Monday, February 28, 2011

A Day at the Spa

 Before I begin, I would like to say hi to my new friend Xander, who traversed from womb to world yesterday at 8:48 p.m. NY time. I was also born on a Sunday at 8:47 p.m. Jerusalem time. Congratulations and I look forward to meeting you in person. If you recall, we met in Israel when your mommy was just a few weeks pregnant and I was just a week away from being born (although we didn't know that at the time). And by the way, readers, if you think I'm cool because I'm blogging, Xander had a facebook page while in utero! Now that is impressive!


Bubbles are the best things ever!


Every Sunday is "spa day" for me. The line up includes playtime, talking time, massages, light and sound shows and pool time. As I mentioned before, my mommy likes to sugarcoat things, so she has termed my weekly therapy sessions at Shalva thus. Allow me to elaborate.


Playtime is really physical therapy. It sounds fun until Yochevet makes me work. Things like weight bearing on my extended arms and twisting and stretching in all sorts of directions. This is all in an effort to build up my muscles and help me to accomplish the many milestones that lie ahead.


Talking time is actually speech therapy with Esti. Adults are already encouraging me to speak "their" language rather than they learn mine. Speech therapy at my age involves odd things like learning to eat with a spoon, imitating strange sounds and even reaching out to touch toys. Sometimes this too crosses the fine line between fun and work.


Me having a conversation during speech therapy.


My light and sound show, ahhh, now here is something I can handle with aplomb. Michal takes me into the "white room" (which mommy has dubbed the "White House" because why can't I too become the US president??). The room, redundantly, is white - white walls, white cushions on the floor, and is adorned with disco ball lighting, a spaghetti light and, my favorite, bubbles! At this point in my life, bubbles are the most fascinating things I have ever seen. I haven't been to Times Square yet though.


Then there is my massage therapy. Mommy groans with jealousy every time I'm in that room. Avital, the masseuse, works on my sore muscles (hah, yea right, they are far from sore) and teaches new techniques to awaken my muscular system. Mommy and abba employ these methods at home on me whlile arguing over why neither one of them gives the other a massage.


Utter fascination with spaghetti lights!


I just started what they call hydrotherapy. It was a bit of an ethereal experience entering a pool for the first time. It was like reality suddenly became a very fluid concept as my mommy plunged me into water up to my neck. This was nothing like a mere bath - I was surrounded by water and there was nowhere to sit. I had memories (there's that long-term memory kicking in again) back to a year ago, floating in mommy's tummy, only this time gravity was a greater factor. But even pool time eventually became "work" as I did sit ups in the pool and held my upper body straight up upon threat of drowning. Ok, I was nowhere near drowning, I just threw that in for the drama. Tehila tried to make it fun by singing to me, but eventually the fact that I had not slept since 7 a.m. overrode all possible attempts at placation and there was no turning back: I screamed and turned red until I was placed horizontally on solid ground. Then I took an epic nap. And I slept for two straight hours from Shalva to car, from car to cafe, from cafe to home where I was placed in my bed. That was a napping record for me.


Me in my speedos. This will haunt me in the future.


I was skeptical at first, but pool time = fun!

On Mondays, I have "playtime with Ayala," our friend at our HMO's (for lack of a better translation) child development center. Again, mommy sugarcoats the event. It is actually like going to the gym, but is called physical therapy. But I do approach it as playtime. I mean, Ayala has all these fascinating toys we do not have at home. Today, however, I began to show signs of a major meltdown, so we have no successful photos of this session unfortunately.

And, yet again, a mega nap ensued, thus justifying, at least in my mind my less than stellar performance at today's play date.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Short Long Run

Try as you may to entertain me, today I am inconsolable

It is Saturday, Shabbat, Day O'Rest for us here in Jerusalem. Mommy can't walk due to her "short" long run yesterday, a particularly torturous affair, and abba just pulled a back muscle dancing with me and singing along with my "Baby's First Words in Italian" CD just to keep me entertained. What a family we make as I too am suffering in my own way.

