We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

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

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Year Ending

               I took my eye off of the clock, and the year is gone! The bambini look taller and older to me.  I cleaned closets of the last few days and was amazed at how they had managed to out grow so many clothes! They are wiser, as well, better able to cook, more aware of what needs to be cleaned and willing to help and have a better understanding of our situation.
             What have we learned?  I guess I'm still trying to figure that out...but, 'Not to sweat the small stuff' surely is one thing.  The world is pretty much what we make of it, was another.  We're in this together - we already knew this, but it became cemented and ingrained in '12.  "Tomorrow's another day." as Kim used to tell me.  I get it.  There is always someone, somewhere, sadder, colder and more alone - someone worse off than us.  And, we can't have 365 days of sunshine and temps over 85 degrees.  Sadly.
             There is still so much that I wanted to accomplish this year, things I wanted to do with the bambini and friends...

               We tried to squeeze a little last minute warmth into the remainder of our year:

                Where else to begin?  Viro's!  The bambini begged me to let them sleep in today, missing Mass - Tonio did not have CCD class this week and I did get them out to the San Xavier Mission on Friday morning for Mass and to light candles for Kim and a good friend in need.  It was particularly chilly - and I have gained that Tucson sense of entitlement - I want warm weather and blue skies!  The Mission is not heated, we dressed warm, got there at 8:30, and sat huddled together, nearly on each other's laps, watching our breath (yes, it was that cold!) during the Mass.  The church looked so beautiful, fully decorated for Christmas, all of the statues of the saints decked out in their holiday finest.
                Wait a minute, that was Friday...today, we slept in - but I already told you that...We met Angie, Andrea, Lexy and Breanna at Viro's for lunch.  The breakfast buffet is no longer.  We sure enjoyed it over the last 5 years, but Rosa and Vito are taking a much needed break from the incredibly physical challenge and torrid pace that Sunday's had become.  It is a relentless, non-stop cookfest to keep the bakery length buffet stocked with the millions of offerings that Rosa cooked up!  She tried to keep the selection above the common garden variety breakfast buffet, cooking Italian, Sicilian, Mexican and American dishes.  She always had at least 4 different cakes and pies available for dessert.  Vito Jr. did an amazing job over the years whipping up the finest omelet creations (and getting me hooked on his Belgium waffles with chocolate chips and bacon mixed right into the batter!).  We'd literally roll out of the bakery after a few hours of power eating, followed by lounging and grazing.
               Today, we sat at our usual 'big table' and I introduced the prosciutto panini sandwich to the bambini.  Before Viro's started the buffet, Kim and I would go to the bakery for lunch, following Mass at St. Francis.  We'd almost always share a prosciutto panini. Served on a Sicilian roll, with roasted red peppers, fresh mozz, lettuce, onion, tomato and a balsamic dressing...Autumn and Cody loved it...Tonio, my little meat eater, did not - I think he would have liked just the prosciutto, as he always eats his ham sandwiches with just ham and American cheese - no lettuce, no tomato, no mayo or mustard.  He opted for the Italian Wedding soup - Breanna, Lexy and Andrea joined him on this.  Lexy likes the Buffalo chicken sandwich they serve and can nearly polish off a whole one - fortunately, for me, she can't quite finish it - so I helped!
               Andrea noticed that Autumn was wearing one of Kim's blouses and told her how pretty she looked.  "Thank you. It was my Mama's" Autumn proudly told her.
                Although we mourn the buffet's retirement, we rejoice for Rosa and Vito and wish them more peaceful and restful Sundays!  Much deserved, I might add. Well, not 'might add', I pretty much just did add that. Deservedly.
              Again, feeling a sense of urgency, being on the brink of the end of 2012 (and breathing a sigh of relief!), I worked on making some marinara and meat sauce.  Autumn was my little helper in the kitchen today, interested to know about measurements and cooking technique - when do I drop in the onions and garlic?  How do I know when to add the tomatoes?  I could see her mentally taking notes.  She even helped me keep the kitchen clean as we went!
             Angie, Mark, Andrea, Mario, Lexy and Breanna came over for our last big meal of this year - we made nearly 3lbs of angel hair (Angie, Andrea and my favorite! I always feel like I can eat some much more angel hair than any other type of pasta).  The house had been feeling sorta cold over the last few days and it was so good to fill it up and warm it up!  The kids laughter filling the living room - Bella seemed to especially like all of the action!
            We watched the Redskins beat up the Cowboys to win the NFC East in the final game of their season and managed to eat every bit of the meal - pasta, bread and salad - no leftovers!
            My big failing is still  dessert.  Even though Tonio and I banged out biscotti and pizzelles for Christmas, I can't seem to get past cooking the meal and making time or plans to have dessert.
            However, Angie and her 4 daughters had a bakefest the night before Christmas, sending us home Christmas night with this little package of sweets:

