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Monday, August 29, 2011

Battening Down the Hatches - Many Firsts in my First Week in NY

"Welcome Daniel and his Parents and Sherlock
(my little bro) too."

Unless you are privy to me living in the same house as you or are my great grandparents or close family, many of you may be wondering how I did on the plane and where I have been, what new and exciting firsts have occurred in my life in the last two weeks. Perhaps you are wondering if our plane accidentally crossed the Bermuda Triangle while sojourning to America or if I am still suffering from jet lag. Or maybe you are concerned that I have been swallowed up by the lips that have been kissing me in New York or that maybe some natural disaster has sent me scurrying to find shelter.

In fact, only some of the above contributed to the reasons for my lack of journaling in the last few days. And even better excuses on top of that. No instead, it was a series of firsts in my first week and a half here that thwarted my blogging, from natural disasters to natural occurrences. In fact, I have now experienced the Trifecta of natural disasters and all in NY: blizzards (in December and January while here), earthquakes and hurricanes! Wow - who could ask for a better vacation? Well, my parents could. I've heard them mumbling and whining about the weather conditions several times so far. Anyway, I digress. Allow me to go back to my excuses for not blogging.

First I was stymied by jet lag. That took a few days, but I overcame it with aplomb. That was, of course, immediately followed by tooth lag when, for two straight nights (or was it three?), I was up all night screaming in agony, not jet lag related. And since misery loves company I involved the entire household in my all nighters. Much less graceful than the jet lag, but, in my defense, I have five teeth jockeying to come through all at the same time. Only one made it though and I am proud to report that yes, I have a tooth. And it is on top no less. The adults, naturally, didn't know for sure it was a tooth and were plying me with all sorts of natural remedies to overcome whatever was ailing me. Also, my parents kept checking the bottom row only for signs of a tooth when finally Aunt Majda was the only one who thought to brave the upper row and was duly rewarded with a sharp jab to her finger. Bingo! It might have even been there for two days and no one would've known!

Excuse my parents. My doctor told them that those swollen gums on top were not going to materialize into teeth. Moral of the story - don't trust doctors. Oh and remember that dentist who insisted it was impossible to know whether teething hurt? Fire him.

My "nap times" on Mimi and GongGong's bed
We tracked the progress of Hurricane Irene
on that swirl on my head.

These two events were interspersed by a party - my second first birthday party but my first in New York! I had lots of family - fourth, fifth and maybe sixth cousins in attendance, including the tiniest of all, a 6-week-old little darling named Viola! My parents already can't remember me being that small!

Then after tooth lag came hurricane hype. For four days leading up to the actual arrival of Irene we were bombarded by crazy media reports and frantic NY City and New Jersey mayors, governors and spokesmen canceling mass transit well before the rain even started with my new favorite Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey sternly warning sunbathers: "Get the hell off the beach!" And the rain started Saturday making me a veritable prisoner in my own Mimi and GongGong's house. Apparently we joined the fray and lost power eventually, but my life remained unaffected since I drink room-temperature bottles and most of my toys are battery operated. Well, except for my blog. And we still have no power, which is why I am blogging from Panera, another first in my life. (Not Panera - I've already visited here several time, but blogging from here is a first.)

Of course, sprinkle in my first taste of ice cream, a cupcake, an entire plate of ravioli (spinach with vodka sauce), eggplant rollatini, pasticcio, a garlic knot, polenta, Greek lamb kufta and a myriad of other items I can't quite recall.

So, first tooth, first foods, first NY party, first meeting of relatives who were just born, first hurricane, possibly first earthquake but there was also one in Israel that I did not feel and now first blogging experience at Panera (along with all the other Long Islanders who don't have power at their homes). I have so much more upon which to expound that I might have to book myself a permanent table at Panera until we get power back.

Nanni and cousin Cristine

Me with Zia Em meeting Popi

Me with Mimi

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Origins of GongGong

GongGong fed me my first ever ice cream.
That was his birthday present.
Seeing as today is GongGong's birthday, I thought it appropriate to discuss the origins of GongGong.

Do I mean to discuss his, John Schiavi's, origins? Or the origins of the Chinese word for grandfather? Neither actually - both are above my current pay grade. But I will explain, since many of you have been clamoring to know (and I don't blame you), how did mommy's daddy come to be known to me as GongGong?

It was just over a year ago when I made my lauded appearance in the world. Some, however, were still unprepared. While Grandma decided she would be known as "Grandma" from the day she knew of my existence, and Dede wouldn't have considered any other word but the Armenian one for grandfather, mommy's parents were at odds with their names. Nonni and Nonno were my great-great grandparents. Nanni and Popi are my great-grandparents. Grandma and Grandpa were my other great-grandparents who I didn't get to meet. Those names were off limits along with all of their derivatives including Nonna, Nanna, etc.

