Given we'd made some changes to our back yard, we suggested Brayden host a low-key party with some of his closest friends to celebrate getting out of school. He opted to keep the guest list pretty small, so that he would really be able to have a good time with some of his favorite people vs. feeling like he had to make good impressions constantly or not be able to relax. A couple of the guys he invited weren't able to attend due to baseball, and a few of the friends of his that were girls couldn't make it either. But, the most important girl invitee did make it, which for John and I was one of the main reasons we suggested this party happen. =) Here's the crew, minus Tanner who came a little late. From left to right: Olivia, Mary, Andrew, Solomon, Jack, and of course, Brayden.
We bar-b-q'd up hamburgers and hot dogs for them -
Had s'mores ingredients available...
And, the first firepit fire of the season. Ah, summer, you have arrived!!!!
Kaela stopped by, as did Kimmie. After all, it was Thursday night - these gals are used to coming over and hanging out and were ready to support Brayden and his pals (especially Kimmie who works with most of them through her time volunteering as a middle school leader at church).
We also had water balloons.... While Brayden and Tanner went around the corner to shoot some hoops, we suggested the rest of the crew go after them with water balloons. Unfortunately, Solomon got in a really point-blank hit to Brayden's abdomen. That was a low point of the night as Brayden had to really suck up the pain and embarrassment of being hurt first with Solomon's hit - and then again, when Jack had enough really good "bad aim" to hit him again in the same exact spot. Poor Brayden, as parents that just sucks to see your kid want to just escape because he's hurting so bad. Fortunately, after taking a little time away in his bedroom, he came out to have the whole crew literally lining up to give him hugs.
Shaved ice seemed like a safer option to suggest....
And, then, back to moves by Tanner on the court and the trampoline. There is nothing that kid (who has turned into a full on adult in size in the last couple of months) won't try or do. We've only "half-joked" that we need to get a separate insurance policy just for his visits.
However, I did have to smugly point out, that for the first (and only) time I was able to pull an athletic stunt he couldn't best me at on the trampoline. When goading me on for not attempting a flip (uh, neck issues....not gonna happen), I demonstrated my flexibility in doing a toe touch jump, cheerleader style. Of course, Tanner had to try - and what do you know, but the kid didn't do so hot and crumpled over mumbling something about a pulled groin.... =)
By this point, the party (complete with dance music blaring) had picked up speed. Olivia and Mary took on Mikayla as their new little buddy, and oh, how she was on "Cloud 9". Badminton then became a huge hit for the whole crew.
Tanner hates posing for the camera, can you tell? (insert sarcasm....) Rice Krispie Treats, been making a lot of those lately!
A gorgeous shot of Olivia and Mary.
Mary is the same grade as the rest of the kids (all going into 8th grade next year), but she is already 5'9"!!! ....Exactly the same height as Mikayla from the knees up!
And, Brayden, when standing on Andrew's back, is taller....
So....back to that hint earlier of the guest we were most excited to have over. Brayden and Olivia...they are "close friends". Their "friendship" has been tight since spring break when Brayden especially felt drawn to her because of her help, support, and encouragement during his tough time assistant counseling during spring break camp. She had a group of her own (her camp name is "Zipper") and would offer her help when able to Brayden. Of course, that's not the only reason Brayden likes her. =) Before Brayden even knew Olivia very well, he already knew her stance on mid-school relationships. She doesn't see the point in them and thinks it's best to wait until high school (junior year preferably). While that's a bit daunting to Brayden, it will at least give him some time to catch up in height! (Brayden is actually a month older...)
They've stuck true to the plan as far as withholding from any titles for their relationship or each other, but in every other aspect you'd make that assumption about the two of them. (Maybe even a little hand holding and a slow dance or two at Activity Night....). I'm going to try to be as unbiased as possible, but in every possible aspect I've witnessed, been told about, or know about this girl (and her family), I'm absolutely, undeniably a huge fan. As is John and Mikayla. We're actually trying hard to reign in the enthusiasm so it doesn't overwhelm either one of them (hence giving lots of space last night with the whole party...very awkward for John and I to try to navigate!). The idea that they'll again be working together out at Harlow this summer- how cool is that?!! (And, for the record, Brayden doesn't see them being out there together as being a distraction). Pretty sure Brayden has his cheek stuffed with Rice Krispie Treat in this pic...NICE!
However that particular friendship evolves, I just can't emphasize enough how incredibly thankful I am that each of the people in this picture are in his life. Whether it's a friend like Tanner that's been a student along side of him since three-year-old pre-school, the friend that makes him laugh and proves Brayden isn't the only "small kid of the bunch" in Jack, a brand new friend within this last year of Solomon, a friend that spans school boundaries and is practically a brother in Andrew, or the "new girls on the scene" that round out Brayden that much more - we are blessed!!! Prior to spring break, Brayden had an emotional meltdown that I talked about in this post. Earlier this week, Brayden actually referenced that point in his life and said he can barely even remember what that all felt like, as he feels so removed from those feelings now - in other words, he's now so content. When I asked him why he feels like there's been such a change, he attributed it to our time together as a family in Maui. While I know that was huge for him, I think having these folks more present in his life have also made for a happier/content kid too. With each of the boys, I can treat them just as I would Brayden - tease, joke, or randomly receive a hug/or throw a teasing punch. Hopefully, as I get to know some of the girls better, it will become just as comfortable. Irregardless, even now, they are ALL a joy.