We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

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

Friday, April 29, 2011

Gaining steam

          You know where I started my day...it's Friday, so I was at 8:30 Mass at San Xavier Mission...
          It was a beautiful morning and a beautiful Mass...I counted 5 nuns, the most I've seen in one place since we moved here...7 parishoners and me...#13, in church, how appropriate...When I went to light a candle, in Mary's chapel and to dust Kimmy's photo, a man was mopping the floor.  I thanked him for keeping the place so clean and he told me he's even been dusting, including Kimmy's photo...I thanked him...Later, Aut asked if I walked up the mountain, I told her of course...
         I wanted to spread out a lot of Kimmy's Kut-a-Thon flyers today, and I thought it was time to get over to St. Joe's, to give some to the incredible RN's and tech's that worked so hard for Kimmy...although I felt sad, as I pulled up, I looked forward to running the stairs to the 5th floor...and that icy fear that had gripped my heart was not there as I ran, I did not have to fear what I might find when I got to the 5th floor today...and what I found were some great hugs and a team that was so appreciative of what Janene is doing to raise money for Kimmy's Foundation - and they all had great things to say about Kimmy.  I also stopped by ICU, where that team labored tirelessly to help Kimmy and saw Dr. McCarten and Deborah - two of the most influential people in our lives while Kimmy was there...I caught a glimpse of scary Dr. Riley, the pulmonary guy and wondered who he was butchering today...but it was a very positive visit, overall...as I ran back down the stairs, my cell rang and it was Andrea.  I told her where I was and that her call brought back a flood of good memories, of all the people who called me daily to check on Kimmy and of those who brought me food so that I did not have to leave her side...I thanked her...
         Janene is working hard to bring the Kut-a-Thon together...she called me tonight and said Channel 4 news, KVOA, called and said they received the press release for the event and would be there at 1 to film the day of the event.  I thanked her for writing a press release...she said I thought you wrote one...
         And, Rincon Vista continues to raise money for Kimmy's Foundation...here's a shot of the cool t-shirts:

It reads "A Lean Mean Cancer-Fighting Team"  and "in Memory of Kim "Possible" Conca...such a nice tribute and, Aimee Snyder, at Rincon, is really championing the fund raising!  They give an option to donate to the American Cancer Society or to Kim's Foundation...the nice thing about Kim's Foundation, is, that 100% of the money will go directly to help people - no administrative costs!!!
And I made it over to Viro's again today, where it felt like Rita Ranch day, as I saw about 5 people from that area in there...Lena, not one to mess around, immediately crafted me a double cappuccino...

Later, I made pasta and Monsi and Tonio worked on their stoles for their First Holy Communion!

Lupe and Manny helped supervise...

                                          Almost done....
Ahhh, nice job kids!! Bella might appear to be innocently retrieving her ball, but, if you look closely, her right paw is gripping a pair of scissors that was left on the table...she's up to no good! 
Lupe took the bambini's to Baskin Robbins when they were done for some ice cream!

We're appreciative of all of the continued encouragement and support!  And Dawn came up with a great idea for Cody's 8th grade graduation (her son, Alec, is graduating too). 
Now, the bambini are ready for bed...Our neighbor, Alex and Cody are watching movies, having a sleep over...Tonio and Aut are in my room watching Dodge Ball...it's been a long week...but again, you all helped us through it!!!

Forgot something...

 Forgot that I actually squeezed in lunch at Viro's, yesterday, too - having a meal with Vito and his Dad...and Breanna made me this incredible cappuccino:
         Her presentation making it look almost too good to drink....but I drank it anyway!
And here's a working link to my friend, Andy Thom's, video....

        Have a great day,

Thursday, April 28, 2011

I was built for this...

