Woo's septic troubles at the rental are over. He began digging frozen ground on the coldest day of the year and ended pumping blockage in the pouring rain on a day in the 40s. We've had tons of snow and he's done a lot of snowboarding. He was 10 minutes late to Herbie's maturation program because the snow was too great; he didn't want to leave. And Herbie wasn't worried. He was expecting Woo to be late.

I bought an exercise bike, which I'm really excited about. I should've bought one years ago, but for some silly reason or another, I never have. Exercising for the past 12 years has always been fraught with conflict: Can Woo watch the kids? For how long? Do I wake up super early? Run when they're asleep at night? Take kids in a stroller? How many kids? Is it snowing? Raining? Single digits or worse? Are the streets clear? Anyways, no longer do the stars have to align. I can pull the exercise bike out almost any old time and use it. It's been great.

Ruby has been enjoying the regular activities now that she's in Young Women's (she just never had a consistent experience with activity days). And now that Woo's Young Men's secretary, they walk to the church together and back. Woo's the preferable parent for social activities because he likes them and doesn't make you leave early, but this week he stayed too long even for Ruby. She came home alone, freezing (he'd stopped to talk in the road), and Woo came home 2 hours later.

Woo taught FHE on how to pray in Portuguese. We wrote everything up on a large chalkboard he picked up this summer, and Herbie sat in front of it for a few minutes yesterday and memorized all of it. We've been trying to say all our family prayers in Portuguese and Herbie is by the far the best of us non-speakers. He never has to cheat and peek at the board, and I think he also sounds the best (to my untrained ear).

The kids have not been their best the past two weeks. It's been a lot like the weeks after a time change, but worse because I was taken off guard. This week has been slightly better than last, but still frustrating. Moses is a roller coaster. He alternates between telling me he's sick, then running around like a crazy nut. Shouting at someone for holding Ruby's book, then weeping hysterically because "everyone's being mean to me."

Linus lost another tooth this week. He has four empty spaces in his mouth and another is already loose. The first day back from school he came home saying, "I don't care." In a really smug way to everything anyone said, exactly as if he'd learned it from some smart kid at school. He seemed shocked when we pointed that out (as if there was no way we could've known something like that), and hasn't said it since.

The one exception to the crazy kids has been Penelope (and also probably Ruby). She has really been great. Whenever I get frustrated she runs up and says, "I love you, Mom!" In kindergarten they learned about showing initiative, and occasionally she'll run around the house picking things up, or doing things she knows needs to be done, or helping someone with something and says, "I'm doing initiative, Mom!"

The school kids had Friday and Monday off school and Archie has really loved having them all home to play with. He has greater freedom to go out and do stuff, because I don't worry about him as much when he's with the older kids. He's helped them dig out snow forts all over the front yard, and once I peeked out the window to see him wearing our tiniest cross-country skis, skiing (more like walking in his case) after Herbie over snow piles and bumps.

One last notable thing: we had our first moose in the yard. We were all in the house, but the kids immediately started shouting as the moose sauntered past all our windows and finally up our front walk back onto the road.

That's it. Hope you had a great week!


Long, Way Too Long...

There are a few things I should mention from the last couple weeks. First, is Ruby's birthday. Per her request, we took her to the temple for her first time, then went for ice cream afterwards. It was a nice snowy evening with our oldest child. She really loved it too.

Second, Woo was asked to speak on Christmas Day to our joint tri-ward meeting (which was gigantic). When he was asked he was specifically told they'd chosen him because they knew he could keep it to 5 minutes. Then a couple weeks later, they said 2-3 minutes.

Anyways, he spent a lot of time on that talk--timing himself, whittling the time down, and that part was alright, but he wasn't really happy with the talk as a whole. He stayed up late Christmas Eve praying, and worrying. Finally, it all came to him at once. He wrote it all down and went to bed.

And his talk was truly inspired. It was the only time during the whole 2 hr meeting where everyone, even the children (freshly torn from their Christmas presents), was silent and listening. He's been taking compliments and thanks ever since. Even got a couple today.

This week I decided to get serious about teaching the kids Portuguese, so I ordered some Book of Mormons and hymnbooks, downloaded the best language learning app on all the iPads, etc. Woo dug out all the books he already has in Portuguese and spent the morning singing really loud Portuguese hymns. The kids loved it and tried to sing Portuguese too.
Penelope: Obrigada! Portuguese!
(Over and over again...)

After I told him I wasn't going to make root beer at home.
Archie: Mom, I know how to make root beer. 
Me: How? 
Archie: Water, sprite, and... uh... a chocolate.
Archie wasn't impressed with my latest tomato soup recipe.
Archie (distressed): Mom, someone put salsa in my soup!
Woo: Archie, that is the soup.

