Thursday, June 26, 2008

athens

a little while ago, we were mentioning to some friends (who live in america) that we were planning a trip to greece.

"why are you going to greece?," they asked.

answer: "because we can!"



one of the best things about living in europe is how we're already in europe, so when we want to travel it's quite easy. just hop on a train and get a beer in belgium! drive to switzerland and hike a mountain! fly to italy and eat some pizza! and, most recently, take our first family vacation to GREECE!

once again, the reason we were able to go on this awesome holiday is because adam had a conference in athens. (that's usually always why we get to go to wherever it is that we're going -- because adam has a conference/meeting/workshop there.) so gracie and myself, along with one of my best girls from college (elizabeth), all hopped a plane to greece to hang out for a week. it was especially wonderful that elizabeth got to come with, because we've been friends for ages and i don't think that the two of us have spent any serious time together since before we moved to holland. it was just a wonderful happenstance -- she called me one day and said, "hey, i have been given a very generous gift and i would like to use it to come out and see you. how about sometime late may/early june?" at first i was going to say, "no that won't work because we're going to greece." but then i was all, "oh! why don't you come to greece with us?!" so she did, and it was awesome, and i'm really grateful that we got to spend so much wonderful time together. it had been too long!

okay, but back to athens. it was gracie's first time on an airplane, and it was therefore our first time travelling so far away from home with such an itty bitty. we were both really nervous about the air pressure and her little ears, and i kept having visions of her getting a terrible ear infection from all the circulated air and then our vacation would be ruined because we'd have a sick baby who didn't feel well enough to leave the hotel room and and and... but she did AWESOME! (as usual!) we sat next to a really nice man from manchester, who gave us the best advice ever when it comes to travelling. he said, "you know, i remember my first plane trip with my children. they ran up and down the aisles, and i thought that they were just bothering everyone on the plane, and i was so worried about everyone else. don't worry about them," he said. "they've all had kids too, so they know what it's like! just be concerned about your children, and don't worry about what other people are thinking!" it was EXACTLY what we needed to hear! but really, what is there to worry about when you're travelling with mary grace briggle? she's soooo cool and easygoing. she never fussed at all the entire trip. to get her ears to pop, i nursed her on take off and landing. and when she got bored one of us would take her to the back galley and let her look around. and then 3 hours later, we were in greece and everything was fine! she's such an amazing kid!

our hotel was located in the plaka district of athens, which is very touristy with lots of shops and cafes, and walking distance from most of the major sites in athens. athens is a pretty sprawly city, but fortunately almost everything that you'd want to see is close to each other.



so after we arrived, we basically went straight to the hotel and relaxed. we didn't go out and do much that evening since it was such a stressful day for mary grace, and we didn't want to overexert her. adam and elizabeth went out and got us some takeaway dinner and we sat in our hotel room and watched tv and just chilled out while we planned our next few days in athens.



the next day, our first full day there, elizabeth, gracie, and i went on a bus tour of the city. it was quite easy to do, since the bus stops only 5 minutes from our hotel. we bought tickets on the bus from the very friendly driver, and then he gave us a map, and we took off. it was unlike any of the bus tours i've been on before, where we're usually on a fancy doubledecker bus with a tour guide telling us what we're seeing. in this case, it was a regular city bus with a tape recorder that would say, "on your left is the temple of zeus, which took 650 years to build." and then that would be about it. it was pretty basic, but it was air conditioned and the tickets were only 5 euros. so that's good!



halfway through the tour, the bus stopped at a museum. this was the point in the tour where the driver got to take a break, and everyone was asked to get off the bus for a short while. we were told the tour would start up again in about 20 minutes, so elizabeth, gracie, and i did a little postcard shopping, got a bottle of water, and took some pictures. then we got back on the bus and waited as it was close to the time we were supposed to leave again. but a different driver got on, and she said that we were supposed to get on a different bus because this one wasn't going to be in service anymore. or something. so we got on that bus, and we took off. but we only got a few blocks before the driver said, "i'm sorry, but the street is closed ahead because of a protest. you're going to have to get off here and take the metro back to wherever it is you want to go." ha! so we all got off and walked about a half kilometer to the metro and went back to our hotel, after only seeing half of the tour. no partial refund of our ticket, no alternate route. just "walk that way to the metro." funny! but that's okay -- it was a nice day and it gave us an opportunity to see more of the city by foot.

