Some little tidbits from earlier I forgot to include (but Woo thinks are important):

Our first Sunday in church, we walked into the chapel, sat down and prepared ourselves to take the sacrament by listening to the prelude music... Chopsticks. It was being played by the best piano player in the branch--a 9 yr old girl--and it made Woo's Sunday.

Also, the branch has had triple the normal numbers since we've been there. Not just us, but lots of visitors and some investigators.

And... we live in a veritable sandbox. The kids sweep twice a day, but we're constantly tracking it in. The bad thing about sleeping on mattresses on the floor is that they're full of sand. The good thing about sleeping on mattresses on the floor is that just we lift them up and shake them out before lying down.

Penelope was very excited approaching this monument. "Mom, who's that?! Is it Captain Portugal?" A good guess, but it ended up being the patron saint of fishermen.

I've mostly mastered my mother-of-six-about-the-town Portuguese. It consists of phrases like: Let's go! Hurry up! Watch out! and Look at that!

Oh, and we all know "seis" like the back of our hand, which is the number (6) passersby always say after they finish counting us.

Woo life this week could be summarized as surfing by day, missionary work by night. Except that he also has a job that he tries to squeeze in. Sleep has been the first thing to go. He was called as branch mission leader today and spoke in sacrament meeting on missionary work.

One night I was helping Teresa get started on FamilySearch while Woo got the kids settled in bed, and she turned to me and said, "He is a good man." Yes, he is.
Woo: So you liking Portugal? 
Me: Yeah. 
Woo: Me too. 
Me: I've always believed and I now know it to be true--Europe is best done with your family.
The other times I've lived in Europe I moved to a different country AND I suddenly lived with strangers. I think the being all alone with strange people was always the worst part for me.

And adjusting to the foreign language and country isn't the hardest thing now. It's working with the kids as they move through their sleep adjustment period. It's a process that I understand by now and don't get too worked up about anymore.

We're in the stage where a kid (very frequently Linus this week), will be super cranky and argumentative, and then suddenly fall asleep.

Also, its sister stage where the kids completely lose their heads and I fear for their lives. Like the time this week, when Moses dumped a bunch of legos out of his fourth story window. I found the kids in his room, on a chair, hanging out his window to see what had happened to the legos.

They had fallen into the private patio of a downstairs neighbor. Moses was too terrified to ring their doorbell and talk to them, but I convinced Ruby and Herbie to do it. We figured out what to say in Portuguese, Ruby blurted the first word out then forgot. Herbie finished the sentence and to their surprise were understood. A few minutes later the man of the house came out with the legos in a napkin. He started yelling right about the time Moses had worked up the courage to go down and join them. Instead, he ran back into his room. I'm pretty sure it's not going to happen again :).

But for the most part the kids seem to be enjoying themselves. No one has complained about being here or said they wished they hadn't come. Although, Archie, who's never complained about anything here asked me, "Can we move back home next month?"

So that's all I have this week. Hope your's was great!


Happy, Happy Birthday!

We kind of crashed this week. It didn't quite seem like jet lag, but it must've been. I mostly felt like I'd been going non-stop for several weeks (without ever getting a full night's sleep), which was also true. Moses complained of a headache. Ruby had severe pain in her foot. Linus felt feverish. Herbie had an accident outside the Lidl. Pressing deadlines at work had Woo cutting short his vacation days and tap-tap-tapping at the computer into the night.

Unfortunately it all coincided with Penelope and Woo's birthdays. As far as Penelope was concerned, her birthday was awesome. Woo dubbed it the second worst birthday ever. Other than opening presents and eating ice cream and singing "Happy Birthday" several times, we did pretty much what we've been doing every other day this week (but way crankier)--going to the beach, walking around town, playing soccer and attempting to stock the kitchen with food.

The kids are ravenous and are tearing through everything we're able to lug home within a day. We're just now making headway. Today Woo announced he thinks we might only have to go shopping two or three times next week.

Some highlights of the week:

We now have a washing machine!

We found the library (in an old villa--this one room is the entire children's section)!

Ruby, Herbie, Moses and Linus now have regular friends at the soccer court, who wait for them to come and play.

We're all speaking and understanding a bit more Portuguese.

We had Teresa (who's been baptized three weeks) over for dinner and I helped her set up a FamilySearch account and we reserved the baptism for her mother who had passed away. That's when I thought: Ah, this is why I'm here.

The missionaries brought a woman into church on the pretext of meeting the American family (she really wanted to speak some English) and she ended up enjoying the meeting a lot and spoke with the missionaries about learning more.

We have hot water as of Friday night!

I think the kids are pretty well settled in their chores now. Herbie, as dishwasher, is washing all of dishes by hand. We don't have a lot of dishes here, but still... If only he knew how rare that is for an 11 yr old boy these days...

