We Climbed before the Klimb 4 Kim...

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

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Viro's Italian Bakery

                Thursday's usually bring things back around for me...
                 ...this week, we hit a trifecta.  Or a hat trick.  Whatever you want to call three days in a row of wonderful company and dinners. Tuesday with the Barrios', Wednesday with the Montes' and tonight, Andrea & Breanna joined us at Viro's! Plus, Rosa & Vito, as a bonus. These dinners really helped bridge the week nicely - and for the bambini, well, the entertainment, the smiles?  Priceless.
                  Tuesday night, at Tonio's Junior Optimist Club dinner, we had to bring two photos of our family.  One of the photos Tonio chose to bring was of  Cody, Aut, Tonio and Breanna decorating our Christmas tree.  Mrs. Curtis asked the kids to write down their memories of the photo - what was going on, how did they feel, etc.  She stopped and asked Tonio who Breanna was...he paused, thoughtfully, and answered "Well, she's like my sister."
                  We spent a good two hours at Viro's tonight eating, relaxing, talking and eating some more.  Everyone went through the Italian Wedding soup - in fact, they ran out!  Andrea always gets the pappardelle with chicken (fettuccine with Alfredo sauce), Vito made me zucchini Parmesan (which isn't even on the menu), Breanna ate the largest plate of raviolis, Autumn, a massive bowl of spaghetti and meatballs and Tonio stuck to the soup.  They followed it up with gelato - testing all of the new flavors, like cantaloupe and eggnog.  I don't know where they put it all!  We pretty much closed the place...another great ending to our day!
                   Except it wasn't quite the ending...arriving home after 8:00, Autumn finished some homework, while Tonio showered.  At 9:15 Autumn comes out and says "Oh yeh, I need to bring salsa in tomorrow for Mr. Lara's class."  Nice.  Soooo, I whipped up some table salsa, extracting my inner-Kim...nicely, working in the kitchen is soothing for me...and as I diced tomatoes, peppers, onions and a lime, I enjoyed creating this for Autumn to bring to school.

                   Earlier, after school, we had picked up Lexy and Breanna.  Tonio was excited to share his Angry Birds gum that Monsi had gotten for him...

A whole box of bubble gum goodness!!

                The kids chomped happily on their gum...Breanna and Tonio comparing loose teeth...when, suddenly, Tonio cried out "I'm chewing on my tooth!" and he pulled a tooth out of his gum!!  So, looks like the tooth fairy will be paying a visit tonight...Kim prepared me to be versatile!
                 Oh, and it was a tricky night in another way.  It was Cottonwood Elementary fundraiser with Papa John's Pizza.  The teachers actually deliver the pies to their students homes!  Kim and I participated in this one often - it was a lot of fun.  We'd drive and a teacher would ride along with us to walk the pie to the front door.  One year, we got to escort the school mascot, a coyote named Comet!
                  It was also Desert Sky Middle School's fundraiser at McDonald's.  Another fun event.  The teachers run register and help behind the counter to raise money.
                  We had three places to be at once. 
                  Andrea and I put our heads together -we wanted to be able to help somehow -  and came up with this:  Cody was staying home to get homework done.  I ordered him a pepperoni pizza to be delivered...and the Principal and three teachers delivered it thinking we'd all be home!  Cody thought that was pretty neat...and he ate the entire large pie by himself!!  I dropped Lexy at a friends house so she could go to the McDonald's fundraiser and contribute to that fundraiser....the rest of us rushed to get to Viro's!  All bases covered.

                  Now, all bambini are in bed and I have a chance to read (Mary asked me the other day if I still like to read...I told her yes, I 'm currently reading "A Good Son" about Boom Boom Mancini.  "Oh that's right", she said. "You have time to read because you never sleep!"....I love the advance readers we get at the bookstore - this is a great one so far!

                  And the Kimmy memories continue:

Cody, all of 6 weeks old, in PA, at my mom's, after a 2,500 mile drive! 6 weeks!  Cody was a trooper and Kim, 6 weeks after giving birth, drove half the way!!  Have I ever mentioned how amazing she was?

And in Baltimore with my dad...

My dad's back yard...
Back in Tucson, at Cowtown, getting Kim some sweet boots.

The Desert Museum...yeh, wish I had kept a tally of the visits we made there...

Playing with Autumn's piggies!
Love this look...
I saw her today, as I drove to school to pick up Tonio and took a picture...

Above Cottonwood Elementary...

