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Monday, November 21, 2016

Breaking News! Albert Pujols Meets Me, Daniel in Israel!

In a bit of breaking news from this side of the world, baseballl star Albert Pujols, three-time MVP and 10-time All-Star, met me yesterday in Jerusalem!

He scooped me up as if I were a hanging curve ball
begging to be launched into the bleachers.
Here I am, sandwiched by amazingness! Dee Dee and Albert Pujols!
And he didn't just meet me and shake my hand, but he scooped me up in his arms and requested someone take a few photos with me. Yes, folks, you read this right. It's not everyday that someone gets to meet famed baby blogger Daniel, but this legendary baseball player did and he recognized greatness when he saw it. Which is probably what makes him great!

The truth is, despite my spin on this situation, I was absolutely enthralled with my new hero. As soon as I got back to school after this amazing encounter, I ran around with mommy's phone showing everyone the pictures of us together. And honestly, it wasn't just Albert, but the true powerhouse of the family, Dee Dee, who stole my heart.

This power-hitting duo bring life wherever they go. All MLB stats aside, here is the real reason  Albert Pujols is my hero: He and Dee Dee are always helping and advocating for people with Down syndrome, a cause close to my heart for genetic reasons. While most people are looking for ways to bring an “end to DS” through detection before birth, the Pujols are trying to help those of us with Trisomy 21 to lead better lives and to help us fit more aptly into the accepted version of society.

I think that is amazing. They know about such challenges firsthand: The Pujols’ eldest daughter, Isabella, is 18 and has Down syndrome.

The couple visited Shalva National Children’s Center in Jerusalem yesterday. Shalva is my old stomping grounds. And being one of the few Christian graduates of the program, I had the honor of welcoming and hosting the Pujols, who are also Christians.

About 40 percent of Shalva’s participants have Down syndrome. The new 200,000-square-foot  center, where I will probably return for the after-school gram in a year or two, includes an inclusive park for all types of children.

The Pujols weren't content with just touring Shalva: Albert gave a 5-minute batting clinic to two participants as well. And several autographs. And made several children and quite a few adults (such as my parents) very happy!

Can you see my shirt? "Future MVP" standing with former MVP!
"And a good day was had by all." Go Pujols!

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Greatest Birth Story Never Told

This is today.

This is -3 years ago, -2+months before due date

This is -9 weeks before due date, or Day 2 and counting.

Her insistence on an early birth earned Raia lots of fun wires and tubes
that we all wanted to play with ... and a lot of TLC at the NICU addition to other sorts of attention.

Pure and innocent as the wind driven snow. For now.

A few months after her very early birth, Raia was declared by doctors "up to speed" with her chronological age rather than having to pro-rate her development according to her preemie age. She was 6 months and she had caught up to "normal" (as if there's such a thing as normal)* as a half-year-old baby in weight, height and milestones. 

Today, on the celebration of her 3rd birthday, we can start to measure just how much she has surpassed "typical"* 3-year-olds in our family having perhaps the most extreme personality of the mix here.

Princess. Running back. 

Raia has far outpaced us, her brothers, in size, in independence and in attitude compared to us at her age, and sometimes even at our current ages. 

Size. Without abandon she has tossed 3T to the wind, busting through her age size already while Lucas, 4 years 10 months, is just now retiring those. 

Independence. While Lucas and I still willingly put out our arms and legs to allow you to dress me, Raia has been insisting on clothing herself for about a year now, after she picks out her own clothes, something Lucas and I never even knew was an option in life.

Self-potty trained before age 2. Enough said.

Attitude. In her short three years, Raia has pioneered such acts as the shoulder shrug which indicates, "no" without words. Emphatically. Defiantly.

While Lucas and I fling ourselves into the arms of strangers - pretty much anyone, anywhere, anytime - Raia holds back, analyzing the situation and giving the person the up-and-down several times. Unmoved by the display of affection and all the attention it gets us, she plays hard to get with aplomb.

The complete package.
Stubbornness. I thought I had perfected the stop, drop and roll move of resistance when being asked to do something or go somewhere I didn't want to, but then Raia took it to a new level. She stops, drops and planks whipping her body into a rigid log and instantly doubling her weight so as to prevent physical intervention by an adult.

Tough Love. Or Aggression? Raia's running hugs (when she does hug) are made with the same force as a linebacker rushing a quarterback. Lawrence Taylor, move over.  

She shows heightened mastery of "selective listening" and, like an undercover agent, pretends she hears or understands nothing said to her by teachers, friends and even parents.  When it suits her. Why didn't we ever think of that?

And then there is the side glance, better known as the side glare - the smoldering look of death that speaks more than words: a warning, a threat.

Raia must be strong to survive. Third child, ruminator and mommy's girl, Raia is a crucial member of our threesome of unstoppable and wild mayhem. We love her so much with each new day. But we never could've imagined how the tiny preemie, lying innocently and demure in a tiny hospital incubator, would someday become the force that she is today. 

Although we should've known that when she busted her way through to a two-month early birth. Silly us.

Happy Birthday, Raia!

Look out teenage years!
* in this blog, we use the terms "normal" and "typical" loosely

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Glory of the Time Change

Bright as the noonday sun!

...even before the sun rises!

...and at all times!

Seven days later and we are still reveling in the glorious time change to the winter clock.

We changed our clocks over here one long, sleepless week ago. Lucas, Raia and myself are enjoying the change of time and the extra hour it has afforded us in our day to squeeze the marrow out of life and to awaken the dawn itself! 

Our party usually begins at 5 am, and is in full swing no later than 5:30 - well before the sun peeks into the night sky. We try to entice our neighbors to join the fun by building tall wooden block towers on our laminated floor so that when they come crashing down, everyone in a square block radius wakes to the jarring fear that an earthquake has occurred!

Then, after being reprimanded for that, we enjoy other fun activities such as opening and slamming windows and doors, scaling our cabinets like a veritable climbing wall, sneaking iPads and then fighting over them (two iPads to three kids is unfair), all until my parents - who have woken up countless times throughout the short night to take care of us - drag themselves from bed to put out fires, turn down the volume on the iPads, calm us with food, make lunch, clean and dress us, pack our backpacks and corral us down the stairs to cars and then to school.

It’s been over a week now, and we are milking this like jet lag from a 12-hour trip to New York and a seven-hour time zone change. Actually, we have been known to kick actual jet lag after four sleepless nights. This is surely a whole new record over a mere hour difference. 

So to all of you babies just changing your clocks now, we welcome you. Enjoy that extra hour. Rise with gusto and act as if it is your normal wake-up time, because, essentially, it is! Especially if you don't read clocks yet! Have no fear: You will have no less energy at night as per The Law of Babies. You will, however, be superbly cranky for your hour less of sleep, not that this matters to you as a baby.

Meanwhile your parents, who in their pre-parent days viewed daylight savings as the gift of one extra hour of sleep, will now realize they've been robbed of not just 60 minutes, but several days worth as they rise, with no good reason, earlier than usual. 

Revenge may come their way in the spring when the clocks go back and we are suddenly waking up at the mid-afternoon hour of 7 o’clock in the morning. But we always find our way back.