We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

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

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Back to Laguna

         I found that the best way to make sure you will wake up at 4 a.m., is to not go to sleep.  That worked.  Cody got up at 4, we got ready and were able to be on the road just before 5 a.m....sorry to bust anyone who was in an office pool betting on what time we'd leave.  I lost.  I bet on the 8 a.m. time slot.  Dammit.
          Autumn was thrilled to see the sunrise.  In fact, all of the bambini commented on its beauty.  It was a nice one...
          We made good time right through to Gila Bend, which sucked the wind out of our sails.  First, we stopped to use the restroom the Shell off of the first exit...we let Bella stretch her legs - first time traveling farther than Wilcox, AZ, so we thought, if we have to go, she must too.  She didn't.  Then, Autumn announced she was hungry, so we took the 'business route' (what an oxymoron in the case of Gila Bend!), slowly winding our way through 'town' to McD's...and Gila Bend continued to suck time from our trip...as McD's got our order wrong...and until I went inside and got it squared away, we had spent a glorious 45 minutes in that little hell hole!
          After that, we made decent time, despite California having an incredible amount of highway patrol out...I can never see 'CHIPS' without smirking...the two little ones in the back chattered incessantly.  Horrifically, we discovered that the adapater for our portable DVD player had gone missing...about an hour into our drive...Cody tried to keep me sane, keeping the Ipod playing good tunes, just loud enough so we could not hear the two in the back...there were also quite a few Border Patrol stops, instead of just the one after crossing into Cali.  "Do you have any produce?"  they asked at our first stop. "is that some kind of code Dad?"  Cody asked.  Our only worry was Bella...at the second stop, she appeared at the window, greeting the BP agent with a Thompson submachine gun...we quickly sped away...laughing.
             Road delirium.  Without Kim to spell me, I only had the McD's coffee from 6:30 that morning to keep me going...Yuma, we discovered, is a four letter word.  Interesting.  We decided to substitute that the rest of the day for other four letter words...which was fun. 
             As we rolled into San Diego, around 11ish, the back seat kids started to say they were hungry.  I quickly decided we should stop downtown and hit Little Italy for lunch!
             India Street - downtown...two blocks north of Seaport Village....
                                       Autumn anxiously waits outside of Filippi's for some food!
                       Autumn got pasta (what a surprise!), Cody a pepperoni calzone and Tonio...just fruit salad...I got fettucine with pesto sauce and fresh tomatoes...completely out of character for me, as I'm not a big fettucine guy...but they had it in display case and it looked so good - and Kimmy would have chosen it...so I did and it was great!
                        Afterward, we walked the crowded streets in Little Italy - they were having a farmers market, with live bands and other fun stuff.  We finally left around 2 and headed to Laguna Beach, about an hour up the coast.
                         Just as we were getting into Laguna, Puke-a-palooza started!  Bella let loose in the back seat the little ones lost their minds!!  I threw wipes to them, as I slowed down from the 80 MPH I was doing on the 5 to make my exit and pulled into the first gas station as Bella leaned up front and hurled in Cody's lap!!  We cleaned up and made it to our hotel, the bambini all gagging, struggling to hold onto their lunches...
                         We are staying at the Travel Lodge Laguna Beach, just across from the Montage Resort - I can't even describe the amount of beauty and detail they put into that place - but, a room goes for around $500/night...
                       The Travel Lodge is beautiful enough for us and the kids were thrilled to be there.  I ran in to announce our arrival and tell them about Bella...'Oh, we don't accept pets', the desk lady told me.  OK, I'm at the end of my proverbial rope right now...thinking 'should I leap off the cliffs of Laguna or simply swim out to sea...'  and she tells me this...'Uh, I specifically chose this hotel because online, it said you do accept dogs'...'No, we don't'...'Your website must be mistaken', I calmly told her through clenched teeth...'when did you make reservations?'  'February'.  'Oh, you're right.  We used to take pets, now we don't.  Since you made your reservations in February, we will take care of you.'  I was thanful and explained how we had stayed in this very hotel 7 years ago...back then, we were in room 114.  This time, 106.  As we pulled our suitcases into the room, Bella let loose one more time.  Luckily, it was on the sidewalk outside our room!  I quickly ran inside, grabbed the ice bucket, filled it and scoured the sidewalk before anyone would notice...Then, we ran to CVS, next door and bought Kaopectate and gave her a dose - thus pulling out my inner-Kimmy-who-used to be a-vet-tech...and, I grabbed the last bottle they had!  Surely a good omen.
                       But I was spent.  I needed a quick nap and to just decompress.  No. Way.  'Let's go to the beach!' the bambini cried!  It's a nice walk through the Montage to the beach...

                                 Two views from the top - lots of foilage and flowers on a winding walkway to the beach...at the bottom was Kim's favorite cove...