                 Kim made the cute marshmallow man cookies!  There were cut outs, brownies (Angie's!  he best!), fudge, pecan/chocolate/pretzels, snickerdoodles, chocolate covered nut clusters, jelly cookies, lemon bars (Janene made those - they were awesome!) and more arranged on a corn flake wreath!!  We passed these around tonight - so my lack of dessert planning was forgiven!

                 The day was a constant reminder of how blessed we are and gave us a great final memory of the year!!

                 Wishing you all good health and plenty of smiles in 2013 - Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Time Again

Christmas Eve came again this year.  When I go into my closet, and turn on the light, there hangs Kim's white bathrobe, all ready to keep her warm - whether she be starting her day, or ending it - the robe waits, silently, to make her just as comfortable as can be.
Seeing it on Christmas Eve, brings me back to 1993 - the first year that I bought Kim a big, fluffy, white bathrobe.  She loved robes - the thicker and softer, the better.  That particular year, I had cleverly (or so I imagined) placed an engagement ring in one of the pockets for her to find.. That was, perhaps, the best Christmas I ever had.  Aside from waiting for Kim to stop crying long enough to tell me 'Yes!  I thought you would never ask me!'. 
The other thing that made that Christmas special, was the amount of alone time we had.  There had been a lot of snow and ice and we just stayed huddled, warm and cozy on our own couch.  I loved this quality time.  Kim really enjoyed the whole visiting family...I just wanted to spend more time with her.  I used to think that was sorta selfish of me, but, in retrospect, I know that I was simply living with an urgency, making sure to make the most of each and every moment that we shared together.
This is actually the third Christmas that we are apart...and I can't seem to get the house bright enough, warm enough, cheery enough.  Not for lack of trying - all of Kim's snowmen collection are stationed throughout - Autumn has added a few, too.  Tonio dutifully plugs the Christmas tree in each evening.  Cody and Brendon's hung the lights perfectly outside.  And still...
This week, we continued her loving traditions.  Tonio and I made 4 batches of biscotti and 2 batches of pizzelles.  Yesterday, Mary and Ami kept the bambini smiling for me while I worked and then I joined them at their mom, Debi's, house for a lasagna Christmas dinner (and, yet again, I failed to take photos!) - they made us feel right at home. It was a good 'meal' day overall, as I also had a wonderful lunch with a friend at the book store, and we made it to Viro's earlier(where the line for cookies was out the door!  Poor Rosa, she's baking cookies in her sleep!) before I dropped the kids at Ami's house.
                 Today, dragging, following my 24th Christmas in retail (yes, I subtracted the year that I missed lost while Kimmy fought, trying to make it to another Christmas) putting in twice the hours I was able to last year and working on some real estate for some dear friends.
There are days that I just don't want to.  But, I know that is not an option.  Today was one of those days - I just hurt.  But, I have to tell you, the bambini have just been dying to carry on their Mama's Christmas Eve tradition of cioppino, Kim's answer to the 'Feast of the 7 Fishes'.  On my way home from work I picked up scallops (Kim's favorite - after years of dating, she confided in me that they weren't always her favorite, but, they had grown on her.  She ordered them every time we'd go out to eat, many years later telling me that the reason she did that, was because they were easy to eat without making a mess, or dribbling on herself!  She was so shy - she wanted to be sure that she did not suffer any food mishap when we went out to dinner and she felt scallops were easy and posed no embarrassing dangers!), mussels, talapia, shrimp, calamari, cod and clams.
They love to help!
Tonio stirs the fennel, shallots and garlic in the 'big pan'...

