A cold, wet day would not stop us from having a great time. We set off to see Happy feet two. Ironically my feet were nothing but happy. Just before getting to the theater, I stepped in a 6 inch puddle of water. The movie was incredible, and yes I shed a tear or five.
Gianna wanted to make lasagna for a friend and for her mom. I explained to her how it works and off we went to the market. She had asked if we could make the ricotta from scratch and I kindly replied, “If your up for it”. Which of course she was. Why wouldn’t she be, she has no idea what is involved. What a great meal for kids to be a part of. It’s like a food puzzle with different layers. Again it wasn’t about how it came out, but rather what was put in. What makes food taste so good? The smiles, the discovery, they joy and the incredibly perfect moments shared with the ones you love most.
Finally my computer able to deal with the thousands of pictures I am putting on it. The last few weeks have been very memorable. Gia is on a different schedule with her mom and I and adjusting quite well. These are the times when I take a extra moment to breathe when something isn’t going quite right. She is learning so many things at such a high rate it is simply exhausting. I love that her mind is a sponge and seemingly ready for more. I also love that she is becoming the person she will be for the rest of her life right in front of my eyes.
Gia wanted to fry a chicken just like we saw on the food network. We dusted off the old fryer, prepped the chicken and off we went. Before we fried the chicken we played with the fun stuff inside the chicken including the liver and heart. She flowered both and skewered them and dipped them in some hot bubbly goodness. She really liked the liver, me.. not so much. It was now time to do the heart. I’ve had chicken hearts before and actually really like them, but was very curious to what her little pallet would take from a bloody chicken heart. I saw her struggling with the fact that she was eating the heart of a animal, yet she cooked it and it tasted good so sense quickly overpowered thought. Lesson for the day, if you want your kid to enjoy something… Allow them to create it from conception to completion. I could care less if she enjoys chicken hearts, what I care about is that she wanted to try it and I knew she could like it. I just had to let her discover that part on her own. She is becoming quite comfortable with this type of situation and now when she says, “Dad I don’t really like it.” I know its because she genuinely feels that way not because some kid next to her said the same thing.
A confident four year old who isn’t afraid to be different. Okay, I’m on the right track so far…
Gias been quite sick, but all is well. Today was our first day together since last Saturday and we would make it fun one way or another. We had breakfast at Snug Harbor by her mothers house. The food is decent, but what hole in the wall diner really blows you away with their culinary abilities? It’s about the people, the smiles you get, the constant refills and the beautiful comments about how sweet Gia is.
We picked up a few movies at blockbuster and headed home to watch one over lunch. Her sick little body needed rest so she gave it just that, a five hour nap.
Time to grab some food for dinner and get Mom’s birthday present going. Gia came up with an idea to paint a frame and the border then put a picture in the middle. I asked her what she wanted for dinner. She replied, “let’s cook a whole fish daddy.” So off we went to Michaels, whole foods, then Santa Monica Seafoods. We have done Branzino many times so we decided on striped bass. She wanted rice with cooked onions and brussel sprouts for the side dish. The food came out absolutely perfect. We ate the fishes eyeballs as always (look at the picture of her with the spoon in her mouth, and know its her idea to do this)
She began two paintings, one for her moms birthday present and the other for our good friend Laura who helped me so much with Gia’s costume.
It was hard to stay in all day but at the same time I realized that spending time with her was just that. Although I wasn’t blowing her mind with exciting things to do, I was doing something very familiar to her… Being the father she knows so well. We read part of ‘Robin Hood’ tonight and she was simply fascinated with the archery aspect of it. I told her stories of how my brother Ryan and I had spent much time with bows and arrows as kids. At that moment I saw a childs eyes light up, her dad suddenly became as cool as Robin himself. What a moment to witness. With this she went to bed just as I will. Thoughts of a wonderful day filled with new things, beautiful art, talking about family and most certainly… love.
The joy of something as simple as cooking for friends can become one of the greatest nights. Our dear friends Denny and Mira had asked us out to dinner. Gia had already said she wanted to cook, so what better than to cook for them. Gia made a sauce that was to die for. It included lambs neck, pig thighs and even a Russians favorite drink.
The excitment she had preparing this dish knowing it would feed others was insane. She opened a can of tomato sauce, smelled it and said, “Daddy doesn’t the smell of tomatoes make you smile?” I kindly replied, “I never thought of it like that but what you just said surely does.”
The menu was garlic bread with goat butter and garlic, a seared scallop over hearts of palm with a reduced balsamic and pappardelle pasta with vodka, lambs neck and prosciutto gravy.
We still have tons to do on her halloween costume, not much time to do it. Tomorrow will be the final day of sizing and trials. I cannot wait for the smile on her face when she sees the final look in front of the mirror. I was never told that being a dad could be so much fun. That it could give me joy beyond what I was able to comprehend, but yet, I seem to take it as nothing more than the way it should be. The way it was always meant to be.