meanwhile, adam was presenting his paper at the conference, which was all sorts of messed up due to the protest. the conference was being held at the university, and there were supposed to be three different sessions happening all at the same time, with time for discussion after each presentation. but because of the demonstrations, which were taking part at the university, the three sessions were combined into one, so each person had only 10 or 15 minutes to present his or her ideas, and then sit down and the next person was up to talk for another 10 or 15 minutes. that's it. so it got really jumbled and wasn't very much fun because no one got to ask their questions or discuss their reflections. poor guy! he travelled all this way for a philosophical discussion in athens, and he gets shut down due to some student protest! ah, well.

so after he presented his paper, he kinda realized he wasn't going to get much else out of the conference. so he ducked out at lunchtime and met us back at the hotel. we all decided it would be fun to see the parthenon, on top of the acropolis, but we didn't want to rush ourselves since there were so many other wonderful things to see along the way. so we stopped for some lunch of lamb gyros and mythos beer, and saw a very small, very old church (why are almost all the churches in athens so small?), and wandered about the narrow streets looking in the little souvenir shops. mostly we just took our time getting to wherever it was we were going, since this part of athens had so many interesting things to look at.

we saw the roman agora, which used to be used as the main market square about 2,000 years ago. there was also this neat tower which was about 50 years older than the rest of the roman agora, which was built when greece was part of the ottoman empire. it was like a combination clock/calendar/observatory, and must have been pretty solidly built because it was the only complete structure in the roman agora. this is adam standing in front of it.

we also saw hadrian's library. hadrian was an emperor in the 1st century CE (or something like that), and he built a library which was kinda more like a community center i guess. i thought it was just soooo cool that the library ruins were just sitting there, in the middle of the city, minding their own business while everything new and modern was sprouting up around it.

(the only reason i know about any of this stuff is because the fabulous elizabeth actually thought ahead and learned some greek from a tape at her local library, and brought along a travel guide which was extremely useful and practical and helpful. yay, elizabeth and her trusty travel guide!)

we realized that we were already about halfway to the parthenon, so we decided to go the rest of the way to see it as long as we were in the neighborhood. but, since we were on "greek time," we really did just enjoy our walk and decided not to be in a hurry. we stopped at a cafe halfway up the hill to cool off with some fresh-squeezed lemon juice (not lemonade, but lemon juice! powerful stuff! yow!) we kept running into a bride and groom, getting their pictures taken with the parthenon in the background, and we stopped at a little church (again, the little churches!) to light a candle and say prayers.



well, by the time we got to the top of the hill and saw the entrance to the parthenon, it was already 5:30 or 6:00 pm. and they were literally closing the gate the very minute we got there! we just enjoyed our walkabout so much that we totally lost track of time and didn't realize how late in the day it was! oops! so we headed back to our hotel, adam and elizabeth got some more takeout while i gave gracie a much-needed bath and got her ready for bed, and we spent the rest of the evening just vegging out and watching american tv with greek subtitles.



okay, so now it's day two of athens, and we decide that if we want to see the parthenon, we better get our butts up there first thing in the morning so we can be sure to see it! since we already knew the way there, it didn't take very long before we were purchasing our tickets and making the final ascent up the acropolis to the magnificent structures on top. first we saw the dionysus theater, which is still used today for concerts and other shows.




then we saw the parthenon, which is the temple built to the virgin athena (parthenos) after she defeated poseidon. because of her victory, the athenians named their city after her, and built her this magnificent temple on top of the acropolis.





but, just so that poseidon (and the other gods) wouldn't be jealous, the athenians also built the rest of the gods another, separate temple also on top of the acropolis.





