We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

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

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The Champion!

                  This morning was Cody's track championships...due to logistics and assorted bambini events, our friends Dawn and Sean (nice alliteration) picked Cody up after his half day of school yesterday to hang out with their son Alec.
                 Sean took the boys out for tacos...to the gym...and to see Fast & Furious 5...5?  I didn't know they had made a 3 and 4!  And I did not realize Vin Diesel was still alive. The boys had a fantastic time.  Sean took Cody to his track meet this morning and Autumn and I arrived around 10, in time to see a lightning blur of whirling arms and legs, straining in the already 90 degree heat, whipping around the track...Cody's team had just taken a first in the 4x100M relay!!
                 As he took the podium stand, I felt Kimmy creeping into me, as tears welled in my eyes...I know she is so proud of him and how hard he worked this season!!
                How do you run so fast?  I asked him later today..."I dunno".  Typical Cody, humble.  A man of few words...What are you thinking about while you are running?  "Nothing.  I just clear my mind."...He has ridiculous wheels.
               After he had a chance to cool down, following the meet, we went down to Viro's for a victory lunch.  And this kid can eat!  He put away a pesto sandwhich (capocolla, ham, mortadella,provolone) and a huge piece of tiramisu!
              Vito's mom, Enza, came out with a special surprise for us to take home for dinner...

                    Arancini!!!  These are awesome - rice, meat, cheese and peas (hey, veggies!), with mozz, rolled in a flour, egg and seasoning mixture, then deep fried.  Enza got Kim and I hooked on these Heaven sent delights about 10 or 11 years ago.  She'd make them for us each time she'd come out to Tucson to visit...She hasn't been able to the last few years, though.  So it was a real treat that she came out with them today while we ate lunch!!  We ate them for dinner nostagically...Kimmy always wanted to try to make them for us, but we never owned a deep fryer.
                     It was so inspiring to see Cody race today...next year, he will be competing at the high school level at Cienega...and is not at all daunted by the challenge.  So impressive.  And the moment he got home, he wanted to go out front and ride his scooter - no end to his energy, or his strength!

For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. - 2 Timothy 1:7

      This verse reminds me of Cody...


Friday, May 6, 2011

Mini Relay for Life

        Everyday there are wonderful reminders.  And beautiful memories.  So many people stop me, during a given day, and tell me how Kim continues to inspire them...I tell them, how much that helps - makes me feel that it wasn't for nothing...and that Kim keeps on giving...
        This morning, at Cottonwood Elementary, they held a mini-Relay for Life - a precursor to next Friday's event at Empire High School.  It begins with a school wide assembly and presentation by the American Cancer Society.  Following this opening ceremony, the students were led to the fields, where over 100 luminarias created a huge circle.  Each luminaria bag had been decorated in memory of or in honor of a cancer victim or survivor.  The students took laps around them, looking at the creative and beautifully decorated bags...

        ...and the students began counting off how many were made for Kimmy...they were so excited as they counted 10...15...20!!....25...28.  28, over 1/4 of all bags, were so caringly and beautifully decorated for Kimmy...
          Through it all, I watched Autumn...first, her teacher, Mrs. Rudzena, stayed by her side, giving her strength and encouragement...then, as the morning progressed, Aut's friends were glued to her side, like insulators - keeping Autumn's smile on her face, glowing like the sun...like Kim's smile...
          I couldn't take my sunglasses off...I was so proud of her...How does she do it?????? 
          "No matter what happens...you will always be my daughter."

        It floated into my mind as I watched Autumn walking...and I knew.  I knew exactly how she does it...She has her own mantra. I know it is playing over and over in her head.  Still, though, it is incredible...
        And she continues to blossom...tonight, was the first time I dropped her off somewhere - she met Lexy and her friend Hannah at the Desert Willow carnival, where Lexy goes to school and they texted me pictures of chickens and let me know what they were up to...which was cute.  I know Hannah's mom was there nearby and Andrea was working in the library on the silent auction - but, to Autumn, it felt like her first time out.  My 'Little Kim' is growing up!

         Well, I guess Autumn does have a little bit of 'Dad' in her...we finished our night watching old reruns of Saturday Night Live - the Best of Will Farrell...!


