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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Turkey Coma

If this is what Thanksgiving is all about, then I am very thankful to be (at least half) American!

Pumpkin spice latte! Yummy in my bottle!

It all started wonderfully: a day off from school which meant a late-morning sleep-in with mommy and abba, followed by a delightful treat - my morning bottle filled with pumpkin spice latte (minus the espresso)! Yum yum! I wonder if this means my Christmas bottle will have egg nog. 

Then I stayed with Grandma for a couple of hours of spoiling fun while mommy and abba slaved over the hot stove preparing turkey, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows, pumpkin cheesecake and hallah bread. In the evening we hauled all that food to Elan's house where we had a lovely meal including Dee's garlic dee-light mashed potatoes, gravy, more turkey, stuffing and apple cranberry crumble plus Bess's string bean casserole, more turkey and stuffing, quiche and blueberry pie. I stuffed myself like a little oven roaster turkey until there was room for no more. Quintessential Thanksgiving, so I'm told. A turkey coma ensued shortly thereafter - another tradition so I'm told - and I passed out on abba's shoulder.

Ok, so hallah bread isn't usually on a Thanksgiving menu, but in Israel, Thanksgiving occurs on Friday instead of the traditional day, Thursday, in America. Since most of us are already off from our regular activities on Friday, that is apparently the day chosen by ex-patriates to partake of the holiday and it coincides with Shabbat dinner, thus hallah instead of rolls or cornbread. 

On my way to becoming a stuffed oven roaster of my own 

Thursday was a regular day here. I went to school. Mommy and abba worked and then we spent hours on Skype watching the family in America partake of the Thanksgiving feast while our mouths watered. And there was no parade here either. 

But mommy tried to get us all in the holiday spirit nevertheless. To prepare us for this day, mommy spiced up our bottles of milk and coffee and read me a book about the story of Thanksgiving. She played Christmas music and let the turkey aroma waft through the apartment. 

Hanging out with Dee

I revere Elan, especially for his entertaining expressions
We also found - not easily in this country - a turkey baster. Abba thinks he found a new use for it. I, for one, will allow only a certain person, sympathetic to my cause, to deal with my ever-running nose. Ephraim, my friend from school, has also had a bit of a runny nose. On Thursday at school he took some wipes and cleaned my nose for me. He was much more effective and gentle than my parents or teachers. So, seeing as he is in tune with how babies prefer to get their noses wiped, I let him. And now I protest ever the more when I see mommy and abba approaching with tissues or the evil aspirator.

Abba thinks the turkey baster would
make a good aspirator. Truth is, my
mucous sure could fill it these days.  

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Spy Games

Remember the pudding incident?
We went for round 2 this week.
I've noticed a particularly disturbing trend. Mommy, ever the curious reporter, always asks me how my day was, how was my ride to school and what I did during the day. I like to keep this all a secret, of course, as do most babies (and later as teenagers), to maintain some privacy from my parents. However, lately mommy stopped asking. And now I know why: It is what I call The Spy Book!

Every day I have been unwittingly ferrying to and fro, concealed in my backpack, a little black book. Okay, its more like an aqua-colored notebook, but nevertheless, this book, which shall heretofore be known as The Spy Book, is passed furtively from my parents to my teachers and then from my teachers back to my parents. I have been the courier of this notebook in which my teachers communicate secretly coded messages to mommy and abba and they write back. And, t make matters worse, it is all about me spilling all my secrets from the day in black and white.

I found this out when one afternoon mommy, in unrestrained glee and impatience, read one of the entries aloud as we were at a red light on our drive home from Shalva. I was shocked and horrified! It contained ALL of my activities for the day including everything I ate, whether I took a snooze or a bottle or sneezed, who I played with and whether I drank from a certain cup or another. That is when it dawned on me - They are spying on me! I can't do anything without it being reported to my parents. Not only that, but my teachers provide photographic and video evidence of things I've done in school, as you see here in this blog.

I am at an unfair disadvantage: While I can write these blogs fluidly, I still can't read. So I had no idea what was going on behind my back. This daycare is more like secret service prep school - for my parents, that is.

To top it all off, one day last week, mommy and abba had a secret meeting with the directors of the school and all of my teachers, therapists and girlfriends. They presented to my parents a multi-page report card with ALL of my doings from the beginning of the school year up till now and all their intentions for me in the next few months. And all of this occurred behind my back.

