We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...
1997's Climb

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Vail Pride Day

     Vail Pride Day is a magnet for bad weather...and today did not dissappoint!  The winds were fierce, knifing across the Pima County Fair grounds, carrying more dust than seemed possible.  But, at least it wasn't raining!
     Kim loved this event, as I've told you.  She just thought Vail School District was fantastic to host a day to celebrate our children and all of their academic accomplishments.  So, as you can imagine, she worked hard helping to plan, organize and work where ever she was needed the day of the event.  Last year, we helped sell pizzas with the PTSA.  The stand was situated next to a doorway, and a portable pizza oven in a truck was parked just outside making fresh pies!  The rain was coming down sideways and we were soon standing ankle deep in water and it was rising.  I was running the cash register and Kim was frantically trying to get me away from it, fearing I would get electrocuted.  I finally fished the extension cord out of the water and strung it high along the wall, so she could relax and enjoy her work!  We ended up having to put sand bags around the entrance, as the water got deeper and deeper.  But, we sure sold a lot of pizzas!
                                      Mary Montes gets help from her niece  (sister, Ami's, daughter), Hunter, running the cash register!  If you haven't visited Ami's blog about her triplets (!), you need to check out her last post in which Hunter is the super hero 'Statica Electrica' - cute photos! (I have the link to her website posted down the right hand side of Kimmy's blog). And Sherri Rodriquez and her son Caleb sell beverages.
                          Alyssa Perrini, Mrs. Murphy, Jenn Bell, Tammy LaPlant and Annette Perrini sell pizzas!  A little ironic for the Perrini's, as they brought pizza to our house last night after we went to see Gulliver's Travels (a classic Jack Black movie!  The kids enjoyed it, and of course, plenty of laughs for us grown ups!).

                         I had the honor of helping judge the Math Bowl, thanks Mr. Edwards!  Along with super volunteer/mom/education advocate, Kristi Hill and Mark Breen, who Kim worked with over at Rincon Vista.  Kristi reminded me that she met Kimmy way back when she was pregnant with Autumn and Kristi was pregnant with her second child.  Cody and Kristi's first child were in swim lessons together.  Mark reminded me that he saw Kim and I at Daglio's (best cheesesteaks in town!) just two days before Kim went into St. Joe's.  He was there with his family enjoying cheesesteaks.  While I was judging and to stave off total anarchy, Ms. Bryson (Cottonwood's prinicpal) sagely snagged the bambini's and took them all around the fair grounds, buying them snacks and treating them to a fantastic time!
                                 Ms. Bryson let the kids play in the playground bus....
And bought Tonio a chicken!  Oh, no, he tells me she did not buy it, but let him hold it...

               When I was done with the Math Bowl, she brought them back and they took me to proudly show me their art work...another Kimmy favorite.  Kim always loved Mrs. Peck, our art teacher at Cottonwood, and all of the technique she took time to teach the kids and her use of various mediums.  She'd always tell me, 'Mrs. Peck is such a treasure for our children...she actually teaches them so much about art, instead of just doing crafts'.  She loved Mrs. Peck's teaching style and the patience she had with the children.  Cody, Autumn and Tonio thrived in her class and would always be excited when it was their day for art class!
                                  Autumn's dolphin graces the 'peaceful' waves...we'd often see dolphins off the shore in San Diego and Laguna, and Kim and I saw them at Long Beach Island, NJ and in Florida, too.
                            Tonio's assignment was to scribble, and then 'find' animals within the scribbles and bring them out...
                             The bambini's are obviously excited with their work, especially Cody!
                   And he should be, here's some of his work, showcased......I know Kimmy's proud - he is definitely following in her artistic footsteps!
                  It was pretty crowded today, as Vail parents came out in throngs to see their children's work.  I remember that Kim used to get a little overwhelmed, and sometimes tried to melt into the background or just want to leave...of course, we'd want to say hi to everyone, but she'd call me the 'friendly bastard', because I'd just keep chatting...today, though, I was getting a little overwhelmed...but had no one to bail me out, so, I turned to Cody...'Cody, I need to leave, I can't breath...find the exit and get us there!'....And I'm sorry if I didn't get to talk to you, I wanted to...We beat a hasty retreat out of the building and towards the fair ground's exit....where we were literally stopped dead in our tracks...
       Oh, how pleased Kim must be...to have finally got to say thank you to many, many of you who helped us...and that sweet, smile on her face...we ran through the debris filled wind tunnel that was the parking lot to the safety of our car, Kim's Expedition.  Cody quickly cranked up some tunes, as we could not talk...and we hurried home.
        Cody went to Alex's to watch the Arizona Wildcats game (they won again!!) and I made rolled chicken tacos (thanks Andrea, although I could not keep mine from falling apart!)...Tonio and Autumn were soon turning the living room into a battle ground...so, pulling out another Andreaism, I left the room...to relax and find soothing thoughts, to avoid exploding...caught the exciting end of the Cats game and then found some Super Liga soccer - Guadalajra Chivas versus Atletica Pachuca...soon, Autumn snuck in to sit and watch with me...followed by Antonio....GOOOOAAALLLLLLL!!!!!!!!  Famous announcer, Pablo Ramirez intoned, to the delight of the kids.  Chivas won easily 4-1...and I had regained my mojo, without raising my voice.  Kimtastic.

