The world can be a lot better than we settle for...
I tried to not settle the last couple weeks and reach deep for energy and inspiration...and, of course, help from so many of you good people, to help the bambini's summer end on a high note.
'Tried to not settle' doesn't come close - the bambini are so special, I was determined to make highlight of their highlights and not waste a moment of their time off....beginning with Mary and Ami taking them to Golf 'N Stuff!
One of the 'Greatest Times', according to the bambini and their tribe! It must have been 100 degrees out, but these golfers braved the elements (and thanked God for the shade, not to mention Mary being 8 months pregnant!) and put in 18 holes. Golf 'N Stuff is always a big hit with these guys.
Tonio informed me that we had 32 days straight of 100 degrees or higher. So, one day, we just turned the sprinklers on in the back yard. Bella truly enjoys the spray and playing with her kids. Autumn tries out the Super Soaker Andrea got Tonio for his birthday on Bella, while Tonio engages Bella with a soccer ball. That girl has mad skills. She can leap high and pluck that soccer ball out of the sky - it's beautiful to watch. And the kids howl with laughter...
I took the kids as close to 'A' Mountain as possible on the 4th of July and we sat in the back of my pick up. Autumn took pictures of the display and the kids delighted in the small brush fires that popped up on the mountainside. Not to mention the home fireworks displays spontaneously erupting around us in the residential areas!
Back to School???? WHERE DID THE SUMMER GO??? One day, I had to go to Phoenix for my performance review. I decided to take Tonio and Aut with me, so we could hit the outlet mall, just south of Phoenix for back to school shopping. All the bambini got brand new Pumas. Autumn took this shot of the plaza.
Another day, the girls decided they just wanted to stay home and hang out. Watch movies on Netflix. Relax, lay low.... And make kettlecorn! Lexy found a recipe on her phone and the girls went to town making it. They were fun to watch, especially as the corn began to pop at full speed!! Unfortunately, most of the kernels burned...but, the bright side was, we went to Viro's for dinner!
Forgot to mention on Tonio's birthday, 7/11...the convenience store 7-11 offers free Slurpees!! He loves this, and we always tell him that it's all for his birthday. Cody wanted me to tell the employees that not only was it Tonio's birthday, but he was born in a 7-11....just to see if they'd hook him up with more free stuff! Autumn spotted this new soda and snapped this shot.
Back to back to school preparedeness (if that is a word). From time to time, I need to put on my 'Mom's Hat' and take care of Autumn's needs...(Kim has taught me so many 'household tricks' - Use club soda to polish chrome. To remove cherry stains, rub them with tomato and wash as usual. The key is not to panic. To pick up broken glass from a jimmied window or broken shot glass, you can blot up even the tiniest shards with a piece of bread and so forth). All she wanted to do, to get ready for school and have one final fun day, was get her nails done with Lexy, Breanna and Chloe...I managed to talk Angie into joining me, marking one of the very few times that I've had adult supervision with me and the bambini on our outings since Kimmy passed! And Angie and her girls did a lot, over the summer, to include these guys in their plans - it was great having her along as we took the kids all over town for the day!
Chloe, Lexy and Breanna wanted pedicures, which I learned was to have their toenails done.
Autumn went with a manicure. Fingernails. Huh.
You can see Tonio, patiently sitting on the couch waiting. At one point, Lexy, Chloe and Autumn's principal, Micah Mortensen, stuck his head in the door and said 'Aha! I knew you came here to get your nails done!'....I said 'Yep. And what time is your appointment?' He was actually taking his children to the pizza place next door, NY Pizza - Kim and I frequented this 'joint'. Great pizza, picnic tables and video games for the kids.
Afterwards, we rewarded Tonio's patience by taking him to Toys R Us! He had gift cards from Kim and Janene burning a hole in his pocket. Breanna, Autumn, Lexy and Chloe settled in while he shopped.
He came out with a dragon Lego set and some eyeball character for his Wii game, Skylanders!! We sent this pic as a thank you to Janene and Kim.
Finally, we took them all to Starbucks for some nice drinks to end our day!
Mary and Ami had already taken these guys to Breakers Water Park, but they insisted that I take them too....They make fine little pirates!
Tonio, David, Brendon and Cody wait for the wave pool to start cranking up some surf!
Autumn getting ready to swim! They had a great time, although Tonio go pretty sunburned! David, Brendon and Cody went on all of the slides, while Autumn and Tonio preferred the wave pool. They got me to ride some tubes with them, which was fun.
It is a lot more relaxing, now that the little ones can swim, going to Breakers. I had pulled a lounge chair below one of the massive umbrellas and was watching the kids, when a man suddenly appeared out of nowhere, dragging his own lounge chair.
