We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

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

Friday, August 5, 2011

I love Friday's

              I look forward to Friday's.  I cannot tell you the comfort I get from going to Mass at San Xavier each Friday.  The clouds today were so beautiful above the Mission.  I really enjoy greeting and talking to the custodians who work so hard to keep the Mission clean.  They asked where the bambini were today and I explained that we are part of the Vail School District, with a 'year round' schedule.  Even though it's not.  It's just better spaced than 'traditional' schools.  Whatever that means, depending on where you live in the country.  Where we grew up, that meant school started the day after Labor Day.  Out here, some school districts start 8/8, some 8/15.  It's pretty random.
             Anyway, this routine really starts my day off right.  Today, the Homily was about Moses.  And how the Jews he led through the desert were begin to complain.  They were tired.  They were hungry.  They were thirsty.  Etc.  Moses stopped them.  Put a halt to their whining and complaining and reminded them of all the great things God had done for their people and the blessing they had.  It motivated them to continue.  I love when the Gospel and Homily easily relate to what is going on in our lives.  For we may be wandering in the desert, but we are blessed!
                  It's a long walk down to Mary's Chapel, where Kimmy's photo sits on the altar...I can't even tell you how many times I walked down this sidewalk with Kim...
                   As you exit the 19, this tile mural greets you at the bottom of the off ramp.  I looked in my rear view, and no one was behind me, so I snapped this shot.  When I looked again, there was a cop waiting patiently behind me!

                  After school, the bambini are hungry.  Always.  And on Fridays, we've been picking up their friends, Lexy and Breanna, too.  They usually like to go to Eegee's but, it was so hot today, they just wanted to come back to the house.  They had a good time unwinding from a long week at school!  I cooked them shrimp tacos and they had ice cream...

                 The bambini finally went to bed around 11...another school week behind them.  Autumn and I were the only ones left to say goodnight to Mama..."cloudy and no Big Dipper" Autumn observed.  And then, blowing kisses to where the Big Dipper normally is, "'Night Mama!", she cried.


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Amazing Autumn

           She's done it again.  Just when I think she can not get any sweeter.  Or more thoughtful.  Or considerate, compassionate - well, more Kim-like, she surprises me!
          This morning, as I walked through the dense fog into the living room, my bare foot suddenly encountered a wet spot...
          "Ok, who spilled something?"  I asked Tonio and Autumn.  No answer.  But, their silence was damning.  "Was it water?  Or juice?" I asked.  "I dunno.  I didn't spill anything"  they answered in stereo.  "Ok, so what is this wet spot?"...upon closer inspection, I found that Bella had an 'accident'.  These guys like to get her crazy first thing in the morning.  Bella loves it, but they don't let her outside first to do her business.
         I lost it.  Steam started coming out of my ears as I told them that they know better, Bella will go inside more often if she is allowed to and we don't clean up right away.  The house will smell.  Did they want to live in a nasty, dirty house?  The volume rising as I wound up.  When your teachers come for home visits, what will they think?  Do your friends want to come see you at a trashed house? 
        By now, they are in motion, one getting paper towels, the other Resolve and they are cleaning.  I've clammed up, hating when I get upset with these little guys (Heckle and Jeckle) and go to get the steam cleaner, to deep clean it.

         The thing with carpets, is, they always seem to hold the dirt.  And when I was done with this spot, the water was pretty nasty.  I decided to leave the steam cleaner out and would try to 'chip away' (one of Kimmy's favorite phrases) at the carpet over the next few days.  Kim would do this every other month or so.  This would be my first attempt at it.
        After helping out in Autumn's class this morning, I came home and was able to do half the living room before it was time to go get the little ones.  The water from the steam cleaner looked like coffee.  Thick coffee.  I think the carpet has had it - anyone know a discount tiler?  There are multiple 'bald' spots, where, Bella, as a baby, ate the carpet down to the threads.  Kim would chase her around, so mad, trying to get her to stop and put her outside!  At the threshold of Autumn's and Tonio's rooms, our previous pup, Zona, had tried to eat her way out of their rooms, when locked in there for periods of time.  Kim had done a pretty good job of patching it up, but, Bella had dug Tonio's straight out.  Wherever carpet meets tile, there is now a gap, and, every now and again, a barefoot bambini screams in pain as they snag a bit of carpet tacking. 

