Ava’s first stitches

Well, it was bound to happen. We’ve been incredibly lucky over the past 4 years in the sense that none of our kids have ever really been sick or injured. I don’t want to make this out to be some type of serious injury, because it’s definitely not, but it did require a trip to the emergency room, along with 3 stitches, and of course it happened on the only Saturday of the year that I’m away from my family.

Saturday a couple of my co-workers and I attended a web development conference in Seattle. There was a little chaos before the event started because everyone was told that the event was taking place in South Lake Union, but then when we arrived it turned out that it was actually taking place in the heart of downtown, near Benaroya Hall. So we had to scramble to get downtown and find parking. 5 minutes after the conference started I get a phone call from Jessica. It seemed odd that she would be calling me at that time since she knew I was at a conference, but I answered.

Long story short, Jessica and the kids were at the gym with our friend Solana and her two boys. They do this regularly because the gym provides childcare to members while they’re working out. The kids always love going there. I don’t know exactly what happened but the gist of it is that Ava was dancing, she was on a hard surface, and she fell and hit her chin on that hard surface. The cut was pretty deep and they weren’t able to stop the bleeding with a band aid, so they found Jessica to see what she wanted to do.

Apparently Ava was totally fine throughout this whole experience, which doesn’t surprise me one bit. She constantly impresses me with her toughness and this ended up being just another example of that. She was wearing Enzo’s new Russell Wilson jersey because it’s much too big for him to wear right now, and amazingly she didn’t get a single drop of blood on it.

Anyway Jessica explained to me what was going on and of course I offered to leave the conference and come home, but she convinced me to stay put for now. She just wanted me to know what was going on, but had control of everything on her own. She took the kids to Swedish Hospital Mill Creek and was shown into a room immediately. I guess when a single mom comes in with 3 young kids she tends to get a little preferential treatment. I’ll always remember that hospital because that’s where Jessica had the ultrasound when we found out we were having our little Enzo. I remember the technician saying “I’m pretty sure it’s a boy”, then after a long silent pause I replied “How sure are you?”.

According to Jessica, Ava did amazingly well the whole time. The only time she got a little freaked out was when the (male) doctor got right up in her face to look at the cut in her chin. She has always been leery of strange men, which is totally fine with me, and didn’t care much for him invading her personal space. She ended up getting 3 dissolvable stitches and a special band aid. I spoke to them on speaker phone once they got in the car to come home and she said “Daddy my owie doesn’t hurt anymore!”

After all that excitement Jessica thought it would be best to just go home and relax for the rest of the day. I got home from the conference around 5:00 with a special box of ‘Frozen’ band aids. They were such a hit that Elise eventually decided to wear one of her own (see photo below). By the next day Ava was completely back to normal, so it was all no big deal. Jess and I agreed that it was best that it happened to Ava, since she’s the oldest and most likely the toughest at this point in time. Again I’m just so proud of her for being so tough and so good throughout the entire experience. It’s ironic that all this would take place the one time I’m away doing my own thing, but of course Jessica rocked it and took care of everything perfectly well.

We’re getting excited about our upcoming trip to Alaska and Canada. It’s still 3 months away, but we’ve been talking about it regularly. I spoke to my Mom yesterday and she said we’ve got side-by-side balcony cabins with a private door connecting them, meaning the kids can run back and forth between the two. That’s going to be really nice because it means all 5 of us won’t be crammed into a single room. We’re looking forward to seeing whales and icebergs, as well as doing some fun shore excursions like dog sledding. We’ve been watching that show Gold Rush lately, so maybe we’ll even pan for some gold.

Speaking of upcoming trips, we recently made plans to go back to Iowa for Christmas this year. Rick and Chris were quite generous in offering to fly us out, and after talking about it over dinner, we decided to go for it. I know traveling with the kids during Christmas won’t be easy, but it’s worth it. We had a great time in Iowa last month and already when I think back about that trip I don’t think about our travel difficulties, I think about the great time we had with family and friends. Plus we’ll be staying for a week so our travel days will be spaced out a bit.

In between these two events we’ve got my family reunion in Moscow, Idaho in July, so there’s already a lot to look forward to. We’ve also got some work planned for the house this year, including a new front porch and new carpet upstairs. Just like that our year is basically planned out, and we haven’t even made it through February yet.