GongGong was considering the name Papa. But not only is that already taken by the Pope, it is also the word for father in several language. Mommy ruled it out thus sending GongGong back to the drawing board.

But it wasn't long before GongGong stepped into his own name. It happened on one of those days after I was born and we were still dwelling at the hospital. Mommy was on a Skype call with Mimi and GongGong. It was 1 a.m. Israeli time and she had just gone to her room after spending some time with my sleepy self. Mommy, unbeknownst to her, was in the throes of the post-birth hormonal rush when the happy endorphins that carried her for a few days after birth decided to flee all at once like the herd of pigs rushing over the cliff, as they apparently do to every woman post birth. Never mind the fact that I was under careful surveillance for health issues and a litany of bad tidings had overwhelmed my parents for a few days already. Mommy was in a state.

Since 1 a.m. in Israel is 6 p.m. that meant dinner time in New York. And GongGong was eating General Tsao's chicken, fried rice and spareribs while happily and obliviously chatting away. In either an effort to cheer her up, or simply because he thought it was funny, GongGong asked mommy if she wanted to hear some Chinese prophecies.

Mommy is well acquainted with her father's humor at this point in her life and she instantly did the math: Chinese prophecies = fortune cookies. Okay, this was where she drew the line. At 1 a.m., already sleep deprived and mopey, mommy had had enough and ended the conversation. Still incensed the following morning she told abba about the Chinese prophecies. Abba didn't quite share mommy's indignation. Instead, he decided to start googling and he stumbled across this gem: the word for maternal grandfather to a baby boy is GongGong. (Actually it could be WaiGong, but having zero Chinese roots in our genealogy we can be forgiven for this small mistake.)

And thus, the legend of GongGong was born.

Mimi and GongGong pose with their
new grandparent mugs.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Revenge: My Parents Enact Some Sleep-Time Paybacks

All sorts of new sleeping positions have been discovered recently
Tonight my parents were just waiting for me to stir at midnight. It was like a trap and I fell right into it. Sure enough I began to stir. And the funny thing was, instead of them coaxing me back to sleep, this time they put me in a new diaper, fresh clothes and the lights remained on. Very odd.

Within 30 minutes, still awake, we were in the car. I did succumb to sleep then for a short while. But then I awoke to a din, crowds and more electronic boards with lights than I have ever seen in my short life. Questions ensued as security guards spoke to us. Lines of people. Luggage checks. More lines - long lines, waiting for tickets, waiting for hand luggage checks, waiting for passport stamping. Then sitting and waiting for a flight.

Why were we awake? I could see it was still dark outside. Everything, my entire order of the universe, was thrown into utter chaos! For once, in the wee hours, no one had a problem with my wakefulness. It was quite exhausting.

I see that I am victim to a conspiracy, but at the same time I realize that, according to the chatter, I may be well on my way to conquering jet lag. After all, it was still just 9 p.m. in New York after all security was said and done and I was sitting wide awake at 4 a.m. in the lounge in Tel Aviv waiting for my flight to board. Perhaps this is a good thing.

Well, buon viaggio to me as we travel through Italy on our way to New York. By the way, mommy wants GongGong to know, for the record, that by 4 a.m. she had already kissed my head 1,000 times. And we hadn't even boarded a plane yet.

This is what happens when you fight sleep

...And then just pass out in place, head crashing to the mattress.

Monday, August 15, 2011


I am 1! 
On this day, exactly one year ago, I performed my first act of mercy, probably the first of many for my life. It was over 100 degrees out and it had been reaching temperatures like that for weeks already. So I decided my early emergence into the world would be a great act of kindness to mommy who had been carrying me through the interminable summer. Three weeks before the predicted due date, a surprise to many, I made my appearance in the world at 8:47 p.m. on Aug. 15. As a bonus, we got to stay in the air-conditioned hospital for a week, riding out the worst heat wave yet of the summer.

Since then I have had some amazing experiences. I have eaten hundreds of items for the first time; passed through innumerable phases of napping and sleeping from my infamous war with sleep to my historic treaty with that axis of evil; I have progressed from a hate to a love relationship with toys; and have worked on all sorts of modeling shots for various brands including Polo (photo below) none of which were paid gigs, however.

Me at 6 weeks. Surely Ralph Lauren wants to hire me.
I achieved various milestones including recognizing the ring for a Skype call, sleeping sitting up in my crib, quietly pooing on my grandfather and receiving a diploma at the age of 10 months when I graduated from my program at Shalva. I have met many doctors, enjoyed open heart surgery and crossed the Atlantic on planes on two round trips.

