Thanksgiving at the Embassy

First of all, there’s a correction from last week on the kids here not knowing their own schedules. Herbie says that they know, but are constantly asking each other as a way to make conversation. 

Something that has completely eluded Linus, who would never dream of asking anyone anything he already knows for the sake of conversation :).

We had our embassy appointment this week. It was a sacrifice for Archie who cried the night before.

He was winning in behavior points at school, five points ahead of Matilde (who won last period), and missing school one day meant she would likely gain back that five points on him. (He was only ahead because she’d missed a day earlier in the period.)

He had a bad night at scriptures, which was obnoxious until I talked to him and found out why he wasn’t feeling well. I explained why we had to go to the embassy and why he needed a passport. He agreed it might be more important, and he felt much better.

I was kind of looking forward to being surrounded by a bunch of Americans. We saw dozens of people, but only two of them were American.

The embassy was guarded very heavily by a Portuguese security company. There were Brazilians waiting in the room with us (one child had been born in the US). One guy behind the desk was actually from Peniche.

Ruby was talking to me, told me the couple behind us were Brazilian, then leaned over and asked them in Portuguese if they were Brazilian. She abandoned me, and about thirty seconds later I heard her talking about the gospel, which the women was very interested in talking to Ruby about. Ruby spent the rest of the wait there talking to the woman, and left with her number and lots of ideas for further contact.

Ruby is such a natural missionary. I’m often amazed.

We anticipated that getting to the embassy would be a little stressful. We’d never been there before, didn’t know where to park, didn’t know how bad traffic would be, and we had to leave much too early.

Woo drove us perfectly to the pin I’d dropped when I looked ahead of time for a place to park. There were a few instances of slow traffic, but nothing too bad. We got out of the car. I thanked Woo and told him it hadn’t been nearly as frustrating as I’d imagined, and at that moment a security guard stopped us and told us we had to move the van. We’d parked in the Brazilian embassy’s parking spots.

Woo offered to find parking alone while I took the kids on ahead, through security and started.

He found a parking spot two or three blocks down and I’d only just gotten started handing in applications when he came in.

We were there about two hours? With everyone being quite pleasant and patient. Woo talked a bit with a man from New York who was in Portugal for a week and had had his passport stolen. (Some one broke the window in his rental car.) He also was surprisingly pleasant for having to spend a couple hours of his vacation at the embassy (and who knows how much time with the police and car rental company…)

When we walked out of the embassy a lot of the kids were for driving straight home, but Woo was in an exploring mood, and suggested we walk around, so we decided to make the day our Thanksgiving vacation.

The zoo was nearby, and we were able to see crocodiles, zebras and many birds in the front entrance park. There were four peacocks just hanging around the McDonalds.

After lunch (at Lidl), we went to our favorite park by the temple. When we first got there, we had the pump track all to ourselves, and it never got too crowded.

Herbie stayed there the entire time and would’ve stayed longer. He and Woo loved it, but Woo wished he were in better shape. Apparently, it’s exhausting. Herbie did no complaining. He just kept going around and around and around.

Linus preferred the skatepark, which only had one or two other people on it. Unfortunately, one of those people was always smoking and Linus left because of it.

The bar park was most kids’ favorite. Under the bars is super springy poured rubber. It really is nice to walk on. Moses took off his shoes and dribbled a soccer ball in and out of all the posts, bounding with every step.

Thanksgiving day was a usual school day for us, but I decided to make a roast, mashed potatoes and gravy and two pie-like items for dinner.

Pie crust has always been a struggle since we moved here. I don’t have the right tools, the dough always ends up too moist, and I don’t make it often enough to get it right.

I got frustrated in a way I haven’t in a long time, and considered crying and maybe throwing the dough, but said a prayer instead. I managed to make two “pies” in cookie sheets that weren’t disasters, and that the kids and Woo all loved, Linus especially. At least he was the loudest about it.

The day before the embassy I had a lot to prepare. Penelope came to my rescue by washing several potatoes, spearing them and throwing them in the oven.

She was very, very pleased to have practically made our baked potato dinner all by herself.

Many Portuguese people compliment the kids’ Portuguese. It appears that foreigners speaking with native or near native accents are rare. I’ve even had people tell me that other Americans have lived here, but their kids don’t sound like our kids. (Maybe because they often put their kids in the international schools, not straight into the public schools?)

After our trip to the embassy, I wondered if any of them could actually pass as Portuguese. In Archie’s opinion only Penelope could.

