We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

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

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Principal of the Year and Dinner at Viro's!

  Wow.  I had just finished blogging about our A+ schools in the Vail School District.  And today, when I walked into the office to pick up Tonio and Autumn, ready with some off color, crazy comment to make Patti laugh, I noticed Calvin Baker, our superintendent and Debbie Hedgepath, the asst. super, in the office (luckily, I was able to refrain from making any offensive comments!)..they were there to present our principal, Deborah Bryson, with the "Principal of the Year" award!!! Never, in the 18 years I have lived in the Vail School District, have I seen a more deserving candidate!  And to be chosen to write a personal reference for Deborah, was an incredible honor.  And what a risk she took - as I had to seal the envelop and put my signature across the seal - I could have written virtually anything...!  But, she trusted me enough, to ask me to write a letter to the selection committee, as to why she was deserving of this incredible honor.  Kim would have been gushing...she absolutely loved Ms. Bryson - and what she has done for Cottonwood..
We are all so proud of Ms. Bryson and how she has shaped Cottonwood into an A+ school!

       This morning, I went to Mass at San Xavier again...for Kimmy.  It was a wonderful Mass.  The priest began the Mass, by telling the children from the San Xavier Mission school to look under their seats for a 'get out of school free' pass.  They were very excited and looking hard for their special pass, when, the priest said 'April Fools!'...  He delivered a great Mass from there - and, it was the first Mass I made it through without cyring...but, I could not help but see Kimmy, on our wedding day, turning towards me to deliver her vows...with those sparkling blue eyes...And when Kimmy was nervous and had to speak in front of people, her voice would be reduced to a hoarse whisper, nearly dissappearing...In my mind's eye, I could see her turning, turning and whispering 'I do', over and over and over...
        When Mass was ended, I took some time to speak to the father and he put some things into perspective for me....and then, I lit a candle for Kimmy, as I always do, in the main church and then over to the small chapel dedicated to Mary.  In this chapel, I dusted the photo of Kimmy that I had placed on the altar and lit her a new candle...afterwards, I hiked up the mountain, to Mary's altar and around the top...

Here is a mosaic, in the inner sanctuary, where Kimmy and I got our wedding pictures taken, of Mary of Guadalupe, a beautiful, tile piece.

      And a Saint Francis shrine...

          Brian and I got some work done on the nitcho this afternoon, pouring 5 bags of concrete into it...we're getting there!  We hit 96 degrees today, Mother Nature's April Fool's prank on us!  My sister, Laur, sent us photos of the Philadelphia area, hit today by snow, suggesting this was Mother Nature's prank...she has started a blog and will post her recipes, as well as, her experiences...let me remind you, it was me who taught Kimmy how to cook...and she used a lot of Laur's recipes!!  I have posted Laur's link with Ami, Casey and Jessica's links, down the right hand side of this blog, just above the music selection.  Check it out!
           After I picked up the bambini's from school, we headed down to Viro's to visit with Rosa and Vito and enjoy some Lenten dinner!  Amy, Tom and Alex joined us, along with Annette, Kirk and Alyssa Perrini and Lupe, Manny and Monsi Barrios.  We descended upon Viro's, and the folks there took us in, graciously, making us a long table to enjoy their food and company.
And we feasted...Amy, Tom,Manny (in deep contemplation...hmmm, I'm at an Italian restaurant...should I order the fish?), Lupe, Kirk, Annette and Antonio..
Erica, Breanna, Tatiana, Crystal, Nikki and Nick all helped make our night memorable at Viro's.  Tatiana made me a 3 espresso shot cappuccino that is keeping me up, even now, at 1 a.m.!! 

Afterwards, we headed back to my house, where the kids formed a rock band!  Janene dropped Bryson off, too, to play with the kids, while Brenden played baseball over at Purple Heart Park.  Janene just got back from Pennsylvanian, where her husband, Brad, is from, after a visit with her in-laws and brought Tonio an awesome Penn State shirt that reads; "Losing? Never heard of it!". 

It was a fun, productive day for all of us...and our friends helped make it happen...we are blessed and thankful for all of you!

