And so, we carried the celebration into the weekend - I wanted to continue Autumn's birthday weekend, and do something fun for Mother's Day, as Kim would have done - keeping the bambini moving, throwing in light memories along the way.
They wanted to get back to the Phoenix Zoo, where we had been members when we just had Cody and then with Autumn, too. We had not been there since Christmas of '05, when we drove up to see the Christmas lights at the zoo with some friends who had moved to Phoenix.
The whole ride up, Cody and Autumn related what they remembered about the zoo.
"I remember they had a zip line, across a creek near the kid's play area." Cody started.
"I remember that section!" Autumn joined in. "There was a tree house with a ramp leading up to it."
"And there's a bridge you cross, when you get there, with tons of turtles in a pond below." Cody added.
Autumn sported her new Tootsie Pop t-shirt and her original fedora that Kim had given her.
I had horribly expired guest passes from way back when we were members. I confidently slid them beneath the glass to the young admissions man. He took them. Studied them without looking up for about half an hour. Glanced at me. Back at the passes, running his finger across them as if gazing upon a precious antique. Looked back at me a moment longer before finally saying..."Uh. Do you realize these are expired?" "Yep." I told him happily. "Ok" he said, "You picked the right window today. I'll take care of you." We were in!
Walking the zoo, in 100 degree heat, I threw in my memories of this zoo -
"There was a dinosaur simulator here..."I began.
"Yeh! I remember that!! They had T-Rex footprints painted on the ground so you could follow them to it!" A sunny smile breaking across his face.
"That's right! You'd get so excited Cody, we took you on it every time we came."
Autumn wanted to take her picture with these monkey statues. She was disappointed that they don't have a gorilla at the zoo.
They all enjoyed watching the monkeys swinging from their ropes on Monkey Island.
Kim always liked the flamingos...
My favorite is the rain forest area, with a little town in Columbia thrown in...
It made my heart smile that Cody enjoyed himself so much...Playing around in an abandoned Jeep that is in the rain forest area.
And then taking Tonio on a camel ride!
Autumn wouldn't go. "Camels spit Dad." simply said.
Cody wanted Tonio to experience a camel ride. Cody still remembers me taking him on one at the Albuquerque Zoo when he was 3.
Checking out the oryx...
Cody taking the oryx by the horns!
Cody takes the big horn sheep by the horns! The kids liked this exhibit. They have binoculars to use to look closely at the animals and they loved the detail.
Tonio's favorite - the rhinoceros.
Each corner we turned, and just about every animal exhibit, brought back one memory or another (flashback?) of a time we had visited there as a family. Kim has always been a big fan of the giraffes. The Phoenix Zoo has a spacious, gorgeous giraffe area, with loads of other animals wandering around in it. There had to be 8 giraffes or so in there, too.
I remember we used to linger there the longest...just soaking in the palm trees, the animals, the grass, and relaxing.....
They have an observation tower that you can climb up to for a giraffe's eye view, so when we had enough on the ground level, we'd head up into the 'tree house' as the bambini called it.
This shot is taken from the tree house. The steps to the tree house are attached with chains, so it is a very shaky ascent...or descent and a swingy rope bridge leads to the deck. Cody delighted in rocking the bridge and bounding down the stairs so the little ones bounced about and hung onto the railings squealing with delight!
We always loved the zebras, too...
That dark spot at the back of the prairie dog enclosure is a vulture! We watched for a long while to see if he'd snatch a snack! I told the kids that time we had seen a turkey vulture eating a ground hog just outside of the Lehigh Valley Airport in Bethlehem, PA. Kim said "Oh my, I didn't know turkeys ate meat!!", clearly horrified. I gently broke the news to her that turkeys do not eat meat...that it was a turkey vulture we had seen enjoying a fat ground hog!
This was one of Tonio's best surprises. He is currently working on a report about burrowing owls...and the zoo had some!!
I love how the light diffused through the top of the caging, with a little rainbow...I told Tonio is was his Mama joining him for her special weekend at this special place...He liked that idea.
