Sassy 6

My sweet sweet Nate,

You turned 6 years old on March first and are a strong, smart, sweet and sassy, Spanish-speaking six-year-old.  The past six years have gone much too fast.  For all the lamentations of the terrible twos, the tantrumy threes, the feisty fours, the effing fives and now, the sassy sixes… we are loving every, single, second.  In my annual tradition, this letter is meant to capture and preserve just a little bit of six-year-old Nate.

Over the past six months, you’ve settled into life at the “mountain house” with little angst and a solid Kindergarten fan club.  Every morning when I drop you off at Maestra Irion’s class, you’re greeted by a spirited, schoolmate swarm: Kai, Jackson, Eddie and Cruz.  Kai is your best buddy and very outgoing.  He was recently apprehended by the police during a solo stunt asking strangers for money in the park behind his house.  Jackson is all smiles and hugs.  He’s group bodyguard.  Eddie invited you to his birthday party where he had a pool, cupcakes, a trampoline, and a car-racing ramp… and firmly established his position as sovereign of Little Boy Paradise.  And Cruz is cool.  How could you not be with a name like Cruz and surfer hair?

Speaking of cool, a few weeks ago, you woke-up one morning and decided you were going to take a spin without training wheels.  And you did.  You rode all the way to the beach that day like it was no big deal.  You got a big bike for your birthday and a Pokémon wallet and a Pokémon hat and you were happy as a Clamperl… of course that’s a reference to the Clam Pokémon.  I didn’t even know there was a Clam Pokémon but of course you do…  You dig Minecraft and Legos and Super Mario and Star Wars and forbidden curses.  Tonight I asked you what you want to achieve most in the world and you said “Infiniti Pokémon.”  Your laughter while playing Pie Face is deliriously euphoric.

And when it comes to laughter, nothing is funnier to you than potty talk.  You’re a connoisseur.  And now in both English and Spanish.  Only six months and you’ve achieved fluency in your primary language in your tertiary language… impressive.  You’ve completely embraced your Spanish-speaking self and are reading like a champ, recently winning an award for being a “Super Lector” (Super Reader).  You’ve conquered Level C.  Maestra Irion tells me you have a natural talent for language and that maybe you got it from me… maybe you did?  I’m sure I’d like to think so.  You’re constantly asking me things in Spanish and counting and singing and requesting “Mas cereal por favor.”  Last night you initiated the construction of an entire Lego boat for at least an hour and a half, completely in Spanish.  It was the perfect exercise for shapes and colors and positions, and was fascinating to watch your little gears turn.

While we’re on the topic of gears turning, baseball is in full swing and you are the model little leaguer.  You are excited and attentive and have a swing that even I can tell is good.  You want to play catch all the time and you never resist practice.  Last week you made two catches and two outs at first base.  You were last to bat and hit a real doozy.  Luckily you didn’t notice that the last batter gets to run all the bases.  You were so proud of your home run.  I’m sure it would have been a homer regardless.

And while we’re talking home runs… sometime between June and December you learned how to swim.  For real.  Not just instructor-led swimming, but you’re now playing in the deep end and doing cannonballs.  Just this past June you wouldn’t leave the steps.  Seriously.  Land Rover is long gone and now you beg to go swimming.

Beyond swimming, your survival skills continue to include a diet primarily consisting of oranges, fruit twists and Honey Nut Cheerios.  You ordered ribs and chocolate cake for your birthday, but your favorites are hamburgers and chocolate fondue.  You still use your clothes as napkins and perch on your chair like a bird, or a monkey, or a frog.  Your outfit of choice is matching fluorescent athleisure wear.  Your teacher tells Daddy, “Nate nunca frio.”  You appear to be impervious to cold.

And despite the cold, your two grown-up bottom front teeth never chatter.  You like picture books and science and math and are on the fence about being a fireman or a policeman when you grow-up.  You’re responsibly contemplating the risks and dangers of death by robbers or fire.  Oh, and you also want to be an artist.

You are artistically inclined toward creating special nicknames for everyone.  You’re still Jakey’s most loyal sidekick and you call him Jake Jake.  Dad is Dada.  I’m Mamacita, which the urban dictionary defines as a “really hot babe.”  I have no objections.