                              The cliffs surrounding the beaches are covered with ice plants and other flowers...
                 The bambini loved playing in the surf...Tonio got his first boogie board today!
Autumn explores the tide pools...This was Kim's favorite thing to do!

                      On the other side of this natural rock arch, is a little cove, Kim's favorite beach at Laguna...
                               Autumn found some great shells to add to her collection...the water was pretty chilly!
Bella absolutely LOVED the water!!  She would charge the waves fearlessly and got pretty wet!!

When we were done at the beach, we headed for dinner downtown...

                            Solerno's was one of Kim's favorites downtown Laguna...but we could not get in tonight, the wait 2 hours and it was about 6:30 when we got there...so we went to a little restaurant on the water that Kimmy liked to go to...and about half way through dinner...Tonio announced "I'm not feeling so well..."  I jumped up, rushed him to the men's room - LOCKED!  I pushed him into the ladies room and just in time - he vomited more than I could ever believe could fit inside of him!!  Just as I got him cleaned up, about 5 ladies came in (I did not get a chance to lock the door!)...I explained our 'emergency' and they graciously let us finish up...
                           We made it back to the hotel and Tonio went right to sleep...Aut and Cody hit the pool, while I tried to make sense of our dirty clothes, toiletries, etc.
                        Long day...and a flood of memories that I am unable to describe right now...and we did have some fun along the way...I guess I will sleep tonight!  I promised to get the bambini up around 5 to hit the tidal pools at their finest...
                       I stepped out into the Laguna night to say goodnight to Kimmy alone tonight, everyone else fast asleep...the Big Dipper followed us out here - thank God - I needed that...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Gluten Free Pasta

     No, seriously.  Gluten free pasta...I thought it would pretty bad - I've had whole wheat pasta, which is as tasty as eating cardboard with red stuff splashed on it...but was pleasantly surprised! 
     We stopped at Viro's today (and had a surprise, drive by visit from Angie!), to have lunch, say our goodbyes before we head to the coast Saturday and have them fill the bambini up with gelato and pastries!  I bought some Divella brand, gluten free pasta, to try out for dinner, as we were having Casey Rudzena, Aut's 5th grade and, thank the good Lord, soon to be 6th grade teacher, over...
      "The trick is to not over cook it..."  Vito wisely told me.  The package does not give you a cooking time, so, based on experience, I let it boil for about 8 minutes and started to taste test the penne pasta I was cooking...9 1/2 minutes seemed to be the magic time...
       Casey arrived and her and Autumn sat down to play Kerplunk and Clue while I prepped the salad and pasta (homemade marinara, Kimmy's recipe!)...they were having a great time, but, alas, it was time to eat...
        I served up the bambini's, and Casey and I exchanged a look...would they notice??  NO!!  They did not!  Good stuff!!

          Casey and Autumn settled in to watch Little Fockers after their meal....What a blessing, for Autumn to have Casey in her life, to help her along her new journey and to teach and mentor her...

           We leave in the morning for California.  What time is anyone's guess - in fact, it might make a good office pool.  Cody asked me, and I told him between 5 and 6.  He said, 'How about 4?'...I am not a morning person, I'd be happier with 9 or 10, but, I told him I'd set the alarm for 4 and see what happens...I'll be counting on him to be my co-pilot.  To keep me awake.  Look for cool things along the way.  Pop the top on my Rock Star so I can navigate that dreaded purgatory between Gila Bend and Yuma...and to put in the address of our hotel into his phone GPS app thingy, too.  And be 'snack boy'...it's a lot of responsibility.
            I haven't had to plan or pack for a vacation in 14 years...Kim handled all of that once we had kids.  I used to be good at it, when we were dating, and then married with no kids...or at least I thought I was...but Kim always had a way of finding the best deals on line for hotel room and events.  She'd always put such thought and care into packing and we'd never run short on anything and rarely had too much of anything.  And she'd make it all fit so nice into the suit cases. 
            My Dad emailed the kids a nice checklist so they could help pack...as soon as they saw his email last Sunday, they raced to the garage, grabbed suitcases and got packing!!!  Autumn nailed it, Cody was close, just a sweatshirt shy of a full suitcase and Tonio did pretty damn good, considering his wiggliness.  I even used it.  I've always been that guy who says "OK, we'll be there 5 days, so, one pair of shorts, couple of t-shirts, and a hoodie should cover it.'
            Of course...I forgot to shop for road snacks...oh well, that's what 'convenience' stores are for...and the people watching at the stops along the way will be entertaining...
           Anyways, we're heading to Laguna for a couple of days...we'll spread some of Kimmy's ashes there on Monday morning, the 13th, 6 months after her passing...all she wanted to do was get back to the beach, that she loved so much...it's going on 4 years now, since we last hit the coast and it will be bitter sweet for us...But, if you think of it, please say a prayer for Kimmy on that morning...
            Thank you,

PS  And I'll leave you with one of Kimmy's favorite songs "Ride to California" by Paper Tongues...again, she had a wide and varied taste in music - she loved to sing this one to me 'cuz it makes sense to go to California', she'd smile as she sang/asked me to take her to the beach...We'd been on beaches from Maine to Miami, Fla, but her all time favorite was Laguna...it's so nice with the high cliffs, coves and tidal pools...I'll be glad to make it to Mission Beach...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Crock Pot Save!

