Violet's First Christmas

Well it wasn't technically her first Christmas, but in a lot of ways, it was. Violet got spoiled in a big way - tons of presents and excitement. She just loved being around it all and lended a helping hand to anyone who wanted help unwrapping THEIR presents.

Here are just a few of my favorite memories of Violet from Christmas Day:

- Realizing she actually HAD fallen asleep in the swing on Christmas Eve!
- Watching her devour pullapart cake and fancy mac and cheese like it was going out of style.
- Rocking her to sleep for her Christmas nap... such a tender moment.
- Feeling the warmth of the family network she has - everyone loves her and she loves them all. It's so natural now. The adjustment period is long gone.
- Carrying her on my shoulders for the first time - to see the neighbor's Christmas lights.
- Loving her Elmo for 20 seconds until she saw Daniel's new Astro Boy.
- Daddy running into our room to find another Astro Boy - Daddy saved the day.
- Swinging the day away on our playset. And swinging with her on my lap - she adored it.

The best part of today was just thinking about how much better this Christmas is than her last one. Today just felt so special. I am so grateful she's mine.


A Perfect Christmas

I am actually writing this on Christmas evening... there's only an hour left of December 25th... but I wanted to write while it was still fresh. While I could still smell the relaxation and breathe in the Christmas glow.

This Christmas was simply perfect. It was the first Christmas in my own home and honestly, I enjoyed every minute of it. Home. Full of family, but at my home.

Christmas Eve morning was a blur of Seabird, "Christmas Eve Gift" (I won!), chocolate chip pancakes and last minute wrapping. Christmas Eve afternoon/evening was a blur of three crazy services at church that were actually quite a lot of fun. As soon as cleanup was done, we headed home for the best Christmas Eve in recent memory.

We ate a huge feast at a beautiful table then headed outdoors onto a patio Fernando had decorated as a surprise - it was dripping with white lights of all sizes. We made s'mores in our new fire pit, and sat around the fire singing (and making ash jokes) for hours. When Violet actually fell asleep in her swing, we put a hat and a blanket on her and kept on singing. Before bed, the kids opened their Christmas pajama gift and shocked us with the amount of excitement pajamas could elicit from kids. They haven't taken them off still - it's been over 24 hours.

Mema, Papa, TK and Kito all slept on the living room floor on air mattresses and stayed up even later watching movies. We enjoyed the luxury of our own beds and all slept in until nearly nine. The morning was full of presents and food - I so enjoyed treating the Arizona family to the Texas family traditions: Pullapart cake, breakfast burritos (with cranberry sauce!), strawberry Jell-O salad, and more.

The purple apron got some serious usage and Gramma was on my brain all day. I'm starting to understand her obsession with hosting. Recently when looking through her old cookbooks (shamelessly scavenging for good recipes) I found some of her "preparation pages" for when we'd come to visit. She'd have everyday planned in advance, with a list of our favorite dishes, coordinated to make sure each day had something amazing. I laughed at the time, but felt like hugging her for it today.

Everyone napped or just rested during the afternoon, watching movies and just lounging. I prepared dinner in the kitchen and honestly cannot remember every enjoying "kitchen time" that much. The recipes I made involved lots of time and preparation but instead of being a source of frustration, the effort was soothing. The stirring and mixing was calming and it was a perfect few hours of quiet cooking and reflection. The meal itself was a huge success - happy faces and full bellies all around.

We had so much fun we're doing it again tomorrow... Mema and Papa are coming back for dinner and sleepover round two tomorrow night.

I'll write about some favorite toys and memories in the kids' blogs tomorrow... but for tonight, I just wanted to try to capture the feeling. It really was everything a good Christmas should be and it had nothing to do with the gifts. I guess it never really does.


Jeckyl & Hyde

Violet cracks me up. She has SO much joy and happiness in her - more than a one year old usually has.

And she has SO much attitude too - the looks she gives could kill!

Fernando snapped two photos with his camera phone within 5 seconds of each other. She went from totally happy to extremely angry in nanoseconds.

(You can see the reason too: He took her water bottle to refill it and SOMEONE wasn't a happy camper!)