Archie celebrated his birthday. He's very pleased and proud to be four. As usual, his presents are the envy of everyone. Linus even came and cried in my lap--he wanted that train track!

Archie also had a talk this week. I forgot until Thursday. We wrote it; I read through it three or four times; he said the whole thing himself once for two handfuls of cocoa puffs, and I completely forgot about it until we were walking out the door to church, when Woo reminded me. Woo had Archie repeat it twice on the walk to church (he still remembered it!), and he did a beautiful job in Primary.

The kids have reached that stage where they own their chores. They've become kind of the family expert in their own arena.
Moses (pulling clothes out of the washer): Mom, I like laundry. It's a good chore.

Then Herbie had to agree about the dishes. Our dishwasher is a little finicky, but Herbie already understands it better than I ever did.
Moses: I want to move to a different house. 
Me: Why?
Some other kids offered some exciting guesses.
Moses: No. I just want a bigger laundry room.
Probably not on the wish lists of too many 8 yr-olds.

Penelope: Dad, did you see the note on your bed? 
Woo: No, why don't you go get it? 
Penelope (returning): It's gone. 
Woo: What did it say? 
Penelope: I don't know!
Didn't you write it, Penelope? She did write it, but she's been copying out lines from her books and leaving them on our pillows.

It's the thought that counts.

Herbie rarely makes English mistakes, but he insists lentils are called lentiles. Also, he already will only say the Portuguese word or phrase for something if he knows it. It's a good reminder for me whenever I'm going about my day, and he walks in and says something in Portuguese. It's good I started learning about a month ago; I can still teach the kids some things, but they're going to fly by me once we get to Portugal, if not sooner.

The kids have not been sleeping well. Ruby had a migraine Wednesday evening after school from lack of sleep. She came home saying her eyes were working funny. I told her she was about to get a migraine (pretty close to the only thing I know about them). She didn't believe me, but sure enough it came. It seemed to be pretty mild and she napped through part of it.

I confiscated some flashlights. I took care of a beeping fire alarm. Christmas is over. I don't know what else it could be. Ruby hasn't had another migraine, but I can't say everyone is back to normal. Hopefully, it will end soon.

We made little pies this week from a pie making kit we got from Christmas. All the kids (except Ruby, who had her migraine) helped make their little pie. Linus was the biggest helper. When I make big pies he is also the biggest helper. He's a careful roller and just loves to watch all the other things I won't let him do yet. Maybe someday soon I can hand off pie making to him.

I also should probably talk about Friday... I woke up and looked at the temperature, which was -25 degrees (!?!). I wasn't quite sure I believed it. The house didn't feel any colder than normal. In fact, it felt warmer. Quite pleasant, even upstairs. But later in the morning I got a text from the district: the buses weren't starting, but were being worked on; they'd update us.

So, I gave the kids more time to do everything and we hung out in the living room, when Woo got a text: the busses were running and some might be late. While the kids were getting their coats on, the bus drove by.

Very poorly managed (I got the text after the bus had passed and some parents didn't even get the first text at all and their kids were out at bus stops for 20-30 minutes in that weather). Anyways, we decided we'd all climb in the car and drive the kids to school. It was -18 by then and the walk from the house to the van wasn't too bad. Breathing stung a tiny bit and the hair in my nostrils immediately froze, but other than that, fine. Car started fine too. It was kind of a pain, but also a little adventure.

But when we got home Woo learned the septic at the rental had backed up. Long story short, he spent the coldest day of the year outside, digging frozen ground. The good news is he had two ward members (who just happened to have half the day off work) come and help. One had a metal detector (he takes it with him everywhere), which made finding the cover to the septic tank 1 million times easier.

Anyways, I think that's finally everything. Hope your week was great!


Testimony Below:

When we lived in St. Louis, we visited Nauvoo, Indepence, and Adam-ondi-ahman. The most memorable for me in good ways was when we visited Carthage Jail, where the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother, Hyrum, were martyred.

It's just a little place, a bit out of the way. We almost didn't visit it and I wasn't expecting much, just another museum or visitors center, so I was taken off guard by the feeling I felt as soon as I stepped out of the car. It was so distinct that I said out loud, "It feels like a temple here."

I had not thought a lot about Joseph Smith's martyrdom before, but because I felt the Holy Ghost so strongly as soon as I stepped out of the car, just being on the same property as the jail, I definitely toured the jail with more reverence and spent time thinking about why this was a special place.

This was one of many witnesses from the Spirit that strengthened my testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith's mission on earth.  I know that Joseph Smith really is a prophet of God and I know that Jesus Christ worked through him to restore His church upon the earth. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.