Nate Date 2

Last weekend I had a hot date, both Friday and Saturday nights.  You know it.

Friday evening Nate and I painted the town red… or more like turquoise blue.  When I asked him out I was fairly surprised at his response.  I mean of course he said yes, but when I asked him what we should do he exclaimed, without a moment of hesitation, “Paint toes!”

Took the words right out of my mouth. I’m always in need of a pedicure so of course I was game.  I can certainly get behind a manly pedi.

It turns out it was his first time.  He got cold feet as we pulled-up to the nail salon.  Turned out he was shy about a stranger touching his feet.  He told me his brother only let’s his dad touch his toenails… uh, TMI?

In the end, he quite enjoyed the warm shoulder wrap and foot soak.  He was disappointed that he didn’t get much of a massage— the tip certainly reflected the oversight, though he may have turned the other cheek given the complimentary Sprite.  So far so good.

We headed to the restaurant he’d picked out.  Subway.  He told me he’d heard it was good and that they’d have Airheads.  I thought about calling my emergency “out.”  Is this why we’ve only double-dated since September 2013?  He ordered a ham sandwich and it came with a red plastic Cars watch.  After he’d convinced me to program it for him, it’s all he talked about.  At one point I was eating my inedible salad while he ate his sandwich standing up in front of the entrance.  It was odd.  He seemed like he was enjoying himself but maybe a bit distracted… he kept looking at his watch and yelling out the time.

We headed downtown for an after fast food stroll.  We held hands.  We both got limoncello gelato at Giussepe’s.  Turns out we both love lemon.  Every few minutes he’d blurt out the time.  6:32!  6:34!

At Barnes and Noble he tried to race me on the escalator.  He’d completed some kind of summer reading list— seven books about Plants fighting Zombies and something called Avatar.  He talked a lot about “airbending.”  I don’t even know.  He got some kind of free book called “I Can Read!”  Well, maybe?  He had me read him the menu at Subway and the gelato shop so I’m not so sure… I do know he can read a watch.  6:54!  Is he counting down the seconds till this date is over?

He really wanted to go by the Apple store so we spent a few minutes at the short table in the back.  And then it was time to call it a night.  I asked him to walk me to the door and he asked why.  I told him he should always make sure a girl gets home safely and that if he’s lucky, he’ll get a goodnight smooch.  He raced right on in to show-off his blue toes and his red watch to his roommates.  Figures.

The next day he went to the Ravine water park in Paso.  Lucky for me, his pedicure got chipped and he immediately asked me out again.  I knew it was love at first sight.

 

Flatrock

Over the week of July fourth, we braved three airplanes and several hours in a car to get to one of my most favorite places on Earth, a 100+ year old train station dragged up the mountain and converted into a hunting cabin on 3000 acres of Pennsylvania wilderness.  Flatrock is a super special place for us.  It holds hundreds of family stories across several generations.

Jacob has been to Flatrock three times so far— once when he was a few months old and still small enough to be bathed in a turkey roaster, once when he was three and picked-up a live mouse by the tail with his fingers, and now when he was eight and can catch tarantulas in jars.  Nate’s first trip to Flatrock was when he was about sixteen months old and busy spending hours toddling over the edge of various decks straight into the depths of countless rattlesnake dens… I didn’t get to pee for three days.

This summer’s trip was so much fun.  Shelley, Kashava and Shaddai came all the way from Michigan and the Pittsboro Birds came up from North Carolina.  We really missed the Wilsons but they were certainly there in spirit, as we enjoyed slice after slice of Honey Baked ham.  It was a reunion of cousins and aunts and uncles and recently befriended locals.  Only James would be strolling through two different towns in Central Pennsylvania and run across two people he knows.  I mean really, the Camp Cook as he’s leaving the Bellefonte YMCA, and then his new buddy Buck, in a sub sandwich shop?  I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t been there…

We fished in the stream and the pond.  Nate was especially determined— catching ten fish at the pond.  I did in fact win the “Bass Fishing Competition” and was the only one to pull a big brookie out of the stream, but, I mean, I have a reputation to maintain.  The little pack of boys spent hours chasing each other around the second story, starting water fights at the spring, and harassing salamanders by the dock.  Two-year-old Bry Bry was hilarious.  He spent most of the trip doing “‘neak attacks” which involved sneaking up on you and pinching your knee.  If you do it back he declares, “I’m.  Not.  Happy ’bout.  Dat!”  And stomps his little square foot.  He’s also laid claim to “his Jacup.”  I can get him good and riled up about “my Jacup.”  I love pushing a two-year-olds buttons… and don’t worry, Bryan can hold his own.

