A Glimpse Inside

Recently, one of my good friends said, "I just love little girls' closets!"

At the time I thought it was quirky in a cute way, but then I realized - Violet's closet does tell a lot about her. The shoes she wore when we met... the cowboy hat that's ready for her first Texas visit... and the billion delicate items hanging on little pink hangers, each telling their own piece of her story.

So here's a handful of "What Violet's Wearing" and the fragment of her life it represents!

1. Forest Green flowered dress. On sale at Gymboree... I couldn't resist. Love her in dark colors.

2. Layered Aqua/Green dress. One of the first things we bought her, and my reigning favorite item in her closet. It just suits her.

3. Green dress with white polka dots. A gift from Gramma... and it looks amazing with yellow leggings and headband.

4. Brown and white cloth onesie... it's from a friend with a daughter... and heading for another friend with a daughter... but right now Violet's the only one that it fits! And it looks amazing on her.

5. Lavender dress. A gift from a friend (thanks Erin!) and it suits her so well. The color, the fit, the comfort.

6. Two shirts: Light and dark blue. These are from the clearance rack at Old Navy (I think they were $2 each) and they sum up Violet's "look" perfectly - stylish but vintage. When she wears these I actually envy her!

7. Off white ruffled shirt. Thank you Target. This was neither on sale nor a gift... I was weak. However, this is her "most often worn" right now. She gets compliments constantly in it and it's the perfect length to play/crawl/rough-house in.

8. Chocolate onesie with flowers. This flatters her coloring better than any other outfit - we have so many photos in this. Thanks, Gramma & Tex - it's perfection. (I have actually gotten comments from African-American women while she's wearing this thanking me for putting her in clothing that suits her skin!)

9. Gold fabric at the bottom - this is actually a double-sided frock from a boutique in New York from a good friend (thanks, Letia!) It looks amazing on Violet - and I LOVE that NYC is represented in her closet!

10. Flowered tops - the purple and brown ones - we bought these for the trip to Ethiopia, and she wore them often during those first few days. They are great play clothes... and she seems extremely comfortable in them (maybe she remembers?).

11. Pale blue dress - a gift from Emma (and her mom :) and worn for Violet's baby dedication. It's flowy, sweet, ruffley and in all ways perfect.

12. Lime green dress - another clearance rack treasure - but this was used for one of Violet's first "at home photo shoots" for "formal" photos to send to Ethiopia during post-adoption reports. She looks amazing in intense colors!

13. Pink tutu. Ah yes... the forever "eat my words" piece of clothing that I just adore. She wore this in her 1st year photos. Thanks, Garlands!

Anyway. Lots more, but those are a few of the current favorites! For being so tiny, that girl has a very serious closet.


These Days

Well, we've been home for more than a month. Time has flown (as it tends to do) and I find myself writing about milestones and outings but not about everyday life. So here you go, some pretty small but significant pieces of Violet's day-to-day life.

Playmates: She and Daniel are the happiest little siblings you've ever seen. They make each other laugh... play chase crawling around the house... he gives her toys constantly... and just enjoy each other's company immensely. It's so fun to watch!

Adjustments: Violet appears to be adjusting extremely well. I thought she was "way ahead of expectations" from day one, but even from then the changes are very apparent. For example, she will now lay on her back happily, just resting (where she used to scream every time she was put on her back). She's just a very, very happy baby, and is doing MUCH better about being out in public and not reaching for everyone that goes by.

Sleep: She wakes up happily and plays by herself for a bit in her crib before calling for us - this is a very good thing! She's not all the way through the night yet, but has done 12 hour stints a few times now. She typically wakes up around 11 or midnight, and sometimes again at 3. Sometimes she'll just fall asleep with a little rocking, and sometimes she needs milk. Fernando has been doing most of the night feedings with her - her cries just don't wake me up (which is strange, but it was the opposite a few years back - he never heard Daniel crying as a baby).

Naps: I changed her nap schedule from two to one a day... she just does better if I push her until noon. She sleeps longer and goes to sleep quicker. And as an added bonus, this means she and Daniel nap at the same time on the days they are both here - thats nearly two free hours for me to clean/blog/shower/cook/edit photos.

