We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

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

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Carlsbad, CA

                 To the beach!  The bambini woke up with this battle cry.  They were excited to spend a day in the surf, digging, looking for shells and playing with Bella.  Bella.  Hmmmm.  When we've gone down to the beach in the early hours, we've noticed the 'no dogs' sign.  It's a law, along with 'no feeding the squirrels'.  I thought I'd ask at the front desk where the closest dog beach was.
                 'Del Mar.' the front desk lady told me.  Del Mar.  We'd been there before.  Several times, actually.  Cajun was our first 'child' to play on the Del Mar beaches.  I thought of those times as we drove down the scenic Coastal Highway watching for 'the' street.  And there it was - 29th Street.  That was the one!  I quickly made a right onto it and announced "Cody, here is where you found Happy 11 years ago!".
                 There was stunned silence from the bambini.  Finally, tentatively, "Really Dad?" Cody asked searching my face to see if I was joking.  "Really. Right over there."  I parked and they fell out scrambling to the bush that I had pointed at.  It was here, Kim holding his 3 year old hand, that Cody found a California land snail, named it 'Happy'.  Kim was as excited at Cody and put the snail in a plastic cup to take home to Tucson later.
                 I think we were both surprised that Happy survived the rest of our stay in California and the ride back to Tucson.  But, not as surprised as we all were when Happy had babies a month or so later!!!  Kim called me at work, squealing "Happy had babies!!  Hundreds of them!!!"  She couldn't decide what to do, thinking maybe she should let them go in the garden.  In the end, she determined it was better to save the Arizona ecology and not allow the California snail to become a part of that...She allow Cody to believe that she had let Happy and her family go in the wild...
                The bambini love the story of Happy and were thrilled to actually be standing right where the story began.  "Was Cajun there too, Dad?"  Autumn asked.  Of course.  We never went anywhere without our Cajun girl.  The girl had been from the Pacific to the Atlantic, putting her paws in the water at the Jersey Shore.  She was an excellent traveler.

                 It was a special day, to be where we already had some great memories  The kids love to hear the stories...

Del Mar is a really pretty beach.  Towering cliffs make it seem so exotic, foreign.  Cody didn't remember it, and Autumn and Tonio had never been there...they loved it.  Oh, and Bella.  It was her first time too.  The thing about Bella, is, well, she doesn't know she is a dog.  She thinks she is a 'sister' in our family, who's job is to entertain and take care of the bambini.  And she does a great job!  Much like Cajun and Zona before her.  At first, she was all happy to be there.  Bouncing around, pulling us towards the waves.  We immediately let her body surf.

                            We all took turns getting out as far as Bella could stand, and then some, as she ran, jumped and bit the waves!!  It was so fun to see her having so much fun!!  The bambini exhausted themselves laughing and shouting and trying to hold her back from swimming to some far off place...
                             When it came time to take a break, Bella took notice of the twenty plus other dogs running around the beach, most off the leash.  When they'd try to come up to say what's up?  Bella began to growl gutturally, from deep within her chest and then would bark ferociously!!  We kept telling her to chill, that she was actually a dog too, but she did not believe us.  She'd sit next to me for a time, but whenever a stray pup would approach anyone of the kids, she'd shoot up, giving a loud warning!

Tonio found lots of pretty shells, "This one reminds me of Mama." he told me.

The boys discovered a cave!

                           We spent the day this way, the kids having such fun and Bella actually wearing herself out!

I let the kids take a swim at the pool when we got back from the beach.  We help save a three year old Australian boy, who was clowning with the kids by the water's edge.  His mom and grandmother were seated pretty far away and this boy, wearing long sleeves and long pants, kept getting more and more daring.  When he fell, I was there in a second, pulling him out by the elbow, while the kids helped push.  We wrapped him in one of our towels, while the mom thanked us profusely. 


A quick thank you to our 'Snack Angel', who packed us a nice bag of these snacks and more for our trip!!  We sure are enjoying everything and they've come in handy multiple times!

We gave Bella a shower and let her at our room to take a nap and went back to the beach.  This time at Carlsbad's beaches.  We took a long walk and then, picked a nice spot to sit and wait to watch the sun set out over the Pacific.  The bambini ran to the water's edge, dug for sand crabs and glanced at the sky. 


