Monday, March 29, 2010

March 29, 2010 - Weighing In

Grace went to the doctor on Friday for a weight check-up and to get the results of her blood test. The really good news is that Grace gained 300 grams since her birthday (that is 2/3 of a lb) and has finally reached 8 kg (17.6 lbs). She's been stuck between 7 and 8 kg for 7 months so this is a big deal! She is also not off the charts anymore and is sitting somewhere around 3rd percentile for weight.

Her celiac test results, however, did not give us any news. It turns out that Grace has a deficiency for one of her immune system's antibodies and because of that deficiency the test was invalid. But now that we know she has this deficiency they could do another test which takes into account her missing antibodies and will give us the true answer. I have been told that people with celiac disease are more likely to be missing these antibodies AND Grace did gain more weight on her gluten-free diet...but neither can tell us for sure if she is gluten-intolerant or not. So we're keeping her on the diet (if it ain't broke, don't fix it!) and waiting a few more weeks to find out. We are also going to meet with a dietician here to try and improve her diet and eating habits. Finally, we have to find a way to wean Grace from nursing because as of right now she wants to do nothing else and won't drink anything else. This could be contributing to her not eating enough solid food. It's going to be a busy month for us, but we are encouraged to be on the right path!

Keep the weight-gain thoughts coming our way, and if you have advice to wean a particularly stubborn and addicted nursing 13-month old, please pass it on!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

March 28, 2010 - Shoes

Grace has enjoyed saying the word "shoes" for awhile now, but in the last week or so she has actually become very interested in shoes beyond just saying the word. She likes to crawl into my closet and take out all my shoes (as seen below) and has even started matching them up and bringing them to my feet in pairs. My flip-flops present the biggest challenge because I have so many pairs...but now she can match them correctly!

In the past week any time she saw a person with shoes on, she was fascinated; she would sit right in front of their feet, point to them and repeat, "shoes. shoes. shoes". Sometimes Grace wears a soft type of baby shoe but usually she is in socks or barefoot. This morning I decided to bring out all the shoes we have for her and her pink crocs from her Danish cousins are by far her favorite (also because every child in Nairobi wears crocs). She walked in them today for the first time because they are only slightly too big now and she LOVED wearing them. She couldn't stop looking down at her own feet, pointing to them and repeating, "shoes. shoes. shoes."

If this trend in any indication of our future, we may have a shoe fetish on our hands!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

March 25, 2010 - Boston on the Brain

With Red Sox hat and Harvard onesie in tow, Grace will be heading back to Boston for her third visit in May. I'm going with her for two weeks while Kristoffer is studying French IN France (it's a tough life...) and then he will join us for a third week. Since we are leaving after the first week of May and it is almost April, I figure it is not too early to start making our shopping list and planning dates to see our friends and family. It will have been 7 months since I was last home which about as long as I can go without going a little mad. We are going to take Grace to New York City for the first time and are most excited because we will see ALL six of Grace's American aunts and uncles (my siblings and their spouses) and her six American cousins as well. We are very eager to meet Baby Nora who will be six months old on the day we arrive. It will surely be a very memorable Memorial Day for us!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March 24, 2010 - Snack Time

One of my very favorite parts of our life here is living across the street from an American family who have become our very good friends. Mae and Ben are in 3rd and 5th grades, their parents both work here in Nairobi, and their golden retriever was born when I got pregnant so he and Grace literally go "way back". This family is a very big part of our daily life. The kids are the same ages as some of our nieces and nephews in the US and Denmark so for us it is GREAT to have regular access to them, and they really love to play with Grace. The parents are interesting, wonderful friends and we love the concept of being neighbors who help each other in practice (jumping the car battery, borrowing eggs, picking up pizza on Sunday night, trading DVDs, etc.).

After Grace has breakfast every morning during the week we walk across the street to say good morning to Tsavo (the dog) and to send the people off to school and work at 8:15. It is a ritual that Grace loves. She will crawl to the door and point if I am taking too long to get to it. When the kids get home from school and she hears them start to play basketball, we're over there again. Yesterday Grace was invited to have after school snack with Mae and Ben. We all know how much she loves to eat carrots hummus, but to eat carrots and hummus with her best friends while sitting outside on a gorgeous day? Life doesn't get much better.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 16, 2010 - Malu Lodge

This past weekend we took a little holiday with Kirsten and Hans to a place called Malu Lodge in Naivasha, which was a 2-hour drive north of Nairobi. It was the perfect distance to get out of the city while not running into trouble with Grace in the car for too long. Malu is essentially a big farm inside a big forest. We rented a two-bedroom cottage for two nights, which was especially cozy by the fire in the evening, and ate at their secretly wonderful Italian kitchen. There were farm animals galore for Grace's entertainment (horses, cows, donkeys, rabbits, turkeys, ducks, geese, chickens, dogs, cats) and wild animals that we didn't see too much of (buffalo, leopards, baboons, and small antelope called dik dik).

