Water and Oil

FYI This is post is picture sparse because most our pictures included kids other than our own, and I lifted them before posting to the internet.

Every grade in the middle school here has some sort of program where they either send a few students for a week to another country in the EU, or some other country sends kids here for a week.

Months ago Herbie signed us up to accept an exchange student this week. I was pretty hesitant. I was nervous about hosting anyone here because our house is not comfortable, but mostly I was worried about what some other teenager would bring into our house--most specifically their phone and anything they had on it that we'd worked so hard to keep out.

But Woo was enthusiastic and thought it would be great. He even told me to say we could take two. Herbie was excited. I said a prayer saying I was willing to do it, but if it wasn't going to be good for them or us that it wouldn't work out for some reason. (I say a version of this prayer a lot, and a surprising number of things end up not being required of me. :) Then I went along with it.

The first snag came when Herbie was bitterly disappointed when the school assigned us a girl (knowing we also had a girl around that age... Ruby) and even suggested that maybe Ruby could do the fun activities instead of Herbie.

We let Herbie decide and he decided to do it anyway. About a day before she came I realized that bedtimes were likely going to be a problem, since we go to bed early, and it was highly unlikely that she did too. I decided to stick as close to our normal life as possible.

We welcomed our exchange student, enjoyed her treats from Poland, and spent an enjoyable evening with her... until we went to bed... waaaaaaay too early for her (and actually a little late for us :).

In the morning, we did our usual routine, and let her do her own thing, since I didn't want to wake her up early and we do a lot of scripture reading, chores, etc. Woo took her and Herbie to see the beach before they walked to school (they started an hour later than normal all week). And then about an hour after they'd been in school, Woo got a call: she didn't want to stay at our house anymore.

At first it was kind of humiliating, but when I prayed about it, I kept getting the message that I should be excited about this... I'd prayed for it after all. Herbie was very sad when she came to pick up her stuff and go to another host family. I gave her a little hug and wished her good luck. We had no ill feelings.

Herbie still got to do all the activities (Woo picked up a bunch of these pictures off the school slideshow). He helped a lot by doing most (all?) of the translating for non-English speaking lecturers. (English is always the common language in Europe and probably the entire world. Moving here has made me recognize how lucky we are to be native speakers... everyone is trying to learn what we already know!)

Ruby also got to do some activities when she wasn't in her own classes. They spent a day in Lisbon, but spent most of the week around here presumably learning math while seeing the sights and going surfing.

We all went to the beach during Herbie's surfing activity. The weather this week was quite nice. We didn't have a lot of other pictures, so I took some of the kids doing their regular Sunday afternoon stuff. Penelope is listening to a conference talk. Linus is doing family history. Archie is drawing invitations to the next branch activity and Moses is writing about his week. In a few minutes, we'll go out for a walk, probably drop in on some people (active or inactive) in the branch, and come home for dinner.

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


Skating in the Queen's Diapers

There were many promises given last October to families who implemented the new home study into their homes.
President Nelson said, "The new home-centered curriculum has the potential to unleash the power of families, as each family follows through conscientiously and carefully to transform their home into a sanctuary of faith. I promise that as you diligently work to remodel your home into a center of gospel learning, over time your Sabbath days will truly be a delight. Your children will be excited to learn and to live the Savior’s teachings, and the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease. Changes in your family will be dramatic and sustaining.
Elder Cook reported that scripture study in families who already been doing the home study progressed and changed. Anyway, that finally happened to us this week in a big way.

Woo, frustrated with our evening reading of the Book of Mormon, suggested to me that we have a family council about it. Over the course of 6 (?) or more months, the behavior of the kids has deteriorated. There were occasional improvements only to fall back again.

I agree and mentioned it to the kids. Herbie prayed about it and got revelation that evening. The next evening before reading, we had our family council, with the result being nothing what Woo was expecting, but was clearly better for all of us.

Herbie said we should spread out in the room. We had all been sitting at the table, which is tight and all the kids were in easy target range of one another.

Ruby suggested that we have more discussion, like when we read our New Testament chapters Sunday morning.

I suggested we quit reading verses in Portuguese and then translating into English, as it was making our study more of a Portuguese lesson than a word of God lesson. We had done more discussing, earlier, but once we started reading in Portuguese, that had completely dropped off.