                    I cannot tell you how many times that thought of Kim these last few days...but, I thought I saw her in Legoland.  I was sitting in the warm sun, waiting for the bambini to finish their ride on Project X, when I glanced up and saw her, turned away from me, and even as the lady turned, same sun glasses, I thought it was her, in the moment...Then, today, as we ate lunch, her favorite Paolo Nuttini song came on (how often does that guy even get air time??) followed by her favorite Gnarls Barkley tune, which Cody really likes a lot, too.  We all saw her in tonight's sunset, the bambini commented on it to me...

And in a brilliant flash, the sun was gone...

...just like Kimmy...

My sun has set


Friday, October 7, 2011

Lonely on the Road...

      ...It is.  And I'm exhausted.  Mentally.  Physically.  But, we are making memories.

                     We were up by 6:30 and hit the beach.  The temperature was 57 degrees!!  But the beach was beautiful.  The pelicans were diving for their breakfast and the water was filled with wet suit clad surfers.

        Bella is a true beach girl, just like her Mama was.  She was so excited to get into the water and loved splashing in the cold Pacific.

                       One last quick walk at the hotel, this is a view out our sliding glass door, and then we locked Bella in the room and walked the mile or so to Legoland for day 2...

Cody loved all of the Lego statues throughout the park.

The bambini had a great time traversing this Lego town in little Lego cars.  Tonio had me laughing so hard, I think I scared the lady next to me.  He started to make random u-turns and nearly hit one of the ride attendants. He was having the time of his life...

Me and this dad took a little nap while our kids were on another ride.

I think Tonio had as much fun building Lego things around the park, as he did going on the rides.  One of the funny things about Lego land...within the line que, on some of the more popular rides, they built little Lego play pens.  The idea is, the parents let their kid loose in these pens so they can play while the parent waits in the long line for the ride.  Sounds like utopia right?  Well, we saw some pretty good Lego wars, as parents stood slack jawed in line, trying to ignore the screams and Lego hurling.  It was amusing.

Legos and dinosaurs!!

Legos version of tea cups. 

And there were a couple of rides Cody really enjoyed!!

What did we learn about Legoland?  Well, it can be done in one day.  Although, I think that Tonio could visit there daily and it was neat to see it through his eyes!!  But, I kept seeing thing through Kim's eyes - she had such an eye for detail and being a Disney lover, she would have noticed that the some of the interactive Legoites were no longer in sync with their role on certain rides.  Many of the Lego statues are horribly sun faded.  I could go on, but I'll say this - if you've already been to Disney, but have not gone to Legoland...skip it.  If you have not been to either, be sure to go to Legoland first!  I'm glad we checked it out, though.  For Tonio.  He'll remember this trip for a long, long time!



