Double Trouble

Two to wash, two to dry
Two who wrestle, two who cry
Two to kiss, two to hug
and best of all, two to love

Jacob and Nathaniel are ecstatic to introduce

Piper Annabeth Aphrodite Fucillo
&
Perseus Lightning Hazel Fucillo

Piper and Lightning were born with their seven brothers in the early hours of
Thursday, August 31st on Chanticleer Farm in Santa Cruz, California.

Lightning & Piper

Jake, Lights, Nate & Pipes

No It All Gift Guide for Boys (Ages 6-9)

Santa is a girl.

You know it.  So is the Easter Bunny.

And since I’m assailing assumptions and trashing traditions, I’m also getting a little bored with the Want Need Wear Read Christmas categorization of the mommy blog world.  It seems like this is just the year to blow ’em up and start anew.  The whole point of gift giving is to put oneself in the shoes of the receiver, right?  And if you put yourself in the little crocs at our house, all you want is an Xbox.  And if you can’t have an Xbox, then you want money for video games, Star Wars Legos, Minecraft and Pokémon.

But Santa doesn’t just take orders from little dictators sporing cutie eyes.  She likes to be creative.  She likes to give the unexpected.  She likes to give orders.  And so in the spirit of little boys, I’ve come up with four new categories for 2017:

Fight, Flight, Write & Sight

A little background behind these new categories that will undoubtedly sweep the nation, and Pinterest, in a little boy pitchfork mob protesting Want Need Wear Read.  For better or for worse, the current administration will undoubtedly be working this into their next press conference…

FIGHT: There just seems to be something about testosterone that drives an insatiable need for inventing, finding, fashioning and testing all manner of weapons.  Somehow these little people emerge from the womb with a sixth sense of projectiles.  The trick is to harness this sensibility for good, like developing skills in physics and engineering, keeping them occupied outside for blissful hours of mama time… and watering plants.

FLIGHT: What’s better than running at top speed with a new weapon?  Swooping down on your opponent from above, with said weapon.

WRITE: Despite the allure of keeping them illiterate and thus powerless, the benefits of paper entertainment tip the scales.  Reading and writing projects actually work these days, unlike those delusional attempts at airplane coloring books during the toddler years.

SIGHT: It doesn’t seem like it, but they’re actually beginning to care about how they look.  Mirrors and reflective windows at night still provide endless hours of fun.  As they say on the soccer field, “You gotta look good to play good.”  Grammar shmammer… how’s my hair?

And now, the 2017 No It All Gift Guide for Boys (Ages 6-9):

FIGHT

Slackers Danger Toys: OK, that’s not exactly the official brand; I may have embellished a bit.  Our local toy store recently exposed us to all kinds of intriguingly high priced adventurous backyard danger… enter the Slackers line of various ninja training contraptions: ziplines, slacklines, ninjanets, swings, water toys… everything your little martial arts monkey’s heart desires.  I now have a whole new vision for our back meadow.  ER doctors rejoice.

Chess set: It’s not as violent as Harry Potter wizarding chess, but real chess still lets you simulate fighting under the guise of developing strategic thinking skills.  I’m kind of digging these vintage Russian chess sets… election interference not included.

Hose nozzles: What more can I say?

Pet paraphernalia: Toys, leashes, collars, cookies: Oh do I have a delinquent doggie drama drafted for you.  Puppies appear to be an endless pit of cute-induced consumerism.  Little boys just eat it up.  So do pointer puppies.  Literally.

Tackle boxes: Granddad had the brilliant idea of putting together tackle boxes for two aspiring fishermen.  We’ll see if they follow in their mother’s waders.  Oh the thrill of fighting unseen fish.  In any case, the beauty of this present is that all tackle boxes are environmentally and fiscally responsible as their contents simply spawn from the rusty, questionably sticky, overflowing and dented depths of other tackle boxes.  It also appears that even with all the hipsters and artisans these days, no one is making a new version of a vintage metal tacklebox.  Portland, are you listening?

Rock em Sock em Robots: Solid giggles.  We pretty much only patronize wineries, coffee shops and burger joints with complementary robot fighting games to pass the time while you wait for your food.  The link goes to Amazon, but after reading the reviews, I’d recommend finding an affordably priced old timey version on eBay.  Looks like it was originally made by Marx, not Mattel.