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

           At last, free of the French!  Great reason to celebrate!!  So we had pasta.  Well, we did eat some pico de gallo while I was making the pasta - butterfly pasta for Tonio and angel hair for the rest of us, including our surprise guest, Angie.
          On this beautiful, Cinco De Mayo evening, with the moon smiling down on us like the grin of the Chesire Cat (thanks for the 'look up' text Jaimelyn!), we watched Angie's grandson, Brendon, play some baseball, losing a heartbreaker 4-2, after a late near rally - this young man, Nick Gonzales, hit an incredible home run, making it look effortless...and when we dropped Lexy off, Andrea let us know she scored on the free Mango Tango Eegee!! That was a cool deal.
         Ahhh, another long day, late night...Autumn, Cody and I stepped out to say good night just now - beautiful stars, painted in clouds...

Who's Kids Are These?

  Last week, I received some information leading me to suspect that the bambini were not mine.  I know, I know - how could Kim do this?  I've asked myself that question...this week, I received the final damning piece of evidence...
   First, Tonio's progress report found its unsolicited way into my hands...straight A's.  Anomaly.  Next, Autumn's oozed its way out of her back pack.  Straight A's...Coincidence?  Finally, via the U.S. Mail, Cody's progress report came to me.  A report so heinous, that you cannot deny its existence! 
    All A's, except for an 89% in Language Arts.  Ok, so I have one slacker.  Cody even pulled off a 95% in Algebra - the prickly thorn in the side of my school career.  And a 9th grade level course.
    I have to say, it's all Kim...I never even sniffed an 89% average in anything but P.E., which, when I was going to school, was called gym.  And we had gym in the gym...not the MPR.  She was so smart - you've seen one of her report cards somewhere a few blogs ago or so.  And she was so patient to be able to help the bambini with their studies.  I don't have the focus.  Or the patience.  I am extra thankful for the help of their teachers, with that, this year - and the progress reports show the results of their efforts!!
      Where did it all begin?  In a magical place called Kindergarten...this morning, I received a nice text, from Ami Bunch and her sister Mary Montes - Cody's kindergarten teacher and Autumn's and Tonio's kindergarten teacher, respectively. 
                 They stopped by Kimmy's Smiles Grown Here Garden and wanted to let me know they were thinking of her...Today was jersey day at Cottonwood and Mary honored Kimmy by sporting her Mike Piazza jersey!!  What a nice tribute.
                The kid's were provided a great start and strong foundation by these two creative, tireless (I think Mary works a minium 12 hour day at the school daily), patient and nurturing.  And the bambini continue to receive great support and have been blessed to have outstanding teachers the rest of the way!

               I'm not sure about Antonio.  Well, maybe I should say I'm pretty sure he is my kid.  He got the classroom ability from his Mama, but...let's just say, when he threw the remote at the flat screen t.v. the other day, cracking it...it threw a shadow of doubt over my conspiracy theory.  Today, he came to me in a full out panic "Something bad happened Dad!" he cried, tears jetting from his eyes.  I could still hear the t.v. in the sports room, but, none the less, figured he managed to break it somehow, so I took off for that room, asking him to explain.  "Somehow....well...I...".  T.V. was fine, so I turned back to Tonio.  'What?'.  "I was playing with a Lego and somehow I swallowed it."  "Are you choking?".  "No."  "How big?"  He held up a tiny connector.  "Don't worry, you'll poop it out."  And I went back to cleaning...yep.  He probably is my kid.  Poor Tonio! 

                 Just picked up Autumn and then headed to Desert Sky to pick up Lexy and the girls wanted to go to Eegees - they were hungry from packing in so much knowledge today!  Today, if you say 'Happy Cinco De Mango', they will give you a free mango tango Eegee!!  I had no problem doing that - I felt that I got off pretty easy for a free Eegee!!!  I thought I'd post early, in case there was still time - get out there and get one!!  I may have to swing back down later after I pick Cody up from track.  It is hotter than the depths of hell today - I sure hope he drank enough before practice today!