And speaking of babes, you’ve recently stopped talking and singing about the fictitious “Mrs. Doonay.”  We don’t know where she came from and now, she’s seems to have gone about her merry way.  You’ve grown-out of Mrs. Doonay, but you still love your baybit, and crawl into my lap at the breakfast table, and want to ‘nuggle every night.

I love you Baby Nake, exactly the way you are.  Every little sweet and sassy bit of you.  We are so proud of you and are doing our best to savor every single second.

Love,
Mamacita

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Pokémon Parkour

We are eyeball-deep in schoolyard humor.

Gone are the days of that catchy My Little Pony rhyme.  We’ve almost forgotten the Y camp sing-along mantra of Hell-o.  My name is Joe.  I live at Cost-co, I play the ban-jo, and I own Michael Ange-lo.  Or the ever more popular: My name is Geoff.  I live at Costco.  I don’t know the rest… Hawlalucha I guess.

When we bump it, we still go through my fist as a gearshift, a Star Wars TIE fighter, and a snail.

For weeks I had to endure the decades old, “Hey Mom.”
“What?”
“Chicken butt.”
“Mama?”
“What?”
“Chicken butt.”
“Hey Nate.”
“What?”
“The eighties called and they want their joke back.”
“What?”
“Chicken butt.”

There’s been a new one recently that somehow takes Donald Duck but riffs off of Donald Trump?  It escapes me at the moment.  (Jacob has just informed me that it goes: Donald Duck picked his butt, all the way to Pizza Hut.  Don’t tell this one to Granddad…)

They are constantly seeking new victims for the “Spell iCUP” gig.  Or the even funnier “Spell iCUP rainbows.”  The best humor always involves getting your mom to unknowingly walk straight into a potty talk trap.  I’m fairly certain that after he learned to spell N-A-T-E, he immediately graduated to B-U-T-T.  He is constantly spelling it with that ever-mischievous sparkle in his eye.

This weekend we were still debating the theme of our upcoming joint birthday party.  I finally found one of two places in this entire town that hosts birthday parties.  (Note to all you gluttons for self-punishment entrepreneurs.)  It’s a well-equipped gymnastics gym that will throw a “parkour party” complete with trampoline, ball pit and trained instructors.  What’s parkour you ask?  Come back soon and I’ll bring you up-to-speed on the latest playground vocab.  Dab.

So we’re debating whether we should stick with Pokémon Parkour or make-it Minecraft Parkour, or maybe Pokémon Minecraft Legos Nintendo 3DS Playstation Star Wars Baby Boss Parkour, when I try to make the obvious point: “Pokémon starts with P and Parkour starts with P, so it just seems better than going with Minecraft, you know?”

And Jake enthusiastically emphasizes to his brother, like a light has gone on, “Yeah, P and P.  They go together.  P.P.!”

And I ask slyly, “Why are you saying pee pee?”

And they both totally lose it in a fit of appreciative giggles.

Home

My oh my, I haven’t provided an update in quite some time.  We’ve been holding down the fort for the past six weeks.  And boy this fort has some vulnerabilities.  The good news is that James has finished his six weeks of radiation, as of Tuesday, and is now home with the troops!

He’s pretty banged-up, but despite it all, the picture of strength.  Poor guy has just about the worst sunburn you can imagine, the size of a large envelope, across the front of his neck.  And that’s just on the outside.  One can’t really imagine how bad that sunburn feels on the inside.

He’s surviving on homemade Grandma Suzy soups, yogurt, ice cream and hugs.

We expect it will probably take at least another six weeks before he’s beginning to feel better again.  So in the meantime we’re encouraging him to continue resting and meditating and eating ice cream…

We are so so glad Daddy is home.

 

Home Stretch

The Scotts Valley Purnells brought James home this weekend for a little R&R.  I was so so excited to see him on Friday I felt jittery as I left work.

Mostly we took it easy this weekend.  We had lots of cups of hot tea and several sessions of “barn inspection.”  This is where we walk around the barn and make decisions and lists and nudge our way toward the finish line.  We spent time at Tom’s Toys and watched a movie and read lots of Calvin and Hobbes.  We walked our favorite Bob Jones trail and Nate rode his two-wheeler for the first time without training wheels, all the way to the beach.  We had a beautiful lunch at Ocean Grill.