            Well, when the little ones got home, I got them a snack (Tonio, my banana bread with cream cheese on it and Autumn, some fideo soup I made last night), they started their homework - they are both getting much better at this! Autumn noticed that carpet looked...improved, and said it looked nice.  I left them while I went to pick up Cody and his friend Jesus from high school and when I came back, Autumn presented me with these:

         Just like something Kim would have done for me...

         Yesterday, Tonio felt a little sad while in Mrs. Rienstra's class...she spent some time talking to Tonio, who told her he missed Kim.  She caringly  took him into the pod (room between the classes) and asked if he'd like to draw a picture for her or start a journal.  He drew this:

          The tree, is our largest olive tree in our front yard...our 'angel' tree.  He says it reminds him of Mama.  She loved birds, so, he has a nest of doves living in the tree.  He told me to look carefully at the tree, because, hidden in the leaves are eyes and nostrils - it's a T-Rex!  Note the short arms of the olive tree!  I asked him about the cloud, to explain that.  He says 'That?  It's just a monsoon rolling in!'.  He's still a little lost, just a little out of step...Mrs. Rienstra has already made him feel so comfortable in her classroom and stayed after with him yesterday to help him with homework and play games with him.

..........And Cody?  Cody has immersed himself into high school life.  He is enjoying all of his classes, and, the social aspect of high school, as well.  He's pretty automatic - gets his homework done first and then enjoys playing video games for awhile - often, after the little ones go to bed, we'll watch a movie together.  He's good company.

          We know we have a couple of challenges over the next few weeks or so - but, I feel, that we continue to be better equipped to help each other through...and when I start to slip off of the path, one of them, intuitively, nudges me back onto it...bambini sorprendenti!!  (Amazing children!)


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The ups and the downs

          In our lives, there are going to be ups....and there are going to be downs...I've had so many conversations, over that last day or so, about appreciating what we have in our lives.  About being thankful and knowing that, in so many ways, we are blessed.
         I used to come home, to Kimmy, give her a big hug and kiss (sometimes sweep her off her feet), and tell her how much I loved her.  Then, I'd relate to her how I saw someone we knew who was now wheelchair bound.  Or someone we knew who was getting a divorce.  Or had been in a horrific accident.  I'd tell her, that I always appreciated her, and felt bad, that it took seeing or hearing about someone else's misfortunes to make me really feel it.  To bring me back into focus on what is truly important.
         Each day, I thank God for times Kim and I shared.  When I see a beautiful sunrise, I thank Him for every sunrise Kim and I shared.  When I take the bambini for a walk, I thank God for every walk Kim and I took.  When I wish someone a Happy Anniversary, I thank God for every anniversary that Kim and I celebrated - and we didn't just celebrate our wedding anniversary, oh no, we celebrated the anniversary of the day we met, the day we started dating in 7th grade, the day we started dating in 1984, the day we moved here to Tucson, etc, etc.  Nearly every day was our anniversary!
         This very day, I had the opportunity to multiple times to remind co-workers of what is truly important.  Family.  I preached to them 'Don't get all stressed out about work or your job - there are plenty of jobs out there.  But, your family, well, 20 years from now, whatever company you work for today, won't even remember your name - but, my hope is, by letting my kids know that they are more important than anything, that they will love me and I will love them - forever.'  Kim and I talked a lot the last two months or so that I was blessed to have her - NO ONE, on their death bed EVER says "I wish I had worked more!".  It seem so simple, doesn't it?  Yet, we still get hung up on bills, finances, office politics, economics, Washington politics...I say, forget about what someone in another state, or even city, is brain washing you into thinking...be here, now.  Be there for your family.  Your school/church.  And your community. That is what is important.
         In talking about the current state of economy and what it means for retail, I've made sure to be up front and honest with my team...'Have a plan B', I tell them (Kimmy's words) - that is why I have a real estate license. I am expendable.  I can be efficiently replaced, hell, my team has run my store for me for approximately 9 months, they do not necessarily need me. We saw the passing of the Lizard King - no one saw that coming. But,  I try to look out for them like they are family, because they have worked so hard to keep the business going so that I can take care of the bambini.  Yet, some of them, see this advice as a calamity - I tell them - it's an opportunity to refocus on their families, what is really important to them and to see if what they are currently doing really makes them happy...what a wonderful thing!
        And, one of our blessing that I thank God for, is the Barrios family.  Lupe, Manny and Monsi have shown love and caring towards all of the bambini.  Taking us in, primarily on Tuesday nights,making sure the kids get their homework done, giving them snacks, fun activities, sharing their home and dinner table with us - even when dealing with their own family sorrows and set backs.  They have such upbeat, positive outlooks on life (especially surprising/refreshing because they are Cowboys fans! : ) ).  I told them, if there were more families like theirs and more like the Williams' family, and the Croce family, this world would be a wonderful place, all the way around.
         But, I've come to learn, that along with the ups, we need to experience the downs to better appreciate the ups and all that we have - even when we are down.  They can take my house.  They can take my cars.  But no one can ever take the bambini and the love we share from us...and that is all that matters!