When we went outside to say goodnight to Kimmy around midnight, we all noticed that the Big Dipper has shifted to the west in the sky....Antonio, proudly taught us, that with each changing season, the constellations will move!  He's pretty smart!!  And then, they all wished Kimmy a good night...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A+ Schools

   As you know, our Vail School District is really something to be proud of.  I've lived out here 18 years now - Kim and I saw this school district grow, from 0 schools in Rita Ranch, to a district of 17 schools, with an 18th to be added next year, a new high school that I am blessed to be a part of the planning committee...we've been so happy with the teachers, the administrators and the over all leadership over the years.
    When Cody came close to being ready for kindergarten, we wanted the best for him.  So, we investigated the area parochial schools...and watched the construction of Cottonwood Elementary, going up just across the street from our development, in the desert where I used to run Cajun...would it provide a good enough education for our Cody?  We were skeptical.
     We attended the kindergarten round-up, thinking Cody would probably end up going to St. Joseph's school, as I was, at that time, managing the Toys R Us right across the street and we thought it was a good school and would be convenient.  Then, we met the staff and teachers at Cottonwood and we thought 'we need to give this a try' and Cody was placed in Ami Daniel's (now Bunch) class. 
      Kim would always tell me, at the first sign of trouble, she would pull Cody out of public school and home school him!  I have no doubt that she would have done a tremendous job!  She even researched websites, looked at how to get supplies, looked at the curriculum ('Yeh, I could do that', she told me), planned out where in our home she would teach Cody, etc. etc.  But, Ms. Daniels, of course, blew us away with her caring, thoughtful approach - Cody was learning so much, so rapidaly - and any thought of pulling Cody that year was also blown away...then, in first grade, we wanted Cody to have Mrs. Christensen - a highly acclaimed teacher, who we had come to know - for first grade...and he was assigned to her class!  But, the school decided to add a creative writing course called 'Blast' and Mrs. Christensen accepted the responsibility for teaching this class (and did an incredible job!!) - we were apprehensive, when a brand new teacher was assigned to take over our Cody's first grade class...'I'll pull him, if this doesn't work out!', Kimmy promised...Ms. Spencer came aboard, and in her first year, proved to be an excellent teacher (now Mrs. Stoner) and her and Cody bonded and Cody really responded to her teaching style and he flourished!!  Kim was hooked on Cottonwood from that point forward!!!  All of his teachers, the rest of the way, were incredible!  Each and every one...and the same can be said for Autumn's and Antonio's (who were blessed to get Ami's sister, Mary - what great teaching jeans in that family!!).
      How many times, have their teachers been the ones to help them through a difficult moment this year?  How many times have their teachers been able to put a smile back on their little faces?  How many times, have I dragged myself through those gates, to pick them up after fighting through my day - only to have them pick me up too??  I can't count that high...unfortunately, I was not educated in the Vail School District!
       Around this time last year, Cottonwood was going through the A+ application process.  This designation carries a lot of merit in our state and gives recognition to the administration and teachers for the outstanding teaching that they do.  And not only teaching - the committee and the process, looks for things the school does to separate it from other schools - so things like great teaching are just a piece of the equation.  The school must also provide programs above and beyond the standard.  It must be in tune with diversity and recognize that each child learns at a different pace and be able to reach each student.  It is a grueling process, involving everyone on campus.  They all work very hard to achieve this prestigious designation.
       The review committee asks to interview a cross section of parents - and Kim and I were honored to be selected to participate.  I can remember meeting with the committee, last March, in the library - they asked the question 'What sets your school apart from others?'.  And Kimmy, once shy little Kimmy, who at one time would have been happy to just be in that room listening to the feedback of others and nodding and smiling in agreement to their answers, raised her hand high...
        She joyfully and tearfully (you know Kimmy...), detailed her initial fears of public schools not living up to her high standards for her little blessings, now known as the bambini.  She spoke about how Cottonwood has grown, how our current principal, Ms. Bryson, has taken her team and turned it into a family for all of us - a family of educators, who care for our children beyond just teaching them to learn their lessons, but provide a nurturing, loving environment, where the children feel safe, and look forward to coming to school.  Ms. Bryson has put together a team of enthusiastic and creative teachers, dedicated to raising the bar.  She told them about Antonio's reading difficulties and how he was placed in the Head Sprout program (the program Kim assisted with right up until the day she was admitted to St. Joseph's, frantically reminding me to contact Ellen and Kristine to let them know she'd be back just as soon as she could to help). And how Antonio was not made to feel like he was behind or deficient in some way, but made to feel that he was part of something special and the sense of accomplishment he got when he tore through the program at an incredible pace!  Kim then related how our little Autumn, somehow cursed with a Boston accent, was caringly taking aside to speech classes - I remember, as a kid, the children who went to speech were pulled out of class, abruptly and there was a stigma attached to speech therapy - but Kimmy told the committee how at Cottonwood, this program is discreet and again, focused on reinforcing the child's sense of self-worth and how Autumn did not feel funny about receiving assistance, but, like Antonio, was proud of her accomplishments.   And I remember the rapt attention that the committee gave to Kim, as she poured her heart out, so passionately, so unabashedly shedding her tears for her love of the school and the people and the programs....
         Needless to say, Cottonwood received that A+ designation...and, it was with these memories and about 2 1/2 hours of sleep, that I headed to Cody's school, Desert Sky, to participate in that same process today, as they go for their A+ designation.  I was able to speak of the leadership, shown by Mr. Mortensen and Mr. Woolridge and how it flows down to each and every teacher - and how Cody has become so engrossed with his classes, especially art, with Mrs. Kitzmiller and the enrich programs, like History of Rock and Roll with Mrs. Silver and one on movies taught by Mr. Wauer.  I channeled Kimmy as I spoke about the passion at Desert Sky and the dedication - the interview seemed to go very well, and I was able to, afterward, relate to the committee how above and beyond Cody's teachers and the admistration have gone to assist Cody through his challenging time...he did not miss a day of school, choosing to dive right back into this wonderful environment, where he knew he was respected and loved...his teachers working extra to put his smile back on his face...I know Kimmy was with me, there today...and I'm confident Desert Sky will receive the award that Kimmy so desired for Cottonwood last year...