        So, as you know, I try to keep the bambini moving...especially during these days of summer...we try to recover ground that we enjoyed with Kimmy.  To remember the fun times and to create new memories...
        And, I try to keep these guys well fed with home cooked meals, in between the running!  That creates some kind of challenges.  Kim used to be pretty handy with the crock pot, when ever our schedules got busy - but, aside from Janene's recipe of chicken and Rotel, I've only used the crock to make pinto beans...first time a disaster, second time went very well...

         A week a go or so, Andrea presented me with this:
          She knew I've been running hard and loved to cook for the kids and thought this would help!  I carefully went through it - there is a recipe for every day on index sized cards...and thought I'd try the Chicken Cacciatore...
          I made it on Sunday and put everything in the crock pot as we headed out the door for church.  By the time we got back around 3 that afternoon, it was nearly done and the bambini were salivating!  It did smell pretty good.

          Easy to make:
          1 pepper, chopped (I used a yellow one)
          1 onion, chopped
          1 Tbsp. dry Italian seasoning
          1 can diced tomatoes (14-15oz)
          6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves.
          I added 4 minced garlic cloves, too!

          In a small bowl, mix together the pepper, onion, seasoning and tomatoes.  Place a third on bottom of crock pot.  Layer 3 chicken breasts over top and add a 1/3 of tomato sauce.  Place the remaining breasts on top and cover with the tomato sauce.
          Cover and cook on low 6 hours or until chicken is done, but not dry.

           The bambini absolutely loved it!  Autumn asked if she could put sour cream on it...at first, I said 'NO!  Why would you put sour cream on Chicken Cacciatore??'  Then, as I examined the dish, I realized - it is damn near Chicken Fajitas...isn't it??  So, I told her 'Go ahead!' and she had seconds!!!
          What a time saver - and I've got several hundred more recipes to try!!!

           As I went to put away the first recipe I tried, feeling good that it had worked out, I noticed that the date of the recipe I had chosen was March 1st - Kimmy's birthday...how cool is that?


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Brendon's Birthday Party

         Any day that begins at Brawley's, is going to be a good day...Here's Breanna, Lexy, Autumn, Tonio, Bryson, Angie and Janene, happy and well fed, after a rousing birthday breakfast, for Janene's son, Brandon, who turned 13 today.  We had a total of 19, nearly filling this restaurant, which was definitely Kimmy's favorite hole in the wall place to eat.
         From there, we all headed to Golf 'N Stuff, for an afternoon of bumer boats, race cars, laser tag, batting cages, golf and video games.  It was 100 degrees, but that did not slow these kids down!! 
                            Breanna takes extra precaution to sun exposure by liberally applying sunscreen!
                                         Cody, David and Andres come back to port soaking wet on the bumper boats, which have a high pressured nozzle attached to the front to soak other riders - a good thing on a day like today!
                         Breanna and Tonio were like a death machine, wielding their water weapon with unbiased fury.  No one came back dry.  No one.
                              Lexy and Autumn did a nice job soaking other riders, too!
                      Cody takes Autumn on the go kart races - Brendon's friend, Cole was nice enough to take Tonio as a passenger in the car behind Cody's and Brendon's in the car to the right, ready to go.  The ride operator turned off the regular timer and these guys raced for what seemed like an eternity...

                                      A fun afternoon, here's the crew ready to get some cool drinks!

