought it to his mouth with a larger grin.
Ziva quietly ate another bite as she watched the boys slowing down. LJ backed away from the table and sat back in a chair.
"Six scoops; I can't eat another bite," he sighed. "It's down to Ima and Anthony."
Tali laughed, "There is NO way I would have picked Ima to be the one giving Anthony competition. Who is going to be the scoop count champion? Any bets?" She looked at the others as both Ziva and Anthony took a spoonful from the final scoop.
"I'm not betting against either one," Tony winked at his wife. "I gotta sleep with one of them…" A second spoonful from the last scoop went into two mouths. Ziva grinned and backed away.
"Six scoops plus," she announced. "I am full; Anthony the rest is yours."
Anthony held up his arms and gave his family a huge DiNozzo grin, "Victory! Almost seven scoops! I am the ice cream king!" He scraped the last of the ice cream and toppings into a final spoonful as Tony paid the check and the family got ready to leave. Each one signed the paper background for the family picture printout that would hang on the wall. Tony also got a copy to take home.
"I think we should walk the boardwalk for a bit before going back to the rental condo," Ziva steered the family towards the games, rides, and other entertainment areas of the oceanfront.
Chapter 31: Dubi דובי - teddy bear - June 2017
Chapter 31 –Dubi (דובי )(teddy bear) - June 2017
Tony pulled the cart of groceries along the sidewalk as he walked back to the flat. Tali would be three in two days; Anthony was exactly two weeks old today. And Ziva, well, she was nothing short of amazing at the way she kept up with the baby's feedings. He was totally fascinated with watching his son nurse and listening to Ziva's stories about how different their son was from his older sister.
When he left to do the grocery shopping for the week, all three were asleep; Tali and Anthony in their beds and Ziva on the sofa. They'd planned for him to go out as soon as the kids were down for naps; he'd not counted on his wife zonking out before he made it out the door though. He'd scrawled a quick note to let her know where he'd gone and hoped that all three would still be asleep when he got home.
What was not in the plans was the detour he had to take to get back to their flat; emergency crews had an entire block of the route between store and home blocked off. He turned the corner of the longer route home and stopped when something bright red caught his eye in the window of the upscale toy store. He knew the store was there, but it was not a way they normally took to avoid having to deal with distracted Tali. He'd made that mistake once before Ziva came to Paris and it cost him the price of an entire castle-shaped dollhouse with its requisite royal family, dragon, and horses.
The bear that captured his attention was a deep, royal red color with the Ferrari logo embroidered on its chest. He had to get it for Anthony; he tugged the cart of groceries inside the door.
"Bon jour," the owner of the store greeted him as he entered. He glanced around noting that he was the only customer. "Comment puis-je vous aider aujourd'hui?"
‟Bon jour; j'aimerais acheter cet … dubi… um, parlez vous anglais?" he stumbled over the French word for bear. When the woman smiled and nodded at him, he continued, "The Ferrari bear; sorry, dubi is Hebrew for teddy bear…"
"Yes, sir, a good choice. Very well made and sturdy for a child or for a collectionneur," she replied in heavily accented English. "Is it for your petite fille?" The woman remembered Tali from their trips to the store to add to her castle and dollhouse family.
"Not this time; it's for her baby brother," he explained. "Anthony is two weeks old today."
"Ah, I have not seen you since one month, your wife has the baby then?" Tony pulled up a picture of Ziva, Tali, and Anthony on his phone to show her. "Beautiful family; so happy." She patted his arm and grabbed the bear from the window display. Tony completed the purchase, adding a plush set of horses for Tali's castle to the bag as another birthday present for his little girl.
"Merci, Madame LeCroix. Bonne journée," he waved as he headed back out to the street.
Back home, he quietly opened the flat door, hoping that all were still resting inside. He tried to enter as silently as possible, but caught the wheel of the cart on the door frame. He bit his tongue trying not to swear out loud. As he was tugging at the cart, Ziva came up behind him.
"Damn… darn… la'azazel…" he startled and grinned at her sheepishly. "I should be used to the Ninja stuff by now…"
"I am sorry; I did not mean to startle you. But I did not want to call out since the children are still asleep," she kissed him gently on the lips and grinned at him after he shut the door. "It is nice to have a few minutes to ourselves, yes?"
"Mmm-hmm," he murmured into the kiss. "Let's get the groceries put away and see if we can steal a few more minutes." He pulled the shopping bag from the toy store off the top of the cart and set it on a shelf near entry to the living room. At Ziva's questioning look, he responded, "Something for Anthony and something to add to Tali's birthday gifts."
They were just about done with getting the groceries put away when Anthony started making sounds over the baby monitor.
"Abba," a sleepy voice from the hallway called out. "Ima, Anthony woke me up." Tali rubbed her eyes as she came into the kitchen; Kelev was in the hand that wasn't on her face. "I'm hungry."
Ziva went to check on the baby as Tony poured some juice into a cup and put animal crackers in a bowl for his little girl. While Tali munched her snack, Tony grabbed the shopping bag off the shelf.
"Want to help me give your brother a present?" he asked.
"Okay; is there a present for me too?" Tali tried to look in the bag.
"Yep," he placed the brightly wrapped package in front of her as he also showed her the bear for her brother. "Like it?"
"It's red, Abba," she replied, "You know I like purple."
Tony grinned, "Well then it's a good thing the bear is for Anthony." He watched her tear open the paper wrapper from the two horses.
"Toda, Abba!" she squealed at the horses she'd been wanting from the toy store. "One white horse and one black horse; just what I wanted!" She hugged her Abba and carried the plush horses to her play area in the living room.
Ziva came in the room and noticed Tali, "You made her happy, yes?"
"The horses for her castle that she wanted," he explained. "Because I found this for Anthony." He held up the red Ferrari bear. "I know he's a bit young, but he has to have a teddy bear, Zi. Every kid needs a buddy, like Tali has Kelev."
~4 July 2019~
Anthony rubbed his eyes, "Fwahwee." He mumbled sleepily as his father balanced the two year old on his hip. "Want Fwahwee."
"Shh; we're headed home to bed, and you can sleep with your bear," Tony tried to soothe the grumpy boy. He'd managed to fall asleep during the fireworks show at the park by the NCIS building.
"Want Fwahwee," the little boy's lip started to quiver. "Me need Fwahwee."
Ziva searched the tote bag, "Not here, I thought we brought his bear?"
"We DID," Tony replied. "Oh, geez, please don't tell me he's lost…" He looked around as best he could in the darkness to see if the bear was nearby on the ground.
Tali tugged on her Abba's shirt, "He's in the van, Abba. Remember you said we had to leave Kelev and Ferrari to guard our van when we got here?"
Ziva hugged her daughter, "Thank you, yaldati; I am glad you remembered. Are you ready to go home?"
Tali nodded and took her Ima's hand to walk to the parking area. Tony carried Anthony, softly reassuring his toddler that they would be at the vehicle soon and Ferrari bear was waiting for them. As they approached the minivan, he clicked the key fob to unlock the doors. He slid Anthony into his car seat and buckled him in.
"I'm looking, bud," Tony reached between the seats and grabbed the red bear. He held it to his son and watched as the boy clutched it to him with a huge grin. Tali was in her booster seat, holding Kelev with a sleepy grin.
Ziva looked over at her husband as he climbed into the driver's seat, "You are happy."
"Yeah, we got some happy kids, we had some great food, and I have you. What else could I want?"
Chapter 32 – Horim (הוֹרִים )(parents) – December 2030
Tali looked over at her brother Anthony as they were stopped at a traffic light on the way to the mall. He was staring out the side window with a sullen look on his face. Not who she had expected to accompany her to shop for a gift for their parents from the five children.
Riv and Beth had wanted to go, but they had also committed to delivering knitted and crocheted hats, booties, shawls, and lap blankets to the residents of the nursing home with their Ima, Aunt Delilah, and Aunt Abby. The twins had helped create the items this year as well; Beth preferred knitting, while Riv preferred crocheting.
LJ had promised to go with Abba to get the supply of mistletoe for this year's decorating; Anthony had begged off the shopping trip, but Tali insisted one of her siblings accompany her. The thirteen-year-old had grudgingly agreed to go along.
The light changed, and Tali put her eyes back on the road. All of the practice driving sessions with Grandpa had instilled in her a deep sense of caution and watching the other drivers as well as anticipating their sudden moves. As the first grandchild to drive, Tali often wondered how protective Grandpa would be with the others. Of course, with Ima and Abba retiring at the end of the current year, their parents would also have more time for driving lessons for the other four. Tori was next in line; Tali knew Uncle Jimmy would be a wreck in the car with anyone learning to drive.
"Tal?" Anthony broke into her thoughts with the first he'd spoken since they left the house.
"You think… you think… I'm gonna… gonna…" Anthony hesitated, then continued softly. He was so quiet, Tali barely heard him. "Am I gonna be okay?" he whispered. "After… you know…"
Tali pulled her car into the parking space and shut off the engine. She looked over at her brother, "I think you are, but I'm not your therapist. It took a lot of courage to speak out like you did. And you know you have the whole family behind you one hundred percent, right?"
He shrugged, "Yeah… and Ima, she… well, she GETS it… I don't know what I'd do with different parents. We lucked out in that part…"
Tali placed her hand over his and gave a gentle squeeze, "That we did… After all Ima and Abba have been through…" She wiped a tear from her eye, "Sorry; this is about you, bro."
"I want to be strong like Ima, but it's hard," he stared straight ahead at the dashboard. "How does she do it, Tal? I need to know. How did YOU do it when those nightmares were a problem?"
She shuddered when she remembered the nightmares of her parents abandoning her in desolate places late at night; she'd gone to counselling sessions twice a week for almost a year because of them. She'd only been twelve at the time; a quarter of her lifetime ago.
"I… just… well, a day at a time… I had to face… some fears… some repressed memories… and balance the long-ago fear with current good things," she sighed heavily. Some days she still carried guilt over the anguish she'd caused her parents with her subconscious fears. "It is still not easy; I should not have been the source of worry for Ima and Abba like that…"
Anthony shifted to face his older sister, "Tali, you were trying to make sense of things that happened when you were a toddler. Your brain was trying to sort out stuff that happened and validate or refute the repressed memories. Ima and Abba understood."
"But they shouldn't have had to deal with me being a mess; there was no reason for me to be afraid of them leaving me alone in the dark on an abandoned road," Tali retorted angrily. She was angrier at herself than more anyone else, even now that she and her siblings knew the whole story.
"Tali; you had no control over what happened. Ima had to get you to Abba for your safety," he laid a hand on his sister's shoulder. "Your mind had to deal with it somehow."
She nodded slowly and turned to face him, looking him in the eyes, "I think you just answered your own question…" At his confused look, she continued, "You had no choice over what happened to you. Now you have to sort it out in your mind with the help of the doc and our parents.
"Ima and Abba have both said that they would lay their lives on the line for any of us. We know that neither one really had a childhood like they've given us. Anthony, we have two role models for inner strength and courage. And two resources we can go to any time. We got each other as well."
"Yep," he nodded slowly. "Let's hope the other three never have to go through anything like we have had to deal with. And if they do, we are going to be there for them just like Ima and Abba are for us. Tal, thank you for being my sister."
She grinned at him, "Don't thank me, thank Ima and Abba… they created us." He grinned back with shiny, teary eyes as she continued, "I've loved you since that day Ima and Abba showed me your image on the ultrasound. We've had our share of sibling disagreements, and lord knows we've pranked each other to death. But when push comes to shove, you got my six and I got yours; always." She wiped the tears from her eyes.
"I love you, Tali," Anthony wrapped his arms around his sister. "If you tell anyone I said that…"
"Love you too, Anthony," she replied. "Your secret is safe with me, because we're DiNozzos…"
"And DiNozzos stick together like Superglue," the siblings finished the family motto together. Both wiped at their eyes as they drew apart.
"Let's go get that family memory album we chose; it's the perfect gift for Ima and Abba," Anthony gave his sister a thumbs' up as she grinned and nodded her agreement.
A/N The reference in the conversation between the siblings is to the events of 'Twin Trouble' and to Tali's chapter of 'Teens in the House'
Chapter 33: Veradim וְרָדִים - roses – June 2023
Chapter 33 – Veradim (וְרָדִים )(roses) – June 2023
"Rivka Abigail DiNozzo!" Ziva scolded her three-year-old for the umpteenth time. "How many times do I have to remind you not to climb on Aunt Dee's rose trellis?"
"But, Ima…" Riv stuck her lower lip out in a pout.
"Do not 'but Ima' me…" Ziva sighed as she led the ornery child to a chair on the deck. "Five minutes in time out for you for not listening." The girl started to open her mouth to say something but at the glare from her mother, decided to stay quiet. She sat in the chair with arms crossed and glared at the ground.
Ziva sat back in her chair near the other adults. Tim and Tony were tending the grill with the hamburgers and hot dogs. The other children played in the McGee backyard as the family waited for dinner.
"I swear both my mother and Ziva's mother are up there laughing," Tony quipped to his brother of the heart. "I think the best threat a parent can make to a child is 'I hope you get one just like you' and then watch it come true."
Tim nodded, "Oh, I'm sure my Dad is laughing as well." He flipped a few of the burgers as Tony rolled the hot dogs to brown them evenly. Tim turned to the women, "Meat should be done in five minutes or so."
Delilah and Ziva went inside to the kitchen to bring out the condiments, rolls, chips, and salads for the rest of the meal. Tali and Katie carried the paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils out to the large picnic table on the deck. Anthony and John toted the two litter bottles of soft drinks and lemonade out to the table.
Tony and Tim put the burgers and hot dogs on rolls and plated the meat to take to the table. The two families sat together and enjoyed the late afternoon meal. All of the kids, even twenty-month-old LJ were excited for the dessert later. Tony had promised to make root beer floats for everyone.
While the adults were cleaning up from the meal, the kids went into the yard to play. Tali decided they would play follow the leader and she would be the leader. The kids lined up behind her, with LJ immediately following his big sister. Tali led them around the yard, walking backwards, or navigating a path. Tony was cleaning the grates on the grill for Tim when a shriek from the side of the house stopped him cold.
"Ab-ba, I-ma," a child's voice screamed out in pain. Tony knew it was one of the twins and flew over the deck railing without touching the wood. Ziva was just coming out to check for any remaining food or trash to be cleaned up when the second cries came. She too cleared the deck railing in a flash as Tony rounded the corner of the house.
The other kids were standing in a huddle, Tali holding them back and also trying to help her younger sister. Rivka was face first in one of Delilah's rose bushes; angry red scratches and bloody marks on her arms, legs, and face.
"Riv, stop thrashing," Tali tried to get the girl to calm down and not make her injuries any worse. "Abba's here and Ima just came around the corner. You're going to be okay, Riv."
Tony moved closer to the little girl, "What happened, Tals?" He looked at her clothes snagged on thorns and the marks on her arms and legs. The thorn by her left eye worried him.
"We were walking on the bricks and she lost her balance; she was the last one in the line, so no one saw her falling," Tali explained.
"I tried to get her out, Uncle Tony," John was worried about his cousin and showed his aunt and uncle his scratched arms. "She got stuck on the thorns."
Ziva stepped up on the opposite side of her husband; both were looking for a way to get hold of their little girl and lift her from the rose bush. "I think if we each take an arm and a leg and lift her straight up, we can get her free," Ziva suggested.
'I'm worried about that large thorn by her left eye," Tony pointed to the concerning thorn.
"I want to go home," Rivka cried to her parents. "It hurts all over," she sobbed.
"How about I lift her shoulders and you lift her hips and legs?" Tony suggested to his wife. 'That way I can use my arms to shield her face." Ziva nodded and each parent took hold of the little girl. "Okay, on three we lift up… one, two, three…"
"OW!" the thorns still managed to scratch Riv's legs more and tear her shirt, but her parents were able to free her from the rose bush.
Tony cradled her in his arms and Ziva followed him back to the deck where Delilah was waiting with cool cloths, tweezers, antiseptic wipes, and Band-Aids. Tony held the little girl still while Ziva wiped and removed blood from the child's arms, legs, and face. Rivka tried to twist free from her father's grasp when the antiseptic stung.
"OW! Stop! It hurts," she cried and screamed. The other children watched from a distance, concerned, but trying not to get in the way.
"Baby, we have to clean out the scratches. I know it hurts. If I did not have to make sure the scratches do not get infected, I would not put you through this," Ziva tried to calm the child down by explaining to her what she was doing.
"It… it… hurts…" the little girl whimpered.
"Shh; Abba is holding you, yaldati. It's gonna be better soon, I promise," Tony held the child firmly so that Ziva could clean the wounds and pull the two embedded thorns from her. One thorn was in her arm and the other in her face. He stroked her back and hair and placed gentle kisses on her head.
"OW!" the little girl screamed as Ziva pulled the thorn from her face. "You hurted me, Ima!"