          "You touched my heart, you touched my soul.
           You changed my life and all my goals..."
                                                           -James Blunt


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Vail School District Volunteer Appreciation Lunch

      This weekend is a big event for the Vail School District...the district sets up all of the student's art work, science fair projects, hosts musical events, trivia and math contests, there is a book fair, food, games, rides, jumping castles, taking up a large portion of the Pima County Fairgrounds and calls the event 'Vail Pride Day'.  This is an event that made Kim and I absolutely love the Vail School District, as they showcase the talents of their students and the passion of their teachers.  The bambini's have loved to attend this event every year.  Kim loved to attend, to help run the book fair and to sell pizzas for the PTSA, but mostly to see the kids art work on display.  It made her so proud of them to see it and Mrs. Peck, our art teacher, has done such a fantastic job over the years to prepare for Vail Pride Day.

      Today, officially kicked off the start of Vail Pride Day with the volunteer appreciation lunch.  The volunteer coordinators work very hard over several months to plan a nice lunch and decorate one of the halls for the volunteers to enjoy a meal.  Kim worked to chair this event last year and started the planning for this year's event, before she got sick.  I remember how nervous she was about having to speak in front of several hundred volunteers, peers and administrators.  She looked so nice in her suit and derby hat and spoke so well, her soft, angelic voice was a pleasure to listen to.  And she worked the crowd like a pro, going from table to table, greeting each volunteer personally and thanking them for their help over the year.
      This year, was a beautiful event.  The volunteer coordinators had the hall looking so nice and a buffet meal for us.  Rebecca Manoleas gave a moving testimony for Kimmy - talking about what a pleasure she was to be around and what a hard worker she was.  Many volunteer coordinators and administrators came up to me to tell me what they liked best about working with Kim and getting to know her and see her passion for our school district...They had a nice picture of Kim and I on the big screen...she looked so incredibly beautiful...and then, I was floored as they announced each school's volunteer of the year, and Melissa Grossheim, Cottonwood Elementary's volunteer coordinator, said that the school's volunteer of the year were Kim and Dave Conca...and patiently waited for me to digest what she said...and Ms. Bryson, our principal, gently encouraged me to stand up and walk up for the beautiful plaque that Melissa was waiting to present...I floated to the front and Melissa gave me a hug (held me up is more like it!)...this school district has been so overwhelmingly supportive!
Here's a shot of the beautiful center pieces on all of the tables (Kim loved hot air balloons!  We'd often go to balloon shows and she took me on a hot air balloon ride for my 21st birthday.)  Ms. Bryson made sure that I got my table's centerpiece, telling me to give the M&M's to the bambini's.

I can't thank Vail, the school district, the volunteer coordinators and everyone at Cottonwood who made this special event happen for us, enough!  And the final, special touch...everyone received a rice krispie treat!  Kim loved rice krispie treat...Angie and her daughters, Andrea, Janene, Kristie and Kim, would make various shapes and colored rice krispie treats to hand out after every birthday or holiday, always making sure to send us home with a couple extra... : ) Kim enjoyed them and always thought they made such a nice 'party favor', so it was a fitting parting tribute today. 

I forgot, when I blogged about Barnes & Noble, to include a shot of my desk...complete with many photos of the bambini and Kimmy...the obligatory Cafe Americano, ready for action on my desk, flanked by an iced tea...just in case.  The Trader Joe's bag is chock full of goodness from Lola, the patron saint of our book store.  She always brings us snacks from Trader Joe's!!!

   ....And, somehow, I neglected to put this on Sunday's post!  Cody, Tonio, Autumn and Lexy enjoy the kaliedescope of food on Viro's breakfast buffet (and, I had the delicious cappuccino pictured!)...we'll be looking forward to going there again Sunday after church!