And certainly, in the sunset, as we made our way to Viro's...
Always good to see her..

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


                               Are the days getting longer?  Working on staying focused...25 days to go.  Then, we can turn our backs on 2012 and make 2013 a little more dialed in, warmer perhaps...

                              Speaking of warm - today, the bambini were treated to an afternoon and evening hanging out with Mary.  They went to her mom's to pick up Brinley, hit the store (and the bambini got ice cream!) and then back to her house, where they played with Brinley.  Autumn had fun going out back with her "Brinley likes to stack rocks!" she told me.  They enjoy there time with her. "They are really, really fun!" Tonio told me later, as I was tucking him into bed.
                              Mary made us dinner, telling me that it was nice having Autumn and Tonio there to play with Brinley, so that she could actually cook!  And she can cook - she made us chicken fajitas sorry, I didn't get the recipe to post here!), rice and beans - allowing me to run some 'errands' while she and Emilio made dinner.
                              Brinley ate like a champ, shoveling the rice and munching on a quesadilla.  When she was done, she walked up to each of us, waving and smiling, and just hung out.  I picked her up and she'd slide back down to the floor, walk to see the kids, come back to have me pick her up and slide back down - she's a sweetie.  We extended a trade offer:  Brinley for Bella, straight up.  But I don't think Mary and Emilio took us seriously.
                              It was a perfect way to end our day!

                             And still, I keep coming up with photos of Kimmy...

Kim and our niece Kaitlyn somewhere in Pennsylvania.

Autumn's 1st birthday, at Bushkill Park in Easton, PA.  Our friend from high school, Karen came with her two little ones, Kallie and Matt.  I remember the first bit of conversation we had was 'We have children.  Who would have guessed, back in high school, that we'd have children?'  And just the oddness of it - like you still see each other in your minds eye, as 16 and 17 year old high school students.

Valley Forge, PA.  We walked in the footsteps of Washington.

Outside my mom's condo in Bethlehem.

                                          Standing clear of the canons at Valley Forge, PA.  As we walked across these battlefields, we talked about how it must have been back during the Revolutionary War, covered in several feet of snow, the soldier's feet wrapped in rags because they didn't have money for new shoes...
Kim loved her little Autumn so much!

At the pumpkin patch

Always with that smile - so bright, so warming...


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

San Xavier Feast Day

             Little flat tonight - but, it was a good day, overall - beginning at San Xavier.

                             Today was the final day celebrating the feast day of San Xavier, patron saint of the Mission.  There were about 50 Native American's in procession, praying and singing in their native tongue, led by Fr Bill, who celebrated Mass this morning.  It was a full house and I was the palest one there.  Our friends, Toni and Ivan, who generally take care of the Mission (and keep Kim's photo dusted for me) were there to sing and deliver communion.
                             Whenever I'm at Mass there, our wedding constantly plays in the background...I love the part, where one of the stray reservation dogs sauntered into the church and Fr Michael whispered to Kim and I "Don't worry, he's Catholic".

                            This pup followed the procession right inside, pausing just inside the doorway so I could scratch her behind the ears...reminding me of that day. 
                            I lit candles for Kim and a friend after Mass - it is always so peaceful in the little Mary chapel.

                           On the way to work, I had to deliver some books to Manza Elementary.  I'd never been there before and the GPS on my phone was guiding me.  I was pretty excited to find that it was about a block away from my favorite Mexican bakery and restaurant, El Rio.  I picked up empanadas for my team ( mostly pumpkin, my favorite) and some tortillas that were still warm!  Andrea had introduced me to this place about two years ago - they have the best chile rellenos and cabuelatas soup! 

                          On any given school day, around 3:00 P.M., I can expect a text from Autumn, letting me know she is out of school.  Usually something simple, like "Hey Dad".  And I'll usually respond with "Hi Honey, how was ur day?"....today, I anticipated the text, so when the phone rang, playing Autumn's special ring tone "50 Ways to Lie" by Train, it surprised me - I picked up, hoping everything was ok.

                            "Hi Dad.  How is your day goin?"  Always thinking of me first.  "Great,  You?  Everything OK?"

