Sunday, February 28, 2010

February 28, 2010 - More Birthday Pictures

Hans took some great pictures on Grace's birthday that I also wanted to share.

Grace instantly fell in love with the Lego polar bear she got and gave him a kiss (and then a bite!) right away.

While opening birthday gifts, a knock on our door at 7:45 am revealed a birthday serenade for Grace from our neighbors. There was even a drum and a recorder involved!

Grace checked out one of her (many) new books while wearing the strawberry hat Farmor knit for her.

Setting up for her birthday party (minus the ball pool and bubble machine at this stage).

Kenyan bees busy at work. They missed the memo that it was a holiday around our us!

The Welsien Family, 1 year later.

We have mostly recovered but are still living in the joy of the day!

Friday, February 26, 2010

February 26, 2010 - 525,600 Minutes Old (or Happy Birthday, Grace!)

At 8:38 this morning, Grace turned one year old. Happy Birthday to our sweet little girl!

We had a very special day planned for our daughter. It began with lots of singing and gifts in the morning, then a birthday party with all of her (and my) friends, and finally a dinner with our closest friends here (our neighbors across the street). I hope this sample of today's pictures gives you some idea of how Grace was celebrated today. She was a very good, sweet girl and even though she might not have totally "gotten it"...she definitely knew that there was something different about the day and she rose to the special occasion.

Opening gifts before/during/after breakfast...
(and actually throughout the day!
She had so many presents that there are still 3 she didn't open yet!)

Remembering from Christmas to rip the paper

Playing Legos with Far

Her new piano

Her "Party with the Letter B" at the poolside.
We had all of Grace's favorite things: balls, books, balloons, and bubbles!
And everyone ate birthday cake, banana bread and blueberry muffins.

Grace and her friend Molly

In the ball pool with Hayley and Eleanor

Everyone singing "Happy Birthday to Grace"

Blowing out the candle on her chocolate cupcake

She tried it...but she didn't like it (are we sure she is a Mueller?!)

Showing Far what everyone was up to

All the Moms and Babies
(missing two who were sick)

A quiet cuddle with Farmor

When the party was over and everything was all cleaned up...
Grace hosted an "after-party for one" in her ball pool

Later in the evening the celebration continued for Grace's birthday dinner
(vegetarian lasagna and garlic bread for everyone else...
macaroni and hummus and yogurt and cucumber for Grace)

The last sign Mom will make Grace pose with

I'd say she was almost partied out

A lovely dinner

You know it's been a good birthday when the party girl falls asleep at 6:00 pm while everyone else is still eating dinner!

The celebration continued after Grace went to sleep and we all enjoyed both Danish cakes that Farmor made for Grace: D E L I C I O U S! Does one of them look like anyone you know? (well, maybe when she grows some hair!)

I realized today that celebrating your child's first birthday is as much about congratulating her for her first year of life as it is about congratulating yourself. One year ago there was so much we didn't know, so much we couldn't imagine, so much we wondered about, so much we expected. And we not only survived, we thrived! It has been a year of wonderful moments of joy and laughter and pride...and also many moments of doubts and questions and mistakes (I'm sure!) and some serious fatigue. We have grown a lot as a couple in our first year of parenthood; we have grown in our love and appreciation for each other and for Grace; we have really become a family.

When she fell asleep on my shoulder tonight I couldn't help but want to hold her a little longer, to remember all of her most special moments, to keep her close to me for just one special moment more before she gets any bigger. Today was everything I hoped it would be for my daughter: a day to celebrate her magical little life that has completely changed ours forever.

We love you, Grace. We hope you had a very happy birthday!
Love, Mama

Thursday, February 25, 2010

February 25, 2010 - Preparations

It takes a lot to get ready to be one year old.

First, some of your grandparents have to come visit from far away. I wished it was all of my grandparents, but I will settle for the wonderful third that I got :)

Then you have to teach your father, who stayed home from work, how to blow up your birthday balloons just right.

Next, you have to play with the balloons to make sure they are good enough for when all your friends come over tomorrow.

Then your parents make a big deal of putting a new seat for you in the car. What was wrong with the old seat? Ok, well maybe it was a bit small. Now this one is huge! I didn't like it at first, but once they gave me some snacks I realized that it was pretty comfortable...and on our drive to the store I really enjoyed looking at the world in forward motion instead of backward!

Finally, you have to eat a cucumber because they taste so good and they make your incoming teeth and sore gums feel better.
Oh more thing...then you have to laugh because life is really good and it has been a great year.