Despite my vow of silence and need for secrecy, my privacy has apparently been shattered and my secrets exposed. Now mommy and abba know that I do eat food with my own hands, even using my pincer grasp. And now they expect me to do so at home, thus foiling my designs to remain a spoiled baby at home as long as possible.

For example, the following series of photos contains proof of the hand-food issue. This is sort of like an unofficial part two of a prior, disastrous round of trying to goad me into using my hands to eat. Do you remember the pudding incident during my first week of school? If not, see this link for video footage of the catastrophe. They tried again, and this time I even got a little messy. Should this be considered progress? Or should it, as mommy cringes, be considered regression to a new level of baby messiness?

I decided to give the pudding another chance

I inspected it closely, further considering
what to do about the situation

Okay, why not?? I acquiesced in grand style,
as you can probably see.

Bravo to me!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Hear ye, oh Hear Ye

It may not be my hearing that needs testing. After needless worry about my impending sedation and hearing results, mommy and abba discovered that today's appointment was the PRE-test checkup, not the actual ABR. Somehow mommy and abba both understood it wrong (or maybe the secretary really did explain it wrong - we'll never know). So what awaited us today turned out to be merely yet another audiology test along with a visit to an Ears, Nose and Throat doctor.

Or, should I say, a dietician? I believe I lost about a kilo today. That would be 2.2 lbs. And that was in ear wax alone. Yes, the dutiful ENT had the job of helping improve my hearing by removing the hardened wax that has been adorning my small ear canals. Lots of it had been calling my ears home for quite some time now. Not only did the ENT insist that now I'd hear like a champion, but he also said my previous hearing test scores were actually stellar and he saw no reason for an ABR. He added that there was no way I should undergo this test anyway with the rivers of mucous swimming around in my head. What a nice guy! Disaster averted for the moment.

I'd rather be here today, at school,
in a pool of colorful balls, that I can eat

Well, all his niceness wore off during the wax removal. I do not understand why mommy actually pays to have treatments done involving wax and the painful removal thereof. Ouch. The nice ENT-turned-tortmenter stuck some knife-like object into my ears and pulled out the crud leaving me in a crying - nay, wailing - heap on the bed. This did not bode well.

When we went back to the audiologist for a follow-up hearing check - the old fashioned method of them calling out silly sounds from speakers located in a soundproof room - I merely sat facing forward and glared at the door through which the audiologist exited. I refused to acknowledge the sounds, my name being called or any noise at all even the loud ones that were designed to make me jump. I was stoic and stubborn. I decided I would not participate in any more of these tests. All I wanted at the moment, especially after the wax extrication, was comfort, a bottle and a nap, please. Now.

Instead, of discerning that I was on strike with these silly games, the hysteric audiologist insisted that now I hear worse! And for punishment he measured my tympanic membrane thus causing more wailing and need for comfort. I pretty much cried for the next 10 minutes straight while depositing a liter of snot on mommy's shoulder until a bottle and a nap in my stroller were finally provided. In the meantime the ENT and audiologist duked it out and rescheduled my appointment for an ABR until many months from now. And that came with a wink from the ENT who said he'd give me a good once over beforehand to avoid any unnecessary testing. Despite the torture, I kind of like this guy.

My new morning look these days: dried snot and teary eyes

The day wasn't a total loss. One, I lost the excess wax weight. And two, the drive to the hospital was sort of like a practice run for when my baby brother decides to make his entry into the world.

And then, to make up for a dreary day, we had breakfast for dinner - a strictly American concept - replete with scrambled eggs and pumpkin pancakes. I believe that is also American - adding pumpkin to anything, especially in the month of November. I am certainly not opposed to that.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

At Least I'm not a Shark

When God posed the question "can a nation be born in a day?" what he actually was asking, using brilliant symbolism for what seemed impossible but could happen miraculously was: Can a baby cut all his teeth in one short period of time like in the same week or the same day even? And the answer is, apparently, yes! 

Not only I am plagued by the plague of some anonymous virus that is producing oceans of mucous that stream from my nose, but now I also have swollen gums and a veritable pending eruption of teeth, as the doctor put it. What a word: eruption. The word pending is also significant. It makes the whole matter worse since there is no predicting exactly when the teeth will cut through and the misery will be over. This could go on a long time. 

