The Strangest Parents Ever

Every once in awhile it comes to my attention how different we are... We lost an Elder (below, pretending to lose a game of chess to Archie) and got a new one from Orlando. After church our new Elder sat down at the piano, all the kids gathered around him, and he started to play a bunch of Disney songs.

Our kids were able to identify the movie of one of them (Moana) after a couple incorrectly guessed Frozen. All the movie names got the Elder blank stares from Linus, Penelope and Archie (Toy Story?? Cinderella?? Beauty and the Beast??). Herbie and Moses had seen more, but couldn't recognize the songs, and still had no idea what he was talking about with a couple (The Lion King??).

When they were tiny, before they were in school, Ruby, Herbie and Moses used to watch a movie once a week. We had a collection of movies they could chose from, some Disney, but Disney was rarely their choice. When we moved to Utah, movie watching tapered off more and more (At least for the kids at home, the kids who went to school in Utah suddenly had their movie viewing significantly increased--grrrr.... but that's a topic for another day...)

Until now where we watch a movie hardly ever at all and watching Planet Earth episodes over Christmas break is a huge treat.

Anyway, that's were we are. Sometimes I think the kids are going to move out of the house and go nuts with a bunch of movies, perhaps, and really, it'll probably be fun for them. However, I kind of think that a window will have passed. They'll never watch Cinderella every single day for a period of years, for example, and have it be a huge part of their childhood. Or what they can remember of it.

Not that that was our goal either. We've just done what we've done, and we'll wait and see the results like anyone else.

In other news, it's been a January like every other January. At the end of an "animated" Come-Follow-Me session this morning, Woo quietly said, "I feel impressed to say that there is a special blessing that Heavenly Father wants to give us, but he can't because of the contention and rudeness in our home."

I was perhaps the only one who really heard him, and I tried to reinforce it by sending everyone to a quiet spot to pray and get their own revelation about it.

Long story short, when Woo and I walked into our room I said, "Well... we're never going to get that special blessing... "

We laughed, but I went into the bathroom and said my own prayer, where I got that nothing is impossible with the Lord and I could write Woo's words and hang them up around the house. Also, I could pray for it often. Also, I could teach that things like leaving a mess at the breakfast table, for example, is rude because it's inconsiderate of others.

I immediately went to work on the signs (we had a bit of extra time before church and also I decide to do that over put on makeup) and hung them up.

Reading it again Woo said, "At the time when I said this I thought it was so profound, but now I realize it's just the promise it always is--when you keep the commandants, you'll prosper in the land... which I guess is profound."

And needs to be repeated often.

And when I left our room the kids were noticeably better. Ruby was washing bowls for everyone. Service must have been her answer. Herbie is currently working on a chart for him to keep track of his progress. He has to monitor every hour he's home :).

We did get a picture of Moses on his second trip to the temple. Moses had a busy Sunday. He passed the sacrament, gave a talk and taught youth Sunday School. He was nervous and not excited about it (possibly explaining his argumentativeness in the morning).

Ruby was very kind to remember him in her prayer last night. Probably because she'd done the same thing the week before, except play the piano instead of pass the sacrament.

Ruby felt fantastic after that Sunday and had a wonderful afternoon. She said, "I wish every day could be Sunday, Mom!"

When I raised an eyebrow at that unusual sentiment, she explained how much she had enjoyed speaking and teaching and how awesome it had felt.

Moses was pleased with how is lesson went, but not pleased enough to want to do it every day.

Woo spent a lot of time (most of his time?) organizing and labeling our vast photo and video collection. This has been very enjoyable for him (except the annoying duplicate photo aspects) and for the kids and for me. We sure had some cute kids.

Speaking of movies, he's showed us all the best old clips, which have made us all laugh a lot. Woo has also interviewed each kid on camera each year. We've watched a lot of those and laughed also. Two to three years old seems to be the sweet-spot for exceptional cuteness and delightful answers to even the simplest of questions.

Whenever he does this I remember what a priceless treasure of (now organized!) memories we have because of him.

His arm is not all better, but has shown definite improvement this week.

Herbie is a good friend to Woo. He's his best surfing buddy and surfing admirer. Herbie didn't want to surf this week because he thought the waves were too big for him, but he gladly went with Woo to film and help Woo figure out his form.

