I've been noticing it a lot of late.
You can even see it in these photos - taken over the past 6-8 months...Anna has crossed a threshold. She can still act like a little girl and play in the sand, curl up on the bed to read Frog and Toad- to herself, or pretend to be a horse leaping obstacles... but she's also very much a tween becoming a young woman. Instead of a "tag-along" with her big sisters, she's definitely right where she belongs when she hangs out with the older girls. A few years ago, a friend of mine mentioned that it would be a formidable sight to see those Wright girls walking down the school hallway all together. If she were around today, I'd tell her it is...
This year has been a growing year for her and I'm loving watching her grow in her abilities, her academics, her skills and most of all? Her confidence.
She's getting taller, finally surpassing Rebekah in height. The race now is to see whether she catches Nadia before Nadia catches me! She is beginning to take some measure of care with her appearance. She almost always remembers to brush her hair and I'll know we've arrived when I no longer feel compelled to give reminders regarding brushing her teeth as well! A few months back, we had a friend come and chop off her long, blondish-light brown locks - looking for a style similar to the character of Rapunzel in the movie Tangled. I love it - excentuating the cutest nose on any of this group of Wrights (her siblings and parents are all in agreement regarding that one!). She likes it, but misses really long hair: so she's bearing with it until we are both in agreement that she's ready to let it grow long again.
She and Nadia are still great buddies and best friends. Last year was a harder year for them as far as their buddy-ness. But now that Anna is also in junior high, they are acting/singing/dancing in a musical together, Anna helps out significantly more around the house, is growing up and maturing and acting like one of the big kids (most of the time, at least), that wrinkle in their friendship seems to be ironing itself out. Plus, there is the reality they are both learning this year - while most friendships come and go... or at the least ebb and flow... family most often remains.
Anna continues to be the most naturally athletically inclined (at least to date) of the girls. She was the only one of the kids brave enough to compete in a middle distance run this past year at Sahel's Field Day. She was also one of the first to brave the frigid January waters (I know... all my Michigan friends will roll their eyes at that, but the water is quite cool at that time of the year, and the contrast as well as the evaporation rates are killer) - sharing the blue lips award with Tori! But even at the pool, I'm continually reminded of how she's changing ~ her gammie recently sent Anna and Nadia some new swimsuits for their birthdays and Anna has gone from wearing suits that look like ones big little girls or tweens would wear to suits that reflect what her big sisters and older friends choose for their afternoons at the pool!
Anna loves hanging out with her daddy - and is usually volunteers to run to the store... or out to the village for a grain distribution... with him. I think she might have ulterior motives, though. She usually comes home with a Sprite or some "chatou" (A code word... be sure to ask her or Nadia!). Tim doesn't even try and convince me any more that these girls don't have their daddy's heart and he keeps muttering about finding himself a bigger bat. Anna giggles when she hears that.
She is really enjoying youth group activities this year. Sometimes I think that younger siblings recognize that privilege for what it is more so than those older siblings. After all, they've been waiting for years to attend and listening to big bro or big sis recount all the fun they just had at some activity. I also like to see her learning spiritual truth from outside the family... outside the house... There's nothing like those moments when we're working around the house together and she decides to share something God is showing or teaching her through the input of some other really great adult in her life. I used to think the African proverb about it taking a village to raise a child was nothing more than liberal politically correct speech. I know better today... and I will be forever grateful for the influence of this "African overgrown village" called Niamey where my children have spent so much of these formative years.
As far as home school, Anna is doing great! She participates in French, PE and drama/choir with her Sahel buddies, but math, writing, history and science we're doing at home. Science has focused on the human body and some other life science bits. Math is a pre-algebra course - we'll be deciding before too long if we think she should head right in to algebra next year or not. In English, she's spent lots of time writing stories and working on improving her vocabulary and consistency in using correct grammar and punctuation when writing sentences. Spelling is always a struggle - but that is part and parcel of dysgraphia and dyslexia. I love the fact that Anna is willing to work hard and not simply say she can't because it doesn't come easily to her.
Testing near the end of her school year last year revealed that she is, in several areas, performing significantly above where she would be expected to perform... and our assessment specialist thinks that Anna might be gifted in some areas. So we continue search for a balance between supporting her where she needs the extra lift but also challenging her to pursue her true capacity as well.