I think it’s universally agreed upon that Penelope speaks the most Portuguese Portuguese in the family. And that I speak the least Portuguese Portuguese :).

Moses was under strain a lot of the week. He’d ordered a new pair of shoes and a watch from Decathlon last week. Normally our Decathlon orders come very quickly, sometimes even the very next day.

There was a false alarm on Saturday, all day on Monday, and finally the package came on Thursday during Moses’ lunch break, but at the very end, on his way out the door, when he was already running a bit late and didn’t get to open it.

We've been through our President Nelson talks one time, and are reading them again (per the invitation). Woo is taking a week off of surfing for his sacrifice to the Lord (The Hope of Israel--not a conference talk, but a bonus talk I printed for the packet). He's doing indexing instead.

And... here's a picture of my buzz for those who've asked.

And that’s our week. I hope yours was great! 



About two weeks ago my morale was sinking. At dinner I said something along the lines of, "Can’t I have a Christmas tomorrow?"

"Or maybe my invitation to Hogwarts can come tomorrow?"

Which Ruby scoffed at as I’m forty-four, not approaching eleven.

“They want me to teach.”

She shrugged.

“Muggle studies, I guess.”

And the very next morning I DID receive a Christmas present. I learned that Sister Cordon and Sister Porter were coming to Lisbon, and we could listen to them speak in person. I was immediately excited, and even more touched when I realized that it seemed like a special little present just for me after my plea the night before.

I did a lot of things I don’t normally do, or don’t think are worth it, or that I know are going to be exhausting, or that are going to produce a day or two of fall out from the kids to get my present.

Ruby, Penelope and I went to the women’s meeting Friday night. I also gave rides to three branch members and a baby. It was a late night for us, and I had a handful of surprises driving around an unknown European town in the dark while being shouted instructions in Portuguese, but overall we had a good time.

Ruby, Penelope and I had fun dressing up and having a girls night out, and I assume the boys had fun too. Woo let them all stay up a bit later and showed them some clips. Also, they ate some candy.

For me, it was such a treat to hear good talks in ENGLISH, where I understand every word and every thought and expression. There was a sentence or two just for me.

There was a meeting for children and youth and their parents on Saturday at 4 pm. We already had a temple appointment on Saturday for baptisms at 9 am, so we planned to hang around Lisbon until then.

This was, of course, a bit stressful. We had to get up just as early as a school day and get ready for the temple and a day in Lisbon.

The reception building near the temple was closed (it always is when there are visiting authorities… I think they use it for meals and rest…), but we arrived just when the stake president was walking into the stake center, so there was a safe place for Linus, Penelope and Archie to wait.

There were many people in the baptistery, so they only allowed us to do ten names, but I was a witness, sitting by the recorder, with a stack of names in my pocket. Whenever anyone didn’t have ten names, the recorder would turn to me, and I would supply him with however many names he was short, and I think we did the usual amount of names, maybe more.

We were there with branch members who also officiate in the temple every time they go, so we took their daughter with us to the park until they got out at lunch.

Ruby was, of course, a good friend to Mariana, helping her to not feel too out of place in a group of loud and crazy Americans.

The park was crowded, but there was still fun to be had at the skate park, bar workout area, and (everyone’s new favorite thing), the pump track.

Except Woo fell and got a painful scrape on his hand that bothered him for the rest of the day.

Ruby and Moses asked two kids with a ball if they could play basketball with them, and the kids agreed. The kids said they were from Russia, but that didn't seem right. They simply said, “It’s a long story... during the Cold War... ” so talking could end and basketball could be played.

Herbie joined them a few minutes later, and when I went to take pictures he was smiling.

I called, “Herbie! Aren’t you traveling?!”

He smiled even bigger and put a finger to his lips.

I tried again, “Herbie! You’re traveling!”

He laughed, shook his head and said, “Shhhh!”

I gave up.

There was trouble waiting for Mariana’s parents. Our kids were hungry and jumping around the temple grounds (and getting increasingly grouchy). We were making security very nervous. They frequently kept tabs on us, and in one instance told us they didn’t want the kids to get hurt. (They weren’t climbing on anything, just being antsy and jumping around.)

Woo finally came up with the wonderful idea to leave Ruby with Mariana and the rest of us go to the Lidl for lunch.

That took some time, and we all were very hungry when we returned to Ruby. My plan had been to eat in the temple parking lot (I had seen people do it during the open house, and there is a somewhat secluded upper part), but when we entered the temple grounds, two security guards strode purposely behind us, and I knew they wouldn’t let us.