FLIGHT

Tree swing: Now if you’re not quite ready for all out American Ninja Warrior, may I suggest a nice tree swing or rope swing?  Some pretty cute choices available on Etsy (tree not included).  Looking for a middle of the road choice between your average swing and Slackers?  I’m considering the Swurfer.  Note to Swurfer: You’d sell more to Santa if your models wore their bike helmets.

Chicken swing: Urban farming is all the rage these days.  And what could be better than watching your ninjas swinging next to your chickens?  Extra points if you make it.  I also see an unmet business opportunity on Etsy… not one single handmade chicken swing to be found.

Terrariums: Their plastic cages for capturing and studying nature are cracked, lost or no longer secure jails, I mean habitats, for creepy crawlies and airborne anthropods.  Just be warned, you may find yourself raising 19 tadpoles into young adulthood.

WRITE

Star Wars Lego Advent Calendar: This will undoubtedly be a hit (and yes, I mean to your wallet).  Keep in mind, it’s more of a Thanksgiving present.  Carefully consider your roll-out strategy and how you might leverage this daily reward system in relation to the training programs on toilet-seat lowering and pet chores to which they are already enrolled.  Maybe, just maybe, your six-year-old will finally begin to grasp the concepts of past, present and future.

Avatar: the Last Air Bender Library Edition Series: Interested in less ninja sparring and more ninja reading?  Look no further than these five oversized hardback graphic novels.  Buy yourselves many a lovely restaurant meal as the big ninja reads to the little ninja.  Plus carrying it around makes their nunchuk-chucking arms tired.

Plants vs. Zombies: Some little boys just can’t seem to get enough of these.  I know I sure can, but I’m not the target audience.

Quarter Collecting Portfolio: The boys have had a grand old time dumping mountains of coins into little piles all over the living room, searching for elusive state quarters.  Tell yourself they’re absorbing a smidge of geography.

SIGHT

T-shirts from Unusual Places: Insert some variety into their wardrobe of Pokémon and Minecraft t-shirts sourced from your usual weekend haunts.  A recent trip to my local Parks & Rec uncovered a file cabinet full of what can only be described as “Little Boy Cool Approved” SLO Skate Park t-shirts and stickers.  Our beach-side coffee shop has a display sporting two designs: graphic octopus and Bob Jones Trail tees.  The only caveat?  Buy ’em when you see ’em… inventory management is not their strong suit.

Used wetsuits: Last year’s Gift Guide brought you the gift of the year for coastal elementary schoolers.  Boogie Boards.  But unless you live on the Gulf of Mexico, this gift is almost useless without a skintight thermal blanket.  Be vigilant.  Never let your guard down.  You may find it on Craig’s List.  eBay.  In that granny antique store on the corner.  At the flea.  $20?  Buy it.

A big mirror, hung down low: I recently read an article on Houzz that really got me thinking.  This is brilliant.  Most nights I find we’re talking at the dinner table and they’re busy making faces at themselves in the reflective windows behind me.  How do we think Drew Carey got so good?  Mystery solved.

Great American Root Beers 10 Pack: Jacob recently spotted this variety pack while running errands with his dad.  What could make you look cooler than casually drinking a flight of root beers to determine which one you like best?  Uh… a flight of root beer floats… duh.

 

 

 

Brains

This year it seems Halloween materialized in our rearview mirror, out of nowhere, tailgated us at 90mph and then passed us on the right.  By the time we realized what had hit us, it was Wednesday.

Our school doesn’t allow us to wear costumes to celebrate Halloween, which is worthy of an all out open letter to our principal Mr. Mayfield… if such a letter can be written in disguise?  I’ve never been in trouble with a principal and I’m not about to break my perfect record.  In any case, that means we have to pack a lot of hallow into the eve.

This year Jacob decided he wanted to be a Zombie Hunter.  We’d seen the costume last year, but it wasn’t available in our size at the time.  Apparently eight-years-old is the threshold for killing mythical monsters that eat brains.  Fortunately, this year we had no problem getting a plastic bullet bandolier, bloody axe and mini zombie head holster.  It seems zombie hunters are from the outback, as it also came with a nice Crocodile Dundee hat and duster.