James put on another memorable fireworks show but despite all the talk, the dock remained standing.  We adventured to both the Bear Cave and the Indian Cave.  The boys uncovered two arrows and an old campfire full of arrow heads at the Indian Cave.  Granddad almost rode a stone toboggan over the side of a wooded mountain but fortunately, disembarked from the stone age seesaw just in time.  A lighthouse puzzle was completed.  Several gallons of Penn State Peanut Butter Swirl mysteriously evaporated.  And we basked in the luxury of a real shower.  Flatrock has gone from the 1800’s witch’s kitchen to Chateau Flatrock to Mar-a-Lago.  The Sutz has never been nicer.

We enjoyed all of our normal haunts– time in Selins Grove with the beloved Ruds.  The boys had stars in their eyes at 11PM when they gazed out at the lighted pool with a diving board and a water slide.  I think they slept in their bathing suits.  We spent hours in an indoor basement pool at the State College Days Inn.  We walked miles around campus, attempting to hike-off the ice cream cones we ate that were the size of our heads.  And then the boys put me on a train in Harrisburg to a long girls weekend in NYC.  They ended the week like kings, swimming all evening and topping it off with a “kids all-you-can-eat rib feast.”  The Red Lion Inn had no idea how unprofitable that promotion would be.

Flatrock List

Hmmm… I wonder who added “A Xbox” to my travel list?

Bless Your Heart

Sometime in December, I found myself browsing the shops downtown… a rare and special escape.  I was wandering around one of my favorite galleries and came across a little bowl full of wooden hearts.

Now when I was a kid, I didn’t like hearts.  Too girlie.  No i’s dotted with hearts in my name thank you very much.  I did have a favorite rainbow heart shirt that I remember wanting to wear every day, but I think that spoke more to my second grade love of rainbows…

Now these hearts, these hearts were different.  They were smooth and warm and like a perfect pebble.  They called out to be held tight in the palm of my hand.  On a whim, I chose a big one for James and a matching littler one for myself.

Since then, these two little pocket hearts have carried us through a lot of hard days.  Hospital rooms.  Terrifying tests.  Lobbies.  Long car rides.  Rooms full of huge machines and laser beams.  Hundreds of miles and weeks of nights alone.  Through endless days of waiting and hours of praying.  They’ve protected us and connected us.  A comforting little reminder that we’re co-captains of Team James and the huge crowd of teammates behind us.

James’ heart is now kind of indigo, as one would expect from the Baron of Blue Jeans, the Sultan of Selvedge.  Mine has a warm patina from hours of centering all of my positive thoughts and energy and love.  We still carry our little pocket hearts on especially important days.  Otherwise they’re at home.  In a dish next to my alarm clock, by James’ keys, on the sunny windowsill above the kitchen sink.  A gentle and reassuring reminder of what matters.

We are so deeply grateful to have the love and support of so many friends and family.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Bless Your Heart

Chicken Nugget Fucillo

It is with deep sadness that the family of Chicken Nugget Fucillo, of San Luis Obispo, announces her passing after a sudden and tragic snatching by an unidentified wild canine, on Friday, June 16, 2017 at 10:36am. Chicken, or as her friends called her, “Nugget,” will be lovingly remembered by her adopted family, as well as her dear step-sisters, Chicken Sando and Chicken Death Destroyer.

A native of Santa Cruz, Nugget grew-up in the mountains.  The offspring of a broken home, she was raised by her working mother and never knew her absentee father.  Just three months ago, she set-off with her step-sisters to pursue their lifelong dream of moving to the Central Coast.   All three sisters prefer to go by their middle names— Nugget based on her beautiful McGolden coloring.  Her successful career as an entomologist earned her deep admiration by numerous experts in the field.  In her spare time, Nugget enjoyed rolling in the dust under the deck, eating lizards, mothering, and taking relaxing bubble baths.  She was a great lover of meal worms, and known for her sweet disposition and knack for taming human children.  As her brother Jacob reflected, “She was too nice if you ask me.  And a leisurely runner.”