Monday, August 1, 2011

Tonio's Star Student

            This week, in Mrs. Rienstra's class, Antonio is the 'Star Student'!    He gets to make and 'all about me' poster and share this with the class, so they get to know more about each other this way.  He came home bubbling with excitement and asked if we could run to Fry's right away to pick up a poster board.  Tonio took great pride in scanning through our photos and choosing the perfect ones for his poster.  He printed them, trimmed them down and laid them out the way he wanted to, carefully gluing them down.  He wrote a little about each photo.  When he finished this part of the poster, he decided to go back and draw some colorful pictures of other things he likes.  I was pretty proud of him!
         First of all, in the upper left hand corner, Tonio put a picture of him, Cody and Autumn at Mission Beach.  He said it was his favorite place to be.  In the right corner, there is a picture of Tonio and Bella sitting together on the couch.  He wanted to put his favorite music artists on his poster and decided on Eminem and Bob Marley! Favorite movie?  'Rango'.   Lower left corner, eating pizza, his favorite food, with Cody.  And lower right - his family, at his favorite restaurant, Zona 78.  His drawings: a lizard, frog, puppy and a star above the heads of him, Cody and Autumn at the beach...He was so thoughtful as he chose each 'favorite', and sweet.

        This morning, I started the bambini, including Brendon, off with a big breakfast of hash browns, pancakes and bacon.  They all ate well.  While doing this, I decided to try to make Kim's banana bread, so the kids could eat it for breakfast or an after school snack.

            It actually came out good - the bambini couldn't wait for me to take a photo of it before they tried it!

               Here's how Kimmy did it!

             - 1 cup sugar
             - 8 tbsp ( 1 stick ) unsalted butter, room temp
             - 2 large eggs
             - 3 ripe bananas
             - 1 tbsp milk
             - 1 tbsp of cinnamon
             - 2 cups of flour
             - 1 tsp baking powder
             - 1 tsp baking soda
             - 1 tsp salt

        Preheat the oven to 325.  Butter a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.
        Cream the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating well.
        In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork.  Mix in milk and cinnamon.  In another bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
       Add the banana mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until combined.  Add dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears.
       Pour batter into pan and bake 1 hr, test to see if it is done with a knife or toothpick.  Set aside to cool on a rack for 15 minutes.  Remove bread from pan and put on rack to cool completely.