Thursday, October 6, 2011


    Yes, we are in California.  Yes, I brought my laptop, to keep Kimmy's blog going.  Why?  Well, she never took a break or rested, and somehow, we are still one...
    ...and that is why, this morning, I was up at 3:30 a.m., after falling asleep around 12:30 a.m., rounding up the bambini in their pj's, wrestling them into the Expedition (my shoulder screaming bloody murder), and fighting sleep for the 7 hour drive to Carlsbad ("Who's Carl?" Tonio asked in bewilderment when I explained where we were headed).
       The kids instantly were back to sleep and I was alone with my thoughts.  Driving distances still remains challenging for me as my mind is left to wander...and there are landmarks that bring back countless memories.  The turn off onto I-8.  I cannot count on both hands, how many times on the way to, or back from, Phoenix, Kim would say "Let's just turn here and go to San Diego..."  Do you know how bad I wanted to?  For her.  I heard her say that to me as I took the exit in the complete darkness this morning. 
       By 6:00 a.m., we were in Gila Bend.  An interesting little wide spot in the road and our favorite spot to swing through to hit restrooms (at the Shell off the first exit. They have a bazaar of sorts on the side selling lots of perty outdoor stuff) and then we drive through Gila Bend to the McD's for breakfast (just coffee for me...black!), all the way marveling over the sights.  Kim got a kick out of the 'Space Age' cafe - which looks like it is wrapped in tinfoil and has a sign featuring a UFO.  I showed Cody the Shrimp Farm sign, and he was delighted to see the banner further into town announcing the annual Shrimp Fest!  There are an incredible amount of photo ops!
        We've always hit this McD's.  It is the one that some grizzled drifter gave Cody a ride on his burro in the parking lot one year (I'm pretty sure I wrote about it 100 blog posts ago or so.  If not, let me know and I'll  tell you about it.)  You need to be on your toes, though.  They forget at least one item each time we go through.  Last time, it was Cody's sandwich!  I was pulling back on the 8 when he alerted me and I pulled a mean U-turn to go back and get it (think Jason Statham in the Transporter series).  Today, it was his vanilla iced coffee...
        Dateland is another of those towns Kim would marvel over.  She actually got me to stop there one year, before bambini, and she tried one of the World Famous Dateland Date Shakes...one sip was all that she needed!  Never stopped there again, but always a quip from her as we hurtled by...
        Yuma...well, it's just another four letter word.  It is really spreading.  Like a bad rash.  And there is no ointment for Yuma!  I remember when there was only two exits you could get gas from.  Now, there are 7 complete with malls, restaurants, etc. etc.
         My favorite oddity in California is Ocotillo, which is just before you start heading up that winding road into the mountains.  We have had some very odd experiences there.  One time, stopping for a bite to eat at a cafe there - Cody was three and Kim was about to burst with Autumn, the waitress told us they had a limited menu because the power had been out for a day or so and the fridge was still out...hmm, how preserved do you think that food was?  I now make sure we can make it to at least Jacumba (which is really fun to say, too) way up in the hills.
         This was a difficult trip in another way, too.  We had never made it to Legoland before.  Everytime we talked about coming and even started making plans, Kim (the internet deal queen) would tell me "gosh Dave, for only $10 more per night, we could go to Disney!" or "Dave!  For $5 less per night, we could go to Sea World!"  Of course, I'd always go along with what she wanted, and we did love both places - plus, she'd do her best to get me tickets to see the Padres if they were in town, which we got to do three times. At Disney, she'd find Angel's tickets, three times there, too.  I wish I had the chance to take her to see the Dodgers...she grew up a fan of theirs...she would have loved Chavez Ravine - I had the chance to see them play the Rockies in '03 and had her on the cell phone listening to the game!
          I knew the window was closing on Legoland.  Tonio, is a new Lego phanatic.  It's been less than a year, since my sister Lauren gave him his first set, a Star Wars X-Wing Fighter.  Now, Tonio has never even seen Star Wars, and hadn't heard of it until he got that set, but he was hooked on building Legos!!  On the opposite spectrum, Cody, 14, never played with Legos and is at that age where I was thinking it would be the last year I could talk him into going.
         We checked in - wait a minute, we made it to our hotel without and puke-a-palooza like on our last trip this summer!  Bella did great.  Tonio's belly held up, even with the amoxicillin for the strep he is getting over.  And we hit the hotel by 11:30 - check in was at 3:00.  We all tumbled into the lobby, Bella included, and I begged, no auditioned, for early check in...and got it!  The lady at the desk gave us directions to Legoland, 1 mile walking, or we could take the shuttle or drive.  We chose to walk.
          A lot of the way there was uphill.  but, the temps were beautiful, in the high 60's and sunny.  We had done our research and Legoland offered a kennel, like Sea World and Disney do.  Bella enjoyed the walk.  The kids collected snails along the way.  When we got to the gate...the attendant looked worriedly at Bella..."uh, the kennels were just torn down as part of our remodeling...I guess they forgot to update the website."...
           I asked her to watch the bambini while I returned Bella to the hotel, at a fast jog.  Now, I may have told you I've lost 10 lbs or so.  Which is nice.  But, not all of my shorts have gotten the memo.  I was struggling to keep my shorts up and Bella wanted to really run!  It is a very busy street I was running/getting dragged down and I'm sure, at various times, motorists were surprised to see my shorts slipping down!  But, I figured, in California, this is normal!!  I raced back, a sweaty mess, thank the lady for watching the kids and by this time, they were really jazzed to get inside and have fun!!!