                 Anyways, these little bambini are a blessing.  Lego eating or not, I love them so much and they keep me going!  I'm so very proud of all that they do!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011


                  Tonight, after swim lessons and a day of slinging books, I took Tonio and Autumn to Chuy's to meet our friend Doug and his boy Aiden.  Doug is from Toronto originally, and one of six people in Tucson, including myself, who truly loves to watch hockey.  He invited us to Chuy's tonight to watch game 3 of the Philadelphia v Boston series.
                 We picked up Lexy from volleyball and joined Doug there for dinner - and to watch the 'game'.  The Bruins scored 31 seconds into the game.  And got their second goal within another minute.  The Flyers goaltending was woeful, as usual - Boucher was chased in the second period and his back up - no need to even mention his name because he won't be in the NHL next year, ended up letting another 1,235 goals in by the end of the game.  Flyers are now down 3-0 in the series - same place they were last year against the Bruins and became one of only 4 teams in NHL history to overcome a 3-0 deficit and win the series.
                 Despite the poor hockey, we had a good time.  Chuy's was one of Kimmy's favorite places to relax.  It was the very first restaurant we ate at upon arriving in Tucson on March 8th, 1994 - the 22nd and Kolb location.  We frequented it after that.  Then, we discovered the Catalina Highway and Tanque Verde location - they allowed us to bring our pup, Cajun, there and would bring her out a bowl of water as we sat on the patio.  Later, they opened a location on Wilmot and Tanque Verde - we really liked this one - and attended many birthday parties, held our fantasy football drafts there and even attended a baby shower there!  And my going away party from Toys R Us was held at that location.
             We managed to eat at nearly every Chuy's in Tucson - the one on Campbell and River (no longer there)...the one on Speedway and Country Club - especially on the way home from the Desert Museum - and then, we made a major circuit, when I participated in a city wide foosball tourney sponsored by Chuy's.
             This event took Kim and I as far southwest as the location on Valencia and I-19 (no longer there) and as far north as the location on Ina and I-10.  And everywhere in between!  I got beat pretty badly at each location - but there was free food, cheap beer and t-shirt giveaways!  It was a no lose situation, in my opinion.
            When we heard they were building one on Houghton, about three blocks from our home, we were ecstatic!!  I think we went there two or three times a week for the first year or so...we would go there to celebrate every birthday in our household and many of our friends, to, who had gotten Chuy's fever, as well.  Kim and I would sometimes sneak over there for lunch on the rare occaison the kids were in school and our work schedules lined up.
            Kim and I loved the chips and salsa there.  Kim would usually eat the mahi-mahi tacos - and I tend to switch it up - having the chico chicken tacos tonight.  The kids like the food and will play all of the video games for hours!  Tonight, Lexy and Autumn squared off on the Simpsons game for an eternity...
         When Kimmy got sick, Cottonwood held a fund raiser at Chuy's - and the community responded.  Chuy's kicked in gift certificates for us for later to help us with dinners.  Our friend Kim (Angie's youngest daughter and RN on Kimmy's floor at St. Joe's) brought us complete Chuy's chicken dinners one night for a treat, too.  Chuy's always donated to school events whenever Kimmy needed anything...
           I guess you could say we are a Chuy's family - and have many, many fond memories of great times there, at each location!!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Hawk Killer!

