Sunday, December 26, 2010

An Astro Boy Christmas

Daniel and Violet were so much fun to watch all day yesterday. They are both at delightful ages and they were absolutely the life of the party (and consequently got seriously spoiled with gifts!).

Here are a few of my favorite memories of Daniel from this Christmas:

- Watching him go into overload over every gift and every detail. So much emotion!
- His last words on Christmas Eve before nodding off: "I love God. And I love my pajamas."
- Cuddling with him at naptime. He told me he loved me about a thousand times, hugged and kissed me over and over. He just melted my heart. I told Fernando it was a "naptime lovefest"!
- Enjoying Polar Express with him. He adored the movie - it will become a tradition, I'm sure.
- Watching him open the Astroboy Fernando ordered (from Japan!) for him. It was by his side all day - I'm sure it still is. A HUGE win for Daddy.
- Noticing him piling playfood into a makeshift grocery cart: Violet's new pink stroller.
- Capturing with my camera the "Christmas Cookie Face" - he about came unglued when he opened the gift of the one thing he's asked for: A Christmas Cookie. He then ate it and was on a sugar high for an hour.
- Playing with him outside on Christmas during the evening. Just playing. Running, tickling, hiding, chasing. He was my shadow and I loved it.

My favorite memory of all: Having to wake him up from nap for dinner... he was in a Christmas Coma. His eyes glazed over at the dinner table and he declared: "Daddy, my battery is all gone!"

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Perfect Christmas

I am actually writing this on Christmas evening... there are only a few minutes 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.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Stage Fright and Cookie Incentives

So, bribery works. Cookie bribery specifically.

Daniel appeared TWICE this holiday season on the big stage - once for his weekday preschool (as a very dashing "Christmas Camel") and also in a giant choir of kids from the weekend classes at church.

He literally cried all the way through dress rehearsal (see photo on the left) for the big choir but after some very strategic incentivizing by Mommy, he did amazingly well during the actual performance (photo on the right). His lip quivered once, but after a thumbs up and a "cookie" hand symbol from me, he straightened up, put a huge smile on, and finished the song.

His appearance as a camel was rather unremarkable except that he was a CAMEL. It was adorable.

Sunday, December 05, 2010


Today, Daniel re-discovered dandelions.

It's so fun to watch the joy of discovery on his face.

And I know I complain about Phoenix, but I really do love that we live in a state where this re-discovery can happen in DECEMBER. In a patch of gorgeous, lush green grass.

Just don't ask me about it in August. Or May, June, July, September or October.

Sunday, November 28, 2010


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 amazing... tons of food... family... games... laughter... and no camera!)

Questions & Portraits

Daniel's "to school" and "from school" commute conversation has shifted recently. He settles into his car seat and declares:

"Mommy, I need to ask you some questions." (The firs time he said, "I need to ask you some Christians" and really threw me for a loop.)

Once he has my undivided attention, he goes through a list of questions and doesn't let me return the favor.

And it always starts the same:

"What's your favorite flower?"
(To which I always say "Orange and Yellow Snapdragons"...)
"Are the punchy?" (He means pinchy.)
(Just a little bit, honey.)
"What's your favorite tree?"
"What's your favorite cloud?"
"What's your favorite house?""

And so on. It's fun having a little interrogator in the backseat!

In other news, we did our family "mini-session" with the kiddos to get a few frame-worthy shots for the grandparents. Here are a few of the favorites of Daniel...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Daniel has started declaring favorites - sometimes it's Mommy and sometimes it's Daddy. And we decided that it's just a little too sassy for us.

So a new family rule: Instead of saying, "Mommy, you're my FAVORITE family!" He now has to this: "I have THREE favorites... and you're one of them!"

He recites the line constantly, with an extra "the" thrown in there. My favorite moments are when he's too sleepy to think clearly (like when he crawls into our bed at 3 am and snuggles close)...

Barely a sleepy, audible whisper: "Mommy, you're my... I have THREE favorites... And you're the one of them..."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wanna See My Dance Moves?

I think it started with Ava... but I can't be sure. She's in dance class on the weekends so it makes sense.

But wherever it started, the fact is: We have a dancer on our hands.

He busts a move whenever he can. Read: In a public parking lot where there is background music. More often, it's at home. We have begun having lots of family dance parties at home and we all get down with it.

Daniel likes to impress with some fancy footwork and will often ask us, "Hey - Wanna see my cool dance moves?!" He jumps. He spins. He spins while jumping. He tumbles. He shakes it. He waves his arms. He invents new stuff constantly. Honestly, the kid has some pretty good moves.

