Alice -- having mastered Cooking and Gourmet Cooking, and having reached Level 9 of Mixology -- was now studying Baking.
Dude was writing songs and jingles, trying to make enough money to put a second story on their house.
Despite Kelly's constant efforts to make a supportive and happy and comfortable home life for Declan,
the kid had never been more than a "C" student,
and often left for school with his homework unfinished.
Derek had given up trying to accomplish anything with Declan, and at this point had left the parenting of his illegitimate son entirely to Kelly, and was now putting his efforts only to being a good provider and to get promoted at his job.
For Scout's birthday, Regina and Bill had decided on an informal party in the park.
"So, where's you're cutey-pie newborn?" Kelly asked, cradling Scout.
"Bill took Skip and his bassinet over to Peter's, where Ophelia and Andromeda are baby-sitting," Regina told her.
"Oh, how can you STAND being away from precious little Skip?" Kelly asked. "Even for one afternoon?"
"Well, it wouldn't really be fair not to let Scout be the center of attention at her own birthday party," Regina explained. "Plus, Andromeda -- for her many flaws -- is EXCELLENT with babies, so I have no worries."
The adults had been waiting for D3 and Declan to get back from school.
Scout grew up to be an active little kid who, like both her parents, Loved the Outdoors,
D3 may have been the happiest person there --
because his friend from infancy was now old enough to play with him again.
"Thanks for inviting Declan," Kelly said to Regina,
as all 3 children played on the monkey bars.
"He doesn't make friends very easily," she said quietly. "So far it's just been that one girl, Erin. But she seems okay."
The 3 moms moved over to a picnic table, and Alice started grilling shish-kebabs,
while Bill -- who was competitive about pretty much everything -- challenged Dude to a game of chess.
"So, how are things with you and Derek?" Regina asked tentatively.
"Well enough, I suppose," Kelly answered, though she didn't seem very happy. "He's back in ... umm ... our bedroom, but ...."
Regina knew better than to press the issue. (She was frankly amazed that Kelly had said even that much.) Kelly was very private, somewhat shy, and tended to be embarrassed about "things" (principally, that her husband had fathered a child, Declan, out of wedlock years ago and had ignored the mother's repeated attempts to contact him).
"Well, it sounds like there's progress, at least," Regina said, trying to sound supportive. "You'll get there eventually."
"There's just so much tension in our house when Derek and Declan are together," Kelly moped. "The boy and I get along just fine, but I don't know what to do about his relationship with his father."
"COME AND GET IT!" Alice hollered to the kids.
They came running, happy and flushed.
Kelly and Regina went to wash their hands before eating.
"I want to play on the pirate ship after dinner!" Scout said excitedly.
"If THEY let us," Declan said, sounding glum. "I always have to do HOMEWORK after dinner -- I HATE homework!"
"I don't mind doing homework THAT much," said D3, "but I'd sure rather be drawing pictures at the crafts table."
"I would pick anything OUTside over anything INside," announced Scout.
The kids WERE allowed to horse around a bit more after dinner, with Alice spiritedly playing the part of the "sea monster."
"Your mom's fun," Scout said to D3.
Everyone walked back to Willow Lane, and Kelly and Declan returned to their house,
and Alice and Dude returned to theirs.
Bill went to Peter's house to retrieve baby Skip, and Regina put D3 and Scout to bed (after having assured D3 that he would have time to do his homework in the morning before school).
Regina waited up for Bill to get back with Skip. "How was he?" she asked.
"Andromeda and Ophelia both said he was a perfect little angel," Bill replied, placing Skip in Scout's former bassinet.
Regina immediately picked up her son.
"Hey, I have a great idea," she said.
"How about you and Dude take Scout and D3 and Declan camping to Granite Falls for the upcoming long weekend?" she suggested. "I'd like to give Kelly and Derek a few days off from parenting the boy. I think they could really use some alone time."