Nugget served on the boards of numerous organizations including Indian Knob’s Early Risers, the SLO Chapter of Poultry Entomologists, and chaired the Neighborhood Watch for two and a half months.

A celebration of Chicken Nugget’s life will be held at 7 pm on Sunday, June 18, at the Squire Canyon Coop with the good Reverend James officiating.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be made to BRUNCH: Buk-buks Rallying United AgaiNst Chicken Homicide.

Chicken Nugget

Chicken Nugget Fucillo
? – June 16, 2017

What About Bob

When I was in high school, one of my best friends, Kristen, had this thing for the name Bob.  Honestly, I never understood it.  She just loved Bob things and Bob people and Bobby pins.

Then I went to college and I met another Bob lover.  His name was Brian and he drove a motorcycle and liked being called Bob.  I set him up on a double date with my other Bob lover but shockingly, Bob love is not enough to guarantee a love connection.

Then our uncle Bryan started “Bobbing” the boys.  It became this irresistible bit between them— Uncle Bob and his Bob nephews.  Come to find out, he also had an Uncle Bob.  And it’s his go-to name for kids with names he can’t remember.  Unfortunately it was just too catchy… I showed-up to one of Jake’s first baseball games and the team and all the coaches are cheering for Bob.  Who’s Bob?

Wait what?!  My son with the thoughtfully chosen, classically strong name with a simple modern nickname, has asked his entire team to call him Bob?

When asked, Jakey just told me, “It’s just my funny jokester name Mom.”

I had to introduce myself to other baseball moms as “Bob’s mom,” otherwise they had no idea who I was talking about.

This weekend I told my original Bob-lover about my new Bob-lover.  She thought it was brilliant— some sort of sign of his intelligence and powers of persuasion.  She uses the name Bob daily in her job— her go-to example.  I, on the other hand, am hoping the Bob fad will fade.  Perhaps just a coping mechanism during a year of significant upheaval and change?

A few weeks ago, Jacob forgot his hat at the beach house when the van der Schalies and the Palms and the Bullock were visiting.  Sarah says she figured out it was ours because “Cora said Nate and Jake call things Bob.”  A few hours with them and bam, Cora’s got their number.

Now Nate’s hat has the name Bob under the bill… the fad is not fading.  It’s spreading.

June 7

This past Thursday, James drove up for his first PET/CT scan in awhile.  It’s hard not to feel easily distracted and sick to my stomach leading up to these tests, and then waiting an undetermined amount of time for the results.  And then *poof*, they show-up in the Stanford app… cryptically written in a language reminiscent of English, primarily to be interpreted by the level of the person who finally calls.  You know things are good when the call comes from someone with a desk job.  That’s the best.

This morning my spidey sense kicked-in as I was walking from the break room to my office.  My backpack buzzed—James texting me.  Somehow I knew it was about the results of the scan.  Coincidentally, today marks six months to the day from when all this began.

Gratefully, the report was good news: No abnormal FDG activity to suggest recurrent or metastatic disease.

Thank efFingDG.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Grand Slam

Tonight marked our final baseball party in a series of 54 events spanning four months.  Signing-up for baseball is essentially taking on a second, part-time job.  Even when you consider that there is no mandatory San Luis Snack Shack Duty.

Nate’s Team, Cal Poly Red, celebrated the end of the season tonight with a game of kids versus parents, followed by a round of kickball and a water balloon fight.  I don’t know when I’ve laughed so much.

Unfortunately Jacob’s team, the Hooks, got knocked out of the playoffs by the Grasshoppers last weekend.  Jakey enjoyed the season and got on base most times he was at bat.  His strength is speed.  He had his team calling him Bob the entire season… but that’s a story for another blog.

It was probably for the best as all of us, except Nate, were a bit worn-out from baseball four nights a week.  Nate is still up for hours of catch and practicing his swing on the baseball tetherball practice pole.  This week we found out Grandma never learned to use a mitt.  And she’s not about to start now…

There was one game at Sinsheimer where I shivered on the sidelines, right through the dinner hour, famished from a light lunch and what seemed to be an interminable number of innings.