While Autumn peels the shrimp.

The 'big pan' is perfect for the start of this project.

                                           Tonio expertly adds a can of tomato paste!
Once we need to add the liquids to the cioppino, we transfer to the 'nice pot'!
While it was simmering, the bambini (Cody included!) watched 'The Christmas Story' - their laughter finally bringing warmth to our house.
Autumn ate two bowls of the cioppino!  We had a great batch of clams and mussels this year, with every one of them opening for us!!
Autumn creates one of Kim's Christmas favorite treats for us - pizzelles and ice cream!
Autumn added her own twist - fresh raspberries!  She has Kim's intuition and personal touch!

Even the presentation feels like Kimmy...
You know I love to stumble across 'Kim treasures'.  Her 'basement' beneath the bed was amazing, especially finding her portfolio of art work.  And the photos in the crawl space above the garage were wonderful.  The other day, I came across this video of Kim on Christmas.  I couldn't wait to watch it - but, just her opening line and sweet voice caught me by such surprise, that I emitted a sound so loud,coming from so deep,  that it brought Bella running from her bed - she literally leaped into my arms and hugged me (I was so glad the kids were in school at the time!).   
Later Christmas Eve, after I got the little ones to bed, Cody helped me pull of 'Santa'.  He made a reindeer hoofprint stencil and used powder sugar to make tracks through the living room (a Kimmy favorite!)
All of the stockings hung on our couch (Kim's being first)...and a plate of pizzelles for Santa and carrots for his reindeer!

We hauled out all of the gifts and placed them willy nilly beneath the tree.

I got to bed around 3 and slept so deeply for two hours - I woke with a start at 5, sure I had slept about 12 hours - knowing I hadn't bitten the pizzelles and carrots or drank the milk - I also had to sneak out Cody's 'surprise' gifts. 

                  I managed to get all of this done, with minimal noise, while the little ones slept, visions of sugar plums (whatever the hell those are) dancing in their heads!  They are such peaceful angels when they sleep.

                    By 6:30, they were raring to go!  Bella particularly enjoyed cleansing the scent of reindeer prints from our floor!

The bambini traditionally start with their stockings...

And move to the tree.  Bella looks like a zombie dog.

These kids are so appreciative, making a big deal out of each gift - even their socks!
They each held up their favorite gift: Autumn, a pink Juventus shirt (my favorite team in the Serie A Italian league), Tonio, Skylanders video game for Wii and Cody, a tv for his room.

We brought more Kimmy magic to life at breakfast, whipping up her famous panettone french toast!
Just as soon as I cleaned up breakfast, we got to work on another tradition Kim had made for us...
Makin' the ravioli's!!!

Tonio runs the dough through the pasta maker while I help him guide it out.

Autumn cuts the dough, places a dollop of ricotta cheese filling on each square, pinching the edges tight.
Cody has the touch - he can dial the pasta machine down to a '3' setting to get it to its thinnest without it breaking.

Autumn boiled them up by herself and covered them with marinara.
Soon after, we hurried over to Angie's house for her Christmas celebration!
The bambini made out like bandits (and I can't wait to try out the new pans that Andrea got me, a grill pan for the stove, a cast iron pan and a paella pan that she knew I needed - I'll have to post some more recipes!) - Tonio is thrilled with his big Nerf automatic gun that is bigger than him! Angie's niece, Sandy and her husband, Jack, got it for him.  He built it quickly and is a whiz at strafing the room with nerf bullets!

                      All of Angie's grandkids and my kids played out front until dark and came in to feast on tamales, turkey, ham, nachos and an amazing array of sides.  After eating, we tuned in to the Arizona Wildcats v San Diego State U basketball game.  They played for the championship of a tourney in Hawaii. 
At halftime, Trinity, Autumn and Breanna did a dance show for us.
And so did Bryson, Tonio, Breanna and Richie.
The game was a thriller - Arizona won at the buzzer, keeping us all on our seats.  Kristie and Andrea get pretty into it, making us hold our hands up for free throws and keep the same seats that we started out watching the game in, amongst other curious ways that we could help the Wildcats win.  It seemed to work!
The game didn't end until nearly 11:00 P.M. - where did the day go?  I rounded up the happy, but tired, bambini for the short ride home. 
As we unpacked the car, it dawned on me that they didn't 'survive' another Christmas - they had enjoyed it.  They live each day to it's fullest - appreciating what they have - and the kindness shown to them by the people in their lives who watch them, help them with homework, cook for them, hug them, give them rides and get them together with their kids to play...It doesn't have to be spoken to them to learn from the lesson life has handed them - they simply have done that on their own, taking nothing for granted.  I'm pretty proud of them.   It was a good day. We are blessed.
Merry Christmas to you and yours!