      Anyway, I was, once again, so proud of Kimmy today...and all of the lives that she touched...the memories shared...and the work she did for our schools and our children, whether helping kids to read in the Head Sprout program, or passionately trying to get a garden built for the inclusion kids, or helping with PTSA functions or fundraisers...Kim absolutely LOVED our schools and wanted to give back - our kids are so well cared for...thank you teachers, for your long hours and dedication and the nurturing environment you create...thank you administrators for your hard work and leadership...thank you to all of the parents, who tirelessly, come out to support school events and help in the classrooms!!  We are truly blessed in the Vail School District...

"Smile five times a day at someone you don't really want to smile at - do it for peace"
                                                                                                - Mother Teresa


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Barnes & Noble

   My Barnes & Noble @ Foothills Mall

       Kim and I spent many hours at Barnes & Noble over the years...we loved to go to the Foothalls Mall location, a big, two story spacious building...it started out as a Goldwater's Department store, then was a Dillard's.  Kim and I would get a cup of coffee and sit and talk in the cafe, or stroll around the stacks looking for something that interested us.  It was always calm and relaxing.
      When I worked at Toys R Us on Broadway and Craycroft, the Barnes & Noble used to be right across the street on the southwest corner, where Kinko's is now.  I'd get off of work, and we go over to Barnes & Noble and hang out until they closed.
       Once we had kids, we loved to take them to the wonderful children's section, and sit with them on the stage that they have and read to them.  The kids have always loved books.  When I saw that Barnes & Noble was looking for a store manager for the Foothills location, Kim and I looked at each other and said, I can't believe I never thought to apply there earlier in my career!
       Obviously, I feel blessed that I am with Barnes & Noble - they have taken such good care of me and my family...this week, I started back to work and the store looked great and felt great.  Everyone was excited to show me their departments and what they have been doing to drive sales.
             We begin our day by having a morning meeting.  Here's Jaimelyn, getting everyone fired up for their day!

          I always start my day with a Cafe Americano - Chris makes an excellent one (and later made me a great venti black iced tea, with two pumps of sugar!).  It sure is convenient having the cafe right in our building!  Our cafe ranks in the top 10 busiest in the country!  The team, led by cafe manager, Jon, does a super job.

        Next, we get the books to the shelves!  Jaimelyn is working on putting out all of the new releases.  I love Tuesday, new release day, it's neat to see what new is coming out.  Jaimelyn creates a visually impactful display to attract passerbys.

             Paul, Devon and Susie are poised to assist customers find the books they are looking for.

              The escalator to the second floor!  Always reminds me of the 80's band Robert Hazard and the Heroes, who were a one hit wonder with 'Escalator of Life'.

               Dan diligently shelves books...notice his technique.  He is a book ninja!

                  My District Manager, Tom, came down to spend some quality time with us today!  He's crunching numbers with our Receiving Manager, Devon and Eric.  Jaimelyn and Mary are engaged in serious book discussion...

                               There are three, big windows on the second floor....
And here is the view of the mountains looking out of them.  It is so incredible during monsoon, as the black clouds and lightning come over the mountains.

              Elizabeth (on left), the Children's Lead, provides expert advise to a customer.  She was instrumental in selecting books for the bambini's to read while I was out on leave.
              It is good to be back, with the great people that I am blessed to work with and I appreciate all that they did for me and the family!!!

            On the way to work, I noticed a stray Christmas tree sitting, lonely and abandoned, in front of the Good Will on Valencia Rd.  There is some unwritten law, that, this is where you come to dump your dead Christmas tree.  Kim and I would pass by and rubber neck, with fascination, over the mounds of trees that would accumulate beginning 12/26.  When the mound got high enough, the city would come by and take them away.  The very next day, the pile would commence growing again...as if by some sentinel force.  It was eerie.
            Just the other day, Cody and I were passing that spot and I commented 'I keep looking for another tree to show up'.  Cody thought it was way too late for that to happen...and yet, when I passed this morning, there it was!  I quickly texted Cody 'Dude, passing Good Will and there is a lone, stray tree in front!  Love U'  He hit me back: 'Awesome! Love u too. Bye!'...he's a sweet kid.
               Not a great shot, but, a Christmas tree, nonetheless...treat yourself and drive by, before it's gone!

             The bambini's had a good day in school...and talked me into In & Out Burger for dinner...I remember, when I busted Kim out of the hospital one time, all she wanted was to stop there and eat.  We went through the drive thru and sat together in the parking lot enjoying our burgers and each others company...I'll always have a fond spot in my heart for In & Out Burger...



