The Best Day Ever (Penelope's Title Suggestion)

For his 40th birthday, Woo got to baptize his 5th child. For her 8th birthday, Penelope got to be baptized by her dad.

Penelope has been very excited for this for awhile, and I know she's been preparing by practicing repentance and praying to be prepared and reading her scriptures and praying for years to be more like Jesus.

Woo and I went for a bike ride the night before to scout beaches and see where the tide would be. One beach we'd thought of was blocked off by huge tents for the city's biggest summer festival (The Sardine Festival), so we quickly ruled that one out.

The second is in a busy part of town, but is kind of hidden because it is so small and the steps down are tucked away. There were stands for treats and games--sort of a carnival atmosphere--at the top of the stairs, but the little inlet down was fine. We decided it would work.

We also scheduled the baptism for 9:30am which is pretty early for much to be going on in Portugal. We figured that area would be dead when we needed it to be, and it was.

We had several kind guests that Penelope invited.

There were a few kids besides ours, but all was quiet when Woo preformed the baptism. We could clearly hear him. The same thing happened when he gave Penelope the gift of the Holy Ghost (in English). When he said the words, "I say unto you, receive the Holy Ghost," Penelope had a visible reaction with a little jump and a smile.

Penelope asked Ruby to play the piano and Ruby went to the church a couple times to practice until she thought she had it. And it did sound good... when it was just her practicing. But she got nervous in front of other people and also struggled to stay with the congregation. So accompaniment is something she's still working up to, but I'm sure she'll get it eventually.

She was a good sport at any rate, did her best, did not give up, and was not embarrassed.

Herbie was excited to make brownies for the baptism and even made a special trip to the store for more cocoa. One little lady in our branch, who is the type to hardly eat anything at these things, looooooved them! She was so delighted, I didn't see her eat anything else, but she'd sneak back to the brownies again and again to load a couple more on her plate.

Moses sang in the musical number (with Penelope and a good sport of an Elder). Moses sang loudly and clearly and probably carried the song himself, with some help here and there from Penelope. He also sat by Archie's friend and helped him stay quiet through the meeting.

Linus gave a talk on the Holy Ghost that he prayed about and prepared himself (of course... I don't do anything other than a reminder for anyone anymore). He shared a short story about a time when he went to bed mad and tried to get revelation, but didn't get anything. He realized he needed to repent of his anger, and when he did, he was able to feel the Holy Ghost again and get revelation.

He made Woo this pop-out birthday card with the instructions written bigger than the message.

Archie was given some time for a testimony. Penelope wanted to make sure everyone had a job (I said a prayer, and Herbie led the music). Archie was excited to do it, and got revelation one morning at scriptures to talk about Jesus being baptized and how he (Archie) wanted to be baptized. I was a little afraid that with his friend there he would stand up and try to be funny, but he did not.

And Penelope also stood up at the end and gave her own sweet testimony that she also had prayed about earlier.

And here's Woo doing his best used-car-salesman impression.

That's probably enough for this week. Hope your week was great!



I've slowly come to realize that any fun or exciting or exotic trip is not going to work out for us while we are here. We seem to be allowed short day trips, but anything requiring an overnight stay needs to have some purpose: a temple, visiting someone Woo baptized, or an old mission area of his, etc.

I’m understanding now that the inspiration I received about visiting Switzerland was not so much that we HAD to go there, but that if we were going to hop on a plane and fly anywhere more exotic than Portugal it needed to be somewhere with a purpose.

At the time we had just been freed to leave and re-enter the country and our first thoughts were Norway! Or Morocco! But in Switzerland there are people we could see: an Elder who’d been in a few of my districts, 3 people my dad taught (and baptized 2) while on his mission, the girl I worked with and gave a Book of Mormon to while I lived in Switzerland, my boss...

The cost and stress of getting to Switzerland has turned us off for the time being, but that seems to be okay. Only if we get that itch to travel, it needs to be Switzerland.

And that seems to be because even though we are mostly going about life as usual, we really are on some type of a mission. We were allowed to move here because we wanted to go on a mission; we called ourselves on a mission. And there must be certain parameters we can’t cross if we want to receive the blessings of a mission. Also, we need to learn some things about consecration.

For example, our birthdays. I don’t remember any of us having a birthday here where we have had the whole day free for things we want to do. We’re always at the temple, or there’s some branch activity, or someone who needs us to come to dinner, or they need to come to our place for dinner and it’s the only day that will work...

And that is why for our 2 year anniversary in Portugal, we found ourselves in Southern Spain near Seville. I had suggested we spend the night visiting a couple of slightly distant towns in Portugal I’d heard about, thinking that would be okay. But it wasn’t.

We came to Spain to visit a member family that lived in a little branch in Portugal (a lot like we are now) while Woo was a missionary. This same family had a son called to the Provo, Utah mission and we visited him in Santaquin one of our first Christmas’ back in Utah.

The kids were awesome for a six hour stint in the car, and then we immediately went to the small apartment of the family Lopez, where we ate and talked for a few hours more. The kids all were really great in that completely un-kid-friendly situation.

The Lopez's were quick to tell us that the Portuguese go to bed much too early; in Spain they stay up even later! Also, no one goes outside during the afternoon or hottest part of the day.

We left their apartment at about our bedtime anyway for our Airbnb, which was very nice and the kids were thrilled with all the "technology." (We never met our host, for example, he unlocked the door remotely when we texted that we'd arrived.) But what I thought was the best thing, by far, was how absolutely dark it was with the curtains were closed. The second morning the kids and I slept in later than we have in years.