Honestly, I'm just glad to see that she flashes those angry eyes at him too. I thought it was just me.


Impromptu Light Fun

Growing up, my family considered looking at Christmas lights to be an art. We did it annually, and with lots of hot chocolate.

This year, we set out to do just that. To drive around and find the best neighborhoods to look at lights.

Turns out, we don't have many of those in the West Valley. As in... none. So we improvised. We got some food, went to the local ballpark and found a big tree with a ton of lights - set to music! we ate dinner on Frank's trunk and spent an hour running around the tree, dancing like maniacs to loud Christmas music.

It was one of the most memorable evenings of the year.


Classic Beauty

I just had to post this photo. It's one of my favorites EVER of Violet. She looks great with any flower in her hair, but a poinsettia is my favorite look for her yet.

They represent so much of my family history... we really are "Christmas people". My dad would decorate every inch of the house with poinsettias... in vases, pitchers, on garland, even in any open spot on a Christmas tree.

I think seeing Violet in our family flower just warms my heart a little extra. She is part of the Lawler family tradition and doesn't even realize it! She just knows she likes it... this flower stayed in place all day.


Rite of Passage

Every girl goes through a rite of passage: Their first toenail-painting.

Well, Violet won't remember hers because I simply couldn't wait! She was eagerly watching me paint MY toes, and held out her toes for me to share the love.

She sat perfectly still, and didn't touch them while they were wet. She just helped me blow on them to dry them faster. Red looks amazing on her!


Quick Little Park Trip

It was a nice day for a trip to the park... Daniel has been loving his tricycle (and getting pretty stinking good on it, too!). Violet was, as always, completely enamored by the stroller.

And they both love eating grapes on picnic tables, so that worked out well.

A neighborhood cat decided to hang out with us, too. I guess we ARE pretty fun. :)

Violet is a dare-devil. Completely bold. And after a few "Mommy freak out" minutes, I just relaxed and let her do her thing. Up the stairs, down the slide. All by her little 22 pound self.

She found Daniel's bike unattended and decided to give it a try. She came pretty close, but those little chicken legs just can't quite do it. Daniel hopped on and gave her a lift. This is the only shot of them actually smiling though... the rest show them swatting at each other and whining, trying to push the other one off the bike. They are siblings, after all. We diffused the tension with more grapes.

It was a fun little trip. And nothing leads to a good nap time like a little romp in the park!


Thankful for HER

This Thanksgiving, all I could think about what how lucky we are to have Violet. How at this time last year, we didn't have a daughter and she was in an orphanage. The food, the family, the incredibly amount of love all around us all day nearly brought me to tears. I am so thankful for HER.

And this year, I didn't bring my camera to Thanksgiving so that I wouldn't be so focused on the photos that I wouldn't enjoy the event.

Hence... no photos. Well, there's one.

But Daniel looks terrified, I look cheesy, Fernando is talking, and Violet looks, well, not pleased.

But here you go... an Amaro Thanksgiving.

The day was pretty amazing - so many family members and so much food! We played games and took naps and kept on eating. Violet did admirably with all the noise and chaos. After the initial adjustment, she seemed to like it!


Fall iPhone Fun

Just a few fun shots with my iphone lately!

Violet's hair is growing SO MUCH! I'm loving the fro. I'm jealous of the fro. Daniel loves to read to her... we frequently walk into one of their rooms to see something like this. He's like her little school teacher sometimes.

He also likes to protect her from "scary" scenes in movies... and she lets him. (She also lets her cousins put her shoes back on, as you can see!)

It's Fall... and Violet loves pumpkins. She says, "Hi, pumpkin!" every time we pass one in the store. She also bee-lined straight for the fence to play with the boys on the other side during her Fall party. They didn't seem to mind!


Flower Head

Today, I put a flower in Violet's hair. Then I put another one in. Then she asked for more. And somehow... we wound up with 15 flowers in her hair.

I found an old red slip from my childhood and sent the little wood nymph out to the backyard to play (of course following close behind with a camera).

She had so much fun.

And then eventually her rough and tough side came out... water guns and hoses AND red ruffles and 15 flowers. I love this child.