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.


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

seven 8 nine

My dearest Jacob James,

You turned 8 years old on March fourteenth and are a smart, funny, industrious, resourceful, feisty eight-year-old.  The past eight years are truly brimming with Jacob stories— you’ve gone from three to eight in a heartbeat.  My sincerest apologies that your annual letter is six weeks delayed.  And your birthday party was a month behind schedule.  Maybe we’ve had a lot going on for the past five months.  Or maybe I just don’t want you getting any older…  In my annual tradition, this letter is meant to capture and preserve just a little glimpse into eight-year-old Jake.

Over the past few months, you’ve settled into life in San Luis.  I’m sure you still miss Truman (and Gavin and Stuart), but you haven’t dissolved into a “whhhhhy did we moooove heeeeere” puddle in several months.  Although you have such fond memories of Trace, I don’t really remember any mornings where you didn’t want to go to school this year.  In the mornings, you help me drop Nate off at his classroom where you’re greeted by your five-year-old fan club— especially Kai and Cruz.  You basque in their little boy adoration.

And speaking of little boys… you like to hang with Ethan and Evan and Logan.  You have a number of other friends but you don’t always know their names.  You’re still one of those kids that walks across the blacktop and about town and boys of roughly the same height smile and wave and give you a “Hi Jacob.”  You give them the ‘sup head nod and, when prodded for names, just smile and shrug.

On the topic of friends, we recently held your joint birthday party at an enormous gymnastics gymnasium with ten other rambunctious youngsters.  You were thrilled to see Russel— your buddy from Y Camp.  After months of sleuthing, I was able to track down one of your favorite second graders through a google search and a friend from high school.  This is most certainly a small town.  The second you saw him the entire crowd launched into a rendition of “My name is Joe, I live in Costcoooo…”  Such a heartfelt reunion.

We spent that afternoon watching you all jump and tumble and bounce through a “parkour” course created and led by two young coaches: Ashley and Mark.  Mark dazzled you all with his flips and spins and skateboardy vibe.  He couldn’t have been more perfect.  Some barbecue ribs, lemonade and chocolate cupcakes and you buzzed, flipped and tumbled all the way back to our house where you and your brother dove into gift bags and detonated a Lego explosion.

Half our living room is dedicated to Jake’s Lego Land.  You set-up acres of miniature worlds with vehicles and headless guys and wars on every level— tabletops, chairs, floors, shelves brimming with Lego landmines.  No, literally.  You take the little button Legos and tell me they’re landmines.  I recently found a slightly threatening note you wrote to the cleaning team warning them not to touch your Legos.  The “skull and cross bones” was especially effective.

You got a giant bag of army guys at Supercuts last week and created a new game.  It’s like Harry Potter wizarding chess.  All I know is that the rules are always changing and my guys’ weapons are clearly short-range whereas your guys can leap onto boxes, blast me and then take cover.  I hate to admit it, but your machine-gun sound effects are rather impressive.  My guys are just sitting ducks.

And while we’re talking fowl, you are the family Chicken Whisperer.  Granddad brought us three “trial chickens” and you have risen to your new responsibilities like the mini-Granddad that you are.  You’ve been wearing my Hunter boots as you check on them every chance you get.  Your chicken training regimen has really made a difference.  Chicken Nugget, Chicken Sando and Death Destroyer are like a flock of feathered puppies.

Speaking of pets, you’re not a teacher’s pet, but I can tell Maestra Koch has a special fondness for you.  She is the opposite of last year’s Maestra Gonzales.  Where Gonzales was short and loud and always barking orders, Koch is tall and soft-spoken.  You’re one of only two native English speakers in your class and you’ve risen to the challenge like a champ.  You love math and science and recreo.  I’m not sure I’ve ever felt prouder than our two parent-teacher conferences this year.

While we’re talking teachers, you idolize your substitute teacher, Mr. Santos.  We spent an afternoon searching for his rock shop and found it by my work.  You strode confidently into his shop, ready to receive your free prize as a proud Pacheco Panther.  When we went into the back to meet Mr. Santos in person, we immediately knew each other.  It took a few minutes, but we finally placed ourselves as cast members during my freshman year in Cal Poly’s acclaimed big stage performance of Neil Simon’s Fools.  Mr. Santos had Jacobo’s number right away— recognizing the path to your devoted loyalty was laid with rock knowledge and prizes.  He nonchalantly let you hold his several thousand dollar Megalodon tooth.

Which reminds me, you are still mega into Pokémon, Minecraft and video games.  Maestra Koch and Mr. Guardado probably think you play video games all day given how much you write about them.  Hopefully they recognize the majority of your writing as fantasy.