Monday, February 14, 2011

St. Valentine

   Happy Valentine's Day!  Today, I read Robert Sabuda's retelling of the story of St. Valentine, the priest from ancient Rome, who was also a physician, to the bambini's.  St. Valentine treated a young girl, who had been born blind and restored her sight.  He was soon after sentenced to death for being a christian by the emperor.

    As you might imagine...Kimmy made our Valentine's Days pretty special.  She would always send the bambini to school with delightful treats, like cream cheese brownies!!  I did manage to have them fill out a Valentine for each child in their classroom (thanks Mrs. Schrantz and Mrs. Rudzena for making this easy on us parents by providing the names of the children in your class!) and a small something for each teacher.  And Mary and Emilio Montes just reminded me of the chocolate covered strawberries Kimmy would make...everyone LOVED those!!
   And, Kimmy always got each child a nice Valentine and a special gift - this I remembered...and she helped the kids buy us something too...oops, didn't think of that!  But, Andrea picked up the slack, helping the kids put together Valentine's for me and some cashews and Tazo Awake tea bags, so I can make my favorite iced tea and some new frames for my desks with photos of our family.  Let me tell you, they were just beaming this morning when they could present their gifts to me!  I probably could have not gotten them anything, they just felt so good about being able to give me gifts - it made them feel special
    For dinner, Kim would typically make us shrimp scampi or linguini with clam sauce....it was a toss up, but we decided we would try the scampi!
   Here is how Kim used to make this scrumptious dish:

                      Melt 2 tlbs spoons of butter in a sauce pan with 4 tlbs of olive oil.
                      Once white froth of butter starts to burn off, add 3 minced garlic cloves.
                      Let these simmer a few moments, but not brown.
                      Add 1 cup of your favorite pinot grigio.
                      Add shrimp and turn up heat.
                      As shrimp become pink, turn them over.
                      Add 3 or 4 sprigs of diced Italian parsley.
                      And some diced green onion, to taste.
                      As you are doing this, boil water for angel hair and prepare the pasta.
                      Once the shrimp is pink, mix in the pasta and serve!  Like this:

                                      After school, Autumn, Tonio, Lexy and Breanna exchanged Valentine's (look at the cute shirt that Lexy got Aut!!) and ran around crazy.  Cody took advantage of the 80 degree weather and rode bikes with Alex.  My neighbor, Tom and I had Peroni birra for a Valentine's Day treat while the kids played.

                  Unbeknownst to us, while we enjoyed our frosty beverages, Bella, sensing the time for revolution was right, armed herself...joining the regime of my sister, Sherri's, dog, the nefarious Mause, the Jihad expert.  There will be no sleep here tonight...
                  Today, I ventured back to work, after a 4 1/2 month hiatus...that team over at Barnes & Noble took such good care of me - the store looked fantastic, like I was never gone!  It was good to be back and to see everyone and to drink Cafe' Americanos and black iced tea with two pumps of sugar!  The Foothills Mall Barnes & Noble is such a fantastic building.  One of the largest in the company, it is two stories and has majestic views of Pusch Ridge out of the second floor windows.  And the team had done some great displays and were proud to show me all that they had accomplished over the weeks.  And I still got out early enough to go get Cody!
              During dinner, sweet little Tonio asked 'Dada, why did Mama have to die so young?'...I explained to him, that God needed Mama in Heaven...and told him how Mama knew she was very sick and was going to go to Heaven soon, and was not afraid, in fact, she was happy.  We talked about how she was no longer in pain and she did not have cancer anymore.  Autumn chimed in with a memory - one time, we were playing a game called 'Family Dinner - box of questions', a game that Mary, at Barnes & Noble got our family last year for Christmas and the kids love to play - the question 'What are you afraid of?' came up...we went around the table with our answers, and Cody said 'I'm afraid of dying'...Kimmy told him, ' I can understand that, and I hope I go peacefully, in my sleep, but you guys know, you will go to Heaven and there is nothing to be afraid of'...Autumn remembered that and commented 'Mama did go in her sleep, just like she wanted to!'.  Just like that, Tonio ran from the table, grabbed the game and we started to play.  Tonio asked the question 'Which teacher or coach has had the most impact on you?'  Tonio quickly answers "Mrs. Schrantz!  She is so nice to me every day!"...Autumn says "Mom and Dad - they have taught me so much", sweet right?  Prompting Tonio to change his answer, "oh, yeh, me too! Mom and Dad!", to which sweet little Autumn replies "hey...stop stealing my answers or I'll throw my fork in your eye!"...and so it goes....
       And I quote to the bambini:
         "Everybody come take my hand.   We'll walk this road together, through the storm.
          Whatever weather, cold or warm.
           Just lettin you know, you're not alone..."