Linus had an attitude change on Tuesday. He'd been pretty whiney up to that point, but during morning scriptures, he somehow turned to Alma 60:4 "But behold, were this all we had suffered we would not murmur nor complain."

He knew it was meant for him and read it every morning afterwards, mentally going over situations where he might want to complain, and how he would react instead. He even wrote about it in his journal today.

Unless Ruby is out bodysurfing with Woo at the beach, she is taking care of Archie, which I appreciate and she loves. She really is a great babysitter.

I taught the kids to play Clue for the first time one night. Moses LOVED it! He also loves chess (new to him since a few months), and he's always challenging Ruby to a game. The good news is: despite being very tired, Moses has only dissolved into tears once and that was today after church. The branch had a little surprise celebration for Penelope and Woo's birthday and Moses only got one slice of chocolate cake (some other people got three).

Penelope has such a cute "little girl" run that I love to watch when we're at the beach--because she is running everywhere! Into the water, out of the water, to Archie, away from Archie, etc. So far, my favorite beach memory is watching Linus take Penelope and Archie over to the life guard flags, lining everyone up and then all three of them sprinting into the water. So cute, those little kid sprints!

Today we noticed that our refrigerator had been unplugged for a few days (unplugged by the gas installation guys?) As I've been writing, Woo's been trying to contain himself about the three cartons of ice cream that he bought for his birthday, but are now ruined. He had almost gotten over it until he learned that today is National Ice Cream Day--just more salt in the wound.

When I crash, I really need to read, so this week I read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, A Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle and throughly enjoyed every second of them.

Also, here I am wrestling with substandard plastic wrap. Just one of the many heinous sacrifices I must make to live in Portugal.

I think that's it. Hope you all had a great week!


The Joy That Is Set Before Us

I did bear my testimony last fast Sunday, but I was in a different ward... and it was really short... and I don't really remember it (other than being about the restoration of the priesthood and authority of Jesus Christ).

So, here is my talk from last month. Read or don't read to your own peril.


One of my most favorite quotes is from President Ezra Taft Benson which says:
"Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar His face is to us."
I love this quote because the first time I heard it, it almost took my breath away. The Holy Ghost witnessed to me it was true and also my mind opened a little bit to the realization that I really did live before this life. I really did live with God, my Father; I am His child. And someday, when I see Him again, I will recognize how well I know Him and how well He knows and loves me.

Romans 8:16-17 says:
The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
Everything in those verses is beautiful and comforting, except that one word "suffer." That one isn't very pleasant...

I remember one time I had a frustrating problem. I don't remember exactly, but I think it was one of those incredibly annoying times when we'd turned in our library book, but the library said they didn't have it. I opened my scriptures, hoping for something comforting along the lines of, "It will be okay. It will all work out. They'll find the book on their return shelf just like they always do."

But instead I read this, in Doctrine and Covenants 24:8
Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many.
At first it was like a blow. Suddenly, all my burdens seemed very, very heavy and the life ahead of me seemed very, very long and I wasn't sure I could handle it. But then it actually became kind of freeing, like the scripture was saying to me: Chelsey, expect this stuff... something like this is going to happen every day. There's no need to be shocked and surprised every time. Just roll with it; be patient with it.

Along those lines, here's another scripture I sometimes come across when I'm wondering why things aren't going the way I want them to. It's both a loving rebuke and a promise of good things to come.
1 Peter 4:12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
As most of you know I bear my testimony every month. I started this because of an answer I received to my question and prayer: how can I strengthen my family? At first I was thinking, "Oh, this is for my children." But now I know: this is for me.

Almost every month, something happens to test my testimony and then my own words come back to me, comforting me.

Within a week of sharing how the words of "Come, come ye saints" had strengthened me, I learned that in a space of three weeks we would be backpacking with all the kids for a few nights into the uintahs, driving somewhere else to stay a couple nights and some other large thing I can't remember.

I remember sitting in the shower wondering how I was going to do it, when my testimony and the first line of the song came into my head.
"Come, come ye saints. No toil nor labor fear, but with joy wend your way. Though hard to you, this journey may appear, grace shall be as your day." 
I'm not sure I really understood before then what "Grace shall be as your day" meant. It means that God will lift me and give me the exact amount of strength I need in the very hour I need it.

And for the backpacking trip that happened in an interesting way. The words of my young women's lesson came into my mind a week early and they came back to my mind during long hikes in and out with rain and hail and small, tired children, during uncomfortable nights, and pretty much every other situation that could be considered stressful and I was lifted and rejuvenated by the Holy Ghost through the words of that lesson every single time.

And ever since then, whenever I feel I have a long, hard task ahead of me, the words "Grace shall be as your day" float through my mind and I know that God will give me the strength I need, when I need it, and together we'll make it through.

Something that struck me fairly recently was reading President Nelson's talk on joy from two conferences ago. I'd read this talk several times, but I don't think I really got this part until the last time I read it.