And the whole time he has this crazy grin on his face, watching his audience, usually saying "Do what I do!" while he lands in some crazy almost-splits position on the ground.

I love that he's a boy and he's not afraid to bust a move. At his age, some boys already classify dancing as "girl stuff".

And I love that as a family we all join in the fun. It might be one of my top ten favorite family activities.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Language Nuances

There are too many precious language nuances to remember in the moment to write down later. But here are three that are beyond cute:

Caterpillar = Calapittar
Watermelon = Walermelon
Serious = Sillious

Too fun.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Be Still My Heart

Daniel is growing up. He is changing daily and becoming the little man I already see inside of him.

This process is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen... and it breaks my heart.

I (will always) live for the moments when...

... he hugs me extra close and says, "I missed you, Mommy."
... he appears at my bedside around 3am and curls up next to me, his head on my chest.
... he gets the giggles about nothing and the two of us can't stop laughing.
... he asks me over and over, "Mommy, can you sit with me and color?"
... he gets scared in a movie and instead of showing fear, comes over and hugs me: "I will protect you, Mommy. You don't have to be scared. I got you."
... he sees appear in his classroom at at the end of the day and shrieks with joy and tackles me.
... he compliments my appearance. It's just started recently... "Mommy, I like your hair."
... he asks to "come up". I know he's big but I will NOT stop carrying him until I physically cannot. He drapes himself on me, resting completely.
... he tells me he doesn't want to go to church or school - he only wants to stay with me.
... he gives me kisses... little ones, medium ones and big, giant ones.
... he tries to make me laugh with silly noises or made up words - it always works.
... he sweetly whispers the same words first thing EVERY morning: "Mommy, can you make me a snack, please?" :)
... he jumps into one of his imaginary worlds and asks me to come along too.
... he spontaneously tells me he loves me. It happens constantly now and every time it does, I pray silently that it will never stop.

Daniel attracts attention wherever we go - for his vocabulary, politeness, obvious intelligence or just being a really good looking kid. It's so easy to be proud of him - and he relishes knowing that we are proud of him.

But deeper than the public Daniel, and even past the "proud of you, son" Daniel, there's a tender sweet Daniel that's currently on the exact same wavelength as my heart. For the moment, for THIS moment, we are directly and completely connected. Be still my heart.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

First Bee Sting

Daniel: 0. Bee: 1.

He came in from outside time crying hard, holding his arm. Fernando went outside to see what might have happened, and saw a bee flailing on the ground. (Daniel clinched his suspicion when he angrily pointed at the bee: "HE did it!")

Daddy put the bee in time out, Mommy took care of Daniel and the world was once again at peace.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

When The Rubber Meets The Road

Daniel loves cars. He especially loves OUR cars, and riding in them. Currently we have two cars: Frank (Grampa's Intrepid) and The Queen (our blue minivan).

Both are boy cars, according to Daniel. (Don't try to explain that "The Queen" should be a girl... it's a useless argument and a pure waste of your energy.)

We listen to a lot of music in both cars, but each has a different song selection. And Daniel is becoming a connoisseur of music, declaring (loudly) "I like this song!" every time one of his favorites comes on. Which is about every other songs. Some days, he claims them: "This is my song. I like it."

In related news: We also have dance parties in the car. Frequently.

Often we race getting the kids into their car seats. It's fun for us and keeps the kiddos entertained instead of squirming to get out. No matter who wins, Daniel inevitably solves the conflict: "How 'bout we BOTH won!"

And it seems that being strapped into car seats forces some fun interactions between the kids too - it's harder to be mean when you can't even touch your sister. In car seat mode, Daniel's a little parent to her: He makes her ask nicely for things (which toy she wants to hold). He shares well with her (probably because we are 1.5 feet away and watching). He often holds her hand just for fun or to comfort her.

And my favorite is this: He has begun translating for her. "Mommy, Violet says she wants agua." "Daddy, Violet and I are hungry." "Mommy, Violet wants to get out of her car seat." "Daddy, we love you - Violet and I love you."

I already have so many fond memories of us, as a family of four, in the car together.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Fah-Let & AstroBoy

Our lives lately:

1) Daniel thinks he is Astroboy. And not just in a "let's pretend every now and then" kind of way. He thinks he IS Astroboy. And we're going on week three of this phase.

He only wants to be called Astroboy, or SOMETIMES Toby (Astroboy's human name). His teachers at school and on the weekends have given up trying to convince him otherwise, so all of his art projects and name tags come home with "Astroboy" written on them.

He thinks that all of the buildings we pass are "Metro City" and he continually jumps around and spins because of his "ion blasters". And if he wants you to be evil or good, he'll lift your shirt and change your battery accordingly.