Historically, Jake has been the kid open to costume repetition, but this year Nate got creative.  He decided to follow in his brother’s stealth ninja footsteps and wear Jacob’s ninja costume from last year.  Only this year, he was a zombie ninja.  Of course I was game as I like little boys in matching outfits and families with costumes that “go together.”

We threw our kale salad together, barbecued our burgers and headed down to the Squire Canyon Halloween Headquarters at Matt and Jean’s house for our second annual neighborhood potluck and tractor ride trick-or-treating train.

After last year’s experience with Jake’s stealthy black ninja costume and his actual disappearance into the landscape come nightfall, I came prepared this year with a big tube of 50 premium glow-stick necklaces in various shades of cool and pretty.  And got to meet every kid in the neighborhood.  I wish I could say I’d strategically planned this as a friend-making tactic… but alas, I’m just a zombie mom with an overactive imagination.  The necklaces were a runaway success.  I’m two for two following the 2015 breakout hit of my witch fingers and noses.

As I gaze upon my zombies with their bloody axe and crooked tooth (perfectly timed for a mouthful of zombie… no make-up needed), I can’t help but feel nostalgic for Halloween’s past.  The evolution has been so fast:

2009: It started with the softest, fattest giraffe on record.
2010: Followed by the girly ducky.
2011: Jake went with lion and Nate doubled the cute factor.  Nate went with lion, too, opting for a wardrobe change to zebra.
2012: Encore of Jake the lion.  Nate let me dress him as a sock monkey.
2013: All of my voting powers vanished.  Superman and Supahman make their strength known.
2014: Hiccup and Toothless, brought to us courtesy of DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon.
2015: Weapons become the number one criterion in choosing a disguise.  Swords dressed as identical ninjas hi-ya onto the scene.
2016: If it’s not broke… Jake is a ninja again.  Nate is a Star Wars Storm Trooper.  Both feature weapons.

This year the creep factor has creeped in.  Although I have to say, there was one afternoon when Jakey and Nate conceived of the zombie ninja costume.  They gathered up some Scotch tape and markers and then suspiciously shut the door to their room.  All was quiet.

The door opens and Jacob has his arm wrapped protectively around his brother’s shoulder, ready to present their creation:

Nate as… Zombie Ninja… strategically covered in bits of colored tape cuts, scars and other various zombie wounds.

I have to admit, it was pretty dang cute.

 

Sweetie

My mom tells this story about one afternoon when I was little, baking with my grandmother, Sweetie.  I honestly have almost zero memories of my grandmother that don’t involve her cooking or baking.  There was one time I remember her yelling at my cousin Kimmy for dropping and exploding an entire gallon of milk inside our front door… but even that involved food.

Anyway.  So Sweetie and I are baking cookies.  I remember we would make these cookies with cinnamon and sugar that were little round pinwheels.  I think we called them snails… appetizing, right?  So she’s holding this big knife that she’s been cutting dough with and she turns to little three-year-old me and says, “Jaimie, let’s bake your hand.”  And of course I look bravely horrified as I hide my chubby little hand behind my back and use my best, stranger-approaching-in-a-dark-parking-garage, “No!”

She was appropriately, mirthfully, apologetic.

Turns out there was a family tradition of taking the extra dough, tracing my hand with a knife, sprinkling it with cinnamon and sugar and then baking it into a sweet little hand cookie.

Meanwhile, as I’ve mentioned, Nate has a mouthful of treasure and is in complete Jack-O-Lantern mode, just in time for Halloween.  His one front tooth seems to have migrated front and center, and perceptibly lower than the rest.

A couple of week back, we were all chatting around the dinner table, confounded that Nate had already spent his Tooth Fairy two-dollar bill on an after school sno-cone.  In any case, he’s really been struggling to eat just about everything.  We were having ribs for dinner which is really one of James’ specialties.  James is up for challenging just about anyone to a rib cook-off.  Do you hear me Bobby Flay?