Jessica and I recently worked Valentine’s Day weekend together in the Pampas Room at El Gaucho. We worked all 3 nights (Fri-Sun) and by the end of it I was exhausted. I haven’t done a string of consecutive bartending shifts like that in a long time and it wasn’t easy. I have to be honest, I was pretty happy to come back to my desk job on Tuesday. Anyway it was basically the same burlesque show we worked on New Year’s Eve, except rather than doing a Prohibition Era theme like before, this time we did a Venetian theme. The employees were all dressed as Gondoliers with black and white striped shirts, red scarfs, and ridiculous hats. I’m not big on themed service, but we had fun. Jessica would have had to work anyway, so I’m glad I got to be there with her. Plus our babysitter worked out extremely well so we’re hoping to have her over again soon.

Tomorrow night is Jessica’s last night at El Gaucho Seattle. It feels a little crazy because between the two of us we’ve got many years at that restaurant, but she’s transferring to El Gaucho Bellevue, meaning she’s staying in the company and will continue to be a part of ‘the family’. A bunch of our old friends from Seattle are now working in Bellevue, so I expect her transition to be seamless. She’ll be training there on Friday night, then working her normal Wednesday Thursday schedule starting next week.

That’s basically it for now. Off to work! Here’s a few recent pics of the kids, as well as their silly Gondolier parents.

Kallan’s 21st Birthday dinner in the 410 Room at El Gaucho

Bartending on Valentine’s Day weekend

Elise enjoying her Valentine’s Day treats

Ava showing her love for Minnie Mouse

Enzo trying out his new PJ’s from Nana

Sister love

Birthday Dinners and Superbowl Winners

I know I’m getting old because the two things that interest me most these days are politics and Jazz. And my right hip’s been killing me lately. I’ve never taken more than a passing interest in the Presidential elections of years past, but this time around I can’t seem to get enough. Every weekday morning I listen to a variety of political podcasts from both sides of the spectrum. The best part (to me at least) is that I still don’t know who I’m voting for. To take it a step further, I don’t even know which party I’m voting for. I honestly don’t. I feel like it’s common for people to pick a candidate based on one or two issues that they strongly identify with, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m doing my best right now to listen to each candidate with an open mind, and try to hear their entire message, rather than just the bits and pieces that I most closely identify with.

In order to get the most well-rounded coverage, I listen to podcasts from a variety of sources, including NPR, ABC, CBS, and FOX. Unfortunately, due to the electoral college system, I don’t really feel like my vote means anything, because regardless of which party I vote for, I live in a state that has always (and will always) vote for the Democratic candidate. Regardless, I like feeling well informed and I’m excited for the heat to get turned up in this race over the coming months.

I don’t know exactly where my interest in Jazz came from but it hit me pretty hard recently. I remember watching the movie ‘Whiplash’ last year and thinking to myself “This music is awesome! Why don’t I listen to this stuff more often?” Since then I’ve caught myself noticing little jazzy parts in songs and really liking them, so at a certain point I just decided to jump all the way in. Not surprisingly I immediately gravitated towards the more guitar-driven form of Jazz, and I now spend most afternoons at work listening to the sounds of great players like Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, John Scofield, Pat Metheny, and many others.

If you would have asked me 10 years ago what I thought of Jazz I would have told you I hated it. At that time, if it wasn’t saturated with distortion and screaming vocals, I simply wasn’t interested. Over time, however, my tastes have gradually changed, and I welcome that. I don’t want to be the same person I was 10 years ago, and I’m consciously enjoying this change in perspective that I’ve been having as of late.

In order to increase my knowledge and appreciation of Jazz, I recently started watching the Ken Burns PBS documentary “Jazz”. It’s a 10-part series, with each part taking around 2 hours to watch, so we’re talking about a lot of content there, but that’s cool. I’m in no hurry to get through it. I’m just enjoying learning all about the history of “the only true American art form.” I quickly came to realize that all the music I’ve loved over the years was in some way related to Jazz. The blues, country and R&B came directly from Jazz, then Rock ‘n Roll came from the blues, then heavy metal came from Rock ‘n Roll, but ultimately it all started with Jazz.

The other piece to this jazzy puzzle is that I’m teaching myself to play Jazz guitar. As a rock and blues player, I’ve always been intimidated by Jazz guitarists. All their fancy chords, finger-picking, and exotic scales were just too much for me, but now I’m embracing all that stuff. I bought a great book on Amazon full of Jazz guitar lessons and I’m really enjoying it. I don’t mind going back to the basics because I know I’m going to learn so many cool things that will influence my playing moving forward, regardless of style. As usual, I feel like I’m always either learning something new, or I’m stagnant, and I really hate being stagnant.