Tonio was in Heaven from the time we neared the gate.  Here he is with a buffalo made from Legos!

Autumn LOVED the lego giraffe (there were several), Mama's favorite!!

                                       Cody and Tonio are dwarfed by this T-Rex that actually roared!

Forget the name of the hydro plane ride already, but Cody and Tonio sure enjoyed it!

                             Tonio wanted a photo with his Lego paisan, who was in front of the pizza place we ate at.

Autumn sits in some big, random chair as we wait for the boys to get off of some crazy ride where a robotic arm flings you around....

The kids all had a great time!!  Even Cody remained engaged and excited, loving the three roller coasters and ride I described above...although, I was privately glad I listened to Kimmy all of those years and kept taking her to Disney and Sea World...it was nice, but definitely #3 behind the other two!

Tomorrow...round two!

Back at our hotel, the bambini liked that we have a sliding glass back door that takes you into a beautiful courtyard from which they could say goodnight to their Mama...


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Kim's 40th

                                                                                  March 3rd 2005

         "Mom's here for my 40th birthday with her dear friend Jim.  I still cannot believe that they're here - it's like a wonderful dream to me - it's their first time here!  Dave set up a special event for me...we all celebrated my 40th at Pinnacle Peak steakhouse with good friends - Angie, Mark, Kim and Mariah Williams, Andrea, David and Lexy Castillo, Kristie and Trinity Verduzco, Rachel, Mike, Elly, Sarah and Luke Franzen and, of course, Mom and Jim.  The whole restaurant section sang to me and we enjoyed cake afterwards.  Dave got a red velvet cake from Cold Stone Creamery and Rachel brought a white cake with raspberry filling.  They were both wonderful.

           We saw the "Heffalump" movie with Mom and Jim the afternoon of my birthday and got to show them our first home that we used to live in and Cody's school.

            The next day, we got sandwiches at Subway and ate lunch in the desert on our way to the Desert Museum.  We also showed them the San Xavier Mission where we were married.  It was a beautiful day (70 degrees).  We all had a wonderful time.

            Mom's lost luggage finally arrived after we got back from the Desert Museum - apparently they had sent it back to Allentown!  It all worked out.

            Today (March 3rd), we are going to a spring training baseball game.  Diamondbacks vs. White Sox.  It will be another 70 + day, so it should be beautiful again.  I'm so happy they're here."

            That game was a beauty.  Jim had been excited to see the White Sox, who had just acquired Jim Thome from the Phillies, his favorite player.  Thome did not disappoint, hitting TWO monster home run shots over the huge green wall in deep center field.  One of them landed on Ajo Way!!  It was a great week for them to come, with the mild temps, which were much warmer than in Pennsylvania, a great first impression of Arizona!  Aside from her Mom losing her luggage, it was a nice visit, really making Kim's 40th special.
            And I remember Kim's 40th celebration clearly.  It was so much fun. We had an incredibly long table to fit all of the people that she mentioned at her table.  It is hard to believe that was 6 years ago...She had such a good time and for me, it was fun to do something like that for her.  We always liked going to Pinnacle Peaks, as I wrote about the other night.  After dinner, the whole party lingered for train rides and to watch the gun fight. 


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Rose's Birthday

              We did a near repeat of yesterday today...

             ....with a few twists...

             I spent the morning telling the ladies at Momentum Fitness, where I am getting my right rotator cuff worked on (unfortunately, I will be unavailable to pitch during the playoffs, but the Phillies were able to pull off the win without me tonight!), about Kim.  About what happened.  And the person she was.  And the family she built.  And the work she did at church, in the community and at the schools...Turns out, in yet another 'small world' scenario, Kristin, the p.t. killing me  rehabbing my shoulder, is the daughter of Joan Taylor, who works at Cottonwood!  So, we had a lot to talk about!  She knew about the Head Sprout program, that Kim did so much work with, because her little girl is in the program right now and she loves it.  Our friend, Lupe, has spent a great deal of time volunteering with this program at Cottonwood since Kim left.

            We decided to swim again at Nana and Pop's hotel and scooped up Lexy and Breanna to join us.  It was pouring rain when we left our house, but, by the time we made it down to the hotel, we had sunny skies!

