Acampamento Jovens

We were surprised to learn on Sunday that the youth of the district (not yet a stake) were coming to our town for their version of youth conference/camp/summer activity/whatever. Ruby, of course, was going. Then we learned that Ruby, Herbie, AND Moses could go (and really it ended up... we all could go).

It was super nice because their camp was within walking distance of our apartment, so Woo and the older kids could do the activities, the little kids and I could make a token appearance, and then we could all skip the camping and the late dinners.

(Moses looks like he's been camping 3 days within the first 3 minutes.)

Woo, Ruby, Herbie and Moses hung out most of the first day. Linus, Penelope, Archie and I met them in the afternoon at the beach. Moses was super excited because he'd made a friend who spoke english. His friend's parents are separated. He lives in England most of the time with his mother, but spends summers in Portugal with his grandma, because, apparently, his father is in jail.
Linus: Why'd his dad go to jail? 
Moses (completely serious): Tattle telling.

Linus ended up being able to go to the waterpark (the stuff of his dreams). Only, he spent the first few minutes crying. All the pools were too deep for him and his swimming skills aren't strong enough to get him to the side. That was solved by Woo going down every slide first to catch him at the bottom, and then he had lots of fun.

Herbie had a super rough couple of days at the beginning of the week. So rough that we didn't allow him to go to the waterpark the second day; he got to stay home with me. He took it surprisingly well, and during his time home admitted he thought he'd sleep better in Archie's room where it's darker. He spent the morning moving all his stuff down and organizing.  And he has been better since.

It was fun to meet some of the district members. One of them told me they needed me to teach them how to make chocolate chip cookies; they had never gotten them right in Portugal. I made a batch today to see if they were truly impossible here. They seemed fine to me. Possibly even more tasty because I chopped up a chocolate bar instead of chocolate chips.

The kids were very excited. (I only make chocolate chip cookies once every three years or so... )
Moses: Mom! This is the best smelling thing ever! 
... Except for your breath.
I thought it was a joke until he turned and gave me a big hug.

Penelope is not speaking a lot of Portuguese but she is worming her way into plenty of people's hearts. They usually respond by giving her something--the necklace off their necks, a trinket in their purse, etc.

The youth group had a "Peddy Paper" on the third day. It was some sort of competition where teams went around a course in teams, doing different things at different stations. Penelope was put on a team with three teen boys, one of them a big German kid who had been invited by a friend.

The other two boys were not excited to have Penelope on their team. They wanted to win. I saw them try to encourage her to run off with another team. But the German boy decided she was his personal responsibility. After the start, he picked her up and ran with her.

(None of the boys should've been afraid she'd slow them down. She ran by herself after that and beat all of them to all the other stations.)

Anyway, afterwards, the boy went into his tent and came out with two German treats--one for him and one for Penelope, and he stuck close to her the whole time we were there.

Archie and Ruby were on the same team. That's Archie tearing it up on the wheelbarrow.

And then... to cap the week off... Woo, Ruby, Herbie and Moses were invited to pick pears for the branch president's brother. Woo mentioned that at one point, Herbie and Moses were throwing pears, but Ruby worked the entire time.
Woo: But, I'll be honest, after 9 hours of picking pears, I was ready to throw some myself.
And they really did pears for that long. I was thinking 2, maybe 3 hours... the rest of us at home would've spent the day a bit differently if I had known. Anyway, they came home extremely tired. The rest of us were a bit bored.

Today was a good day, but this email is long enough already. I hope your week was great!


Salty Tears, Salty Sea

Well, the kids are still not normal. There was a lot of crankiness, but they're also showing signs of wanting to be better. I went to Moses and Linus' room in the morning to find they'd already cleaned it and made their beds without wrinkles. (Linus got mad when I sat on his.) Herbie helped me clean up after dinner without anyone asking. Ruby and Penelope played quietly together with their dolls. Archie did his chore, then helped Penelope with hers.

But we rarely have everyone happy at the same time. We also make clear mistakes like taking all the kids with us while Woo goes over the branch list with the Relief Society President. I don't know what we were thinking. That kind of stuff's super boring for just a junior companion, let alone a bunch of kids. Anyway, this happened:

Then I removed all boys outside where we had a super rocky thirty minutes before they calmed down.

Woo has strained his tricep. It's been hard for him because 1) he's in pain, and 2) he can't surf until it's healed. Also, he's tired. Also, the van purchase he lined up on Friday fell through.

Finding ridiculous things in the grocery store is the tiniest silver lining.