And now, for what my parents say is the biggest birthday present any 1 year old can receive, I am about to embark upon the first Atlantic crossing of my second year (although it seems to me that this present is as much for my parents as it is for me). This time, I intend to experience many more firsts including eating New York pizza for the first time. And especially with Margaret when I get to meet her for the first time!

For my Erev Birthday (in Israel holidays begin the night before, but actually we had to leave the night of my actual birthday so the day before was a more convenient party day), we had a small celebration where I was supposed to practice eating my cake. It was an overwhelming experience for me.

Practice birthday cake(s) for me (to eat)
and mommy (to make)

They expect me to touch that?! Icky.

The expectations and attention were
a tad overwhelming for me

On the verge of a meltdown...

Rescued in time!
Then onto the gift phase of the soiree.

Onto presents... this one painted by artist Jireh
just for moi! Special commission, of course.

Elan helped open my presents while I played with my feet

When he wasn't helping me open presents, Elan helped me learn to read!

On my actual birthday, I had my last day of therapy with Michal, the occupational therapist. One day I may look back at being required to work on my birthday as sacrilegious, but mommy is banking on me not remembering details of this auspicious occasion as I am only one. But to make up for the work aspect, I got more kisses and hugs than actual therapy today as Michal was loathe to part with me. Not many can blame her, so I hear.

As the year progressed I developed into my own person. I am not the baby who likes to smash my birthday cake with my hands and get messy when I eat. But I do like bath time and could splash in a bath or pool for hours. I have started to give hugs and have become very cuddly. At the same time I have also become extremely wriggly (cause for concern on our upcoming flight). I speak a lot, but nobody else seems to understand me yet. Maybe someday they will learn my language, but it looks like I am going to be forced to learn theirs.

Oh, and then there is my hair swirl which has grown and developed along with me.

At 7 days old, you can see the makings of my magical hair swirl
Now I am moving onto year two and a bunch of "news" already await me including starting "school" in the fall and a baby brother for Christmas!

So I am just zooming forward in this world. Apparently, this year has flown by for some people, but, to be perfectly honest, this was already the longest year of my life!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A New Way to Sleep

Caught in the act: supposed to be sleeping, but playing instead
Last week I discovered a new way to sleep: sitting up. Yes, after months and months of allowing my parents to live in peace, I perfected a new move designed to drive panic into the hearts of adults worldwide. And once I perfected the move from prone to sitting, I wanted it no other way. It is now impossible to keep me down. 

A cousin of mine, who long ago perfected the art of sitting up, quickly also mastered the next move - pulling up then flying over the crib handles. This shocking but brave attempt at flight landed him on the floor for which he suffered only a temporary setback. I think he has a future in avionics. Bravo, cuz!

Imagine their shock when my parents saw from a
distance this little head above the sides of the crib

After finding me in this shocking and new position, and anticipating copying my cousin as my next move, abba and mommy took a lesson from that and quickly lowered the crib mattress to its lowest level. 

We learned something new as well. They call is a safety bumper for a few reasons - I've tapped my head on the wood several times already. Ouch!

I like my new view of the world
So much easier to grab things from here
Even camera straps!
My "Jersey Shore" pose

Just too excited to sleep!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

And I Thought I Had it Bad

Note the ring of drool on my shirt
I think I said this last week, but if this isn't teething, I don't want to know what teething is. But then again, at least it isn't open heart surgery! Been there, done that. However, my friend Mattie has his today.

Mattie is about two months younger than me and he has lived in the hospital since he was born! Whew! That, I cannot imagine. Hopefully after this surgery he will be able to finally go home. Please pray for Mattie like you did for me and then Hallel. I will keep you posted, but for more in depth reports from Mattie's mommy, based in Kansas City, USA, go here:

I can't complain too much. But I will a little bit: Yesterday was a particularly grueling day as I drooled enough to fill an ocean. My thumb, other fingers and palm were sore from me gumming them all day. I moaned and travailed throughout the day and sought refuge behind a bottle or Baby Einstein Beethoven. Anything to keep the focus off my mouth.

In the meantime, however, allow me to issue a warning to the adults in my life: Stop prying into my mouth! I have established a moratorium on the "tooth watch" that takes place several times a day whether it is mommy or abba or friends of theirs who pull my lips apart and peer into my mouth in an effort to determine conclusively whether my odd behavior is being stimulated by the emergence of those pearly whites. Now I resist them by squeezing my lips shut and jerking my head back and forth wildly, making a good peek impossible.  

Everyone, of course, is hoping that teeth would mean an end to this minor disruption to my angelic behavior. However, lurking in the back of everyone's mind is the statement of the dentist who said that there is no proof that teething hurts us babies, casting doubt on whether or not there are any teeth popping through my gums at all. Then how would my latest idiosyncrasies be explained? 

Oral obsession

Sunday, August 7, 2011

My Day at the Beach

Hard to read but written in the sand around me: Daniel 2011.
The story of the beach and I.