Friday, December 14, 2012

Enjoy Now

                I thought I was done.  I've told you all that I can remember.  The times Kim and I shared rolling around and around in my head, spilling out into her blog.  When I finished the post on 12/13, I believed that was enough...It has been helpful to share the amazing life that Kim had built for us...

                ...and then I heard the news today, and, once again I thought "There truly are people out there who have it much worse than me.  I am blessed." 

                 At the end of our day yesterday, one which I was blessed to go to Mass with Angie (she set up a memorial Mass for Kim at Our Mother of Sorrows) and breakfast at Jerry Bob's, and so many reached out to give us well wishes and inspiration, we made our way outside to say goodnight to Kim, as we have every night for the last two years.  I told the bambini that I had a story to tell them. 

                "Your Mama and I didn't want to have children."  Stunned silence.  Each child looking at me, eyes pleading, waiting. 

                 It wasn't that we didn't like children, hell, Kim was a preschool teacher for over 8 years back in Bethlehem before we moved here.  And we loved our nieces and nephews.  It's just that, the world...the world was too cold for children.  People couldn't handle their frustrations, anger, disagreements, etc, so they would 'solve' them with violence.  Looking back, we simply watched the news too much.
                I told them that we realized that you cannot live your life in fear, but need to appreciate each moment.  Live in the moment.  Thoroughly enjoy it!  One by one, they hugged me so hard and told me that they loved me.  "Did you guys have a rough day?"  I asked.  As if to show me that they were strong, they each answered that they did not have a rough day and that they were good.  I told them "Well I had a rough day."  Again, the jaws opened, staring, waiting for more...I let them know that they would have rough days, everyday is not perfect.  Things do not always turn out the way that we want them.  Or pray for them to be.  But, we can make the best of any situation and find the good.  And we are always there for each other.
                I let that sink in for a few moments before I told the how thankful that I am for them and how proud of them I am...

                  It was a little surreal to me how yesterday started out sunny and blue sky...by the time I picked the bambini up from school, serious clouds had rolled in, followed by wind and rain...leading up to that time, 8:00 p.m., when Kimmy left us.  Mary had texted in the morning that her day started by seeing a shooting star before she left for work!  And, my niece, Jackie, saw a shooting star to end her day yesterday....
                 Today, we found more blessings...

Breanna, Autumn and Tonio laugh beneath a double rainbow!

A Kimmy sunset...

Breanna and Tonio enjoy the Polar Express at Cottonwood tonight.  They love that movie.  One of Kim's favorite stories.  At the end of the show, they handed out bells to everyone...the kids immediately rang their bells, and heard the jingling sound they made...because, they believe.
Sweet dreams!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Dream within a Dream

                 We had a dream...to live, to travel.  Laugh.  Share.  We dreamed that we would live together until we were old and gray.  Helping each other through each day.  That is how we approached things.  We were a team and, together, we could do anything.

                   The year went fast, much rockier that last year.  Much more challenging.  And painful.  Two years ago, I prayed for a Christmas miracle- it was the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, after all.  One of my all time favorite stories, in which Juan Diego, is visited by Jesus' mother, Mary, while on the way to care for a sick uncle.  She asks him to go to the bishop, and ask him to build a church on the site where they are talking.  Juan goes to the bishop, but he does not believe.  Mary sends him back with a sign, roses carried in Juan's tunic.  It was winter, and these flowers were not seen in this area, so the bishop began to wonder...when Juan puts the flowers down, an image of the Lady of Guadalupe has been imprinted upon his tunic.  And, the church was built!  She is believed to have performed many miracles in Mexico, especially around this time of year...