       Here's something that used to crack me up about Kimmy - as great a cook/baker she was, she would manage to use every available bowl, pan, pot, plate, utensil, you name it!  I'd come in and get to work cleaning up the aftermath and she'd begin apologizing right away, always saying she didn't know how she ended up using so many dishes!  She'd turn the kitchen into a war zone.  I'd clean it up and then she'd detail her stove.  I always told her, I didn't mind how many dishes she used, because everything came out tasting so phenomenal!!  And, I knew she was making more work for herself by cooking everything from scratch for us.  She was so sweet.

         Well, after the bread was done, we went and met Angie, Janene, Kim and all of their kids at the cheap theaters to see Mr. Popper's Penguins (or Mr. Penguins Poppers, as Janene started to call it!).  All of the kids loved it - Autumn brought her big - I don't know what you call it, purse? Bag?  Tote thingy?  We hit Walgreen's on the way down and stocked up on candy, brought in kettle corn and drinks, too!  It was a great time.  Janene took Brendon and Cody skating - they had a lot of fun!
         The little ones helped me make lunches and get clothes ready and then we took Bella for a walk together.  Autumn reflected on the movie - she thought parts of it were pretty sad.  I told her, that I thought the take away was - life sometimes can be sad, but, if we don't try to hide our emotions, there will be people there for us to help us find happiness again.  'You mean like Angie and her family do for us?', she asked, her head tilted up towards me - those bright, blue eyes (Kimmy's eyes) searching mine for the answer...'Yes, honey, exactly!  We can be sad and miss Mama, but we have help through it, right?'  'We do Dad, we sure do.'...


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Just Keep Swimming

        Sometimes, I forget to breathe...usually at the damndest times, or over the seemingly inconsequential events.  Yet, it happens...

                   They come in flashes, remembrances, or occasions that I know Kim would have so appreciated....Here's one - Tonio, simply enjoying an afternoon shower (yes, you need to turn your computer sideways)...he is so ecstatic, it is so rare that the bambini get to actually play in the rain.  It typically comes with apocalyptic lightning...or winds that make me want to tie large rocks around the kid's waists, so they do not blow away.  This afternoon shower was just right - Tonio giggled with joy and shrieked "It's so cold!!".  A nice moment...

                 On the way to the Desert Museum last night, Autumn captured the darkening desert...They are open late on Saturday nights during the summer - until 10:00 PM.  Kim loved to go out there several times during the summer.
              Here is where Kim and I had our picnic lunch on our wedding day...we had Baggins deliver the sandwiches to San Xavier Mission, and led our party of 15 out into the desert en route to Old Tucson Movie Studios.  This rest stop is just before you pass through Gates Pass, as far west on Speedway as you can go.

                           Autumn was able to capture these shots as we hurtled through the desert, on winding roads, doing my best Hunter Thompson impersonation (See or read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas -by Hunter Thompson, starring Bill Murray in the original movie and Johnny Depp in the remake).