          After that...I was feeling a little hungry (sleep could wait...and still is!)...but, I've found that I do not like to eat alone anymore...so, I had one option...Viro's!!  All of the smiling faces that I posted the other day were there to greet me - and Erica whipped me up one of her famous cappuccino's - yeh, no Rock Star today - right away.  Vito Jr. sat down with me, while I ate and we talked - Rosa came out to visit, too.  I'm hooked on the pesto sandwhich right now - I actually looked the whole menu over, thinking I'd just get something different - but, ordered it anyway.  Danny, who makes great gelato and beautiful cakes - told me I'm losing weight - I told him I slimmed down so I could eat at Viro's more often!!  He asked where the bambini were, and I told him sadly, in school - and how I came to see all of the friendly people here - 'We're here for you, anytime, Dave' he told me.

          I ran back out to get the little ones (Mary Montes, beginning to show a little baby!!! But no so much Jenny Rienstra, yet!), got them to do their homework and off to swim lessons...they have some work to do!  Once they were done, we were able to make it back to Desert Sky to get Cody from track - just a few days conditioning and he's ready to run Saturday in his first meet of the season!  And then back to our 'hood, where I made chicken tacos for Betsey, Brian and the kids, afterwhich, we all went out front to let the kids play and Amy, Tom and Alex joined us...the sunset was spectacular...