Woo slipped on the stairs earlier in the week and hurt his back. He laid in pain on the bed after all that driving and sitting, unable to get comfortable -- "So this is what it's like to be 40????"

But he did go to sleep and that seemed to be the worst of it. I never heard about his back again and yesterday he said it was fine.

The kids really needed to move the next day, however. They were less than impressed with the sights of Jerez... moorish ruins, a "palace", and a proud member of the "famed sherry triangle", but we did get a lot of walking in.

After they played hide-n-seek. Some were better hiders than others...

Woo: The cockroaches in Spain are REALLY big. 
Me (alarmed): Really? 
Woo (pointing under the bed): Yeah, can't you hear them?

In the afternoon we found a park with some paths for skateboarding, and it was true, there was no one outside. It was completely dead, but I thought the weather was fine. Really pleasant if you had some shade and a bottle of water, which we did. However, the Lopez's later told me they were experiencing something of a cold snap while northern Spain was setting record heat temperatures. So for a cold snap, yes, it was pretty hot.

The family Lopez invited us to a ward party (not their ward, but in their stake) and to the beach for about an hour before. The kids loved the beach; they thought the water was very warm. But they loved the ward party even more. The ward building had a soccer court in the backyard and they played and played and played with a bunch of Spanish kids until it was time to leave.

Ruby found a girl to talk to. She kept running up to us asking how to explain things like leap year and how to translate "sons of Adam." She kept telling Herbie how easy her friend was to understand because she spoke so slowly.

Herbie said, "No, it's because she's trying to speak Portuguese."

So with the girl's half Portuguese and Ruby throwing in the few Spanish words she knew here and there, they had a great time.

Woo really enjoyed visiting the Lopez's and when we weren't with them, he kept chuckling to himself about something Melchor (the father) had done or said either 20 years ago or while with us that day.

He really thinks they're a great family and that they were a big influence on him. Marisa (the mother) is a returned missionary and she's part of the reason he wanted to marry a returned missionary. And also, they were Spaniards living in a different country (Portugal) with their family, trying to help in a little branch. They helped him to see that he could do it someday too.

Saturday morning we drove home, with a 3 hour (?!) side trip to the Algarve, where the kids swam for a bit before they decided that they were cold. The water in the Atlantic is colder, but there was also a brisk wind. I was comfortable, perfect even, in my long sleeve shirt and sweats.

I thought today might be a disaster, but the kids were really well-behaved. Each of them gave a very thoughtful and personal testimony.

Ruby talked about reading a story in Pres. Nelson's biography where his wife would start a question, "Could you... " and he would say "Yes!" before she had even finished. Ruby had gotten revelation that she needed to be that way with her parents. Luckily that was near the beginning of the week, and Ruby was definitely a more pleasant traveler than she normally is.

Linus talked about being thirsty last night, but he'd already started his fast, so he said a prayer and went to sleep and in the morning he wasn't thirsty anymore. Also, this morning he wanted to argue with Penelope, but he said a prayer and was able to remain a peacemaker.

And then he was an influence for even more good, because when Penelope wanted to tease Moses later, she remembered Linus' testimony and instead of poking Moses, said a prayer and was able to leave him alone.

Herbie shared his favorite scripture of seeking to obtain the word before seeking to proclaim the word. I thought it was quite an interesting, yet appropriate, scripture for a 13 year old to have. It was by far his most articulate testimony (and even talk?) that he's given since we've moved here (or ever?).

This week he also got out some paper to make a chart. He had just finished the Book of Mormon for 6th time in Portuguese, which is 2 more times than he's read the Book of Mormon in English.

Moses shared his favorite scripture of Nephi encouraging his brothers to be good "... now let us be strong like unto Moses... " And how he likes to encourage his brothers and sisters to be good.

I remembered him in the back of the car on the way home from Spain, bravely soldiering on alone, trying to steer his brothers and sisters away from potty jokes.

Anyway, because of Moses and Linus' determination to be good in church they and Penelope and Archie spent primary with their arms folded and smiles on their faces. Moses and Linus did a lot of complimenting and thanking of everyone for every contribution they did, and they all sang solos in sharing time, because Moses wanted to first.

There was a lot of good lying and dying in the reenactment of Ananias and Sapphira's story in Acts.

On the walk home, Herbie, Moses, Linus and Archie planned their future. Herbie is going to be a computer programmer and have an office at home with a beanbag, but he's going to have a work truck.

Moses is going to be a lego engineer with a lego office at home. He's also going to be an architect and a dental assistant. Linus' assistant, because Linus is going to be a dentist. Moses will design the dental office and in return Linus will do his dental work for free.

Archie is going to be a librarian, but also an architect.
Archie: Mom, I want to build a house like a temple someday.
I can't wait for the future!
My house is going to have lots of play places for kids.

Penelope planned her baptism this week. The thing I'm most curious to witness is the special musical number with Penelope, Moses and one of the Elders. I have no idea if the Elder can even sing, but he agreed to do it without any hesitation.

She had her baptismal interview after church and came out of there excited to be good. She came home and wrote down a testimony to give at her baptism and asked me if she could get a journal for her birthday to write down everything about her baptism.

Also Penelope just revealed that she is not on top of the political scene:
Penelope (reading an old email): Barack Obama?!
(laughing) Did Ruby just make up that name?
Last Sunday, on our walk, we wandered into the old fortaleza, which was once a prison for political prisoners during the time when Portugal was ruled by a dictator. It's been restored a bit as a museum and memorial. Anyway, these last pictures are of that.

And that's our very full week! Hope yours was great!