Me protesting that vile strawberry flavoured
(it is written in British) acetaminophen fever-reducer

I've been a tough critic these days. For one, I've had an eye infection (mostly cleared up now). Also I'm sporting a low-grade fever that is keeping me particularly irritable. Mostly I just like to keep my parents guessing. Once they get comfortable with my habits, I do something new to regain control of the situation. It is part of my development, both physically and mentally. Physically, of course, I'm learning new movements every day. And mentally, I'm sharpening my mind with the adults in my life, which it is good for them too, like doing crossword puzzles or learning new languages to ward off Alzheimer's. 



Fridays are when mommy goes for her long run in her marathon training program. Yesterday's was a tough one for some reason even though it was a "short" 14 miles. Somehow the 18 miler last week was not as painful. And lately, worse than the pain is the boredom - Jerusalem is a small city and mommy is starting to dread the long runs for the repetitiveness more than the physical abuse. I keep telling her to charge her iPod and download a few interesting podcasts, but then I disrupt her train of thought with my mystical communication and, while trying to decipher my messages, she forgets all about the iPod until it is time for her next run.


Fridays are fun for me because abba and I hang out in the morning and stroll around Baka and the German Colony caught up in the Friday rush of pre-Shabbat shopping, traffic jams and revelers getting in their last opportunity to eat out for a whopping 36 hours (you cannot find a free table at any cafe anywhere in Jerusalem on a Friday morning). This is our supporting role in mommy's marathon effort, to shop and wait with a hot cappuccino at the end of her run. 


It is the least we can do. :)

(And here is the article Mommy wrote about the miners on Thursday.)



Thursday, February 24, 2011

Daniel Tours Jerusalem

(To be read with austere British accent in the vein of Tolkien and Lord of the Rings...) 


As the morning sun crested over the horizon, we forged ahead, up the treacherously steep hill to the summit of ... Mordor, the mountain where one’s strength is sapped and all tension and evil converge! 


Ok, accent notwithstanding, Mordor is how my mother refers to the Old City of Jerusalem. You had to have read or seen Lord of the Rings to understand the comparison. But today, I, Daniel of the Shire, made a hobbit’s journey into the Old City where the destiny of the universe was, and is, and is to come right on this very real estate. This makes it an overwhelming place to be if not also historic, spiritual, touristic and just downright rough some times. I am not a tourist, however, today, in mommy’s “bring-your-child-to-work” effort, I did visit certain places for the first time, for example the Western Wall. 


The Western Wall (kotel in Hebrew) is the - and I’m being redundant - Western wall of the second temple, built by King Herod. It was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. Now, on the other side of the walls sits Al Aksa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Jews pray on one side, Muslims on the other. I was content to eat lunch there and pray a little as well. 


Me deep in prayer at the Kotel

My day in Mordor began with Grandma. Whenever she gets the chance, Grandma proudly strolls with me around the alleys of the Jewish and Armenian quarters, showing me off to anyone she meets. I am, after all, her favorite grandson. Well, the only one, but still. She took me for a whirl today while mommy was off stalking the rescued Chilean miners, 25 of whom are here in Israel on a tour sponsored by the Israeli government. Mommy spent the morning with them - and the entire Israeli and foreign press corp - at the Holy Sepulchre and then the Western Wall (that’s where I came in). Then mommy found them at the Garden Tomb later in the afternoon where she was the only reporter and actually had a chance to interview some of the men. Far from the media circus of the morning, the miners enjoyed a respite in East Jerusalem’s oasis of peace - the Garden Tomb. There, they took communion and spent time in quiet reflection.


Chilean Miners at the Holy Sepulchre

Chilean Miners at the Garden Tomb

To get there, my mother walked through the other half of Mordor, out Damascus Gate and onto the busy Nablus Road. To expedite her walk amid the bustling pedestrian alleys, she cut through the meat market. Remind me to be a vegetarian. She recounted to me the array of body parts she never knew existed of sundry unidentifiable animals hanging from hooks and swinging into the corridor. The FDA would have a cow, no pun intended. Mommy breathed through her mouth the entire time and picked up the pace, sidestepping the bloody pools on the cobblestone. Once she cleared the meat aisle she was well into the main artery that leads to Damascus Road.


A veritable spice mountain!
Throngs of people squeezed through the street past spice shops, video stores, an aromatic coffee shop and pastry stores. This road is navigation not for the faint of heart. Mommy, however, didn’t need to be fluent in Arabic to understand the bargain of the day: ashara and kilo were all she needed to know to buy 2.2 pounds of strawberries for about $2.75!