Last week we wanted him to wear some shoes he didn't really want to wear. We succeeded only because we told them they were just like Astroboy's shoes. Now all three pairs of shoes he is currently rotating are also Astroboy's shoes. :) Hey... if the shoe fits.

This photo is from Halloween... he fulfilled his dream and became Astroboy with the help of Daddy's handmade "armor"! He wasn't a fan of the hair gel required to hold his hair up though.

2) Daniel... I mean, Astroboy... has also become QUITE the artist. We used to have to bribe him to even consider coloring with crayons or markers and now he delights in it - for hours at a time, sometimes. He suddenly colors well, too - in the lines, solid patches, etc. It makes me wish I could include color photography in this blog!

Currently everything is colored with every possible color in order to make it "beautiful". Thanks to a story that Daddy made up for Daniel about how the Macaw got its colors, unless an item has two or more colors, it is not beautiful.

3) He and Violet are learning the finer details in the negotiation of rough-play. Subtleties too quick and discreet for Mom & Dad to notice. They are becoming skilled siblings.

4) Daniel has a unique way of saying her name - he leaves the "V" off completely. "Fah-let!!" We have tried to correct it, but it's just the way it is right now. He is usually yelling her name too - either to come play with him, or to stop doing something. FAH LET!

Life is fun. :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Multigenerational Toys

There's just something special about watching your kids play with your childhood toys. It's like time stopped for a second, and you feel like a child and a mother in the same moment.

During our Summer trip to Texas, Daniel spent the majority of his indoor time playing with my Care Bear collection and an old color/shape/key puzzle. It was so sweet to watch.

I guess there's something to be said for toys that last that long, that well. And for parents (thanks Mom!) who care enough to keep their kids' toys for their grandkids to use.

Daniel and the Bean Stalk

Turns out Daniel might have a green thumb.

This would be a miracle, given the absolute lack of a green thumb in either one of his parents.

His teacher recently said that Daniel has been extremely interested in the gardening project they are doing in their preschool classroom. They have been planting pinto beans and watching them sprout, observing their growth each day. She gave Daniel a magnifying glass and he spent at least 20 minutes just analyzing the little sprouts.

At the end of the assignment, she had some extra plants, so they came home with Daniel.

I will admit: Fear struck my heart as soon as I heard this. No plant stands a chance in our home. This was destined for disaster.

And the plants DID die. But it took a while. And Daniel seemed ok with the whole "say bye-bye to the plants" bit. But before the inevitable end, they grew well and Daniel loved waking up every morning and "checking on" them and giving them water.

It's fun to see new interests and hobbies springing up in him... I just hope this is a passing phase. It would never work in our home.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Big Brother Extraordinaire

No seriously, he IS the best big brother ever. Which doesn't mean that he doesn't occasionally hit/push/trip/and otherwise irritate his sister. I think that's a perfectly normal (and even necessary) part of being a brother.

The part that blows me away is how she is ALWAYS on his mind. When I pick him up from daycare he immediately runs to her, "Violet! It's my sister!" and procedes to re-introduce his friends/teachers/sometimes parents to his little sister.

And recently he's kind of assumed the role of "Violet thought translator to the parents". For example: If he is asking to color a picture of an animal, he tells us, "I want to color an elephant and Violet wants to color a donkey." (Granted, hers is always the less-cool of the animals... but still.) Or if she is crying, he will tell us that she needs her agua or a snack.

One of my favorite times of day is after dinner when Fernando and I are cleaning up, Daniel and Violet will usually disappear into one of their rooms, playing contentedly. He reads her books. He shows her his toys. He loves to make her laugh. He wrestles and tickles her (often to a "break it up!" place).

My favorite is when he chases her around the house, throws himself on his knees and throws his arms open, "Violet! Nay! Give me hug, Violet!" ("Nay" means "come here" in Ahmaric.) Half the time she obliges, and half the time he gets the shaft... but it is still sweet to see his efforts.

He really, truly loves her.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Elephant Night

The first of many family fun nights (henceforth known as Fam Jams!)... we celebrated "Elephant Night" tonight.

I think it was international elephant day or something... but for whatever reason we just decided to have a fun elephant-themed evening.

We ate elephant food. We played elephant games. We stomped in chalk elephant foot prints. We sprayed each other with our trunks (straws) at the watering hole (tupperware full of water). We played with all of our elephant toys. We all wore elephant colors = gray. We tried to watch Horton Hears a Hoo... but the disc didn't work. Elephant night ended a little early.

BUT it was so much fun!