So we’ve spent the majority of dinner talking about Nate’s dental situation when he refuses to eat his ribs.  I suspect a combination of not wanting to get his hands sticky, and it being a challenging meal for a little one-toothed beaver.

I get up from the table and say offhandedly, “Just wait a second and I’ll cut it off.”

Nate’s eyes get as big as saucers and he exclaims in his best, grandmother-approaching-with-a-large-knife, “No!”

Summer of Love

It’s true, the summer of 2016 was possibly one of the best summers of my life.  Minus the moving part of course.  What made it so good you ask?

First, I ate three and a half months worth of perfect peaches, sometimes two a day.  Not one single mealy bite.  Honestly, our local produce manager is a stone fruit genius.

Jacob and I also came to the joint conclusion that he was ready for Harry Potter.  Oh how I’d waited for this moment.  Years and years of suffering through The Big Book of Sea Creatures and Naked Mole-Rats, hoping that one day we could finally graduate to thousands upon thousands of pages of witchcraft and wizardry.

It was heaven.  The best part of every day.  Every night Jakey and I would cuddle up with our electronic tome graced with a few well-placed faceless animated illustrations.  We read one chapter every night, sometimes two.  We tried really hard to get Nate to join us but his five-year-old Muggle mind just wasn’t ready.

Jacob acted out almost every scene.  Each character’s emotions, battles, forgivable and unforgivable curses.  The only downside was when (spoiler alert) Dumbledore’s death unexpectedly coincided with some of our darkest, darkest days this past winter.  A strange twist of fate.  But it was also a wonderful, magical, intoxicating escape from reality.  And we really needed that escape.

Once it was over, we were desperate.  We read the Harry Potter stage play… and the screenplay.  We read How To Eat Fried Worms.  It wasn’t as good as I remembered.  We read five entire Calvin and Hobbes anthologies.  They were just as good as I remembered.  We read three Cynthia Voight novels I read in fifth grade.  And now we’re five books into a modern day series on greek gods and a young demi-god named Percy Jackson.  It’s not quite the same, but it’s as close as we can get to the magical summer of peaches and Potter.

This past week, we spent a beautiful autumnal weekend in Ashland, Oregon.  We stepped into the elevator of the Ashland Springs Hotel and the back wall has a glass case housing a leaf collection over one hundred years old.

And I say, “Hey Jake, look at that leaf collection.  It’s like yours!”

And Jake says, “What Mom??”

“That leaf collection.”

“Mom, that wasn’t me… That was Calvin!”

Mission Impossible

For several weeks now, we’ve been waiting for Nate’s top right front tooth to fall out.  Let’s just say, it’s been pretty disgusting.

Like a miniature garage door or the hood of a white slug bug… back and forth, up and down, twisting and turning.  It’s gotten so bad that you could tell his tooth had actually died and changed color… he looked like a little Chip Gaines.

As our records would indicate, it appears this is Nate’s third lost tooth.  Technically he lost his first lost tooth twice.  And his second lost tooth once, and now his third lost tooth… well, we’ll get to that.  Amongst all this dental detritus, I remember Jacob also losing a tooth.

I also remember the Tooth Fairy going to bed under an extreme haze of exhaustion and then bolting upright in her four-poster bicuspid bed at 5AM because she’d fallen asleep on the job.  She recounted the story to me the following day… do you remember that scene in Mission Impossible where Tom Cruise is lowered by a cable into the most secure vault in the world?  It was exactly like that.  Except instead of a vault it was a shared bedroom, and instead of a weight-sensitive floor with lasers, it was a weight-sensitive pillow with lasers.

The Tooth Fairy tried to pull the little teepee tooth pillow from under the big pillow from under the big head of the eight-year-old whose been plotting his future fame via the capture of the Tooth Fairy since before he had  teeth.

After an extremely tense moment with a lot of waking-up sounds and movement, she crouched down next to the bed, with her little tiny arm still trapped under the pillow, while averting her gaze and holding her breath for a full minute.  I know, I know… how did her fairy arm reach from under the pillow all the way to the floor next to a twin bed?

Magic… must be magic.

She somehow used her teeny tiny fingernails to eek out that tooth, throw a packet of Pokémon under the bed and bounce.  Fortunately, based on her last visit, prizes under the bed is becoming her new signature.