I hesitate to make blanket statements for all of Portugal because all I've seen so far has been this one city and I don't know what's regional, or unique to one city, etc. But it appears there are no thrift stores. Instead, people leave perfectly good stuff on the sidewalk near the garbage bins when they're through and anyone who wants it can take it (Or it can be picked up with the garbage).

The son of a branch member found Penelope this baby carriage and doll. I was happy he could give it to her. He's a recovering drug addict and generally acts like he hates all people, so I was pretty shocked that he did this for her and was smiling about it.

Really, we've just been picking up soccer balls (all sturdier than the one we bought, which is already falling apart), but this week we found a surf board. The tail was partially ripped off... cue Ruby to the rescue... luckily, she'd stashed some twine in a bush earlier...

Then, Ruby, Herbie, Moses and Linus took turns just playing around on the board and getting a feel for things.

Almost all the kids got to where they could stand up after a lot of falling into the water, but Herbie was the most determined and spent the most time trying to get it just right.

And Penelope and Archie are still very content to just be playing in sand.

Our plans to have the kids take surf lessons were derailed by the advent of August and the appearance of crowds at the beach and large class sizes. We also don't want to buy the kids a board until we know a little more, so this was perfect for them and the wind and the tide were also perfect. Lots and lots of beginner waves in shallow water.

I gave my first talk in Portuguese today. I'm sure I slaughtered plenty of words, but the District President (speaking after me) said he was surprised, but he understood every word I said. Which I guess was a compliment? Or he had the gift of tongues?

Anyway, you don't have to be afraid I'm going to include all my talks (probably one every month or so in this branch), but I'm posting it below because it's not much longer than my regular testimonies and my last testimony was super short. Also, it's all story.

That's our week. Hope yours was great!


Talk (English first, Portuguese second):

One evening after the kids were in bed I read this story in a talk by President Dieter F Uchtdorf:

"I once owned a pen that I loved to use during my career as an airline captain. By simply turning the shaft, I could choose one of four colors. The pen did not complain when I wanted to use red ink instead of blue. It did not say to me, 'I would rather not write after 10:00 p.m., in heavy fog, or at high altitudes.' The pen did not say, 'Use me only for important documents, not for the daily mundane tasks.' With greatest reliability it performed every task I needed, no matter how important or insignificant. It was always ready to serve."

The line that says that the pen would rather not write after 10 p.m. was important for me because I often said that after the kids went to bed, was my time to relax and do what I wanted. This story told me I needed to repent.

A few days later Steve came home late. He had had a long day of work and bought the groceries.

The Spirit whispered that I should help him bring the groceries in the house. I didn't want to because I was tired and would still have to put all the groceries away after Steve was done.

The Spirit whispered that I was not being a good pen in the hands of the Lord, and right now I was needed to help my husband.

I went outside to help him and put all the groceries away and I felt so wonderful when I was done. I had more energy, not less.

President Uchtdorf says, "When our heart is in the right place, we do not complain about our assigned task. We gladly serve wherever we are asked. When we do this, the Lord can use us in ways beyond our understanding to accomplish His work."

I know that we show God our love for Him when we serve where he asks and that he blesses us far more than the sacrifice we give. Usually with something we have been praying for.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Uma noite, depois que as crianças estavam na cama, eu li essa história em um discurso do Presidente Dieter F Uchtdorf:

Ele diz: "Eu tinha uma caneta que adorava usar quando era piloto de companhia aérea. Bastava girar a haste e eu podia escolher uma das quatro cores. A caneta não reclamava quando eu queria usar a tinta vermelha em vez da azul. Não me dizia: 'Prefiro não escrever depois das dez da noite, na neblina ou em altitudes elevadas'. A caneta não dizia: 'Só me use em documentos importantes, e não nas tarefas diárias comuns'. Eu podia confiar inteiramente nela para realizar toda e qualquer tarefa necessária, fosse ela importante ou insignificante. Estava sempre pronta para servir".

A linha que diz que a caneta prefere não escrever depois das 10 horas foi importante para mim porque eu costumava dizer que depois que as crianças foram para a cama, foi meu tempo para relaxar e fazer o que eu queria. Mas essa história me disse que eu precisava me arrepender.

Poucos dias depois, Steve chegou em casa até tarde. Ele teve um longo dia de trabalho e comprou os mantimentos.

O Espírito sussurrou que eu deveria ajudá-lo a trazer os mantimentos na casa. Eu não queria porque estava cansado e ainda teria que colocar todos os mantimentos depois que Steve terminasse.