We kept right on walking through the temple grounds and out the gate, onto a small alley.

The alley wasn’t the ideal spot for a picnic. Woo had to steer the kids away from a crack pipe that they thought was a pen, and there was nowhere to sit.

Linus was especially grouchy. And loud. And shouting. Archie joined in. Ruby did some complaining. (Moses and Penelope were goodnatured 95% of the time.)

The thought flickered across my mind that maybe this had been a mistake. This meeting would be a disaster. We still had to take all our food back to the van, get back into the stake center to change our clothes, read scriptures as a family, and get everyone settled into the meeting. I was sure there’d be trouble with the security guards at some point, maybe even the second we tried to come back in the gate.

Woo kept his cool and complimented and kept the peace. I got a little grouchy, which moved Ruby to repentance. We came upon the idea of having the kids act as spies to tiptoe to the van, which they did pretty well.

They calmed down quite a bit, and also there were a lot more families milling around. We hardly stood out anymore, and the security guards forgot about us.

We found a spot on the other side of the temple and were just about to start to sing, when members from our branch approached. We sang anyway.

We sang “I’m a Child of God.” Penelope and Archie stood in front because they were practicing. (They had the special musical number on Sunday.) It was very nice.

Fearing the branch members would want to chat until the meeting started, I immediately told them we’d just started our family scripture study and they smiled and nodded and walked on. Whew.

We were threatened a couple of other times, but finished our scripture study on the temple grounds and walked back to the stake center. We were all in much better moods.

We’d been in and out of the stake center a couple times, but this time we had to show our vaccination certificates and disinfect our hands (we always wear masks in public buildings).

We don’t sit in a regular chapel very often, but we all remembered that we walk straight to the front. Also, I was concerned with Penelope being able to see. Her new glasses still haven’t arrived. (Customs, we believe. Customs laws were tightened even more since Covid.)

The center front seats were taken, so we tried the side. There was a scuffle for a few minutes where we at first thought we wouldn’t all fit, then several rearrangements until everyone was happy. The meeting started.

Sister Porter asked for comments several times, and we were right by a microphone. Archie, Linus, Ruby and Penelope each went up at least once. Nobody said anything profound, but it was fun for them, and Archie was upset once when Linus got to the microphone with his answer first, but it didn’t last long.

I believe it was a wonderful meeting for everyone.

After the meeting, our boys surrounded Sister Cordon’s husband. Ruby helped Penelope brave the crowds for the bathroom. Woo and I ducked as we realized we were in way too many people’s pictures, but also we were kind of trapped in our row.

Suddenly, Sister Cordon was talking to me.

"Who are you guys??"

I said the most enlightening thing possible.

"Um, we’re Americans."

Then the visitors were whisked away (I'm sure it all is exhausting for them), and we almost made our escape, but found a few more people in the stake and branch we had to talk to.

We left later than we wanted. I drove us out of the crowded (with people, not cars) parking lot (tires squealing, like they always do for the first 30 seconds of any drive), and from the passenger seat Woo handed out breads and fruits and carrots and waters (leftovers from our Lidl lunch) for dinner.

Woo and I missed half of the leadership meeting getting kids home and in bed.

Woo (when it was over): I hope they have a recording. If it was all that good we missed out!

And that was our weekend. Of course we’re all kind of tired. One little fun thing from our week was when Moses came home after completing his music class assignment.

It was basically karaoke. He tried out several youth songs and picked his favorite at home.

When he came home, he was obviously walking on clouds.

“I could do that every day!”

So I guess it went well.

And that’s all. Hope your week was great!


Starts and False Starts

Woo (drinking the leftover currant berry sorbet mixed with soda that’s sat around the house 
for over a year): I feel like I’m at a wedding reception.
Herbie: at MY wedding reception we’re going to have kangaroo, ostrich and snails!
Woo: I hope you’re planning on paying for this—
Herbie: And everyone has to have two snails!
Woo: This doesn’t sound like a wedding reception. This sounds like a dictatorship.
Herbie: Okay. Everyone only has to eat ONE snail!

Monday was actually a holiday, so no school. We had a branch activity, which went better than expected. At least better than past family history activities (from my and the kids’ perspectives).

Monday night Moses’ teacher sent an email: don’t send kids to school until I know for sure!

Tuesday morning, Linus started online class, and Herbie happily returned to school.

He was back two hours later. His DT had run into his second class and sent everyone home immediately; they weren’t supposed to be there. He was not happy about that, and there were some rumors that everyone in his class would have to be retested.