they were doing some restoration work on a lot of the structures there, so there was a lot of scaffolding around and people chiseling and dusting and reconstructing things. but it didn't even matter to us, because these temples were so magnificent anyway that it was easy to look past all of that. and how cool would that be to be the person that gets to go to work every day on the parthenon? to touch those stones and study the way the building was put together! oh! that would be such a cool job!



later that day, adam and i left gracie in the hotel room with elizabeth, who was sweet enough to volunteer to babysit. the two of us walked arm in arm through the quiet streets of athens, and finally ended up at a sidewalk cafe right next to the roman agora. the acropolis was all lit up, and we chose a table with a good view of it all, and we had our first glass of ouzo (an interesting and complex mix of flavors including mint, fennel, lime blossom, anise, and the slightest hint of hazelnut). it was such a treat to walk in the cool night air with my hunnybunny, and to gaze up at the beautiful acropolis set against the dark greek starry sky! how romantic!



finally we come to our last day in athens, and we have quite a list of things to see and do! first stop was the ancient agora, which kinda served as downtown athens back in the day. socrates hung out there, as did saint paul, so it was an especially historically and spiritually significant site for adam, elizabeth, and myself. gracie and i took some time to rest in the cool breeze of the marble columns of the museum there (now i totally understand why the ancient athenians built so many public spaces with these marble columns, because it creates shade, which helps to cool the breeze as it passes by), and adam and elizabeth wandered about and got up close to see the temple to hephaestus (the god of technology, blacksmithing, etc.). after they came back about a half hour later, gracie and i joined them on their explorations and we saw another little church (another little church!) and took many pictures amongst the ruins.



after the ancient agora, we made our way via metro and foot to the national gardens, a beautiful and surprisingly quiet greenspace in the midst of this huge bustling metropolis of athens. as we came out the other side, we found our way to the temple of zeus and hadrian's gate. (the temple of zeus is seen in the first picture on this blog, with the four of us standing in front of the big columns.) it was a really magnificent structure, and only part of it was still standing --i wonder what it must have looked like when it was finally completed! it was INCREDIBLY hot that day, so gracie and i found a plastic lawn chair hiding behind a tree and sat in the shade. we took off all of her clothes and i gave her something to eat, since i was pretty sure she was dehydrated from all the heat and acitivity. it felt really moving to be nursing my infant daughter at this temple, sitting on the very grounds and doing the very same thing that athenian women have done since antiquity.

we hung out at the zeus temple for a good long while, resting in the shade, and then backtracked a little ways to get to the presidential palace. it was on a surprisingly quiet street, and it was in the shade, so we stayed there for a little while while we waited for the changing of the guards.

the changing of the guards happens (we think) once an hour. and for good reason, because i think standing in the hot greek sunshine for much longer than an hour would be really unhealthy and dangerous! the soldiers have to do these really slow-motion yoga-meets-ballet moves, which look really difficult given the awkwardness of their shoes and the heat of the day. but they did it, in time with the other soldier, and it actually did look really graceful. this picture was taken not in front of the presidential palace, but in front of the tomb of the unknown soldier.

the end of the day had finally come once again, and as usual we found ourselves back in our hotel room. i nursed gracie and got her ready for bed, and adam and elizabeth got some more takeaway for dinner. we packed up and got to bed early, since we were catching a very early ferry to the island of mykonos, in the aegean sea. though we were sad to leave the cultural and historic sights of athens, we were all really excited to hang out on the beach for a few days and COOL OFF! we needed it!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

ohmygoshsomanyvideos!

wow! soooo many videos for you to enjoy!

i know it's been a while since we've posted much here -- we've been busy travelling and haven't had much time in front of a computer. but, all good things are worth waiting for. so to satisfy your patience, dear fans and readers, i'm posting like a brazillion videos here. i hope it was worth the wait!

this first video is a very short clip of gracie during a diaper change. she has been doing these motorboat sounds for the past few weeks, and adam tried getting a snapshot of it cuz it's so freaking cute. but gracie has this funnyannoying habit of stopping whatever she's doing as soon as you pull out the camera. so in this video she's doing the motorboat sound for the first 3 seconds, and then she sees that the camera is out, so she stops it and looks at the camera and doesn't do anything else. i suppose it's only a matter of time before she's totally hamming it up in front of the camera, so this is probably going to be a pretty rare video of her.

