Before Joseph and I left on our fabulous trip to London, Eleanor had a birthday. Sophia has been the only two year-old so far who understood what a birthday was (she was singing the song to herself for weeks before the day), so Eleanor had no idea what was going on when we brought her a cake with burning things on it. Brandon modeled blowing out the candles and after four or five tries, Eleanor got it and managed to blow most of the candles out without too much spit.
We wrapped up her one present from us (the second from her Grammy didn't quite make it in time) and she was more than pleased to have her very own little American Girl dolly to molest. Two year-olds are so easy to please.
Before Eleanor's birthday, Brandon and I celebrated our eleventh anniversary. I feel like after your first decade, the years are only momentous every five, so eleven didn't feel much different from five. I surprised Brandon with a day off from work and we ditched the children with the housekeeper. We went hiking in the morning, checked into the Hyatt (their tastier breakfast beat the nicer rooms at the Sheraton), showered off, and went to a friend's goodbye party. And of course had delicious breakfast the next morning.
Eleven years feels like it should be such a long time - by now we should have everything perfectly down - but it really isn't. There are things about Brandon that I'm still finding out - he prefers my hair almost to my waist - and insights about being a good wife that still surprise me. I always imagined that at some point I would have nailed marriage and everything would be skipping off together into the sunset after that. Sure, there would be problems coming from outside but we would have no disagreements or difficulties after we figured out how to be perfect people. It wouldn't take that long. Right? But of course, as all of you wiser people out there already know, marriage is a perpetual work in progress. But that's okay. It's good to have a project.
And then last week Sophia turned eight. I remember Kathleen finally turning eight and of course, Sophia's eight birthday kind of snuck up on me. That's the way it is for all children after your first - they're not breaking any new ground (well, at least in the birthday department). We had hoped to baptize her here, but it looks like we're going to have to wait until August during our R&R. Too bad for the cool factor (I got baptized in a friend's sauna in Tajikistan!) but better for having relatives there. Baptisms are important, but it's a really, really long flight to get here.
Sophia's siblings were all excited for her birthday and also excited to get school off. The great thing about homeschooling is nobody has to have school for their birthday. Instead we took a picnic lunch to the botanical gardens and had a great time not being in school. Sophia did have to attend Russian lessons, but it was okay. She had her favorite dinner, Eggs Benedict, and Raspberry Baccone for her cake and then, of course, presents. Our present to her had been sitting in the closet since we came back from Uzbekistan and Sophia was happy to see it again, since she was the one who picked it out. Kathleen had very happily spent her money on a couple of candy bars (hooray for candy! It doesn't have to be moved!) and Edwin had made a paper doll for Sophia. Brandon's mother sent out a very lovely locket that Sophia was very happy about.
After Brandon's birthday in a few weeks we'll be done with the six-week cluster of holidays. Then it will be a few month's dry spell until Kathleen's birthday in August. But one of the great things about having a big family is having lots and lots of things to celebrate!