Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sleepover for Tweeners

Ten years old is a big deal.  I think I honestly thought she would never turn ten.  I know Brighton won’t but Julia did.... last week.  Ten.  Jeff is still in denial, but since I have the name that “party planner” job falls under, I had to face it head on.  Maybe my kids are just navel gazers or maybe they are just normal but they talk about their birthdays MONTHS and MONTHS before they actually occur.  They make grandiose plans that I have NO intention of carrying out~ one, because they won’t remember the 16 different plans they make and two, I don’t sell the fatted calf to throw, say, an 8th birthday.  We don’t do a party every year but all birthdays get celebrated, fully.  We started a tradition on Julia’s first birthday of waking up the birthday child in a very special, loud, unique, goofy way.  It’s the Sanders’ secret and you will NEVER see pictures of that.

When I asked Julia how she would like to celebrate her 10th birthday being certain she would forget the insane idea of having 13 girls over to spend the night.  While she thought, I rehearsed my “yes” to her request of having a couple of friends over or going out to dinner somewhere really special.  While I waited, I knew in that moment I would even say “yes” to one last trip to the American Girl Doll store.  She didn’t forget.  When she made the list for a spend the night party there were exactly 13 girls on her list between the ages of 8-11.  Oh boy.  I don’t think I have to explain my heart rate, my anxious thoughts, my sudden need for a nap.  I love kids.  I love little girls but 13?  All at once?  All night?  I didn’t say yes.  I said, “See what your Daddy says.  And show him your list,” being certain he would resist all the craziness on my behalf and say no.  What was I thinking?  He’s the one that couldn’t keep a straight face* the day I sent them to his office when I was so mad I could not even speak to them.  But I’ve already told that story.

After thinking through where they would all sleep, we asked Brighton if he would give up his room for the night so the girls would be as close together as possible~ joined by their bathroom.  And that made me think of “adjoining rooms” and that made me think of of “hotel” and here is where we went with it.

A “Pages” template

Now I was energized and ready to fill our pretend B&B for the night.  Like any good hostess would, I would plan every minute to reduce any possible drama or boredom or nail polish on the carpet or sleeping bag rides down the staircase.

As the girls checked in, Brighton, our bell boy, took their luggage up to their room and then escorted them onto the patio for hot chocolate and pretzels.  Here, they waited for all their friends to arrive.  Pizza was delivered promptly afterwards and the girls headed to their assigned dining areas.  Jeff and I then rounded them up for almost 2 hours of games.  We played a game Emily taught us and since it is not marketed and doesn't come in a box, I don’t know what to call it but the “noun game” or the “PPT {person, place or thing} Challenge.  It’s GREAT fun and both of our extended families played it after dinner every night during Christmas.  We also divided the girls into 2 groups and played Rory’s Story Cubes and after each round they would line up and dramatically recite their story to the other team.  They really got into this and came up with some colorful and whimsical stories.

After cupcakes, candles, and singing on the patio, we sent them upstairs to set up their sleeping spaces and put on their pj’s for the movies.  A few days before, Julia received two Torchlighter movies for her birthday, The Perpetua Story and The Amy Carmichael Story.  We watched both.  Check out their faces.

Good stuff.  The girls had lots to add and comment on after these movies.  I loved hearing their thoughts.  They all preferred The Amy Carmichael Story because of the happy ending.  Of course.  Every little girl-- and big girl-- wants a happy ending.

And because we never outgrow bedtime stories, we had them all back down in the den after they brushed their teeth.  I read Max Lucado’s book, You Are Special seeing if they could tell me what the book meant in 2012 for a ten year old.  Come to find out, Wemmicks and tweeners have a lot in common.

There were a few minutes of spare time. {!!!!}  The upside of this is that there was no dog hair or dust of any kind on my stairs Saturday morning.

So it was smooth sailing {not so smooth on the stairs} until bedtime.  If I could have let them all just fall asleep right where they were in the den after the story, I would have been snoozing within minutes, but alas, they had to move upstairs.  And with every step they took up the stairs, the more awake, animated and silly they became.  I went to check on them and here is what I found. {one was asleep in Suite 22 but the rest were all crowded into Suite 21, telling each other their most embarrassing moment!}

After a little “momma talk” accompanied by a wagging finger and a threat of no breakfast, they were all asleep by 1:00 in their right places.