Penelope (who was maybe the only kid still getting a lot out of our old scripture study) wanted to read more verses. We considered this, but it was later modified by Woo as we got going, because we decided to start immediately, where we saw instant improvement.

Ever since Woo and I were engaged, our family Book of Mormon reading has been based on a set number of verses, but after only 1 or 2 verses followed by enlightened discussion, Woo realized that what we should do is decide on an amount of time and stick to that, no matter how many verses we read.

Ruby interprets scriptures very well. She always (so far) gets personal application and symbolism when I ask questions to see what the kids know. Sometimes I'll ask a question whose answer I've only just realized myself, and she'll answer with exactly that.

Although, the truth is that most of us when asked a thought provoking question (I know what you're thinking... I do not ask leading questions... ) can come up with an answer that surprises even us when given the time to think about it.

Moses continues to be my biggest cheerleader. He makes sounds of agreement and nods his head seriously whenever I say anything, which makes me smile. Of course I'm serious, but it's funny to me that he is.

All the kids are motivated to be better after every evening. One night I found this cute note Linus had written to himself to help him remember to overcome his weaknesses.

And instead of his evening ending angrily, he ends them saying a cute, heartfelt prayer about whatever we have discussed together.

Which answered another concern Woo had -- that all the kids' evening prayers had become rote. They have all definitely improved a lot since we've improved our Book of Mormon study.

Several weeks ago, Archie told me I was pretty nice, but he thought other moms were nicer. The (hypothetical?) kind of moms that give their kids tons of treats and toys. I encouraged him to pray and get revelation about it. He did and the next morning he gave me a big hug and told me Heavenly Father told him I was the best mom (for him).

Every since then, Archie prays every night that I'll be the best mom in the whole world--the next frontier, I guess, but I'm grateful for his prayers.

M&Ms are expensive here, but a couple days before my birthday I happened to see they were on sale. I bought 4 bags for my birthday present. After sharing some with Woo and the kids, I ate a bunch, but when I started to feel sick, I took out a handful to continue eating and closed the bag to put the rest away.

Some kids were curious about why I had done that.
Herbie: She's using horse power.

Archie was my favorite to watch at the skatepark this week. He had a route all picked out that he road over and over and over again. It was challenging enough that he had to concentrate and work really hard in a few places, but fun enough to do over and over and over again, apparently.

Penelope and Woo had a good time racing each other down one side and up another. Sometimes Penelope won, sometimes Woo won.

Penelope and Ruby came running with me on Saturday. They both beat me.

Moses has ramped up his school game. He also is now shooting for straight muito boms. He came home excited, thinking he's gotten 100% on his math test. He didn't, but was in the high 90s and got the high score in his class.

Here's the computer Archie made for me.

One of Linus' goals is to make a movie this summer. I made him a step-by-step workbook starting with figuring out who was going to star in his movie, how to follow a story arch to write a screenplay, how to edit a screenplay, how to work with his actors, etc. I'm no expert, but I think I know enough to help a 9 yr old get the best out of his efforts.

When I showed him the workbook, he wanted to start immediately, and all the other kids who read it with us, suddenly wanted to do the exact same thing, so now I have a few more workbooks to make.

One P-day our Elders, the Caldas Elders and the APs (both former Elders in our branch) were in town. Looking for Woo, they went across the street to the beach, where they found him, dropping in on the best wave of the day. As he rode into shore, there was a small crowd shouting his name and waving. Every once in awhile it's nice to do something right while appreciative people are watching.

Woo's surfing friends were also impressed with Woo's supportive crowd who appeared out of nowhere at just the right moment.

And lastly....

It's often really windy here. But a few weeks ago it was extra windy. One morning I woke up and I could've sworn that mine and Woo's sheet (that had just been washed) had been hanging in our porch. Nothing had ever blown out before, but the sheet was nowhere. I could think of no other explanation.

It had blown out the window. But I couldn't see it anywhere outside either, not in the trees or roofs or parking lot below us... It wasn't in the dunes...
Me (to Woo): It's probably out in the ocean strangling some sea life right now.
Luckily, we had two sheets so it didn't really bother us much. And then one day Woo came home laughing from his surf with our sheet folded under his arm. He'd found it wadded up in a tree, as if some thoughtful person had put it there to prevent it from blowing farther.
Woo: Somehow, I don't think this is such an uncommon incident in this country.
And I think I'm finally done! Hope you all had a great week!