"This hurts me as much as it hurts you," Ziva muttered under her breath as she dabbed the wound on her daughter's face with the antiseptic wipe. She winced as the little one screamed again.
"Tali?" Beth yanked on her sister's hand. "Is Riv gonna be okay? Why is Ima making her hurt more?"
Tali pulled her little sister to her, "She'll be fine; Ima and Abba are trying to clean out the scratches so they don't get infected. The stuff to clean the wounds makes it sting."
LJ clung to Uncle Tim; he'd just about climbed into his uncle's arms when his sister started crying and screaming. The other three, Anthony, John, and Katie were standing in a group and watching everything.
"Wiv, boo-boo," LJ pointed to his sister.
"Yeah, bud; your sister has a bunch of owies. Your parents are getting her fixed up," Tim tried to calm the toddler. One panicky DiNozzo was one too many for him.
Thirty minutes later, the kids were all enjoying the root beer floats, even Rivka. She had multiple Band-Aids on her arms and legs, and one on her face over the scratch and puncture from the thorn. Other than the Band-Aids and the now scabbed scratches, she seemed okay after her ordeal.
Tony brought out the final two root beer floats for himself and his wife. He handed Ziva hers with a grin. "I think that whole clean-the-scratches was harder on us than it was on her," he nodded in the direction of his middle ninja. She was happily enjoying the treat with her siblings and cousins.
"I will bet that she does not climb on Dee's rose trellis again," Ziva commented.
"Probably not," her other half agreed.
A month later, the rose bush bloomed its first roses since Delilah planted it in her garden. The plant had been a clearance item at the garden center since tags were missing and the poor thing had been half dead. The flowers were a soft white with splashes of crimson on the petals. The kids dubbed the bush "Rivka's blood roses."
Chapter 34: Ze'ev זאב - wolf – September 2023
Chapter 34 –Ze'ev ( זאב)(wolf) – September 2023
"Tell us a story, Tali," three-year-old Beth was sitting on her big sister's bed in her red pajamas. Her twin was lying across the foot of the bed wearing similar blue pajamas.
Nearly two-year-old LJ nodded and grinned at his big sister, "Sto-wee; pweese." He had on his favorite lion pajamas and was holding his plush lion toy. Rivka helped him up onto the bed and he sat down by the twins.
"When Anthony gets done brushing his teeth, we can all tell the story," Tali looked to the bathroom to see if her brother was finished getting ready for bed. "We're all waiting for you, Anthony," she called out to the closed door.
"I'm ready," Anthony came into Tali's room from the hallway. "I just checked on Mrs. Bailey; she's still asleep in Abba's recliner." The sitter for the night was the great-grandmother of one of the neighbor families; none of the usual sitters were available that evening, so Ziva had reluctantly called the elderly woman.
"Good thinking," Tali grinned at her brother as he sat on the floor next to Daisy, his Border collie. "Since you're here we can start the bedtime story. What or who should be the main theme?" She looked to the others for ideas.
"Woof," LJ replied almost immediately. Asher the greyhound came into the room and flopped down on the floor near LJ.
Beth shook her head, "No, LJ; Abba did a dog story last night."
"WOOF," he repeated. "Ah-oooo…" he howled like a wolf to emphasize his choice.
"Wolf," Anthony figured out what his little brother was trying to say. "I like the wolf idea as long as it isn't a scary story. I don't like the big bad wolf stories."
Tali agreed with Anthony, "Wolves are often misunderstood in stories and myths. They are often associated with bad or evil when in fact they are very social and adaptable. Wolves are not prone to fighting; rather they avoid conflict whenever possible. They are pack animals and look after each other and the young. Wolves are intelligent, friendly, and caring animals."
"Wow, Tali; how do you know so much about wolves?" Riv was impressed.
"I did the report for my TAG class about wolves in May; remember the Science Fair at the school?"
Beth sat up, "I do! Ima helped you set up and you had the wolf fur from Grandpa's cabin."
"It's called a pelt," Tali reminded her sister. "Grandpa let me borrow it for my presentation. Anyhow, our story is about wolves or just one wolf?"
LJ held up two fingers, "Two; me two."
"Okay, two wolves; a boy wolf and a girl wolf. Do they have names?" Tali looked at her sisters since the twins liked to name everything and anything.
"Abba and Ima!" Riv shouted out.
"No, Tony and Ziva," her twin corrected. The girls had just learned their parents' full names in preschool as a means to learning about emergency contacts and being able to identify themselves in an emergency situation.
Anthony groaned loudly, "Do not make this a Prince Tony and Ninja Princess Ziva story; please…"
"What's wrong with Prince Tony and Ninja Princess Ziva?" Beth challenged her older brother. "I like stories about them, especially when both Abba and Ima tell them."
"Prince and princess stories are for girls," he retorted. "Stick with me on this, LJ. We boys want some action and excitement in our stories." LJ nodded to his big brother and grinned; Anthony had a feeling that the toddler had no idea as to what he'd just agreed.
Tali tried to compromise, "How about Prince Tony and Ninja Princess Ziva the wolves have an adventure? Where can they go?"
"Do they have five pups?" Rivka asked the others. "If they do, it can be a family adventure."
Anthony decided he had to steer the story in a slightly different direction, "What if they are special agent wolves? And they are taking down the bad guys? The pups are at home. Then the Ninja can kick some butts."
LJ giggled when his big brother said the word 'butts.' He pointed at Anthony, "You say BUTT."
"Ooh, ooh," Beth jumped up and down on the bed to get attention. "Let's make the bad guys be squirrels. Then the wolves can chase them like Asher and Daisy chase the squirrels in our yard." Daisy raised her head when she heard her name and Asher's tail thumped on the floor as he heard his name.
"Bad skwir; bad, bad skwir," LJ clapped his hands and giggled more. Asher stood up and nudged the little boy. LJ gave the greyhound some pets on the head and kisses on his nose. "Asher get bad skwir."
Daisy laid her head in Anthony's lap to get attention. He stroked her fur and nuzzled her head, "Good girl; you get those nasty squirrels with Asher. Chase them out of our yard." The Border collie rolled on her back so her person could rub her belly.
"The squirrels robbed a bank and took the money for the Marines' pay," Tali added her two cents' worth to the story. "So, Prince Tony and Ninja Princess Ziva the wolves are heading to the crime scene to investigate. Are they going to find the squirrels still there or have the squirrels run away already?"
Anthony thought about the next part of the story, "I think the squirrels are on the run. They took the loot and left in a hurry. The wolves will find them though because they can track the stupid squirrels by their footprints. And the squirrels are not very smart; they think that no one can describe them to the special agent wolves. But the security cameras caught it all, even the really dumb squirrel who looked right at the camera and made a silly face."
"Bad skwir; dumb skwir. Go to lock up," LJ added his part. "Gampa and woofs kick skwir butts."
Tali laughed, "LJ, you just wanted to say 'butt' again. But I like the idea of the wolves kicking some squirrel butt. Ninja Princess Ziva just needs to give one swat of her paw and the squirrels are flying and dying."
"And Grandpa puts them in handcuffs and takes them to NCIS," Riv added. "Those dumb squirrels will be in big trouble if they mess with the Ninja Princess. She will swat their butts into next week."
"If Grandpa doesn't head slap them first," Beth interjected.
"Kick skwir butt!" LJ laughed and repeated it again.
Anthony continued the story, "The squirrels are in interrogation, in three separate rooms. Ninja Princess Ziva has the one who ran and she stomped his tail making him flip upside down. She raises a paw and he confesses because he is scared of her. Prince Tony has the dumb squirrel. The dumb one just makes weird faces as Prince Tony shows him the security images. Prince Tony tells the dumb squirrel that he is going to be in squirrel prison for a long, long time. Stupid squirrel laughs and Ninja Princess comes into the room and raises a paw at him. He thinks she is joking and she makes him a wall ornament."
"Kick skwir butt," LJ giggled from where he was lying down on Tali's bed. His eyes were almost closed until Anthony mentioned swatting the squirrel.
"The third squirrel is the ring leader and Grandpa is breaking him," Tali picked up the story. She glanced at her sisters who were almost asleep on her pillows. "Ninja Princess Ziva is ready to kick his tail because he is lying about the robbery. Prince Tony is trying to keep her from hurting the squirrel, but Grandpa gets in the guy's face and tells him to tell the truth or he will turn the Ninja wolf loose on him. The fool squirrel laughs as Grandpa waves the Ninja in…"
"Kick skwir butt," LJ added sleepily. He yawned and hugged his lion as Anthony continued the story from where he was curled up with Daisy on the floor pillows.
"Ninja Princess Ziva swats the ring leader squirrel into the corner of the room. She takes the squirrel's tail in her mouth and slings him across the room. He tells Grandpa that he will confess if Grandpa will make the Ninja stop. Ninja Princess Ziva goes into the observation room with Prince Tony and they watch the confession." Anthony yawned and rolled on his side to face Tali. She was on her back on the blankets on the floor with her cat Simba.
"Case solved," Tali concluded. "Now Ninja Princess Ziva and Prince Tony can go home to the pups and have dinner. And the squirrels are going to squirrel prison for a long time." She looked up at the three sleeping siblings on her bed. "Night everyone…"
"Good night," Anthony mumbled half asleep. "Kick squirrel butt…"
Chapter 35: Challah חלה – August 2031
Chapter 35 – Challah חלה – August 2031
Tony and LJ checked the three loaves of rising challah; each loaf was growing nicely and would be ready for the oven shortly. Tony set the double ovens to preheat to the desired temperature to get ready for the baking.
"Abba, how do you know when they are ready to bake?" the curious boy asked.
"Well, it takes years of experience and practice," his father began.
Ziva cleared her throat, "Do not tell the boy stories, Tony." She turned to her youngest son, "When the loaves are about double in size from when you set them aside to raise, then they are ready to be baked. Some people, like your Abba, need to learn that the hard way."
"Hey, I resemble that remark! And my first attempt was at least edible even though the bread wasn't pretty," he grinned at the memory from almost nine years ago.
"You used way too much yeast," Ziva commented drily. "That was your first mistake."
He flashed his trademark DiNozzo grin, "But you have to admit, we had the biggest, highest-risen Challah EVER that time. Even if I had to take it out of the oven very, very carefully…"
"You were lucky it did not stick to the oven walls," Ziva shot back.
LJ listened to his parents as he slid the three loaves into the wall ovens and set the timer. He didn't remember the event they were talking about since he'd been about a year old at the time. Abba had made the Challah since Ima was late coming home from a class. It was his first solo attempt at baking the traditional Sabbath bread and he'd added twice the amount of yeast as the recipe required. The bread had risen, spectacularly, in the oven until the two loaves had nearly filled the oven completely. Tali, Anthony, Ima, and Abba often joked about the incident. He and the twins were there, but their memories were shaped from the stories of the others.
"When's dinner?" Anthony came into the kitchen from practicing basketball shots in the driveway. He tried to swipe a piece of tomato from the caprese salad platter, but Tony swatted his hand away.
"Forty minutes, give or take; when the Challah is ready," father informed son. "LJ is in charge of the baking this week."
Anthony turned to his little brother, who was not so little any more, "Did you make enough for French toast on Sunday morning?"
"Of course; three regular loaves as usual," LJ replied. "I learned my lesson from Riv."
"What about me?" Rivka entered the kitchen from the family room; it was her turn to set the table.
LJ grinned, "You didn't make enough Challah that one time and everyone was upset that we couldn't have French toast on Sunday morning."
His sister groaned, "I am NEVER going to live that one down, am I? I swear we'll be old and gray and you will be telling our grandkids that story." She looked over at her older brother, "Along with Anthony being the one who started the DiNozzo disaster…"
Anthony groaned loudly, "Puh-lease. That was almost six years ago; can we just forget it?"
"NO!" Tony, Ziva, LJ, Rivka, and Beth spoke together; all six of them were still laughing when Tali came in from her part-time job at the music store.
LJ checked the timer on the ovens, "Ten minutes to end of baking; ten to rest, so about twenty minutes to dinner." Tony finished the caprese salad as Ziva pulled the tray of sliced roast beef and turkey rolls from the refrigerator. Rivka set the table for the family meal and Beth set out butter for the bread, mayonnaise, pickles, olives, and other condiments.
Anthony poured beverages for all as Tali went to her room to change her clothes into shorts and a tank top. The August weather had been brutally hot that summer and even with the air conditioner running full blast, the humidity was oppressive inside and out. Other than baking the Challah, the rest of the meal was cold foods.
The timer beeped and LJ carefully removed the three braided loaves to the wire cooling racks. He sniffed the yeasty smell as the loaves slid onto the racks. If smell was any indicator, his first solo attempt at making Challah was a success. Each of the DiNozzo kids had learned to make the bread from their Ima and the family took turns making the Sabbath bread.
Tony handed LJ the bread knife specifically for the Challah with a small flourish, "You get the honors of slicing your first loaf of Challah."
Ziva had her phone ready to take pictures as LJ made the cut on the end of the loaf. He picked up the heel and bit into it. A big grin spread across the boy's face.
"I think we have a winner," Tony quipped. "Let's go eat LJ's Challah and caprese!"
Chapter 36: Tiyul טיול - hike – May 2025
Chapter 36 – Tiyul (טיול) (hike) – May 2025
"Wait, Grandpa, I want see the blue flowers," five year old Rivka called out to her grandfather as she veered from the path. The clusters of sky blue flowers caught her eye as she and the others hiked around the pond by Gibbs' cabin.
"Tali, Katie, hold up a minute," he called out to the two girls heading the line. "Flower break!"
Tori and Beth turned in the path to see where their grandfather was pointing. "She ALWAYS stops for the blue flowers," Beth commented to her cousin. "Blue is her favorite color."
Tali and Katie came back towards the others. Riv was checking out the bunches of bell-shaped flowers among the daisies in the small clearing.
"Virginia bluebells," Gibbs informed the girl. "And oxeye daisies."
"They're pretty, Grandpa. Can we pick some to take back?" Riv made her best puppy eyes at the old man.
"You gonna carry 'em?"
Riv nodded, "All the way back; please?"
He nodded, "Remember to shake 'em to get rid of any critters." The young girl pulled bluebells and daisies into a bunch and shook the entire handful upside down as her grandfather had shown the kids. She grinned as she carried her make-shift bouquet as the group continued their hike.
The grandfather and granddaughters came to another clearing with a view of the water. Tali held up a hand to stop everyone and she also pressed her finger to her lips to signal them all to be quiet. She pointed towards the water.
All eyes turned in the direction the almost eleven-year-old pointed. "A momma and baby deer," Tali whispered. "Drinking from the pond."
The group watched as the baby drank while the mother deer kept guard over her offspring. Both suddenly startled when a hawk dipped down to grab a fish from the water. The deer took cover in the wooded area quickly.
"That was so cool, Grandpa," Katie was the outdoors member of the McGee family. "That's one thing I like about coming to your cabin. We get to see lot of neat nature things like deer, and hawks, and eagles, and fish, and…"
"SNAKE!" Beth screamed.
Rivka moved closer to Grandpa as she looked where her twin was pointing. "Where is it?" she asked fearfully.
Tali sighed, "It's a harmless black snake; jeez…" She rolled her eyes at Katie; little sisters could be a real pain sometimes. "We move on and let it be; live and let live, right Grandpa?"
"Yep," he took a hand of each twin and led them around the rock where the snake was sunning itself. "Besides, black snakes eat mice and other small critters such as moles, rats, and frogs. Keeps the population of rodents down."
"They are still snakes," Riv muttered to Beth.
The twin nodded, "Yup, and yucky." They walked close to Grandpa until the group was well past the snake on its rock. "I don't like snakes; I don't care how many mice they eat."
The group rounded the path towards the cabin; they could see the building across the cleared area and all five girls broke into a run to race to the porch. Rivka still had her flowers clutched in her hand. Tori ran between two trees trying to take a shortcut.
Everyone stopped when the Palmer girl let out a blood-curdling scream and began thrashing around as she screamed.
"Get it off me; get it off me," she screamed at the top of her lungs.
"Get what?" Tali was closest to her cousin and turned around at the screams.
"SPIDER! GET. IT. OFF. Now!" the girl screamed hysterically and waved her arms as she jumped around trying to find the spider and make it fall off her body.
Tali tried to see the spider, but Tori was moving too much. Rivka came alongside her older sister; the others were nearing the girls. Gibbs was moving as fast as he could with his bum knees.
"Do you see the spider, Riv?"
"No; she won't hold still so we can find it."
Tali thought quickly, "I'll get her to focus on me, and you see if you can find it, okay?"
Riv nodded and handed her flowers to Katie. She moved around to the opposite side of Tori from Tali as the older girl tried to calm her cousin.
"Tor? Hey, look at me," Tali gently coaxed. "We're gonna get the spider off, but you have to help us. Okay?"