PS  What was my answer to the question at dinner?  Jesus Christ.  Taught me that I am not alone, and to love my neighbor and to be a better person and gave me the ultimate sacrifice, reminding me, that whatever pain I might feel, it is nothing compared to what he suffered...and gives me strength to be there for the bambinis...and Tonio said 'wow, that's a great answer...'


Sunday, February 13, 2011

The 13th...

  On October 1st, 2003, Kim made this entry in her journal:

       "Just shy of 3 months old, Antonio rolled over today!  He pulled his leg as high as he could, crossed it over his body and he began to turn!  He was so proud, he smiled!  What a proud moment.  I'm so glad he started my day that way :)." 

        And her little ones continued to make her so proud, with whatever they did...I remember, she would call me at work, so excited that one of the bambini had smiled, or crawled, or walked a few steps.  Later, it would be tied their shoe, pedaled their bike,etc.  We were blessed to be able to have Kim be a stay at home mom for twelve, wonderful years.  She got to be there and experience every moment of her children's accomplishments and cherished each one.  I know that I'd often tell her, that she had a much harder job than any that I've ever had.  There were no breaks.  No lunches.  No vacations.  And no paycheck.  But, I'd always let her know, that you could not put a monetary value on the work she did.  Kimmy truly nurtured and shaped Cody, Autumn and Antonio into the remarkable children that they are today.  She would not have traded that for the world.  There would be moms that told her 'I don't know how you do it, I need my 'career''.  Or, 'you need to get a babysitter for yourself or put them in pre-school'.  Kim would just smile and nod, knowing that she got such satisfaction over what she was able to do and would not have passed that responsibility on to anyone, let alone a stranger at a daycare.  She'd also point out, that, any earnings she made would go right to paying for that childcare anyway...
      And they have been so resilient...we got to go to Mass as a family today, at Our Mother of Sorrows.  Monsignor Tom held a special Mass for the religious education classes in the church's hall, so he could explain the different parts and their importance.  Afterwards, we took Lexy with us to Viro's (to quote the immortal Brian Duffy 'what a surprise!') and all of the kids ate incredible amounts of food - where do they put it?  Rosa and Vito had a huge breakfast crowd today, but, as always, took time to visit with us all.
       Then, it was back to Fantasy Island!  We took Cody's buddy Ryan, our neighbor, Alex and Mario and David, while Andrea stayed back to watch Lexy, Breanna, Autumn and Tonio at our house.  Cody set a scorching pace for everyone...it was a fantastic afternoon in the mid-70's as we took our ride.  Mario, David and I did the 7 mile course and Cody, Ryan and Alex did the 10 mile ride...I opted not to go through the Elbow Jammer this week...It was a great ride!  Meanwhile, Andrea worked on Valentine prep with the bambini, read the St. Valentine's story by Robert Sabuda to them and cleaned!!! 
        Cody ended up going to Alex's to play video games and Amy made them spaghetti! 
        For dinner, I made chicken with rice, a recipe that Andrea had given to Kim many years ago and I know the kids will always eat.  Can't remember if I've shared it or not, but just in case, here it is:

         I usually buy one of the roasted chickens at the super market and shred the meat.
         Then, make some white rice.
         While that is cooking, put some olive oil in a pan, heat it up.
          Once heated, add a clove of garlic, minced and a 1/2 cup of chopped onion.
         Allow this to begin to brown, and scramble two eggs in.
         Once the eggs have cooked, add 1/2 bag of frozen peas/carrot mix.
         Allow that to heat up and stir in some green onion, to taste and then the chicken.
         Mix that all up good and when everything is warm, stir in rice and add soy sauce to taste.
         I like to add a healthy amount of pepper, too!

            And Bella, she had a fun weekend, too!  Andrea's son, David, cleaned out his room and generously gave Tonio some of his Nerf guns...a few of which have lasers.  Well, the kids quickly figured out that Bella will chase the lasers for hours...they had her turning on and off lights, by pointing the laser at the light switch and jumping high off the ground as she would try to chase the light up the wall!
                                          Here she is, stalking a laser beam now....
                  We ended our day with yet another movie night (our friends, Kirk, Annette and Alyssa, brought us over a huge basket of movie snacks - thanks guys!), watching 'The Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole'.  Autumn is a huge owl fan and this was an early Valentine's Day present...yep, I remembered that Kimmy always got the kids a card and a little something special...I will write their cards out once Cody gets to bed!  Although, Autumn pointed out to me, as she sleepily marched off to bed tonight, that I had forgotten to get out the Valentine's decorations this year...


           "Better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all"
                                                                    -St. Augustine