Car Seat: She hates it. She'll tolerate it for a while, but anything more than 10-15 minutes and she starts whining. And forget sleeping in it... that's only happened twice.

Eating: Violet loves food. I didn't know anyone could love food more than Daniel, but I think she wins that little contest. Anything and everything I put in front of her... she eats. Except cold fruit. Her recent favorites are cous cous, grapes, beans, apple jacks (I know, I know), peas, any kind of rice, and anything else on the table. Consequently, she's filling out nicely. :) She's mastered straws and sippy cups.

Pooping: Unbelievable. This kid is a champ. Like... six insane diapers a day. But she eats like a madwoman, so I guess it's par for the course. She just got her first diaper rash (today, actually) and it's so sad to hear her cry when we clean her. But hopefully Aquaphor will end it soon.

Teething: The drool is still a faucet and rightly so - her fifth tooth has already come in and her sixth is very close behind it. With Daniel we could hardly tell he was teething, but Violet seems to go through it a little more - fussiness-wise, anyway. Another way we know she's teething: She bites.

Mobility: Violet is a speed crawler. Insane speed. She's also fast at the monkey crawl and walking with some assistance. (On a side note, she still hates the feel of grass but seems to like crawling on ROCKS. No joke.) She did reach a milestone today: SIX STEPS on her own! We have been using elastic bands and stretchy things to help - enough give that she has to support herself, but enough support to keep her from falling. When we aren't home, she still lives in the sling and loves it. It's comfortable for both of us, and makes cuddling WHILE running errands so easy.

There you go! C'est la vie! (Isn't that how you say "That's Life" in French?)


Budding Artists

Today, Violet finger painted for the first time in her life. She was initially cautious (for about 3.5 seconds) then dove right in and created a pretty impressive mess for her first go round. She showed none of Daniel's aversion to messy hands, and for the record, she seems to enjoy the taste of paint. Lovely.

We decided to do a "momento" piece with their handprints... and those are their ages next to their names. We weren't keeping score. We'll save competitive finger painting for another day.


Hair Regime Changes

Well, a few weeks in and already we're changing up Violet's hair/skin care regime.

We were using an olive oil paste a few times a day in her hair, but after learning some new information about hair products heavy in mineral oil, we're switching things up a bit.

(There's an amazing blog about naturally curly hair called "Happy Girl Hair" and the author, Katie, is sweet enough to respond to each question personally. She informed me of the following: "ORS Olive oil Creme is a leave-in heavy in mineral oil. Mineral oil is an occlusive moisturizer like petroleum and while those can be very effective for skin, using them on the hair is a different story... On the hair, mineral oil and petroleum coat the hair, keeping existing moisture in but keeping additional moisture out... Regular use of occlusive moisturizers on the hair will keep additional moisture from the air penetrating the hair. This may be desirable in a very humid climate, but not in most of this country. Elsewhere, it will eventually lead to dry, brittle hair and heavy buildup. When using products heavy in mineral oil, beeswax, or petroleum on the hair, most people agree that they seem to work for a little while but then more and more product is needed to achieve the same results, and eventually they stop working altogether because the hair is so dry. Most drugstore products aimed at African Americans contain large amounts of mineral oil, petroleum and beeswax.")

She was right... the olive oil creme had already become less effective over a few week's time.

So I took her suggestion and checked out a site called Blended Cutie - I ordered a sample pac for Violet's hair type (4b, I think) along with a leave in conditioner called "Curly Cake Shake" that I keep reading rave reviews about everywhere.

So far, I'm in love. I have tried out "Swirly Curls Shampoo" and the "Tug Me Not Conditioner"... all the products smell amazing and are all natural. They don't feel heavy but still manage to keep Violet's hair perfectly moisturized. We are bathing her 3 times a week, but only washing her hair with shampoo once or twice. After all baths, we massage lots of Aquaphor all over her body - face included - and it does an amazing job of keeping that moisture in for at least a day or two.

We're still learning lots - I imagine this learning curve is only getting started.

And until Violet's hair is long enough to style, I'm practicing on myself. I look pretty hot in Bantu Knots and Two Strand Twists.


Sun + Chlorine = Happiness

I love Summer. I'm probably only saying that because it's early Summer and we haven't really hit triple digits yet. Nevertheless, I'm loving the sun... the warm winds... the shorts... and even the chlorine.