Friday, February 19, 2010

February 19, 2010 - These Days....

Grace likes Sunday swim lessons...
...and still sneaks off to get in some quiet reading time...

...and can't seem to get enough of Luis' "Ba Ba Bamba" from her Sesame Street DVD. She actually hands me the DVD remote and says "Ba Ba" until I turn it on!

The best news of all is that Farmor and Hans arrive on Tuesday morning. I think if she knew that she'd be sitting in the driveway waiting for them!

p.s. Happy Birthday, Auntie Meghan!

Monday, February 15, 2010

February 15, 2010 - WFP Drivers

I don’t write on this blog very much even though there is a lot to say; I am afraid to share work related issues as this is a public forum. However, there is one thing that I have wanted to write about for quite some time.

At WFP we are always on the move. Everything seems to be an emergency and sometimes remembering to do one small thing during the workday can make a difference for thousands of people. This is very satisfying and can also be very stressful.

Anyway, I think this is one of the reasons WFP has a number of drivers: to allow us to work as we move through the country. We have many drivers in our Nairobi office and in every sub-office around the country. The drivers make sure vehicles are ready to drive all the time in terms of maintenance and fuel, and often they also coordinate our security escorts and report over the radio our position every hour for security purposes when we are in the field. They deliver messages/letters and drive throughout the day. It sounds easy, but it is not; it is actually a tough job. It entails driving where there is often no road, always feeling pressure from the staff to be at a certain place in time, coming in the morning before everybody else and often leaving after everybody has gone home. Just sitting in the car for 5 days will make you completely exhausted as you are continuously hoping up and down and shaken from side to side.

When I travel to the field I spend 5 days with the driver almost 24 hours every day. I have tremendous respect for our drivers who manage somehow to drive fast but only to the point where it is safe. They can drive over 80km per hour on a dirt road and get through rivers and rocky terrain. When I travel in town or outside town I always ask them a lot of questions and they give me a good picture Kenya from a Kenyan’s perspective.

In terms of vehicles, WFP swears by the basic Toyota Landcruiser. As a WFP staff member I have grown to love this vehicle. Many years ago WFP also used the Landrover Defender (Landcruisers and Defenders are the toughest, most serious 4x4 vehicles in the world); however, the Toyota proved to be more durable so now we only have Landcruisers. I remember going on a field visit with two World Bank officers some time back. They had a huge Toyota luxus SUV with every option imaginable. The cool looking World Bank driver was doing great until we hit the rough road. Our vehicle with WFP staff was in front leading the way and I was in the World Bank vehicle explaining our programs to the officers. We were short of time as usual and the WFP Landcruisier flew through the terrain like a fish through water. The World Bank driver struggled to keep up in this huge luxus vehicle and almost slid of the road one time. The WFP vehicle would continuously stop and wait as we were moving along. During this experience I realized how crucial our drivers are and what a difference they make every day.

On the way back when we hit the paved road I switched to the WFP vehicle and the World Bank Driver, who must have been embarrassed, rushed back to Nairobi. We only saw the tail of their car for the first 2 minutes of the trip and then they were gone. He was driving irresponsibly fast ,which I have never seen our drivers do. Needless to say I am very proud of our drivers and our entire “transport unit”.

I am also proud to say that WFP has the largest percentage of female drivers in any UN organization in Kenya and they are all excellent. Unfortunately, one of our long time drivers (10 years with WFP) passed away last week. She had a short-term illness and went to the hospital, “where she lost the battle for her life”, as our Country Director put it. Her parents are also deceased, she was not married but had some siblings in the rural areas, who I am sure she was supporting though her UN salary. She left behind two children. We had a prayer ceremony for her at work on Friday and I realized how much it hurts when WFP loses a family member.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

February 14, 2010 - Hands On

Last week Grace did her first "art project" to give her father a Valentine today. It was not easy to get two decent hand prints because she tried so hard to eat the paint off of her hands! But she managed, and Kristoffer was pleasantly surprised this morning.
We celebrated Grace's first Valentine's day with heart shaped mini-pancakes for breakfast, streamers and red balloons. Maybe I'm just getting her ready for her first birthday celebration!


Saturday, February 13, 2010

February 13, 2010 - Some Things Never Change

Kristoffer & Grace (5 days old)

Kristoffer & Grace (50 weeks old)
In the absence of anything too new and exciting going on in our lives right now, I thought this was a pretty cute comparison. Just in time for Valentine's Day tomorrow, Grace has this love completely wrapped around her little finger.