'Mind if I borrow some of your shade?' he asked.
"Help yourself." I told him.
Over the next hour or so, we made small talk. His name was Marty, a lawyer from Oregon, visiting his grandson. After awhile, he asked about my tattoo "per volonta' del Signore", so I told him it meant 'for the will of God'. He dropped it a minute, and we talked about the bambini.
"Where's your wife?" He asked.
Coincidentally, I was lost in the clouds that had been forming as we talked...light, artistic...'Kimmy clouds'....I hesitated...
"Right there. She's right there." I pointed to a particularly beautiful set of clouds.
"Thus the tattoo." He deduced.
He wanted to talk about it, so I explained what happened with Kimmy and how, sometimes, I get impatient with things and need to be reminded that it's God's will. Not mine.
"Ahhhhh" Marty sighed. "I know what you mean. 40 years ago, I came home to find my wife had committed suicide."
He went on to tell me about how that had thrown him, the depression and wandering that followed and then how he pulled himself up one day, and went to law school. It all worked out.
Once again, proving that I am blessed, and that someone is always worse off. I feel like Kim knows whenever I need to remember that...
I waved the kids over then, to introduce them to Marty - which would somehow make him real, and he introduced us to his grandson, Max...I went to join the kids for the waves and when I came back, they were gone, as mysteriously as they had arrived.
5 hours of the surf, and finally everyone was hungry. We had packed making for BLT's, one of Kim's favorite picnic lunches, but, in light of the great day we had all had, I decided to surprise them and take them to the Mariscos Chihuahua for some seafood.
The boys shared calamari and everyone had shrimp!!!
The next day, it was back to school for the little ones. They helped me pack their lunchboxes and back packs with all of their supplies. I asked them to pick out what they wanted to wear for their special first day. Tonio going to 5th and Autumn to 8th...I had just gotten Tonio a Napoli jersey with #28 Paolo Cannavaro on it and he chose that to wear. Autumn always loves her owls (and a shirt that Andrea got her).
I managed to get up early, get them breakfast and make it to school on time (parking a bit haphazardly and illegally up a curb and next to a fire hydrant)...and nearly neglected to snap a few first day of school photos, as Kim habitually did...luckily, we ran into Mary on the way to find Tonio's classroom and she asked if we would like her to take a picture for us...thus leaving the 'first day of school photo' streak intact!
Which prompted me to take this shot next to Kim's garden...the salvia is growing, lush and flowering brilliant reds.
They had a great first day of school! Tonio has Ms. Irwin, his teacher from last year's daughter and Autumn liked all of her teachers, especially Mrs. Paton, who Cody had for Science when he was in 8th grade.
That was it. That was the rest of their summer. I truly believe that they enjoyed their time and I know they were so appreciative of all the people who helped make it so fun. That's a big reason I choose not to leave them at home. Alone. I am nearly obsessed with making their days more enjoyable and creating memories for them and with them. To the point, that when I go back to work after a day off, I tell everyone how nice it is to get breaks and lunches at work. It's a full time job, the bambini - I'd still like to hit the lottery for enough to stay home until Tonio turned 18 and just make their days memorable. They are great kids. They deserve it.
But wait, here's a view of some of these events through Autumn's eyes!:
Ami and Mary sure helped make the summer a successful one! Even though they have busy lives, they have made room for the bambini.
One day, Cody came along with me to pick up the little ones from Ami's house...and here's what happened:
The Bunchkins were elated to meet the proverbial son, Cody. They implored with him to come play with them!
Tonio absolutely loves his time with Colton, Hunter and Ethan...
Autumn's little flip phone captures some amazing shots! Tonio getting some air while Colton watches amazed.
Beneath this loving pile of Bunchkins is....Cody! They have overwhelmed him!
Here, they try to take him down again. I love seeing Cody like this - he loves the kids and had a blast playing with them on the trampoline. His smile radiating, he showed the kids some good tricks.
The Bunchkins want Cody to play 'pirates' with them on their Little Tikes Log Cabin. They have tremendous imaginations and creativity and it was so cute as they yelled:
"Shivery timbers!" (instead of 'shiver me timbers'!)
Autumn had Tonio snap this shot of the girls...great perspective...
And a close up of Breanna...
Autumn took this one of the girls getting their toes pampered.
And Tonio got this one - Breanna cracks me up!
Autumn poses with Tigger at Toys R Us. I had gotten a stuffed Tigger for Kim when she was pregnant with Autumn...she has a soft spot for this tiger.
And I love how Autumn always snaps pictures as we are walking, driving or at school. Capturing more 'Kimmy Clouds'...
The celestial light from the sun was dazzling...
She speaks to us still - we can see her in the clouds, so beautiful....
The world can be a lot better than we settle for....