Violet is a water rat (like the rest of us Amaros) and has taken to the water immediately. I put coconut oil in her hair the night before so her hair soaks it in - preventing the chlorinated water from doing it's damage. As an added pro, she also smells amazing while swimming, splashing, blowing bubbles and impressively enough, happily going underwater.

The first time we all went swimming she floated contentedly in a big tandem tube. She also loves splashing like a mad woman in the kiddy pools we have in our backyard and at Mema & Papa's house. It's fun to watch her and Daniel interact in that setting - typically he is playing a well organized game of pouring water from one cup to the next while Violet is splashing half the water out of the pool.

Today we went to swim at the Marriott in Desert Ridge with some visiting friends. The pools are huge, fabulous and plentiful and both kids had a blast. Daniel worked on his swimming skills with Ms. Jeanetta (who is also a swim teacher) and while his focus didn't last long, as soon as the official instruction ended, he began kicking like a pro and even sticking his head underwater to show us his bubble-blowing skills. (Ms. Jeanetta said, "Daniel! You've been holding out on me!")

Violet clung to my neck for hours, snuggling in the sun and attracting the "oohs" and "aahs" of everyone at the resort. I so enjoyed holding her that closely for that long - and the skin contact is always a bonus. Did I mention I love swimming with her? I do - so much. Partly because it's one of the only times she actively clings to me - normally she rides passively in the sling, leaning on me, or just allows me to carry her without "holding" me. But in the pool she's happy as a clam but still keeps her arms and legs wrapped around me firmly. It's like a two hour long hug from her. (Did I mention that I love it? :)

Mr. Sid took photos for us from a distance, capturing some of the fun moments of the day. We swam from 10-1, and then shared a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch. By the time I got home at 2:30, I had two soundly sleeping kiddos in the backseat (which is the first time Violet has slept in a car seat - ever!).

Tonight we return to the chlorine with an evening swim at Mema & Papa's house, celebrating the launch of TK's 7 week missions trip overseas and Quito's recent engagement!

So much to be thankful for... the least of which is a string of beautiful, sunny, happy days.


Hello, Summer!

I took 157 shots of them in their sunglasses in a "mini session" I had set up on the back porch. 156 of the shots didn't turn out. But that doesn't matter... all you need is one!

Daniel was a trooper, holding on tightly to a very, very squirmy sister who did NOT want to sit still.

Why I try and do "sessions" with my own kids is beyond me. You would think I would have learned my lesson by now.

Anyway... Hello, Summer!


New Awareness

It's an interesting thing to be a fair-skinned woman with a dark-skinned baby on your hip. Daniel never resembled me either, but Violet's skin is even darker - and the social awareness is more pronounced.

I read so many (too many) articles about what it means/feels like to place your family on the platform of "interracial classification" in the public eye. And I thought I understood it - until I walked through the mall for the first time with Violet.

She and I draw attention, to say the least. And at first, (believe me, I hate admitting this), it made me uncomfortable. I felt the gaze of every African-American person who walked by and assumed they were judging me or thinking negatively towards me. I became nearly paranoid, making sure every strand of hair on Violet's hair was perfectly coiled and that her clothes and accessories looked nice. I could hear their thoughts in my head - "What is SHE doing with a beautiful black baby? That baby doesn't look happy enough. What a shame... that little girl should be with a black family."

What's even stranger is I began putting that judgment on myself - suddenly realizing my hair looked messy, or my clothes rumpled. I didn't look "fit" to mother this beautiful baby, and surely someone who looked like me would never be able to care for the skin and hair of an African child.

I feel ridiculous even now as I type this... how much wasted energy I must have spent worrying about imaginary issues.

I have decided to chalk up all that paranoia to the transition of learning to be Violet's mother - a transition I am exiting in favor of a more permanent stage: BEING Violet's mother.

No one was thinking those thoughts towards us... except me. Weeks later, after being approached by women of EVERY color who had nothing but kind, encouraging, doting words for my beautiful baby, I realize my error in projecting my own self-judgement on others. I had to come to the place of horrific realization: I didn't think I was a good mom for Violet, because my skin is too light. I was ashamed of myself.