Meanwhile, today at school, Nate’s front tooth finally fell out, leaving a nice big gap and taking his look from Fixer Upper to Beaver.  Unfortunately, when I picked him up after Sun n’ Fun today, he told me not only about how he’d finally lost it, but how he’d then lost it.

Maestra Coronel had given him a “Tooth Necklace,” which is a little white plastic tooth shaped box, on a string.  Sometimes I kind of wish I spent my days in a workplace where having a stash of Tooth Necklaces was the norm.  Anyway, as he was running across the playground, the box popped open and his tooth went flying.  Cruz was the last known eye witness.  We re-searched the expanse of rocky blacktop and unfortunately, only found two white shriveled tooth-like rocks.  Or what we thought were rocks.  Who knows how many treasured teeth litter the playgrounds of America?…

Always the optimistic pragmatist, Nate wrote her a note and called it a night.  He’s confident that her little magnetic tooth detector will lead her straight to it, no problem.  Though a couple of days ago, he was seriously contemplating how she does it all… I mean, “Mom, how does she fit those Pokémon packs into her tiny little backpack?”

Must be magic.

Namey Namerson

James and Jaimie.  Yes, it has it’s pros and cons.  Party intros: pro.  Snail mail: con.  And over the years we’ve met many folks that make our names seem crazy different: Mario and Martha, Andrea and Andreas, Tom and Thom.  In any case, we love names and our matchy-matchy couple kindred spirits.

James’ health is good, thank you so much for asking.  And while we’re on the topic of names, I have to share our continued serendipity.  As we were comparison shopping surgeons (not as fun as Back-to-School shopping), we came across both a Singer and a Sung.  Highly comforting when someone is going to take a laser to your larynx.  Dr. Sung is our unsung hero and the leader of the most important team we’ve ever assembled.  Who else is on our little dream team?  Dr. Reddy and Dr. Swift.  Exactly what I’m looking for when it comes to dealing with a life-threatening disease… Preparation and lightning speed.

James’ last appointment in mid-August went swimmingly.  All clear.  All happy.  He has his next appointment this Monday with Dr. Swift and a follow-up with Dr. Sung in a month or two.

Yesterday I had a quick appointment with an oral surgeon because I have a small bump on the inside of my lower lip that doesn’t seem to be going away.  Probably scar tissue or a salivary gland or heaven forbid, something else.

My only hesitation?  Tomorrow I head back for my appointment under local anesthesia with Dr….

Slaughter.

Chicken Death Destroyer Fucillo

It is with sincere grief and mourning that the family of Chicken Death Destroyer Fucillo, of San Luis Obispo, announces her disappearance and assumed passing, on Friday, September 8, 2017.  Although a curious hawk was observed patrolling the area, authorities have identified the prime suspect as a coyote spotted in the early morning hours late last week.  Chicken, or as her friends called her, “Dee-Dee” or “Deathy,” will be lovingly remembered by her adopted family, as well as her loyal step-sister, Chicken Sando.

Born and raised in Santa Cruz, Dee-Dee was raised by a committed and fiercely protective mother.  Following in her mother’s footsteps, she spent the majority of her time aspiring to motherhood and recently moved to the Central Coast looking for love.  True to her name, Mama Bears had nothing on Deathy— she’d peck your eyes out if you approached her nesting box.  She enjoyed sitting for long stretches in the dark and was unapologetic about her resulting traditional build.  In her spare time, she practiced mindful meditation and spent hours in chicken pose.

A celebration of Chicken Death Destroyer’s life will be held Sunday at the Squire Canyon Coop with the good Reverend James presiding.  In lieu of flowers, friends and family are working closely to raise funds toward a new Defender Chicken Coop.

Pecking Order

When Jakey was two or three, he used to declare “the boss” for the day.  He would say things like, “Daddy is the boss today!” and it meant that Dad got to decide everything for the day.  Sometimes I was declared boss.  But let’s be real, he crowned himself Baby Boss on Day 1.

Now it’s a well known truth amongst groups of animals that there is a pecking order.  It seems to be the nature of things.  If you’re the dog, or the youngest child, the fingers are always somehow holding their noses, and pointing at you.