He says:
"Joy is powerful, and focusing on joy brings God’s power into our lives. As in all things, Jesus Christ is our ultimate exemplar, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” Think of that! In order for Him to endure the most excruciating experience ever endured on earth, our Savior focused on joy!"
I don't know why I didn't really get it before, but I love this thought that to get through the hardest event and experience the earth has ever known the Savior focused on the joy that was set before him. 

He knew, better than anyone, I'm sure, that "after much tribulation come the blessings" and he did not focus on the tribulation, but he focused on the blessings that would come afterwards.

And at the same time I realized this, I thought, "I can do this! I've done it before--most often when I was a kid, but I can do it again!"

Preparing a family to move to a foreign country is not easy, and there are hard times ahead, but I've tried to always be thinking and to not forget: Hey, we're moving to Portugal!! Because it really is something I've always wanted to do; it's a dream come true for me. (And I am excited, even though with my personality, I don't really look excited.)

Romans 8:18 reads
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
When I read this scripture, I don't think that Paul wants us to focus on the sufferings of this life, but he's trying to get us to focus on the glory that will come after--the joy that is set before us!

God is literally our Father; He knows us perfectly and He loves us. He is not torturing us here on earth; He is blessing us. He has told us many times that the things that await us are incredible and amazing, wishes come true, for everyone, really, but especially for those who love and serve Him.

I'd just like to end with a few descriptions of what comes after this life.

Paul continues in Romans 8 with:
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
1 Corinthians 2:9
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 
We are told in Doctrine and Covenants 76 that the glory of the telestial, the lowest heaven---the place reserved for those who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie. These are the guys who will suffer the wrath of God on earth--even their kingdom surpasses all understanding. And the glory of their kingdom differs from the celestial kingdom as a star differs from the sun. The celestial kingdom is reserved for those who have been valiant in the testimony of Jesus.

But section 76 goes on to say:
114 But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion;
115 Which he commanded us we should not write while we were yet in the Spirit, and are not lawful for man to utter;
116 Neither is man capable to make them known, for they are only to be seen and understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, which God bestows on those who love him, and purify themselves before him;
117 To whom he grants this privilege of seeing and knowing for themselves;
118 That through the power and manifestation of the Spirit, while in the flesh, they may be able to bear his presence in the world of glory. 
I know that God the Father is my Heavenly Father. I love Him and I know He loves me. I know that someday I will return to Him and I will know Him. I know that His Son Jesus Christ lives.

I know that Jesus Christ and God the Father appeared to the boy Joseph Smith to restore the gospel of Jesus Christ and His authority to the world to prepare the world for His second coming.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


The Good and the Not-So-Good

The Good
  • The Branch President and his wife have been uber-helpful. They picked us up at the bus stop (with 4 liters of water!), got us the apartment key, took Woo to get his NIF (tax number we're pretty much helpless without), helped us get our utilities going, buy a washing machine, microwave, garbage can, etc.
  • The senior missionary couple dropped off some mattresses and pillows from Ikea so we had something to crash on.
  • The apartment is very spacious. All kids have their own rooms except Moses and Linus, who share.
  • The kids LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the beach! (And it's across the street)
  • We live within a mile of two parks, two grocery stores, three household goods stores, two car rental places, many restaurants, the church, the schools, etc.
  • I understand quite a bit of Portuguese.
  • The apartment is all tile and virtually kid-proof.
  • Woo and I have lived in Europe a few times, and while it's different, it's not shockingly different.
  • Ruby, Herbie, Moses and Linus have been playing pick up soccer almost every day with whoever they meet with a soccer ball.
  • I was sitting in church today, very pleased to be sitting in a small European branch. I don't know why that's so fun for me.
  • There are lots of funny, little cars for the kids to laugh at.
  • Woo caught Penelope on a house camera, dancing around with her poofy blue dress before changing for church.
  • The bread and yoghurt and fruit.
  • Woo's getting his Portuguese back.

The Not-So-Good
  • We still don't have gas. Woo and I took cold showers, the kids opted to bathe in the ocean. Probably the same temperature, but much more fun. Also, our meals are cold.
  • Two doorknobs broke in our hands on arrival.
  • I can say hardly anything in Portuguese. The kids are worse.
  • The apartment is all tile and may crack skulls. Also, it's an echo chamber.
  • There's a strong fish scent on the breeze at certain times of the day.
  • Archie threw a tantrum all the walk home after we couldn't buy a sand toy he'd picked out because the store wouldn't accept my card.
  • I sliced my big toe tripping up the stairs. It bled a ton and I have a big flap of skin that will probably die and fall off next week.
  • Moses tripped on a concrete vent and got two long slices on his knee cap.
  • Woo is often exhausted after a long stint of speaking Portuguese.
Well, this is long enough. See you next week!