this video and this video are both of gracie playing in the morning. one is just her, and one is her with the church bells ringing in the background. every morning after she gets a diaper and eats a little something, she comes downstairs and kicks and plays for a while. this gives us time to eat our breakfasts, check our email, get dressed, etc. and it's good for her to kick and move her body after sleeping for so long. it's a nice morning ritual that we've worked out between the three of us.

every night as she gets ready for bed, adam changes her diaper and plays with her on the changing table. and then i come in and nurse her until she falls asleep. here is a clip of her playing with daddy for a few more minutes before it's finally time to go to sleep.

and in case that last video of us playing kissy face wasn't enough for you, here is 15 seconds of more of that good stuff.

gracie loves her bathtime. like LOVES her bathtime! here's a short video of her kicking and splashing up a storm in our hotel room when we were in athens earlier this month. notice how at one point she is splashing so hard, that she gets a face full of soap and water and it fills up her eyes and nose for a moment. but, unlike some babies, she doesn't fuss and cry. she just kinda slows down for a second until the soap clears out of her face and then keeps going. this is SO TYPICAL of gracie's personality -- very energetic, very playful, and very brave and easy going. she's so cool!

it's difficult to get out of the house to exercise with an infant who is still so young. so occasionally gracie and i get will put on some african music, and i'll bounce around in the living room with her. it's amazing what a good workout i can get just by dancing around with 20 pounds strapped to me! here she is bouncing with me as adam holds the camera. sorry this video is so shaky, but adam was bouncing next to me too. since gracie was laughing so hard at the situation (bouncing with me while simultaneously watching her daddy bounce), adam wasn't relaly watching what he was doing with the camera. he was looking at gracie instead. so that's why the video is all shaky!

this final video is one of my favorites: gracie and i are playing on the floor and she is busy talking and making her motorboat sounds. she's so active that we try to do some tummy time at the end of the video, because she has just recently learned to turn over and we were hoping that if we put her on her tummy she might flip for all of you. but she didn't. maybe next time!

whew! good stuff! i hope you enjoy all of these!

Monday, June 16, 2008

consultatieburo, month 4

16 june 2008:

hi, everyone. we just got back from the consultatieburo a couple of hours ago, and i wanted to give you an update on gracie's progress.

we saw the nurse this time (the same one who came to our home shortly after gracie was born to do an intake and to meet us both) -- it seems like each time we go to the buro, we swap healthcare practitioners. one time we will be with the pediatrician, and then the next time the nurse (who i learned is named inge -- she said it so fast the first time that i didn't catch it, but when she introduced herself to adam, who had never met her, i learned her name again), and then the next time is the pediatrician, and then the nurse, etc. they both give the same level of care -- the pediatrician gives gracie a more thorough examination, checking her hips, spine, heart, etc. but otherwise it's pretty much the same. they're both REALLY friendly and very helpful, and answer all of our questions, no matter how silly the questions are, in a very thorough and patient and caring manner. i love them both!

the buses are still on strike, but lucky for us we live only a few kilometers from the hospital and the day is nice here. a good late-spring day, with lots of sunshine and clouds and a cool breeze and blossoming flowers and trees. so we chose to walk, instead of calling a cab. it only took about 35 or 40 minutes to walk there, so it was some good exercise and fresh air for all of us. we would stop occasionally along the way so gracie could admire the pretty gardens as we passed them. some gardens had very low fences and bushing flowers that hung over the edge, so that they were right at her eye-level when she sat in the stroller. it was neat to see her reach for the pretty flowers, and when she let go and the branches would bounce about, she just thought that was the coolest thing ever. it's so amazing to watch her learn how to interact with the world. we also saw some roosters and hens near the consultatieburo, as the hospital and surrounding healthcare buildings are kind of at the edge of town. so we stopped to look at them for a while, which was also pretty cool. it makes me wonder if gracie might like going to a zoo this summer -- but i'm not sure how i ethically feel about zoos, so i'm torn. i think she'd probably enjoy it, but would i? and would the animals? hmmmm...