                      Once their thirst had been slaked, we headed over to Janene's to swim and eat pizza.  I don't know where these guys get the energy, but they swam non-stop for several hours, before woofing down pizza and birthday cake...and then, most of them had baseball, basketball and dance (Lexy and Breanna) to go to.  Cody went off to ride scooter with Brendon, who got a new one for his birthday and didn't come home until 9:30...I need some of that energy!!
                    Kim and I used to go to Golf 'N Stuff before we had kids, and enjoyed playing a liesurely game, at our own pace...sometimes finishing the course, sometimes not...
                   Golf 'N Stuff was always a place we'd take the bambini for a treat.  Especially following a visit to their dentist, Dr. Alexander.  We've been going to Dr. Alexander for 18 years - he's a great guy and is fantastic with kids.  Kim always said he reminds her of a cross between an older brother of mine and my Dad.  After each visit, Dr. Alexander's wife, Jane (who works as office manager/receptionist/hostess/etc), always presents the kids with Golf 'N Stuff passes...Kim would always take a photo of the kids playing and send it to them - and sure enough, next time we'd go in, there would be the latest picture of them hanging in the office.
                We had a lot of fun afternoons there, Kim liked the water falls and fountains that they have, and the large, shady trees.  She taught the kids a lot of patience there, whether putting, or waiting for the folks in front of us to finish their hole.  Also, sportsmanship...she would gently encourage them to root for each other, and to keep accurate score, and to be sure to take their turn, when it really was their turn and to have courtesy for whoever was trying to putt. And, of course, whenever someone made a good shot, Kim would excitedly cheer and applaud for them!
         When we were done golfing, she liked to go across the street to Tino's pizza for a slice and to let the kids play video games, so we could talk...They have great pizza there - and good sandwhiches, too.  The bambini would always want a pitcher of rootbeer to wash it down.  Occaisonally, we'd get a Peroni to wash ours down...

                 It was good to be there today, remembering the times we shared there - Kim and I, and later, with the bambini...and today, we made some new great memories of Golf 'N Stuff - it was fun watching all of the kids having such a great time together - what a great place to celebrate a birthday, and we were honored to be a part of that!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011


              We didn't go to sleep yesterday...none of us did.  Tonio came to me around 12:30 and asked if it was ok to go say goodnight to Mama...I said sure, where was Aut?  Cody and I were still watching movies, Bella curled up between us...Aut came out of the bedroom...'what were you up to honey?'  I asked, 'Playing on line with Lexy, but she went to sleep about 1/2 hour ago...'
              We went outside, and the orientation of the Big Dipper was so vastly different at this hour than most of the nights when we step out to say goodnight.  It was turned nearly right side up and appeared somehow bigger than usual tonight...and more beautiful.

              Cody and I watched a sad one tonight...I apologized as it finished, at 1 a.m. "at least we stayed up late together..." I told him.  "yeh", he smiled and staggered off down the hallway.  I tucked the little ones into to bed "Dad, Autumn says it's tomorrow already, is that true?"..."yep, it is Tonio"..."Good" he said as he burrowed his way into the covers in my room, Autumn curled up at the foot of the bed "Told you Tonio!".
              Some days, we don't want the day to end - as if we are waiting for something else, searching for something...I can't quite put my finger on...
            The movie Cody and I watched, was one called 'Hereafter', starring Matt Damon.  Directed by Clint Eastwood.  A great combination, right?  I thought so when I Redboxed it.  Normally, when I rent a dissappointing movie, I usually reason, "hey, it was only a buck" - I love Redbox.  In fact, if it is not very good, I have no problems turning it off and not watching it, for that price!  But, despite the movie being slow...and sad...a reminder...Cody and I were glued.  Neither of us could speak.  Neither of us could move.  Again, it just ended at 1 a.m. and we're wide awake.
             The opening scenes should have tipped me off.  A massive tidal wave wreaking havoc.  A tsunami.  My old nemisis from early childhood right up until 12/13/2010...then gone.  This giant wave rips through a town, sweeping away everything in it's path, including a young lady who had run down to the market while her fiance' waits for her in their hotel room...

Three people are touched by death in different ways. George is a blue-collar American who is trying to reject using his psychic ability to connect with those who have died. On the other side of the world, Marie, a French journalist, has a near-death experience that shakes her reality. And when Marcus, a London schoolboy, loses the person closest to him, he desperately needs answers. Each on a path in search of the truth, their lives will intersect, forever changed by what they believe might--or must--exist in the hereafter.

         I don't know why I wanted to see this one so bad...wait a minute, sure I did - the subject of the hereafter, of course, has recently become of interest to me...when I just went to say goodnight to Cody, I apologized again and told him next movie would be another Jason Statham movie...but, and I couldn't help it, I had to ask him - do you ever see Mama in your dreams?  He nodded yes.  I sat on the edge of his bed and asked him how it felt.  'Good'...Cody, a man of so few words.  I told him it had been a long while since I had, but told him about the last one I had a few nights ago, holding back some of the detail...He smiled, gave me a big hug and we told each other how much we loved each other...

          Sometimes things are so quiet, you do begin to wonder, to question...other times, you just know, you have that warm feeling, deep inside...I guess, we sometimes need that affirmation - to make us feel alive...whole...and that we still matter...

'Where do I take this pain of mine
I run but it stays right by my side

So tear me open and pour me out
There's things inside that scream and shout
And the pain still hates me
So hold me until it sleeps'

Good night, er, morning...