We were able to walk in the forest and bathe in a very special hot spring pool in the middle of it! We carried Grace around on our backs and enjoyed LOTS of peace and quiet. Some of us (okay, not me and Grace) went for a bike ride! It was a really special place that we would recommend to residents and travelers alike.

When we came back to Nairobi we had one more day with Kirsten and Hans. They took us out to a nice dinner on Saturday, we took them to a big pot luck lunch at the home of one of our friends on Sunday, and Kristoffer played his final two games of tennis with them. It was a hard goodbye on Monday morning...and Grace was extra snuggly with her Farmor so it almost seemed as if she knew that they were leaving. We spent yesterday being really sad without them, but we are so grateful for the 3 weeks they were here and for all the fun-joy-love-walking practice-Danish treats they brought with them.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

March 9, 2010 - Word Nerd

I am not a linguist and have never studied in what ways babies acquire language, but I have an observation strictly as a mom. Grace seems to be learning to say words in chunks: she picks up a few words that have some similarities.
  • First there were words that start with "b": bye, ball, bubble, bog (book in Danish), bil (car in Danish...she has not mastered this one but is working on it)
  • Then came words that end in the sound of "s": cheese, Jesus, shoes, keys, luz (light in Danish)
  • Lately there are words with the short sound "a" in them: quack (says the duck), tractor/traktor, cracker
  • She also has some words that don't correlate: mama (her first), hi, doggy, no, mmmmm (not really a word, I know, but she says that when she wants to eat!)...
  • ...and 4 signs that are accompanied by half-word sounds: water, milk, tak for mad (thank you for the food in Danish for when she is finished eating), and again/igen.
This is a really exciting time in her development because we just love hearing what comes out of her mouth and what language it is in! A funny story about the word "no": our housekeeper Jonipher keeps telling Grace to "stand up" by herself. If we're in the kitchen and Grace is in the middle of the floor she'll say, "Gracie, stand up! Stand up!...Stand up!" and Grace will look at her say, "no!" and then crawl away. It totally cracks us up. She is still able to take just a few steps from one person to the next but is not standing up on her own or balancing well enough to really, really walk. In good time I'm sure!


Friday, March 5, 2010

March 5, 2010 - Going Gluten Free

Instead of waiting 2 more weeks to find out if Grace is gluten-intolerant (and, therefore, 2 more weeks of her not gaining weight if that is true), we decided to start her on a gluten-free diet as of Wednesday.

So far it hasn't been as hard for her to be gluten-free in Nairobi as I feared. Some of the baby food she has eaten has pasta in it so we scratched that. She eats dairy already (yogurt and cheese) so no change there. I think the hardest part is that she normally eats a lot of whole-wheat bread with hummus and whole-wheat pasta. I did find some gluten-free bread but it tasted pretty terrible and she spit it out on the 2nd bite. She is getting rice and quinoa cakes and loves brown rice crackers (that she has already been eating for a few weeks). It was easy to find gluten-free pastas and so far she likes them. As usual, she continues to eat brown rice if it is wrapped in cheese (we call that "baby sushi" in our house)! Her baby cereal was already gluten-free and of course we're trying to beef up the fruit and veggies. Luckily she likes tofu which is safe, and she can still have her hummus. We are a work in progress, but we are determined to help this little girl bulk up!

We have been told by a few different sources that the blood test for celiac often results in a false-negative, which means it might tell us that she is not gluten-intolerant when in fact she really is. Our game plan is to take her to the doctor after being gluten-free for one month - regardless of the test's results - to see if she has gained weight. If it worked, we'll keep it up! If not, then with the doctor's help we'll move on to the next potential cause (of which I have no idea at the moment). Grace is still nursing (no cow's milk yet, at the doctor's suggestion) but we are trying to add formula to her food to give some supplemental nutrition and see if that helps with the weight gain. She really only had 2 bottles in her life (given by my mom in October when I was with my friends for a day!) and is understandably refusing them now. She won't drink the formula beyond a few sips from her cup, so mixing it with cereal and yogurt seems to be our best shot now.

If anyone has gluten-free baby-friendly recipes or suggestions...please share them here!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March 2, 2010 - Baby Steps

At one year and three days old, Grace has taken her first solo steps. Hans was helping her practice walking but she really wanted to come to me, and so with a little assistance at first she then let go and took 3 steps to me by herself! Then she did it again! Then she took 4 steps to Farmor from Hans! Then she took even more! Wow!