My gums are currently swollen to record levels. Enough to warrant a trip to the doctor to make sure I was "normal." I am but the answer was not satisfactory.

Remember that famed dentist who told mommy that it was unproven that teething hurts babies? Well, its a good thing he retired. Otherwise our next appointment was going to be with him to perhaps teach him the error of his ways. 

It could be worse. The great white shark can cut up to 50,000 teeth in a lifetime! That is some awful teething. No wonder sharks are such unhappy creatures. We would all be ornery predators if we had 50,000 teeth breaking through our gums. Of course, they do that over the course of their lifetime, but no lifetime is long enough to justify that many teeth or that much teething. 

Completely unrelated to teeth, tomorrow I have a hearing test. For this, I have to return to my very own hospital and undergo some sort of sedation. Then my brain waves will be tested for whether I can hear whatever it is they are going to play. The reason they have to do this is because, as a baby, I do not indicate by raising a hand or saying "yes I heard that sound" whenever I hear a sound. Actually, they don't even ask me as they just assume I won't tell them. 

And also, just to further trick the professionals, I have already mastered the art of selective listening. So the professional audiologists cannot determine whether or not I heard some of their random sounds played through speakers in a soundproof room since I don't react to them. And why would I react to their non entertaining and cliche beeps and buzzes? But play a significant sound, like, for instance, turn on a television, and I will hear the soft electric pop of the appliance being ignited. 

Oh well, maybe they will learn tomorrow. 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Going Viral

Under the weather and not quite at my cutest 
With the onset of school in my life, one thing was inevitable: shared germs. I have fallen victim to my first "virus," which has rendered me massively congested for more than two weeks now.

In fact, the endless mucous stream coming from my nose, and promptly wiped onto my cheeks, has also served to give me dry patches of skin on my face. I sort of look like I'm trying out for the circus with bright red orbs of clown makeup on my previously kissable cheeks. That's not really funny though.

I generously shared said cold with mommy and abba like a revolving gift that has gone around the household like a peace pipe. Mommy can't take medicine because of the looming presence of my baby brother, so we are suffering together and setting records for tissue usage.

Me during better days at school, although the
red cheek thing was just beginning to form.

This morning my parents took me to the doctor for the third time in two weeks to question him yet again about the possible cause and/or solution for this cold of mine. His prognosis was grim: It is going to be like this on and off until May 2012. In other words, please stop wasting my time coming here with petty issues like a runny nose, especially one with no accompanying fever.

Mommy thinks the overused diagnosis of "virus" is just a medical ploy to not do anything to help. And to top it off, we babies are not allowed the pleasure of decongestants. We are forced to weather these things alone with just our fledgling immune systems to guide us through. Slowly.

Tasting an orange, or being plied with
vitamin C in hopes of getting me better.
Adding to the problem, the doctor added, is the Israeli penchant to send their kids to school sick. So even if mommy and abba keep me home until I am well, I will still be privy to another baby's parental neglect. We were just overjoyed to hear all this great news on a Sunday morning.

But one thing this cold has done for the positive: It has solidified my identity as an Italian baby. Sure, the gnocchi should've been sufficient, but in true Italian nature, and upon the advice of grandparents and generations past, mommy introduced to me three words and two food items have helped to shape who I am: pastina and chamomile tea.

Pastina is a pasta/soup comprised of very tiny stars. Mommy, taking a cue from Mimi, made me some in chicken broth. And the other item, as prompted by GongGong, has been bottles of chamomile tea (or, la camomila) with honey.

I also have found that a key thing, which should eliminate the need for the dreaded aspirator and saline drops for my stuffed sinuses: When my nose is very runny, the best place to wipe it is on mommy's and abba's shirts. The glisten that it adds to their outfits is something they should be thanking me for.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ciao, Popi

Had I written earlier, I would've been thanking all of you for your prayers for Popi, my great-grandfather, and reporting the success of his treatment. He weathered a week of procedures and tests and was released from the hospital with almost flying colors. But, sadly, Popi died just three days later.

In keeping with all my "firsts" that I have been encountering as a baby new to this world and just over 1 year old, this is my first big loss. I had the opportunity to meet Popi during three big trips to the US from another continent. The first time, I - in the flesh - was Popi's surprise birthday present for his 89th birthday on Nov. 1, 2010. I was just shy of 3 months old and I flew under the cover of darkness from Israel, shrouded in secrecy, to surprise Popi on his birthday. Boy, am I glad I had the foresight to do that. My only regret is that I couldn't do that as well in 2011.