James seems to be doing pretty well.  He’s on a mostly liquids and Advil diet, but his spirits are high and we feel like we’re nearing the home stretch, knowing that the weeks after treatment may be the toughest yet.  And speaking of the home stretch, baseball starts this week.

It took me over two hours to get both boys’ practice and game schedules added to my calendar last night.  I’m not sure if I was tired or the third night of NyQuil is affecting me… logic and patterns be damned!  Nate has practices on Tuesdays and sometimes Thursdays and games on Wednesdays and sometimes Saturdays… at four different locations.  Some of these locations come up as “tennis courts” on Google maps.  Meanwhile, Jake has practices on Mondays and Wednesdays and games on Saturdays, and sometimes Wednesdays and Mondays.  Maybe whoever made these schedules is also on NyQuil.

With baseball starting, it reminded me of the amazing season we had last year.  James was the best tee ball coach on record.  And Jake’s team had an unbelievable roster of names destined for the major league.  I loved to announce the line-up in my best Renel Brooks-Moon voice: Car-son Feathers, Colin Fiiinley, Eli Rrrrios, Evan Escobar, Gavin Neilson… Jake Fucillo and Jake Telucci, Llluca Papoulias, Ossi Carrico, Stuart Raaawnsley, and Micah Mack.

One day we most certainly will see that Micah Mack in the Majors.

So baseball has started and ends in 45 weeks.  Although the schedule has my head spinning, there has been zero, I repeat zero veiled oral or written threats about required Snack Shack duty and requisite nacho cheese.  Nothing.  Zilch.  Nada.  I’m cautiously optimistic, yet wary.  Can I finally hang-up my plastic food safety gloves?

2017 may just be looking up…

Almost Friday

I had a rough day today.  I woke-up after a sleepless night with a body-racking cough.  Stumbled downstairs in the dark, only to be faced with Nate’s balled-up white shirt and sock on the counter… a reminder of the dinnertime “ketchup explosion” two nights ago.  The new box of cold delivered food never made it into the refrigerator.  My calendar reminds me that today and tomorrow are minimum days at school, as are five days the week after next.  I’ve lost the flier and missed the deadline that requires 7 x’s and some initials to ensure my children aren’t dumped on the sidewalk at 1pm today.  The garbage can hasn’t been rolled to the curb for three weeks.  The driveway culvert is overflowing.  We’re out of milk and eggs.  Nate’s birthday is in eight days and I have no presents and no plan.  His friend Eddie’s birthday party is in three days… no present, semblance of a plan.  The boys are exhausted from their experimental bedtime coup and the library books are overdue.

My deficiencies smack me in the face and I feel like I’m failing.

Of course, we made it through the day.  Some OxiClean, a few desperate tears at Parks and Rec, and now just hoping my nighttime cold medicine kicks-in soon.

As I coughed my guts out on the couch tonight, Jakey held me tight so it wouldn’t hurt so much.  At least I got one thing right.

Heartburn

Sometime in November, Jacob experienced his first case of heartburn.  I’m not exactly sure what we had for dinner that night, but he came to me on the couch, complaining that his heart hurt.  He was pressing on his chest and breathing deeply and anxiously pacing back and forth.  I explained what heart burn was and rummaged through some drawers until I found a bottle of Tums.  A few chalky chews later and he was back in his bed, snug as a bug.

A week or two later and we were in the initial throws of the diagnosis.  That Saturday morning our house was completely enveloped in fog, and it was raining.  I woke-up gripped with fear.  The anguish was truly unbearable; gut-wrenching.  It was a panic attack.  The closest I’ve ever come to something like it were those twenty minutes of labor sans drugs, when Baby Nate was born.

Jakey found me in my bed.  He hugged me and rubbed my back and repeated comfortingly, “Deep breaths Mama.  Deep breaths…  Just clear your mind.  Clear your mind.”

Once it had passed he nodded knowingly, “Heartburn, Mama?  Heartburn?”

“Yes, definitely heartburn.”

Despite Jake’s emotional volatility, sometimes he is so unbelievably mature and wise.  As he was rubbing my back he asked me, “What are you afraid of Mama… are you afraid of being alone?”

And there it was.

A week or two later, Nate found me crying after a particularly difficult day.  His brother climbed the stairs to our room and Nate quietly consults him, “Mama’s sad.  About Dada.”