                The Desert Museum was pretty crowded.  The temp had dropped down into the 80's following the rain.  So, I passed into the Staff parking lot, past the "Do Not Enter" sign and got an optimal parking spot.  We were greeted by this little guy just next to our vehicle.  Our friend, Yolanda, was working the ticket window - we've known her since 1994 when she worked down the road at Old Tucson.  She's been at the Desert Museum for 11 years now.  She always gives the kids little treats - tonight...flashlights!  And she told me to be sure to tell my 'sister' Janene hi and let me know she gave Janene and her family passes to get in when they went out last week.  She always takes good care of us...
                      This was not on our front porch.  We viewed this rattler and many others in the reptile house, protected by safety glass.
                     Autumn snapped these beautiful, night blooming flowers near the prairie dogs.  The mountain lion was very active tonight, the kids loved that!  They have a lot of fun activities for the kids on Saturday nights, including scorpion hunting with black lights, a live animal show (tonight, was owls flying over the audience's heads in their auditorium) and it was astronomy night.  The kids got to make constellation charts, planet charts, necklaces and bracelets with white beads that change to various colors of the rainbow when exposed to UV rays.
The kids got to see how high their vertical leap was and then the lady would multiply the inches times 9, letting you know how high you would jump if you were on the moon!  She said Cody had the highest vertical leap out of any children she had tested that night, 19".
                                                   Autumn and Antonio both leaped 6"...
And below, the kids are making meteors!  The demo guy, from Kitt Peak Observatory, was there last year.  I remember Kim saying he reminded her of the Heat Miser's brother, Snow Miser.  We laughed so hard, we had to leave the room...and suddenly, I could not breathe and I was sitting down, not knowing whether there was a chair behind me or not...the room, the people, all slowing down...and I hit, the chair, thank God, hard.  Sitting, watching...deja vu.
When time started ticking again, my breath returned, in time to see Tonio add ammonia to this mixture (he's in the orange, striped shirt, slightly hidden).  Cody remembered this guy's every joke and tendency - so this night, it was he and I who were amused.  He raffles off a Galileo telescope, at 9:00, or so he says.  As we put in our entries, Cody said "Watch Dad, he says 9, but then he'll make another meteor at 9 and do the drawing at, like, 9:20 or so."...and I remembered last year, I had to work early the next morning at Barnes & Noble for our Cafe' inventory.  I told Kim I wanted to leave at 9 and she said we'd leave right after the drawing.  She so badly wanted one of the bambini to win a telescope "We'll get a better look at that Big Dipper" she told me with a smile and a squeeze of my hand.  And I remember it exactly as Cody remembered it...the drawing was late, we ended up leaving around 9:30...and yes, it happened that way again this year.  Except, I was hoping one of the kids would win one this year, so we could get a better look at the Big Dipper, for Kim.  No such luck...

We had a good day today.  Great Sunday start, going to Our Mother of Sorrows with Angie (bionic knee doing good!), Andrea, Mario, Lexy, Breanna, Autumn and Tonio (we let Cody sleep in today!) - the we all went to Viro's, meeting Aut's teacher Casey, her husband Jack, grandmother, friends Julie, Josh and Alisha - Vito graciously saves us the 'big table' each week for our family.  We grazed for two hours!!

                            The girls were playing with my phone during brunch and took these shots.
We zipped home, picked up Cody and met Janene at Skate Country so the kids could burn off some of their breakfast energy!  Then, dropped Janene's son Brendon and Cody at the skate park, 'cuz they didn't get enough energy out!

Tonio is ready to skate with the ladies!

Angie's youngest daughter, Kim was hosting 'bunko' night at her house - so Andrea dropped off Breanna (we already had Lexy), we took Brendon, too and we met Kim's husband, Rashon at Peter Piper Pizza, with his two, Mariah and Micah and Andrea's son, David.  It was the busiest I've ever seen it!  This place is huge, too - it used to be the Linens 'N Things that I managed for a couple of years.  It even has a mini roller coaster in it!  The kids went on it several times and played many games, oblivious to the noise around them.

Breanna, David and Mariah enjoy that Peter Piper pie!
As if this wasn't enough fun, Rashon said 'let's go get ice cream!'.  A new burger place, called Culver's just opened - it was equally crowed and chaotic!

It was pretty late by the time we were done with ice cream and swung by to pick up Brendon and Cody at the skate park...we dropped the girls off to Mario and kept Brendon with us to sleep over with Cody. 
Just getting settled in at 11 - the boys watching the classic "Fight Club"...'this is your life, and it's ending one moment at a time.' Tyler Derden, Autumn and Antonio watching Rango, starring Johnny Depp, together...tired, but happy...

And they have the day off from school tomorrow!!

"He gives strength to the weary..."
          Isaiah 40:29