                          The girls played Marco Polo and a game called 'colors'...

While Cody dazzled us with flips and other assorted tricks!

                                  Tonio sat with Nana and Pop, watching, as he is still under the weather - but a great sport, reading his book, playing with Autumn's Nintendo DS and talking to us.  Breanna was so cute.  She would come over and sit with him, keeping him company from time to time.

                         Another incredible day, yet chilly, as the temps only got up to about 90 degrees!  The bambini had a picnic by the pool and swam for hours.  We hit the Jack In the Box for tacos afterwards - swimming make you hungry!!

                        In the evening, we went to Viro's to help celebrate Rose's birthday with a surprise birthday party.

                                          The cake was a chocolate delight cake...Rose had trouble blowing out all of the candles and said the candles were too spread out, she had to walk from one to the next to blow them out!

Rose's and Vito's family!

                            There was lasagna and chicken Parmesan with bread and salad.

As usual, we ate too much.  Vito's son, Joe, made me a double cappuccino tonight!

Some of the people there tonight, came up and shared memories with Kim, after seeing her photo now hanging on the wall of the restaurant and the flyer for her dinner on the counter...it was nice.  Francesca (Vito's aunt), who's husband, Angelo, is directly above Kim, and I had a long conversation about our spouses.  Angelo passed away from cancer four years ago now...

It was chilly tonight, as the bambini scrambled up the garden wall to light their candles.  They like to alternate who is lighting candles each night and who gets to light the St. Jude candle and who gets to light the Mother of Guadalupe candle.  We could hear the coyotes calling in the distance, making Bella nervous, as we said our goodnights...


Monday, October 3, 2011

Zona 78

               Today nearly mirrored our day last year...It was a beautiful day, didn't get much over 90 degrees with a sky that was so blue, you did not want to look away from it...we had a great breakfast of fruit and vanilla bean dip (thank you Andrea!!)...
               ...we drove to my Dad's hotel to go swimming, taking Golf Links, wincing past Bonanza...

Nana and Pop were amazed at the transformation of Autumn!  She has grown, and they marveled over how Kim-like she is.  And, of course, this year she can swim!  Last year, I literally had to get into the pool with her and Tonio.  And they literally hung on to each of my arms.  This year, she showed them how well she can swim freestyle, side stroke and back stroke!!  Her little arms neatly cutting the water, propelling her forward with ease.  My little mermaid.


And Cody, well, he's bigger too and more muscular.  His swimming stroke has become more refined and he's always looking to do new tricks.  Here, I caught him in mid-360.  They had fun swimming for several hours today, never leaving the pool!

Where's Tonio?  Poolside.  Reading a book.  He's got strep throat!!  He woke up, saying he couldn't swallow and he had a 100 degree temp.  I had a gut feeling, called his Dr. and asked for a throat swab.  Poor Tonio, he has a weak stomach.  He threw up his lunch right after the swab! I told Dr. Radomsky, you'll probably be hearing from Kim and Janene (they go to the same Dr.!), because we had them over last night - a total of 12 children!!  After our appointment, I went down the phone tree calling Andrea, Janene and Kim to tell them the news.  Kim nearly had Tonio hold Maleah last night, but she decided to feed her first and when she was done, Tonio had run off to play with Breanna and Bryson.  He's a good patient though - he read his whole book in the cool shade of the umbrella, and later, when the sun shift, the shade of  a palm tree!

After swimming, just like last year, we got cleaned up and went to Zona 78.  Last year, we celebrated my Dad's birthday.  His actual birthday is on Halloween, but, we thought it would be neat to have a little party here for him and give him his gifts now.  I'm so glad we did so Kim could help celebrate.
This year, we invited Angie and Mark to join us.

I did such a lousy job taking photos last night, that I made sure to take a couple of shots today.  And, with so many people at the house last night, I sure had some great opportunities!!

