December in Portugal

On the one hand, it's December. On the other, it isn't.

It isn't very cold; there isn't a chance of snow. It's jacket weather or, occasionally, rainy. But there are large and small nativities all over town: in parks, in front of churches, or the fire station, but the Santa's village just doesn't feel Christmasy to us.

They had large, straw dolls all over. They looked like scarecrows to us, but I think they might have been some traditional, homemade doll. (But, no we didn't ask anyone or consult google.) There was an attempt at a winter wonderland with this "glice" rink, which made us smile. It's plastic with water on it, and very small.

The branch had its Christmas party. Our kids and one other made up the nativity and (because I was in charge) was very simple. There was some nervousness about the lack of practices (I was under the impression that the kids had this in the bag), but afterwards I realized that everyone here has probably seen some amazing nativity plays with most of the population being devoutly Christian for centuries. But I doubt I would've changed anything. I'm a big fan of simple.

The day before the party was a really rough day for Herbie. He felt picked on at school and at the park and came home and was horrible to his little brothers. But, the next day was great for him, he loved the party, and best of all, his friend from school came and he got to give him a Book of Mormon.

Ruby's test scores seem to be steadily improving, but we got a letter from her English teacher (the class she's supposed to be acing!) that she was behind. What?! Woo went in to talk to her teacher and hopefully that will be okay?

Herbie's music class played a number with the school orchestra one evening, and all sorts of girls yelled Ruby's name and came over to talk to her. She's definitely speaking Portuguese and making friends.

It did get cold enough that Moses finally started wearing pants, occasionally. They have to be sweatpants, I just learned, so his legs have the freedom to run and move the way he wants them too. Moses is sick right now. It looks like it might be chicken pox, which is surprising and completely unexpected.

The inside cover of Moses' scriptures.

Linus' teacher took another day off. His teacher misses by far the most school of any of the other kids' teachers. Sometimes she has a substitute (who Linus doesn't like because she won't help him if he's not speaking Portuguese), but this week she didn't. He got to go grocery shopping alone with mom and dad and pick out some digital books to read out loud to Archie in the afternoon.

Penelope hit the hand-me-down jackpot again. We received another batch from an investigator in the branch and most of them were Penelope's size.

Penelope was first to walk up and tell me her testimony in Portuguese and all the other kids did the same from off the top of their heads. No more having to prepare and translate and memorize strange words for Testimony Meeting, which makes my fast Sunday eve much easier.

But even with all of us bearing our testimonies, we were short 3 regulars and testimony meeting got out 15 minutes early (not necessarily a bad thing).

The Branch President's wife was suddenly unwell and he rushed her to a health clinic, which put a cloud over the rest of our meetings. Woo stepped in and took over the Primary lesson and conducted Sacrament meeting. I led the music. We continue to pray for her.

Archie: Mommie, can you love me forever?  
Me (smiling): Yes. 
Archie: Are you allowed to?  
Me (laughing): Yes.  
Archie: Are you supposed to?
Me: Yes. 

Archie, unimpressed with Woo's yoga skills.
Are you kidding me, Dad? This one is easy.
Archie (opening the drawer in the Branch President's office and seeing that little key): Oh! It's the priesthood key!
Archie had already been to Santa's village with his preschool class. It's amazing how quickly he can transform from youngest child to know-it-all expert.

No waves a few days this week :(.

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

Testimony Below (My testimonies in Portuguese are also seat-of-the-pants and probably riddled with mistakes. Sorry :)

I know that it's very important to read the Book of Mormon every day.
When I was 9 years old, I began to read the Book of Mormon every day.
I know that the Book of Mormon has the words of God.
The book brings us peace, patience, love, happiness and everything good.
We know Jesus Christ, when we read the Book of Mormon.
I say this, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Eu sei que é muito importante a ler O Livro de Mormon todos os dias.
Quando tinha 9 anos, começarei a ler of Livro de Mormon todos os dias.
E eu sei que o Livro de Mormon tem as palavras de Deus.
O Livro leva-nos paz, paciência, amor, felicidade e todos boas.
Conhecemos Jesus Cristo, quando lemos O Livro de Mormon.
Digo isto, em nome de Jesus Cristo, amém.

Ich weiß, daß es sehr wichtig ist, das Buch Mormon jeden Tag zu lesen.
Wann ich bin 9 Jahre alt gewesen, habe ich angefangen, das Buch Mormon jeden Tag zu lesen.
Ich weiß, daß das Buch Mormon die Wörter Deus hat.
Das Buch bringt uns Frieden, Geduld, Liebe, Glück und alles Gutes.
Wir kennen Jesus Christus, wann wir das Buch Mormon lesen.
Das sage ich, im Namen Jesus Christus, amen.