                   What I remember from that night, is too much to put in print - the trouble leading up to the 911 call is seared into my memory...and the strobing red and blue lights, bathing our once serene neighborhood in an eerie glow.
                    The last thing I remember from 12/13/10, is, being in a pool of water with Kim...the water a deep, vibrant blue...so clear, I could make out every detail of Kim's beautiful features.  She was slowly sinking down, while I was slowly floating up.
                    She reached out to me - I can't read the expression on her face - resignation?  Alarm?  Peace?   I struggled to stop my ascent, stretching out my left hand to grab her reaching arm...our fingers lightly touching...and then, I had her - for a moment.  Eyes locking, Kim looking deep inside, telling me a million things - I'm trying desperately to hold on, but, my grip - the water - was loosening...
                   She tried to tell me - everything, but, she had to go....

                   Some of the people that I've talked to, told me, that for them, the second anniversary was the hardest.  I've tried to stay level for the bambini - but they know.  I've apologized to them so many times over the last few days...they are so supportive.

                   Tonight, we popped in Inception.  I think that this is one of Leonardo Decaprio's finest movies.  Dealing with dreams within dreams within dreams.

                    "Why do you do this to yourself?"

                     "So I can dream."

                      "Why is it so important to dream?"

                      "Because in my dreams we are still together..."

                       And for once, our hero, fighting all of the odds, all of the bad guys, surviving impossible dangers - cannot save the girl...but, reunites with his children.
                   I am so thankful that we had our children.  I couldn't save the girl either, but, I am so blessed - these little guys have worked so hard - and, they still have their rough days, but who can blame them?  I'm so proud of them and appreciative for what Kim built.

Albuquerque visiting my sister, Lauren and her husband Jason. They are now back in PA with four children!  They took us all over when we visited - beautiful place.  Here, we are at the petroglyph forest.

On the way back, we were driving a desolate stretch of Rt 40, when Kim suddenly yells "Pull over!".  I had no idea what was wrong - Cody?  Her stomach?  "What Kim?"  "I need to get one of those!"  she was already getting out of the car and was pointing to this soaptree yucca.
"I can use it to make a nice decoration for our home!"  She was as animated and excited as you've ever seen Kim - especially when she had a neat idea.  I wasn't going to try to stop her, but couldn't resist yelling at her as she went about her business "POACHER!  I'm calling the cops!!!"

                               Look at that laughing face!!  She ended up getting a huge Mexican style clay floor vase for this stalk and dressed it up with other 'findings' - it looked incredible in our entryway.

Visiting my sister, Cheri, when she lived in Muskogee, OK.  Her kids, Anthony and Jackie and their dog, Nittany are in this shot. And, of course, our Cajun girl.

Natalie must have taken the shot, since she joins us in this photo

Here's one from my NASCAR days, Kim so supportive!
Back to the beach!
Cody and his Mama at Beach Haven, Long Beach Island, NJ

And with Pop and Nana at LBI
Angie and I will be heading to a Mass in Kim's honor first thing in the morning.  Angie set up the memorial Mass for Kimmy...and has it set for next year already, too...
Niki and Kim.  These two look like sisters - Kim's niece had come out to visit about 17 years ago and we took her to the Grand Canyon.  Niki has become an amazing person, just like her Aunt Kim!
These next two were from when Kim and I were 18...

Hard to believe it was a life time ago.  We stopped at a picnic on our way for Kim's first visit to Shippensburg University, where I'd be starting another semester of college.

This one was taken at the house I grew up in.  We'd spend hours in the t.v. room, laying together on the couch, watching movies...
...I just love Kim's smile...
And miss it so much...
3-1-65 to 12-13-10


