This week had some good times and bad times... Ruby and Moses were surprisingly fine. I was expecting a tough re-adjustment period, but I guess they're just older, and they haven't needed adjustment periods in some time. I've just forgotten.

They both wrote some about their experiences. Both have been nice to have home. I can relax a bit more, and both continue to be mostly peacemakers and examples in the family.

Herbie was super excited to have Moses and (and although he won't admit it) Ruby back. He was exceptionally wonderful Saturday where he did the dishes and cleaned all around the sink and washed the water pitchers without being asked. In the evening he set the dinner table, again without being asked.


We had the primary program this week. I had been unmotivated up until about three days before, but that was enough time to get us ready for what we needed to do. Perhaps, the reason for my lack of motivation... a bunch of my time and energy just wasn't needed there.

We have to do our program a tiny bit different because we have only 5 kids in the whole primary. Linus and Moses prepared and learned great talks on short notice (Moses, Linus, Penelope and Archie each had 3).

I had a short thing for every month, where I ask the kids a question about the theme ahead of time, and I read their answers (Woo's suggestion). Penelope gave me the longest, most thoughtful and sincere answers to these. Archie did some good singing.

Woo and I fasted over our future options/ideas last week, but so far we still do not know. We each have mixed feelings about a lot of things. A stupor of thought might be what we are experiencing? Anyway, no news on that horizon.

I hope you all had a great week!


They're Back!!

Moses returned last night after bedtime. Ruby got home (an hour later than we thought because of luggage mishaps... and no one told us!) this afternoon. We didn't do our usual Sunday afternoon thing, but just listened to them and looked at everything they'd gotten from the other school and their host families.

So this will be a lazy picture-label email, but first I'll answer some questions some people have had.

Ruby and Moses went with class mates and other students in their grade to Greece or Poland as part of a school exchange program. Each grade has a different project or theme and country destination, but the goals largely seem to be to practice English with each other (the common language of Europe) and learn about each other's cultures and countries.

Ruby's group in Greece had kids from Portugal, Greece, Lithuania and Germany. Moses's group had kids from Portugal, Poland, Italy, Lithuania, and maybe also Greece. And I guess American... they're both American :).

Ruby and Moses traveled with their class, stayed with a host family (both of which kicked a child out of their room or their entire apartment--to grandma's--to accommodate them), but spent almost all their time in school led activities that showcased the area and the culture and the project.

We did not pay anything except the 10€ to have the permissions filled out and notarized by a lawyer.

This is Ruby on a double-decker in Athens... Woo was curious to see that she'd only taken 15 pictures. On second look she'd taken over 200, but deleted almost all of them. She'd spent some time on her selfie skills. I salvaged the not too bad ones.

Herbie was very excited to have Moses back. Herbie was awesome while they were gone, with not one incidence of jealousy or feeling sorry for himself. He held down the fort here as a diligent son and an affectionate older brother.

Penelope, Linus and Archie made a traditional bread eaten on November 1 in their classes. (Pão por Deus) They all mentioned that it had sweet potato in it, so that must've been important.


Later in the week, Linus's class had an autumn fruit tasting party.


Herbie went to the temple with us alone. Woo stayed in the baptistery to do baptisms with him, which Herbie loved.

Woo said, "Everyone look fat!" And I guess I'm the only one who did.

Dropping the younger kids off into their schoolyard cage.

Herbie taught adult Sunday School for the first time. It was a good first effort.

My new apron from Greece.

Ruby with a few of her new things. (The bottom of the mug says 24k gold!! And the back of the picture says "handmade in Greece"... aka hand-assembled by Ruby in Greece as part of an hosting activity.)

Vacuum packed greek olives...

Doesn't Ruby's host-mom look familiar? Ruby also said she saw someone who looked just like Kurt.


Moses and his stash.

His fuzzy stockings that "everyone in Poland sleeps with."

His certificate for successfully completing his exchange to Poland. (We're so very proud.)

Moses packs like us--lightest bags there! But I think Ruby's was even lighter... she took fewer warm clothes.




Guess which glass is Moses's?



Moses's host family.


Moses brought Karol, his host friend, a Portuguese soccer jersey, which was apparently a big hit. They gave Moses a Slovakian soccer t-shirt later in return.


Moses being brilliant and confident with his English speaking skills.