I don’t think for a minute this was a good experience because of my planning.  It was a good time because of this group of girls.  I feel so blessed to know these girls and their sweet families.  I am thrilled Julia has a group of girls with whom she can be silly, learn about friendship, and learn hard lessons.  In-val-u-able.  I would have this group again in a heart beat-- not next weekend--but I would have them again and again.  They were super.

Although having all those girls in my house was the highlight of the night, below reveals the second highlight of my night.  The pack mule  cute bell boy tirelessly carried each girl’s overnight necessities upstairs and then out to their car the next morning without a hint of complaint.  He never even had time to get out of his pajamas.

 I told Jeff and Brighton I could not have pulled the party off without them.  They were the “best staff EVER”.  Jeff said “yes” to the sleepover and he carried more weight than I would have asked him to.

And if you are thinking about calling for a reservation, forget it.  We open this B&B up by invitation only.

*Which is exactly what he should have done when his other half needed to stick her head in the freezer.
{gifts 1077- 1090}

that he’s always hopeful and ready to play

little girls under umbrellas

Toni Thomas, Jeff’s secretary {!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!}

family birthdays

that he always brings her roses and always writes his words in a card

Torchlighter movies

birthday gifts sewn with love

“pit stop” kisses

girls having a sweet, bumpy, good time

scantily clad siblings waiting by dryer for warmed pj’s

that I get so much time with these two

books like The Care and Keeping of You for girls who are growing up {I was surprised by how much I liked it.}

Gospel for Asia orders of hers

that she has 13 friends to spend the night with {Thank You, Lord for sweet girls to spend time with and to grow up with.  Thank You for their parents and how they bless our family.}

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Julia's Birthday Letter 2012

This morning of your 10th birthday, I was reading the One Year Bible entry for today, January 24th.   A part of the psalm for the day reads like this:

May he give you the desire of your heart 
   and make all your plans succeed. 
May we shout for joy over your victory 
   and lift up our banners in the name of our God.
  May the LORD grant all your requests.  Psalm 20:4-5

I noticed a date scratched by Psalm 20 in my Bible.  On August 15, 2002, Denise and her family sent a huge bouquet of beautiful roses to me with these verses on the card.  They were celebrating with us because a birthmother had chosen us to adopt her baby.  But that baby was someone else’s.  God was working His ways to get you to us.  Almost two months later, we found out about you and we certainly “lift[ed] up our banners in the name of our God.”  Denise had no idea when she put those words on the card that I’d potentially read them every time YOU had a birthday! Now EVERY January 24, I am reminded how He gave us the desire of our hearts and that He granted our request..... to be parents.  We were astounded by His grace towards us and thus, your middle name, Karis {charis- grace that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness}.  You are all of that.

So, you are TEN today.  Your brother is most impressed with those double digits and has practiced already a few times, “My sister is ten.”  No matter how hard your Daddy and I try, we cannot stop this thing called “birthday”.  It comes every year.  The brick on your head fell off a long time ago and was replaced by a string that pulls you up and up and up, ever so gracefully.  I see the gracefulness physically but I am most excited about the grace I see in your spirit.  You bless me with it daily and I am a better mom for it.  I watch you depending on the Lord to help you be a patient big sister to your brother and I hear you asking for forgiveness when you fail.  I see you extending forgiveness to others when it’s really, really hard.  My prayer is that you would find Jesus to be “it” for you all your days, that He would be all that satisfies you and that you will trust Him to give you the desires of your heart.

There is so much to love about you.  Even though I know I don’t act like I value your silliness, I do.  I love to see you being 10, being free and being yourself.  I love to watch you play the piano, perform ballets on stage or in your room with friends, and make up stories outside.   I love to see you hugging on B, helping each other with chores or school work.  I love to watch you delighting in your Daddy’s love for you.  Your heart is on your sleeve and we are all blessed by that.  Here is my short list of “loves” about you.

Top Ten Things I Love About You

10.  Your favorite food is Mexican.

9.  You like to win.

8.  You appreciate deferred gratification and often choose it.

7.  You love a good tale and spend many hours reading good words and listening to stories far into the night.

6.  You are a saver for yourself and a spender on others.

5.  You value all things “home”.

4.  You treasure your friendships and each relationship brings you much joy.

3.  You have compassion for hurting people and those in need.

2.  You are ever so quick to forgive. {for the same offense a zillion times...}

1.  Your heart belongs to Jesus and now you have the adventure of following Him the rest of your days.

I am proud to call you my sister in Christ.
Happy Birthday, Julia Karis Sanders.

Goodbye 9 and hello 10!!!