    I wasn't going to blog today.  I just wasn't.  It has been a sprint and May is looking like it will be even faster! And, frankly, I'm a little fried.  But, I was built for this.
    That is the mantra, that suddenly popped into my head one night, in moment of clarity, as I raced from having put the bambini to bed, back to the hospital, while my neighbor, Amy, kept the kids safe.  I needed to see Kimmy again, although I was exhausted, I knew she was even more exhausted - how do you sleep in a hospital?  You have machinery hooked up to you, restricting, beeping...you have constant activity in the halls...and, just when you think you are drifting off, your vitals need to be checked.  It is what it is.  And I needed to see her, to hold her hand, to kiss her lips...and I found myself hurtling down Broadway, my mind on getting there, racing up the comfort of the darkened stairwells, and also on the bambini, tucked into bed - what were they thinking?  How were they feeling?  I knew I could help both and then, just like that, it popped into my head; 'I was built for this'...as if God himself whispered it into my ear.
     And, with help from the 'green drink', and all of the good people who cooked nutritious meals for us and brought me food constantly in the hospital, I kept up that routine...I had to.  Kim's eyebrows, you see, were always slightly raised...she was worried...I needed to be there for her...the bambini, seemed so much more fragile...I had to be there for them...so I split the time.  And, of course, there were soooo many of you, who filled in the impossible gaps, between where I was and where I needed to be...amazing.
     These last two days along have been like that - and, after I dropped the kids off safely at their second homes, school!, and was going back to Cottonwood, where I absolutely love to be a part of grading papers, helping with projects, and whatever they need, thinking that I needed to get more flyers for Kimmy's Kut-a-Thon to businesses (which, I did, from Chuy's to Civano!  Finding out that Subway is coming to where Quizno's was and Java's Edge had gone out of business and the kind words, at each establishment - they all remembered Kimmy and had nice things to say) and knowing that in between cooking Andrea's rice and chicken for the kids and making marinara sauce for the weekend, I needed to be out at Cienega High School, for a Vail School District budget meeting at 6:30 (thanks for giving me a ride Amy!  And Dawn, I will not waste my entertainment talents if you're technology is not prepared to partake!) After the meeting tonight, Matt Federoff, our school district's technology guru, came to me and told me that because of Kim, he has doubled his efforts to make sure his wife knows how much he loves her and feels that - when someone tells me that, I feel that Kim is still spreading her magic...thanks Matt!!...and finally, watching Aut and Tonio help plant new flowers in the Cottonwood garden...it came to me again, in a blur...I'm built for this...I have to be, the bambini needs it to be.  But sometimes, I'm just too tired to go on...
              Lookit how Tonio has his arm around Autumn - he is so full of love.  Tammy LaPlant helps Mariano with some rosemary.  Thank you Jenn Bell and the PTSA for resurrecting this garden, that was so important to Kim - she just wanted the children to have a place to plant and a place of beauty...Jenn was so impressed with Tonio - she asked him which plant he wanted to plant and he said the rosemary - 'You know which one it is?' 'Yes' Tonio answered.  'By how it looks?'  'Well, that and how it smells' plant expert Tonio answered.
            There is so much to do for Kimmy this month.  May 2nd...garden dedication...May 3rd....Town Hall Meeting to help Vail School District...May 7th...Cody's track championship...May 8th...Tonio's First Holy Communion on Mother's Day....May 10th...Aut's 11th birthday!...May 13th&14th....Relay for Life - Kimpossible T-shirts are here and are beautiful!!!...May 15th...Kimmy's Kut-a-Thon at Janene's Unique Identitiy Salon (more flyers to hang tomorrow!)...May 20th...Weiner Roast (uh, yes, Kimmy was so excited to be a part of Mrs. Schrantz, end of the year event for her kids!)....May 21st...Knights of Columbus raffle drawing (did you buy your tickets yet?  Can't win, if you don't play!  And if you play, Kimmy's Foundation wins!)...also our wedding anniversary...May 26th...Cody's 8th grade graduation!!!  Kimmy talked and talked about this...here, I am paralyzed...what to do for him???....May 27th...Aut and Tonio's last day of school...and I know that I am missing something....fill in any blanks for me...I was built for this??  I'm investing in Rock Star stock tomorrow. 
          Anyway, what made me blog tonight...was a bit of our past...reaching out via You Tube...Two of the most creative guys I've ever met, Rich Check and Andy Thom - Andy still works in designing/drawing/animating for movies (like an upcoming Spiderman movie)...we would spend hours creating skits and filming them...they came up with the whole Sorta-Realism movement, that I'm sure you're familiar with...and Andy sent me a link to a video that features Kim and I.  Back whhen the dinosaurs still roamed the earth...
      And I loved Andy's email to me, as he sent me this vault from our past...the subject line just read 'WTF?'...and, to tell you the truth, I couldn't imagine...and, when I opened it, he wrote; 'OK, let me say I have completely NO recollection of this happening whatsoever...'  And this is really Andy's writing, as to preserve the authenticity of this piece, I actually cut and pasted his words!  As good as having a  star autograph something for you.   As I watched it, I didn't either.  But catch the glimpses of Kimmy...when I saw her, it hurled me back over the years, into that night, so long ago, in that perfect moment - just kids, having another greatest time - no worries, no stresses - just enjoying each other's company...and my heart, I can remember that love I felt for Kim at that moment, in that time...so all consuming...And I had to put this out there, so you could see it - remember, Kim was an artist, an incredible artist and she loved Check's creativity and Andy's talent.  When they worked together, I remember feeling so inadequate, so talentless, so un-funny - but they would never make you feel like that, they'd always encourage you and include you - even if you were a guy named Abul who did not care for the song they were interviewing you about....I love the part where Rich (oh, I'm sorry, let me set up the scene - Rich Check is the narrarator and Andy Thom is the guy restlessly pacing in the background...I'm guessing Jim Friedman was the camera man...and yes, that is me, being interviewed - I am that 'Guy on the Street'... (and possibly vocalist on the soundtrack), sitting next to the lovely Kim, who, sadly, has no lines, but smiles...so pretty...) throws away his microphone and says 'hey..we don't need this, this is television!'...simple, but we had a lot of fun being Sorta-Realists...it was a way of life...
       Although the date stamp on You Tube says 1987, I believe it was actually '82 or '83...so, 28, 29 years ago...damn. 