                           It was a nice dinner - we sat there for nearly three hours and it is amazing how far the bambini have come.  They played together so nicely, starting with hangman, tick tack toe and then playing a game on Cody's phone. 
                          We remembered, that, the day Nana and Pop left, they had a 9:00 a.m. flight, just like they do this time.  They wanted to get heading towards the airport at 7:00 and planned to take a taxi.  Kim literally put her foot down and said she would be there to get them. 
                         Couple of factors here - when my Dad and Vi visit, I lend them my Toyota Tundra.  Typically, they would drive out to the airport and we'd meet them there in our Expedition to say goodbye and I'd drive the truck home and Kim the Expedition.  But, last year, they dropped the truck off to us the night before they left, because I had to be on the road to Phoenix for meetings by 5:30 a.m.   They wanted to take a taxi, because they did not want to make Kim get three kids ready and be at their hotel by 7:00.  Kim had also had a history of running a little late.  In fact, when she worked at Alphagraphics back east, her boss actually changed her schedule start time to 8:15, instead of 8:00 so he would not have to fire Kim for chronic tardiness.  The problem was...he told Kim!  So, she'd show up at 8:30...She surprised everyone last year by arriving at their hotel around 6:50!!!  This year, Angie has graciously 'volunteered' to drive me to the airport to pickup my truck.  I've tried to drive both vehicles at the same time, but have not been successful yet.  Besides, I promised her a Starbucks along the way!
                           When we are at Kim's favorite restaurant, I cannot help but wish she was there.  Physically.  And I glanced at the empty seat at the end of the table wishing things could have been different, yet, thankful for each and every time we were able to go to Zona 78 - remembering how much we enjoyed the atmosphere, the food, the happy hour pricing, the experience, and, of course, each other...
                     Like the beautiful blue sky today, the night sky tonight is stunning.  The moon is about a quarter full, shrouded with clouds and a kaleidoscope of stars fill the empty spaces...The candles in the Nitcho look all the more beautiful, flickering and shining light on St. Francis.

                                          Tonio works against the cool breeze to light his candle tonight, sporting Spiderman pj top and dinosaur bottoms.  Best of both worlds!

                                            Goodnight Mama...sweet dreams....we love you!


Sunday, October 2, 2011

October 2nd

          In our neighborhood, the mood today was somber, as we remembered the life of Seth Hopkins, who passes away on Friday.  His life was a constant challenge, and his parent, Denise and Dave, worked tirelessly to take care of Seth and to keep him happy.  We like to see him on campus at Cottonwood and we'd always say hi.  Last year, his parapro having an ailing back, gave me the opportunity to help lift Seth in and out of his wheel chair when ever she needed help.  Denise and Dave have been so strong having lost their son, and we will pray for them.  Autumn and I visited with them and brought them homemade marinara, hoping they find solace in food, as we have.  Once again, I told them that I will not say that I understand what they are going through, but we do know loss...I have no doubt that Kim was there to great Seth when he entered Heaven's gates...
          We kicked around what exactly we had done last year - seems that all that I wrote about last night was accurate.  We had a big crowd around the dinner table tonight, as Angie, Mark, Andrea, Mario, David, Lexy, Breanna, Janene, Brendon, Bryson, Kason, Kim, Rashon, Mariah, Micah, Maleah, Alah, Henry (Angie's sister), Sandy and Jack (Angie's cousin) joined us. 
           We spent some time around the nitcho, and talked about Kimmy.  The garden is growing so well right now.  Everyone seemed to like the nitcho and enjoy the time out there around it.  The 12 bambini played so nicely together! No dispute, no injuries - lots of Nerf guns, running out back, big kids playing hide 'n seek, etc.
          It felt like Kim was here, in terms of food, preparation, display, serving and clean up.  But.  It was a total collaborative effort.  Without my Dad and Vi's help.  And, Angie and her family's group help, it would not have happened.  Everyone played their part in making it a memorable evening.
         Mario and I found ourselves to be the soul survivors, flipping between the Ravens v Jets game and the Phillies v Cardinals playoff game.  Alas, we watched in horror as the Phils dropped on to the Cards.  At least I did not have to face that alone!
                    Angie holds little Maleah at the dinner table.  Maleah is pulling off the best yawn!!

Earlier today, at Viro's, Vito 'borrowed' Autumn's fedora!  Nice fit V!

How do I end this one?  Autumn thought about it..."All in all, it was a great day!  Especially dinner with all our family!!".