          I surprised the kids with Redbox DVD's tonight - 'Tangled' for the little ones and 'Machete' for Cody and I.  'Machete' is another Robert Rodriquez instant classic - he is able to capture that 70's, B-movie feel, with a parody twist that makes them so entertaining. And who knew that Cheech Marin is so handy weilding a shotgun in both hands?  Danny Trejo is the hero, the legendary Machete, who gets to save the day, ride off into the sunset and gets the girl, too...
          I don't know what 'Tangled' was all about, but Autumn and Tonio seemed to enjoy it...and then we stepped out back, into the warm, star filled night, to say goodnight to Kimmy...the Big Dipper was completely upside down, the bambini's observed as they told Mama to have sweet dreams...
          I feel as though I've finally punched my way out of the fog that I've been trolling through the last three and a half months - induced by the fear that I felt for those two months Kimmy was in the hospital - my biggest anxiety now, is just knowing where the bambini will be, when I have to work and who they will be with...I'm working on feeling less stress about this and how I handle the stress, which is a struggle for me - and also, having faith that it will all work out...

        "Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have."
                                                                                                              Phillippians 4:11

         ...actually, I am learning to be content with what I have...

Then there is Cody...

            Today, my day started at 5:30, getting the bambini's ready for school and preparing for a trip to Phoenix for a Barnes & Noble market meeting....I had to get the kids to school just a little early, so I could make the start of the meeting - Cody helped.  He's on top of so much these days and I'm always surprised and amazed...
             He helped by cleaning up laundry and the bathroom.  Then, he cleaned up the breakfast dishes and made sure the little ones were on track, while I fumbled through my morning fog...we made it out the door with time to spare - and when I dropped him off, he told me 'have a safe trip Dad, love you...'   I sat there in the parking lot of Desert Sky for a moment and watched him walk towards the gate...he'll be 14 next month...and has grown sooooo much over the last 5 months, spiritually, emotionally - I used to call him 'little man' and now, he's my young man.
            I know I've gone over this before, but, Kimmy used to always characterize my relationship with Cody as 'Mr. Fun'.  We'd throw a ball at the park. Go for bike rides. Take a swim.  When it came to homework or emotional stuff, Kim stepped in.  Her and Cody were very, very close.  She really understood him and they'd spend some time together each night, as I got Autumn and Tonio ready for bed, talking about Cody's day, his highs, his lows, his doubts and fears. 
            When Cody was born, I was very young (32...!) and had little patience.  Kim taught me the patience, over the years, so I was better prepared when Autumn and Tonio came along.  I would get so mad if Cody would not listen the first time and Kimmy would lovingly intervene 'Dave...he's only 3', she'd remind me.  And she worked with me on becoming more and more patient, to get me to where I am now (hey, I know I still have a ways to go - and I may never have the patience that Kimmy had!).
             Now, Cody and I do not butt heads when we disagree - we have no trouble talking things through.  He is so appreciative of everything, taking time to thank me throughout the day for making meals, doing wash, taking him places.  And, when he asks to run to Target for a new shirt - he tells me; "I got this Dad, I want to pay for this with my own money".  His level of responsibility has gone sky high in a matter of weeks.
          He still misses his Mom, quite a bit, but seems to have a good handle on things - his report card, we got last week, was his best of the year, straight A's and an 88 average in Algebra.  His teachers all say what a contributor he is and love to see the smile back on Cody's face.  And, he's been able to successfully transition between teachers, as Mrs. Jandorff and Mrs. Lopez left to have babies - He's done great in Mrs. Jackson's class (who took over for Mrs. Jandorff) and likes Mrs. Sarnoski, Mrs. Lopez' replacement!
           And he speaks passionately about the classes he loves: Enrich - The History of Rock and Roll -which, sadly ended with last quarter, with Mrs. Silver.  The art class with Mrs. Kitzmiller - he sure has Kimmy's talent! 