And you still have a fantastical imagination.  This past year we’ve spent hours upon hours together in the wonderful wizarding world of Harry Potter.  We both are so sad it is over.  We read How to Eat Fried Worms, but it wasn’t as good as I remembered.  And we read every single Calvin and Hobbes collection.  Even though the majority of its nuanced humor went over your head, it inspired a renewed interest in outdoor adventures and snowmen.  You’re now re-reading it on the couch at night when I go to bed.

You’re still having a tough time getting to sleep at night, but it’s getting better every night that Daddy’s home.  You may always be a stealthy night ninja… priding yourself in your cat-like ability to sneak up on unsuspecting prey watching subtitled episodes of the Americans.  You have always been busy.  Busy with the world of things you want to build and see and do.

You are generally bare chested and barefoot.  You are all elbows and big front teeth and freckles and ripped knees.  You give me “back hugs” at school and squirm from my air kisses.  You’re known for your affinity for jokes involving plays on words.  I’d say you deserve all the credit for tapping your little Cousin Devon’s interests in stand-up comedy.

I can’t wait to watch you continue to grow and learn and become exactly who you already are.  I love you Jakey Cakes.  Every little funny, stubborn bit of you.  We are so proud of you and are doing our best to savor every single second.



On Monday night it was just Jakey and me.  Poor Nate went to bed at 6:45PM with a temperature of almost 104.  Meanwhile James was putting another few hundred miles on his car as he drove home from Stanford.

It sounds like his follow-up check-ups with the radiation doctor and the surgeon went really well this week.  The radiation doctor was amazed that the outside of his neck was completely healed and that he doesn’t really have any pain anymore (he’s been eating tortilla chips for several weeks).  He said most people have pain for six months!  It’s probably a good thing we didn’t know that was possible…

This week I was checking my email and I had a question from Sarah on our recent meal-prep experiences.  I’ve been meaning to share some thoughts for weeks now while our research and know-how is still cutting-edge.  And I use that adjective aptly as the six weeks James was gone are almost entirely a blur of putting Jacob to bed multiple times a night and…. CHOPPING.

But first, some backstory…

Long, long ago, when in hindsight I had all the time in the world, I started to hear about these places where you would go for a few hours, assemble a bunch of meals, and then bring them home and put them in your freezer.  Everything was already planned and chopped and decided and all you had to do was measure and mix and label.  I went to a place in Menlo Park and another one in Santa Cruz.  I steered clear of a chain called Dream Dinners that reviewers described as “assembling TV dinners.”  And then Chef Dane’s opened up near our house in Santa Clara.  He was an experienced chef who clearly enjoyed his own cooking.  Exactly what I’m looking for in a chef.  A stout angel from heaven.

As his business evolved, he realized that none of us wanted to assemble our meals.  We didn’t want to plan.  We didn’t want to grocery shop.  And most importantly, we didn’t want to CHOP.  We wanted to take the little white bowls full of little diced goodness and dump them into the sauté pan like on television cooking shows.

Chef Dane quickly realized that what we actually wanted was for him to assemble our meals and for us to just pick them up and put them in our freezers.  Well, if he would have just put them in our freezers I would have paid extra for that, too.  James’ tagline was… “It’s like money in the bank.”  Honestly, Chef Dane cooked the best Christmas dinner I’ve ever had.  But like many small businesses, he couldn’t make the economics work and they closed their doors.  One of the darkest days of my life.  It was March 29, 2010— Black Monday.  Worse than the year we lost Long’s Drugs.

After the closure of Chef Dane’s, we never really got back into the meal-making industry.  There were a few weeks where we tried Blue Apron.  But we deemed it TOO MUCH CHOPPING and canceled.  James became our meal prep service, supplemented by Door Dash, where we could have anything delivered for free to our doorstep from a hundred restaurants.

Then the Millennials came of age and started the monthly Care Package bubble of the 20-teens.  You can have curated outfits, organic skin care products, affordable razors, educational toys, manly bespoke accessories, and healthy dinner ingredients, all delivered to your doorstep.

While James was gone for treatment, we were the extremely fortunate recipients of a relatively new service called Sunbasket.  Our deepest thanks goes out to so many caring and generous friends and family who recognized that the boys and I could very well starve without James.  We had all of this amazing food show-up on our porch every Wednesday.

Sunbasket’s claim to fame is the chef from San Francisco’s Slanted Door and celebrity chef Tyler Florence.  The food was beautiful.  Absolutely perfect and organic and fresh and delicious.  But the CHOPPING!  Every night I would come home to my chopping project of onions and garlic and chives and purple potatoes and yellow potatoes and three kinds of fresh herbs.  And then I’d chop ingredients for the salad.  It took me twice as long as the estimates which may be commentary on Sunbasket estimators, or me as Chief Chopper.  In hindsight, it was a good distraction from the realities of the situation and of single parenting.

I’ve heard good things about Munchery, but we don’t seem to live in their service area where they ship their “ready-to-heat” meals.  We live in the “meal kit” area which sounds like a 15-minute prep version of Blue Apron and Sunbasket.

