We kicked off "birthday season" (four out of six of us have late spring or summer birthdays) this past weekend with Annie's 10th birthday. To celebrate, Annie requested a sleepover with her friends Grace and Avery. We did that Saturday night. Avery ended up not being able to make it, but Annie and Grace had fun making their own little pizzas for dinner, painting ceramics, having cake and ice cream, and doing whatever else it was they did. Delaney also participated, and Tim took the boys out of the house for a couple hours to help make it more of a girl-oriented evening. I think we succeeded in making the day a little special for her.
As cheesy as this always sounds to say, it has been a delight to watch Annie grow and see the young lady she is becoming. To have a front row seat for this is one of the best parts of being her mother.
Annie has become a second set of hands for me. If I need someone to get Joey dressed on Easter Sunday morning because I'm getting myself ready and Tim's handling a crisis on the phone --Annie. If I need something baked, or even something just gotten out of the oven--Annie. (I don't bake much myself anymore, since she'd rather do it.) If I need someone to make a simple dinner or pack a lunch--Annie. She makes pancakes from scratch every Thursday, which is "breakfast for dinner" night. You might notice that the place where she helps me the most is in the kitchen. That's where I need all the help I can get! For the first two weeks of July, she's going to be attending a full-day cooking camp with her friend Grace. I'm kind of shooting myself in the foot sending my most helpful kid to camp for 10 days, but I know it's something she'll enjoy, and I'm hoping we'll all benefit from what she learns there.
She is also a second set of eyes and ears. We are very impressed by her powers of observation. Whatever I say in her vicinity, she has recorded in her mind and will play it back for me word for word (which, truthfully, can be inconvenient at times). If she's nearby while I'm in a conversation with somebody, and I'm trying to remember a detail from it later on, she's got me covered. If the police ever need to know where I was and what I was doing on any given day, I'll tell them I have to ask Annie. A couple weeks ago the girls and I were having a conversation, and it came up that Annie remembered that one of the preschool dads had worn the same plaid shirt at two different events, and she named the colors in it. I was blown away. She has said she wants to own a bakery when she grows up, but Delaney and I decided she also needs to be in the FBI, and for a funny few minutes we riffed on the idea of Annie the baker-spy. Think little folded-up messages inside of pastries, and her eyes watching everybody and missing nothing. In all seriousness though, I told her that her ability to pay close attention and remember things will serve her well in life.
For anyone who knows Annie well, her being observant is nothing new. What is new, as of the last couple years, is that instead of just watching what's going on around her, she's much more engaged. It used to be that around this time of year, her teachers might say something to me like, "Well, she's starting to come out of her shell a little.." What they meant was that she was at least no longer completely mute; she was starting to participate in some activities, so that was progress. Her kindergarten teacher once told me that during choice time, when kids were free to move about the room and play with things like blocks or dress-up clothes, Annie would ask for math worksheets and toil alone at her desk. There's nothing wrong with working hard, but we are so happy to see she's having some fun now, too. Remember the little girl who couldn't be bothered to move from one spot on the soccer field a few years ago? After her last game of the season a week ago, she couldn't wait to tell me she'd scored a goal with her left foot. She gets her athleticism from her father.
She is super generous, and whenever she receives money or a gift card, she often shares the wealth with her siblings. Knowing how much she loves clothes (and how bad I am at gauging what she likes and what will fit), I gave her a Target gift card for her birthday, and completely unprompted, she allowed each of her siblings to pick out something small in addition to what she got for herself. If her teacher gives her a piece of candy as a reward, she brings it home and gives it to Joey. She chose a cookie cake for the night of her sleepover because she knew that's what Grace liked best. She gave me a cute necklace and matching key chain for Mother's Day, and I was touched just knowing she had even thought to get me a gift. It is a wonderful quality to always be thinking about others.
We are filled with wonder and gratitude for the gift of Annalise Elizabeth, and excited to see all that 10 holds for her. As her Grandy, who is also her godmother, wrote in her card: "May you continue to grow in grace and wisdom as well as age."