O Espírito sussurrou que eu não estava sendo uma boa caneta nas mãos do Senhor, e agora eu precisava ajudar meu marido.

Então, saí para ajudá-lo e colocar todos os mantimentos e eu me senti tão maravilhosa quando terminei. Eu tinha mais energia, não menos.

Presidente Uchtdorf diz: "Se tivermos o espírito certo no coração, não reclamaremos que nossa tarefa designada. Serviremos com alegria em qualquer lugar que formos chamados. Se fizermos isso, o Senhor poderá usar-nos de maneiras que estão além de nossa compreensão na realização de Sua obra".

Eu sei que mostramos a Deus nosso amor por ele quando servimos onde ele pede e que ele nos abençoa muito mais do que o sacrifício que damos. Normalmente, com algo em que oramos.

No nome de Jesus Christo, amém.


Bureaucracy, Fish Heads and Swimming Pools

There's a group of two or three girls who've showed up at the park this week. The first time I saw them, I heard them say, "Speak Inglize?" to Linus, but he just ran on by.

A couple days later, Ruby was looking out the window, when she suddenly ran down the hall, threw on her shoes and ran out the door.

"There's a group of girls chasing Linus in the park! I'm going to help him!"

Penelope ran to the window for her own look, then dashed upstairs, "I'm going to make myself pretty so the girls don't chase me!"

She came down all in pink.

The girls never caught Linus and they've kind of given up. The last time I saw them, they just sat on the side of the soccer court Linus was on and smiled at him. He kept giving them wary glances.

One afternoon I was at the park with all the kids and a huge daycare group came to run around. Within seconds, each of my kids had found someone to play with (even Archie, who began bouncing a ball back and forth in the middle of the court with a little boy), except Penelope, who was in the middle of a chess game with me. We quickly had three or four kids park themselves around us to watch (one practically in my lap). They talked to us and some of us talked to them, and the whole thing made me much less concerned about the kids' transition to school. The kids were very patient with broken Portuguese and very encouraging when we got just a word or two right.

I had a few nights this week where we put the kids to bed and then I immediately fell into mine in exhaustion. But every morning, without fail, I would wake up feeling great and wanting to get the kids up. I was reminded of a blessing Woo gave me soon after Archie was born. It said that I would wake up every morning excited to be doing this important work for the Lord. (Motherhood) Anyway, it's still true.

Woo had a rough week. Maybe you've had a rough experience at an DMV? Well, he had that, only ten times worse, on Tuesday (attempting to get a residency permit--it was an hour away, then he waited in line for hours, then they signed it, then they ripped it up, and made him an appointment in another city at the end of October) and Wednesday (attempting to open an account at a local bank), and then a long drive out to see a van on Saturday. (They failed to post that it was in a junkyard, the shifter fell off in Woo's hands, the transmission was about to go out, and it wouldn't go into reverse.) The incredible thing is that the branch's Elders Quorum President drove him to two of those and just waited patiently in the car, entirely unfazed.

The good news is the kids can still start school even with the delayed residency permit. We went to the school, found them on their class lists and talked with a secretary. The kids are all really excited for school to start. They have always loved school. Archie will be starting school too, going to the same school as Moses, Linus and Penelope (but getting out earlier), and knows from the other kids that he will love it.

After the school visit we decided to drop by a member's house that we'd never visited before. She was thrilled to see us and rushed us through her house to the tiny patio with a pool taking up a third of it. The kids were excited. It was quite the surprise for me, but we all survived. She had us over for lunch the next day and we all survived that too.

(This dry t-shirt that Ruby was given says: I like riding my bicycle in rainy days)

Ruby is one tough cookie. We always take her grocery shopping with us because she can carry a decent load home. She tripped on the soccer court yesterday and scraped the top of both feet. She came home without crying or even limping at all and put on all her own bandaids. She did have a rough evening emotionally, though. Probably because her feet hurt, but she didn't mention them much. I helped her bandage them better before bed and she wore flipflops to church today.

The kids' friends at the park have started to talk to Herbie in just Portuguese (instead of attempting English) because they can see that he understands them. He's still limited to two or three word answers, but he knows what is going on. If Woo's not around, I look to Herbie for help. One time I was struggling to find the word for "to fast." I knew it started with a j, but that was it. I looked at Herbie and he's like, "Oh, you mean jejuar?" Yeah, thanks, Herb.