         Did you know Kimmy was a fierce hunter?  No, just kidding...but, she did kill a hawk one time...
         We had just dropped the bambini off at school and were going to grab some breakfast at Jerry Bob's (Let's Eat!) - a rare moment alone - before Kim had to run off to work at Rincon Vista.  We were chatting and Kim was not watching the road, when, suddenly, a hawk swooped down across Houghton road, just before we were going to make our turn in the parking lot near Chuy's...I watched it, with fascination - seemingly in slow motion, as it gracefully soared lower and lower - such a beautiful bird and impressive wing span!  Surely it would pull up....
           Kim continued to tell me a story and did not see it coming...'uh, Kimmy?'...she looked up just as the huge hawk collided with the grill of our Expedition...a plume of feathers were swept across the windshield.
          Kimmy screamed out and tried to swerve, but it was already too late...
          She felt so badly - it took me a long while to console her and reassure her that there was absolutely nothing she could have done...I have to say, I've seen birds hit my windshield before, but have never seen a hawk hit by a car!!
          This week, at the bambini's school, it's Teacher Appreciation Week.  Kim was absolutely in her element for this!  She arranged some nice little present, cleverly wrapped, each day...often accentuated by some lucsious baked item, too - or chocolate dipped strawberries!!  It was never random.  Kim would plan ahead and have everything ready to go - including gift bags and ribbon, where appropriate....
            I've struggled tremendously with this.  You know, I so appreciate our teachers and all that they do for our children, especially the bambini.  They are the ones who put in such long hours, every day, yet greet us with bright smiles and encouraging words, every day.  They are the ones, at the end of their day, where they'd love to be going home, who have put in extra time to take care of the bambini - to help them with homework, tutor them, include them in special projects and make them feel like they matter...they have done so much!
             And I've tried to duplicate what Kimmy does, but with little to no flair!  Today was a great example.  I did pick up chocolate for Mrs. Schrantz and Mrs. Rudzena, but, the kids told me they were to bring a flower in, too.  However, Tonio and Autumn (Heckle and Jeckle) lacked urgency in getting ready for school today...it was crazy sock day and I had laid out one long white sock and one short black sock for Tonio...when it was time to go, I began calling the kids.  Cody promptly glides through the kitchen, ready, as always and gets in the truck...no sign of Heckle and Jeckle...I call again: "Honeys, we're going to be late!" Kimmy always called them honeys - I was trying to stay loving and collected (no caffeine yet and I still do not like mornings!)...nothing.  "Dammit Tonio and Autumn!!! We are going to be late!  Again!!"...steam begin to float out of my ears...
               Ah, here they come...'What are you wearing!?!?'  Tonio had spurned the socks I gave him for some frilly, girly socks that Autumn mischievously conjured up...DAMMIT..."Go change your socks right now!"....I shouted...."That's it, I'm leaving!!" now my head spinning around and spewing green vomit like in the Exorcist...They scrambled out the door and towards the truck....and I had forgotten my cell phone and hustled back in to get it...
              When I returned, Tonio and Autumn were frantically picking flowers from the front yard...which melted my heart....I got them in, just made it in the gate before it was locked at school and immediately headed to Fry's and bought two bouquets of flowers...took them to their teachers and hugged the kids and told them I loved them...Kimmy would not have forgotten the flowers...and the chocolates would have had frilly ribbons around the packages...I pledge to do better for the rest of the week!

                Ok, well, it was another busy day, after that as I jetted to the northside to sell books at Barnes & Noble (big shout out to Cathy! Tom loves you and says that it is time for bed!!)...where Jaimelyn and I engaged in a Americano drinking contest...she won.  But, I must say, I think I broke a land speed record for shelving books today!! I love Tuesday, new release day,  seeing all of the new books hit the shelves!
              Lupe and Manny picked Tonio and Autumn up at school for me and they made ugly shirts to wear to school tomorrow (the theme for the day)...Tonio drew a star and wrote 'Cowboys'...good boy!!  Of course, Manmy and Lupe, being from Texas, were not too happy that Tonio chose to equate their beloved Dallas Cowboys with an ugly shirt (I like it!)...after I picked up Cody, we headed over and Lupe fed us some incredible tacos!!
             THEN, I dropped the boys off and Autumn and I headed to the ball park to see Janene's son, Brendon's, Rangers, square off against the vaunted Dbacks - Brendon laid down an incredible bunt and had two great hits, as his team was up 12-3 when Autumn and I left around 9:40ish...Autumn did not want to leave, as Lexy and Breanna were both there, too - they had fun together!
             When I got home, Tonio was fast asleep on the living room floor!!  We rolled him  to bed and Cody, Aut and I just got to go out back to say good night to Kimmy - what a beautiful evening - after all of the wind we have been having, the night was still, nice temp and the sky was breathtaking with stars and a bank of clouds...
              This morning, after dropping Antonio at Mrs. Schrantz class, Autumn and I took a moment to stop and say a quick prayer at Kimmy's 'Smiles Grown Here Garden'...it gave us both a sense of peace to start our long, but fun, day...

