What strange weather we've had. It should have been insanely hot for a month now, but instead we've had some rain, cool and even cold temperatures, and a chill in the air that makes swimming out of the question.

And then suddenly... the cool front was gone and we wasted no lost time in rocketing up to the triple digits we had been wondering about.

Just like that... Swimming Pools. Sundresses. Ice Cream. Splashing with Friends. Picnics. Water Guns. Watermelon. Sunscreen.

Summer is here. Bring it on!


The DL on the GI

The results came in from Violet's blood work, so we made another trip to the naturopath's office. Her first statement to us was this: "I have never seen so many food aversions for someone this little!"

Turns out the doctor's hunch was right - we have been feeding her lots of food that has been aggravating her condition. Not causing it necessarily, but preventing it from healing. The doctor's theory is that if we (very strictly) remove all of these items for 3 months (possibly longer) it will give her gut lining a chance to heal and then we can re-introduce some/most/all of these foods later. The long term goal is that she will be able to eat all of them eventually. These aren't necessarily allergies - but aversions.

But for these three months, we are to treat them as if she'd have a serious external reaction to even one bite.

Here's the list:

Fruits: Apple, Cantaloupe, Grapes, Watermelon.
Vegetables: Tomato, Lima Beans, Cucumber, Garlic, Green Peas, Green/Yellow/Red Peppers
Nuts: Cashew, Peanut
Other: Scallops, Coffee
Dry: Gluten, Rye, Safflower, Sesame, Soybean, Sunflower, Wheat, Baker's Yeast

All in all, it's not a huge list. But it's a tricky one. Aside from a lot of these things being her favorite foods, there are some often-hidden items here. Apples appear in many forms in a lot of products (apple pectin, for example). Garlic eliminates most canned items and any restaurant's menu (and all my favorite recipes). Gluten isn't all that tough on it's own, but add in the sesame/safflower/sunflower restriction, and the entire gluten-free section is off limits because of the oils used. And while cocoa is ok, chocolate is not because soy lecithin is in EVERYTHING. Etc etc.

So the Amaro kitchen has changed yet again, but it's ok. We were ready, in a strange way, without knowing it. Two of her favorite staples are still ok: Beans and rice, and yogurt and oats. We have to prepare all of her snacks and meals for school in advance, and the kitchen ladies are being so wonderful about accommodating us. Birthday parties and social events are tricky (read: Corn Dogs, Cake, Ice Cream, Chips and a whole lot of other junk she can't have) but she's a champ, and isn't complaining about it.

Here's the amazing part: After two weeks of the change, a note came home from Violet's teacher saying that she had pooped "normal" stools twice that day. We have yet to see that at home, but we have seen some changes, including the number of times a day she poops - it seems to be less frequent, and slightly more... firm. Ahem.

Honestly, it's just exciting to have clear direction. Steps to take. We are doubling and tripling her two supplements, too (still using Glutamine and Saccharomycin). And hopefully by our follow-up appointment in September, she will be healed completely, or well on her way!


New Hair Adventures

Lots of fun developments in Violet's hair world, mainly that she has started doing MINE! Whenever she has the chance, she has me sit in front of her while she perches on the couch, and she just goes to town on my poor head. It's actually pretty fun, and a great lesson in what I'm teaching her inadvertently. She's very patient with my attempts in styling her hair, so turnabout's fair play, right!?

Other developments:

1) We are trying new styles! Getting brave. The most recent have both involved bantu knots, which just seems to suit Violet's personality AND Mommy's slowly budding styling abilities (read: they are easy to do). One style involved 5 knots on her head, and the other involved a series of flat twists and knots. Which brings me to my next point...

2) Parting. It might sound easy, but it's not. (I almost wrote, "but it's knot!" Ha!) Her hair is so tightly coiled that it takes effort to get a straight line, and my old plastic comb just wasn't doing the trick. I picked up a metal pin tail comb at Sally's and have been practicing with more success. The other night I started parting just for the sake of practice and wound up with a new style involving 8 parts, and a giant "x" of flat twists over her head. It was a lot of fun, actually.