Title explanation: if you change a couple of letters in the town with this skatepark, it translates into "The Queen's Diapers."


In Which We Keep On Keeping On

Last week Archie got a flyer for a bunch of pirate themed things in town this weekend. We had seen an old, pirate type ship in the harbor last year, and figured that's what it had been all about. We all thought it would be worth checking out, but Archie was so, so excited. He talked constantly about the "pirate party," picked out a pirate outfit several days ahead of time and asked me to paint his face.

He got himself all ready; I painted his face; Moses, Linus and Penelope requested a mustache as well... when we discovered that the flyer failed to say where the pirate festivities were taking place. Nothing online helped us either.

Ruby thought it was, "somewhere near the church," so we got on our bicycles and did find it somewhere near the church.

A small group of people vaguely dressed as if they lived in the 15th century made some loud noises out of cannons and walked somewhat purposefully in the same direction to convey a battle, I suppose.

It was not exciting for Woo and I. Ruby, Herbie, Moses, Linus and Penelope were interested, but Archie HATED it! He cried and begged and wanted to be taken home. Now! Because of the cannons. He hates loud noises, and these weren't even that loud or that frequent, but they were too much for Archie.

We went for a bit more of a bike ride and then dropped off the bikes to get a wallet and eat at a restaurant for my birthday and Mothers Day which are the same day here. Woo's back hurt a lot, but he walked to and from there with out a complaint.
Linus: Mom, where do pirates get their treasure maps?  
Archie (impatiently): They just get a piece of paper, crumple it up, and draw it!
Woo has been interviewing and measuring kids this week because we failed to do it in January. Ruby was so thrilled to learn that she's now 5'4". Ruby spent a lot of time working on a power point of her report on the American Revolution. It looks like it's turning out well.

I've spent time this week planning our summer. I held a family council and personal interviews with each of the kids to discover their preferences, present opportunities we thought we could offer, etc. As usual, the kids are so, so excited about this. They wanted to start on Saturday, but I'm not going to be ready. It's going to take a bit of work to get basically a curriculum for each of them ready.

Herbie expressed a desire to learn Spanish, piano and how to draw better. As soon as I finished talking to him, he got out a Spanish section of a workbook and started working on it, and he's been borrowing Ruby's keyboard to play for the first time. It's as if he didn't know he could do all those things until we talked, but now he can't wait.

All the kids wanted to improve their art skills in one way or another. I got them each a sketchbook and wrote a prompt on each page, depending on what they said they wanted to learn. Moses is so excited for this. He had a giant smile on his face flipping through his sketchbook and reading everything he was going to get to draw on the pages.

Linus started his swimming unit this week. He jumped in the water and impressed his friends so much that when he stood next to them one of them told the other that Linus had swimming every day. He was pretty pleased with that.

Penelope continues to be very selfless in primary. She gives any pompoms she earns to Archie or sometimes to Linus. Penelope has been trying to hug me almost constantly today to commemorate Mothers Day and my birthday. She would've kissed my face all day too, but I can't sit next to her all day.

Something was wrong with the van and Woo made some attempts at fixing it, but nothing conclusive. Finally, the branch president convinced him that he needed to take the van in. This was the last thing Woo wanted to do. He has a deep (and I mean very deep) distrust of auto mechanics in the first place. In the second place, he was convinced it would take forever, cost thousands and still not be fixed.

Anyway, he did take it in this week. When they took his key, his registration, his number and did not hand him a receipt or anything, all his fears appeared to be confirmed.

But then they called an hour or so later, saying the van would be finished that evening and only cost 200€. It was as they said, but Woo is reserving judgement until he's driven the van for awhile and is convinced it really is fixed.

As a special treat to myself for my birthday, I'm going to leave all the pictures here at the bottom in no special order and finish this post now.

Well, I think that's it. Hope your week is great!

Testimony Below:
For a few years the Holy Ghost has told me that the best thing I could do with my extra spending money is to give it as fast offerings.

And I have, and usually it’s been easy, especially since we moved to Portugal and I haven’t wanted to accumulate extra stuff, but this month I thought that there might be some other things I could buy that would also, possibly, be good for my family.