Jacob goes downstairs to make me a cup of hot tea and Nate climbs into my bed and just hugs me.  His bare little chest against mine.  He doesn’t talk.  He just lets me cry.  He kisses my brow.  And my arm.  And my shoulder.  He knows exactly what I need.  He is loving presence.

This weekend we received the most beautiful, special gift from my dearest high school friends.  It’s a handmade bowl overflowing with rolled-up jokes, drawings, comics, quotes and words of encouragement wrapped in ribbons and rainbows.  I’ve never seen anything like it— it is profoundly creative, beautiful and special.

I must admit, when I first opened it, I was overwhelmed.  I mentally labeled it the Bowl of Tears and was anxious about unwrapping the little scrolls.  But the boys dove right in and after several “kid” jokes like: “What seafood goes well with peanut butter?  Jellyfish!” I knew I couldn’t have been more wrong.  It is the most precious Bowl of Love.

Yes, there’s some heartburn, how could there not be?  But more than anything, it’s a daily dose of what matters most.

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My sincerest thanks to my most special Pirates and their crew.  I love you with all my hearrrt.

Valentimes

Crazy to think that this past autumn, almost exactly twenty years ago, I met James in college here in San Luis.  And it took us all that time to strategize and plan and finally make it back…  We still laugh about the Valentine’s Day when he took me to dinner at an ocean view resort in Pismo Beach.

We had a reservation, but still waited hours for our table.  Apparently he’d taken a bunch of money out of the ATM and it was meant to last the entire weekend.  Flush with cash, he made the mistake of ordering lobster <MP> that night.  He was totally mortified when he abandoned the entire contents of his wallet with the bill, and we had to stiff the waitress her tip.

We absconded, both giddy and guilty, like we were dining and dashing.

James has always been one of those guys that’s somewhat anti-Valentine’s Day.  (Or Valentimes, as Nate still calls it.)  No, he doesn’t wear solid black and march against Hallmark, but he’s been pretty *meh* about the whole thing in all the time I’ve known him.  So let’s just say I was certainly surprised when he chose Valentine’s Day to propose sixteen years ago.

I was sick as a dog.

I remember we went to the movies– I think we saw Chocolat.  And then we went to dinner in downtown Mountain View.  He proposed to me on our hand-me-down couch in the middle of our little apartment.  I was profoundly happy and surprised and congested.  I didn’t cry.  And he’ll never let me live that down.  Though I’m pretty sure I’ve more than made-up for my previous reputation these last ten weeks.

His rationale?  Maybe if something important, like proposing, happened on Valentine’s Day, then he’d be more inclined to celebrate.  Well… that was his theory anyway.  I do have to say that Jacob confidently asserts he likes lobster more than crab (yes, he’s a seven-year-old with definitive opinions on lobster), primarily because his dad has been known to cook us a romantic February 14th family dinner, including chocolate fondue for dessert.

James’ throat is hurting pretty badly this week and he’s graduating almost entirely to soups and smoothies.  I’m thinking this weekend I should make lobster bisque and fondue.  We’re pretty sure he’ll have no problem choking down melted chocolate…

My little late night creeper is back.  Sneaking up on me while I try to blog on the couch.  I quickly pause the TV and serendipitously, it freezes on a Bravo ad, one moment before an open-mouthed kiss.

Gross, kissing!”

So romantic.

Hearts

Jakey’s Valentine’s Day

First, I went to school.  Second, I did all of my classes, and then this is where it begins:

I went to my backpack and got my bag of sweets and Valentine’s cards.  They have Ninja Turtles and smell like pepperoni pizza.  Then I passed them out to everyone in the “yellow” group.  Then I stayed in my classroom to see everyone give candy to other people, and especially me.  Ethan gave me two, of course.  Because he’s my best friend.  Then I went to Sun n’ Fun and I played soccer and basketball.  And then I went home and watched TV.  I ate hamburgers for dinner in the shape of hearts (Well, not really, why didn’t Mama think of this?).  And then I read Harry Potter with Mom while Nate was playing his Nintendo 3DS.  And then I went in my bed.  And then I read and drew.  And then now we are writing this blog.  End of story.