okay, tangent.

so we got to the buro and got her undressed, as is usual. the assistant (who is also extremely friendly and sweet and knows just enough english to make us feel welcome) weighed and measured gracie and got our next appointment all set up for us. gracie's growth has slowed down a little bit in the past month, but she's still at the top of the charts. as a reference, she was 3.9 kilos when she was born and i think 53 cm??? i think? i don't remember, i was a little preoccupied when they gave me the numbers. (8.6 lbs and 21 inches) anyway, as of her 3-month checkup she had doubled her birth weight. this time she tops the scales at a hefty 8.65 kilos (19 lbs!!!) and 69 cm (27 inches). what a big girl!

we told the nurse about gracie's developmental milestones in the past month -- most notably that she rolled over for the first time yesterday! woohoo! she rolled over from her front onto her back three times yesterday (what a nice father's day present!), but still has not rolled from back to front. she can get as far as rolling onto her side when she is on her back, but hasn't seemed to figure out how to go the rest of the way. but the nurse was happily surprised, because apparently that's not "supposed" to happen until she's about 6 months old! way to go, mary grace!

even though gracie was tired (she didn't get her nap before we left because we had to leave early because the buses are on strike, as i said, and the walk was so entertaining for her that she didn't want to close her eyes for a minute!), she was playing happily with nurse inge and kicking her legs and turning in circles on the mat in front of us. we talked about when to start her on solid foods, what to expect from a jet-lagged baby (we leave for america soon!), and about gracie's nap schedule (which isn't much of a schedule since she really only takes catnaps during the entire day -- but since she's always happy, and DOES fall asleep when she's tired -- it's apparently very healthy and normal FOR GRACIE, and that i shouldn't be worried that she doesn't sleep for hours at a time at a very predictable time of day. that's just how mg likes to take her naps.).

and then... it was time for her shots again. i believe this was the last round of the shots she has been getting for the past few months (Hib, pneumococcus, DPT, and something else i think...). the nurse said that if gracie gets sick/run down from the inoculations, that she should be healthy again in a few short days. a good thing, too, since we're leaving soon for our flight home! i held brave miss mary grace on my lap and sang to her as she got her shots. adam was on binky and blankie duty, ready to hand them to her as soon as she was finished with her shots. the poor thing! she cried and CRIED for the first one (of course, because she was tired too!), and calmed down for a second, but then SCREAMED right before nurse inge injected her again with the second shot on the other leg. that surprised me, because she was actually able to ANTICIPATE the shot coming -- inge hadn't even poked gracie yet when she started to cry, cuz she knew it was coming. oh! it made me tear up a bit too, which of course made gracie cry even harder. poor baby girl!

we got her dressed, and i sat in the waiting room and nursed her a little bit to help calm her down and put her to sleep. she drifted off almost right away and adam was so helpful and got us all packed up and ready to go while i fed her. then we put her in the stroller and walked home, and she slept almost the entire time. she played very happily and energetically when we got back, which gave adam and myself time to eat some lunch. then adam changed her diaper, went to work, and gracie is now napping peacefully on the couch next to me.

our plan for the rest of the day is to take it easy, take a nice, warm, relaxing bath before bed, get a yummy massage, and go to sleep. (oh, by the way, she slept until 8:15 today! yay! adam and i got like 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep last night! woohoo!)

anyway, gracie is healthy and HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY, and adam and i are excited and thrilled to be heading back home soon, and to bring gracie with us too!

love,amber, adam, and mary grace

consultatieburo, month 3

may 19, 2008:

hi, all. just back from the consultatieburo and here's the scoop on our day so far:

gracie for some reason woke up last night about 3:45 a.m. and it took us FOREVER to get her back to sleep. not like her at all! she sleeps through the night 95% of the time, so we were not really expecting that. she finally fell asleep sometime after the sun got up (maybe about 5:30?) and slept until 8:30 this morning. she's been in a good mood, very playful and giggly, and has eaten well all day.