Tori looked over at Tali, "Um, okay… but I hate spiders." She screamed again as she felt something on the back of her neck. "Get it off," she cried.
"Look at me, Tor. That's it… look at the pretty flowers that Riv picked and Beth is holding. We're gonna find Grandpa's Mason jar and put the flowers in it to decorate the table."
Riv moved closer to her cousin and Tori started to turn to look at the younger girl.
Tal spoke again, "No, look at me. Riv's just checking you over; you watch me. Tell me what your favorite thing is about Grandpa's cabin…"
"Not spiders," tears streamed down the Palmer girl's face. "I like when we make the corn in the fire pit and when we catch fish from the dock. And when Grandpa takes us in the boat." She sniffled. "And the hammock…" she grinned through tears.
Rivka spotted the black and yellow garden spider on her cousin's back; it was in her hair. She walked slowly to get closer to Tori and grabbed the spider, yanking it from the older girl's hair.
"I got it," Riv held up the spider as Tori bolted for the front porch. Beth, Katie, and Tali checked it out before Rivka put the spider on one of the trees where Tori had run through its web. By the time the others arrived at the cabin, Tori had already changed her shirt and brushed her hair.
Gibbs poured tall glasses of lemonade for all the girls and brought them out to the porch with a tin of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. He placed the tray of drinks and the cookie container on the table and motioned for the girls to help themselves.
"Thanks, Grandpa," they chorused.
Gibbs pulled Tori into a hug, "Better?"
"Yeah; hugs help," she smiled. "Thanks, Riv for getting that spider off of me. And thanks, Tali for trying to keep me calm. You guys are the best cousins."
Tali and Rivka high-fived, as Gibbs smiled. The unwritten rule applied to his grandkids just as much as their parents. You do what you gotta do for family.
Chapter 37: Yarekh ירח - moon – July 2028
Chapter 37 – Yarekh (ירח ) (moon) – July 2028
The DiNozzo and McGee families were at Tim's cousin's beach condo in New Jersey for the week of the Fourth of July, the same place they'd been for the long holiday weekend two years earlier. It was a full week of fun, with the holiday and Tony's birthday, and the July full moon half way between.
Tony had told the kids about seeing the full moon rise over the docks in Philadelphia when he'd been a beat cop in the City of Brotherly Love. He'd described the large orange-colored orb in detail and all of the kids wanted to see the full moon rise over the Atlantic. Ziva and Delilah had promised the kids they could go on the beach on the night of 6 July to witness the moon rising over the ocean.
The day started out overcast with the threat of rain in the gray clouds that loomed over the beach and ocean. Despite the clouds, Tim and Tony took the kids on the beach for their regular morning swim. All of the kids had body boards to play in the surf. Tony and Tim sat in beach chairs near the water's edge and supervised the seven children who ranged from six and one half to fourteen years in age.
Both fathers noted how Anthony and Katie stayed together and John and Rivka were near each other constantly. LJ stayed by Tali and Beth tagged along with them.
"Anthony and Katie are always together, aren't they?" Tim commented. "Seems as though they are destined to be a pair."
Tony nodded, "He's been fascinated with her since she was born when he was about six months old. They always say they are going to get married one day. Now, John and Riv, I would not have guessed that pairing…" he nodded in the direction of his middle Ninja. "But they are nearly as close as the other two."
"Do you ever think about the future, Tim? I mean like our kids all grown and having kids of their own? Grandkids for us…" Tony trailed off when he realized how OLD that sounded.
Tim was about to respond when LJ came running over followed by Beth.
"Abba, Uncle Tim, come quick; Tali wants you to see the dogfish sharks," the two children grabbed the adults hands and tugged as they spoke. The men followed the kids to the water and waded to where the others were looking at something in the water.
Tali pointed to the four dark shapes in the ocean water, "Dogfish sharks; four babies…" The kids watched in fascination as the quartet of cartilaginous fishes wove among the legs of the family. They were about eighteen to twenty inches long, but the distinct dorsal fin gave their identity away.
The smallest of the creatures paused next to Tony's leg; he reached down and grabbed hold of it with both hands. He held it up briefly, grinning a full on DiNozzo grin as a stunned Tim managed to snap a picture with his phone.
"I caught a shark," he boasted. "And we got the proof on the Probie's phone cam." He lowered the fish into the water and released it to swim in the tides. "Another one off the bucket list!"
"How did you do that, Abba?" Anthony tried to grab one of the small sharks as it swam past him. "They move so fast, I can't even get close to one."
"Skill, kid, NINJA skill, learned from your Ima," the father teased his son. "Lots of years of practice…"
Tim cleared his throat; "Dumb luck is more like it." He smirked at his brother of the heart when Tony glared at the younger man. "Come on, Tony; you didn't catch a thing when we went out on that fishing cruise the other day. Not even a sea robin… You can't be serious that catching that shark was nothing but pure luck and maybe a bit of the element of surprise."
"Whatever; I caught a shark. That's my story and I'm sticking to it," Tony glanced at his watch as the kids rode the waves with the body boards again. "Hey, it's almost 1100," he called out to the kids. "Ride one more wave and then we head up to the condo for lunch."
The group walked back to the condo, which was three houses from the beach, ready for lunch and some time inside. The kids all rinsed off in the outdoor showers and put on dry swimsuits as Tony and Tim put up the body boards and beach chairs. Upstairs Ziva and Dee had lunch meat, cheeses, bread, sliced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and condiments ready for sandwiches for lunch. Each person made their own sandwiches and took a seat at the table with a plate of food and a can of soft drinks. Several large bags of potato chips, corn chips, and pretzels were on the table to be shared.
"Ima, Abba caught a shark!" Rivka informed her mother as the two were side by side preparing their sandwiches. "With his bare hands!"
Ziva looked over at her husband; he grinned at her as she spoke. "How much did you bribe the child to tell this story?" Ziva narrowed her eyes as she tried to gauge his reaction.
"It's true!" he protested. "Tim's got the evidence on his phone." He looked around for the younger man. "Help me out here, bro," he gestured for his brother to show the picture.
"What's it worth?" Tim joked as he pulled his phone out of his shorts pocket. He swiped the screen and showed Ziva and Delilah the picture of Tony with the small shark in his hands.
"Send that to me, please," Ziva asked her brother of the heart. "I will need it for backup when he starts making the shark larger in his telling of the story." She smirked at her husband as he grinned back at her.
The family finished lunch and Tali and Katie had clean-up chores for the meal. As they were wiping the counters down, a rumble of thunder shook the condo. Tim and Anthony ran downstairs to pull the beach towels off the clothesline; they were not completely dry, but damp from showers was better than soaked from a downpour. The two laid the towels on the drying racks in the garage before heading back upstairs. They left the swimsuits on the line figuring the rain would wash the saltwater from the fabrics.
The thunder continued and the skies darkened. Most of the kids were reading or playing games on their tablets. Tony had a movie on his, Tim was playing an online game on his laptop, Delilah and Rivka were working on a five hundred piece jigsaw puzzle, and Ziva had a book where she was curled next to her husband on one of the loveseats. After nearly thirty minutes of rumbling, the skies let loose in a torrent of rain. The wind picked up and blew the rain into the closed sliding doors on the south and east side decks of the condo.
"What time is the moonrise?" LJ asked his uncle when Tim paused from his game.
"I think your mother said 2036; we still have about seven hours," he replied. "This is just a typical afternoon pop-up storm. I'd bet it will be clear by dark."
Beth overheard most of the conversation as she walked to the kitchen to get a glass of water. "I sure hope so; I really want to see the moon rise over the ocean. I hope it's as big as Abba says it will be."
"We shall see," Ziva filled her own water bottle after her daughter filled ones for herself and two of the other kids. "Remember that your Abba tends to exaggerate his memories…"
The rain continued for another hour or so and then the skies began gradually clearing. By 1530, the kids were asking to go to the beach again. All of the adults decided to go as well, so Ziva and Delilah headed to the wheelchair access on the next street south of theirs and met the others on the beach. None of the lifeguards were still on duty because of the rain so the kids played in the shallow water.
Tony left the others to head back to the condo; he was making his spaghetti and meatballs for dinner and hoped to get most of the preparation done while the others were still on the beach. He browned the meatballs and sausage, and then set the meat in a tray in one of the ovens to keep it warm. He cut the garlic gloves, onion, and other vegetables for the tomato sauce and set the large pot on the stove to simmer. Finally, he spread the softened butter mixed with garlic and herbs on the split loaves of Italian bread and wrapped them in foil for popping in the oven closer to dinner hour.
He found a grater and grated a full two-pound block of parmesan cheese into a large bowl. For his family, there was no such thing as too much cheese. Some of the parmesan would also most likely end up on the garlic bread slices as well.
Dinner time came with sunny skies and hungry family. There were no left-overs at all; Anthony and Katie loaded the dishwasher as Tony washed the pot for the tomato sauce by hand. The others sat on the decks in the evening breeze. Soon the sky began to darken; around 2000, Ziva suggested that anyone going to the beach to see the moonrise get into some pants and a lightweight jacket.
By 2020, the family was headed to the beach with blankets and beach chairs to watch the moon rising over the Atlantic Ocean. The younger kids talked about what color it might be when the moon first appeared finally agreeing that it would most likely be orange or red-orange as their father had described.
Around 2030, a lightening of the skies in the east could be detected and shortly thereafter, the tip of the moon's orb peeked over the horizon. The orange sphere looked huge as more and more appeared in view. All of them commented on the size of the moon as it rose over the horizon, and Tim explained the physics of the illusion of the size to anyone who would listen.
John and Riv hung on every word he told them, while the others half-listened. Tali had learned some of the information in her Earth and Space science class the previous school year. LJ snapped many pictures with his camera, making sure the flash was set to off.
Ziva snuggled into Tony on one of the blankets. He wrapped an arm around her and kissed her softly on the lips.
"Not as impressive as the green flash, but still impressive," she spoke softly to him. "What is important is that we are sharing it with each other and the family."
Chapter 38: Kokhavim כּוֹכָבִים - stars – August 2028
Chapter 38 – Kokhavim (כּוֹכָבִים) (stars) – August 2028
To say the kids' fascination with the stars and celestial bodies started with a school field trip was truly an understatement in Ziva's opinion. Sure the twins' school trip to the David M. Brown Planetarium in Arlington had sparked even more interest in observing the night sky, but the true source had been Charles Palmer's gift of a telescope for Christmas 2026.
The kid had learned about constellations, solar systems, moons, and other night sky phenomena within the first month and shared that knowledge with his cousins. Many a family dinner at the Palmer house ended with the entire family observing the night sky via Charles' telescope. He'd also carted the entire set up to Gibbs' cabin in the summer of 2027 when the nine grandkids had stayed with their grandfather at the cabin for ten days. The five DiNozzos had persuaded their grandfather to purchase a telescope for them the following week; Tony and Ziva came home from an extended trip to Israel to find the telescope set up in the family room on a rolling platform made by the old man specifically for moving the telescope out onto the deck and into the yard.
Since then, LJ and the twins had been almost religious in carting the telescope outside on nights when the Space Station passed overhead. Tali had been more interested in the annual meteor showers; the Perseids in August, and the Geminids in December. LJ also made sure to see the Orionids around his birthday and the Leonids in November. A second telescope was under the tree for all five kids the previous Christmas.
Anthony had been interested in obscure constellations, looking up their names and locations and loading all sorts of sky maps on his phone to help him find the star formations. He'd even found the Flying Squirrel constellation, a failed attempt by William Croswell to rename part of Camelopardalis in 1810. Anthony liked the funny name better, but since the squirrel constellation only contained two or three stars, it made more sense for it to remain a part of the larger formation.
John, Anthony, and Tali had also been very interested in reducing light pollution for the celestial viewing. At the remote cabin, the skies had been filled with stars, and all of the kids were amazed at how much they could see without the interference of manmade light as in their suburban yards. Many nights they had stayed up until the wee hours to view astronomical phenomena; Gibbs had been more than obliging to foster and encourage his grandchildren's natural curiosity.
Tony found a huge star map at the wholesale club and the nearly six-foot long by four-foot wide image became the wall covering on the largest non-bookcase wall of the kids' playroom. Tony was a bit disappointed that the interest in the heavens had not inspired any of the kids to aspirations of a career in space science or exploration. Perhaps being of a generation that was still quite awed by the moon landings, the Space Shuttle program, and all things relating to astronauts and NASA altered his perspective. For his kids, space exploration was not the novelty it had been for him as a child.
He would never forget the live telecast of the fateful launch of the shuttle Challenger on that cold January Tuesday morning. He'd been in his senior English class at Remington, watching the launch which was supposed to put the first educator in space. The fiery explosion seventy three seconds into lift-off left the entire school, hell, the entire country, in shock.
"A penny for your thoughts," Ziva touched his arm as she spoke.
"Not worth that much," he replied. "I was just thinking about the space program when I was a kid and then that brought the Challenger disaster to mind. It's one of those things, like watching the Twin Towers fall, that will be in my mental imagery forever."
Ziva nodded, "We watched the launch live after dinner, but when the explosion happened, Ima took me to my room and Abba turned the volume down on the television. Ari watched with him, but they would not let me watch. Everyone talked about it at school the next day."
"IMA!" LJ came running into the room from outside. "Tali is hogging the telescope again."
Beth came in the room behind her little brother, "Tali said to get outside, LJ, 'cause it's your turn with the big telescope." He turned and ran outside just as quickly as he came in the sliding doors to the deck. Beth shrugged at her parents and walked back towards the exit to the backyard.
"I was going to offer them each a pair of binoculars," Tony noted, holding up the three sets of lenses in their cases. That's why I came into the playroom in the first place; to get the binoculars. Two telescopes and five kids just isn't going to cut it."
Ziva sighed, "And they always forget that the meteor showers do not need the telescope or even the binoculars; you can see them with your eyes. I think we see more without any lenses when the shower is at peak."
Tony glanced at his watch, "Speaking of peak times, it's after midnight. Isn't the peak starting soon?"
"Yes, 0000 to 0500 is what the websites all suggest; and the peak rate will be between one hundred and one hundred fifty per hour, if we are fortunate."
The couple headed out in the backyard with the kids. Anthony had several pinhole cameras set up around the open areas in the yard to catch the images on the black and white film inside. He'd had to put them on benches or something else to raise the box above ground level because both dogs had been checking out the boxes. He did not want images of dog noses where there should be star trails and meteor arcs. All but Tali were already lying on the lounge chairs looking upward. She was still using the larger of the telescopes to view the night skies.
The parents sat down on one of the double lounge chairs, quickly lying back to gaze upward. Tony wrapped an arm around his wife and she snuggled into his side. Tali glanced at her parents and shook her head slightly; sometimes they acted so silly. She checked the view on the telescope again and then settled into a lounger herself.
The family watched the meteors streak across the sky; occasionally one would comment on the trail left by one of the meteors or the multiple shooting stars that appeared simultaneously. The kids sometimes got up to look through one of the telescopes, but for the most part they were content to lay on the lounge chairs gazing upward.
Around 0430, Anthony walked out into the yard to check on his pinhole cameras. When he returned to the deck, he grinned as he glanced at Ima and Abba. He pointed in their direction when Beth, LJ, and Rivka looked over at him as he returned to his lounge chair.
"Tal?" he whispered to get his sister's attention. "Look at Ima and Abba." All five looked at their parents in the double lounger. The older DiNozzos were both asleep, arms around each other in a tangle of limbs. Both were also snoring softly.
"Should we wake them?" Rivka asked her older sister.
"Nah, let them sleep," Tali decided. "They look too peaceful to interrupt…"
"Besides, Abba is grouchy if he doesn't get enough sleep," LJ added with a smirk.
Anthony nodded, "Yeah, but we lucked out. I think we got the best parents ever, even when Abba is a curmudgeon." The others giggled softly as they nodded agreement with the elder DiNozzo son.
"Yep, even when we get the 'Ima glare' they are still the number one parents," Beth replied to more chuckles from her siblings. "We really did get the best!"
Chapter 39: Lev לו - heart – September 2023
Chapter 39 – Lev ( לו )(heart) – September 2023
The three little DiNozzos were supposed to be napping; Ziva had put them in their beds and then walked to her office to work on her online Creative Writing class. It was the second of her required English classes for her degree; not the class she would have chosen had there been other options. But, once the class started, she'd found that she enjoyed it more than she thought she would. This week's assignment was to write a character study, focusing on developing the character's traits, behaviors, and speech patterns.
She had a plethora of real life characters from which to draw, from Tony to Gibbs, to her NCIS family, to her birth family. She finally chose Ducky as her model and wrote from her memories. As she clicked the 'upload content' button on her screen to submit her document, she heard giggling from the hallway.