Before that, Grace actually had a somewhat traumatic morning. We went to the doctor for her one-year check-up this morning and the news was mixed. Developmentally, she is doing great! He was impressed with her vocabulary (she has about 10 definite words between both languages, and several more almost-definite words) and was pleased with all the things I reported on that she can do (before the steps even!). The bad news, however, is that she has still barely put on any weight. Since she was 6 months old she has only gained 700 grams which is about 1.5 lbs. His concern, he said, is not what she weighs, but rather that for 6 months she was at 50th percentile and since beginning to eat solid foods has gained almost nothing, putting her in the 0 percentile now. So. After receiving two painful vaccinations for MMR and Hep A, she got a blood test (3 shots = sad Grace, sad Mama, sad Farmor). For the fourth time in a row, she is still not anemic and has normal liver function, which are both great pieces of news. The big question is whether she has a gluten intolerance or not, otherwise known as celiac disease. It takes 2-3 weeks for the results of that blood test to come back so now we just sit and wait and keep up our efforts to pack on the pounds!

I did tell the doctor that in the last week she has eaten better/more than ever before which is hopefully a good sign. Her sleeping habits have completely regressed, though, and she is back to waking up 2, 3, or 4 times a night instead of just once. I have no idea if these things are related. I guess with a baby, there is a lot of guesswork in matters like this. We are crossing our fingers and saying a prayer that Grace doesn't have celiac disease, because it seems to be a difficult, time-consuming, and inconvenient (ok, also maybe expensive) condition that doesn't go away with time or age.

Anyway, she recovered quickly from the shots, poking and prodding and went on to take her first steps. She was pretty exhausted when her father came home from work this evening, but did manage to get in 3 or 4 more steps for his viewing pleasure. She REALLY looks like she wants to run and we are so proud!


Monday, March 1, 2010

March 1, 2010 - Visiting Machakos

On Saturday we took Kirsten and Hans to visit Charles' family in Machakos. I think it was a powerful experience for them and it was nice for us to be there again. Thank you to Hans for taking some great pictures!

Kirsten is holding baby Ellsie next to Charles' niece and his mother.

Grace, Emmanuel & I check out the water tank we bought them for Christmas. This water tank holds 3,200 liters of water that they collect when it rains. Previously, Charles' wife Janet and his mother had to walk a far and difficult distance to fetch water and do the family's washing. Janet repeatedly talked about "life before the water tank" and "life after the water tank". We are so happy to know that we made her life a little easier.

This time we brought the gift of solar panels. They have no electricity and these panels will allow them to have light in the evening so that his niece and nephew can study for school, and they will be able to charge their cell phones without paying to do it at a kiosk in town. Once Charles' gets someone to help him install everything, it should really make a difference. They were pleasantly surprised with this gift, along with the two energy-saving stoves, diapers, books and clothes we brought them. Kirsten and Hans also brought some sweet gifts for the children that were greatly appreciated.

Emmanuel had never seen bubbles before and enjoyed blowing them with Grace ("bubble" is one of her favorite words to say).

This is a beautiful view from the top of the hill that Charles lives on. Unlike our last visit, Saturday was a gorgeous day and we could really admire their environment.

We took the walk that Janet used to take to fetch water (it was long! and hot!) and met some children on our way. I am sure they were shocked to see mzungus, as we are a rare species in that area! We (me and you and everyone in the developed world) take water for granted each and every day of our lives - we turn the tap and it's just there.

Could you imagine doing this carrying large and heavy jugs of water?
(that is Janet holding Kirsten's hand)

Some very little girls carrying some very heavy water. It is a hard life to be a girl in Kenya.

We arrived at the water tap (you can see other jugs to the left of people who were there collecting water too). Trust me, taking this walk and seeing what other people go through to get a little bit of water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and cleaning made me appreciate water even more.

More children by the water, checking out the strange white people!

Emmanuel (who is 4 1/2 years old) read his homework to Kristoffer. He knows his numbers 1-10 by heart (11-20 if he looks!) and does very well on the English alphabet too. He was very, very cute and proud.

Little Miss One Year Old - who was exhausted after her birthday and cried for most of the nearly-2-hour drive to Charles' home (she is still not quite used to her new car seat) - loved eating chapati for the first time and was a very good girl for our whole visit. She thought it was really fun to play with Farmor's bracelet! And, thankfully, she slept almost the whole 3 hours it took us to get home (argh, afternoon traffic).

It was a good day for all of us, despite the fact that we were a bit tired from Grace's birthday festivities (and because she has been sleeping terribly!). It is always nice to get a glimpse of "real Kenya" and Charles' family is extremely hospitable. We managed to get away without a slaughtered chicken again this time (lucky guy) but did take home some arrow root (kind of like a potato), avocados, and eggs. We may think of them as not having a lot by the standards of our every day life, but they are extremely generous nonetheless.

This week Grace will see her pediatrician for her one-year check-up (fingers crossed that she's gained some weight this past month!) and Kirsten and Hans will visit the city of Kisumu and Lake Victoria in Kenya.