Her shirt says it, and it is clearly, right?
She's the cute friend!!
Of course, another shirt claims she's "T for Trouble!"
That one is equally true.
For most people that know our family, there is no question. Victoria, of all our children, is the most like her mama. Really. So, in some senses, that makes her easier for me to understand.
It also makes her a little harder to write about...
The same thing is true with parenting her, because sometimes it is easy to look at her and see the things I don't like about myself more clearly than all of her amazing and wonderful characteristics. (Her physical daddy and her heavenly daddy happily take the credit for those!)
Three words immediately explode in my mind when I think of Victoria: organized, competent and
stubborn determined. That's a pretty tough threesome and she's one of those kids that, when she decides she's doing something, she will.
About 2 years ago, she decided she wanted to learn how to bake bread... she's one of three Wrightlings to whom I can say "Go start some bread to go with dinner," and then not have to do anything more until it is time to light the oven.
Recently she informed me she was going to make a lemon meringue pie...
We all enjoyed the results.
When we decided to enroll her at Ecole Alliance a few years back, I went in to talk to the principal. I explained to her that Victoria was already reading short vowel words in English, doing basic Math problems and tended to pick things up pretty quickly... and I thought that the K5 program was a more appropriate placement for her. The principal disagreed; Victoria was only 4 years old - she wouldn't even turn 5 until the end of the 2nd trimester. Because of that and the language learning curve, I conceded and agreed to go ahead and enroll her in the K4 class. Three days after school began, her classroom teacher called me to let me know K4 wasn't working. Tori was finishing the worksheets and "assignments" before she had even finished explaining what to do to the rest of the class... all of whom spoke French. The teacher wanted to send her upstairs to the K5 class.
And so she went.
Being a year ahead hasn't been an easy road for her to walk - but the Lord has confirmed time and time again that it is His road for her. She persists even though sometimes she lacks maturity, understanding and the size and strength to compete in athletics... which sometimes drives her crazy. If you look carefully at the above photo, you'll also see one other way she's just like her mama... at least if you know me fairly well!
This yo-yo expat lifestyle has further complicated things for our girl. She spent 2 years in French school - K5 and 1st grade. Then, we went back to the States, thinking she'd be in second grade. That was the plan that had worked for all of our other children. It was different for Victoria, though. She could read in French, but was not a fluent English reader. In Math decimals were used where the European system used commas. She was still younger and smaller - we could have considered having her go into the first grade class - but we also knew we'd be returning to Niger and the French school and to stay on track, she really needed to be in that second grade class. She buckled down and worked - her teacher and classmates were awesome! - and we were so proud of her.
Then we brought her back to Niger - where, after a year, she had to readjust to the French system: bigger classes, using the French language again, much more memorization and rote learning in some subjects, significantly more intuitive and complicated math curriculum. At that moment, we figured she'd be at Alliance for the rest of this term... until, our mission board dissolved. That complicated life in many ways, including having no idea when or how we'd be getting funds sent out here for us to live on. When Sahel Academy, the international MK school that our older children attended, offered to delay our payments until we got everything figured out, we transferred all of our kids to Sahel. Third year in a row our girlie switched languages, systems, friends, everything... and she had another big change. She went from being unique in her class: either the only little light skinned person in her class or the only MK. Now she was just one of a whole bunch of expats. Her self-esteem plummeted and she really struggled last year... a lot.
Again, she persevered... without many complaints and with a smile on her face, at least most of the time. She's the kind of girlie who makes her mama proud - and I need to remember to tell her so more often.
Victoria is super creative, a planner and a dreamer. She gets some of the craziest ideas - and usually manages to somehow pull them off. She is the only one of our kids to date who has said, "Mama, you make the cake and orange sherbet ice cream. I'll take care of the rest of my ten-year-old-birthday party plans." She did it, too!
She's a responsible big sister, and takes her responsibility to be an annoying little sister very seriously! Just ask those bigger siblings! I can trust her to watch out for her 3 younger siblings, getting them to help her clean or pick up, often with more success than the bigger kids. She loves to get out in the sand and dig and play with them as well. I loved how at her birthday party, she made sure Jonathan and one of his little friends who showed up were a part of everything. I can also trust her to make sure those bigger Wrightlings stay honest - driving them crazy until much of the time they just cave and do what they are supposed to to get Tori off their back.