         Around the house, Cody has been a dynamo, helping clean the garage, work in the garden, he does floors, vacuuming....he has that endless supply of energy...and will ask 'is there anything else I can help you with Dad?'.  He's even getting better with the little ones, playing video games and watching t.v. with them.  And, we still like to go for bike rides, but, as you know, he drags me through Fantasy Island, with little hope of me keeping up!
        Energy is good, as he has begun Track season over at Desert Sky!  We got him a new pair of track shoes, he is so proud of and he is working hard towards his first track meet this Saturday!!  Today, after practice, our friend, Dawn, picked Cody up and took him to Carl's Jr.  I was just beginning my drive back to Tucson, around 5:15 when I got a text from Cody: "How's your day in Phx Dad?"...I quick hit him back 'K.  U have a good day?'..."Yep, Dawn's taking us to Carl's Jr., K?"..."K"..."Luv U"...He's come so far, in such a short time...I appreciate this young man so much - he has always been a blessing, but even more so now!  Of course, I do not advocate texting while driving, but I find selecting a tune on the Ipod even more distracting!!  And Cody helped me out with that last night, helping me prep a play list for the long drive up and back to Phoenix!!
        I got back into town around 6:30, in time for the start of my store's inventory...again, I am blessed with an extraordinary team at the store!!! Jaimelyn and the team had the store dialed in and when the count began at 7, it went very smooth!! Susie, one of our Head Cashiers, organized an incredible spread of food (everyone citing that I've lost too much weight and need to eat - I do eat, although sometimes don't get around to it, as I don't have as much time these days and boy, did Kimmy make everyday a 'food fest' or what?) including shrimp, chicken and veggie tacos with all of the toppings and so many people brough great food so I could 'graze', as one of the other managers, Jaime, told me I tend to do... Around 10:30, as I was extolling the benefits of Rock Star energy drink to Jaimelyn (I like the lemonade flavor, but what exactly is taurine and what does it do?), when in came my D.M., Tom, carrying a cola flavored Rock Star!  We exchanged Rock Star stories - maybe we could do a commercial (and, thanks to Rock Star, I am able to write this post, as I wait for the wash to get done so Cody's track clothes are ready for him today!). It sure carried us through!! And Tom continues to be so supportive of our family, it's amazing.  Meanwhile, Betsey stayed with the little ones for me until I got home around 1:45 a.m.  AND she cleaned Autumn and Antonio's room for us!!! Autumn stumbled out, bleary eyed..."Hi Dad, how was your day?  Wake you up at 6:10?"  "Yeh, thanks Aut"  "Love you Dad!"  I am blessed!  I know I only stand to get 3 hours of sleep tonight, till the laundry is done, but I've had less...much less...and after the long day today, that's ok!!
       And the thing I missed most, as I got ready to head to Phoenix, was, how sweet Kimmy was...she would always wake up early with me and make me an egg and cheese sandwhich for the ride...and on my breaks and at lunch, I'd always call her to say hi and let her know how things were going...she'd insist I give her a call when I got on the 10 and would always tell me to drive safe...

       Cody and I still relate our experience to music we listen to, enjoying much the same music - and Cody tells me, Mockingbird, by Eminem, reminds him of his Mama...

      I know sometimes things may not always make sense to you right now
     But hey, what mommy always tell you?
     Straighten up little soldier
     Stiffen up that upper lip
     What you crying about?
     You got me
   He told me, that Kimmy would tell him to 'straighten up little soldier' when he would cry...And...

I can see you're sad, even when you smile, even when you laugh
I can see it in your eyes, deep inside you want to cry
    He says he can relate to these lines, to...we talk it through, though and he seems to do better - but, as I said, he was closest to his Mama - and I know there are other lines in this song he identifies with - and I make sure to talk to him about them, as we listen...

    He's keeping busy, between track and keeping on the honor roll...he received 4 awards at a ceremony last week at school and gets his homework all done without me even asking...I'm pretty proud of him and I tell him his Mama would be/is proud of him, as she smiles down on him and quote a different Eminem song to him from When I'm Gone;

And when I'm gone, just carry on, don't mourn
Rejoice every time you hear the sound of my voice
Just know that I'm looking down on you smiling
And I didn't feel a thing, So baby don't feel my pain
Just smile back

    And we know Kimmy is no longer in pain...as a beautiful angel...watching over us...
In fact, I spotted a seagull, flying over the 10, near Orange Grove...reminding me of the beach, Kimmy's favorite spot...


Sunday, March 27, 2011

An end to Spring Break...