We look at life in many ways, usually trying to discover what the meaning is and how to constantly improve ‘what is’. Lets take a look at my grandmother turning 100. She lived through more innovations and creations and wars that you and I will ever see. We grow impatient with life at times and seemingly forget how important each and every day is. I saw people who hadn’t talked in years share a common bond. Love, something which is instilled in us as humans. In the end its the choices we make with the people in our lifes that define us. The joy we can embrace from things otherwise forgotten is something we should all grab on to tightly.
The moments I share with Gia are unforgettable and absolutely incredible. We have our moments like any family but in the end we are just that, family. To see a woman that I’ve grown up with turn 100 while I’ve put my everything into four years of Gia’s life is somewhat sobering. It shows me that although tiring at times this is going to affect generation after generation. We would be nothing without her and Gia’s grandkids would be nothing without her. We effect more than ourselves, more than the people around us quite simply more than we will ever know.
Gia’s joy while watching the fountain show over dinner or seeing the new exhibits at the science center create hope, a hope that someday will turn full circle on her loved ones. Tonight, unlike any other night I saw her begin to realize what life was. We had a talk about family and how every one is very different but loved. As her eyes teared up a bit which I thought was due to sadness of what wasn’t, quickly turned into an expression of joy. My little girl just caught wind of how special her life was and how much she is loved. Although it wasn’t the way it would be on paper or in a Disney fairy tail, it was exactly the way it should be to her. Life as she knows is undoubtably be a glorious ride.
What was to be a beautiful weekend filled with a birthday party and a trip to Gia’s grandparents house started off quite the opposite. Every morning for the past week or so we would wake up, take the blanket off our new bird’s cage and say, “Good Morning Green”. Well, this time Green was lifeless. I was absolutely dumbfounded, we did everything right. Poor Green had died, and poor Gia was very very sad. Lots of hugs, lots of tears and ohh yeah, the birthday party!
We were having a blast at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. While at a lunch I had won Gia a few bouncy balls from a arcade. As we waited for our food to come out Gia bounced her balls to Grandpa. I told her several times to keep it mild while we were at the dinner table. Well, she didn’t and one went speeding off the edge. She immediately went to get it, followed by me reminding her of what I said and the ball was now gone. So, of course the “S” hit the fan and she lost it. Hungry, tired, four years old? We stepped outside, she screamed for a while then we left. After eating her chicken breast on a stick with a side salad and a three hour nap we went to feed the ducks. A beautiful fresh pasta dinner was put together by Grandma and Gia. My parents saw a little girl make fresh pasta dough from start to finish. Man was she determined to get through it. With our tummies full, hearts happy and hugs goodbye we set off back to L.A. What was to be a fun weekend turned out to be just that and then some. I’m not sure if she got anything out of our little lesson on listening but all I can do is hope, right? Who knows what sinks in and what doesn’t. All I know is there is nothing stopping us from driving a race car without a seatbelt, but if and when we crash, those tedious little choices that can be overlooked will have a profound impact on all things.
What could be more fun than Disney and Universal in 24 hours? To a child, probably nothing, to me…. well Tahiti comes to mind. Its like when you walked into Toy’s R Us as a child and felt like heaven’s gates had suddenly opened, now its a tad bit different. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s still really really fun. Disney was so crowded we just walked around and people watched, luckily The Little Mermaid ride was out of order then suddenly in order when we walked by. Her being Ariel for halloween this was incredibly relevant.
Later that evening Gia worked on her ‘shell bra’ for her Ariel costume, she discovered the importance of listening and moderation while creating the color purple. It took a while but ‘just a little blue’ became very clear and oh so important.
The next morning we shared a quick but unforgettable trip to Maxwells for breakfast and off she went to Universal with Aunt Tracey and Uncle Greg. I met up with them after work, shared some damn good fried chicken from Doc Browns with Greg then was pleasantly graced with Gias face as she showed me her dinosaur and rocks that she got after Jurassic Park the ride. Watching her dance as the night ended was definitely more than a ‘sight to see.’
When you watch a beautiful girl that you’ve raised close her eyes, feel the music and carelessly spin while smiling as if she won the national coloring contest… You know your a lucky parent. All worries are forgotten, all pain is numb and everything is good.
Whew its been a while. Craziness and chaos is what comes to mind, but deep down I’ve just been a little overwhelmed. It’s cool, I’m back on track and ready for more… So fill my plate o’ world.