                               "YEH!  I got a 97% on my math benchmark test and an A+ on my science test!!"  I was moved.  Math and Science do not come easy for Autumn.  She has worked so hard (and Mrs. Oliveira, her math teacher and Mr. Wauer, her science teacher are extraordinary!) and put in extra time after school with her teachers to do better.  Her hard work has paid off.
                             I know I always say how she has become a 'Lil Kim', taking care of the boys, making them breakfast, calling me with updates and always wanting to know how my day is going.  She is incredibly in tune with us.  Lately, I've noticed a little more Kim coming out in how she has begun to add little touches throughout the house.  Like stacking 3 extra rolls of TP in a pyramid on the toilet.  Or, placing Renuzit Aroma thingies in the livingroom and bedrooms (she learned about these from Angie, when we would help her grocery shop following her knee surgery).  Autumn likes the vanilla scented ones - Kim's favorite scent.
                        And, I got a great email...

Hi Mr. Conca,
I hope you are well! I just wanted to let you know that Autumn got a 97 on her math benchmark! I am so proud of her! And I am sure you hear this a lot but I just wanted to tell you how much I love having Autumn in class - she is such a special young lady - I just adore her!

Have a wonderful day!

Colleen Oliveira
             Of course, I asked Mrs. Oliveira to call me Dave, because whenever someone calls me 'Mr. Conca', I immediately look around for my Dad!  So nice to receive emails like this...that Autumn!

                         Tonight, we went to a special dinner for Tonio's Jr. Optimist Club at the school.  I almost didn't go, since I usually work Tuesday nights.  Lupe immediately volunteered to take him and Autumn, since she takes care of them every Tuesday and Monsi is in the club with Tonio.  At the time, Tonio smiled and said, 'That's fine Dad.'  Done deal.  Except, I found out later, that there were some tears, as Tonio really wanted me to go, but understood that I had to work and didn't want to inconvenience me.  I was able to switch my schedule, with one of my assistant managers, Lisa.  Tonio was beyond happy, beaming the entire evening. 

                          Tonio and Autumn with Ashley Curtis, a teacher at Cottonwood who runs the program. Aut was in it last year and really flourished - she gets to participate some this year, too.  Tonio's creativity has really grown in this club!  He and Monsi enjoy the photography lessons that they are getting and will be participating in several community service projects. 
                         We capped off a nice dinner with 'therapy' time at Lupe and Manny's!  The kids play Minecraft on Xbox - they are so good at this game and would play it from waking to sleeping if we let them!

                                      I always loved Kim's hair.  She wore it in varying lengths and styles over the 33 years I was blessed to have known her.  The above shot is one of my favorite styles.
Autumn's Baptism.  What a wonderful day that was!

The Baltimore Zoo.  I think I dedicated an entire post to all of the zoo's we visited together over the years.  The Baltimore Zoo was one of our favorites.  We took Cody there with Nana and Pop - he loved it.  The architecture in the original sections, built in 1876, is incredible.

Always loving a bambino!!
So thankful for all of the memories...and for the support we have, as we look to close out this year.  26 days to go...


December 3rd

                     Often times, I wake up, in the early hours of the morning - it's still so dark out...and I wonder what I wrote.  Sometimes, it begins to drift back to me, and, it seems that, in those waking moments, I've forgotten to put down so much - the writing is often a sprint, as I work towards ending the day.  Lupe commented on something that I wrote - I think in the Christmas Tree post, and I told her I had no recollection of writing.  Anything.
                     Some days, I'll go back and add some things.  Yesterday, I just tacked on what I had forgotten to the beginning of a new post.  I don't think I can ever get across all that goes on, in such a way as to paint that perfect picture in your mind of the memories, what happened and how things are going...Some things, I don't think I can ever put into words - because the moment was too dark or the feelings too complex - no matter how they itch to see the light of day.

                     But, a small skip to the post from two days ago - I embedded a YouTube link at the very end, of a new 50 Cent song featuring Adam Levine and Eminem.  What a talented young man Adam Levine is, crossing a lot of genders in his career and able to appeal to a diverse audience.  Each of the bambini were delighted.  No more so than Cody, who came out of his room at a slow jog when he recognized that I was playing a tune with 50 Cent and Eminem that he had never heard before. "Is that new Dad?" he asked, already scrambling to open up the app on his phone that would allow him to download it.  And Autumn, is a big Maroon 5 fan, as was Kim - she loves Adam Levine.  I got her their latest CD and she will play it over and over and over and over (you get the picture) again - even when we are driving.  "Dad, can you put my new CD in?"  sometimes I'll tell her "Oops, sorry honey, it's in the other car."