   Ahhh Spring Break...it always goes so fast, leaving us wanting more...we used to take such fabulous roadtrips over Spring Break, mostly to San Diego...although, Kim and I used to like to get over to Disneyland on Spring Breaks, too.  These last few years, Kimmy really looked forward to these breaks, time off from work and time to spend with the bambini.  She'd fill their days with crafts and cooking.  Baking them treats and taking special little trips with them...
  ...we sure tried to keep busy this break and ended with a flourish, hitting the zoo with Amy and Betsey on Thursday, Spring Training baseball Friday, yesterday, party at Betsey and Brian's and today, Old Tucson Movie Studios, with the help of Jaimelyn and Scott Thomas (Jaimelyn and I work together at Barnes & Noble, where they have been holding down the fort for me over the last two weeks!  And Scott was a long time stunt man over at OT, until recently, but came through with some passes today!). 
     It was an incredible day, temps in the mid-70's - we started by going to church and then, what a surprise, to Viro's. 

People dine on the veranda at Viro's on an beautiful morning!
Lena, Nick, Erica and Nikki are always so friendly and helpful!  Nick is an A.C. Milan fan, but I do not hold it against him - he makes a good sandwich!  Nikki has assumed omelet duties from Christina and made some awesome omelets this morning for us - Cody had two, as usual!  Erica made me another, high octane, cappuccino!  Lena always helps clear the plethora of plates the bambini accumulate (and, she makes a great cappuccino, too!).

Asuzanna brings out more delicious food from Rosa's kitchen!  She is non-stop!!
          And what a great day for us to be at Viro's today - we got to see Vito's oldest son, Joe and his wife Deanna!  These guys are always on the go, doing exciting things.  Recently, they did a little camping up Mt. Lemmon - they camped near some rowdy guys, who actually brought televisions into the forest and were watching the NCAA tourney - now that's roughing it!
             And, of course, Vito and Rosa were there...to make our morning complete.
            I forgot to take a picture of the amazing buffett - next week!  You can catch a glimpse of their homemade gelato in the case behind Vito - You can not find it anywhere with the homemade taste that Viro's has!  And as great as the food at Viro's is, the people are what make it so special...

            With our bellies full, we picked up Betsey, Brian, Hadley, Mitch, Amy, Tom and Alex and headed to Old Tucson.
          The kids always seem to gravitate toward the motor cars - as if an invisible beam pulls them in from the park entrance - irristable!  Alex, Mitch, Cody and Tonio anxiously wait for their car as Autumn and Hadley prepare for departure.
                                          Here come Hadley and Autumn!!
                                          Tonio, barely hanging on while Mitch drives...
                                          And Cody cruised by...
                                         Followed by Alex....

                                        Alex, Tonio, Brian, Mitch and Hadley are clearly terrified as we find our way through the Haunted mine...When Kim and I first started going to Old Tucson, back in 1994, this ride featured mine cars that rode you through the mine on tracks.  Now, you walk through, led by a guide.  Our guide today, was 'Terrible Tom'..he must be in his 90's and is pretty funny!
          There's a new sheriff in town!  Tonio jails the crew and taunts them with the keys!
                        Hadley, Autumn, Alex, Cody, Tonio, Mitch, Betsey, Tom, Amy and Brian are ready for the comedy performance by the Santa Rita Mission.
         One of the stuntmen, Travis, who plays the sheriff's deputy in this skit, takes a seat next to the girls during the performance!  Autumn was just a little taken aback!

                   Autumn, Hadley, Amy, Tom, Brian and Betsey are psyched for the train ride!  We used to take Cajun on this train, when Kim and I would visit Old Tucson before having the bambini.
                     Hadley, Antonio and Autumn outside the High Chapparal t.v. show set.

                One more ride on the motor cars!  Tonio finds time to take a siesta, while keeping his vehicle on the road!!
               It was a good day...and a nice end to Spring Break...I guess all breaks must come to an end and we sure made a lot of great memories together over this break!  I return to work tomorrow, tanned, rested and ready!  Well, maybe not rested - I was telling Jaimelyn today, it is great to spend so much time with the bambini's, but, as Kim and I always used to joke - there are no breaks or lunches - it is full steam ahead from dawn to midnight!!
             But it really helped being off with these guys and thank you to all of you who made this a wonderful, healing, Spring Break for our family!!!