we took her to the consultatieburo by taking the bus out there around 1:00. we had her weighed (almost 7.9 kilos/17.4 lbs -- she was 6.5 kilos/14 lbs last month -- and she has doubled her birthweight, which babies are supposed to do by the time they are about 4 months old i think) and measured (66 cm/26 inches -- last time she was 61 cm i think? so she's grown another couple of inches since then), and the doctor saw us this time (last time it was the nurse). she is such a great doctor, she really took her time answering all of our questions and i didn't feel rushed at all. i remember that when we first went to the consultatieburo, we saw the same doctor, and i remember thinking as we left how happy i was with her, and how glad i was that she was in charge of our baby's health. she's just wonderful! she even had the kindness to re-examine our chart to talk to adam about his work. (we were talking about how gracie notices EVERYTHING, and really takes it all in, and the doctor said something like "just like her parents, huh?" and adam said "well, more like her mother. i don't notice as many things as amber does." and at that moment the dr. checked the chart nonchalantly and saw that adam was a philosopher at the university, and said, "yes, but you are searching for things in your HEAD, while amber is searching for things with her EYES." it was very sweet and personable for her to do that.)

the dr, upon very first glance of our daughter, said that she looked very healthy and was glad to see she was so big and tubby and attentive. she said that mary grace is very good at engaging with other people and grabbing objects, and said that soon she will be noticing her hands a lot more, and that by 6 months old she will be putting almost everything in her mouth. she listened to her heart, felt the soft spot on her head, checked her hip joints, and examined the strength of her neck. all normal and healthy!

after our zillions of questions, and after the exam, the dr. prepared the inoculations for gracie. same as last time: DPTK (diptheria, polio, tetanus, and pertussis) and Hib (some sort of nasty flu virus that can cause meningitis and other bad things), and another one for Pneumococcus (another nasty virus that can cause meningitis, and i think inflammation of the pericardium, and other scary things). one shot in each leg. last time, i went alone and grace laid on the examining table during her shots, and she screamed and cried, and i screamed and cried, and it was all very traumatic and horrible for both of us. this time, however, adam came with, and i was able to hold gracie in my lap during her shots. she was NOT happy with the first one, but cried less for the second one, and as soon as it was over, she stopped crying entirely! what a brave girl she is! adam said he felt like he was going to faint from all of the drama in the room, but he did good. gracie and i are proud of him :-) she did SO MUCH BETTER this time around, and i was surprised at how UNtraumatized she was from all of this. it was so typical of her: as soon as the annoying/painful/upsetting event (whatever it is) has passed, she's back to smiling and giggling again. what a great kid!

we got her dressed again and caught the bus home, and were back in our neighborhood by 2:30. we went to the bakery and picked up some more diapers and a few other things at the drugstore downstairs, and then came home. gracie ate really well when we sat down on the couch, i had a lekker salmon sandwich for lunch, and now she's playing on the floor, kicking those tender legs around and grabbing at her dangling toys. she's in a great mood! it will be naptime soon, and tonight we'll give her a nice, warm bath before bed, to help relax those sore muscles in her legs.

so, that's the scoop. she's growing, she's healthy, and she's happy. we are blessed!

love,amber, adam, and mary grace

consultatieburo, month 2

7 april 2008:

hi, everyone. i just got back from the consultatiebureau with gracie and wanted to give you an update. sorry, but it's a long one!

let me start off by first bragging about how awesome she is. she's totally awesome. she has slept through the night TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW and always wakes up in a happy, playful, jolly mood. (i do too when she sleeps that long!) she's incredible. today adam and i woke up at about 6:15 to get ourselves ready before mary grace woke up, since we both had busy mornings ahead of us. by the time i was done showering and getting dressed it was almost 7:00 and mg was just starting to wake up. adam changed her, i fed her, and by 7:45 she was downstairs playing in her bouncy chair. this gave both of us time to eat and check email while she sat and played happily. at 9:00 i fed her again, because i knew if i didn't feed her then, then she wouldn't get another chance to eat until after 11:00, and that was going to be too long for her. she ate really well and started to drift off, which was convenient because i wanted her to take a little snooze before we got to the consultatiebureau anyway.