         So again, I ask you, please give Tonio a hug when you see him...tell Autumn how pretty her hair is (she's mostly doing it herself, but, I have to pull a Zohan for her now and again and style it for her)...congratulate Cody on his speed on the track..they appreciate all of the love and support that you give us...as for me, well, I was built for this!

PS and where is Andy Thom?...check this out!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011


        Well, it's time I talk about Antonio...I've thought about what I would write for so long now...and, I find, that he is the hardest to write about...I can't exactly explain why - maybe it is because, he is so sweet and I want to find the exact, right words...maybe it is because he is so interesting, that I want to portray him in the right light...
         I do know this, Tonio and his Mama, had a special relationship.  He was tattooed to her hip.  He absolutely glowed in her presence.  She was able to softly cajole him into doing anything she wanted him to do, whether it was shower and get ready for bed, or eat a lima bean casserole (you know I'm just tossing examples out there for effect - do you think Kimmy would have tortured us with a lima bean casserole?)  And he'd always listen to her so well...'Yes, Mama'.  'Ok, Mama'.
        Tonio would draw his Mama special pictures.  Or pick her flowers in the back yard.  Or offer to help her around the house. 
        When Kimmy was hired as a para pro in Mrs. Montes' class, Tonio was so excited to have his Mama working in his class!  She would give him instruction when he was wiggly in the classroom, telling him to listen and sit still.  Once, to the point of exasperation when Antonio just could not sit still, Mrs. Montes pulled Kimmy aside and told her 'Watch this.  Antonio?  What did I just ask the class to do?'  And, to Kim's astonishment, Tonio repeated Mrs. Montes' instruction. 'See?  He listens, and gets his work done.  He just can't sit still!'.
         He's still wiggly.  And I feel that I am constantly prompting him...to get ready for school - brush your teeth, comb your hair, stop wrestling the dog, put your lunch in your back pack, stop playing legos, put on your sneakers, don't climb over the wall into the dining room...on and on, non-stop...but, he can be so sweet...the one thing that always brings a tear to my eye, is how he and Autumn hug, when we drop him off at Mrs. Schrantz' classroom.  It is so genuine and they tell each other to have a nice day and that they love one another...
        At home, Tonio can be the most helpful and hardest worker.  He will always ask me if I need help and will unload the dish washer, help fold wash, help in the garden - or whatever.  As soon as he is done with something, he will always come back and ask if there is anything else he can do for me, before he goes off to play.
        I think, of the three bambini, it is Tonio who is struggling the most with the loss of his Mama.  He just can't get his arms around it.  He is my lost little sheep.  There had not been too many days, where I have not had to explain things to him again and let him know his Mama is no longer in pain and no longer has cancer and is a beautiful angel watching over him...
      He is always thinking of other...today, he found out that his little buddy, Bryson, had a bad asthma attack and had to go to the hospital.  He wanted to go see him, and I explained Bryson was now at home and doing better.  We were at the grocery store and he spotted a 'Get Well' balloon that he wanted to get for Bryson.  I texted Janene, to let her know that Tonio was asking about Bryson.  She texted back that Bryson said he was doing better.  Tonio told me to text him back saying that was awesome and to tell Bryson he misses him.
     And he is always so appreciative.  Tonight, he got a splinter and after I removed it for him, he thanked me several times, telling me how nice it was that I got it out and assuring me that it no longer hurt him and that I was the nicest daddy for doing that for him.