She loves Jesus, even though she is still learning what that means and implies. Almost every year she toys around with the idea of a spiritually themed birthday party. When she turned five, her cake was the empty tomb.
Victoria LOVES drama. She's always writing little scripts and coming up with plays to put on for our family. This year, when the middle school aged students were given the opportunity to be part of a drama/musical, she jumped at the chance. And speaking of music? She wanders the house singing the same line of a song over and over and over until someone throws something at her. (It is just as likely to be her daddy or myself as any other person in the family.) She also whistles incessantly. That's a habit she learned from her daddy. Her know-it-all habits? I think genetically, they must come from her maternal side...
A prolific reader (she gets in trouble for reading too much) and a growing writer, she finds words fascinating. Recently, she had a descriptive writing assignment for school. She spent hours perfecting her adjective choices and it was a lovely paragraph by the time she was done. She is a good writer - and enjoys keeping in touch with her friends who aren't in Niger, when she can persuade her parents to let her use email when she's not already supposed to be in bed.
Her artistic side also shows up in her eye for photography. She took the above picture last summer one night when we were out at the dunes. She was fascinated with the lone tree you can see on the horizon; if she took one she took 20 photos of that tree from different angles and perspectives. This will probably forever remain one of my favorite Niger photos.
I also love her compassionate, serving heart. In our family, everyone has a night doing the dishes. When you've got two parents and 7 siblings and often a visitor or two for dinner, that means dinner dishes for our family sometimes mean more dishes than other families dirty in an entire day. Washing up after dinner is no small chore. For Christmas, Tori gave every member of the family a certificate, offering to do their dishes for a day. I often also find her caring for or playing with younger children that are not her siblings. She'll take over playing with some younger sibling of one of her friends or just someone she's met at the pool or playground, following the younger child around, helping him/her slide, pushing them on the swings, allowing them to ride on her back in the baby pool, or batting a beach ball back and forth.
My favorite Tori story? One time, she continued coming to me, trying to tattle on one of the older siblings who was either irritating her or not letting her do what she wanted but wasn't supposed to do. Tattling is one of those things I discourage in our family... for obvious reasons. I usually tell my kids that unless there is blood or significant injury involved, I don't want to hear about it and that they need to work it out amongst themselves. That takes some persistent training around the age of 4-6 because 4-6 year olds think everything should be exactly fair. After re-explaining what tattling was and why she needed to go work out her problem with her sibling without Mama's interference at least three times, she came to me again. I asked her why she was tattling again - that now she was becoming disobedient herself. Her response was: "Mama, this isn't tattling. It is problem-solving." She was only 3-4 years old...
I really can't wait to see the young woman this girl becomes!
What are some ways you can pray for our Toria?
- Pray for a smooth transition back to Calvary Baptist. She'll still be younger, smaller and more immature than the rest of her class... She worries, a lot more than I think she should, about what other people think and wants to exceed their expectations of her. She delights in pleasing, going above and beyond in her attempts to make other people happy with her, often to her own detriment.
- Her health has been fragile this past year or so, and as we change climates, our children have often ended up sick for several weeks at a time. Last home assignment, it was 3 1/2 months before we were all healthy after arriving back in the States.
- Pray that she makes some good friends or that she is able to pick up friendships with girls from her class last time we were home. I do know that some of those girls are no longer around. And here, just like Jonathan, her closest friends were on furlough this year; another gal went home permanently. Victoria is looking forward to seeing her sometime, but only the Lord knows our next opportunity to see her other two friends.
- Pray that her heart continues to be tender and compassionate towards others... that she finds joy in service - whether it is service she volunteered or service that has been required of her.
- Victoria has started learning to play the saxophone. She's enjoying it (she played in public for the first time last weekend), and she would LOVE to continue with those lessons if at all possible. Of course, that means we need to come up with a sax and someone to teach her.
- My prayer is that she sees God's sufficiency as what carries her through both hard and easy... bad and good. Learning to walk that balance between confidence in self-competence, being willing to risk failure (and embarrassment) to try new things and recognizing that our dependency is on God? That is a hard and tricky balance to walk.