Her sixth grade "graduation" was a milestone for her. Sixth grade was a challenging year, switching back out of the French school system, becoming part of a totally different group of students who, although she was friends with some of them, she was used to being with them in a very different setting and she had to figure out where she fit in with them in this new way. Two super highlights from her 6th grade year? Her teacher (Mrs. Rupnow, below), and the fact that her cousin, Leandra, often helped out in her class that year.
One of the activities she initiated this year was going to the elementary school once each week to read to the kindergarten and first grade classes... She was brave enough to ask about it because Mrs. Rupnow is the first grade teacher this year and Anna feels safe with her.
Speaking of that, our shy and often timid Anna is making great strides in that area as well. Madame Safana was needing some work this year, so she comes to our house three afternoons a week this year to help with baking break, some laundry and some cleaning. Anna is the one responsible to communicate to her what needs to be done on those afternoons as I've typically left for my classes at school. Anna has also been regularly babysitting, handling visitors who come to our door, starting horseback riding lessons and recently, she's begun playing the violin.
I just love this photo - because 12 years later, I still see the 5 year old and 7 month old siblings that first came to Niger with us!
Anna is both nervous and excited about heading home for furlough this year. She clearly remembers the last time we were there and remembers her friends from that time. But she's also entering that awkward, "What if they don't like me or want to be my friend?" stage so common to middle school. Here, she feels safe and she knows who she is and where she stands.
She has a hilarious and mischievous sense of humor - sometimes to the point of driving her siblings batty.
Little kids tend to like her and trust her right away - although she doesn't go out of her way to seek out their company.
Her heart is tender and unbelievably soft. A disapproving look or even a single sharp word often results in tears... and embarrassment if she is at school or out when it happens.
She still loves to swing and play imagination games with the younger kids - and seems like a little girl. But she also enjoys computer multiplayers with her daddy, The Mentalist with her mama, and strategy board games with her siblings. They've also started playing this game called "Pit" or something like that - and all I can figure out about it is there's lots of yelling out of numbers.
Her determination to persevere, even when something doesn't come easily to her, inspires me and I simply love teaching her math - she picks up concepts so quickly and really runs with them. I love that she's not afraid to try and think and experiment to come up with a solution.
She makes a pretty awesome apple pie (or almost any recipe having to do with fruit) and her strawberry smoothies are delightful. She continues to gain confidence with her kitchen skills and it is so awesome to be able to leave the complete preparation for a meal in the hands of one of two of my oldest 4... she's earned the right to be a part of that bunch. Now if I can just get her to remember to pick up the dirty dishrags and take them to the laundry when she's done cleaning up...
Of all of our crew, she's tends to be one who has a harder time with adjustments, although she does often take a lead from how Nadia is handling things.
Because she's had to work harder than some of our other kids, because she's always been so timid, because her heart has always been so gentle and tender, I've tended to worry more about her.
But more and more these days, she's convincing me that she's pretty incredible.
I can't wait to see her really start to soar these next few years!
Wanna pray for my Anna-girl?
- She is loving her horseback riding lessons and her violin lessons. We'd love to find a way to somehow continue those, for it is through activities like these were we really see her blossoming and finding her own way - but we aren't sure where to start or how we will be able to afford it.
- Pray that she is well-prepared as she returns to junior high school at Calvary next year - that we've been able to strengthen some weak areas and help her to be more confident in relying on her strengths, academically.
- Pray that special friendships will continue to grow and develop - and that her class at Calvary will be as welcoming to her this time as they were the last time.
- Pray that her special relationship with Nadia remains just that... special... as their friendship will be tested in different ways this year.
- Pray for spiritual and physical health. Anna has had some of the scariest health episodes of our kids and therefore I tend to watch her like a hawk. That will be my tendency, but I also don't want to squash her growing confidence and independence in my desire to protect her.
- Pray that as she moves into her teen years, her heart remains tender, gentle and soft to others but most importantly, to her Savior. I love to watch her daily grow more lovely, both inside and out!
And isn't she? Lovely, I mean?