Licking the Spatula

Last Saturday, we made a cake. Me and the kids. Unlike Daniel, Violet isn't afraid of the electric mixer and she was thrilled help me actually mix it.

It was her first time "licking the bowl"... and she loved every minute.

Chocolate cake (and cupcakes!) made the Amaro house a very happy place last Saturday.

Affection abounded, and not just because of the sugar rush. There has just been a warmth and happiness in our little family lately that I wish I could bottle. The best way I can think to describe it is an overwhelming, mutual appreciation... we are just so glad to have each other.

We're (all) in love.

The Mother Weed

Sometimes blog posts are about important things, and sometimes they are about the unimportant daily items. But sometimes those unimportant moments end up being the most important ones.

We spent yesterday evening in the backyard. Most of the time was spent weeding, playing and weeding some more.

Fernando took a little trip to the roof to 1) retrieve the footballs and toys that have landed up there (thanks to our "bounce it on the roof" game)... 2) find the stinking pigeons that are cooing somewhere directly above our bathroom... and 3) post for funny photos while he was up there. I mean, you might as well.

Daniel and Violet played happily (for the most part), even helping us move rocks and attempt pulling weeds (that didn't last long). Daniel took good care of her, comforting her if she fell down or cried, and even taking her inside to help her get a drink of water.

We found one crazy weed (we named it "The Mother Weed") that was taller than Violet. (In our defense, it was hiding behind the AC unit on the side of the house... most of our weeds weren't that tall!)

Which reminded me of how tall she's gotten. I think I have her pegged as "a tiny girl" in my head, and she really is compared to everyone around her, but somehow I didn't see how much she has grown. Her clothes from last Summer fit, but barely. Her pants are all getting a big short, and her shirts are mid-drifts. It's the first time I have seen such substantial growth... maybe because I wasn't really watching for it.

Anyway. Enjoy a few photos from our perfectly uneventful evening.


The Cousin Factor

We have a lot of cousins. Not on my side (I only had 3 first cousins growing up) but on Fernando's side instead... think "Big Fat Greek Wedding" but Mexican. And it is so. insanely. fun.

Fernando's grandparents, Mami & Papi live in the Valley, along with all of their kids. The "tio and tia" generation is Fernando's parents and all the other aunts and uncles. They moved from Mexico together, pretty much. And then they had kids... that's our generation of "cousins". And now the kids are having kids... the next generation of "cousins".

The girl cousins decided to have a little party last Friday... and it all started with Violet's hair accessories. Areli asked me to teach her how to make the flower clips, and it kind of snowballed from there. Before we knew what had happened, we had a house full of girl cousins, flowers and food. And I can't remember having such a fun evening in a long time. It was silly, loud, mildly inappropriate at times... everything a good girls' night should be.

Violet, we're going to work hard to make sure your generation of cousins stays close. It's such an incredible blessing, to have this kind of built in support/family/friend network. Cousins are some of the coolest family members ever... close enough to be family and fun enough to be friends.

We had so much fun we decided to do a monthly girl cousin night. Next up: Manicures/Pedicures/Facials at Keila's house. Yeah, buddy.


Family Party... and Phoenix Nights

Tonight we went to Tio Armando's birthday party. And although we have been to tons of family events before, tonight felt different.

The warm night air was (excuse the cliche) magical and the backyard party felt so warm and full of love. The young cousins danced with the grandparents, and all ages played dominos. The older kids took care of their younger cousins and all the babies were passed around too quickly to follow. The food was good and the sound of laughter never stopped.

Violet finally came out of her shell with the family and embraced everyone, running person to person with glee. It was so fun to watch her accept the love everyone has been waiting so patiently to lavish on her.

It feels like a new era in the family, not that it was ever a bad one. But this feels new.


Honorary Irish

Between the four of us, we represent quite a few countries... mostly from my side. I mean, Violet is Ethiopian, Fernando is Mexican (his clan traces back to Spain, actually) and Daniel is half Mexican, and half me. And I'm a mess.

My folks used to call our side of the family tree a "Heinz 57" in reference to the number of countries in our blood. It's pretty much the whole of Europe with a little Native American (1/64 Cherokee, to be exact... not that I'm counting.)

Mostly, I claim Irish and English. But today isn't Queen Elizabeth Day... it's St. Patrick's Day. So today, I claim Irish.

Daniel is Irish too, and we'll just let Fernando and Violet in on the green ticket on an honorary basis.

Violet started off her first St. Patrick's Day with some shamrock socks, a green shirt and a green headband. We got all green-ed up, and took a few quick photos in front of our green door. (Nice, I know). Our mantra for the day was: "Kiss us, half of us are Irish."

I happened to attend the world's greatest Elementary School: Ogden Elementary, in LaGrange IL. And every St. Patrick's Day, the fine folks in the cafeteria whipped up some green buttered bagels and came room to room to pass out the treats.

I spent the entire day craving bagels and admiring how beautiful my family looks in green.


Tia Quito & Uncle Chris

Tia Quito got married... Mr. Chris is now Uncle Chris. Daniel hung out with the guys and fulfilled his ringbearer duties (kind of... he got cold feet at the end of the aisle and had to walk down with Keila...!) but Violet got to hang with the bridesmaids all day.

We had fun in my make-up case (her first time seeing it!) and playing with all of her cousins. (She talked about "Jacob! Jacob!" for two weeks solid after the wedding.) It was another family event that made me so grateful FOR that family, and for living so close to such a big network.

Also, the wedding cake was REALLY good. The best I've had.


The Day It Was More

I have been thinking about this day for a long time. And then suddenly, it was here.

For us, today is a big day.

Today is 1) Fernando's birthday. And birthdays are always big. 2) And today marks the day Violet has been with us longer than she's been anywhere else.

She was in Ethiopia for 11 months. And as of this morning, she's been with us for 11 months and 1 day.

To me, this is a bigger milestone than her first or second birthdays, or even the "one year since she came home" date coming up in April.

After today, for the rest of her life, it will always be that she's been with us longer. In some weird way, I feel like we crossed a finish line today. Like today marks the day the adoption journey part ends and the "she's just our daughter" part begins. I know that's wrong in about twenty thousand ways, but that's the best way I can describe how I'm feeling. I really, truly, honestly am excruciatingly proud of Violet's story - I love that she is adopted. But I'm ready for that to cease being the defining conversation that surrounds her. I'm ready for the world to see her as Violet, our daughter... not Violet, our adopted daughter.

I know this is making it sound like I want to put the adoption out of my mind. I don't. I'm just saying that up until now, Violet's relationship with everyone in our world has been based on her situation more than her personality. And I understand that had to be the case for a while, out of necessity, curiosity, novelty and if nothing else, for educational purposes for those around us.

But it's time to take that next step. She's here to stay, folks, and she's gonna rock your world long after you've forgotten that she was adopted.

Today is such a good day.


Single Mom

Fernando went to Mozambique on a church missions trip. Super exciting stuff... and the kids and I had a week to ourselves. We had a ball, actually, but missed Daddy a lot. (Violet kept unpacking his bag before he left... pretty cute).

He was worried she would forget him. And instead, when we came around that corner at the airport, she screamed his name and leapt into his arms. That night, for the first time ever, she asked for Daddy at bedtime instead of Mommy. They were inseparable for a week following his arrival.

Either absence makes the heart grow fonder or she's just one very securely attached little girl.

She loves her Daddy.


These Days

A few snapshots (with the iPhone of course!) into the sweet little life Ms. Violet has been enjoying lately. I have a good feeling she will never lack for adventure, adrenaline, wonder, mischief or affection.