I wasn’t about to make the same mistake I did last year when it comes to halloween as I frantically put together her costume and just barely make it to candy time. So after a few lovely trips to Jo-Annes Fabric store, Michaels and a couple other mind altering spots I headed home to start sewing… Ha, one simple yet interestingly difficult task I let slip by me was I had no idea how to use a sewing machine. Ohh well, I winged it. So far, so good. What seemed hard was actually really easy once I opened that magical book which read ‘how to use a sewing machine’.
Gia and I shared one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes known as Pho, accompanied by some yummy pork egg rolls. She loved it, everything about it. This was interactive food. You don’t just sit down and eat it, you have to do it up. I mean how fun for a kid to put what they want in hot soup, wrap steaming egg rolls in ice cold lettuce then dip, and even eat sauce made from rotten fish… Okay maybe not that last part but trust me, it’s good. This experience was more than I expected. I assumed it was something in which she wouldn’t really enjoy. Why I thought that I’m not sure, I mean how could she not when her dad was practically drooling before we even walked in the place. It was a dish introduced to me by my brother Ryan and since has become almost a weekly ritual. In my opinion, it is a meal like no other. The taste is pleasant, the experience is comforting, and the people are usually pretty nice. Ohh one thing, its hot, so hot. I put so much chili in this bowl of love that it becomes a sweaty, runny nose, challenge of to the death. I’m not sure why I love that experience so much, but I will do it time after time without a blink of hesitation.
While I watched her play, climb, jump, and just be a kid it reminded me of those days… In a way very similar to how a smell brings you back to almost an exact minute in time. There is a joy in that, that cannot be created. It is something that would make even the hardest of people crack. Is this another part of the circle of life that we all heard about on Lion King? All I know is its hard not to appreciate every second of every day or every breathe of air we breath when you are able to transform back to a simple time. A time when ‘worry’ didn’t really exist, where the thought to be free wasn’t something we strived for and where fun was nothing more than life as we knew it.
Off to Hollywood for the Italian Festival. It wasn’t as ‘Big’ as I imagined but I didn’t mind, and neither did Gia. What it was, was enough to spark her mind about Italy, the people and let’s not forget… the food. I think she has a certain pride instilled in her because she knows some of her blood is from this wonderful place, kinda like the ‘Situation’. Instead of eating too much of the carnival-ish Italian cuisine, we walked around and took note on what to make for dinner. Gia decided on risotto and pizza. The seemingly endless booths filled with cheesy hats, shirts, pens and anything else they could put ‘ITALY’ or ‘CIAO’ on was growing quite tiresome. So after a quick ride on a chopper we headed to the market. It was my pleasure to watch such a curious girl cook something she had never cooked before and couldn’t wait to taste. I explained the difference between cooking rice and cooking risotto and you could tell she was so perplexed by what this would mean in the end. That in it self is such an amazing sight to see. I’ve had parents ask me how I get her to love/eat all these great foods. The simple answer is “I teach her to love it, not how it tastes but what it takes to make it taste that way.” There is no way you cannot love something that you were part of every step of the way. It’s a feeling you get and honestly no matter how the food comes out, it usually tastes pretty damn good. I guess we can look at life in the same way. We can be there from beginning to end and every step of the way, or we can sit back and wonder why things don’t always work out the way we assumed they should. It’s never too late to jump in, live a little more and love a little more.
We were on our way to Disneyland and out of nowhere I said, “Gia. do you want to go somewhere new?” “Sure daddy” she shouted from the back seat. I hadn’t been to Universal Studios in a decade and it just sounded like a fun day. I thought it would be a nice way to show her a little bit of how the movies are made. I’ve explained to her since she was little that most of what happens on a movie is ‘made’ that way. After waiting in a horrible line for the tram tour we were off. At first she thought it was a ride, then grew a little bored. The King Kong part of the tour quickly jolted her into a very excited state. She was fascinated by the sets and how they were manipulated to whatever film was being made. She really had no idea what to think about this place. I mean.. Dora, Shrek, and even the Simpsons. All she knew is it was fun, tons of fun. Her mind was spinning it such a curiously beautiful way. She insisted on sitting in the ‘wet zone’ of the Waterworld show. Wet was definitely and understatement. Whatever, it was worth it. We did what we could and we will certainly be back for more. After the park closed we had a over the top meal at a not so over the top quality place known as Bucca De Beppo. Then we danced to a Mariachi band called ‘Metalachi’ which was a blend of well… mariachi and metal. Ya, you heard me right. Hell, we could have danced to nothing so this was enough to get our blood pumping. The night was still young so we decided to watch ‘Dolphin Tale’. Did I get chocked up? Of course, how could you not. This day was just the way I thought it would be. ‘What was’ is not only what we try so hard to remember but a moment in life that we lived, we loved and we understood what it was to enjoy life. Whos knows if we will really remember this day, all I know is when it was, when we were.. it was beautiful.