But we did, thankfully, go to New York to spend quality family time in August and September when I was privy to lots of Popi time and even a glimpse into his astounding life. There was a huge soiree in his honor and I even got to sit on his lap during parts of this party (see previous post). Talk about a seat of honor! Not even at his right hand, but on his very lap.

Visiting with Popi in New York

I got a lot of lap time

I learned this hand gesture from Popi. Loosely translated
it means "mamma mia." Or "oy vey" depending on
which language and country.

Mommy didn't post my blog regarding this sad news for a few days. She was hoping distance (us being in Israel and the events taking place in NY) would diminish the reality of this, or perhaps bring word that this wasn't true. But today is the funeral. We have sent a letter to be read during the service, and I am posting it here. (And here is a link the the obituary that was published in the Gazzetta di Parma, all the way in Italy!)

Peter Spagnoli
Born: Nov. 1, 1921 in Borgo Taro, Italy
Died: Nov. 7, 2011 in Long Island, NY

Dear Popi,

I am sorry that we can't be here today with you and with all of our wonderful family, friends and paisans. I would love to see all the people who are here, many that I probably don't even know since your life extended so vastly into different areas. I am sure many hundreds of people have come the last few days to pay their respects. You have touched so many during your abundant life, and the cross section of people who have come today and yesterday is a testimony to the legend that you are.

We caught a glimpse of that on September 10th when people lined up to honor you for your contribution as an accomplished accordionist. It was astounding and eye-opening to us, your grandchildren, to see your life outside of the family sphere, the one in which you were a magnetic entertainer and band leader and easily the most popular person in any room you entered. 

But for now, I will focus on the role in which I best knew you, as Popi - father of two, grandfather of four and great grandfather to one with one on the way. I am eternally grateful that you played the accordion at our wedding and that you met your first great grandchild, Daniel. These are treasures I will carry forever.

As the family's patriarch, you set the tone for a strong and amazing family life. You taught us much and have left us an incredible legacy. 

Your generosity was marked by an extravagance and humility that is a rare combination. With a marriage that has lasted more than 60 years, you have shown us the meaning of commitment at a time where the word has lost its value. 

You showed us by your example how hard work is the main ingredient to success and fulfilling our dreams. You came from a small town in Italy and lived through the Great Depression, yet you picked up an obscure instrument and musical style and fashioned a career with them, bringing joy to so many while you were at it.

You gave us music. Some of the family has inherited your ear and ability, but all of us have inherited the joy and dancing that comes from a music-filled life. It has added a happy flavor to our lives and our family.

You passed on to us a heritage of which we can be proud. When you took us to Italy -- twice -- we connected with family and places that have made us all who we are today. 

Just like the moon directs the ocean tide quietly in the background, you taught us all this with your actions, not your words. 

It is difficult, if not impossible, to sum up your legacy if not in a book, so I will have to stop here. 

But, if I may say, your response to "Popi, how are you?" will be one of the things I miss most, simply for its factualness: "Still here," you would always say. That was my favorite answer - because as long as you were saying it, it meant you were still with us.

I wish I could hear those words right now. 

But I always will treasure the memories, moments and examples you have given us and pass them on to your future generations.

With love,
Nicole, Tony and Daniel - and one on the way - in Jerusalem

I love you, Popi.

Ciao, and shalom.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Heralding the Greatness of my Great-Grandfather

Today marks an auspicious occasion - it is the 90th birthday of my great-grandfather Popi, known to many others as Pete Spagnoli!

My great-grandfather Popi and me,
his little protege accordionist
*Note: this blog post contains many exciting videos and links, plus a special note regarding Popi at the end!
Popi and I are soul mates separated by four generations. Though we are currently the bookends of our entire family on the Spagnoli side - he is the eldest and I am the babiest - we have so much in common.

For instance, we are the ones who say the least at family dinners opting for hand gestures to communicate what we need to say. Once upon a time, Popi talked more, and I certainly have those proclivities for the future, but for now we parse our words and use them sparingly. Also, we both walk only with assistance. And it isn't a bad deal either as others do the hard work and we enjoy extra attention.