A salt mine (that stretches clear from Krakov to Warsaw?)







And that's pretty much it. Both of them loved it and their teachers said they were great. They both had opportunities to share the gospel with their classmates, teachers, host families and kids from the other countries.

We are very happy to have them home. Hope your week was great!


The Week of Chocolate on Archie's Face (Archie's Title Suggestion)

We've had a fun week. According to Moses we had the "best Halloween of my life!" We had our two new Elders and a visiting Brazilian member over for dinner. After dinner one Elder slipped out of the room, and returned, leaned an elbow on the table, and started bleeding at the mouth (after swigging a mouthful of fake blood from the Chinese store).

None of us really reacted, but it definitely made an impression on the kids, who talked of little else afterwards. (Mysteriously, that Elder has been feeling ill the last couple days, and was not able to make it to church today.)

The same Elder also showed up with this sword on his head. Again, not much of a reaction from us, but Penelope had a couple seconds fun with it.

The next day was a holiday and the kids were home from school. Unfortunately, it was a dull, rainy day. Luckily, most kids went surfing with Woo in the morning, and Pedro, our new Brazilian friend, came over to take several pictures (although, Linus took this picture of Woo with Pedro's equipment).

Pedro stayed for lunch and entertained the kids for an hour or so? with some game on his phone. We (Woo and I) racked our brains for something better to do with a guest, but really we had nothing on a dull, rainy day.

Ruby and Moses took care of last minute details on Saturday. Moses wanted to do our family NT study on Saturday so he wouldn't miss it, so we did that. Woo gave them both blessings. Woo also spent several hours to get 2 old phones ready for them to take with them. They can message us, use the gospel library app, take pictures and use their language dictionaries.

Both of them left today. Moses's group met at 3:30AM at the school for a taxi. They arrived 2 1/2 hours early ... and their flight was also late.


Ruby woke up soon after we got home (4AM) and stayed awake, but luckily quiet. She was picked up outside our apartment around 9AM and is still in the air.


Herbie has been handling it very well, so far. I'm sure it would be disappointing to him to watch Ruby and Moses leave on an adventure while he stays at home (and helps move another load of junk for our hoarder member), especially after the other kids got phones, but he's been really great.

Archie woke up this morning excited about his testimony and announced he was going to fast two meals today for the first time. He ran up to the pulpit to give his testimony first, and has fasted the longest he ever has so far, although, he's less enamored with the idea now. Woo has been trying to keep him distracted.

And I think that's about it. I hope your week was great!

Testimony Below:

Last week I fasted with Ruby and Moses because they would be traveling today. We fasted for their safety.

Before our fast, I had many assurances that they would be safe and that they would do good, but I still sometimes worried. But after our fast, I felt complete peace. I have known at all times that they will be safe.

I know that fasting gives extra power to our prayers and that like President Nelson said, when we pay our fast offerings, we are obeying the second commandment to love our neighbor.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Examples and Such

I forgot to mention that last week Ruby played her first hymn for the congregation (while we sang, not prelude music or anything). She played Sweet Hour of prayer and it was great! No mistakes. It was like playing to the recording on the keyboard, but better because it was a human.

She also taught Sunday School for the first time this week. I wasn't there, but Woo said it was a good first attempt.

I had a question to be answered during conference. It was "What could we further do to protect us from Satan?"

The answer did not come in a talk; it came in a prayer. And not anything specific said in the prayer, but only feeling the Spirit and remembering an earlier speaker that mentioned that inspiration often comes in recurring thoughts and then I remembered that I'd thought a couple of times that I wished the kids knew the conference talks better.

So that is why I now have the kids review (watch or read) a specific conference talk and prepare to mention something they liked about it before dinner.

Archie calls it the Conference Quiz Thingy.

Moses and Herbie took it very seriously and took notes to share during our discussion. They were good examples for Archie, who immediately made his own, and Ruby and Linus, who took notes today.

We only spend 15 minutes or so discussing, and we mostly just let the kids talk, but I think it's good.

Linus won a cool multi-colored colored pencil this week for having the best score on a reading comprehension test and also was one of only a couple of kids to get 100% on his math test. He does careful work in school.

Archie: Linus played tag at recess with Gui.
(Gui is an autistic kid in Linus' class.)
Archie: Gui doesn't have a lot of friends.
After thinking a couple of seconds.
Archie: I'm going to play with Gui at recess sometimes too.