Moses has been great this week--very obedient, helpful, etc. Almost every morning after scriptures he tells me of something new the Holy Ghost has told him to do: hand out pass-along cards in front of the church (today's), give a Book of Mormon to his new teacher on her birthday, etc. He was very jealous when someone gave Penelope a toy, but he combated those feelings and decided to be Penelope's friend instead, feeling much better.

His testimony today (we all gave one in Portuguese, so had to figure it out earlier) was on honoring his parents. I'm certain that influenced his behavior.

Oh, I forgot to mention... the Elders came by with souped up Book of Mormons (in Portuguese) for each of the kids. They've inspired extra reading, and missionary and teaching play.

Well, that's it. Hope things are well!


Testimony Below:

(Back to basics. I'm going to write what I actually said, even though there was a mistake. Because what's a first testimony in a different language without a mistake or two????)

Eu sei que Jesus Cristo é nosso Salvador.
Eu sei que Joseph Smith é un profeta de Deus.
Eu amo O Livro de Mormon.
Eu amo meu Pai Celestial e teu Filho Jesus Christo.
No nome de Jesus Christo, amém

I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior.
I know that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.
I love the Book of Mormon.
I love my Heavenly Father and thy Son, Jesus Christ.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.



This week we hit the summit in terms of time adjustment. I started out the week with several heavy bedwetters. Now I have one or two light ones, who should taper off soon.

Also on Monday, Ruby, Herbie and Moses did the dumbest thing they've ever done. We live on the fourth and fifth stories. While I was playing chess with Linus and Woo was on a conference call, they climbed out the skylight of one room, over the ridge of the roof, and into the skylight of another. I was so exasperated I couldn't speak. And then I accidentally let Linus beat me (the first kid to do so). It was like I couldn't leave them alone for a second. I haven't felt that way in a long, long time and when they all went to bed I was exhausted.

Thankfully that stage seems to be over.

Herbie, Moses and Linus were hoping to take surf lessons this week, but we had very strong winds and crazy waves. They were about right for Woo and he had a lot of fun, but not good for kids who've never surfed before.

Herbie was the most put out. He got up every morning, cleaned his room and did his chore before anyone else was even done with their room, because that morning might be the morning. But it never was. Finally, Friday had mild waves but the fog was so thick, we couldn't see more than fifty feet. Woo did take Ruby, Herbie, Moses and Linus each out for a turn on his board on the nearest breaking wave to shore and they all loved it.

Penelope and Archie each discovered the Book of Mormon for themselves. Penelope spent a lot of time Monday morning in her room reading verse after verse and was so excited when she got to 1 Nephi 3:7, she ran out and said, "Mom! I know this one! I know this story!"

She felt great all day and told me she was always going to read the Book of Mormon in the morning and she has. (Earlier she would often just look at pictures.)

Then, on Saturday, Archie studied the front page of a Book of Mormon during morning scriptures, found the word "the" and identified a few other letters and their sounds. He was so pleased; he talked about it for hours.
Archie: I don't need to go to preschool now, Mom. Cuz, I know how to read. I can go to kindergarten.
And Penelope was very excited for him and told him she'd set up a school for him in her room just like her kindergarten teacher and teach him sight words.
Archie: I feel good because I read the Book of Mormon.
Archie: I'm excited to go to bed, cuz in the morning I can read the Book of Mormon.

Woo gave a very rousing speech around the breakfast table about how the kids were the only ones in the entire city who had the Gift of the Holy Ghost and how special that was. (And also how they were the only ones in the entire city sealed to their family forever.) And that was why we were here, to share those things, talk to people.

The kids were all visibly affected, but especially Ruby, who immediately started talking to all people again, using the little Portuguese she knows, her hands and English. Woo handed the four oldest kids a pass-along card before our walk today and she was the very first kid to hand one out. After she'd shown them how it was done, the other kids did the same.

Linus screamed because Herbie had gone on a lego-smashing rampage.
My airplane! My airplane! 
What's in your hand, Linus? 
And then he was laughing. He'd been holding his own airplane the entire time.

There was A LOT of whining and complaining by tired kids before bedtime prayers. I looked over at Moses who gave me a huge smile and whispered, "I'm not complaining, Mom. Like Nephi!"
Archie (walking past a school): ... And there's a tennis hoop!
Nellpea: ... and you shouldn't scratch anyone unless they're a robber. 
Archie: Yeah. (nodding sagely) Or a shark. 
Nellpea: Yeah.
And that's our week!