Two other families with impeccable foresight and enviable planning laid out a beautiful, fluffy picnic blanket.  There were chips, salsa and guacamole as the first course.  Then, then they unveiled a lovingly wrapped basket of piping hot taquitos.  I don’t know what was served as the third course, I had to get up and move behind the other team’s dugout to escape the mouth-watering torture…

At that moment I actually missed the Snack Shack.  In a moment of ravenous weakness, I almost regretted writing Nacho Cheese, The Shack, Keeping Kosher, Dirty Jobs, and Home Stretch.  An entire body of work criticizing plasticized dairy.  Years of lamenting my Saturdays hocking inedible junk food and, in an instant, my food snobbery evaporated and I would have emptied my wallet for a paper boat of salty, stale chips and orange cheese…

Nate the Great received his trophy today with great pride and an admirable solemnity during Coach Matthew’s team speech.  He was recognized for his two home runs and gained a reputation as a big hitter.  There’s definitely a little spring in his step.  I’m just bummed we missed his second homer while we were out of town for our anniversary weekend.

I’m told it was so exciting, he passed his teammate at second before rounding third and bringing it home.  That’s my boy.

Broody

This Sunday I had such a special Mother’s Day.  I actually slept past 5:45am… probably because Saturday’s combination of baseball plus birthday party bounce house plus beach with besties equaled beat for everybody.  I awoke to a perfect cup of tea in bed while the boys made me a beautiful bowl of yogurt and berries.  Then I was showered with presents.  Ice cream shaped bath bombs to use in the new barn bathtub, a travel mug, and an array of talking, whirling, buzzing cards that instilled endless anticipation and giggles from the boys.  Mysteriously, a few days prior, Jacob had plied me with information on how to give a foot massage.  One of the cards had an exciting mechanical wonder with a circus announcer’s voice— as I opened it, the wheel would spin, landing on all sorts of “mom” gifts like back rubs and breakfast in bed.  Somehow I got all the prizes.

Jacob made me a special clay caterpillar that holds a little portrait of his smiling second grade face.  It has a circle that says “feel better” to represent the “hole in our family from Daddy’s sickness.”  The caterpillar has an unidentifiable little friend with feet stuck to it because he had extra time.  Nate made a little ceramic heart box that he gave me at Friday’s Dia de la Familia.  It was a surprise lunchtime celebration where the kids sang songs in Spanish, served us cinnamon cake, strawberries and lemonade, and then walked us each through their best art and a heartfelt letter.  Jakey also made me a little bouquet of flowers from the yard and put them by my alarm clock.

If that wasn’t enough, we walked the Bob Jones trail while the boys rode their bikes, enjoyed some beautiful coffee at the new shop in Avila, and then had lunch at Rooster Creek with the best service I’ve experienced in over a year.  That afternoon I got to take a nap, look at my iPad, and spend an hour visiting one of my favorite little shops downtown…

The day ended with a tasty dinner, chocolate-covered strawberries and a relaxing bath.

I tried not to think about Chicken Nugget as the last occupant of our tub… we’re now pretty sure she’s not dying and she’s just broody.

After a day like Sunday, it’s no wonder she wants to be a mommy.  There’s really nothing better.

Death Destroyer

Chickens.  We go way back.

It started when I was six or seven and my dad took my brother and me on one of the greatest adventures of our childhood— a multi-week road trip in an unreliable pea-green VW camper van, all the way to visit his cousin’s family on Whidbey Island.  They had this fantastic county fair where the main attraction involved a full-sized arena where various farm animals were freed to run around in sheer panic.  Kids then lined-up by age and were time-released into the arena to chase the panicked farm animals.  The objective?: You catch it, you keep it.  Unfortunately, the littlest kids got first dibs at the biggest animals… the lambs and the goats and the bunnies.  My brother didn’t like to get his hands dirty, so by the time I joined him, all that remained was poultry.

I grabbed a little black Bantam with a showy headdress, a gentle duck, and a handsome, intimidating red rooster later anointed Chanticleer.  We camped all the way back to California with our poultry barnyard and a tiny white feral kitten I coaxed out of the rafters of the barn.

From that trip forward, I spent many a day taking care of chickens.  My favorite memory was when my brother and I thought it would be fun to throw some of the eggs against a tree.  Geoff veered from the tree and threw his next egg against the chicken wire, only to have it sort of bounce back at him and splatter his face and chest.  As luck would have it, that one was rotten.