                     This morning, after dropping the bambini and getting my running done, I added some lights to the olive tree out front and got the rest of the lights plugged in and on timer.  So, when they arrived tonight, after a fun afternoon and evening with Lupe, Manny and Monsi, they were greeted by a brightly lit up house.  They are getting better about not waiting up for me ( I usually get home around 11:30ish when I close the bookstore)...small steps!

A day at the Desert Museum...I should have kept a tally of how many times we were blessed to have enjoyed this place together...

Can't remember if I've already posted this one of Kim when she was about two years old.  She's the beauty on the far left, red shoes - fashionable already!  Her sister Terri is the other little one, her brother Ken - sporting the bow tie, her sister Debbie and, of course, her Mom and Dad.

Kim's always with the kids in all of these photos, isn't she?

                                              Love that smile and the sparkle in her eyes...

                                              She always made it fun for these guys!!

                     The last few weeks, I have spent a lot of time in the kitchen - cooking Kim's recipes for the bambini - trying to throw in the same amount of love, energy and making it special for them.  Autumn has been clamoring for Kim's Mediterranean salad for some time, but every time I'd go to make it, I'd be short at least one key ingredient.  Last night, I made it and the kids really appreciated it and ate it up! 
                     They enjoyed it so much, that, it made me realize I have not posted any of her recipes in quite a while...so here it is:

                                                        Mediterranean Salad

                 1/4 cup, plus 3 tbsp of olive oil
                 2 garlic gloves, minced
                 1 lb box of couscous (or any small pasta will work!)
                 3 cups of chicken broth
                 Juice from 2 lemons
                 Zest of 1 lemon
                 1/2 tsp of salt
                 1/2 tsp of freshly ground pepper
                 1 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
                 1/2 cup of fresh mint leaves
                 2 cups diced cucumber
                 2 cups cherry tomatoes (halved or quartered, depending on how large they are)
                 4 oz crumbled Feta cheese (if desired)
                 1/2 cup of pine nuts (if desired)

           In a nice pot, warm the 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute.  Add the couscous and cook until toasted and lightly browned.  Stir often for about 5 minutes.  Add the broth and the juice from 1 lemon and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until couscous is tender, stirring now and then, for about 10 minutes.  Drain, if there is any broth left.

          In a large bowl, toss the cooked couscous with the 1/4 cup of olive oil, the juice from the 2nd lemon, the zest, salt and pepper.  Let cool.

          Once the couscous has cooled to room temp, add the fresh herbs,  cucs, tomatoes and Feta and pine nuts if you want.  I also sometimes grill some chicken, slice it thin and lay it on top when serving.

           We actually grow the basil in the side yard, and this year, taking Angie's advice that mint leaves come in handy (especially when making albondigas!), we grew that too.

            Doing a little Christmas gift wrapping at the bookstore to raise $ for Kim's foundation...had a lady come up, read about her foundation and where the money goes.  She looked at each picture on the poster board Aimee Snyder, who was a teacher at RVMS, where Kim worked, had made for me for an event last year - "She has the brightest smile and the prettiest eyes" she observed...and she placed $20 in the jar and walked away....later, Lola, the 87 year old frequent late night shopper, who I call the Patron Saint of our Bookstore because she always comes in late, spreads cheer and good advice, sometimes brings snacks from Trader Joe's and is always so positive, came buy and openly wept while looking at the photos...she hugged me, dropped $5.00 in Kim's bucket and wandered off, lost in the stacks of books....We're going to get some comfy recliners - for the visitors and patients at St. Joseph's, that's next!

             I think that's all I have...Tomorrow's another day, as Kim was fond of telling me...

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/dB9dL9mKdIg" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe> I'm not running anymore, because I'm so tired.  Lost my mind, but kept my faith, lost my direction.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Jack Frost

                         It was a beautiful Sunday.  Sunny, 80ish and an endless, bright blue sky...

                         We made it to Mass at Our Mother of Sorrows, for the first day of Advent.  The beginning of the Christmas season...but, instead of the peace and calm this message should have delivered, I had a moment of panic as I realized there are only 3 more weeks until Christmas!!
                         While we waited for the kids to get out of Sunday school, Lupe and I talked more about the Rise of the Guardians.  She told me she thought some of that movie would remind me of Kim - and said how the very beginning, where Jack Frost is emerging, unconsious from the depths of a frozen pond, breaking through the ice and into the bright, shining light from a full moon.  He's wondering 'Why?  Why me?' to be chosen to leave the living and to serve as a Guardian.
                           Underwater scenes always get me.  Skyfall, one of the Jason Bourne movies, Rise of the Guardians. Takes me back to Kim's final days, what I saw her go through...