Kimberly's Garden Pt 2

           It was an incredible morning...Jenn Bell put together a moving, dedication to the 'Smiles Grow Here' garden, Kimmy's memorial garden...at Cottonwood Elementary...
           What a long, full circle this garden has come. 
           It started one day, I guess it was about a year and a half ago or longer, we were walking past the little garden, where the inclusion students could grow flowers...Kim noticed that it was in need of some loving and said we should look into doing something...We talked to PTSA president, Jenn Bell, who gave us the green light to look into it...and here's where Kimmy really took off...
           Whenever we worked on anything like this, Kim would always have me make the phone calls, meet whoever I had to, do all of the talking, etc...this time was different.  She really wanted to make a special place for the children...something that they could call their own, somewhere they could sit and smile...'We should call it 'Smiles Grow Here' garden!' she exclaimed to me one day!!  Her vision was so contagious, I was really excited about it - and, as I said, this project was different - Kim wrote a heart rending letter, complete with photos of the current garden and a beautiful sketch of what she wanted to do for Cottonwood and the kids.  She made a list of materials we would need.  And then, a list of where we might be able to get help putting her vision together.
            And then, we went out, together, and met with the community - and, as always, Kimmy was overwhelmed by the community's generosity...and soon, we were able to get everything we needed, without using any school money or PTSA money.  She was amazing...and she was amazed!

                   This is the earliest photo I could find, of Greg Grossheim breaking ground!

 Greg did a great job creating two, separate planters, that were wheel chair accessable and low enough for the kids to reach and plant, with a wide wall strong enough to sit on.

                  And Kimmy thought that a fun, whimsical pot man scarecrow would add some warmth to the garden...of course, she made this herself...

             Anyway, all of the hard work paid off...but, there were water problems...Al Flores, with the Vail School District, got involved and got the water fixed the day Kimmy was diagnosed...guess what?  When I told her that Al helped out, she cried!  She was so happy!!!  Her dream for the children was realized...

          Last week, Jenn picked up some new plants and flowers to beautify Kimmy's Garden...Autumn and Tammy LaPlant work together here.

                      Tonio adds love and water to his Mama's creation....

                 Tonio and Autumn were so happy to be a part of the planting in Mama's garden!

                   This morning, Jenn started off the dedication, by reading some Ralph Waldo Emerson:

           "To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent
persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest
citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others; to give of one's self; to leave the world a
bit better,  whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed
social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung
with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you
have lived-this is to have succeeded."


                         It is as thought Emerson had met Kim...she worked hard for others...she just wanted people to smile and to laugh...
                        When we first finished with the garden, Kimmy wanted to get a plaque and dedicate it as the "Smiles Grown Here" garden and list all of those who made it happen.  But, I talked her out of it.  I don't know why. Now, I think I know...
                         Jenn unveiled this beautiful plaque that will be a part of the garden...

                   Jenn reads the inscription on the plaque...some of the children were openly crying by this point, which was pulling at my heart...but, I kept my shades on, bit my lip, and took note that Autumn and Tonio frequently glanced my way...I gave them reaffirming nods and thumbs up each time.  Autumn and her friend Emma, had their arms around each other during this part - it was very heart warming to see friends supporting each other like that.

                      Autumn stayed stoic, Kimmy-like, during the ceremony...

                I loved that Ms. Bryson, our principal, took time out of her busy schedule to be there for this...and that she gave her blessing to the garden from day one and was so supportive, as she has been of our family...The bambini love her!

                    And Autumn's teacher, Casey - Mrs. Rudzena, too, has been incredible for Autumn, as she lost her father 4 years ago to cancer - she has not only been a fantastic teacher, but a great role model and mentor for Autumn, helping her through this journey...