Ziva looked at the time on her screen; crap, she'd been so caught up in writing her paper that she'd forgotten to check on the kids. It was now a bit over two hours since she'd put them down for naps. She sighed and pushed her chair away from the desk.
"Who is out there?" she called out as she stood.
"Rivka!" a second giggle could be heard. "And Beth and LJ. Ima we need a snack."
The three preschoolers followed Ziva to the kitchen; they sat at the breakfast nook table as she put straws into juice boxes and put animal crackers and peach slices into a bowl for each of the kids. She placed the snacks on the table in front of the kids and sat in the fourth chair.
"We drawed pictures for you, Ima," Rivka spoke with a mouthful of food.
LJ nodded, "Yep, pictures for Ima; lots of pretty pictures."
Ziva smiled at the youngsters, "Where are your pictures?"
"In the playroom," Beth answered, and shoved a peach slice in her mouth.
"Well, then when we are done with your snacks, you can show me your pictures."
"Okay, Ima," LJ shoved two animal crackers and most of a peach slice into his mouth. "Oieefa…"
"LJ! Don't talk with food in your mouth!" Rivka admonished her little brother. "It's not good manners; that's what they told us in preschool."
Beth bobbed her head in agreement, but said nothing. She had a mouthful of food and didn't want her twin scolding her.
"No one needs to eat quickly; we do not need to shove food in our mouths," Ziva looked at her baby when she spoke. "We have plenty of time to finish the snack and see your pictures before Tali and Anthony get home from school."
After the kids finished the cookies, fruit, and juice, each one put the empty juice box in the trash and the empty snack bowl on the counter by the sink. LJ almost forgot to put his bowl on the counter but Beth stopped him as he was trying to run out of the kitchen.
"You forgot something," she crossed her arms and glared at her little brother. "On the table," she pointed to where he had been sitting. "Your bowl…"
"Okay!" the little boy ran to the table and grabbed his bowl; then ran to the counter and nearly tossed it into the sink. "DONE!" he announced with a grin and ran out towards the playroom with his sisters following behind.
Ziva wiped the table and rinsed out the empty bowls before following the kids to the front of the house. She heard them talking before she rounded the corner into the playroom. When she did step into the room she stopped dead in her tracks.
"WHAT. HAVE. YOU. DONE?"
"We drawed pictures for you, Ima," LJ held his hand out with a flourish to indicate said pictures.
Rivka grinned, "Hearts and flowers just for you, Ima!"
Beth pointed to a red heart shape, "I drawed this one."
Ziva tried not to lose her cool, "On the wall? You drew on the wall with markers and crayons?"
"It's for you, Ima, because we love you," Rivka replied not even remotely grasping why her mother was getting upset.
"I thought we put the markers up on one of the high shelves," Ziva looked at the wall of bookcases. One of the kid-sized tables was near the shelves. "After you drew on the dogs…"
"We got 'em. Riv and me got on the table like the dogs. Then LJ stood on our backs," Beth explained to her mother. "We can show you…"
Ziva cut her off, "No need. Please, sit on the loveseat, all of you." She motioned to the loveseat by the windows, where they often read stories or sat quietly with tablets. The three children sat down quietly, knowing that the 'Ima glare' meant serious business.
Ziva took a deep breath and reminded herself that yelling would not be a good idea; three crying kids was not her ultimate goal. She looked at the three faces watching her and waiting for her to speak. Three faces who reflected both her and Tony; the faces of innocent children who, if Ziva had any control over it, would keep that innocence for far longer than either of their parents.
She pulled over one of the chairs and sat down in front of her offspring, "While I love the pictures and the thought that you drew them for me, you are also still in trouble. We have paper for drawing and you have the easel for the big paper." She pointed to the kid-sized easel with its white board and paper sides. "First, we DO NOT draw on the walls for any reason."
"But, Ima, we did it for you," Riv interrupted.
"Yeah, because we love you," Beth added.
LJ nodded, "Yup, love Ima lots." He grinned and gave her his best puppy eyes.
Ziva sighed; these kids were channeling their Abba at the moment. "We still do NOT draw on the walls. When you draw on paper or on the white board, when you get tired of looking at the picture or you want to make a new one, you can erase or put the old picture aside. When you draw on the wall, the picture does not go away very easily."
Three heads turned to their drawings on the wall, mouths slightly opened as though a ponderous thought had entered their minds. Ziva could see them coming to a realization, so she continued.
"To get the drawings off the wall, Abba or I will most likely have to paint the wall after scrubbing what we can get off. That will take a lot of time we could otherwise be spending with you and your sister and brother.
"Second, the markers were put up high for a reason. We explained to you that you could not use them without asking for permission. That is because of the incident with the dogs. Abba spent several hours washing marker off of Asher and Daisy."
"Oh," LJ reacted to his Ima's words. "We get time out?"
Ziva paused; she thought about her reply instead of immediately responding 'yes.' She looked at the decorated wall, the kids, and the markers and crayons spilled on the floor.
"No time out today," she replied. "But before you get all happy about it, let me tell you what you WILL get instead."
"Uh-oh," Beth nudged her twin. "She's got that look in her eyes…" Riv nodded and grabbed her sister's hand; they were in this together. Beth took LJ's hand as the little boy gave his mother a confused look.
Ziva watched the three little kids hold hands; they really did stick together when push came to shove. Their closeness firmed up the plan in her mind.
She started outlining the punishment, "Each of you will show me which pictures you drew on the wall. Then you will each be responsible for cleaning those pictures from the wall. Understood?"
The three nodded as she continued, "We will start with Leroy Jackson; please show me the pictures that you drew." The little boy pointed to the bright red crayon shapes that resembled hearts and the bright yellow crayon shapes that could pass for flowers.
"Did you use the markers?" she asked him.
"No, Ima. Riv and Beth hogged-ed them."
"Elizabeth?" Ziva watched as the younger twin pointed to her pictures. Most were drawn with markers but there were a few with crayons as well.
"Rivka?" The older twin pointed to her images; all were in marker. Several were quite large and the one Ziva was not sure could be removed was nearly eighteen inches across.
"Now that I know who drew which pictures, I can tell you what you will be doing for the next hour or so, under my supervision," she motioned for the children to follow her to the laundry room for the cleaning supplies.
She handed LJ a box of baking soda and an old toothbrush in a small bin. Rivka was given a sponge, a 'magic eraser' and a bottle of rubbing alcohol along with some disposable rags. Beth got two 'magic erasers' and a second old toothbrush.
The kids followed their Ima back to the playroom including the stop in the hall bath to partially fill the pan with water. She showed LJ and Beth how to dip the toothbrush in the water and then put some baking soda on the bristles to scrub the crayon marks. She set them at the chore and then showed Riv how to use the rag and some rubbing alcohol to dab at the marker on the wall.
The three worked at removing their artwork from the wall while Ima supervised, offering a helping hand when she could see one struggling. What she didn't tell them is that she had snapped a picture of their creations with her phone. Even though they had been naughty and drew on the wall, the sentiment that the pictures were for Ima was still sweet.
Forty five minutes later, Tali and Anthony came in the front door from the school bus. Tali stopped short when she noticed the three little kids scrubbing the walls. She nudged her brother.
"Bet they won't do that again," she spoke quietly.
Anthony grinned, "We sure didn't do it twice!"
Chapter 40 – Matzah (מצה ) – April 2029
'Homemade matzah.' Tali typed the words into Google's search engine and hit the looking glass icon. The page quickly filled with links to recipes and places to order special flour for making the matzot kosher for Passover.
She chose a recipe that looked as though it had the best details on ingredients and instructions. After reading the ingredient list she sent her siblings to gather what they would need.
"LJ, you get the flour and measure one cup, plus some for dusting, and then measure one third cup of water. Beth, kosher salt and olive oil; plus get the measuring spoons. Riv, you are in charge of the mixer; prepare it for use. Anthony, you get to preheat the ovens and the big baking sheets; we'll need all four. Questions?"
LJ grinned at his big sister, "Yeah, what are YOU gonna do? Besides supervise?"
"I'm going to get the rolling pin and a fork; we need those for making the matzot flat. I will also put out the cooling racks."
"Hey, Tal, what oven temp?" Anthony queried.
She reread the instructions before answering, "Four seventy five." Anthony gave a thumbs' up and adjusted the settings on the two wall ovens.
When all the ingredients were ready, Tali dumped the flour into the mixing bowl and added the mixing blade. She set the speed on low and slowly began adding water to the flour watching for the dough to form a ball. As she was mixing, she instructed Riv about preparing the marble slab and rolling pin for flattening the dough.
"Make sure the rolling pin is well-dusted with the flour and spread some on the marble slab, put any extra to the side in case we need it as we work."
The timer beeped that the ovens were ready, so Anthony slid the two baking sheets on the racks in each oven to preheat. Beth watched and wondered when the ingredients she retrieved would be used.
"Tali, when do you need the olive oil and salt?"
"Not until after the matzot is baked," her sister replied. "Then you get to do your part."
The dough formed a ball and Tali stopped the mixer. She loosened the blade and removed the dough from the bowl, transferring it to the marble sheet. She quickly divided the dough into eight equal pieces. She placed one piece on the floured part and motioned to Riv to take over.
"Flatten out the dough into a shape about eight inches across; as flat as you can make it," she explained. "LJ as soon as she has one ready, you take the fork and prick the top; then flip it over and prick the other side. That keeps the dough from rising."
LJ grabbed the fork and stood ready to do his part. Rivka passed a flattened round to him and he stabbed it with the fork, making lines like he remembered from the store-bought matzot.
When all eight rounds were ready, Anthony took the two baking sheets out of the top oven. Tali and Beth transferred the flat pieces to the sheets, two per sheet.
"Okay, set a timer for two minutes for the top oven after you put the sheets in," Tali opened the oven door for her brother. After he got the top oven sheets in, he slid the two sheets out of the bottom oven and they repeated the process.
The two minute timer for the top oven beeped; Tali opened the oven door and flipped the matzot over and set the timer for an additional two minutes. The process was repeated with the bottom oven. When the timer indicated the top oven was done, she removed the baking sheets and set them on the cooling racks. Same for the bottom oven sheets.
After a few minutes cooling on the pans, she then transferred the baked matzot to the racks directly to cool further.
"Okay, Beth, time for your part. Brush the olive oil on the tops of the matzot, lightly, and then sprinkle the kosher salt on top," Tali moved out of her sister's way as the younger girl used a special brush just for olive oil to put it on the tops of their creation.
"When do we get to eat the matzot?" Anthony and LJ were eying the flat breads hungrily.
Tali shooed them away from the cooling racks, "Not until dinner; remember that Ima left a chicken, vegetables, and rice casserole in the fridge for us to heat up for dinner. This goes with dinner nicely."
"What about the extra one? Can't we split it to try? Please?" LJ made his best puppy eyes at his big sister as the others nodded in agreement. Anthony put his head on Tali's shoulder and gave her puppy eyes as the twins also joined in.
"Jeez, stop you guys. Now I know why Ima always gives in! Okay, we can split the eighth one five ways to try it," Tali sighed. She grabbed the knife and expertly split the circle of matzah into five almost equal pieces. Each of her siblings grabbed a piece; she took the last one and they all bit into the homemade matzah.
"Pretty good," Anthony announced.
His younger sisters nodded in agreement as LJ swallowed his bite so he could speak.
"Now that we know how easy they are to make, we'll have to try using some other flavorings, like garlic or onion," he suggested.
"Yep," Tali agreed. "I hope Ima and Abba like the matzot as well. I guess we shall see at dinner time."
Yes, making matzot is that simple. You can actually make non-kosher matzot from what I have written in the chapter!
Chapter 41: Nesher נָשַׁר - eagle – July 2027
Chapter 41 – Nesher (נָשַׁר) (eagle) – July 2027
"Grandpa! Grandpa!" Katie, Rivka, and Tori came running in from the front porch of the cabin to the kitchen where Gibbs was making cowboy omelets for breakfast. He looked up from the pan as the three girls came to a stop in front of him.
"There are eagles outside," Katie exclaimed.
"FOUR of them," Riv added excitedly.
"C'mon," Tori tugged her grandfather's hand and tried to get him to come outside with them.
"Let me turn off the flame first; don't want breakfast burning," he answered. He put the cast iron skillet with the omelet into the oven and put the setting on warm.
Rivka ran out to the back porch, where Anthony and John were playing chess. "There are eagles out over the pond; come see!" The two boys rose and left the chessboard to see the magnificent birds.
Katie found Tali and Beth in the girls' bedroom, "Eagles are back; they're over the pond and open field." The three girls headed out to the front of the house with the others. LJ and Charles were already on the porch, where LJ was trying to add the birds to his painting of the pond.
Gibbs grabbed the binoculars, all five pairs, from the shelf in the living room and followed the kids outside. "Got the binoculars if anyone wants 'em." Five pairs of hands quickly relieved him of the load, "Remember to share."
Anthony had his camera with the telephoto lens and was snapping pictures non-stop; he would edit and sort them later on his computer to get the best ones. LJ was still capturing the birds of prey in his painting. The others shared the binoculars to get a good look at the eagles.
"Grandpa, why do some of the eagles have white heads and the others are all brown?" Charles had noted the difference in the birds almost immediately.
Gibbs pointed to the two birds with the white heads and wingtips, "The ones with the white are the adult eagles. The female is usually larger than the male and her beak is larger. Eagles mate for life, so this pair has probably been together for a while."
"Like Ima and Abba?" Riv asked innocently.
"Yep," he smiled to himself; these kids didn't miss a thing. "The eagles that are almost all brown are the youngsters. They will gradually change color as they get older. They change over the first five years of their life from all brown to the white and brown of an adult."
"So when do they have babies?" Tori queried. The others were also curious.
"Four to five years, same as it takes for the white to appear."
John came up with the next question, "So how long do they stay with their parents?"
Gibbs had to think on that one; Tali pulled up the website for the National Eagle Center on her phone while he was trying to remember.
"Ten to twelve months," she read from the web page.
They watched as the adult eagles circled above the pond. One of them dropped down and snagged a fish from the water; it headed to the tree line. The other adult screed to the young eagles, who answered in response. One of the young eagles suddenly swooped in and came up with a fish; it, too, headed to the tree line. As the kids watched with their grandfather, the other adult dipped down into the open area on the side of the pond and rose with what looked like a rabbit. Finally, the remaining eagle grabbed a fish from the pond and disappeared into the trees with the others.
"Time for our breakfast," Gibbs announced to the nine hungry children.
"And nobody has to catch it," Anthony quipped to the laughter of all.
Chapter 42: Siferey ספרי - books – Chanukah 2024
Chapter 42 – Siferey (ספרי) (books) – Chanukah 2024
Chanukah was late this year; it started at sundown on 25 December and ended at sundown on 2 January. As in prior years, Ziva and Tony had purchased eight small gifts, one for each night of the holiday, for each child. They usually tried to have a theme with the gifts, and for 2024, they chose books as the theme for the gifts.
Each child had one book in Hebrew in their gifts; Tali had the Hebrew version of The Little Prince. The twins and LJ had Hebrew alphabet learning picture books, and Anthony had a book of sports stories in Hebrew. Both Ziva and Tony had selected the books with their offspring's interests and age level in mind. The other seven books for each child had been selected by one of the parents over the fall as each had seen something that caught the child's attention when shopping or that the kid would like.
Tali's books for the other seven nights included many classics. Tony chose Call of the Wild because it was the first book he'd read willingly, and he wanted to share that piece of himself with his daughter. Ziva chose The Chronicles of Narnia for its memories as well. She read the chapters to her sister Tali when they would huddle under the covers on Tali's bed long after lights out. Several popular novels for middle school kids were on Tali's wish list so they purchased them online: The Girl Who Drank the Moon, The Forbidden Library, and Wish.
Women Who Dared caught her Abba's eye when he was purchasing a book for Ziva for Christmas. Ziva happened to be looking at cookbooks in the campus bookstore and spied Baking for Young Chefs; she immediately thought of Tali liking to help cook.
If Tony had his way, all of Anthony's books would have been sports related. He found two about basketball, The Basket Counts, a fiction, and the biographical Basketball's Greatest. Surprisingly, the third book he found for the elder son was not a sports book, but rather one related to a budding hobby in the boy. Photography for Kids was straightforward and kid-friendly.
Ziva again chose childhood favorites for her son. The EB White books were some she read as a child many times over: Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little, and The Trumpet of the Swan. When she'd found the three at used book store, the owner had suggested Abel's Island, a story similar to Stuart Little. Ziva had read it the day she brought it home and thoroughly enjoyed the book. The part where Abel built replicas of his family from clay hit home with her.
Rivka loved Mercer Meyer books, so the first two purchased for her were Just a Mess and A Trip to the Science Museum. Tony joked that the book about messes was so Riv it could have been written about her. Ziva agreed that their messy twin fit the story. All of the kids loved Richard Scarry, so when Tony found a copy of his Best Word Book Ever at a bargain sale, it was plucked up immediately for one of the twins.