District Conference

Even Woo agreed that the anchovy stuffed green olives were yi-ick, but Penelope ate them right up (just like everything else she's eaten here).
Woo: Don’t you think Penelope’s going to have the worst pregnancy cravings of anyone? 
Me (laughing and imagining Penelope pregnant anywhere, but Portugal): WHERE am I going to find anchovy stuffed olives in this country?!? And at this time of night???
Penelope (with a little laugh and a confused look on her face): Sometimes I think I'm the smartest person in my class!
The main reason she thinks this is because Penelope can read. She can read very well, really taking off this summer, but in Portugal (in this city, at least), first grade is like kindergarten and they're just now learning all the letters. Her teacher was very surprised and impressed when she found out Penelope could read, but Penelope just explained (in Portuguese, of course) that she'd already learned in America.

I wouldn't have called it, but maybe I should've, because it looks like Penelope is going to be the first of us non-Portuguese speakers to get it.

A teacher peeked in on her class and was surprised to see her raise her hand and say things they didn't think she should be able to say. Once, at home, she said, "Oops! I almost said that in Portuguese!" She likes to sit by and "chat" with the older sister in the branch who only speaks Portuguese. They may be a bit behind in reading, but first grade in Portugal seems to be the perfect place to learn Portuguese.

And... Archie is reading! Woo has been working with him personally every morning after scriptures, helping him sound out words from Archie's illustrated Book of Mormon, and keeping him diligent. While the rest of us read, Archie's supposed to be sounding out words on his own, and he's actually doing it. I think he reads about two of those little square sections every morning. It's in Portuguese, though, so I don't know what he's understanding, but he can sound out the letters and say the words.

I bought Archie this sweatshirt without proofreading it.

At the beginning of the year, the older kids took a Portuguese proficiency test and it was decided they wouldn't be graded. But last week, Herbie's teachers all got together and decided he's understanding enough, his test scores are high enough, he's going to be graded like everyone else. His only problem is that he hardly ever speaks Portuguese. His best friend speaks English, and it's a bit of a crutch, but he knows a lot. He just needs more courage.

Herbie's Director de Turma (DT--like homeroom teacher, I guess) also told Woo, "I saw Ruby playing basketball the other day... the only girl with a bunch of boys! It takes a certain kind of confidence to do that."

And Ruby has it.

We had district conference this week. A couple buses picked up members from outlying branches. I was a little worried about how the kids would do on an hour and a half bus ride, two hours of speakers and another hour and a half bus ride, but they were great. They really loved the bus ride; it was almost as exciting as a plane for them.

We sat in the front row at the conference because I know from experience that the kids behave much better, actually listen and get far more out of any meeting if we sit there. It's a mixed blessing. The speakers all notice you, and often say something about you (bad), but on the other hand, they seem to be thinking about you and say exactly the things you need to hear. I don't think the visiting authority could've said a better talk for our family. He even threw in a few words about inviting friends which was perfect for Herbie who'd had a painfully vehement rejection to his invitation to come to the conference.

On the other hand... I hate to steal limelight from the new converts and the stalwart Portuguese members who'd slaved away for years in small branches (the whole district audience was smaller than our ward at home), but I'm going to have to assume that they got what they needed too because he was speaking with the Holy Ghost.

After eating a delicious dinner of coconut pork curry prepared by Ruby:
Woo (to me): You’ve outsourced your entire job... just kidding, that’s not your job... your job is to raise a responsible... husband. AND YOU'RE FAILING!
(Woo, pre-haircut) 

I didn't even buy Christmas presents for the kids this year--Woo did it! He told me there were all sorts of Black Friday deals on Amazon (We have to use the Spain store). I took a short look, but was having a hard time making decisions and gave up. Woo, on the other hand (always excited about a good sale), had fun and got it all done while I was out on a run.

More fun than he had this week because we were without the internet for five days. It was pretty stressful for Woo since he needs the internet for his job. He worked at the church one evening, and he called the provider, who promised to send a technician out, but that guy never showed up. Instead, the internet just started working again yesterday. Hopefully, the problem has really been solved???

Moses had a rough fall at the soccer court. He came home bleeding profusely and his face was all scraped up. His tooth really hurt; he said it was bent backwards (and it's a permeant tooth). That's the first time I was really like, "What are we doing here?? If Moses needs a dentist..."

I definitely said some prayers (I've been praying the whole time, actually, that none of us need medical care while we're here.) Anyways, after just an hour he felt a lot better and the next day he said everything was fine.

Linus has been feeling pretty well, lately. He's not just been making his bed, but making it fantastic--with tucked in corners and the top folded down, not a wrinkle in sight. He took three tests in school and got a "bom" (good--B equivalent?) in Portuguese, a "bom" in Educação de Meio (I have no idea what that is :) and a "muito bom" (very good--A equivalent) in math. Hardly any complaining or outbursts from him either!