A strawberry mountain!

All of this explains why she didn’t take me to the Garden Tomb. The walk would be challenging for a new mother bringing along a baby. I’ll make it there someday.

In the meantime, I am convalescing at home this evening with an eye infection. And, as I am getting a bit fidgety and whiny at the moment, it can only mean one thing: bed time! So good night for now.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Pleasant Day Amidst Unpleasantries

Sixty degrees Fahrenheit and rising. Didn't anyone get the memo? I sat in a waiting room in utter disbelief surrounded by other babies, all of them bundled head to toe for the tundra. Meanwhile I was sweating in my light fleece sweatshirt. 


It was already mid-50s when we left the apartment, but these poor kids were dressed for a trip to Alaska, not Jerusalem. I had already been to the tundra, aka New York City. I guess the benefit of having experienced a real winter meant we were better equipped to dress for this phantom one in Israel. In my short life I endured three snowstorms, blizzards in fact, during three weeks in New York. Nevertheless, my mother insists that running in NY during the biting winter is still easier - sea level and flat - than any time of year on the atrocious hills of Jerusalem.


But I digress. So I was in this waiting room with the Eskimo Israeli babies when I heard a cry from one of the offices. This startled me back to reality and forced me to wonder why we were here. I'm sure mommy explained it, but sometimes she sugarcoats the facts. The baby continued screaming. Hm, something was stirring in the deep recesses of my developing brain, and that would be called long-term memory. All of a sudden, the dim lighting, the sterile walls and the pathetic children's decor in the room coupled with the baby's cries all snapped together in my brain: I was getting my RSV shot!


The RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) vaccination is an exclusive immunization for children and adults with high risk issues, like heart problems, and it costs about $1,000 a shot (thank God for socialized medicine paying for mine). Therefore, it is only for those of us who get special recommendations, for example from a cardiologist, it is only given during the winter months (each month for five months), and it is the anti-virus as opposed to other shots that inject you with the actual disease.


I looked at mommy, the panic clear in my brown marble eyes. Mommy reassured me that pain makes us stronger. But for now I prefer to join the other babies in screaming. And I did.


Afterwards mommy took me to a nice outdoor cafe and treated me to a latte while she sipped a cappuccino. I rolled around in the grass and mommy quickly banged out an article for work. Then it was mommy's turn for torture. 




Ah, vengeance is sweet sometimes. While the workers fawned over me at the dentist's office, the hygienist pried open mommy's mouth and removed a couple pounds of plaque with that torturous cold water jet. I'm sure that will help her come marathon time with the excess weight lifted. After the dentist and his assistant returned to their work, I got impatient with the lack of attention and made sure mommy knew it. By the end of her cleaning, which was fast tracked for my sake, I was on her lap while the hygienist quickly slathered toothpaste on mommy's teeth and sent us on our way.


I got a nice view of the action in the ceiling mirror from my perch in the dentist's chair.


But it was too beautiful outside to just go home and we needed to take advantage of this glorious weather. We met abba and he took me for a long stroll while mommy went for a long run. More torture for her. Only 30 more days until the marathon!

Sleepover!!

So all day yesterday and last night I was in a bad mood. I did what they call "fuss" at various intervals. I didn't give mommy my blog dictation. And I also, miraculously, took some real naps, like more than 10 minutes each. Based on this, my parents knew, something was up.


Earlier in the day, Lucie and I watching TV together
I did go to bed like the angel that I am at bedtime. However, I awoke at midnight signaling that yes, something was wrong. I had a fever! It was very low, and I'm sure the fleece swaddle contributed to the high body temperature (don't mock me for still being in a swaddle - I feel it helps me maintain my baby charm!). But nevertheless I was a little down. Immediately mommy and abba came up with some new sleeping arrangements: After coaxing some acamol (Israeli equivalent of tylenol) down my throat, it was decided that I would sleep in the big people bed with mommy, and that daddy would graciously move to the couch. He offered. I didn't protest. 


