Just in case you were wondering, we survived our R&R. We even had seats assigned that didn't leave any children in the care of strangers, except once, and Kathleen was in heaven having an adult pay attention to her chatter for the entire flight. Every time we fly the children are older and the flights get easier, thank heaven.
The R&R was great, and we managed to see three of my siblings, including my brother Mike who I haven't seen in three years, two of Brandon's siblings, Brandon's parents, all of the kids' cousins on my side, all but three of the cousins on Brandon's side, and a handful of second cousins thrown in for extra fun.
We started out in North Carolina at the beach.
Then in a moment of insanity we thought that we should drive our new car from the NC coast to St. Louis in one day. We made it, but when the boys started screaming to relieve the boredom from nine hours of driving and we still had seven hours left in the car, I swore I'd never do it again.
We stayed the night and caught up with Brandon's sister and brother-in-law and their five children before heading to Hannibal to see some more cousins and Brandon's brother and his wife.
One afternoon we visited Nauvoo and got to see rope-making, baking, pottery, weaving, blacksmithing, and various other demonstrations. The girls decided that dressing up was the best.
Then we headed west to Brandon's parents' house for more cousins, lots of tasty sweet corn, trampoline-jumping, and cow-watching.
We celebrated Kathleen's seventh birthday with a pizza party
and a visit to the zoo.
So now it's back to normal life until January. When I get asked about the difficulties of living overseas, I shrug off the usual ones because life is generally composed of the same actions regardless of location - cooking, cleaning, taking care of children, spending time with friends, going to work. It's being separated from family that is the worst. We only have three weeks each summer to cram all of the family fun we can and then we have a drought until the next year. And I think each year it's a little harder. Sophia was nearly in tears this week because she couldn't understand why Brandon wasn't going to move us all to Jacksonville so she could be near her cousins.
But, such is the nature of life and the choices we have to make. I'm looking forward to next summer already.