Well, that's probably enough of our week. Hope yours was great! (Just a couple more pictures because the kids always want me to take a picture of their lego creations.



We did not really have Thanksgiving here. The kids didn't have school off and no one made a feast. Ruby did roast a chicken and made cookies. I mashed some potatoes and made some vegetables and gravy. For the kids it was a pretty exciting weekday dinner. For me it was fine (I completely lost all my Thanksgiving food memory during one meal in St. Louis, for some reason), but Woo suffered.

It was overcast and rainy. He was sick with the flu and homesick--for Thanksgiving food and his family. He and Herbie did go on a walk where they came home soaking wet. (And found a delicious orange tree growing in the middle of the sidewalk!) He also watched a lot of surfing clips, since he couldn't surf himself.

Moses went on his first field trip to... the local Museum of Lace!! It was more exciting than he was expecting, I think. He liked the "humongous things" they had for making lace.

A group of older kids challenged my boys and one of their friends to a soccer game at the park. I watched Moses move the ball all the way down the court through opponents, entirely by himself, and then score. Twice. He even has one fan, a boy at school a couple grades younger, who watches him play soccer from the sidelines at recess.
Moses (demonstrating his British accent): Bom dia, mate!!
Archie: Mom, Dad was the first baby you had. But--how did Dad get taller??

Penelope has gotten really good at her super sad face which instantly pulls at the hearts strings of all Portuguese; they give her hugs, treats, purses, toys, whatever on hand (and frankly, I'm trying to convince her to stop). But there is one area she is not getting babied. One recess she dropped her pear on the ground. She took it to a recess lady with her super sad face (I can only assume), and... they washed it off and gave it back!

Germs just are not a scare here, nor are food allergies, which is nice in that all the kids are provided with a milk at recess and a box of in-season fruit sits at the back of the classroom for snacking; homemade birthday treats are totally fine, and disinfecting wipes and hand cleaners, etc. were conspicuously missing from the school supply lists.

Almost overnight Ruby has grown up (as in her daily behavior) and it has been wonderful. She has been praying for humility every prayer I've heard her say for probably three months, and that is definitely part of it. She backslides every once in awhile, usually when she's tired or not feeling well, but she is so much more helpful, patient, kind, and quiet and there is a LOT less pestering and arguing going on.

Her Thanksgiving was pretty great, in that she got one of the few completely successful packages we've gotten in the mail--a quilt from the YW in our ward back home.

Linus is cleaning our bathrooms now, and they are the cleanest our bathrooms have ever been! He really does his best job every morning, disinfecting and wiping down every inch. On Saturday, he also really loves to take out everything from under the sink in my and Woo's bathroom and organize it. It looks fantastic, but also takes quite a bit of time, partly because (I discovered yesterday) he's "smelling all of [my] chapsticks!" Peppermint was not his favorite, but he really loves the pumpkin pie one.

One of the grocery stores here is giving out little "guys" from various Dream Works movies as a promotion. It's kind of a pain because the kids argue about who has more, who has a new one, etc. Anyway, on one of our walks, Archie found a guy on the ground and was so happy. Singing about it and dancing... We stopped to talk to a crazy old man (we attract them just like real missionaries!) and Archie dropped his guy over someone's fence.

The kids rigged up a rescue effort while Woo and I tried to talk sense, Moses snagged the guy, threw it up over his head, over the fence, where it bounced off the sidewalk and straight into a gutter drain, where it was lost forever. Archie was devastated!

But a few days later we went to the grocery store and he got a special silver Captain Underpants that no one had ever gotten before and a VW van he bought with his free money, so I think the week ended up well for him.

Herbie got to talk about his beliefs and share his testimony with the big kid at the park who swears a lot and all my kids mostly try to avoid. He was interested to hear that Herbie had good reasons for not swearing, belonged to a different church than most people here, that we don't smoke, not even Woo, etc. Herbie and Linus (who also said a few things) were excited about it.

I did some stuff this week, but this email is long enough already. Here's a picture Woo took of me before starting my run, sharing the beach with a million birds.

Oh, and I found (but didn't try) these amazing "hand-cooked" sweet potato chips.

Oh, and I guess to be fair... after I point out other people's language foibles... I told another pair of Jehovah's Witness this week that God loves himself, instead of God loves them. Still true, but whoops!

Anyways, Happy Thanksgiving!


O Livro de Mórmon

We decided to dial up the missionary work this week after a goal-setting FHE by Woo. We gave out 5 Books of Mormon. 3 were accepted enthusiastically, 1 with a bit of confusion (I blame my Portuguese) and 1 outright rejected. (Sorry, Herbie!)

Penelope cried all the way to school Monday morning because we wouldn't let her give a Book of Mormon to her friend, Marguerita, who can't read yet.  But maybe we should have? Penelope gave her a card with the words to "I'm a Child of God" written on it instead.