3) I have been bitten by the accessory bug, apparently, because I have ordered a bunch of clips/beads/snaps for Violet's hair. My site of choice was www.snapaholics.com ... and they are very inexpensive. Which is wonderful and bad all at the same time, as it will make me want to order more. I tried out a few little heart snaps on Violet and just fell in love. I can't wait to do a whole head of small twists... and tiny hearts.

4) Last but (unfortunately) not least: BREAKAGE. I knew this was part of toddler hair, and especially for delicate hair like Violet's, but I had managed not to see any crazy breakage until a few days ago. I had put up her hair into messy twists for nap time and it revealed a big chunk on the back of her head. Short, brittle hair instead of long, soft curls. My favorite hair blogger (Katie!) had just posted a series on this very topic, so my panic subsided quickly and I formed a plan: Time to order satin crib sheets and sleep caps. I am overdue in doing so. I'm also realizing that until naps/car seats are out of the picture (and rolling around on the floor when she's tired) back of the head breakage and wear-n-tear will just be a fact of life. We'll use it as a learning process and do our best to keep the damage to a minimum!

Never a dull moment with Ms. V's hair... and I wouldn't have it any other way. Sometimes I find myself feeling sad for parents with straight-hair-kids because of all the fun they are missing!


Goodbye, Max

Today we said goodbye to a (small, furry) piece of our family: Max the cat. Otherwise known as Maximus, Take-it-to-the-Max, and occasionally Maxipad. His liver failed and the end came very, very quickly.

I'll be shocked if Violet has any lasting memories of Max. She is just too young. But she will see him in photos, and know that he was part of our family for her first year here.

I'm glad that I snapped a quick photo of her pestering Max too... it's the only one of them together. He was insanely patient with her... creativity... when it came to showing him affection.

Oddly enough, she hasn't asked about his whereabouts yet, and I'm relieved. I'm not ready to have the "death" talk with a 2-year-old. We'll just leave it at a happy old photo, and another cat in the house ready to get all the attention for a while.

So long, Max. You will be missed.


Twirling & Flamingos

Yesterday, Violet twirled for the first time. Today, she became a flamingo.

Allow me to explain.

Yesterday, she and I were dancing, and I happened to be in a skirt (which is rare) that twirled (even more rare). She was mesmerized and asked to do the same, so we found a twirl-worthy skirt in her closet and the twirl lessons ensued. She's a natural.

We did a few curtsies, and she giggled. She loved it, but couldn't quite get the hang.

Later, I wasn't home but Fernando was. She tried to show off her curtsy but he couldn't understand what she was doing. To him, it looked like... wait for it... a flamingo.

So, he solidified the stance and taught her how to rock a flamingo pose.

From ballerina-esque twirling to winged-flamingo standing in less than 24 hours. That's our girl.


Tid Bits

The nuances of everyday life with Violet could only be captured with some kind of nonstop video surveillance. Which clearly isn't an option.

So here are a very few of the precious little things and moments that make life with her just magical:

1) Her new usage of the phrase "For ME?!" Always accompanied by big brown eyes, batting eyelashes and a huge smile. Irresistable. I dare you not to melt.

2) Her favorite (and non-fear-inducing) TV shows have become household staples. I love how she self-identifies and always "claims" a character as "herself". (Or Daniel assigns it for her). In SuperWhy, she is the Princess Presto. In Yo Gabba Gabba, she is the blue cat Tutti. She is constantly seeing herself in characters - books, movies, etc - and it's fascinating that it has nothing to do with skin color. She self-identifies based on gender or relationship to the other characters. If there's a mom and a daughter, regardless of color, it's me and her. If there's a boy and a girl, it's her and Daniel, even if the skin tones are reversed. So interesting.

3) She still says, "Oh, Man!" just like Swiper the Fox. And I will say this: It's very difficult to maintain a serious tone when she responds to, "Violet, this is your last chance - please clean up your shoes" with "Oh, Man!"