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tonio's Play

                Tonio has found a creative outlet.  The ELP program - don't ask me what this stands for...I asked Tonio and he told me "I forget.  I know that it says on the window, but I just forget."  No matter, he gets to write and express himself, traveling over to Desert Willow Elementary school on Tuesdays (he likes to look for Breanna when he is over there and is always excited when he gets to say 'hi' to her).
                Monday night, he told me that he had a play on Tuesday, but couldn't remember what time.  I scrambled to make sure that I had plenty of coverage at the bookstore (my partner, Jaimelyn, always helps me out when it comes to bambini time!) and then found out that the play would start at 10:30. 
               I went to work at 6:00 a.m....around 9:00, my cell rang and I did not recognize the number...but, once again, defying my rules about never answering calls that I don't recognize, I picked up.  It was Antonio!  Reminding me that his play started at 10:30.  "I understand if you cannot make it." he told me - always concerned that I cannot leave work or that he is somehow inconveniencing me.  He had borrowed his ELP teacher, Mrs. Bradshaw's, cell phone to make the call!
               Left work at 9:30 and made it to Desert Willow in time to grab a seat.  Tonio had invited Lupe to his play, too, so I met her there.  The students in this class were given an assignment over break to write a story.  Then, they got together and picked a couple of stories to turn into a play.  By themselves - these are 9 year old 4th graders.  It was called a story exchange.
                Tonio starred in one called 'The Different Boy'.  It seems he is the great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, grandson of Luke Skywalker and has 'the force'!  When aliens invade Earth, his friends call Tonio to save the world!!

Here Tonio receives the news about the alien invasion.
And Tonio was that hero who saved the day!
I wasn't able to get many shots from where I was sitting, but, all of the kids involved did a great job!  I texted a thank you to Mrs. Bradshaw...for a great performance and her work with the kids...and with Tonio.
That night, our normal Barrios family night, we had Lupe, Manny and Monsi over to our house for a change!  Guess what I made?  Pasta. 
Our house, their home - it's all good.
Today, I had the honor to help judge the Cottonwood spelling bee. I am on the Site Based Council at Cottonwood, and Mary asked a couple of us to judge the event - she knows I enjoy it and she always lets be the chime ringer.  When a child spells a word correctly, I get to run my finger across a set of chimes - very zen like - feels like you are waking from a dream.
Tonio's best buddy, Monsi, was in the spelling bee today!
Each class holds a qualification spelling bee.  The top spellers from each class compete in the all school spelling bee.  Tonio didn't quite make today's event.  In fact, he was out after the very first word he was given.  He told me later that he spelled the word, but Ms. Irwin didn't hear him so asked him to spell it again, which he did.  She told him he was correct and was on to the next round.  But, Tonio went right up and told her that he had misspelled the word the first time, the time she did not hear him - thereby disqualifying himself.  He seemed a little embarrassed when he told me this story.  I hugged him tight and told him that what he did was way better than winning - especially when he knew he would not have earned it!
                          Monsi spells 'nefarious' as Mary, pensively, looks on.  Mary does an incredible job of putting the spelling bee together.  Imagine organizing some 700 students to view this event, teaching the participants the ground rules, keeping all of the children from each grade level moving along, making sure none of the judges are corrupt, etc. Mary had those kids ready to go!  She had kind words for each of them and lifted up those who had just misspelled a word.  Every one of those students felt good about themselves! Inspiring She said she had some nightmares about it last night.  But, as with any program that Mary is involved in, everything went smooth - the parents and children were treated to a great event!
Monsi did a great job - coming in 2nd place!  We were all proud of her.  Tonio missed this part, as he went on a field trip with the Junior Optimist Club to Cienega High School for a photography class.  He told me later, that he really missed his Mama during this class.  I told him how Kim had taken photography classes, and what an eye for a shot she had...I told him Mama must have been tapping him on his shoulder to let him know he was following in her footsteps.  He looked for his big brother, Cody, on campus, but was sad that he did not get to see him. 
The bambini had a good day - getting to spend some quality time with Mary and Ami, going shopping!  They bought 200 lbs of rice and a couple dozen socks for a project Mary and Ami do with their Kindergartners - sock snowmen!  Cody and Tonio remember making them.  And they had gianormous slice of pizza at Costco.  Watching Brinley do 'Itsy Bitsy Spider' seemed to be the highlight of their day!!
They were all smiles when I picked them up around 7 from Mary, Brinley still doing her Itsy Bitsy routine!!
Kim and Cody visiting the Chipmunk's house in Disneyland.

                                               Cody, Kim and Cajun on the beach in La Jolla

                                          The tide's coming in at La Jolla
Sitting on the sea wall at La Jolla
She sure loved the beach!