There's nothing like falling asleep holding hands with mommy. I was duly comforted and went back to sleep shortly thereafter and slept through till well after sunrise. No fever but still feeling a tad lethargic. We'll see what today holds and now let's see where I end up sleeping tonight!



Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mother Nature vs. the Marathon

Sand storm in the morning. Hail in the evening. Not a good day for marathon training. But as I am not running in anything any time soon, the weather didn't affect me. Mommy took another day of rest though. No use running in weather that can negatively impact the lungs, right? Or maybe that was simply her excuse to stay dry.

I'm learning that in Jerusalem we can have an array of weather in just one day. Today's sand storm wasn't the first I experienced in my life (third or fourth), but it was my first hail, thunder and lightning. Yesterday, however, was in the 70s, sunny and dry. Team Daniel took that opportunity to scout out a portion of the marathon trail. Here is some footage: 


The official Jerusalem Marathon video (kindly ignore the poor English both written and spoken) can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=1YlNJx97lhc


Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Secret Life of Babies

It is truly a marvel how a helpless being such as myself can completely manhandle (or Dan-handle, heh heh) two adult beings with such finesse. I must take advantage of this period of my life. I can't do much for myself, but I do possess amazing super powers that I can exercise over my parents from my prone spot in the crib. 

For example, last night I awoke several times: 1 a.m., 3 a.m., 5:30 a.m. and 7:15 a.m. to be exact. Each time I whimpered and whined and got some attention. In the morning I heard my parents hashing out the possibilities:
"Maybe he's teething."
"He could be overtired."
"Perhaps he's still upset from the hospital visit."
"Could it be a growth spurt?"
Happy, but nearing the end of my patience.
Even my grandparents chimed in with possibilities, offering all sorts of suggestions.


Yes, there are so many options, but only one correct answer. And I'll never tell. We babies have a code. I will not be the one to reveal the ancient secrets of babies, not even for the sake of my blog. How we little ones manage to run rings around our parents, or really, have them run rings around us, is surely a case caregivers, scientists, psychologists and doctors will continue to explore. Meanwhile, I know how to sleep through the night and have been doing so since about six weeks. I just like to throw them a curveball every so often to keep them on their toes.

My (happy) time is up! You try and figure out why.
Well today is Shabbat, a day of rest. And my parents certainly need some of that. So I better go! 

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Road Not Taken

Here I am overlooking the Jerusalem Forest from Sataf

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." Robert Frost

Yep, the road less traveled certainly made all the difference. It added 15 minutes and a ridiculous climb to mommy's run today. Literary as it may be to diverge onto the less traveled road, there is good reason for a well worn path. For one, it is usually the logical route between two points. It is tried and true. People who have gone ahead decided to continue on that path because it was probably shorter and easier. And that makes all the difference when running. 


Especially when you run for three hours, apparently.


After weeks of rainy gloomy weather, there is nothing like a sunny, toasty day to make you forget winter immediately, shed your jackets and go outside. So abba (daddy) and I took a drive out to lovely Ein Karem to meet mommy after her three hour and three minute run. For those of you familiar with Jerusalem, let it be known that mommy ran from our apartment in Baka to Sataf, via the hospital in which I was born. It was at the Ein Karem junction that she took the less traveled road, a rocky path that swung next to the street until it completely diverged into the forest. The forest was green and lush and absolutely scenic. Until it had nowhere to go but up. Mommy told me about the hundreds of stone steps that took her up past ancient cisterns and a Chatolitic village on the way up to the 8-kilometer trail of Sataf. Whew. Painful just listening to her.


Almond tree
In addition to the cheery weather, the almond trees are in bloom, blanketing the hills of Jerusalem in white fluff. This gives us hope for the future, and maybe even some short term motivation for a marathon because when Jeremiah sees an almond tree, somehow God relates that to him watching over his words and promises to perform them. Here's the connection (and this is especially for Henry): in Hebrew the word for almond is sheked (שקד) and the word for watch over or hasten is lishkod (לשקוד) - same root letters. The almond tree is the first in Israel to bloom and is only ready for harvest after about seven to eight months, meaning that even though it may take a long time, God is faithful and is true to his word. And I'm sure you can gather more out of that on your own.