      Tonio, at swim lessons today...he's a hard worker and is getting there...in between his turn swimming, he often just hangs on the edge and smiles at me, with such deep love that it tears me up...and I always tell him what a great job he is doing.  And he thanks me for saying so.
     Yet, there is that side of Tonio that worries me deeply...he is so scattered...today at swim lessons, he is peppering his instructor, Raven, with irrelevant questions.  For example, she might ask them what 'big arms' (freestyle) look like.  Autumn automatically throws her arms into motion.  Tonio's hand shoots up.  Ravne asks what?  Tonio says 'Watch this!' and dives beneath the water, bobbing straight back up, very pleased with himself.  Why?  Who knows.  When Raven asks who would like to go first on a swimming excercise, Autumn and Tonio fall back into the Heckle and Jeckle routing, squabbling.   Raven solves it by asking them to choose a # and whoever picks closest, goes first.  Autumn chose 5.  Raven said 'Right!  Autumn goes first!'.  Tonio's hand shoots up.  'Yes Tonio?'  'Uh...can I go first?'.  He cracks me up daily...a lot. 
      He has this very caring, helpful side,  but also that crazy, unfocused, 7 year old boy side.  Which can be pretty entertaining, at times, but can make you wish it were time for bed at other times.  Kim was his buffer to the world.  She could keep him fairly focuse, have patience with him, explain things to him so that he might understand and give him all of the hugs and loves that he needed...
      I think Tonio has been my biggest source of anxiety as I try to reassimilate into the working world.  I'm always wondering what kind of day he will have and if he is behaving if he is having a really good day.  He had great support at Cottonwood in Mrs. Schrantz, Mrs. Hoover, Ms. Bryson - everyone is very kind to him there and nurturing.  And I know he loves his time with Lupe and Andrea.  He loves to give out hugs to everyone, too.  I think, in some sense, he is trying to fill that void inside that was left by the loss of his Mama...and the encouragement and support, do help to fill him up.  He really lights up when complimented or acknowledged - it makes his day.

        So if you see little Tonio, wandering in a fog...please give him a hug, or tell him what a great job he is doing, or whatever other encouragement you can give him...
        He is a fun boy.  A loving, caring soul...and my biggest challenge right now - I need to get him through this, with that beautiful smile still intact and his heart warm with love.

 Taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them,
"Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me"

 -Mark 9:36



Tuesday, April 26, 2011


          It was a great day in sports...Kimmy had her hand in here somewhere...Cody had his last district track meet today, at Empire High School.  Today, he was running in the 100M, the 4x100M relay and the 200M.  He's been somewhat hampered by a tweaked ankle, and had forgotten to bring his brace...I told him to run hard and do his best.
          While watching Cody warm up, I had a chance to catch up with Mrs. Buchheit, a 7th grade teacher at Rincon Vista Middle school, who had worked with Kimmy - and did a lot for our family, while she was sick.  She had many good things to say about Kim.  Mrs. Paton, Cody's science teacher, was also there - her daughter runs for Rincon Vista.  Mrs. Paton told me Mrs. Buchheit was from Buffalo...I told her I was a Flyers fan and she whipped out her cell phone and told me she was tracking the game and the Flyers were up 2-0...I told her what a fan Kimmy was of hockey, and how we had been partial season ticket holders for five years before coming to Tucson.  And that we'd make it up to see the Coyotes often. 
          Then, Cody began to run...fast...he took 2nd place in the 100M!  I was yelling encouragement to him as he flashed by us!   Meanwhile, the Flyers went up 4-0 over the Sabres.  Next, Cody's team took 1st place in the 4 x 100M!  He ran well and made a great hand off to help his team win. 
          Flyers win 5-2!!  Now they will go on to face the Washington Capitols in the next round of the playoffs.  The Caps are scary good and are peaking at the right time.
          Finally, Cody is running hard in the 200M.  Mrs. Buchheit begins yelling 'Go Trevor, Go Trevor!'...I told her 'wait a minute, that's my boy Cody running, you need to yell for Cody!!'.   'Dig, Dig Dig!!!' I yelled as Cody raced by, neck and neck with Trevor, from Rincon Vista...and Cody did dig and pulled out a victory in the 200M!!!  Now, here's the best part...the two boys turned to each other, shook hands and did a fist bump...what great sportmanship!!  Trevor is the son of Rincon Vista's principal, Lydia Crain.  It was neat to see these two, speedy, competitors show each other such respect following a close race!
          This was Cody's best day at the track!!
         After the track meet, which are the most lengthy sporting events known to man, I picked up Aut and Tonio at Lupe and Manny's and  we headed over to Purple Heart Park, to meet Angie and Janene to watch her son, Brendon, play baseball.  I wore my Flyers, Dan Carcillo #13 jersey, in honor of Kimmy.  Carcillo scored a goal again tonight for the Flyers.
        Brendon's team, the Rangers, played the Cardinals tonight (the team Cody was on two years ago that won it all).  Both teams played well and it was tied 9-9 and went into extra innings!  The Rangers were able to sit down the Cardinals, in order, to earn their at bat and try to break the tie.  They put some guys on base, and were able to bring in a man, as the throw came to the plate - Frank Duarte, the umpire, made the call...'safe!', and Brendon's team won a nail biter!!
      Ahhhh yes, somewhere in Heaven, Kim was smiling down on sports, and exciting finishes today...