Friday, February 5, 2010

February 5, 2010 - Our Little Peanut

Grace has been a bit under the weather this week. On Tuesday she had a high fever that slowly has improved over the week, but her temperament and eating/sleeping schedule have suffered a great deal. This is the third mysterious virus she's gotten since November and I don't know if that is normal for all babies or is just particularly common in Africa?

A trip to the doctor's on Wednesday also revealed that Grace hasn't gained any weight since she was at the doctor's before we traveled to Denmark for Christmas. This is a huge bummer because we have been trying really hard to pack on the pounds! She did grow taller and remains in the 50th percentile for height, but at less than 17 lbs. (7.5 kg) she is between 0 and 5th percentile for weight. We are feeding her 5 times a day the following things: whole grain breads and pasta (and brown rice when we can get her to eat it), fruits and vegetables, hummus, tofu, cereal (again, when she'll eat it), yogurt and cheese (her new favorite thing...I guess because she can say it!). She drinks water and is still nursing for at least a few more weeks. The doctor said not to change anything that we're doing right now and that if she hasn't gained any weight by March 1st (her one-year check up) then he will probably test her for some allergies, because apparently some allergies present as a lack of weight gain. As far as we can tell, she seems very healthy. She doesn't look too thin and has plenty of "baby fat" on her thighs/legs. Her development is right on track for her age: crawling, standing, cruising, climbing, trying to walk, starting to talk, good hand-eye coordination, recognizing shapes and colors, etc. We are hoping that this is just a case of Grace having a high metabolism, and that she will be tall and slim! At this point, she really is our little peanut. We will continue to keep our eye on it and try to bulk her up before she turns 1 at the end of the month.

No other interesting news from Nairobi for now. We'll see what the weekend brings.

Monday, February 1, 2010

February 1, 2010 - Talking

Grace was not an early crawler and will not be an early walker. She tends to be right on the mark for "average" for most developmental milestones (although do remember she rolled over on the sofa at 3 weeks old), which is perfectly fine for us. BUT we do think she is quite verbal for her age. Have we ever had a baby before? No! So be warned: this could be just more of "first time parents thinking their baby is incredibly brilliant but really their baby is actually just like everybody else".

This weekend Grace was really trying to say some new and interesting words, and was pretty successful. Rewind a little bit to note that she could already definitely say Mama, Bye, Hi and consistently make the right noise (woof woof) for a dog. Her attempts this weekend were so clear that we actually knew what she was saying, if not perfectly:
  • water = "wa" (said while trying to make the sign for water and pointing to her cup)
  • cheese = something that sounds like "chs" (repeatedly said pointing to the cheese that Kristoffer was eating because she wanted some too)
  • flower = flow (pronounced like the actual word minus the "er", while pointing to flowers all around her)
  • ball = pretty much "ball" exactly
AND...are you ready for this one?...
  • Jesus
Yup. That's right. Kristoffer was giving Grace a bath last night and she was playing with her Fisher Price Little People Nativity Set (we're not exactly sure how the religious people became her bath toys, but they did). After first drowning Baby Jesus and then throwing him across the bathroom, Kristoffer was trying to teach her to be gentle to him. He has been doing this for months: rubbing the cheek of fill in the name of the toy/stuffed animal/real life person and saying "a-ay...a-ay..." in a gentle way. So when Kristoffer was doing this Grace took Baby Jesus back from him and pet him lightly saying her version of "a-ay", which was more like "ah-ah". Kristoffer was very proud of her for doing this and said something about being nice to Baby Jesus. Then Grace said what sounded like "Jshus". I was brought in for a consultation after she said it a few more times because he just couldn't quite believe it, and it DEFINITELY sounded like the real name to me too. Although I do admit that her version of "cheese" and "Jesus" sound similar, we think it is pretty amazing that she is actually starting to talk.

She is often trying to make the sounds of various animals: "moo" for cow, "maeh" for sheep and lam (Danish), "øf øf" for pig (Danish), "pip pip" for various birds and also "vruum" for things that go like cars, bikes, planes and trains. Kristoffer hopes that some more of her words come out in Danish (her "Jesus" was definitely a mix of how it is said in both languages); in fact, when she started saying "cheese" Kristoffer was really pushing for "ost"!

We are very curious to hear what she'll say next.
Sorry if this is the most boring blog you've ever read...but we are really impressed!