                         Then it was on to Viro's with Andrea and Breanna - where we spent about two hours making sure we had tried everything available on their buffet!  This is such a great way to start our day - no rushing, just good food, company and conversation.

                        Later, after splitting up for errands, we were passing Tucson McGraw's Restaurant, nearing the Pantano horse stables, when Tonio pipes up:

 "Dad?  Did we pass the horses yet?"

            "Nope.  They are coming up."

"Do you think we could stop by and visit the donkey if she's out?"

                      The bambini connect their Mama to this donkey.  They know all about how she wanted to own a donkey, one day (go back about 237 blogs ago or so for that story).

                      When we pulled up, the donkey was on the far side of her corral. 

The kids called to her.  Nothing.  I whistled.  Nothing.  We tried making clicking noises.  Nothing.  I thought "Kim, these kids feel your presence through this donkey.  If you are anywhere near..."  This thought did not get any further - the donkey did a quick turn and trotted right over to us.  The kids were overjoyed. 

                   She stuck her head right out between the bars of the fence and Tonio walked right up to her and began to pet her.  Their smiles were priceless.

                                                                   Thanks Kimmy

                   We said our goodbyes, and while driving home, Tonio spoke up again:

                  "Dad?  I think, when I grow up, I want to be an archaeologist (which he has always wanted to be!).  I will dig up lots of neat stuff and sell them for a lot of money.  I will give most of the money to Mama's foundation, but, with the rest, I will buy a ranch and fill it with baby donkeys to raise.  And Bella can herd them."

                  Dammit.  He's so sweet an thoughtful.  Good thing I wear sunglasses a lot.

                 Meanwhile, Brendon (Janene's son), who had spent the night, and Cody had finished hanging the Christmas lights from the eaves.  I made a deal with them.  They could sleep in this morning, missing Mass, if they put up the lights for me, as they had done last year.  "Can you bring us Italian Wedding soup from Viro's, too?"  they bargained.  Done deal.

                 Tonight, I got the little ones back to church - this time San Xavier, where they kicked off the celebration for his feast day, which is tomorrow.  It was very similar to the one we attended for Saint Francis back in October.  They blessed San Xavier's statue, which was riding in an ornate carrying thingy.  This was then carried by four people, in a procession complete with Native American drummers, maraca players, guitarists, trumpeters, dancers and then the congregation. 

This pic is of the procession of San Xavier, through the plaza in front of the church.  The priest are in the front and San Xavier is lit up.

                 I remembered getting scolded for taking pictures last time, so I opted for no flash and snuck them in where I could.  Autumn tells me "Dad, I take a picture with a flash quick, then look away so no one thinks it was me." 

                    There is an air of controlled chaos at these fiestas.  The aerial fireworks are being lit off at the bottom of Grotto Hill, maybe 40 yards away.  Meanwhile, in the very center of the plaza, several people are lighting the 100 string firecrackers off and casually tossing them to either side.  We were about 15 yards from them. 

                     And, there are bands playing and the church bells are clanging wildly!

                         The kids spotted the bell ringer's friends high above the celebration.

Sometimes, in the midst of parenting, something gets overlooked.  Or lost.  During the madness of the fireworks, and the religious fervor, it occurred to me, that the bambini very well may have never experienced Indian fry bread.  I hesitated to ask them, not wanted to deal with the guilt of never having got them any...but, in the spirit of the night's festivities, I dared ask them:
"Kid's?  Can you hear me?  Have you ever had Indian fry bread?"
"Indian fry bry? What's that?" Aut asked.
"No, fry BREAD." I emphasized.
Ok, I thought.  I had somehow failed them.  Tucson natives that had yet to taste Indian fry bread.  I was about to make things right.
They watched, as the bread was made right before their eyes.
"They are making it fresh!" Tonio yelled.  "They are making it right now!" Autumn added.

                            The nice lady who had prepared this, asked them if they wanted honey or powdered sugar on her creation. 'BOTH!' they squealed in stereo.  And that is how their clothes became accented by white dots!  They enjoyed it so much!

                            It was a fun time, I was glad that I took them...

                            ...before we left, we tried to stop by Mary's chapel, where Kim's photo is on her altar...the gate was locked.  We could see the candles burning brightly...
                            "Are all those for Mama?" Tonio asked...

                              Tonight they are...