This past weekend was a good one for us. We spent Friday evening at El Gaucho celebrating Kallan’s 21st birthday. We had dinner in the 410 Room, which is a private room that I’ve worked in hundreds of times, but had never eaten in before this. The room was named after Victor Rosellini, who owned a famous restaurant in Seattle back in the day called Rosellini’s 410. My Dad was a friend of Victor’s, and a regular at his restaurant, so I knew that name well before I ever started working at El Gaucho. I remember one night when I was a busboy, the GM of El Gaucho (who was an old friend of my Dad’s) took me into the 410 room, which was full of investors and high rollers. He said “Gentlemen, I want you to meet the son of the infamous Elmer Pellegrini.” I’ll never forget Charles Ainsley, bigtime regular / bank owner / Gaucho investor getting up out of his chair, coming over to me, and saying “Your Dad was one of the greatest guys I’ve ever known. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” I was floored. Here I am this 19 year old kid and the guy from the painting on the wall is coming over to shake my hand? Unbelievable.

So it was the perfect room for all of us to have dinner in, and not surprisingly we had a great time. The kids were all so well behaved, I couldn’t have been more proud of them. It was really cool to be able to show them all around Daddy’s old stomping grounds. Obviously they won’t remember it, but I always will. The part that I was most looking forward to was after dinner. For reference, about a year and a half ago I wrote a post titled “My Guitar Living Will”, and in that post I went to great lengths to tell the story behind each of my guitars, as well as who I would want each guitar to go to if I were no longer around. Well, one of those guitars was always meant to go to my nephew Kallan. After writing that post I told Kallan to read it, then the following morning I got up for work and saw a missed call from him in the middle of the night. Apparently he read that post and was so touched by the fact that one of my guitars was meant to go to him that he couldn’t help but call me and leave me the nicest voicemail about how much he appreciated it.

Fast forward to this weekend. Kallan didn’t know it, but I’ve been planning on giving him that guitar for his 21st birthday ever since writing that post. We arrived to dinner a little early and I stuck the guitar in the closet. Then, after everyone finished their dinner, I made a little speech about how I’ve been looking forward to this night, and then presented him with the guitar. The funny part was that he told me during dinner that lately he’s really been wanting to get a new guitar, so it was perfect. Obviously he was thrilled, and so was I. Receiving a nice gift is always great, but so is giving one. This is something neither of us will ever forget, plus it’s probably safe to say I’m off the hook for any more big birthday presents for him anytime soon. Next we’ve got Anna’s sweet 16 coming up in December. Jessica and I are already talking about what to do for that special occasion.

Saturday was a pretty quiet day for us, although I did get a bunch of work done on our cars. My car had been idling a little rough lately, so I did some research and concluded that it was most likely due to my PCV valve. I removed it from the engine, cleaned it out really well, and reinstalled it. As hoped, the car was instantly running much smoother, so I gave myself a pat on the back for that one. I also changed my car’s oil and filter, then aired up the tires. On Sunday morning Jessica cleaned and detailed her van, then I replaced the front brakes and aired up the tires. Both vehicles were in need of a little love so it was nice to get all that stuff done.

Sunday evening was dedicated to watching the Superbowl, which obviously means I was also busy in the kitchen making a bunch of food. I found this great New York style pizza dough recipe a while back and thought making pizza’s for the Superbowl would be fun. I had to plan in advance though because the dough needs to cure in the fridge for 72 hours before baking. Luckily I didn’t forget to make the dough on Thursday night, and it turned out great on Sunday. In addition to the pizzas, we also enjoyed homemade tortilla chips, guacamole, and pico de gallo. Considering we weren’t having any company over there was definitely a lot of food, but that’s just how I roll.

The game wasn’t all that exciting, but I was happy with the outcome. I wanted to see the old Sheriff Peyton Manning go out on top and ride off into the sunset. Plus I can’t stand Cam Newton and all of his bullshit celebrations, so in the end it was a success from my perspective. Just a little ugly getting there. I guess as a Seahawks fan I’m used to watching defensive-minded football, so in a sense this was right up my alley. I will also say that Lady Gaga blew me away with her rendition of the National Anthem. I’ve always said that Whitney Houston’s National Anthem at the 1991 Superbowl was the best I’ve ever seen, and I’m not going to change my mind now, but this one easily took 2nd place.

This weekend is Valentine’s Day, which neither Jessica or I could care less about, but when you’re connected to the restaurant industry you can always expect to be busy. Since it falls on a Sunday this year, that means the entire weekend will be busy. So just like New Year’s Eve, Jessica and I will be bartending downstairs in the Pampas Room all 3 nights. I wasn’t going to be available but our neighbor hooked us up with a babysitter, so that freed me up to work. It’s going to be a long weekend, especially Friday since I’ll work all day at the office, then head downtown to bartend all night, but luckily we now get President’s Day off at Microsoft, so at least Monday will be relaxing.