It's funny what the public eye does to you. At home, I am color blind. I actually startled myself the other day while clipping Violet's fingernails - I looked down at our hands and was amazed at how dark she was - I had honestly forgotten she was black. But one step out our front door and the awareness is heightened.

Thankfully, all this is changing. My overwhelming pride in her is taking over any irrational fears of judgment. I love being in public with her - especially in the sling. I love watching people process our family as we walk by - there aren't words for how much I love our identity as an interracial family - not one the same as another.

And instead of avoiding eye contact, I find myself seeking it out, looking for chances to exchange smiles with other moms. I love being approached by African-American women who want to love on Violet, hear her story and pass on words of wisdom regarding hair and skin care. I love how much I love her... this crazy love that makes my heart want to explode.

The joy I am finding in being a mother is growing by the day - Daniel's mom, and Violet's mom. It's changing everything about me, for the better. I am overcoming old obstacles and developing a kind of healthy self-awareness I have never had.

It's just funny that God used a tiny black baby to make me the woman I should have been along.

Dr. Good News

Normally I'm not crazy about going to the doctor's office. (For myself or my kids).

However, there is great reassurance in having "trained professionals" keeping an eye on Violet on a regular basis since she arrived in the US.

Here are the play-by-play details... skip this part if you are reading this blog just for cute stories and even cuter photos! :)

#1: Day After Arrival

We saw our pediatrician the day after landing and he told us what we already knew - she's severely malnourished. He noted her ribs, spine and collar bones and gave us directions to "bulk her up". He put her on high calorie formula and suggested we add in baby food and cereals in addition to table food. She measured 27 inches and weighed in at 16 pounds, 12 ounces (which was 12 ounces more than the week before we met her - a good sign that she had already started gaining weight with us in Ethiopia).

He gave us orders to have her abdomen x-rayed, her wrist scanned (for approximate age comparison) and for a full set of blood work to test for any and every issue caused by the malnourishment.

We love our pediatrician, but he can be extremely blunt/dry/to-the-point/sarcastic/abrupt. And it was amazing to hear him raving about Violet - how well she appears to be adjusting and how happy she looks. I have never heard him use so many adjectives. He told us to "do things differently than with Daniel" and to rock her to sleep, attend to every need quickly, and basically become "attachment theory" parents. (Which we already knew to do... it was just remarkable to hear our doctor say those words).

#2: One Week Later

She weighed in at 17 pounds, 9 ounces... she gained nearly a pound in a week! Dr. Pham said to keep it up... she still had more weight to gain quickly. Poor thing got 5 shots that day - she was very behind in her vaccinations and needs to get caught up relatively quickly. She cried (of course) but stopped very quickly afterwards.

The results were in for all the blood/bone work and everything came back beautifully. No deficiencies or organ damage - the doctor simply raved about how healthy she is in light of her size.

#3: Three Weeks Later

Violet's one year appointment: She measured 28.5 inches long and weighed in at 18 pounds and 8 ounces. (That falls right around the 10th percentile for both stats). After gaining 2 pounds in a month, she gets to switch to milk and stop with the high calorie formula (that's great news - it's expensive!). We can phase out all the baby food and just stick to table food which, frankly, she prefers anyway. She's still a vegetable & bean junkie.

The staff at the pediatrician's office expressed continued amazement at her development - within one month she went from crawling a few strides to full on crawling, then monkey crawling, then hand held walking, and now standing on her own for long stretches! She's so close to walking.

Verbally she is actually on track for her age - she says Mama, Dada, a few other things and understands loads more.

I feel like her body is adjusting well - she is sleeping longer stretches (12 hours last night!) and is able to relax while laying on her back during play time which she refused to do before. Some of her attachment quirks are diminishing (constantly reaching for women while showing fear of men)... she is much more comfortable socially and seems to be enjoying herself in every/any environment.

We'll be in the office every few weeks for "catch up" shots and I look forward to monitoring her height and weight and, of course, showing her off to the office staff!


Mother of All Mother's Day

It really was the best Mother's Day ever.

The three of us attended a brunch at Daniel's preschool the Friday before Mother's Day, and spent time with good friends and good food (read: cream puffs!). I had my first "me and my two kids" photo taken by a friend - it's funny how normal that already feels.