Archie woke up one morning and told me he'd gotten revelation to give one of his teachers a Book of Mormon. I told him great, but he'd need to find a Book of Mormon, I didn't have any to give away. I thought nothing more of it, but Archie did.

On the day he had that teacher, he asked again for a Book of Mormon, which I didn't have. When he came home that afternoon, he'd given his teacher a Book of Mormon! Penelope had had one in her backpack, and they'd rendezvoused the recess before that class.

Penelope took some standardized, nationwide test last year. She was insistent that I come into her classroom in the morning and pick up her results. I couldn't go in that day, but did the next. When walking into the classroom, Penelope said, "Now you can see how loud my class is."

But I didn't notice them. The best part for me was seeing Penelope sitting upright and alert in the front row with her proud, that's-my-mom face on while I spoke briefly with her teacher.

Herbie had some extra time this week because two of his teachers are in Slovakia on exchange, and they don't get substitutes. He went surfing with Woo twice.

One of those times he cut his foot on his fin. He came in early and changed, but went back out to film Woo. Woo has been wanting someone to film him for awhile so he can see what he looks like. Herbie was a willing and eager accomplice.

Moses is already packed for Poland. We went to his parent meeting and I was reassured to see that some of the teachers also going look like sweet grandmothers.

Woo likes to offer rewards for overcoming bad habits. It's not his favorite reward to offer, but it seems to be the one that gets the best results--Linus stopped biting his fingers for 2 big bags of candy.

And that's our week. Hope yours was great!


16 Wonderful Years

Woo and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary this week. The kids are better at celebrating it than we are. They were so, so excited. I made sure to pick them up a treat (donuts) for lunch to make their excitement worth it.

Linus had been planning a special surprise for several days. He was the first down that morning and wanted us to come up and see his surprise. He even added, "You might want to take a picture or video... "

When we got to the top of the stairs Archie and Nellpea were standing there beaming, holding a nice sign between them. We admired the sign, but I was a little confused about the fact that Linus had disappeared. He had been the most excited one...

So I said, "Where's Linus?"

And then he popped out with a bright, little, "HI!"

Woo and I laughed and had a nice start to our day. We then spent the rest of the morning at the lawyer's... twice... but we did finally get the all the legal stuff signed for Moses and Ruby to go on their school trips, and it also was our temple day.

Because it was our anniversary, we were of course going to do sealings, but Woo also wanted to baptize Ruby and Herbie a few times, and maybe I would witness?

But in the waiting room, a few other kids came in, a couple were two boys old enough to baptize who'd also been there last week, so we decided to just go up and do sealings.

The Portuguese sealers are awesome; they talk so fast, we got almost completely through our large stack of names. And they just rolled with those Czech names, there was not a single instance of them raising eyebrows or gulping or sighing or anything else when they saw a Czech name; they just barreled through them. They actually had more trouble with the English names we had.

Woo and I also went out to eat later that night.

A brother and sister from Spain were in the baptistry. Ruby and Herbie shared some of their names with them, and made fast friends. Ruby did a lot of talking, in Portuguese and French? Herbie didn't seem to think she could speak Spanish, because I guess he can?? Either way, they somehow found ways to understand each other with their new friends.

Apparently surprised, one of the Portuguese boys asked Ruby how many languages she could speak. She matter-of-factly answered English, Portuguese, French and Greek... I know that she knows some of those far better than others, but she does have a powerful drive to speak, and can probably make herself somewhat understood in all of those.

Herbie has been spending a lot of time this week on a group project. They've been doing a lot of extra work during lunch and one morning, where he usually starts late and does family history during that time.

I was pleased to see him arrange his time wisely the night before all on his own. He did a lot of his morning things (his chore, making his breakfast, etc.) that evening so that he could have more time to still do family history in the morning before going to school. He feels it's important for him to have that protection that comes from doing family history work for school.

Another thing Herbie often does is take his little brother (Archie) and Nellpea to the park. They love the attention of their older brother, and it's a nice thing for him to do for them. He shares his skateboard with Nellpea, who likes to do her own thing, and he races Archie across the court on the scooters.