Back to the issue at hand: running. The absolute best part of the longs runs in marathon training is when we go out for a nice "recovery meal" as my mother puts it. That's the professional marathoner lingo for what to eat afterwards. I'm not sure our menu today would make the professional list though: Pizza, cappuccino and gelato. Well, perhaps if the marathon was in Italy! I stuck to my diet of lattes for now. 
Mommy's men and her pizza

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Small Beginnings

Hello, my name is Daniel Jansezian and I am a baby.

In the first six months of my life, I traversed the Atlantic twice roundtrip in an airplane, I learned to roll over, I found two excellent and tasty appendages called thumbs near or on my body (I’m still figuring all of this out), I became a dual citizen, I lived through a major historic event - a revolution (or light military coup as it were) in a neighboring state and I’ve tasted some exquisite Italian delicacies such as gnocchi con cingale (wild boar) and cannoli cream. I’ve done a lot so far in my short life. And now, I’m blogging.

I decided to blog because, truth be told, most people do not understand my spoken language. It can be frustrating. But hopefully now I will be heard and understood as I continue to work on learning the popular languages around me.

Another reason for this blog, at least for now, is to track my mommy’s progress as she trains for a marathon. She is running in the Jerusalem Marathon on March 25. My father and I think she’s a bit crazy as she heads out in the rain to run for not minutes but hours. She explains a little bit of this madness in her letter here: 

Dear family and friends,
I will be running in my first marathon this year and have registered for the historic first ever Jerusalem International Marathon. I’ve been training since December and was wrestling with whether to do the half (I’ve done a few half marathons) or challenge myself and do the full.
I’ve chosen to run the full marathon, 26.2 miles (42 km). The main reason is in honor of Daniel, my son who you’ve probably heard about, maybe just a little :) Every day I tell Daniel, “There are no limits! You can do anything you put your mind to do.” Tony and I encourage him to do something new and something challenging each day. He is reaching milestones and impressing his biased family, naturally, but also his therapists. I figured that if I am constantly urging Daniel to challenge himself to attain difficult goals, then I should lead by example. So now it is my turn to practice what I preach and to learn what “no limits” means. 
In addition to running for the onerous challenge of it all, I am participating in this run to raise money and awareness for the organization that graciously and professionally cares for Daniel, completely free of charge. Shalva, the Association for Mentally & Physically Challenged Children in Israel, is an amazing organization. Shalva provides a loving and goal-oriented environment where children with special needs from birth through young adulthood can develop the skills required for better lives. Children are admitted to the program regardless of ethnicity, religion or financial status. Shalva means peace of mind in Hebrew.
Daniel was born with challenges. He has an extra chromosome on his 21st pair, otherwise known as Down syndrome, and he has a heart defect, which will require surgery in the next couple of months. At Shalva, Daniel receives physical, speech, massage, sensory and hydro therapy on a weekly basis at the “My Mommy and Me” program. The staff members are all professionals in their fields and are supported by an army of volunteers. Thanks to the help of God first and foremost, and to Shalva, Daniel is already recording milestones and is surpassing expectations. 
So I am running to raise support and to thank this organization for taking care of our family. I want to express to Shalva that we as Christians appreciate their outreach to us and thank them for including us foreigners in the land in their awesome care. As an Israeli resident I need to raise $500. That is a pittance and accounts for just a fraction of the services we receive. 
Will you cheer on Daniel and I in both of our training efforts by helping me reach my financial objective? 
If you would like to sponsor me, visit my running profile page: www.run4shalva.org/view_profile.php?id=137 to donate via credit card; or make a check payable to Shalva and send it to me at 114/6 Bethlehem Road, Jerusalem 93630 Israel. All donations to Shalva are 100 percent tax deductible.
The specter of the marathon (March 25, 2011) is quite daunting. Jerusalem is a city of hills sitting 2,400 feet above sea level. So I’ll be needing your prayers as much as your financial donations :) Thank you in advance for supporting me, the children of Shalva and their families, which now includes us. I look forward to sharing my progress with you!
Sincerely yours, 
Nicole Jansezian with Tony and Daniel
P.S. To learn more about Shalva, please visit their website at www.shalva.org and feel free to forward this letter and the site to anyone who might be interested in supporting Shalva. To learn more about the daunting Jerusalem Marathon, click here: http://www.jerusalem-marathon.com/