Monday, April 25, 2011

Andrada Polytechnic High School

....Tonight, concluded my time on the new high school planning committee for the Vail School District.  It has been just over 1 1/2 years since we embarked on this mission, to come up with a concept for another high school in our school district, which is already exceeding capacity. 
    Kim and I were asked to be on this comittee, to provide direction and input.  We were both excited and the first meeting, led by Vail superintendent, Calvin Baker, was inspirational, as he outlined how we had received state grant money for a much needed, new high school, and since Vail School District is a district of choices, he challenged us to come up with another, new format school, for our kids to choose from.   As you know, we have a traditional high school in Cienega, a tech high school in Empire, a charter high school that has an engineering focus in Vail Academy High School and an alternative high school in Pantano High School.  That is a great variety for parents/children to select from.
    If you've ever had a chance to hear Mr. Baker speak, he is very charasmatic, extremely knowledgeable and down to earth.  Kim was charged on the way home, talking a mile a minute about the possibilities, passionate about the opportunities that would be there, not only for our bambini, but district wide children, too!  She felt appreciative and honored to be selected to be a part of this project...
     But, our life was busy, and she soon decided that I should continue on with the high school planning committee, so she could focus on other school and community projects that she was a huge part of.  And you know, everyone from the Vail School District that I run into, tells me how hard a worker Kim was, that she never accepted anything less than perfection, and her attention to detail were tremendous and she always saw whatever project she was working on to completion - she did not leave anyone hanging or leave work for someone else.  It was Kim's way to deliver the best, possible results.
     There were days when I would show up for a meeting at the district office and Mr. Baker would say to me 'you just missed your wife, she was here for a planning meeting for Vail Pride Day', or some other district function...and when Kimmy got sick, the group prayed for her, before each meeting...they were supportive in so many ways.  At the beginning of the year, Mr. Baker reached out, to see if I was ready to jump back in, by helping to select a principal for the new school, I was grateful and honored.  We selected Darcy Mentone, Asst. Principal at Empire High School - it was nice to hire someone from right in our district, and Darcy also has played a huge role in the planning of this new high school - she is going to be another great principal in our district!

      At the end of our meeting tonight, we went around the room, and had the opportunity to talk about our experience...I told the group that I appreciated being a part of this process and was amazed at how we began with nothing, planned the concept (academy style that is both college prep and vocational), worked on the design of the campus, chose the name and tonight, chose a mascot (the Mavericks!)...I told them how wonderful the Vail School District is, and the amazing support they have given to my family and families that live here (several days a week, they take care of Autumn and Antonio until I can get there after work, helping them with homework, giving them snacks, and love - today, the principal, Ms. Bryson, had them in her office when I managed to get there!), and then, I told them how great it was to work with all of them, volunteers, committed to making our school district even better ( and ours IS best - we get the least amount of gov't $$ in Pima County, put more of these $$ directly into the class room than ANY other school in Pima county, spend the least $$ on administrative costs in Pima county - also one of lowest in state! and consistently produce the HIGHEST test scores in Pima county and in top 5 of state!!!!) - I was humbled to be a part of this - check out the Vail School District web site for more on this incredible new offering that will open it's doors for our children in July of '11, or I can tell you more, just ask!  I didn't have the strength to go into all of the details, here tonight, but the point is, that Kimmy has her finger prints all over this, like so many other great things she did for our community!

                                            Souvenir mug we were presented tonight...
Not sure what the pink thing is in corner of this photo - it seems to be some sort of psuedo Easter egg one of the kids brought back from the 'Greatest Egg Hunt Ever' yesterday at Rolling Hills Park!

Anyway, I wish Kimmy could be here to have seen the end of this project, as our planning group officially turns the reigns over to the Andrada Site Based Council, the design is incredible and she sure would have appreciated it...so many of her ideas went into the making of this new school - you can sense her spirit in everything about it.  And, I think again, about how, initially Kimmy wanted to put our bambini into private school, or home school them...that is, until she realized how incredible the teachers and leadership were here in Vail School District, then she knew, we were truly blessed...

And we are.


          PS: Speaking of hard working and attention to detail, Janene stopped by with the flyers she had made for Kimmy's Kut-a-Thon, for distribution with the bambini's schools (Janene paid for them, so no school resources will be used!) - she is completing the details and expects a huge turnout - so she added two techs to do nails, while people wait for their haircuts!  Kim would have been so emotional and appreciative over all Janene continues to do for our family and in her memory... : )

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Easter Sunday

  Happy Easter!  We hope that you all had a blessed day!  We did.  We tried to make sure we followed all of the nice traditions that Kimmy had started for us...and we all channeled her throughout our day...