(At the brunch I also got my first two questions about Violet's race - from toddlers. It was precious. One girl asked who's Mommy I was, staring at the 2 kids with me who look nothing like me. Another stroked Violet's face sweetly and said, "Ms. Carrie - I think she's black! Is she black?" Their innocence was beautiful.)

Saturday was Violet's birthday and it kind of felt like we started the party on Friday and didn't really stop until Monday - I love "cluster" family events like this. Such a great excuse for celebrations that last for days.

Sunday morning, I woke to sweet surprises from my husband (who is so thoughtful and tender in his gift-giving. I found three little pots, each with different plant seeds inside and a green paint thumbprint of the person who gave me the pot - Fernando, Daniel and Violet. I then found a beautiful new Keurig Coffee Maker on the kitchen counter - love it!

We went to Radiant where Daniel joined us on stage for Violet's dedication. Waiting in the Family Room before the ceremony, I was surprised at how emotional I felt. I cried tears of joy during a familiar song - "Bigger Than My Imagination" - I feel undeserving of the blessings in my life right now. My heart really is overflowing. It was so special to stand on stage together, publicly, as a family of four committed to learning together and growing together. And when Pastor Lee prayed for Violet, "who came all the way from Ethiopia", the sanctuary erupted in loud cheers and clapping (over 1,000 people!). Our church family has been more than supportive, to say the very, very least.

After church (and naps) we headed to Mema & Papa's house where we officially welcomed Summer with the first swim of the season. Violet wore her brand new teeny weeny yellow polka dot... full piece bathing suit. (I'm fairly sure I'm not the mom who will ever put her baby in a two piece.) Her matching hat stole the show and she had a blast in the little pool and the big pool, in spite of what felt like sub zero water temperatures. Violet was given her first pinata (made by Mami, of course!) and we took an obligatory silly family photo to celebrate the big weekend.

The weekend was busy and full... full of family, full of memories, full of special moments...

I have been a Mom for multiple Mother's Days. But this year, honestly, it has never meant so much. And it's not just about Violet... it's about coming to a different place with my identity as a mom. Growing into the role, I guess. Delighting in it in a new way - maybe even growing up a little.

Whatever happened, I have never been happier!


First Birthday

Exactly one month from the day we met... Violet turned one. We didn't want to do a big party and overwhelm her, but we didn't want the day to pass unnoticed!

So, as with each of Daniel's birthdays, we began by enjoying breakfast with our favorite folks: The Garlands. We made all kinds of pancakes, chopped up a few pounds of fruit and went a little nuts with the syrup and cool whip.

The kids played for a while, and Ava and Daniel were a little too eager to help Violet open her present - an adorable black and white outfit and a sweet ladybug book.

After a hefty nap (translation: a chocolate chip pancake induced food coma), Violet and I headed to the park for what can only be described as the world's cutest (and pinkest) photo shoot. She was fairly cranky and unhappy about being on itchy grassy in an itchier tutu... but the cuteness just oozed out of her anyway. There are tons of amazing shots... smiley sweet ones that most folks would prefer... but these four just tug at my heart in a way that the "standard" ones don't.

I won't delve into the nitty gritty details, but I do want to mention that she and I had a breakthrough after the photo shoot - a beautiful, miraculous change in our relationship. My heart changed towards her, softening permanently, and any of the misplaced feelings of frustration I had been directly at her disappeared once and for all. It was beautiful.

A few days later we busted out the cupcakes as a belated celebration... and she went absolute crazy. She ended up destroying three of them... part eating, part smearing, part stomping, part everything else... it was hilarious. I'm certain she had never tasted anything remotely close to "frosting" before in her life... and she frantically worked to get every piece in her mouth before we could stop her. She clapped... squealed with joy... and plastered that hand to her face over and over.

Daniel ate part of one, neatly taking little bites so as not to get dirty (but two years ago, on his first birthday, it was a different story!).

After the cupcake devouring had ended, Violet was air lifted directly into the bathtub and her shoes were carefully recovered from under a thick layer of mainly blue frosting.

It was a colorful celebration, in so many ways. (And I'm not just talking about the bathwater!)

Happy first birthday, little lady!