Ziva happened to be in the campus bookstore when they had classic children's books on a buy one, get one sale. She purchased Madeline, The Mountain that Loved a Bird, and My Many Colored Days for her middle child.
The final book for Riv almost didn't get to her; when Tony found The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales he enjoyed it so much he had it in his office to reread. Ziva caught him laughing at the stories many times between the time he purchased the book and when she finally persuaded him to wrap the book for his middle Ninja.
When Ziva purchased the kids' books at the BOGO sale, she also added Gerald McBoing Boing, a Frog and Toad box set, and Silly Sally for Beth. Her sister Tali had loved the adventures of Frog and Toad. Both parents agreed that another Richard Scarry book was perfect for the little girl; What People Do All Day had lots of sight words and funny illustrations. Tony snickered at the Silly Sally book; it was so like his Number three mini-Ninja's sense of humor.
He also chose books that had special memories for him to give to Beth. The stories he chose for her were ones he remembered reading with his mother at the same age. Harold and the Purple Crayon brought back memories of getting in trouble for drawing on the walls of his bedroom with a purple crayon, just like Harold. Clifford the Big Red Dog was one of the few books that he remembered his father reading to him. The final book he found for Beth, The Church Cat Abroad, was not one he'd seen before, but he'd liked the story and colorful illustrations when he'd flipped through the pages in the book store. When he saw that the copyright date was 1980, he realized why he hadn't heard of the book.
Of all the kids, LJ's books were probably the most fun for his parents to find for the little boy. Tony picked one that he loved as a child, Come Here, Cat. Its simple drawings and story about a child building trust with a stray cat had appealed to him when he was learning to read. Ziva found several books about LJ's favorite animal; lions. How to Be a Lion and Library Lion were not only cute stories, but both had life lessons as part of the story.
Two books that Tony and Ziva found together at a rummage sale, Yonder and Art Lab for Little Kids, appealed to them to help build the little boy's growing interests in art and creating pictures from varying media. Yonder had beautiful illustrations that could almost be framed were they not part of a story book.
At the BOGO sale, Ziva found Pete the Cat and How to Babysit a Grandpa for her baby. Tony guffawed at the grandpa book, but once he read the cute story, he agreed with his wife that it was perfect for their youngest.
As they wrapped the books in colorful blue, silver, and white Chanukah wrapping paper, the couple reflected on how the choices of books matched the kids' personalities so well. They looked forward to watching their children open the gifts each night and sharing about why they chose those books with the family.
Chapter 43: Aqeshan עַקְשָׁן - stubborn – February 2028
Chapter 43 – Aqeshan ( עַקְשָׁן) (stubborn) – February 2028
To say that the five young DiNozzos had inherited the best and the worst traits of their parents was an understatement. Each of the five had their parents' loyalty to family and determination. All five also inherited a stubborn streak a mile wide from BOTH of their parents. Tony called it the "stubborn gene double whammy."
That said no one was surprised when the stubbornness gene reared its head in all seven DiNozzos on a cold, rainy, dreary weekend when they were stuck inside. The annual flu had run its course through the family in record time; all seven had been sick for the same five days and all were finally feeling much better than during the week.
"But, Ima, we were supposed to go to the Glow Golf today," Beth whined to her mother while she helped make soup and sandwiches for lunch. "You promised…"
Ziva sighed, "That was before we all got sick; we are just now getting well. I do not want any more sickness in this house for the rest of the winter." She stirred the chicken noodle soup in the large pot as her eight year old slathered peanut butter on bread slices while her twin spread grape jelly or strawberry preserves on other slices.
"But it wasn't OUR fault we got sick; you should keep your promises, Ima," Riv backed up her sister's argument. "And nobody is barfing here anymore so why can't we go?"
"I don't need to go anywhere; I just want lunch," Anthony came into the kitchen looking for food. Breakfast was too long ago for his liking; he needed something to eat before he got hangry. "When are we eating?" He reached towards the stack of sandwiches by his sisters, hoping to snag one.
Riv swatted her brother's hand away, "That's for everyone's lunch, Anthony. You can wait until the food is ready just like the rest of us." She spread grape jelly on the heel and matched it the opposite end of the loaf that her twin had spread with peanut butter. The heels ALWAYS got grape jelly because Abba was the one who insisted that one of his sandwiches included the two heels.
Anthony glared at his younger sister, "Three of the twelve sandwiches are for me; who cares if I eat one now?" The boy grabbed one off the stack and bit a huge bite from it. He grinned at his sisters with a mouthful of sandwich.
Ziva shook her head and sighed to herself; she stirred the soup another time. "The soup is ready. Get a bowl and a plate and serve yourself," she announced to the three in the kitchen before turning to go find the others. Anthony quickly added two more sandwiches to his plate and ladled soup into a bowl. He was the first to the table.
Riv and Beth followed their older brother to the table with soup and a sandwich each. Tony came from his home office and LJ from the playroom where he was organizing his water color painting supplies. Tali appeared behind her Ima, with her face in a book. She had been reading in the family room and was in the middle of a particularly interesting action chapter in the story.
"Tali," Tony tried to get his eldest's attention. "Remember the rule…"
She shook her head and kept reading, trying to ignore her father. When he figured out that she was ignoring him, he wrapped his fingers over the top of the pages and gently tugged at the book.
"NO, Abba; it's at a good part. I want to finish the chapter," she protested.
"Family rule number seventeen, no books, phones, screens, et cetera at the table," he reminded her as he tugged at the book again.
Tali gripped the book tighter, "The heck with the rules; I will go in the other room and finish the chapter and THEN come eat." She huffed and glared at her Abba.
He sighed, "Family rule number three, we eat together as a family." He spoke to her retreating back as she exited to the family room.
"Rules were meant to be broken," the thirteen year old shot back over her shoulder as she exited the kitchen.
Tony turned to Ziva in exasperation; she shrugged and raised her hands. In this brave new world of parenting a teenager, they were learning, albeit slowly, to choose their battles wisely. He sighed and grabbed a plate to get his sandwiches. He would still have his say, but he would wait until his stubborn child was at the table.
Ziva carried her soup and sandwich to the table and sat with the other five who were busy chowing down. Tali sauntered into the kitchen to grab her soup and sandwich as the other kids observed their parents.
LJ spoke up, "Ima, why does Tali get to break the rules?" Five sets of eyes turned to Ziva.
"Not now, LJ. We will deal with this soon," she motioned for her youngest to continue eating his lunch as Tali took her seat to silence.
A few minutes later, LJ persisted. "Abba, why does Tali get to break the family rules?" He really wanted to know.
"Zip it, kid," Tali muttered at him and glared over her soup.
The twins shared a look; Tali seemed to be heading into trouble. Anthony looked up from his food but kept eating. LJ stared back at his oldest sister.
"Why? You are supposed to follow the rules too," he retorted. "If we made the rules as a family, then we all have to follow them." The six year old wanted an explanation; the rules were for the whole family as he understood them.
"He has a point," Tony spoke quietly while looking directly at Tali. "Do you have an answer for your brother?"
Tali shrugged, "I am here with the family for the meal; I did NOT bring my book to the table. I'm not breaking the rules."
"But, you didn't come to the table with the rest of us," LJ persisted. "That's breaking family rule number three."
Ziva met Tony's gaze; they would let this play out before they stepped in to the discussion. Maybe the kids would work out something or maybe there would be a discussion about the family rules. More than once an infraction had resulted in a rule modification.
Tali turned to her little brother, "LJ, not everyone gets to the table at the same time. I got here last; it's no big deal."
He shook his head, "No, Tali. It IS a big deal when you were in the kitchen and turned around to go finish your book chapter. You didn't come to the table with everyone else. Why?"
The other three kids were now listening to every word; how Tali replied to LJ could spark a family discussion or even an argument. Even Anthony paused his eating.
Tali looked around the table; everyone was watching her and waiting for her reply to LJ. "Because," she looked him in the eyes, "I. DIDN'T. WANT. TO." She'd said it, loud and clear, and every one of her family heard her reply. "I wanted to finish my chapter." She huffed and picked up her spoon to continue eating.
Something about her tone annoyed Anthony; he finished chewing the bite of sandwich and swallowed. "So what you are saying is that your book was more important than family?" he asked incredulously. "That the hour or so for a meal is not a higher priority than your personal time?"
Before Tali could reply, LJ added his opinion, "Anthony's right. We made the rules because Ima and Abba told us that family is important. Family first, right Abba?"
Tony nodded as Rivka picked up the argument, "That's why we have a family motto; DiNozzos stick together like Superglue. 'Cause we got each other's six; always."
Tali groaned, "Jeez, guys. All I wanted was to finish the chapter because it was very interesting and I had just got to the good part of the action. No big deal, okay?"
"But it IS a big deal when you break the rules that you helped make," Beth reminded her sister. "We ALL had some input into the DiNozzo family rules, and we ALL agreed to stick to them."
"And if you don't like a rule, you bring it up at a family conference," Anthony added to remind all of them of the process they agreed to follow. "I guess we are doing that now?"
Tony made eye contact with his wife; Ziva nodded and smiled at him. This was getting somewhere and they, the parents, were silent so far. Maybe the kids would work out something everyone could agree about.
In the end all five agreed that the current rules were good for the family and that down the road as they got old enough to have part time jobs, the rules may have to be changed to accommodate work schedules and maybe school schedules as college level classes became a reality.
Neither Tony nor Ziva said anything except to agree with the decision of the family. Tony later pulled Tali aside and they had a chat about her attitude in the kitchen when he reminded her of the rules. Neither one backed down, so the two agreed to disagree.
"Tals, you have to admit, you got your mother's stubborn streak," he quipped.
"Ima says that I get it from you," she retorted.
He snorted, "You all get it from both of us; the DiNozzo stubborn double-whammy!"
Chapter 44: Psanter פסנתר - piano – April 2021
Chapter 44 – Psanter (פסנתר )(piano) – April 2021
The baby grand piano sat in the large family room at the DiNozzo house. Occasionally Tony or Ziva sat down and played a bit, but with four kids in the house, time was a precious commodity. Tali loved to watch her Abba play the piano, often sitting next to him on the bench. She watched his hands glide over the keys.
Neither parent was surprised when Tali started playing one finger tunes on the keys; she often imitated a common melody or tune with a few tries to get it correct. Tony showed her how to play "Chopsticks" and then both parts of "Heart and Soul." She learned the music quickly.
When Ziva suggested the possibility of piano lessons for Tali, Tony had hemmed and hawed. While he did enjoy that he could play, he also remembered his own experiences with piano lessons. He especially remembered sitting at the piano in his parents' New York home crying at being forced to practice. He did not want Tali's interest in the piano to turn into that.
After a month or so of back and forth and discussion with Ziva, they put the option on the table for their almost seven year old. She could take piano lessons if she chose, but if she did decide to do the lesson, she also had to commit to practice. When the girl enthusiastically responded positively, Ziva searched for a suitable teacher for the child.
She found a retired music teacher nearby, who was in fact also on Tali's school bus route. Mrs. Pearsall taught elementary school music for thirty years before retiring from the public school system in Alexandria. She and Tali hit it off immediately. The first lesson started in the last week of April. Ziva drove Tali to the teacher's house on a Saturday morning while Tony stayed home with the three younger kids. She waited in the woman's living room while Tali had her first thirty minute lesson.
"She's a natural, Ziva," Mrs. Pearsall came out with Tali at the end of the lesson. "She also told me that you and her father play?"
"Yes, we both had lessons as children. My husband gets to sit at the keyboard more often than I do, but yes we do both play," Ziva replied. "Our piano is one he has owned for a long time."
Mother and daughter prepared to head home.
"Thank you, Mrs. Pearsall," Tali smiled at the older woman. "I will practice and see you next week!" She waved as they walked to Ziva's minivan.
Tali continued with Saturday lessons through the summer. She practiced faithfully and even showed Anthony what she was learning. When school began again in the fall, Ziva scheduled Tali's lessons for after school. Tali rode the bus to her piano teacher's house on Thursday afternoon and when her lesson ended, either Ziva or Tony picked her up.
She continued with lessons all through her second grade year and performed at the recital of all of Mrs. Pearsall's students in May. She was one of three students who continued lessons in the summer months, eagerly awaiting the weekly session. By the time she was in the fifth grade, lessons were scheduled for one hour per session twice a week. In her sixth and seventh grade years, Anthony also took lessons for thirty minutes once per week. He decided that he would rather play intramural basketball and piano lessons fell by the wayside in his fifth grade year.
Tali continued to play and learn from the old music teacher. At the end of her eighth grade year, with the urging and encouragement of her teacher, Tali entered a competition for middle school aged musicians in April 2028. She practiced daily and the day of was a nervous wreck.
"Ima, I'm gonna mess it up," Tali fretted as her mother helped adjust the dress they'd found just for the occasion. "I can't do this."
"Shush, yaldati; you will do fine," Ziva pulled her oldest into a hug. "It is just nerves. Everyone gets a bit nervous when they are performing for an audience."
Tony came into the room to check if they were ready to leave, "You got this kid; Schumann's Kinderszenen is gonna wow the judges. You've practiced and you know the work. You can do it!" He held up a hand palm facing his oldest. She high-fived him and grinned.
"I sure hop so, Abba. Mrs. Pearsall says I am ready, but I don't know…"
"Seven years of lessons, Tals and you run rings around the rest of the students. You got me and Ima outclassed, too." Tony led them to the front door where the other four young DiNozzos were waiting. All were dressed for the occasion; the boys in suits with ties and the two younger girls in dresses.
At the Arts Center, Tony found a parking spot in the area reserved for the contestants. He parked close to the rear entrance where Tali would go inside; the others were to walk around to the main entrance.
Tali nervously stepped onto the sidewalk. Ziva gave her daughter a quick hug. "You got this yaldati," she whispered in Tali's ear in Hebrew.
Anthony, Rivka, and Beth gave their sister thumbs' up gestures as Anthony commented, "Give it your best shot, Tali."
LJ grabbed his big sister in a bear hug, "You are gonna win; I KNOW it. You are the best Tali, no matter what happens I love you."
She ruffled his hair, "Thanks, kid. Love you too." She turned to the stairs into the back entrance and grinned at her family. She tried to quiet the butterflies in her stomach as she took a deep breath and placed a foot on the lowest step. She turned to look back at her family once more and noticed her Grandpa coming to join them. He called out to her so she paused to wait for him to get to the steps.
"Hey, kiddo," he pulled her into a hug.
"I'm nervous, Grandpa. I'm really scared that I'm going to mess up," she confided.
Gibbs moved her so she could see his eyes, "Tali, you got this. Remember what I told you about fear?" She nodded as he continued, "Never let fear dictate who you are or what you do. You KNOW the piece you've chosen. Go give 'em your best, kiddo."
"Thanks, Grandpa," she hugged the old man again and smiled.
Inside, while Tali waited backstage with the nine other contestants, the family found seats near the center front. Backstage, the contestants were assigned a number for the order in which they would perform. Tali drew number nine.
Once the order was established the names appeared on the digital screen to the side of the stage. Anthony noticed the listing first and pointed it out to the others. Ziva tried not to worry for her baby, but she knew that being the penultimate performer had to be worrying Tali.
The hostess for the afternoon stepped up to the microphone, "Welcome to the annual piano competition, division two, for ages ten to thirteen. We have ten young musicians lined up to play for you tonight. They've drawn numbers and the order in which they will perform is on the screen to my left. We ask that you refrain from applause until the performer stands at the end of his or her piece. Also, if you plan to take pictures, please make sure the flash is OFF out of courtesy to the young performers. Sit back and enjoy. I know these young people have practiced long hours and are ready to give their best.
"First up…" she gave the name of the young boy who had drawn number one and the name of the work he would play. The audience grew quiet and listened to his performance, applauding after the final notes.
Finally, it was Tali's turn. "The next performer is Talia DiNozzo, age thirteen. Talia is a student of Mildred Pearsall; she has been studying for seven years. Her chosen work is Robert Schumann's Kinderszenen." The hostess nodded to Tali as she took her place at the keyboard. Tali took a deep breath in and closed her eyes to focus. She placed her hands on the keyboard and began playing. Within the first few bars, she was immersed in the performance of the work as practiced. She focused all her attention on the keyboard ignoring the hundred or so people in the audience and the three judges sitting to the immediate right of the stage.
Mrs. Pearsall sat at the end of the row of family with tears in her eyes. "She really does have a gift," the woman whispered to Gibbs. He nodded; he was so proud of his first-born grandchild.
Tali finished and stood up from the piano bench. She turned to the judges and bowed; then towards the audience and repeated the bow to applause from all. LJ clapped enthusiastically, commenting to the people behind him that she was his sister. Tony and Ziva grinned as Tali made eye contact with her parents. Tony gave a thumbs' up as Ziva signed 'I love you.'