In the third and final installment of my summer weekend series, I will tell you about my very first beach experience ever. I should also mention that, after all these fun excursions coupled with living in the sun baked desert of the Middle East, that I have a bit of a stroller tan. Have you heard of that? Said tan occurs when your shins and the inside of your thighs are rosier than the rest of your legs. It isn't an even spread over the top of the legs because, like many babies, I tend to sit frog style, so the sun is more evenly spread over my legs. Of course my face, arms and scar have been shielded due to stroller gadgets and what not, but the legs have taken on a nice summer glow.

Leading up to the epic beach day, I had wondered what all the hype was about. Are sand and sun really potential weapons of mass destruction? Am I really in danger of bites, burns and sand caked in yet-unknown crevasses? Are there bodies of water that churn more wildly than a pool of wailing babies? Are jellyfish, though they sound edible and look quite vapid, creatures that are actually mean and are meant to be avoided?

Apparently, yes.

Danger be darned, we were going to the beach anyway. Especially since we had a fan club awaiting us there including Bess, Dee and of course, Elan the brave. I will explain his fearlessness later in this post. 

The first part of the beach process involved coating me with some white cream called sunblock. I don't yet understand how a sheen of lotion could block the wrath of a whole star that dominates the solar system, but this is what people hope and do I'm told. And I was duly slathered.

Getting prepped for the sun

War paint applied. Now I'm ready for action.

Then we approached the water. And  I started to see how this type of water was vastly different than the sedate pool at Shalva. First of all, I couldn't see the end of this water, with the foreboding name of Mediterranean Sea. Secondly, it was not merely undulating with the antics of wave makers, but it was spinning in several directions. And then, as if this all wasn't enough, the water that had pounded forward onto the sand then rushed backwards, attacking me from all angles. As you can see in the photos, my initial reaction was one of due respect if not a touch of panic.

What the...???

Ok, as long as you don't let go this might be alright

Or not!

Mommy was really forcing the issue

The whole concept of the ground shifting beneath me was a tad unnerving. I guess that is where they get the expression "shifting sands." After prowling the water, but not getting too comfortable because of the jellyfish infestation, I was plunked onto the sand. Bess, ever the kindergarten teacher, mushed my hands into the sand since I was unwilling to do so myself. It was a messy affair, but since there was no going back I made my peace with the beach.

No, I did not put this stuff in my mouth. I know better than that.

And no I did not build this little mound.
I'm too new for such extravagances.

Elan is already a beach pro. Sure he has a couple years on me. But he loves the water and the adventure.

Elan brandishing a jellyfish carcass he harpooned.
Ok, well maybe it was already dead.
After the flurry of activity at the water's edge, we retreated to a safe and shaded spot further back. Here I learned about a few other beach benefits and the expression, a day at the beach. Ah yes, I can see why this beach thing can be a good idea.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

And all I Got Was this Lousy T-Shirt ... and a Goat

The goats were exciting - until I heard that Zia Em
came face to face with an elephant!
You know those famous t-shirts that people buy for family and friends as souvenirs from a trip? For example: "My aunt went to Africa and all she got me was this lousy t-shirt." Well, I don't know much about them since I'm relatively new to the world, but mommy tells me my following experience is similar on some levels.

It goes like this: My Zia Em (zia is Italian for aunt) went to Uganda this summer and she saw an ELEPHANT! Meanwhile, as part of my summer excursions, we drove a whopping 20 minutes outside of Jerusalem and I saw ... a goat. Actually hundreds of goats.

How do you compare goats to elephants? Sorry goats, but you can't.

Disappointment aside, it was good to be out in nature and get to see some four-legged creatures besides Lucie, the black and white cat who shares the apartment and avoids me at all costs now as I've improved my reach and grab.

I went with my friend Elan and we brought our parents along.

Elan and his mommy, Dee

As usual, it was very hot and dusty. As were the goats.

Elan is brave. I have a lot to learn from him!

This one especially liked mommy and had a
hard time leaving her leg behind

Off to make some goat cheese
after a tough day of eating grass

The goats come back to the farm at exactly 2 p.m. making them the only mammals in the Middle East who are ever on time. So after our exciting picnic basket lunch of goat cheese, goat cheese, goat yogurt and more goat cheese, we returned to the trail to wait for the return of the goats. And as the clock struck 2, they all came sauntering back from their stroll in the hills.



(I threw this in as proof: No comparison!)
After petting some goats and finishing off our unfulfilling picnic of goat cheese products, most of which I regurgitated, we decided to return to civilization. And we went to a restaurant to eat. 

Here we are at Focaccia.
Much more civilized.

Then we took a non-family photo. That family photo that
came in Ben's wallet (if you can see it) is not Dee and Elan.