Back in his heyday as a famous accordionist and bandleader, Popi was easily the center of attention everywhere in the Big Apple from musical gigs and Italian restaurants to family settings. Now I, as a famous baby, am also already an accomplished attention grabber as well. In fact, if we are in the same country, we seem to be in friendly competition for attention, which is good for both of us still honing our skills. 

Obviously, I have inherited his charm. Popi is already the most popular resident already at his new home after just three months. All the aides there, pretty young women, are enamored with him. Same with me at school. From female babies my own age to the young women who teach the classes, they are all wrapped around my delicious little fingers.

I hopefully have inherited his musical abilities, but that remains to be seen. I have been known to dance to a beat, tap to the rhythm and respond to music before even my own name. And now I have an accordion too. We shall see if I rise to his level of musical prowess, but even so, I have a deep appreciation and respect for the famed Italian Valtaro music that Popi performed in the tri-state area.
My first trip to Magnanini's

... and my first wine tasting! (Not really.)
Ultimately, what sets us apart from the rest, is our magnetic personalities. On September 10 of this year Popi was the star in a room of more than 200 people at Magnanini's Winery in upstate New York. Actually he was the reason for the party, which was planned in his honor for his contribution to the American accordion scene and more specifically for his advancement of the particular type of music he played, Valtaro, which hails from his birthplace, Borgo Val di Taro in Italy. (A place also famous for Porcini mushrooms!)

In keeping with the rest of his life, Popi attracted a large crowd for this party and had a constant queue of Pete Spagnoli enthusiasts lining up at his table. I was honored to be one of his many devotees who lined up for a handshake. Even better, I got what no one else in the room did - a nap in the arms of Nanni right next to Popi! Talk about getting a seat of honor.
Mid-dinner I recharged for the rest of the festivities,
oblivious to the din and chaos 
I'm at peace with Nanni and Popi wherever that may be.
Even at LOUD Italian parties.
How special and timely to be in the US for this occasion, which was like an extended family reunion of our family, paisans, fans of Popi from the past few decades and even an Armenian accordionist (not me!) from Connecticut, to round out my own heritage. A representative from the municipality of Brogo Taro presented Popi with a commendation from the mayor himself! It was an august moment to be sure. 
The commendation all the way from Italy!
The music of the day was coordinated by Popi's star pupil who is now a famed accordionist and bandleader in his own right (not to mention he played at the all-important wedding of mommy and abba), Dominic Karcic.
Me surrounded by musical greatness - Dominic and Popi
I'm learning a few notes already!

I am ready to start practicing on my very own accordion 

This instrument is a bit more complicated that I thought.
Plus it weighs way more than I do.
It was a five-hour event that began with a walk near the vineyards, a tasting in the wine cellar, a lot of food and ended, ultimately, with very full stomachs, relieved only by incessant dancing. Apparently all this is normal for Italian occasions. Mommy said you can expect each course - and there are five - to take about an hour since it is interspersed with dancing and wine. 

But every moment was beautiful and cherished. Even my nap. 

Finally, if I may, I'd like to make a birthday request for Popi to all of you: Please keep Popi in your thoughts and prayers on this occasion. While today is his special day, it is sort of an un-Happy Birthday. He is spending it in a hospital and, of all days, is scheduled to go through an uncomfortable scoping procedure. I pray that he weathers it with grace and aplomb and that all the results come back with good news. I wish I could be there to add to his charm and let it pervade the hospital, but I'll be sending vibes from Jerusalem for now. 

All the best, Popi, and may all the happiness you have sown in your 90 years come back to you today! I have a lot to live up to, that is for certain. You set the Spagnoli bar very high!

The Spagnoli clan, from 1 to 90!

Here are some entertaining videos of the music from that day:

Note Popi tapping away on my play accordion - the notes are still alive and well in those fingers! 

More great music and all of us soaking it in.

Here is a wonderful version of Tutti Mi Chiamano Bionda (Everyone Calls me Blondie),
a family favorite and Valtaro classic. As you will see, we can all barely 
contain our silliness that this song (and the wine) seems to draw out.

You can read more about Popi's history and accomplishments here. ( This great article was written by Mimi, another writer/musician in the family. 

And, if want to practice your Italian, Popi made the cover of the Parma Gazette (Gazzetta di Parma)!! His cousin, Carlo Spagnoli, called from Italy to say he saw the article while drinking espresso in the friendly piazza of Borgo Taro, so we found the article on the internet. What a small world!