The final contestant played her piece. As the judges tallied scores, the ten young pianists were brought out on stage to await the results. Each of them was introduced again and given a bouquet of roses. The head judge climbed the steps to the stage.
"Ladies and gentlemen; we have a winner," he announced. He waited for the crowd to settle down and addressed the contestants. "You all did well; we had many wonderful performances this afternoon. While it was not an easy decision, we did tally points for a clear winner.
"In third place, Joseph Reilly," he announced as the young boy stepped forward. "Your inspired rendition of Liszt was very well interpreted. I present you with this check for one hundred dollars, and an invitation to next year's competition, no audition necessary."
The boy turned to have his picture taken with the judge as the audience applauded. He was directed to the side by the hostess.
"In second place, Talia DiNozzo," Tali drew her hands up to her face and gasped. Ziva and Tony high-fived as Anthony, Rivka, Beth, and LJ clapped with everything they had.
"That was a beautifully rendered interpretation of Schumann," the judge shook Tali's hand and smiled at her. Tony was taking pictures with his phone nonstop. "I present you with this check for three hundred fifty dollars and an invitation to next year's competition, no audition necessary. I believe for you, it will be division three, ages fourteen to eighteen."
Tali grinned and thanked the judge; Tony, Ziva, and Anthony were taking pictures as the other family members applauded. Mrs. Pearsall had tears streaming down her cheeks.
The first place winner was announced; then all three winners were gathered together with the judges for publicity photos for the Arts Center newsletter and the local news media. Tali grinned a full on DiNozzo grin the whole time. When she was finally released to go to her family, she made a beeline for her parents.
Tony pulled his baby into a hug, "I am so proud of you, Tali-T. You did it! Wow, second place…" He let her go as Ziva wrapped the teen in her arms.
"Mazal tov, yaldati. Ani ohevet otach," Ziva was so proud of her first born.
Tali pulled away from her Ima as Mrs. Pearsall approached. She hugged her teacher and whispered, "Thank you."
"No, thank YOU, Tali," the old woman replied. "You are the one who did all the work."
Chapter 45: Tzippor ציפור - bird – July 2030
Chapter 45 – Tzippor (ציפור )(bird) – July 2030
Sixteen year old Tali wiped the sweat from her face using the small towel she had around her neck. She didn't mind mowing the lawn when her turn came around, but somehow she managed to have that chore on one of the hottest weekends of the summer. Even riding the lawn tractor, she worked up a sweat in the unusually high humidity. It was almost as though just breathing could cause one to work up a sweat.
The first time she noticed movement in the flower beds by the shed she thought nothing of it, figuring it was just the discharge from the mower deck causing the plants to move. On the second pass, she was far enough out from the flower bed that she knew it was not the mower deck discharge. She stopped the lawn tractor, making sure to disengage the mower deck before shutting the engine off.
She approached the flower bed slowly, not wanting to spook whatever critter may be hiding in the zinnias, strawflowers, and Shasta daisies. When she realized what had caught her eye, she figured out that she didn't have to worry about spooking anything. An eastern bluebird sat on the dirt under the plants; one wing was tucked in as normal but the other was partially extended at a weird angle.
The injured bird looked up at her and cheeped. Tali responded softly, "It's okay little bird; I can help you. Tzippor you are a beautiful bird…" She slowly inched closer to get a better look at the bird. There was definitely something wrong with its wing.
Tali pulled her phone out of her shorts pocket; she selected Anthony's number from her speed dial and pressed the call icon.
"Yeah sis?" Anthony answered quickly. He had just moved a load of sheets into the dryer and started a second load. His weekly chore was to wash the sheets and towels for the family.
"I need your help outside. And anyone else who is available," she explained.
"I found an injured bird in the flower bed by the shed, I think it has a broken wing," Tali moved a bit closer to the bird.
Anthony had moved to the sliding doors to the deck as they spoke, "I see you; what do you need?"
Tali thought a minute, "A towel to toss over it to calm it enough so we can catch it; a box with another towel inside. Poke some holes in the box for ventilation."
LJ noticed Anthony by the doors; he had been vacuuming and dusting the common rooms in the house. He was almost done with his chore for the week when Anthony came into the room.
"Whatcha looking at?" he moved next to his brother. He looked out into the yard and saw Tali by the shed. The lawn tractor was parked in the middle of the grassy area.
Anthony held up a finger as he replied to their older sister, "Okay; I got LJ here, so we'll be out there in a few. We can get Riv too; Beth is with Ima and Abba at the grocery store. Can you think of anything else we need to bring to you?"
"Nope; I'll keep an eye on the bird until you get out here."
The older boy turned to his little brother, "Tali found an injured bird. She wants us to bring out some towels and a box to put it in. Will you help?"
"Sure," LJ followed Anthony to the laundry room to grab some towels from the pile that Ima kept in the cleaning supplies. Most were older towels that the family had used for bath towels until they became worn. Anthony put three towels into LJ's arms.
The two boys went into the garage to find a box; LJ spotted one that should be large enough for the bird in a pile to be broken down for recycling. He pointed it out to Anthony. The older boy grabbed the box and one of his father's screwdrivers. He poked holes in the box with the screwdriver to give the bird air.
Satisfied with the number of holes, he put the screwdriver back on its rack and grabbed the box, "Let's go." LJ followed his brother back inside to the family room. Both were about to exit onto the deck when Rivka came by with the bathroom cleaning tote. She had finished her weekly chore and was headed to put the cleaning supplies away in the laundry room cabinet.
"Whatcha doing?" she queried.
"Helping Tali rescue an injured bird," LJ replied. "You can help too if you want."
Riv put the tote on the floor by the window and followed her brothers out into the yard. The three younger DiNozzos slowed their approach as they got closer to Tali and the injured bird. Anthony set the box on the ground and Riv took two of the towels from LJ to place inside the box as padding for the bluebird.
LJ handed the third towel to his big sister, "What's the plan?"
"We'll have to throw the towel over the bird quickly; once it's covered, it should calm down some and one of us can scoop it up in the towel. We'll have to be careful not to hurt the wing any further," she outlined her plan to the others. "Once we have it captured, we can check the Northern Virginia Wildlife Rescue Center website to see what to do next. I think they have a hotline we can call, too."
Asher and Daisy had followed the kids out into the yard; both were sniffing around and curious about the box. Anthony looked around for any of the family's cats, hoping the four felines were still in the house. The last thing they needed was a curious cat freaking out the bird.
"Riv, you watch for the cats and try to keep Asher and Daisy from getting in the bird's face," Anthony suggested to his younger sister. "I'll help with the dogs. LJ, you can have the box ready for Tali to put the bird inside."
Tali slowly got as close to the bird as she could and tossed the towel over it. She wrapped her hands around the small lump that was the bird and lifted it into the towel. LJ grabbed the box and slid it under the towel and bird in his big sister's hands. Tali lowered the bird into the box and set it on the towels inside. She lifted the towel over the bluebird and it looked around inside the box. The bird let out a small peep.
Asher put his nose in the box, checking out what his people were looking at. LJ carried the box to the deck as the other three young DiNozzos and the two four-legged family members followed. He placed the box on a table on the covered part of the deck as Tali and Anthony pulled up the wildlife rescue organization's web site on their phones.
Tali called the rescue hotline and talked with one of the center volunteers. She got directions to their main building for receiving injured animals and hours of operation to drop off the bird. Once Ima and Abba got home from grocery shopping, she would get one of them to help get the bird to the rescue center. Since she was newly licensed and did not have her own vehicle yet, Tali wanted to wait for one of her parents to make the drive to Falls Church to the rescue group's facilities.
Tony drove Tali and LJ to the Wildlife Rescue Center of Northern Virginia later that day. The male eastern bluebird had surgery to repair damage to its wing, but it was not able to fly again due to irreparable damage to one of the major muscles for the wing. The bird was placed in the center's avian refuge and became a permanent resident of its facility's aviary.
Chapter 46: Qipod קיפוד - porcupine - July 2017
Chapter 46 – Qipod (קיפוד )(porcupine) - July 2017
Tali jumped on her father to wake him up. When he sat up, she started giggling and pointing at his head.
"What's so funny, little Ninja?" he grumbled as she continued to laugh at him. He stood up and moved to the bathroom and caught sight of himself in the mirror. His hair was sticking up in all directions. Leave it to his kid to find that funny, just like her Ima.
"Porcupine hair; that's what Ima called it," he tickled his baby as she continued to giggle. "She thought it was pretty funny also."
Tali gave him a look; he was sure she didn't understand a word he'd just said except for the word 'Ima.' He grabbed his tablet and looked up 'porcupine' in the English-Hebrew translator.
"Qipod," he tried the Hebrew version as he pointed to his head.
"Ken, Abba, qipod," she laughed at the spikes in his hair. "Por-cue-swine."
He stopped in his tracks as she followed him to the kitchen, figuring the child was hungry. "What did you say, Tali?" He turned to face her and knelt in front of the little girl.
"Qipod. Por-cue-swine," she repeated as she put her hands in his hair. She giggled yet again.
"Did Ima tell you that?" he had to know. When she nodded and sobered, he pulled the child to him and hugged her tightly. "Yeah, Ima kinda liked my qipod hair; she liked to play with it with her hands…" he trailed off at the memory of Ziva's hands in his hair, forcing back the tears that were forming.
~QIPOD~ July 2024
Tony stretched and entered the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee; the rest of the family was sitting at the dining room table, breakfast partially eaten. He poured a cup of the liquid eye-opener and grabbed a plate to fill with the breakfast pizza Ziva made for the family.
He walked to the dining room from the kitchen with plate and mug in hand. "Mornin'," he mumbled to the others as he sat down. "Sorry I overslept; guess I was tired."
Rivka and Beth nudged each other as they spotted their Abba's hair sticking up in all directions. Both little girls giggled and pointed to his head.
"Qipod. Porcuswine," Tali blurted out without thinking.
Tony and Ziva both turned to their eldest with a surprised look. As far as they knew, no one had mentioned the reference to Tony's hair since Tali was a toddler.
Anthony gave his big sister a strange look, "What?"
"Qipod means porcupine in Hebrew," Tali explained. "But I don't remember how I know that. Porcuswine is what Ima called it when she and Abba worked together."
"Oh; how do you know that?" he replied.
Tali thought a minute trying to recall the memory from so long ago. "I think Ima told me when I was little and so did Abba. I'm not sure."
Ziva nodded, "Yes. I told you about Abba's hair sticking up. His hair was all which ways and I could not remember the English word. I called it 'porcuswine.' It made Abba laugh, so I kept doing it when he would wake up with his hair all sticking out in many directions." She reached over and smoothed his hair as she spoke, gently massaging his scalp as she did so long ago.
Tony closed his eyes and enjoyed the sensations of Ziva's hands in his hair. If he were a cat, he would have purred loudly. Never mind that the kids now had a new way to tease their Abba.
Chapter 47: Rakevet רכבת - train – December 2028
Chapter 47 – Rakevet (רכבת) (train) – December 2028
Tony led his family through Penn Station in New York; he hoped he remembered the way to the Long Island Railroad platforms so that they could catch the train out to the Island without too much of a wait. The kids were complaining about the walk through the station, wondering why they had to take a train when they could have just as easily driven out to the destination.
"You haven't had the full New York experience until you've commuted from the city to the Island and or vice versa," he explained to the five kids. "Besides, the walking is good exercise."
Fourteen year old Tali nudged her brother, "Says the man who complains about having to walk the trash cans to the street every week." Eleven year old Anthony grinned and nodded.
Almost nine year old Rivka looked around the station, "How many tracks are there, Abba?"
"Twenty-one tracks and eleven platforms," he replied. "Tracks seventeen through twenty-one are exclusively for the Long Island Railroad. They share some other tracks with New Jersey Transit and Amtrak."
"Penn Station is the busiest railroad station in North America; over six hundred thousand passengers on an average weekday," Beth read from the website about the station. "That's a lot of people!"
LJ was trying to figure out how the trains got to the other areas, "How do the trains get out of the station?"
Tony pointed towards the ends of the platforms, "There are seven tunnels; four under the East River, two under the Hudson River, and one connecting to the northern lines. We'll go through a tunnel under the East River out on to Long Island."
"So we'll be UNDER the water?" LJ had to check if he understood what Abba meant. The seven year old was not too sure he wanted to be underwater in a train.
"The tunnels are all safe, LJ. They are built under the riverbed. The tunnels are one hundred thirty five feet below the river surface on the Manhattan side and one hundred forty seven feet down on the Long Island side," Ziva read the information from Beth's phone.
The commuter train pulled in to the platform; passengers exited and headed to the stairways. After the train emptied, the waiting passengers entered the cars. The DiNozzo family followed Tony into a car near the middle of the train. The first thing he did was to move towards the middle of the car where the rows of seats faced each other. He and Ziva sat on the side with two seats per row facing towards the front of the train; the five kids sat on the side with three seats per row.
"How long is the ride to where we are going?" Anthony was curious about the destination and the ride to get there.
Tony responded with the information he found the night before, "It takes about fifty five minutes to get to Hempstead. Once there, we'll walk a little ways so I can show you some places from when I was a boy. Uncle Angelo's bakery is no longer in business, but the building is still standing; the church that he and Aunt Isabella attended is just up the street as is the house where they lived."
"Is that the Uncle Angelo of the cannoli recipe?" Riv loved the Italian treats and enjoyed helping her father make them for special occasions.
"One and the same," her father replied. "My office desk came from Uncle Angelo's bakery. But before he had it, the desk belonged to my grandfather DiNozzo."
The train started moving as Tony told them about seeing the desk at his grandparents' house when he was preschool-aged. He remembered hiding under the center of the desk when playing with his cousins. He also told them about the desk sitting in Uncle Angelo's office in the bakery. It was too big for the tiny room, but since it had belonged to his father, Uncle Angelo would not even consider getting rid of it for a smaller desk.
The conductor came through and took the tickets from Ziva; she, Tony, and Tali were at off-peak fare, while the four younger kids were only one dollar fare each on the family plan for off-peak travel. The train pulled in to the Jamaica station.
"This station is a hub for the different branches of the Long Island Railroad," Tony explained to the family. "When we went to the Hamptons for the summer, Mom and I would ride the Montauk branch train into the city to go to the dollar matinees. The Montauk branch is part of the southern line of track; the electrified part ends at Babylon, so we often switched trains there."
The five young DiNozzos and their Ima listened to Tony's memories as the train made its way through the various stations on the Hempstead branch. At the tenth, and final, station, they departed the train onto the platform of the Hempstead station.
"That was certainly a lot different from riding the DC Metro," Ziva commented as the family followed Tony to the street. "And different from the Amtrak train we rode from DC to New York."
"We could just call this the train experience weekend," Tali suggested. "Although I still don't understand why we didn't just drive up from home."
Tony turned to face his family as they waited for a crossing light to be in their favor, "Something different is always good for an adventure." He grinned at the kids, "Besides, if we drove, you wouldn't get the full New York experience." The light changed and they crossed the street. He stopped in front of a brick building. "This is it; where Uncle Angelo's bakery used to be." He looked around; things had changed drastically from when he was a kid.
"THIS was a bakery?" Beth was not too sure her father remembered correctly. The building in front of them had signs for a vape shop but was empty.
A few blocks up the street, the Catholic Church that Tony remembered from his childhood looked the same except for the chain-link fence around the entire property. Another two blocks and he turned on to a side street, counting three houses in.
The house he remembered still stood, but it had been converted into apartments. He sighed as he told his family about playing in the back yard and his first time with a swing set.
The family made their way back to the main street and headed back towards the train station. Anthony and LJ asked about lunch, since both were getting hungry. Tony led them to the dinette that he remembered from so long ago. That had not changed in fifty years; the booths and counter stools looked the same as he remembered. The family took up two booths for their meal.
After they ate, they headed back to the train station to ride the train back to Penn Station. On the platform in Hempstead, Tony looked back at the town he once loved to visit and sighed.
LJ tugged at his Abba's sleeve, "Perhaps you should have left your memories be?"
"I still have them," Tony replied. "But like everything else, change is inevitable. At least you all got to see places from my past and I could share memories with everyone."
Chapter 48: Shemayim שמיים - sky – July 2032
Chapter 48 – Shemayim (שמיים )(sky) – July 2032
Tali walked slightly behind the others on the beach. The family was with the McGees at the condo in New Jersey for the Fourth of July holiday; ten days of fun in Sea Isle City. She watched the others; Anthony and Katie were walking hand in hand as were John and Rivka. Beth, Charles Palmer, and LJ were walking along the tide line, looking for shells and other treasures from the ocean. Uncle Tim and Aunt Dee were at the water's edge so that she could put her feet in the surf. Ima and Abba were in their own world as usual, side by side on one of the beach blankets.