In other exciting family news, we recently found out that we will be joining my Mom for an Alaskan Glacier cruise in the end of May. Strangely enough the day we depart is the same day I’ll be driving the Ferrari and Lamborghini. I actually had to reschedule my time from 11:00am to 9:00am, just to make sure I had enough time to make it to the ship. What a day that’s going to be! I get to drive two supercars in the morning, then head out on a cruise with my family that afternoon. Jessica is super excited to see whales and glaciers. I’m just excited to get a week off work. All 5 of us are going, plus my Mom and all of her co-workers at Card Player Cruises will be there, so it should be a blast.

We recently received the photos my friend Leon took at Enzo’s 1st birthday party, so I’ll part with a few of our favorites. To all you corny Cupids out there, Happy Valentine’s Day, but do yourself a favor and don’t go out to dinner. It’s amateur night.

January- By Jessica

January has been all about re connecting for me and its sort of become a resolution for the year. I say sort of because I don’t really do resolutions. Until this year I guess because I’m holding myself to it. I don’t normally write on the site, my contributions come in the form of pictures. I may not always get credit but about 98% of the pictures are the product of my day to day trigger happy finger. I’m writing now as another way to reach out to those of you that read along but also so the kids can hear my voice as well, because they were the reason the blog was created in the first place. I’ll do my best to write a post a month, this one is late because I have just stepped out of a Quarantine Zone and I didn’t have my laptop with me. Back to that later.

This whole idea about reconnecting came to be on the 2nd day of our trip home to Iowa. I have only been home a few times since I moved away in 2003. The last time when my grandmother passed away in March of 2009. It’s been a really long time and I was filled with emotions about the weekend. The fist night back we had a casual dinner at my Dad’s house with my Mom and Tom, and Joel and Melanie, it was our last little Christmas celebration for the kids. Grandma Chris couldn’t help herself and went totally over board on toys. One in particular had to be left behind because Ava and Elise could not agree on who he belonged to. The kids had a blast celebrating Christmas again, and Ava is convinced that we have Christmas all the time now because we had several celebrations this year. It was great to have everyone back home even if for only a night.

The next day was filled with a first class tour of Cedar Rapids, and an afternoon back at home with our friends! My girlfriend, Jodi and her two girls came to stay at my Dad’s. They got there early that afternoon giving us lots of time to catch up and for the kids to get to know each other. Its funny how similar our kids are; Jodi’s oldest and Ava are both bold and strong willed, while her youngest and Elise are both sweet and tender. it didn’t take the kids long before they were all running mad around the house as if we meet up here all the time. Meanwhile, Jodi and myself were sitting comfortably drinking wine. It was the perfect night in for me and the kids, while Micheal hit the town hard with my brother and Melanie. He did not enjoy pancakes and bacon the next morning quite and much as the rest of us but he never complained. During and after breakfast the house filled with more friends and family of friends. We laughed at old pictures and had coffee while the kids continued to fight, (but still play nicely) over the same dang toy. The morning came and went fast and before you knew it we were heading over to my Uncle Devin’s house. Devin had put out an open invitation to everyone on my mom’s side of the family to come over for football and food. We have not all been together for nearly 13 years so this was long over due.

Being together with my family as if no time had passed was amazing. I really had no idea what to expect and I think that everyone went into it with a positive attitude and it showed. The kids had a great time because the man cave we were in is more like a funtorium. I had a great time because it helped me, and all of my family move forward. In that respect it changed my life. I will make sure that I make the effort to see my family more. I will keep the past in the past. Leaving the party that afternoon I actually felt sad, not to say good bye, (although there were some people I barely got to see) sad because I let so much time go by without having most of these people in my life. Sad that for the most part they don’t know me and they’ve never been given the chance to know my family. For the first time I really felt the loss. It hurt,a lot, but it also fueled a fire to do things better.

The anniversary party the next day went off perfectly. We took a 1,000 family photos before hand and those of us that were feeling any nerves got a chance to see the room set up and practice a bit. The place was a perfect venue for such an event. For starters the heated parking garage was lovely. It was a blistery 2 degrees out so not having to step foot outside was very much appreciated. The venue, opened up to a grand entry way with a huge christmas tree (it was only Jan 10th) and a lovely chandelier. Our space in the grand ballroom had a 3 piece band set up, a small stage, food and dessert tables, sign in table, bar, kids area and 10 large round tables. We had an estimated 125 guests attend from all different phases of my grandparents life. I truthfully only recognized about 30% of the people there, but my grandparents were buzzing from group to group the whole time and it was obvious to see that they were enjoying every minute.