So I prayed about it, but no, the best thing for me right now is still to give it as fast offerings.

I actually love to pay fast offerings and I feel it is a privilege and a token of my love for Heavenly Father. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Por alguns anos, o Espírito Santo disse me que a melhor coisa que eu poderia fazer com meu dinheiro extra é dar as ofertas de jejum.

E eu faço, e normalmente é fácil de fazer, mas este mês eu pensei que eu poderia comprar outras coisas que talvez também seja bom para minha família.

Então eu orei sobre isso, mas não, a melhor coisa para mim ainda é dar o dinheiro como ofertas de jejum.

Eu realmente amo pagar as ofertas de jejum e sinto me que é um privilégio e um sinal do meu amor pelo meu Pai Celestial. Em nome de Jesus Cristo. Amém.


Lucky Thirteen!

With the end of spring break and another holiday, the kids only had school three days this week. (And they have another day off next week too!) The second day they were back in school, I took a 2 1/2 hr nap in the morning, met everyone for lunch, and then took another 2 1/2 hr nap in the afternoon. I don't think I've ever done that before, but I guess I needed it.

Herbie has been telling us for months and months that he wanted blue cheese hamburgers for his birthday dinner. Herbie was excited, but I was skeptical. Hamburgers have not been a successful meal here... it's a lot of work for Woo, and the weather has to be agreeable to cook them over coals... the beef is different here... half the kids HATE blue cheese... Anyway, we went to the store and bought some burgers that I thought might be okay (because they also had bacon in the patty), and then I cooked them in the frying pan.

The store we went to did not have straight blue cheese, but a cream cheese sort of blue cheese that ended up being okay for most of the kids. After smelling them and staring at them in the frying pan, I still couldn't bring myself to eat a burger, but the kids and Woo enjoyed them so much that we bought more for Saturday's dinner and then they all ate the leftovers this morning for breakfast. We even had surprise guests for Herbie's birthday dinner, and they didn't immediately spit out their burger in disgust, but each voluntarily had more than one, so I guess Herbie came upon a hit that I never would've guessed.

Herbie picked an ice cream cake for his birthday treat that he ate for breakfast and lunch (and more ice cream after dinner after singing "Happy Birthday") and he was excited about our guests (2 kids from Hawaii), so I think it ended up being a great birthday for him. Plus, now he's 13!!

Our guests were here 2 days and were very kind to the kids. Linus peppered them with all sorts of personal questions; Moses was very impressed with their skateboarding skills; Penelope clearly developed crushes; and Ruby seemed to barely notice they were here.

Woo and I rode bikes with them over to the Fortaleza museum, which was opened (after remodeling) for the first time since we moved here. This is where political prisoners were kept while Portugal was under a dictatorship. My favorite thing was the pictures of the crowds of people in town and waiting for the prisoners to be released from the Fortaleza on the day the regime fell in 1974.

We also had a big district activity that was fun for the kids. I helped with face-painting, which basically means I paint all my own kids' faces (who all stand in a line by me refusing to let anyone else paint their faces), all other kids choose another lady, and by the time I'm done, everyone else is done too and the face painting is over!

Moses wanted to be a yellow zombie with a black and red eye. Linus wanted to be a blue zombie. Penelope was a "scary princess." Her face paint really weirded Woo out, but when I told him what she'd requested, he said it was spot on. Archie was a "big, scary Indian." Unfortunately, their days of cute, happy face-paintings appear to be over.

Ruby did not want her face painted and ran around in a group of other teens, most of whom she'd become friends with at camp last week, but some of her favorite friends were missing at the activity. And she got some quality time with a bow and arrow, which she always enjoys.

Moses was the undisputed champion in this game thanks to his choosing the biggest bowl in the world.

[edited per the EU's privacy laws]

Woo's been a champion, entertaining everyone for days on end, giving talks for people who fall through, driving other people's cars for them to activities, finding another bike so we can all ride our own bike for the first time in Portugal, holding down a job, multiple surfs, and so on and so on...

Archie's still working on his books, one written on Sunday called "The Best Surfer in the World and the Church." Interestingly, the following pages have zero references to either surfing or church.

And that's all I have for today! Hope your week was great!