At eighteen, the world was just beginning for the young adult. She'd been accepted into Georgetown University and would begin classes as a junior in less than two months. Her declared major was linguistics and she intended to minor in psychology. Tali gazed up at the blue sky, cloudless and open to all possibility. Her current world was about as free and open as the sky above her.
She looked back towards her siblings and cousins ahead of her. Anthony and Katie seemed to be a forever match; they were always together from the time they were little. John and Riv also had a soul connection. While they were not holding hands openly as the others, Charles seemed to be Beth's future life partner. Both had been overly happy when Abba suggested that the Palmer teen join the family for the ocean get-away. Tali sighed; she'd dated a few of her classmates from high school and from the community college, but none had been more than casual dating.
She looked at Uncle Tim and Aunt Dee; the couple was watching some dolphins play in the surf. They truly were best friends as well as partners. The level of ease and comfort between them was a product of their eighteen years together.
And then there were her parents; she glanced over to where they were together on a beach blanket. She caught them kissing again; one thing they were not shy about was showing their love in public. Not that she minded anymore; they'd been embarrassing to her when she was a younger teen, but as she matured, she realized that the connection that her parents shared was so deep, so profound, that they couldn't hide it if they tried. They were like two magnets pulling together; unstoppable. Twenty seven years' worth of time together as adults, plus the short encounter as children nearly fifty years ago that the family had heard about in bits and pieces…
Tali was pulled from her thoughts by the message chime on her phone; she pulled the device from her pocket and swiped the screen. A text with picture from her cousin Tori. She pulled up the message; 'CAPTAIN Jared Vance' with a picture of Tori and Jared. The promotion ceremony must be completed; it was all Tori had talked about for the past month or so. Jared was coming to DC for his promotion before reporting to his new duty post. He had two weeks of leave and planned to stay with his father. He and Tori had been texting, Skyping, or calling almost daily for the past year. Despite the twelve year age difference, seventeen year old Tori was head over heels for the younger Vance.
Tali would bet serious money that at Jared's next promotion, Tori would be the one pinning on his new rank insignia instead of his father. She truly expected to go home after this vacation to find a promise ring on her cousin's hand. Of course, if Tori had any say, she would take an engagement ring, but Tali knew Jared would wait until Tori's eighteenth birthday or later out of respect for her parents' wishes and her age.
She wondered what it was like to have met 'the one.' She supposed her time would come eventually, not that she was in any hurry. Her life plan at this point included a family somewhere down the road, but her plan also included a Bachelors' degree and a Masters' degree, then applying to NCIS to work as an agent in the international division. If accepted, FLETC training was also in the cards.
But first things first; her next big step in life would be moving into her own apartment near campus. Abba had tried to talk her into commuting to class, but she really wanted to be a part of the campus living scene as well as the academic side. Ima had, surprisingly, sided with her eldest on this, much to her father's chagrin. He'd joked that there was no way he'd win against two strong-willed Ninjas. Of course, being Abba, he'd had to check out the apartment, the complex, the neighborhood before she signed anything. The hazards of having parents in law enforcement; she'd experienced that most of her life.
Tali looked out over the ocean; she watched the dolphins that had caught her aunt and uncle's eyes. A few gulls were circling about, scrounging for scraps from the beach-goers. She was grateful for all her parents had provided to her and her siblings.
Anthony watched his girlfriend as she stood with her toes in the surf. Her face was towards the ocean, watching some dolphins frolic in the water. The sea breeze blew her hair; he knew she hated the mess it made of her hair, but he secretly loved it. He'd been by her side for almost all of their lives; even as a baby he'd felt an attraction to Katie McGee. Now at fifteen, when he envisioned his future, she was always a part of the big plan. His future wife; the mother of his future children…
He looked around at his family; Aunt Dee and Uncle Tim at the water's edge, her feet in the surf. Both were watching the dolphins' frolic and sharing quiet conversation. Their connection was apparent in their motions and nonverbal cues to each other. Both he and Katie had strong models of marriage to build their own future life upon.
John and Rivka were in the surf side by side. They were laughing and splashing each other playfully. He watched as John pulled Riv closer as a large wave crashed over them. Anthony grinned as John used the moment of unsure footing to lock lips with his sister. Apparently kissing was something new to the fourteen and twelve and one half year old. Anthony remembered that feeling from not so long ago with his love.
Beth and Charles were building a sand castle together in the wet sand just above the tide line. The two worked side by side and smiled at each other, sharing laughs and grins. While not officially dating, Anthony could see the two had a connection. He was happy for his cousin and youngest sister; they seemed to be a good match.
LJ was near the tide line, arranging shells, pebbles, and seaweed into art forms. The ten year old had an eye for all things artistic. His mission this summer seemed to be to leave small pieces of temporary art on the beach to be enjoyed by anyone passing by until the tide erased its presence. He was sure LJ would be painting the images from memory later when the family was back in the condo.
Tali was walking behind the others; she seemed to be lost in thought. Anthony was proud of his big sister's accomplishments so far. She'd graduated with highest honors for her Associates' degree from the local community college and with honors for her high school diploma just recently. Come August, she would be a student at Georgetown and living in her own apartment. Anthony was going to miss having his first friend in life in the room next to his. Tali looked up at him and grinned. He signed 'I love you' to his big sister and she returned the gesture. Yeah, they'd had their share of sibling disagreements and pranking, but when push came to shove, they really did love one another deeply. He'd always have Tali's six, just as she would always have his.
He turned his gaze up towards the dune line and his parents. They were side by side on a beach blanket, lost in each other as usual. Ima and Abba; Abba and Ima; no matter how you put it they were and had always been like a single entity in his thoughts. Not that he didn't appreciate the individuals that were his parents and each of their individual strengths and characteristics, but in his mind they were more like one soul in two bodies. That impression was strengthened each time Ima or Abba shared more of their story from before he and the others were born. His parents had a soul connection that spanned time; it was a deep as the ages. They were destined to be together, even as the events conspired against them for a time.
As he watched his parents share kisses, Anthony felt a strong thankfulness that he had lucked out in the parent department. He loved his family and being a part of it; he was proud to be a DiNozzo. He grabbed Katie's hand and pulled her to him.
"What?" she asked at the look on his face.
"Nothing special; just glad to be alive and have you by my side," he replied before gently pressing his lips to hers.
Rivka squeezed John's hand in hers as they walked on the beach with the family. While they had not been on an official date yet, the pair considered themselves as dating. Even at twelve and one half, she knew in her heart that she and John were destined to be together. It was a bond that she could not describe in words, but she knew it was similar to the bond shared by her older brother and John's twin. John looked over at his girlfriend and grinned. He leaned in and put a small peck on her lips; this kissing thing was new for the fourteen year old and his girl.
Riv watched Anthony and Katie walking in sync; their hands linked and motions coordinated without thinking. She and John were starting to have that kind of coordination in their actions around each other and she enjoyed it. He was like an extension of her in many ways. They shared interests in all things computer related; and in math and science in general.
She watched her older brother and his partner; the two had been inseparable almost all of their lives. All of her memories of family gatherings and activities had the two together. Even in Anthony's 'girls in general are yucky phase,' he'd made an exception for Katie. She squeezed John's hand again and tugged him towards the waves.
Riv glanced over her shoulder at her twin and Charles building a sand castle. The two seemed to be destined to be a couple as well. She hoped they'd be as close as she and John were becoming although the two seemed more like good friends rather than boyfriend and girlfriend for now. Beth had always been a bit of a follower most of her life, so Riv wasn't really surprised that her sister was still testing the waters so to speak with her relationships.
She noticed LJ creating his temporary art on the tide line; her little brother had an eye for creating something beautiful from what seemed like nothing. His designs with shells, pebbles, and seaweed had caught the eyes of many passersby on the beach so far this trip. He didn't seem bothered that the tide would wash away his creations. Of course, she'd seen some of his paintings back in the condo in which he'd recreated a two-dimensional image of several of his three-dimensional creations. She admired his creativity and appreciated the boy's eye for making something beautiful.
Riv and John dove into the waves or jumped over them as they crashed to the shore; occasionally body surfing one to the strand. After riding one of the larger waves, Riv stood up facing the shore to see her older sister lost in thought. Tali was the rock for the younger kids; they all looked up to her as they grew over the years. Of course, Tali was also their ringleader. She and Anthony had been the masterminds behind many a prank on someone, including on their parents and on each other.
Tali, who was now eighteen, and poised on the brink of adulthood; Riv was excited for her sister moving to her own apartment because it meant she would be moving into Tali's room and have her OWN room for the first time ever. At the same time, she was also sad that her sister wouldn't be right down the hall anymore; she couldn't just go to her big sister's room to chat or ask advice as usual. Tali had assured her that Riv's phone calls or texts would be answered, but it wasn't the same. Riv would miss her big sister.
A large wave caught her slightly off balance and John pulled her to him to keep her from going under the wave. He pecked her on the lips as she regained her footing; they were really starting to get the hang of this kissing thing and both liked it.
John pulled away slightly, "Mom and Dad are watching." He still felt a bit awkward with his parents around when he was being affectionate with his girl.
Aunt Dee and Uncle Tim; Riv knew in her heart that they would one day also be her in-laws. She enjoyed being around them as they treated all of the DiNozzo kids as part of their own. Riv loved when her aunt and uncle used their hexadecimal 'secret code.'
She and John body-surfed on another wave to the shallow water. Riv stood up and skimmed the beach; her parents were near the dune line on a beach blanket. As usual, they seemed to be so wrapped up in each other that they ignored the world around them. She wondered if she and John would ever be like that. Ima and Abba had a way of being each other's whole world without even trying. All of their kids could feel the love between their parents; the more of the story of Ima and Abba that got shared with the next generation, the more the children appreciated what their parents had been through to get to the present. Riv often felt that she and her siblings had really lucked out in the parent lottery; she hoped that one day she would be half as good a parent.
Beth patted the sand on the castle she and Charles were working on together. His hand brushed hers as they moved the sand around into the shapes they wanted. She met his eyes with her own and grinned at him. The pair was just starting to explore being more than just friends and cousins. She looked at the fourteen year old across from her; how this scrawny man-child could make her heart beat crazily was beyond her comprehension, but she liked the feeling.
She knew that he was a bit self-conscious about the fact that he was less physically mature than most of the other boys his age. His voice had changed recently, but his body was still the skinny kid he'd always been. When he started to get down on himself, she'd remind him what his father said; he'd just not hit his teen growth spurt yet.
Beth could empathize with him; she herself was generally one to six months behind her twin in growth stages. Riv had started her monthly cycle three months ago, but Beth had yet to start hers. Riv's body was showing curves in all the womanly places, and had been since around their twelfth birthday. Beth was just now starting to have breasts. Ima said that everyone changed into an adult at their own pace and not to worry. Beth had been reassured when Ima shared that she had been fifteen when she started her monthlies.
Charles stood up to fill another bucket with water, and she watched him walk to the water. John and Riv were playing in the waves. She saw her twin almost lose her balance in a large wave and John's arms wrap around Riv to steady her. She watched as the two shared a quick kiss; this kissing thing was new for them. She wondered when she and Charles would get to that point; they'd not even held hands yet.
Aunt Dee and Uncle Tim were by the water's edge; she watched as Uncle Tim helped her aunt maneuver the beach wheel chair so that she could get her feet in the ocean. They seemed to communicate without words. Aunt Dee pointed out over the water; there were some dolphins playing in the surf.
Katie and Anthony were walking along the wet sand, hands linked and steps in unison. She watched the pair as they stopped to look at the dolphins. She could see her brother watching his girlfriend instead of the marine mammals. She smiled as he pulled Katie to him and kissed her. Those two were peas in a pod; even from an early age, everyone said they'd be together forever.
"Penny for your thoughts," Charles put the bucket of water down between them so that both could scoop water onto the part of the sand castle each was sculpting.
Beth smiled, "Nothing much; just watching everyone. It's interesting to see that we've started pairing off as we get older. I mean, like Anthony and Katie are always together. John and Riv seem to be getting that same inseparable quality about them. And Uncle Tim is so caring with Aunt Dee."
Charles nodded, "And then there are your parents; lost in each other most of the time." He pointed to where his aunt and uncle were sitting on a beach blanket near the dunes. Beth glanced up at her parents; they were kissing as if there were no tomorrow.
"They are embarrassing sometimes," she commented. "Yeah, they love each other, and they are soulmates, yadda, yadda… but jeez, enough of the PDA all the time."
He cleared his throat, and screwed up his courage, "So, um, if I wanted to hold your hand?"
She looked at him, "I would be okay with that." She reached out and took his hand in hers. "You okay with it?"
"Uh huh," he grinned and leaned towards her. Beth closed her eyes as he brushed his lips on hers and just as suddenly backed off.
"Okay then," both turned back to the sand castle, patting the sand into turrets, walls, bridges, and moats. Both stole glances at the other when they thought the other wasn't looking.
Beth looked away when Charles caught her staring at him; she saw LJ creating his temporary art along the water line. He was engrossed in making the formations with the shells, pebbles, and seaweed for others to enjoy before the tide washed the creations away.
Further up the beach her big sister Tali seemed lost in thought. She noticed Tali pull her phone from her pocket and swipe at the screen. When Tali grinned, she wondered who had sent her sister a message. About the same time, Charles' phone beeped with an incoming message. He swiped the screen and showed the image to Beth. His older sister was with her boyfriend; Tori and Jared looked happy as he showed off his newly pinned captain's bars.
"She's happy isn't she?" Beth commented.
"Yep, she seems to really love him. Dad says that he thinks Jared will be giving Tori a promise ring before he leaves for his next assignment," Charles was happy for his sister. "I'd bet money that they'll be married when he makes major."
"I'm happy for her; it just seems so surreal to have your sister almost engaged to someone who used to babysit all of us sometimes. I guess the twelve year age difference won't matter when Tori turns eighteen."
Charles nodded, "Age is just a number; that's what my dad says. There're ten years between my parents, you know."
"Yep; but one thing that we have that is unique, same as Anthony and Katie, and John and Riv, is we have memories of growing up together. Family memories from when we were little kids; things we can tell our kids together," Beth spoke from her heart.
"Our kids? Did you say OUR kids?" Charles took her hand in his and pulled her closer to him.
"Well, yeah; do you ever think about the future? When I do, I see you in mine," she spoke softly, hoping she didn't scare him off.
Charles brushed his lips on hers again. When he backed away slightly, he whispered, "I thought I was the only one; I didn't want to scare you away…" He grinned at his best friend, "Elizabeth Shannon DiNozzo, does this mean you are my girlfriend?"
She grinned back at him, "You're stuck with me, Charles Donald Palmer." Life was good; very good…
"Hey, kid; those are really cool pictures and sculptures that you're making," the man and his wife were looking at the temporary art that LJ was creating on the water's edge.
"Thanks," the almost eleven year old replied, looking up from the piece he was working on. "It's fun."
"I have to ask, though, why create them on the waterline? They will be gone when the tide comes in," the woman wondered. "Do you ever do any of them to last?"
LJ stood to be polite before responding, "It's fun to create, and if others enjoy it, then I'm happy. I don't need to have my work be around forever. It's just something fun to do that I can share."
She nodded, "I see; well, would you create something that could last longer?"
"Yeah, I guess so; but I'd probably use glue or something more permanent than sand to hold things together if I do," he thought about how he'd create a piece that could be moved off the beach. "Why do you ask, if I may?"
"She wants one of your pieces to take home," the man nodded to the bridge he'd made with pebbles and shells. "Is there any way you could put that on something we could take it home on?"
LJ thought a few minutes, "I could make one like that or take that one apart and glue it to a piece of driftwood or cardboard if you want. Do you have any glue?"
"We can get some; we live in the first house by the beach access; will you still be here in fifteen minutes?" the woman replied. "I'll pay you too."
"Uh, sure," he grinned at the couple. "I do commissions." While the couple went to get the glue, he looked around for a suitable piece of driftwood so he had a base to which he could glue the stone and shell bridge. He found a v-shaped piece and moved it near the little bridge.
The couple returned with the glue and LJ carefully disassembled the small structure and reassembled it on the wood using glue mixed with sand as mortar to hold the pebbles and shells together. When he placed the final pebble in place, the woman handed him a black Sharpie to sign his work. He carefully signed on the wood 'LJD 7-32.'
"I hope you like it," he said with a grin as he handed the woman her Sharpie and then carefully lifted the finished piece from the sand. The man held out a flat box top into which LJ placed his finished piece.
"It is beautiful," she gushed as he grinned his best DiNozzo grin at her. "Is fifty dollars enough?"
LJ was speechless; he'd never been paid for a work before and this woman was offering to pay him fifty dollars. He didn't know what to say to her at first. "Um, yes, ma'am; that's more than enough," he managed to respond so that he didn't appear rude. "I, um, I, just never got paid for anything before now…"
Anthony came up beside his little brother, "Hi, I'm Anthony, LJ's brother. Mind if I take a picture of the work and LJ together? You know, for the memory of his first sale of his art." The couple nodded agreement and LJ posed with the tiny bridge as Anthony snapped several pictures. They thanked LJ again and headed back to their house.