   But first, how do you like the Rocco Deluca?  I tear up everytime it begins to play...such heart and soul in a song, reminding me of Kimmy.  The Eminem tune that I had up as first play for a short time "I need a Doctor" haunted me for obvious reasons...and the mesmerizing voice of Skylar Gray (formerly Holly Brooke), just hooked me on that song...but, I felt that I should focus more on Kimmy and her passion for music, and, of course, Rocco Deluca was more appropriate, in this light...

    I awoke with a start, the sun coming in too brightly through the window, surrounded by bambini!  Luckily, they were all still asleep.  But, I had to sneak out to check to make sure that the Easter Bunny did a good job and remembered to hide all of our eggs - you never know!  The challenge, was, not to wake Bella, who sleep with Cody.  Autumn and Tonio slept in my room last night, as we fell asleep watching 'Dodge Ball' - a cinemagraphic classic. 
    I was so tired, I couldn't think - the clock read 6:00, not much time!  I made my way into the garage, to see if the bunny found the colored eggs in the fridge out there - and realized I could slip out the side garage door and into the yard, to make sure the eggs were properly hidden.  I breathed a sigh of relief, to see that all was in order, snuck quietly back inside, back into bed - and not a bambini, nor Bella, had stirred!

   That was close!  No time to go back to sleep - I had 'Kim' things to do...I cleaned, and then began to prep pasta salad, for the picnic later in the day...
    7:00!  Here came the bambini, soaring out of the bedroom, hooting and hollering!  I made them go wake up Cody, before the tore into their baskets.  Kim was big on basket presentation...yeh, I missed the mark here, but the kids did not seem to mind!
       Cody got a new Phillies cap, Tonio a Nike t-shirt that reads "I promise that after I knock you down, I will help you back up.", Autumn, a butterfly print shirt (to match ones she gave to Lexy and Breanna!).
       On to the Easter egg hunt!  Kimmy would make sure that the video camera, as well as, the regular camera were ready to go!  We would switch of manning one or the other...so I was immediately outmanned, but, having two good arms, figured I could get by.

           It was a fast paced egg hunt, filled with thrills and laughter, along with some pushing and shoving...
                        Cody won the event, hands down, but graciously divied up his loot.
And in the end, it was all smiles...I breathed a sigh of relief, having jumped the first hurdle.  Kim always made the egg hunt so fun - and cheered the kids on - they had a good time this morning.

     Next, the big breakfast:  French toast (don't forget Kimmy's secret, to add vanilla to the egg dip!) made from Viro's bread and bacon.
                Cody prepares to chow down on the extra large size French toast slices!
                   Nefarious Bella, decides to take advantage of the 16 second rule, claiming my seat, as her own and joining the bambini for breakfast...
                     Tonio ate well this morning...having a little French toast with his syrup...
            And about 8:45, I get the text from Kristie...'Mom wants to know if you are at church'...uh, oh...I text back "I'm busted...pray for me!"...the text got forwarded, because a little later, I got one from Janene ' Hey, no worries, we were busted too!  Happy Easter!' and reminding me to bring Tonio's scooter!

           After the breakfast chaos was cleaned up, I turned back to finishing up the pasta salad.  I panicked this morning.  I swore I had located Kimmy's famous pasta salad recipe...but, it was no where to be found.  I had to improvise.  I found another recipe that she often made, one my sister Sherri had given her for a Greek (Grick) salad.  It goes something like this:

             1 package of twirls - I used campanelle, as Kim loved to use them in her pasta salads.
             1 cup crumbled feta, roquefort or blue cheese (I used feta today)
             1/2 c. chopped black olives
             3/4 c. sliced radishes
             1/4 cup sliced green onions
             1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
             1/2 c. olive oil
             2 tbl. lemon juice
             2 tbl. chopped parsley
             1 clove minced garlic
             1 tsp of oregano (I use 2...cuz I love oregano)

         Cook the pasta and drain.  In a large bowl, toss hot pasta w/ cheese, olives, radishes, onions and cucumber until well blended.  In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients, toss w/ pasta until evenly coated.  Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste.  chill 1 to 2 hours before serving.

                        Autumn ate 4 bowls during the course of the day...here, as a late night snack!

         By the time I was done, it was time to get the car loaded - Kim was great at making sure we did not forget anything, and I tried to remember - sunscreen!!  I did it!!  My little ones would not fry today!!, camp chairs, pasta salad, coconut eggs, football, soccer ball, camera!  We managed to get everything in, and even had time to swing by Catalinia's (Kristie's husband, Ross's mom) and load up their gas grill into my truck before heading to the park.
        There must have been 30 or 40 of us there and a smorgasborg of food.  An invariable cornucopia!  I grazed, telling everyone, this is not a sprint...it is a marathon!  Hot dog, pasta salad...nachos and beans...fruit with salt and sour sauce, which was addicting...then, the main course - carne asada, fresh off the grill - I just put salsa on it and wrapped it in a tortilla...there was so much food. 
         Meanwhile, the kids had gone of the deep end.  A full scale water war was being waged with squirt guns, water balloons and any other means of soaking each other - oh, and I remembered another Kimmy best practice - bring Antonio a change of clothes - it was much needed today!
                     Here, the kids scramble to arm themselves - Tonios in blue on right side of melee.
                  Autumn was able to secure a fine weapon of mass destruction...and wreaked havoc.
               Angie's cousin Sandy, finds herself in the cross fire...and retaliates!  Trinity is poised to soak her.
                                 Cody and Autumn, both in brown, are having a blast getting wet!
                 Janene's son, Kason, played a sniper's role.  He cleverly reloaded using the bucket at his feet and would squirt the unassuming passerby, grinning in delight!!