Linus gave his to his favorite girl. He looked all over for her in the school yard as soon as he got to school, but didn't see her until the bell rang, then he threw it in her hands as she ran up the stairs to class. Reportedly she brings it out every recess, reads the little message he wrote in the front and her friends read a little bit out of the book.

Moses gave his to his teacher. He missed her birthday by a week (which had been his original plan), but after he gave it to her, she kept trying to read it in class and read during recess.

Ruby's Portuguese teacher took one look at her note in the front and ordered her to rewrite it in pen (pencil is not acceptable). Ruby, anxious to get home, rewrote it and re-handed her the book before turning to leave, but as soon as her teacher read the note, she called Ruby back for bejinhos (little kisses) and a muito obrigada!

Then the next day Ruby did the next thing on her goal list--stand up for a kid in her class that everyone else makes fun of.

Woo got to bear his testimony about Jesus Christ to a man outside the grocery store, which made his evening. Also the woman he wrote about visiting with the missionaries came to church this week.

And... this was a while ago, but I accosted a pair of Jehovahs Witnesses on one of my runs. (Because anyone out speaking about religion is fair game, right?) I apologized that I didn't speak good Portuguese, but I knew the Book of Mormon was true and that God loved them. They tried to give me a pamphlet, but I gave them a sweaty hug and ran away instead.

Herbie's friend didn't want his Book of Mormon and didn't want to take it for anyone in his family either, but he and Herbie are still best friends. He seems to have either been touched that Herbie tried to give him something or feels kind of bad, because he's been giving Herbie little trinkets since. One is a wallet shaped like a grenade that Herbie likes, but more as a toy than a wallet.

Other events of note:
  • Penelope lost two teeth. One while eating an apple, and one she pulled out herself with a napkin.
  • Archie gave Penelope several layers that I didn't even notice until I saw the hair in the garbage can. 
  • Archie and Linus were both sick one day and missed school. Archie took a cute nap.
  • Woo is suffering a lot of pain in his shoulder and from scrapes on his back and toes (and knees?). He's started doing pushups to see if that helps.
  • Woo spent most of Saturday helping Ruby and Herbie prepare powerpoint assignments for school.
  • Moses also missed a day of school because his teacher joined a strike. He had a mostly enjoyable time reading digital books from Utah's online library--which has been a really awesome resource that we use almost everyday.
  • Ruby memorized 98% of The Living Christ in a 24 hour period.
  • I went on a really fun run along cliffs to the lighthouse.
Hope your week was great!


Little Kisses, Little Hugs

The Portuguese are way more affectionate than we are. On one of his first days of school, Linus' little friend kept pushing up against him with his arms out, saying, "Little hugs! Little hugs!" (abraçinhos!)

Linus had no idea what was going on, until I said, "Give him a hug, Linus; he wants a hug!" After getting his hug, his friend was free to run off giving everyone else little hugs, including Woo and me.
Moses: I got kissed today. By a boy!
Apparently, he'd made a super exciting goal at recess and had been mobbed by hugs from everyone on his team.
"And then there was something squishy--it was a face!"

Woo getting off the phone with someone at the utility company(?).
"I'm trying to imagine that conversation happening in English--Goodbye, goodbye. Little kisses. Goodbye. Little hugs."
Technology-wise, the kids appear to be getting the education Woo and I got 30 years ago. Ruby is the only one learning typing. The youngest kids don't have any computer classes. Herbie has at least been in the computer room.
Herbie: It has bars on all the windows. And double doors. You have to walk through two sets of door to go in there. 
Me: Do they have super awesome computers in there? 
Herbie (snorting): No!

No smart boards, or even white boards. Every teacher uses chalk on a chalkboard. The kids were fascinated with those chalk wand thingies some teachers use to hold their chalk (that I haven't seen in decades).

And there are no electrical pencil sharpeners or even manual ones. Each kid carries around a small plastic one in their pencil box (which, for my kids, at least, leads to a lot of extra sharpening and prematurely short pencils).

Ruby and Herbie do a lot of writing, copying down in their notebooks what the teacher spends the entire class period getting up on the board--one reason why cursive is taught the very first year. Penelope comes home every night and practices her cursive letters in her little workbook. She feels pretty grown up and sometimes teaches Archie (and Linus).

We aren't worried at all. One of the things proceeding our decision to move to Portugal was a family fast to know what to do to improve the kids' education. Among other things, moving to Portugal was an answer to that fast, and while the kids aren't getting a state-of-the-art education, they're learning other things that simply weren't possible in Utah.

Anyway, that's all I have this week, except this picture of Woo and another new surfboard. It had to live on his side of the bed for a short time because I refused to let it live on mine.

Hope your week was great!