"Way to go, kid," Anthony high-fived his kid brother. "What are you going to do with the fifty dollars?"
LJ shrugged, "I dunno. Probably buy some art supplies…" He folded the bill and put it in his swimsuit pocket with the Velcro closure. "But right now, I'm gonna go create some more temporary art." He moved back to the water line and grabbed his bucket of shells and pebbles. He spotted a large piece of kelp and picked it up to start his next project.
Chapter 49 – Te'om (תאום )(twin) – October 2025
LJ and Ziva arrived at the twins' kindergarten classroom about ten minutes early; today was the first of several scheduled half-hour sharing time with parents to show off newly-acquired skills. From what Ziva and Tony had been able to pry out of the girls, the kids would be singing the alphabet song with some special effects. LJ was excited to be in a classroom with his sisters, and to see all the neat things around the room.
"Look, Ima; they have a fish tank," he pointed to the large tank with its colorful fish and plants. "And look, they have BOOKS, Ima. Lots of books!" He tugged his mother's hand in the direction of the three shelves of picture books.
"Hello," Ms. Anderson, the kindergarten teacher, greeted Ziva and LJ. "Welcome to our classroom. You can join the other parents who are waiting for our show to begin," she pointed to the three parents who were sitting along one side of the classroom.
Ziva nodded and took LJ's hand in hers, intending for him to follow her to the chairs set up for the visitors. LJ had other plans; he broke free of Ziva's grasp and made a beeline for the bookshelves.
"LJ!" Ziva called to her little boy. "Come back here. We should go sit with the visitors." He turned to face his Ima, his disappointment showing clearly on his face.
"He's okay, if he wants to look at the books. All I ask is that he put them away on the shelf when he's done," Ms. Anderson told Ziva. "How old is he?"
"He just turned four last week; are you sure it is okay for him to…" Ziva didn't want LJ to overstep their welcome to the classroom.
"Not a problem." The younger woman smiled and left to greet another parent who had just entered the classroom.
Ziva explained to LJ that he could look at the books as long as he put them back when he was done; he nodded solemnly and promised to clean up after himself. Ziva walked over to sit with the other parents, waving to Riv and Beth as she passed by the tables where they were seated.
"Ziva DiNozzo," she introduced herself to the other mothers waiting for the kids' presentation to begin.
"Mary Atkins," the woman in the business suit held out a hand.
"Leah Jackson," the other mother in jeans smiled as she greeted Ziva. "You are the mother of the other set of twins?"
Ziva nodded, "Yes, Rivka and Beth are mine." LJ came running over to his Ima with a book in his hand, interrupting the conversation.
"Ima! Look, they have Library Lion!" he was so excited to see one of his favorite books that he forgot that he was interrupting a conversation. He noticed all the mothers looking at him, "Oops; sorry for interrupting. But my brain is too excited to see my favorite book, Ima!"
Leah smiled at the little boy, "Hi; what's your name?"
"LJ DiNozzo," he replied softly, suddenly shy. "I'm four."
Mary looked at the little boy and then at Ziva, "You have a four year old and two in kindergarten?"
"Yes, they are not quite twenty months apart."
"How do you keep up with them being so close in age? I can barely manage one," she commented. Ziva could detect a bit of a condescending tone in the other woman.
Ziva smiled a small smile, "I have two older children also; keeping up with five is a challenge, but I would not have it any other way." She was not sure she liked this woman who seemed to be judging her for having a large family.
Leah jumped in to the conversation, "Twins may be more work, but you have to admit that having two the same age means they always have a playmate. Cindy and Carlson have been each other's best buddy since they were babies."
"Alexander has always had playdates with the children from his daycare," Mary cut in. "His nanny arranged them for him weekly."
"Poor kid," Tony came up behind Ziva and spoke softly in her ear. She was glad he was able to make it to the girls' first presentation today. He'd been unsure if he could reschedule a meeting when he left for work that morning.
He turned to the other parents, "Looks like I am the only father so far; Tony DiNozzo." He held out a hand to each of the women.
"Leah Jackson; my kids are the other set of twins," she introduced herself. "Abe should be here soon, so you won't be the only dad."
"Mary Atkins. Alexander's father WON'T be here; he has an important job at the Pentagon," Tony didn't like the woman the minute she opened her mouth and when she refused his hand, he decided she wasn't worth even trying to like.
A man in uniform entered the classroom; Leah waved him over to the other parents. "This is Abe," she introduced her husband to the others.
Tony held out a hand, "Tony DiNozzo; pleased to meet you Lieutenant." He noticed the double bars on the man's United States Navy uniform.
Ziva grinned at the man's surprised look, "Ziva DiNozzo; NCIS special agent. My husband is a former agent; he now works for FLETC-Cheltenham."
Ms. Anderson called the room to order and asked the guests to be seated for the presentation. The kindergarten children were lined up across the front of the classroom, each holding a large piece of poster board in an assortment of colors.
Ziva motioned for LJ to come sit by his parents as the others got quiet to listen to the children.
Ms. Anderson started the presentation, "Welcome parents, grandparents, and visitors to our alphabet variety show. Sit back and enjoy."
Alexander was the first child in the line; Ms. Anderson looked at him expectantly. He stood there with his card and looked at her.
"Alexander? What is the first letter?" she prompted the boy. He stared at her with a blank look.
Beth was next in line; she nudged him and pseudo-whispered, "A is for…"
"AISFORALPHABETAPPLEAARDVARKANDALEXANDER," the boy blurted out in a single breath. He held up his poster board after Beth nudged him again, but it was upside down.
Tony watched Mary trying to correct the kid with gestures and mouthing silently to the kid. When he held his letter A upside down she just about had a fit. She face-palmed and sighed, then checked her phone messages. Tony felt sorry for the kid.
"B is for baseball, banana, and Beth," their little girl said her lines flawlessly and held up her letter B card to show it off to all. Ziva gave her a thumbs' up gesture as the child grinned at her parents.
Carlson was next, "C is for cat, color, crackers, and Carlson." He grinned and held up his letter C card, "Cindy too!"
The kids went through the alphabet; Rivka's turn came after the letter P. "Q is for queen and quiet," she held up a letter Q in her right hand. "R is for rabbit, red, and Rivka," she grinned at her parents as she held up a letter R in her left hand.
"S is for snake, school, and sunshine," Cindy smiled as she held up her letter S card. "But not for Cindy 'cause that starts with C."
The kids finished the alphabet letters and then sang the alphabet song as a group. The parents applauded; well most of the parents applauded. Mary looked at her phone.
Thanks for all the hits, kudos and comments; one more chapter after this one.
Chapter 50: DiNozzo kids דינוזוילדים Yeladim DiNozzo –October 2031
Chapter 50 – DiNozzo kids (דינוזוילדים) Yeladim DiNozzo –October 2031
"Anthony D. DiNozzo, Junior."
"Anthony D. DiNozzo, the third."
"Elizabeth Shannon DiNozzo."
"Leroy Jackson DiNozzo."
"Rivka Abigail DiNozzo."
"Talia Elisheva DiNozzo."
The seven DiNozzos lined up on the stage as the announcer called each name alphabetically. All seven were sporting the family trademark grin as they stood together to receive the award for Outstanding Community Service by an individual or small group.
"We're not a small group, we're a small gang," Tony quipped to the laughter of the audience.
The emcee chuckled, "Whatever you are, this family has been a shining star in community activities for many years. Please watch this special presentation." He clicked a remote to start the show as the family sat in chairs to the side of the stage.
"As the director of the Greater DC Habitat for Humanity, I can say that getting an entire family to volunteer is unusual, but when seven of the same family spend a weekend every other month helping in any way they can…" He trailed off as images of the DiNozzos came up on the screen. The family was measuring boards, nailing molding in place, painting walls, planting gardens, and other tasks at the houses built by the organization. The narration continued, "Not only has this family given about three hundred fifty hours each to help our program, but they also donated the appliances for two of our latest houses. Thank you, DiNozzo family, and congratulations on an award well-deserved."
The video transitioned to the image of the local Arts Center. The director came on screen with the gallery behind her. "The DiNozzo family has collectively and individually become an important part of our volunteer group. All of the family have served as ushers for the plays, helped with setting up art shows, and participated in open house events. LJ has become a mentor for our art camp for the four to seven year olds. He has also represented us at area art competitions. Tali has shared her musical talent by playing the piano during intermissions of the plays. And the family has been one of the most popular acts in our annual holiday concert." The image segued to the DiNozzos singing Light One Candle with Tali on piano, Tony on guitar, and LJ on drums. As the music wound down, the director continued, "Thank you DiNozzo family; you deserve this honor!"
Next up was Leon Vance, NCIS director. "The DiNozzo family has volunteered with our Christmas gifts for kids program for the past eight years. Santa Tony and Mrs. Claus Ziva have been helped by their five elves in bringing cheer and gifts to critically ill children in our local hospitals, and to children in shelters around the DC area." The image of the family in costumes outside the Children's Hospital came on the screen; all were flashing the trademark DiNozzo grin. Leon continued, "Well, done DiNozzo family and congratulations on the honor!"
The coach of the high school basketball team came on the screen, "Anthony DiNozzo and his father have been instrumental in getting our annual holiday food drive off to a fantastic start. In two years, we've collected SEVEN trailer loads of canned goods and other non-perishable food donations for the local food banks at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thank you, Anthony and Tony!" A picture of father and son with boxes of donated food flashed on the screen.
Finally, the principal of the elementary school came on screen. "Rivka and Beth DiNozzo, along with others and their parents spearheaded our school's celebration of international cultures and diversity. We had our first celebration in May and it was a huge success. The girls and their family played a large part in that success. Thank you, DiNozzos. Riv and Beth, you deserve this honor. I miss you two, but I still get to see LJ every day!"
The screen darkened to applause from the audience as the house lights came back up. The emcee stepped back to the podium and read from a list.
"We also should mention that Ziva volunteers at the elementary and middle schools, and at the local public library in addition to teaching a women's self-defense class and mentoring immigrant women who are new to our area. Tony volunteered at the middle school with the boys' basketball team and now at the high school with the boys' basketball teams. Tali is part of the mentor a student program at the elementary school. Anthony helps with the basketball camps for fourth and fifth graders in the summer." The audience applauded again as the DiNozzos stood at the cue from the emcee.
The local mayor strode to the podium; she unrolled a rather official looking document that she carried in her hand. "Whereas, in this day and age, to find an individual who gives of his or her time selflessly is a rarity, and finding an entire family of such individuals is a priceless gem to be treasured and recognized; whereas, the DiNozzo family has been an outstanding example of the spirit and purpose of volunteerism; I hereby proclaim the coming Monday to be DiNozzo Day in our fair city." She rolled the paper and slipped the maroon ribbon around it again before handing it to LJ. He grinned at her as did the others; the applause thundered.
"Thank you, ma'am," LJ spoke when the applause subsided. "Does this mean I don't have to go to school on Monday?"
"Sorry, that's not within my power," she replied as the crowd laughed.
The emcee stepped back to the podium, "And now the presentation of the Outstanding Community Service award." He nodded to the director of the local United Way who rose and approached the podium. "Hector Powell, director, Greater DC United Way."
The DiNozzos all stood as he addressed the audience and them; Tony and Ziva intertwined their hands. Tali took hold of her Ima's other hand and then Anthony's hand. Down the line, they all joined hands as the presentation started.
"Good evening," he addressed the audience with a smile. "Tonight we are here to present the Outstanding Community Service award for an individual or small group. As you have seen, our winner this year is a family of seven.
"This family has given thousands of hours in volunteer time, as well as made donations of goods, and cash to various organizations. When choosing this year's winner, there really was no contest; the DiNozzo family outshone the rest by far.
"A family is guided by the parents; the children reflect the values, behaviors, attitudes, and actions of the parent or parents." He glanced over at the family as he continued, "One thing that I clearly saw in the brief time I had backstage with this family is that they are a unit; look, you can see it now as they stand there with their hands joined." Every DiNozzo grinned the family trademark grin, holding up joined hands along the line.
"As young Anthony said backstage, 'we have each other's six, always.' All of the young DiNozzos agreed that they had the best parents anyone could as for, citing numerous examples of how their parents supported them."
In the audience, Gibbs, Tim, and Delilah nodded in agreement. John and Katie gave their cousins a thumbs' up. All of them were proud of the DiNozzo family and shared the sentiment that the honor they were about to receive was well-deserved.
The emcee brought out a plaque to the speaker. "We have several presentations to make; first is the plaque for the family. Outstanding Community Service Award, DiNozzo Family, October 2031," he read from the wood and brass plaque as he approached the family. He handed it to Tony, then motioned for the stage assistant to come forward. She had a large box in her hands.
"For each of you, we also have a medal, which states Outstanding Community Service 2031; one the reverse side is engraved your individual names," he picked one out of the box. After looking at the reverse side, he walked to Ziva, "Ziva DiNozzo, the family matriarch." He placed the ribbon loop around her neck and fastened it in back to the applause of the audience.
Mr. Powell took the next medal from the box, "Leroy Jackson DiNozzo, aka LJ." He strode to the end of the line to present LJ's medal to applause. LJ grinned and looked out to find his Grandpa. Gibbs signed 'I love you' to the boy and he responded with the same sign.
"Talia Elisheva DiNozzo, aka Tali," he moved to the eldest DiNozzo offspring and slipped her medal ribbon over her head as she grinned. Gibbs caught her eye and signed 'I love you.'
Mr. Powell grabbed the next medal, "Anthony D. DiNozzo, the third." Katie stood up and applauded wildly as Anthony grinned when his medal was placed around his neck. Tali squeezed her brother's hand as Gibbs signed to the teen.
"Rivka Abigail DiNozzo; okay, need a little help here," Mr. Powell smiled at the twins. Riv stepped forward slightly so he could drape her medal ribbon over her head. John stood up and applauded as wildly as his twin had applauded for Anthony. Gibbs again signed to his granddaughter.
The speaker reached into the box, "Elizabeth Shannon DiNozzo, aka Beth." Beth leaned forward to have her medal placed around her neck to applause and an 'I love you' sign from her Grandpa.
Mr. Powell headed back towards the podium and Tony. He looked in the box and quipped, "Sorry out of medals!" The audience laughed as Tony pretended to cry.
"Always the ham," Tim whispered to Delilah. "But we love it…" She nodded agreement as the speaker pulled the final medal from the box.
"Anthony D. DiNozzo, Junior, aka Tony, the family patriarch," he announced as he secured the ribbon for the medal around Tony's neck. As the audience applauded more, the entire family bowed as one to acknowledge the accolades. Mr. Powell returned to the podium.
Anthony followed him and stepped to the microphone, "Thank you, everyone. On behalf of my sisters and brother, Abba, Ima, and myself, thank you to those who were part of making this award happen. Mr. Powell, Mr. Davis at Habitat, Mrs. Schmidt at the Arts Center, Uncle Leon, Coach, Mr. Benton; I'm sure there were others that I've missed… thank you.
"We did not volunteer for the recognition or the award; our family chooses to volunteer because we can. We have all we need for ourselves, and Ima and Abba have always taught us that sharing our blessings with others is a very good thing. I think my siblings would agree one hundred percent with me that we really did luck out in the parent lottery," he turned to his parents. "Ima, Abba, thank you for being my parents, for leading by example, for all of your support and caring, not only for your five children, but for others less fortunate. I love you," he signed to them as Ziva and Tony both wiped at their eyes and signed back.
"Our extended family is also part of the volunteer spirit; let me recognize them as well," Anthony looked out to the audience. "Uncle Tim, Aunt Dee, Katie, John; the McGee family, please stand." He waited while the McGees stood. "Grandpa? Leroy Jethro Gibbs. Uncle Leon and Aunt Abby; Abby and Leon Vance from NCIS. Uncle Jimmy, Aunt Breena, Tori, and Charles Palmer could not be here today, but they too are part of our family. Uncle Clay, Aunt Ellie, Savannah, and Jason; the Reeves family." Anthony led the others and the audience in applause for the rest of the family.
After the applause the others took their seats again and Anthony continued, "One more time, a great big thank you to everyone. Now, would my parents and siblings please come forward?" He motioned to the other six DiNozzos to join him at the podium. "We have one last thing to say…"
The family spoke together, "We are DiNozzos and DiNozzos stick together like Super Glue!"
The audience erupted in applause as the seven bowed one last time, each grinning their family trademark DiNozzo grin.
Thanks for all the kudos, comments, and read alongs. Hope you enjoyed the collection of peeks into the life of the DiNozzo clan. Next story will be very different; first chapter coming soon!