They added a manta ray exhibit since the last time we were here...
Tonio got to pet this beauty!
Autumn was not too fond of them, saying they were slimy.
Most of the zoo was the same...I remember how excited Kim and I were when they advertised a meercat environment they were going to build. We watched the area develop and it was neat to see when it was done. Other than the manta rays, they replaced the crocodile with otters (my favorite).
We closed the zoo and were escorted, politely, through the gift shop...how convenient and into the evening...It was a good trip. Plenty of wonderful memories and stories that I non-stop fed the bambini. They had an incredible time!
I asked them if they wanted to go eat dinner or just grab some snacks at Circle K and hit the pool. They had eye balled the pool longingly (yes, the little ones can swim now!) when we checked in and were anxious to get in it, so, snacks it was! Hot dogs for the boys, peanuts for the girl. An enormous Dr. Pepper for me.
Cody was the maestro as we hit the pool. He engaged the little ones in a game of 'colors' in which the two in the pool choose a color, and the one outside, back turned to the pool, says a color out loud. If they choose the color of one of the people in the pool, that person must swim to the other side as the person outside the pool tries to dive in and tag them before they reach the other side. He gave them piggy back rides. He threw them in the pool. And showed them how to do proper cannonballs. They were delighted.
For dinner...I wanted to take the kids to Aunt Chilada's. A place Kim and I would go to when we went up to Phoenix. We took my sister Laur and her husband Jason there one time when they flew into Phoenix to see us. I have some fond memories of that place. But, before I could tell the bambini, Cody said "Dad, can we go to that place we took you to about 5 years ago for Father's Day?" Garcias. So that's where we went. All I could think about was how much I'd love to have one...just one...of their margaritas...but, I didn't have my designated driver with me...so I had iced tea.
It was already 9:00, so Autumn and I had tortilla soup (Kim's favorite) - the boys had big, sloppy burritos! We got back to the hotel close to 11:00. The kids were exhausted. It was a lot of work for me, that day, so I was too...but, that's when I busted out the blog about Tonio's presentation at the Loft...so, I got to bed around 2:00.
Sunday...Mother's Day....the bambini were stirring by 7:00. They have a great breakfast at this place, so we went down, to kick off Mother's Day, having omelets, Belgium waffles, etc, etc, And then? Back in the pool!! This is the type of Mother's Day that Kim envisioned. Relaxing, together, outdoors. She typically liked us to grab some sandwiches and head to Agua Caliente Park. We'd bring a Frisbee and a soccer ball and have the bambini running around crazy. We'd check out the ponds and walk the back paths. And feed the ducks. Kim never forgot to bring bread for the ducks!
Today, the Phillies were in town, so, we added a ballgame, in her honor. Kim enjoyed going to live sports. She said, it wasn't just about the game, but the whole 'event'. The kids could appreciate that. Autumn is sporting her new purple Puma cap. We had gone to the outlet mall at Wild Horse Pass the night before and I spotted it...it looked like Autumn. And it does. Tonio has a Ryan Howard jersey (who, unbeknownst to us, would start a winning rally later in the game) and Cody has his new Phils hat on that Andrea got him for his birthday!
Outside the park...
We had a great time together at this game. As I said, the weekend was a lot of work for me,and I felt that I could have dozed during the game, but it felt good as I saw their smiling faces, to have given them a weekend where they could celebrate their mom, and learn not to be sad about it. And to give Autumn some more celebratory time, alongside of her Mama was priceless.
And the Phillies did not disappoint (or did Kim intervene?).
Down 2-0 since the first inning, we had about given up hope as the 9th inning started. The Phils could not get a run across to save their lives despite 8 hits to the Dbacks 6 hits. Then, Ryan Howard got things going, tying it up in the 9th. And in the 10th, they scored 2 more to seal the deal!
A perfect way to end our weekend!!!
When we got home, we finished up Mother's Day....
Flowers for Kim...and candles...and blowing kisses her way, just past the Big Dipper...