Love,
Jakey

Bedtime

It’s the end of Week Two and I’m sure you’re all wondering… Where is Jaimie?  How is James doing?  Why haven’t there been any updates on the blog? What is HA-PPEN-ING?

In a word: bedtime.

I’ve been putting Jacob to bed twelve times a night.  And then it’s 10:30 and zzzzzzzz.  But let me back up.

So this week it’s been raining.  And James has been dodging mudslides and taking back roads and guest room-hopping as the Santa Cruz mountains seem determined to visit the beach.  He’s spent a lot of time visiting friends and going to his appointments and eating wonderful soups made by Grandma Suzy.  He’s doing well, though his throat is starting to hurt and it’s getting harder to swallow.  He’s home in San Luis for the weekend and we had a beautiful walk/bike/scooter ride to the beach today and a quiet, rainy afternoon.

The boys and I’ve been dodging a few rockslides of our own.  Most days this week have been wet and stormy and a bit of a blur.  I can’t seem to sleep past 5:30am.  I pack lunches and pour cereal and peel hardboiled eggs and demand little people wear clothes and jackets.  Nate throws his pajama pants on the ceiling fan and then tries to turn it on so he can watch them fly off.  He likes to dip his “waterproof” shoes in the raging river that is the gutter at school.  Jake has days where he wakes-up and miraculously does his homework without being asked.  And other days where he thinks he’s going to refuse to go to school and that that might actually be an option…

And then I go to work.

I am so grateful Nonna and Papa are here to pick-up the boys and bring them home in the evenings.  The night I did it, I picked them up at 5:30pm and they were the second to last kids to leave school.  Clearly we’re not in the Bay Area anymore.

Then I get home and I turn into a whirling dervish of dinner and bath time and homework and Harry Potter script reading and tooth brushing and ‘nuggling (snuggling) and bedtime.  And bedtime.  And bedtime.  And bedtime.

Natesy still pretty much climbs in his bed and is out like a light.  Jake on the other hand… is reverting back to three or four years ago where he is sneaking and lurking and inventing four hundred reasons why he can’t sleep.  He reads.  He draws.  He drinks milk.  He listens to soothing music.  He does deep breathing.  I lay down with him.  I bring him water.

Yesterday he told me very seriously that he doesn’t know what will help.  He needs “a cure.”

Tonight is the first night in two weeks that Jakey went to bed and stayed put.  Maybe he’s tired from the bike ride to the beach and driftwood sword-fighting with Logan.  Or maybe he can finally relax ’cause Daddy’s home.

I think we’ve found our cure.

 

Consolation Prize

We’re part way into Week Two and it’s raining.  It’s raining so much in Santa Cruz that James is trapped over the hill and has to spend the night at Matt and Dr. Antsy’s.  Hopefully things will clear up and he won’t have to rent a helicopter to rescue Granddad and Grandma Suzy from the mountain.

Meanwhile… I’m tired and just want to watch Top Chef.  And speaking of cooking, James being gone has really shone a light on who is the chef of this family.  Not that there was really ever a question, but it is abundantly clear that Daddy runs the kitchen.  He is the executive chef.  I’m the sous chef in charge of vegetables.  Let’s face it, James can cook.  Partly ’cause he loves to eat.  And partly ’cause he’s one of those maddening people that reads instructions and follows them flawlessly.

Unsolicited, Jakey has been ranking his favorite meals, which goes something like this:
Daddy’s ribs
Daddy’s spaghetti
Daddy’s tacos
Daddy’s hamburgers and
Potstickers

And in the treat category:
Daddy’s chocolate fondue
Daddy’s Texas Sheet Cake
Brownies and
Mommy’s chocolate strawberries (based almost entirely on one Valentine’s Day over 3 years ago when I brought home tuxedo strawberries from a work team-building event)

I must admit, I was a bit deflated when one night Nate lamented, “But Maaama only knows how to make chicken!”

Totally not true.  I mean, I know how to make other things.  Just last week I made asian turkey meatballs, pork chops and sole in parchment paper (thanks to the help of our dear #Team James and Sun Basket).  The food critics were mildly impressed.

Tonight Jake was going through his favorite Daddy foods for the umpteenth time since he’s been away.  He turns and says to me, “But you make the best salad Mom.  The best.”

I didn’t say Whoopdeedo...  But maybe I thought it.