adam has an all-day meeting today, so he wasn't able to come with us. but he was nice enough and supportive enough to hang out with mg and me and walk with us to the bus at about 9:45 before he had to head in to work. since his meetings didn't start until 10:00 he wasn't too terribly late. (thank you for your help this morning, addy!)

caught the bus at 10:00 so that we'd be on time for our 10:30 appt. when we got there, i undressed her just like last time and had the assistant (who was the same nice lady as last time) weigh and measure her. gracie now weighs 6.5 kilos (14.3 pounds) !!! even the assistant was all like, "WOW!" she was 4.8 kilos last time we brought her in, in early march. seriously. how is it possible that mg grew nearly 4 pounds in a month? what a healthy girl she is! she is now 62 cm (nearly 24.5 inches), so she's gotten longer too. she also measured her head, which has also grown an additional 2 cm. on the charts she is surpassing the 100th percentile -- not that that matters, because steady growth is more important than how big she is compared with other babies. but we sure are happy with her progress! what a strong, healthy, happy baby girl she is!

this time we met with the nurse, and not the doctor. last time we were there, the doctor saw us and basically gave mg a physical exam, but this time we saw the nurse. she is the same nurse who came to the house shortly after gracie was born and asked me a bunch of questions about my pregnancy and delivery, and how gracie is eating, and if we are breastfeeding, etc. at that time she made a chart up and brought it with her. i didn't know that she was also the same nurse at the consultatiebureau, because i thought maybe that was her ONLY job, to just take the charts. but she works at the consultatiebureau, and it was nice to see her again because i think she's a really nice lady, and i like the continuity of care.

so the nurse (i forget her name, how ironic...) took us into a different room and examined gracie. (PS, mom: the nurse remembered you and asked how you are, and said that she's sure you must miss mary grace a lot because when she met you at the house she could tell that you were so sad that you had to be leaving so soon. anyway, she sends you all the best and thinks that the songs you sing to gracie over voice mail are a GREAT idea!)

she checked her developmental progress by testing the strength of her head and neck, she watched gracie track her movements, she would get gracie to interact with her by having her smile, talk, giggle, etc. she said she is right on track with all of that stuff, and was impressed by how strong she is already. then i asked a bunch of questions and she was soooo sweet and patient with me while she answered them all thoroughly.

and then... it was time for her shots.

gracie got her first round of immunizations today. she got her DPT (diptheria, pertussis, and tetanus) and for something called Hib (i think it's for meningitis), and also another shot for "pneumococcus" (something to do with pneuomococcal infections like meningitis, pneumonia, and other things that i don't know about which i'm sure are quite bad). she was so brave, and i think i cried more than she did. the nurse held her leg very strongly so that gracie wouldn't kick, and she said that THAT'S why she was crying, because she didn't want to be held so tightly. but i could tell that when she stuck gracie with the needle, she did flinch and startle, and would start to cry. but she was sooo brave! i held her afterwards and walked around the room to calm her down. she was sweating because she was crying so hard! poor thing! when i set her down, i noticed her face was wet -- from her tears or mine, i don't know -- and that her chest was red too. at first i freaked out because i thought she was having a bad reaction to the shots, but then i remembered that adam also gets a red chest when he's upset or stressed out too. and gracie was having the same redness in the same area! isn't that neat, that she has inherited that from her daddy? we hung out for a few more minutes with the nurse, just to make sure that gracie's body was okay with these shots, and she seemed to be just fine. in fact, by the time i was putting her clothes back on her, she was already smiling and laughing again. what a trooper!