And as Nate can attest, our house is no different.  He has been blamed for countless missing items, broken items, offensive smells, muddy footprints, crumbs, fingerprints, flooded bathroom floors and candy wrappers stuffed behind couches.

Earlier this week, I came home and was gazing out the kitchen window as I cleaned up after dinner.  Wait… is that my new flip flop way out in the middle of the yard?

I go out and retrieve it and place it back with its mate, next to the front door.  A little while later, James mentions offhand that earlier that morning, he found his flip flops flung off the back deck— somewhere between the chicken coop and the steep hill that descends into the Chicken Nugget Danger Zone of Fox Apps.

I casually mention this mysterious flip flop phenomenon to the boys.

They feign ignorance.  I’m probably embellishing but I remember some whistling and toe scoffing and renewed curiosity in the merits of our ceiling.  What I do know is that Nate floats the following theory, “Do you think our chickens did it?”

The pecking order is in full effect.

Fortunately he has the good sense not to propose the tadpoles.  Though they’re absolutely at the bottom of our household food chain… literally.  Sando tried to eat one of our frogs tonight while Papa was visiting.  But I digress…

A day or two later, the mysterious flip flop caper comes up again and Nate asks, “But how exactly would the chickens kick the flip flops so far?”  And he’s officially outed himself.

Nate really needs a dog.

Croak

My house is invariably filled with Jacob’s nature projects.  Just in recent memory we’ve had an “insect collection” he created in a cardboard box with various bugs impaled on toothpicks… a cost-conscious entomology exhibit?  A water bottle filled with rosemary next to my side of the bed.  An incident where he captured an entire jar of bees at Nate’s baseball game.  This spring’s only live display in his entire class with a terrarium of beetle varieties during the unit on insects.  The expired moth the size of my face he found in a Days Inn stairwell and brought home from Pennsylvania.  Oh, and let’s not forget the largest, most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen captured and then put in my freezer for safe keeping.  The boys called it a “spant” (spider ant).  Google called it a Jerusalem cricket.  I called it the fastest way to losing your TV privilege for a week if it isn’t removed from my freezer immediately.

This afternoon, at school, he found and tamed a praying mantis the size of a spant.

So, this blog has chronicled close to eight years of nature loving, pet needing, trivia winning, animal magnetizing, Wild Kratts watching thrills and spills.  And of course it’s all catching up to us now…

Over Memorial Day weekend, Angela had her birthday at a beautiful local vineyard with a Pinterest perfect house, outdoor fireplace and pizza oven.  The kids spent several blissful hours playing in the trough fountain filled with river rocks… and the most darling miniature frogs.

Jake caught frog after frog.  He was in heaven.  They’d had an entire weekend of all you can drink sugar and minimal sleep and now unlimited amphibians!

We ended up bringing three or four home in our little plastic terrarium.  After one night, I made the boys take the tiny Barbie frogs down to the creek so we wouldn’t end up with a tank of cuisses de grenouille.

A day or two later, Jakey says, “Mom, what do you think this is in the tank?  Do you think they’re eggs… or poop?”

Turns out, it wasn’t poop.

So now when we want to go out of town for the weekend, I hire chicken-sitters, and worry about who’s going to take care of our 19 tadpoles and 5 baby frogs.

We’re learning a lot as we witness the development of tadpoles (also known as renacuajos in Spanish) into little frogs.  There’s nothing like drinking your morning coffee while watching tiny little legs sprout.  Mmmm, drink it in.  The current danger is that once they turn into frogs, they sink like stones.  Despite the dry stones in their tank, unfortunately there have been a few Darwinian casualties… croaked.

Now we have two tanks, no thanks to me.  One for babies and an “aquatic terrestrial” set-up for froggie graduation.  $4 tank from the thrift store plus $115 in various items from PetSmart.  Not sure who the smart is referring to but I have a feeling it’s not us…

Last weekend James had a very concerning but important epiphany, “Jame, do you remember what everyone kept complaining about at Angela’s birthday?”

“Uh no, what?”

“How exhausted they were from the frogs croaking all night long.”

Gulp.