4) Violet is still a dancing machine. She just finds joy in it, whether or not there is music. But the new development is her singing - it's constant! And precious. Ring Around the Rosey, Twinkle Twinkle, Daisy Daisy, Itsy Bitsy Spider, ABCs, and more. That little voice is so high and sweet it's just impossible.

5) She recently transitioned to a new classroom at preschool, and said goodbye to her first real teachers, Ms. Sue and Ms. Carmen. They were more than sad to see her go (which is the nicest compliment a parent can receive!). It was a smooth transition though, and she already loves Ms. Mandy and Ms. Danielle.

6) The froggy potty was a flash in the pan and it was off her radar. We haven't returned to potty training since then, largely because she flat out says "no" if we ask her if she wants to try. But suddenly, she is interested again, but only in "Daniel's Potty". Multiple times over the past day or two she let's us know when she needs to go, she holds it, and successfully goes #1 and #2 in the big potty. She is so proud of herself that I think this time it just might stick!

7) Last but not even close to least... She switched from calling me "Mommy" to "Mama". It might not sound like a big deal, but any mother will tell you that there is a HUGE difference between those two labels. And to have her suddenly decide to call me Mama feels important... tender... sweet... and lovely in a whole new way. I adore it. And am unashamedly hoping this phase lasts a long, long time.

I could go on. But those are enough of the recent tid bits to give you a feel for what life's been like around here!


Fearless No More

Little lady is spooked. We're not sure how it happened exactly, or what caused it. But her fearless approach to life has gone by the wayside.

Previously a heavy 12-hours-a-night kind of kid, she's now awake (and crying) multiple times at night. She won't let us leave the room if she's awake - we're back to the rocking her sleep that happened right after her arrival. It's a different kind of cry too - terrified, desperate and not fake. That might be the worst part of it all.

She's verbal enough to give us hints, but they are just fragments: "It's too dark..." "Bad guys..." "Mean guys..." "Monsters..." One night she actually articulated a dream where a big frog was trying to eat me (Mommy).

It's not just a nighttime thing, either. She has become skittish with company, loud noises, and things that previously didn't phase her. In any swimming pool she's timid and hangs out on the first step, where last year I had to keep her from diving in headfirst to the deep end.

For now, we're indulging her requests. We're rocking, cuddling, comforting and reassuring. At some point we'll try to help her transition back to her former fearless self, but right now feels like the wrong time.

Seems like when Daniel turned two, his imagination took off too - and his nightmares began. So we'll do the same thing we did with him - take a lot of the movies off the playlist, watch out for the kind of pretend games that happen in the house (Daniel now knows to avoid saying "bad guys" and instead runs from imaginary "pickles"... hilarious).

I'm sure it's a stage. I hope it's a stage. Don't get me wrong... the extra cuddle time and "needing of Mommy" is great... but I miss my little tiger.


A Sandy First

After her first camping experience, we were on a roll. So we kept right on driving and wound up in San Diego, where Ms. Violet was formally introduced to our old friend, the Pacific Ocean. She was thoroughly confused by the way the sand stuck to her feet, and had the most adorable perplexed look on her sweet face as she tried to pick the grains of sand off.

Daniel turned into a beach bum/water rat and was more than happy to help Violet learn the ropes. She ended up staying close to the towels and umbrella, playing in the sand. It was pretty chilly in San Diego and even though the sun was warm, she's still so tiny that it's hard for her to stay comfortable. I will say, though, that we enjoyed some spectacular cuddle time in the towels!

We went to all of our favorite spots and saw each with fresh eyes - Violet cannot help but add joy and excitement to every situation. She and Daniel were inseparable. In Ethiopia, the first family picture that Violet saw of us (Me, Fernando and Daniel) was of us sitting at the base of the giant tree in Old Town San Diego... and it was more than touching to finally take her photo in the same spot, in the arms of a doting big brother (above).

Sea Port Village was one of the highlights... those trees are simply awe-inspiring every time I see them. We fed (and chased) the birds, waved to the folks sailing on boats, and danced to the music of a local band.

If you want to see MORE San Diego photos, I posted a handful of different (artsier) ones on the photo blog.

Happy Vacation, family. That one was a keeper.