Linus diligently attended online school. Moses was unable to log on until Woo came home from the post office (wrong wetsuit is finally on its return) and did it for him in a second.

Herbie had virtually nothing. Maybe one or two emailed assignments?

Tuesday afternoon Linus got a certificate from the health department saying he was in isolation until Thursday. Luckily, he’d already been to church, the activity, numerous stores and the park several times after he tested negative and before we knew that.

Tuesday evening Moses’ teacher said class would start Wednesday. A couple hours later he sent a longer email with several options, but it still looked to us that Moses would be returning on Wednesday. He’s vaccinated and tested negative.

Wednesday Moses and Nelpea walked to school together, but Moses was home two hours later. He’d been the only kid in his class to go to school, and his second period teacher sent him home to do school online with everyone else.

His first class was PE, with the teacher who’d tested positive and started this whole thing. He was already back in school, and he and Moses played badminton, basketball and soccer (in the gym, with another class on the other side).

Wednesday afternoon we finally heard from someone for Herbie. He could return to school on Thursday. We got official word from Linus’ DT that he would start on Friday.

Wednesday evening we received Herbie’s official isolation statement from the health department, his isolation had ended on Tuesday.

Woo brought home “a casserole” from a member who recently got a job at a restaurant. He put it in the fridge and reminded me to heat it up for dinner.

Neither of us looked at it, but Woo was pretty excited. As fish is so prominent here, I had my doubts and prepared another, easy meal as a back up while the tinfoil package heated in the oven.

It was lucky I did. The “casserole” ended up being a pan of assorted seafood leftovers, and it had been frozen, which neither of us knew, so it was still cold. Woo made a valiant effort to eat a few things, but they weren’t very good, and the whole thing ended up in the trash. It was sad for Woo, who’d gotten his hopes up.

But, in good news, by the end of the week he was in possession of the correct wetsuit.

Ruby had an excellent missionary week, again. She always talks to an inactive sister whenever she sees her around town, and Ruby always invites her to church or an activity or whatever.

Last Sunday this sister came to church for the first time in three or more years? She just popped in for a few minutes, but she got a welcome from everyone, especially Ruby.

There was a lady sitting outside the church for a lot of sacrament meeting. Woo thought she was listen to the music. He sent Ruby out to talk to her, and Ruby did. We could see her through the window, talking to the lady and another guy who happened by.

There was a downs girl sitting by herself in the temple baptistery. She was sitting by her mom (I think) when we first arrived, but then her mom left. The girl gave me a big smile and wave, as we’d previously “met” in the locker room just minutes before. This intrigued Ruby and she was soon sitting by her, keeping her reverent and occupied for the rest of our time there.

Penelope went to school alone a lot. Usually I walked with her, but sometimes Woo. I drove her and Ruby on a rainy day, but most days, the downpours happened when none of us were outside and cleared up when we were. (I had prayed for this.)

Penelope seemed to adjust to the time change best. I think this is something she always does. I have written in my blessing list for Wednesday that Penelope was cheerful ALL day long, and also that she was the only one (for the whole day).

Archie was excited to have a family history unit in school immediately following our family history activity. He told his class that he sometimes did family history on the computer. He filled out a family tree with his parents, siblings, grandparents, his aunts and uncles and all his cousins, and was confident he’d have the largest family tree.

Archie had a few unhappy days when a new kid joined his class. At first he was excited and tried to be the new kid’s friend.

But then he came home upset occasionally and one night he burst into tears telling me that the new kid was “ruining my relationship with Junior!”

Junior is one of Archie’s favorite friends and the new kid wouldn’t let Archie play with him. We said a prayer together, and Archie hasn’t mentioned it since, nor come home from school upset.

Last week in the temple baptistery, Woo baptized a young man who was from an area that Woo had opened as a missionary. That was kind of a fun moment for him.

Which reminds me that while being baptized Moses goes under in a new and surprising way every time. This makes Woo and I smile, and when we mentioned this to him, he shrugged and said something along the lines of: well, I’m being baptized for a different person each time.

I filled out and printed forms for the kids’ passport renewal and also printed vaccination certificates for everyone who has them. We have no plans to go anywhere, but it made me ridiculously happy anyway.

Woo and I walked into the temple planning on doing our scheduled iniatories, but they told us we could do endowments. It was a pleasant surprise. They've opened up a few more seats every session. Now we only need a better day for baptisms.

And that’s our week! I hope yours was great!