I’m now considering trying the next Millennial brain child: The Daily Harvest.  It’s just soups and smoothies, which James is pretty tired of after his eight week soups and smoothies diet, but sounds kind of good to me.

I finally went back to Dad’s tried and true dinners.  The last week before James came home, Jacob was hunched over his steaming plate of “Daddy spaghetti” and declared, “Good job Mom.  Your dinners are back in business!”

If only Chef Dane was, too.


Surgery 3

….And….  we’re back.  I’m keenly aware that the Team James updates have been few and far between and for that I am sincerely sorry.  During the six weeks of radiation I was just keeping my head above water.  And I was always cooking.  And putting Jake to bed one hundred times a night.  Until finally I gave up and just started going to bed in an attempt to get Jacob to go to sleep.  Instead I’d mostly just see the slightly eerie bobbing of a headlamp downstairs as he wandered around in the dark, looking for Legos and reading his Minecraft books and sorting Pokémon cards.

Since James got back we haven’t been able to watch TV or blog or sit in the living room unless we want our little shadow to stay up until 10PM.  Which we certainly don’t.

This past Thursday, James and I drove up to Santa Cruz in preparation for his surgery on Friday morning.  We had to be in Palo Alto by 6:30AM Friday morning and Granddad was driving.  We all went to bed early, even though Jakey was still in San Luis with Nate and Nonna and Papa.  It stormed all night long, because when James is in Santa Cruz… it pours.

We left the house early Friday morning piled into the truck.  It was dark, it was raining.  We made it to Stanford after an eventful ride.  James wore his protective double threat— his Superman shirt and socks.  He was in a great mood, laughing and smiling.  The laminated poster of the unexplained Mepilex never fails to lighten the mood in a fit of suppressed giggles.

Our surgeon wasn’t quite sure what he was going to do, but he wanted a closer look at the “granularity” and to make sure he knew exactly what the small bump was at the base of James’ vocal cords.  We appreciate that he’s taking a conservative yet measured approach to treatment.  In this case, there just isn’t a “usually” to fall back on.

Fortunately the surgery was relatively short.  James said there weren’t any observers— a good sign given all the medical looky-loos are generally hanging around to rubberneck unusual and rare surgeries.  Much better to be uninteresting and ho-hum this time around.

Kristen joined Granddad and Grandma Suzy and me in our corner of the waiting room.  We looked at old pictures and caught-up on life and discussed the merits of present-day Detroit.  Post-surgery, our doctor found us in the waiting room and took us to the special “cushier” conference room so he could share his before and after pictures.  He loves to show us before and after pictures.  I could tell by his smile that everything went well.

And it did.  He told us that the little bump was much smaller than it was two weeks ago— just a teeny tiny little blister.  He said there was almost nothing for the pathologist to test and nothing looked suspicious or malignant.  We packed-up Superman and took his happy, healthy vocal cords straight to Smitten for a big bowl of extra creamy lemon gingersnap ice cream and then a long nap.

The weekend before James’ final radiation treatments, the sky was filled with a clear, vivid rainbow… in the same exact spot it had appeared just over six weeks before.

Coincidence that we’ve witnessed more rainbows in the last four months than we’ve seen in the last four decades?  I think not.


Words.  I’ve always loved words.  Loved understanding their meanings, their history, and the way sayings can be so different across languages.  One of my favorites in Spanish is that someone thinks they’re the “ombligo del mundo” or “the bellybutton of the world.”  In English we’d say they think they’re the center of the universe… but there’s just something so much more poetic about bellybuttons.

Over the last four months, certain words have taken on new meaning, or become more pronounced in some way.  I never spent much time contemplating the word scan, until it became a somewhat ominous addition to our vocabulary.  I’d never given much thought to margins, until I was in the audience at a live performance of A Christmas Story and Miss Shields kept shrieking her line about watching your margins.  Radiant and radiation come from the same root, yet conjure such different feelings.  I still remember when I was a child and I found out my mom’s astrological sign was cancer.  I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.  And then years later, I married another zodiac crab.

This week the latest word is granularity.  Maybe I’ve used some such word when describing a bad photograph… or the qualities of sugar?  Maybe?  In any case it seems to be like scar tissue.  And unfortunately, James’ last surgery has healed with a bit of granularity that is preventing his vocal cords from closing entirely.  So his surgeon has him scheduled for his third surgery on Friday, April 7th.

James was pretty disappointed today after his appointment at Stanford– he was really hoping to avoid another surgery.  The poor guy has been poked and prodded and has been trying to heal and recover for the last four months.  Hopefully this one will be much quicker with just a few days of voice rest.  Otherwise his throat is healing beautifully and he is feeling better day by day.  Which is good news since he’s most certainly our ombligo del mundo.

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.