              Then, there was an epic Easter egg hunt.  A hunt to end all hunts.  Over 500 eggs, painstakingly filled by one of the party goers, Deanna (who also made a fabulous potato salad and the salt/sour fruit medley and who's husband, Sergio, cooked chicken, carne asada, hot dogs and pork chops, all tantalizingly seasoned on the grill for us).   The bigger boys, David, Cody, Brendon, to name a few and Sandy and Jack, carefully hid them...then, they released the hounds!  It was orchestrated pandemonium...Tonio headed off in the wrong direction...
Lexy and Autumn's strategy was to move opposite the pack and they did quite well hording eggs!
It was an incredible sight, and characterized the day, as the kids had constant activities to keep them laughing and enjoying themselves, including volleyball (Andrea asked the party next to us if we could use their net in between matches), t-ball and soccer (I played barefoot, instead of trying to handle the ball in flip flops).  And lady bug catching.  There were an abnormal amount of lady bugs in the grass and the kids used empty eggs to make lady bug 'homes'.
I think that the adults, had as much fun interacting and participating in all of these events, as the children had.

Here, Janene pulls over Andrea and Micah for exceeding the speed limit,as Richie looks over his shoulder, relieved that he was not pulled over for speeding!  Micah is telling Janene that Richie was going way faster than he and Andrea were!

       We finally began packing up around 7, after a full day of food and fun...I talked to each of the kids, to get a sense of how they felt their Easter went - after this event, they were all happy and glowing - it really set my mind at ease and warmed my heart to see them this happy...What was your favorite part of the day?  I asked them...Autumn said 'All of it!', Tonio said 'both Easter egg hunts', Cody?  The party at the park..
         Angie pointed out the beautiful sky as the sun began to set...all of those Easters we had together, Kim always made each one so special...today, we put together a great one, in her honor and because of what she had taught us made holidays special, fun, meaningful...all of these ingredients were present today - the Williams family made it happen, and we were blessed to have them include us...
         Towards the end, as I sat in a chair, watching the kids play t-ball...Catalina came up and hugged me...saying she always thinks of us and how hard it must be...she was tearing up, and I told her - Kimmy wouldn't want us to be sad, not today.  And somehow, these good people, took us into their hearts and made us feel like family, so we would not feel any sorrow today, just have good memories and make more good memories today - I know Kimmy guided me through this holiday season, as I tried to make everything perfect...she would have wished for us to have such a blessed day, as we enjoyed today - our angel, watching over us.
          The bambini love to end their day with something special.  Autumn and Tonio either love to be read to, or to get together and watch a movie.  Tonight, they wanted to watch Gulliver's Travels, starring Jack Black.  He truly is a versatile actor, and pulled this one off brilliantly.  One of Kim's favorite movies was The Holiday, starring Jack Black, Jude Law, Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet.  Black plays a pretty straight role in that one.  When they fell asleep, around 10:15, I went out to the sports room to play Guitar Hero with Cody.  We played Mr. Brighteyes, by the Killers "it started out with a kiss, how did it end up like this?" and one by Papa Roach, "Last Resort" 'Cause I'm losing my sight, losing my mind, wish someone would tell me I'm fine"...and I had amazing dexterity on these two pieces, besting Cody on both songs...of course, I'm on 'easy' setting and he is one 'expert'...!  He loves to end his day this way...it felt good to give them all of this today - as much as I love to write, I can't put it into words adequately how much we needed a day like this and how much this day meant to us...

           Happy Easter,

Cody's 14th Birthday!