it's possible that she might get a slight fever this evening, and she may be cranky or sleepy for the rest of the day. right now she is napping downstairs (i want to keep an eye on her today so she's sleeping on the couch next to me) and just by looking at her, you'd never know that she was minorly traumatized this morning. the nurse recommended a nice warm bath before bed to help the muscles in her legs relax a bit, and possibly some children's paracetamol (it comes in a suppository form! yikes!) if she is fussy and uncomfortable. but i think a little breastmilk and snuggling will probably do the trick too. (but still, just in case, i think adam might pick that up from the pharmacy around the corner on his way home.)

we caught the next bus at 11:15 and i stopped by the bakery on our way home since she was asleep in her stroller. i fed her when we got back, she finally made a poo which i changed, and put her in some lighter clothes since the sun is out and things have warmed up considerably since we left the house this morning. she finally fell asleep around 12:45 and is still sleeping now.

so, that's the scoop. she's healthy, and even healthier now that she's got her shots! our next appt is may 19 (the anniversary of our engagement! awwwww....) so i will be sure to send out another update then. hope your day is beautiful!

love,amber and mary grace

consultatieburo, month 1

after realizing that MORE than just the grandparents and godparents might be interested in this information, i've decided to post updates about gracie's growth and progress in this blog. here is the email that i wrote for gracie's first appointment to the consultatieburo when she was 4 weeks old. i'll post the other updates separately. enjoy!

march 3, 2008:

hi, everyone! today was gracie's first "consultatiebureau afspraak", or consultation bureau appointment. at the consultatie bureau, they check her progress every month or so -- similar to what your family doctor would do for a child, giving vaccinations and doing the physical exams and such. if gracie ever gets sick, we call our "huisarts" (our family practitioner), but if we have a question about breastfeeding or teething or the quality of her diapers, etc, then we call the consultatiebureau. but if she has a fever or diarrhea or is otherwise ill, then we notify the huisarts.

anyway, we took her to the consultatiebureau today. we took the bus there and knew exactly where it was located because it was the building right next to where our midwife office was located, nearby the hospital. when we got there, we undressed gracie and the assistant weighed her and measured her length and the circumference of her head. then we wrapped her up and tried calming her down (she was sleeping and then we undressed her and handled her with our cold hands and she was NOT pleased) and then saw the physician lady.

the dr. lady was suuuuuper nice and spoke very good english, and really really took her time with us and answered every one of our questions thoroughly. we were both really pleased with her. she checked gracie: listened to her heart and lungs, looked in her eyes, checked her skin, opened her mouth, felt the bottoms of her feet, palpated her glands, examined her bottom... i think that's it. she did it all. and everything looks good!

gracie now weighs 4.8 kilos (10.6 pounds!) and measures 58 cm (23 inches). she was 3.9 kilos (8.7 lbs) and 53 cm (21 inches) when she was born, so we're really pleased at how much she has grown. she is at the top of the charts for growth, but still in the normal range. i suppose it helps to have a baby that's already 2 weeks "older" than other newborns her age. plus she's a REALLY good eater (nurses for about 30 mins at a time!) and sleeps really well too.

we asked the dr. about gracie's pimples since she's been breaking out lately. we wondered if my milk was too fatty or if i was eating something i shouldn't be eating, or maybe we weren't keeping her clean enough??? the dr. said basically that i shouldn't constantly blame/question my milk production if there is something "wrong/abnormal" with gracie (nice to hear because i'm CONSTANTLY wondering if i ate something that i shouldn't have, etc.), and explained that gracie is starting to produce her own hormones now, which is what is making her break out. same thing happens at puberty and during menstruation, she said -- increased hormone production = more pimples. it's common for babies 4 - 6 weeks old to start breaking out because of this, but there's nothing that needs to be done about it and it will clear up on its own. that's good to hear. i thought i was eating something that didn't agree with her, or that we were keeping her too dirty!

we go again on 7 april for her 2-month checkup, and she'll get a series of vaccinations at that time. we'll of course let you know how that goes when it happens.

well she's starting to fuss now after a long afternoon so i'm going to try to get her to nap before dinner time. we love you and hope you all are enjoying the increased light and warmth! trees and shrubs are blooming beautifully out here -- welcome spring!

love,amber