So when Granddad brought us three chickens and a little coop to start our own flock, I had some experience to fall back on.  On our first weekday morning of chicken ownership, I found myself dressed for work, summoning my previous confidence in poultry seizure and grabbing Death Destroyer and depositing her back in her quarters.

By the way, our new flock consists of a beautiful Buff Orpington named Chicken Nugget, a black and white speckled hen named Chicken Sando, and a black Orpington whose feathers shine like an oily rainbow.  Nate aptly coined her Death Destroyer.

My mornings now consist of drinking my tea, making breakfast and lunches, and letting the chickens out like a flock of puppies.  They are impatient and clumsy and endearingly friendly.  Jacob has been taming them every morning while Nate mostly watches.

Yesterday evening, Jake sounded the alarm bells— something is wrong with Nugget.  She won’t leave her nest and when he puts her on the ground, she falls down.  She couldn’t walk, her tail was down and she was hobbling right back into the nesting box.  I went to sleep deeply anxious about poor little Chicken Nugget.  She’s our sweetest, gentlest hen.

When I woke-up this morning she didn’t clamor out of the coop.  At 6:30am I’m googling what to do about an egg bound hen and it involves soaking her in our bathtub.  I wait until the Chicken Whisperer wakes-up and Jacob and I get little Nugget upstairs into a warm tub.  I don’t have Epsom salts.  I sure hope this works as despite my years of chicken husbandry, I’m not really ready for the internet recommendation involving KY Jelly…

Nugget stays pretty calm.  She only jumps out of the tub twice— a blur of wet chicken flapping.  The warm water is supposed to relax her, but I’m concerned that being surrounded by plastic dragons and a seven-year-old with quick, unpredictable movements is just tensing her up even more… after about twenty minutes we get her back outside, perk her up with her favorite chicken crack cocaine, meal worms, and she hobbles back into the coop.  I head to work, but am plagued by a dull undercurrent of imminent chicken danger all day.

I arrive home this evening and Jacob declares her better.  He brings up two eggs and says Chicken Nugget ran down the hill to be with her girlfriends.  I check and it’s true.  What a relief!  I’m sure she’d agree.  We’ve gotta keep a close eye on her, but I think we’re all sleeping better tonight…

Meanwhile when I asked the boys if they wanted hot lunch at school today they were adamant.  Some sick, ironic twist of fate— today was chicken nugget and mashed potato day.

Absolutely not.

What’s Next

It’s been a loooong five months.  Those of you that are still reading these posts every now and then… thank you thank you thank you.  I’ve endured mudslides and forest fires and earthquakes, but the immediate threat has always passed.  This has been different.  A chronic crisis.  And we all know how hard it is to stay present.  To stay engaged with uncertainty.  To hope that it will all just go back to normal.

We’re certainly hopeful that the worst is behind us.  James is in great health and cancer-free (knocking on blog wood as I type this with one hand)… so the big question from everyone these days… What’s next?

Well, we need a year of clean scans.  Preferably two years of clean scans.  Make it five.  I believe he’ll have them quarterly at this point, as we need to keep a very close watch.  His next scan will be in June.

And then we need to get back to life in between.  A wise doctor at UCLA counseled us that the patients that do the best don’t spend day in and day out ruminating on the “what if’s” and the “if only’s.”  Of course you think about it every day, that won’t change.  But the moments spread out.  The fist in your chest relaxes a little.  The dread goes into hibernation and the thoughts quiet down.

We need to continue practicing our mindful meditation and drinking our green drinks and moving our bodies and soaking up every moment of these beautiful boys and this beautiful place and this beautiful life.  We need time.  And we need to stay connected to Team James.  We’ve deepened our connections and revived latent friendships and whether we wanted or needed this wake-up call, I don’t know, but we got it.

So, thank you for continuing to keep our little family in your thoughts.  For your check-ins and cards and text messages and calls.  You can never bother us.  We’re just a little more tired than we used to be.  A little dazed.  A bit unsteady on our feet.

And now to close this post with a quote from a Portland lighting catalog.  Because who doesn’t love a good quote from a purveyor of fine house parts when they’re feeling all cheeseball and philosophical?

Don’t ask what the world needs.
Ask what makes you come alive,
and go do it.  Because what the
world needs is people who have come alive.
— Howard Thurman