           Cody turned 14 today.  14.  Where did those years go?   I used to run Cody, as an infant, in his jogging stroller.  Feed him 'mush'.  Change his diapers.  Help him learn to walk.  Learn to kick a soccer ball.  And to catch a football...while Kimmy, lovingly taught him his alphabet, how to read, how to tie his shoes, etc. And she taught me how to have patience with him. Where did the years go?
           Today, Cody only wanted to ride through Fantasy Island in the morning and go to Joe's Crab Shack for dinner.  That's all.  For a 14 year old, that's not too much to ask for...
           Only Brendon, Janene's son, was availbable to do the ride through Fantasy Island with us.  But Cody did not let that ruin his morning.
     It was a beautiful morning, as we set out into the desert.  About 80 degrees, with a nice wind from the west and some high cloud cover.
                  I love this sign, near the start of the course, and never photographed it (at least, I do not remember photographing it!).
                         Brendon and Cody, about 3/4 of the way through Fantasy Island and taking much needed water break.
              After Fantasy Island, we walked up to Jerry Bob's diner to eat breakfast.  When I told the bambini that we would walk there, Tonio asked 'Walk?  How far is it?'. I reminded him that it was next to Chuy's, where we had walked to several times, and was about 3 blocks.  'How far is 3 blocks' he asked.  '3 miles?'.  No, I explained, it was about a 1/4 mile.  'why is it taking so long, then?', he asked??
             We were able to convince Tonio, that we could make it the three blocks to Jerry Bob's and breakfast was good!
                                           This a.m., way too early, Cody contemplates his gifts..
                                           Ahhh, the Del Piero jersey!  Now we can match!
                    After the gifts and the bike ride and the breakfast, we made eggs...Janene had texted me, last night while I boiled our eggs, 'Hey, our Mom and I want to know what u recommend for boiling eggs so we don't have hockey pucks.  Ha, ha'.  Nicely done.  Yes, it was Kim, prior to me teaching her how to cook, that boiled me eggs for my dinner at Toy R Us for about 2 hours...and we used them for hockey pucks!!  She learned quickly and soon became a fantastic cook!
                                          The kids did a nice job decorating eggs....
            All Cody wanted to do, beyond Fantasy Island, was to go to Joe's Crab Shack...where he chose a huge bucket of crab legs for his meal!!

Bryson and Ritchie fight gangland style with crab squeezers.  We can't stop this violence.

Cody, Tonio, Hadley, Autumn, Lexy and Trinity get ready to enjoy some seafood!

Kristie, Kim, Rashon, Jack, Sandy, Mariah, Mark and Angie check out the menu.

Brian, Sam, Ursula and Betsey discuss pre-meal strategy
Ritchie, Lexy, Trinity and Hadley dance to the music!

Not sure what this is, looks like the back of our waitress, Rashon, Ursula and Mitch.

Tonio, Mitch and the bambini enjoy their meal!

Cody gets the biggest bucket of crab legs available and devours them!
       Last year, Kimmy told the waitress it was Cody's birthday, and they had him ride a stick horse around the restaurant while they sang to him.  Kim thought that was great.  She enjoyed going to Joe's. She loved that the server's would periodically come out and sing/dance to a song - it was festive.  We had some awesome shrimp po boys last year (we shared it!).  Before it was Joe's Crab Shack, there was a Carlos Murphy's there.  Kim and I practically lived there.  We would sit out on their large, covered porch, eat chips and salsa and play the trivia game that they had.
      This year, Cody asked that I not tell them it was his birthday...but, of course, I did.  I had to!  But, I asked them not to embarass Cod.  They brought about 10 servers out to sing to Cody and told him they were going to sing Happy Birthday to him backwards and if he caught them making a mistake, they told him that his meal and Autumn and Tonio's meals would be free!  Then, they turned their backs to Cody and began singing Happy Birthday - they had us all fooled!  We thought they'd be singing the words to the song backwards...they simply turned backwards to Cody and sang...so we paid for their meals!
       It was a fantastic time at Joe's Crab Shack, between Angie and her daughter's families, and the Deever's clan, we had about 25 people eating seafood!!  Even Angie's cousin, Sandy and Jack, came with us after a long drive down from Phoenix.
      When we were done, we headed to Viro's, for some bread to be able to make the French Toast that Kimmy traditionally made the bambini for Easter breakfast.  Rosa and Vito gave all  of the kids gelato and some other treats and we were on our way home for Amy's brownies!!

Amy's brownies were delicious!! She saved the day with them!!  Cody had a great 14th birthday!! Thanks to all of those involved!
I watched Cody enjoy these moments during his 14th birthday...I could not help but to feel proud of the young man he has become...and I silently thanked Kimmy, for all she had done, to make him that way...
And, this being my first major holiday alone...I looked back, in retrospect...I remembered to make Kimmy's coconut eggs, forgot to buy candy (thanks Lola for bailing me out!), remembered to make hard boiled eggs, but not too hard, and make time for bambini to color them, also, got the nice loaf of bread from Viro's for their French Toast.  Made sure the Easter Bunny brought equal t-shirts, DVD's and gift cards...I'm confident the bunny will be here between now and 5ish to hide the eggs that the bambini painstakingly painted...

Wishing you all a blessed Easter!