                 And Apryl - Mrs. Schrantz, Tonio's teacher has been wonderful for Antonio...and our family...here she passes out juice and muffins following the ceremony!
                 We couldn't do it without our Cottonwood family!!  Thank you all!
                After that, I sold books with my Barnes & Noble family....
                Then, it was time to swim!  But, I held Tonio out of the water, as his poor little allergies have him pretty miserable right now (I'm sure that ride throught the desert yesterday did not help!).
                Autumn dives!!  Here's a little video of her first diving lesson!! She's a cutie and works so hard!
               We flew home and picked Cody up from track, stopping at home long enough for the bambini to change for our evening....
               Our southwest family took over to include us in birthday celebrations for Janene and Brad's sons, Bryson and Kason - at Chucky Cheese!

                      Janene holds Kason as he is entertained by a dancing mouse!

                     Andrea and Micah (Kim and Rashon's son) hang out with Chucky!

                   Dammit.  I couldn't get this to rotate, but, it's allllllll of the kids enjoying Chucky!!
   Before eating too much pizza and too much cake, although no one vomited.

                        Janene, birthday boys Bryson and Kason, and Brad love Chucky!
               Wheeeeeeee!  Breanna, Autumn and Antonio ride the monster truck!
               Once again, this family, taking us in and making us feel a part and special...the bambini had so much fun...

               And at the end of this day, I know that we are blessed in many ways...

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Kimmy's Garden, Pt 1

            Today, felt like a San Diego day...cool temps, light breeze - if you closed your eyes, you could imagine the soft sound of the surf hitting the beach...
             We rolled out of bed and made it to Mass, joining Angie, who had somehow beat us there, but saved us plenty of room in her pew.  We went over to Viro's with Lupe, Manny and Monsi and Angie to and had yet another fantastic breakfast (and Erika made us all cappuccinos today!!) and a nice visit with Rosa, Vito and his Mom and Dad.  I know that Kimmy would have loved to see Vito's Mom and Dad, she always enjoyed their visits here to Tucson.
            With are bellies full, and Cody's energy at a peak, it was time to revisit the desert trails of Fantasy Island.  Our neighbor Brian wanted to go, which was great, because I knew he would take Cody through all of the technical parts and give him a good workout, while I stayed on the bunny path with Tonio and Autumn.  Here was the fun part...we surprised Autumn and gave her a mountain bike a week early for her birthday!
                    She was so surprised and excited!!!  It has 6 gears and great treads for the desert.  This mad a huge difference for her today.  However, I did fail to show her how the brakes worked, and the first time she tried to slow down by pedaling backwards, she got a great surprise!!  I was shouting 'use the right handbrake!  The right, not the left!!'  When she came to a stop, I explained that if she hit the left brake handle first, she could go soaring over the handle bars into the unforgiving jumping cholla!  She did fantastic!!
                     Both bambini wanted to stop and take a quick rest at Kimmy's bike and were both happy to see that it still looked great.  Here, Tonio takes a call on the bat phone.  This phone is just on a table out there in the middle of nowhere and someone drew a batman symbol on it.  The kids thought that was pretty funny...and cool.
                    Cody and Brian logged at least 14 miles of desert riding today, and yet, when we got home, Cody immediately grabbed his scooter and headed to our neighbor, Alex's, house to ride!!  Andrea dropped off Lexy, who had a contribution for Kimmy's garden that we are slowly reviving.

                    Portulacas!!  Kim loved the vibrant colors of the flowers on these beauties.  I've been watching and watching for the portulacas to return to the stores, checking Lowe's, Home Depot and Civano Nursery and asking each time.  I was told that they were late to return.  But Andrea found some today at Civano and the girls helped me beautify Kimmy's garden with them - they are perfect!
                                                The portulacas filled this pot nicely!!
                               Adding more depth and color to Kimmy's garden - with Jesus watching in the background...everything is filling in nicely!
                 You know, this was Kimmy's favorite time of year...she loved to remove all of the dead plants and freshen up her garden.  She would choose flowers that attracted hummingbirds.  And she would coordinate colors and heighths to fill in the spaces.  Then, she'd sit out there in the early morning and sip her chai tea enjoying it all...

Lexy and Autumn has a great time - ate chicken tacos, ice cream...had Hadley over and made music videos (which Lexy wanted me to post, but Autumn refused, citing her creative rights to the material..or something.).

And so, as we wind down, Autumn asked me 'so, did you have a good day?'...Yep.  It was a good day...thank you.