My Grandfather had the whole room laughing during the ceremony over a joke about a would be girlfriend named Laila. My uncle had us all crying as he opened up with a speech about what it was like to grow up in this family, and how far we have all come. My Grandma read a beautiful poem for her vows and my Grandpa flew from the hip. They were both extremely toughing. Sadly, most of my time and hard work was thrown out the door when my Grandpa got trigger happy with the secret ring. He pulled it out of his pocket early and cut me off. It went as it should though. It was funny, touching, memorable, and a really cool collaborative effort. I loved having this little project of sorts to give me extra reason to think about my family, I’m sad that its over. My Grandparents truly are and have something to admire. In order for Michael and I to celebrate our 60th wedding anniversary we will have to live to be 90 years old. Wow.

The rest of our trip was filled with either nights out or nights in, both with large groups of loved ones. Some related, some not technically so. I didn’t realize how much I needed this trip until I was living it. I know we won’t be able to fit another trip in for a few years, maybe 2 or 3, but it won’t be too long and I already look forward to it.

The weekend following our trip to Iowa, my friend Laurel and her boyfriend, Mark, flew in for a week long trip. We hosted a family taco night the first weekend and I think everyone had a good time, kids included. We all hung out till much later than I think anyone expected, but time just slipped by and no one seemed to notice (maybe the men noticed a bit). The following weekend I went out for my first downtown overnight, first without Michael that is. I met up with Laurel and Solana and we hit the town for a late dinner at one of Laurel and I’s favorite spots, Matt’s at the Market. We stopped at a few places along the way, my favorite being Radiator Whiskey. An old friend of mine works there and its directly across from our dinner spot so it was a given that we go. Its a really cool, small, prohibition style saloon. I’d love to go check out dinner there at some point but there never seems to be enough time. After dinner we stopped into Gaucho for a drink then wandered around Belltown for a bit before ending the night with a few dances and beers at Kells in Post Alley. The ladies and I had a very memorable night and I think it’s safe to say that recovery was harder than we’d like to admit.

We only had one normal week in between visits before my Mom arrived for Enzo’s birthday. Rita followed a few days later. We hosted his party at a bowling alley strangely enough. It wasn’t your typical first birthday but I think we all had fun. Everyone but Elise got out and bowled at least once. Michael even took Enzo out so he could push a ball down the ramp for a frame. The rest of the time the birthday boy was happy to wander around the arcade or spy on other partiers. Elise found a spot right next to the cheese fires and chicken tenders and exclaimed to more than one person “I’m having fun at the Bowling Alley”. She just enjoys seeing all of our family and friends, and eating of course. No surprise at all that Ava was a total champ. She got right in there and bowled a whole 10 frames with everyone. She seemed to love being a part of everything but I don’t think she understood the object of the game. I didn’t get a chance to bowl a whole game but the few attempts that I made were solid. Surprisingly so. Hands down though, the best part of the party was the cake. First birthdays are always fun when its cake time but its not so often that you put the kid and their cake right in the middle of the bowling alley. I laid out a disposable table cloth on top of the bar top separating the lanes from the food area. This meant he was sitting up on a pedestal of sorts in the midst of all the bowling chaos, he seemed to thoroughly enjoy it. He sat nice and still eating a mini green monster cake. He took his time and made sure to smear it all over himself. Just like his dad, he ate slowly and got a little messy. A lot messy. We had to rinse him off in the bathroom sink afterward and send the poor kid back out to say good bye to everyone with no pants on.

It was our first time having a birthday party outside of the house and I’m sure that more and more of them will be at new venues as well. It was nice to have minimal set up and no clean up. It was nice to have an activity that everyone, young and old, could enjoy. It lacked the personal touches of homemade ravioli and cake around the table. Enzo doesn’t know the difference and will likely be the kind of kid that doesn’t care one way or another. I’m just a little sad that the last of our first birthdays is over and my baby boy is already running and talking. We survived a year as a family of five and dang, it went by fast. Without these blogs to look back on I can barely remember it all. He’s turning into an adventurous, outspoken, fun loving little boy and he definitely completes our family.

I had planned to publish this post the last day of the month but the night after Enzo’s party the house became a Quarantine Zone and we all suffered from the Black Plague, Grandma and Nana included. It was a miserable several days as we passed the bug around the house and no one quite recovered before they felt sick with chills and nausea all over again. I can honestly say that for a whole day while I lie in bed I thought to myself “This is worse than recovery from natural child birth, much worse”. We are only just now barely coming out to see the light. Both Grandma and Nanna got home safely and probably fell into a deep sleep. Now we’re just trying to get back to a normal routine.