{gifts 1059-1076}

lake houses

Jeff and I being a part of his life a thousand miles away

long slipper days

Jeff’s eye on the future

encouraging words to spur me on

that I said, “Go for it!”

baby clothes

a good Monday

lyrics that bless me

homemade “Welcome Home” sign taped to garage door

“favorite things” shared with me

knowing my parents are home safe

friends willing to be absolutely interrupted

11th dozen of roses from Blake to remember her birthday

that the girl from 8/15/2002 changed her mind

that He has given us 10 years with her

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

So, How’s It Going?

I get that question a lot.  And most every time, someone is asking about school- mostly fellow home school moms, which, by the way, have an ever increasing value to me with each year.  I am so grateful for them.  Usually, I don’t like the question because usually, I don’t like the first answer that pops into my head because usually it seems I get asked this question after a really hard day.  Incidentally, I am figuring out that “hard days” mostly have to do with me and my responses to Julia and Brighton’s being on the planet for only 10 and 8 years, respectively.  They do very 10-ish and 8-ish year old things.  Bottom line:  My response should be more gracious and understanding to their plight of being 10 and 8.  But that’s for another day.

Moving on...

Four months in, we have a good schedule that gets the necessities in before Julia’s 12 o’clock online history class.  Brighton has one too but his is not “live”.  The great thing is is that they both really love those classes, so I feel we are getting a healthy education on early Greece and Rome.  Brighton has been counting down the weeks until he gets to Alexander the Great.  Grammar throws us all off kilter as I hardly remember learning any of it the first time around but we are surviving but at the same time I find myself wondering, if I haven’t heard the term “verb-transitive- since 4th grade, why do we need to know that?  Of course we do math and I add in the electives I choose for my favorite part of the day~ “line time”, but as they are getting older, the work they do gets more difficult and it takes longer.  They are only 4th and 2nd graders but I am already missing the “early years”.

First day of school 2008

Gone are the days of reading a dozen picture books to Julia on the window seat, after I had to help her up onto it.  Sigh.  Gone are the days of math lessons taking about 5 minutes which usually involved brightly colored manipulatives.  Gone are the days of 3 and 4 letter words on spelling tests.  Gone are the days of weekly outings to Starbucks school. {It’s just a bigger production now, too “LOOK-AT-WHAT-WE-ARE-DOING!”}    Gone are the days of my saying, “Oh, we will get to that eventually.”  {“Eventually” is here.}  Gone are the days of being finished {homework and all} by noon.  Gone are the days of only spelling tests on Fridays.  There is much I miss.

So what about now?  What am I seeing now that gone is truly gone? What am I thankful for now when I wish we could just crawl up on the window seat with Goldfish, rearrange pillows and read picture books?

Julia reading historical fiction on her own just because she wants to {this happens to Brighton.... as often as a total eclipse}
Learning about honoring and respecting each other when they really want to just fight
Making decisions about having an efficient and a hard work ethic
Locating on a map countries of which I had never heard and knowing God’s Spirit is working there too
Seeing me get rattled and how I handle that with them
Finding out what it really means to serve your family even when you don’t feel like it
Figuring out that grades do matter
Their realizing that the world is SO much larger than what they see and there are needs out there that are stag-ger-ing
Learning that, even though he is not directly involved, our school days are just as important to their daddy as they are to me
Figuring out that team work is cool
Having real conversations about real situations that shape, hurt, challenge, encourage, and inspire their hearts... and that would be what I am most thankful for... the time for that

I also know there is much to look forward to... whether I am still teaching them at home or not.  As they get older, there is more I want to share, more that I can expose them to, world event links to click on, incredible books I want to dive into with them, more topics to discuss, and truths to explore from different vantage points as their world gets larger.

Words to refocus my thoughts..

I’d say it was going well.  The hard days, even though they zap my energy and even make me sad, I know good stuff is being learned, stuff that will serve them well in the cul de sac, at school, in the baseball dugout or on the field, at church, in the ballet dressing room, at spend the night parties, in future jobs, at college, and, most importantly, in the plans and purposes that God has for my children.

I love these two kids and feel like I won the most competitive contest of all contests to get these two, even though I did NOTHING.  God.  I choose to rest in the fact that God holds their hearts and if He can orchestrate getting them to me and Jeff, getting me to say “yes” to homeschooling and getting us through five years of it so far, He can also, most assuredly, carry out the rest of His plan.  I will choose to rest in that.

I will.