Penelope has been into pigtails the last week or so. They are pretty cute on her, and they were a big hit at school. She started putting them in after a dream she had where she wore pigtails and her teacher loved them.

Archie continues to love school. I like delivering him to school and seeing a couple boys calling his name and excited to see him. Archie lost his backpack one afternoon at school. He was very distraught, and all his prayers mentioned it. Luckily, he found it the very next day. How happy he was.

I asked him once if he missed preschool and he said, "No. I like learning real stuff. In preschool we just played all the time."

Moses had a really excellent day, I think on our anniversary, also. He was extremely obedient, kind and showed a lot of initiative. His revelation for that night was that he'd been a very good boy that day. (Of course, the day after he was kind of cranky :). Moses was excited to get a muito bom (A) on his very first test of the year--in History and Geography of Portugal.

Woo had a couple of really fun days of surfing. He came home with huge smiles and told of how fun it was to be catching waves and really fun ones on his big foam beginner board, when everyone out on their short boards could catch hardly any. I was reminded that we'd fasted for him last Sunday. I think an abundance of fun was one of his blessings.

He's taken all the kids to watch part of the World Surf competition at Supertubos, but I think he's done. Once you've been to one pro competition, they're pretty boring--much better to watch the highlight clips. Herbie and Moses did get some free hats and tote bags and Nellpea got a free lunch when her class was invited to watch a concert that was supposed to be at Supertubos for the occasion.

And I had fun this week doing things like designing a conservatory, reading the 3 Investigators to the kids, and going on a few extra runs, now that Archie's in school in the afternoon too.

While writing this, Linus just found his own name to take to the temple--the very first time that's happened to him. He's pretty excited about it.

And that's all I have this week. Hope yours was great!

This is possibly the laziest talk I’ve ever given. Luckily, it also was the right talk to give.

For several years I have read a recent conference talk everyday. To be honest, it gets kind of boring there at the end and I get really excited for general conference, if only to have something new to read. However, I keep doing it because more than once, I have received clear and memorable revelation while reading an old talk in the last week, and because I know the talks very well. They easily come to mind when I need them while teaching my children or a lesson.

But now, something I enjoy doing is fasting and praying over portions of conference talks. President Nelson’s talks are especially good for this because he is the prophet and also because he often gives us specific things to pray about.

This week I read his talk Spiritual Treasures and I made a list of the things the Holy Ghost told me I needed to fast about. I’m going to share that list with you.
  • to understand the spiritual treasures that are mine in the temple. 
  • for truth to register upon my heart that will change my life. 
  • what I need to do to lay aside the things of this world and seek for the things of a better. 
  • to draw liberally upon the Savior’s power to help your family and others you love. 
  • to discover what the Holy Ghost will teach me in section 25 of the Doctrine and Covenants. 
  • for the Holy Ghost to prompt me about what is no longer needful, what is no longer worthy of my time and energy. 
  • to embark upon and continue this lifelong process of consecrating my life to the Lord. 
  • to speak and teach with power and authority from God. 
  • that every time I serve and worship in the temple, I will leave armed with God’s power and with His angels having “charge over” me. 
  • to prepare a people for the Second Coming of the Lord. 
  • for my prayers, fasting, time in the scriptures, service in the temple, and family history work to open the heavens to me.
 (In my opinion, this is one of the most important sentences in the whole talk because the prophet gives us a nice list of 5 things we need to do for the heavens to open to us: pray, fast, study the scriptures, go to the temple and do family history.)
  • what truths can the Lord teach me about priesthood power in Doctrine and Covenants sections 84 and 107. 
  • for my understanding to increase as I exercise faith in the Lord and His priesthood power, so that my ability to draw upon this spiritual treasure that the Lord has made available will increase. 
  • that I may understand the priesthood power with which I have been endowed and that I will augment that power by exercising my faith in the Lord and in His power.
I would encourage all of you to read President Nelson’s recent talks and make a list of the things you should pray over.

I also read about Captain Moroni this week. The thing that I was most impressed about this time was that Captain Moroni never stopped preparing his places of security. Even after his fortifications had successfully astonished and driven away the Lamanites, he continued to strengthen them. He knew a worse attack was coming and also he added things that wouldn’t have done a great deal with out his earlier efforts, but were brilliant with them.

Our places of security are our homes and we should never suppose that we are done strengthening them. I know these things to be true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.