At the park on Saturday it was amusing to see Herbie ride his bike around the path at the park, towing Woo on a skateboard. Then Woo riding the bike, towing Herbie on the skate board, and so on.

Linus wanted to make a present for his science teacher who is leaving to have a baby. He bought some clay and decided to make a volcano that he carefully molded and painted over a period of days while he listened to Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Linus: "Am I as good as him? Am I as good as Little Lord Fauntleroy?" 
Me: Well, he isn't real.
Linus loves this book so far. I'm still making up my mind, but making kids want to be good is always a plus.

Penelope's half birthday was this week. She had a much better experience than last year where it didn't live up to her expectations, and she went to bed in tears (I believe in an unrelated incident).

This year every time she or Woo would see each other, they would break out into a big grin and say, "It's our half birthday, Nellpea!!" or "It's our half birthday, Dad!!" and Woo would do his I'm-chuckling-as-if-I'm-having-a-lot-fun laugh and Penelope would do her real I'm-having-a-lot-of-fun laugh.

Archie lost another tooth. I know we tried to get Archie dry at night last year (?) with the incentive of a bike, but it never worked. We don't live in a place where a kid can just pull out his bike and start riding it at any old time. And of course we let him ride it whenever we go on family bike rides.

Also, I've never been any good at teaching kids to be dry at night, or maybe there's a genetic factor; I don't know. We have a pee alarm, but Archie was terrified of it, and the last time I tried to get him to wear it was a disaster.

But about a month ago I decided that this had to stop, because really, the time was long past. I asked Woo to help Archie get it on and explain it that first time (to avoid repeating the experience he'd had with me) and it went great. Soon, Archie was able to get it on and off himself and use it effectively. He's been doing wonderful! Which is a huge relief to me and in a lot of ways really feels like the last frontier.

And that's our week. Hope yours was great!


A Week of Firsts

This was a week of firsts, mostly for Moses, but others too. It was Moses's first time to do baptisms in the temple and my first time to witness for baptisms. Unfortunately we completely forgot to get a picture. (Only 3 pictures this week... )

Probably because we were hurrying to get in on the way in and on the way out--Woo was too excited by the discovery that one of the temple presidency counselors and matron are parents of an elder who was his companion for a short time in the MTC.

Woo has been in a lot of pain all week. We've decided that it's a pinched nerve. I drove both ways to the temple to save Woo's arm for baptisms, also whenever a temple worker would ask me if he was going to baptize the kids, I said, "I'm not sure. He has a lot of pain in his arm."

But Woo didn't tell any temple workers that. He baptized all three kids for many names without a complaint. I was pleased and proud to be married to a man who does the right thing even when it's painful (and didn't even think of trying to get out of it).

Archie started swim lessons for the first time (with his school class). Linus taught Archie the discreet locker room changing tricks he's learned from the 2 years he's had swim lessons in school. We packed his bag two days before. He felt very prepared in all ways, except for the fact that Archie can't swim. Archie has always been super cautious around water and rarely puts his head in.

Archie said a worried prayer about it the night before his first class, and fell right asleep where he says he had lots of dreams about how fun learning to swim would be. He woke up feeling much better and found that his fears were unfounded and he did have a lot of fun the first day.

Moses also passed the sacrament for the first time (and Herbie went early to prepare it). He was also very nervous and went into an empty classroom to pray. He felt better and was immediately asked to do something when he walked out, so the waiting/worrying period was cut short also.

He did a wonderful job, of course (although, with one mistake, according to Herbie).

The kids went back to school this week. To my surprise, no one was very excited about it. They wanted more time at home. Usually, the kids are so excited to get back to friends and school adventures. I'm the only one who ever thinks everyone home for an extended time is nice.

Even Woo said something he's never said before, "It's times like these where I think homeschool would be a nice thing."

Ruby had a headache or something the day we came home from the temple. She complained about almost everything and was not happy about the dinner I had waiting for us. She came up with a brilliant plan of when she was a mother her kids would pick what they ate, and she'd never make anything they didn't like... she knew how to make good food... the rest of us were feeling good after our trip to the temple, and we just laughed.

She moved on to something else, but came back to food when she said, "Yeah, I was thinking about making some chili sandwiches--"

Chili sandwiches?! We all laughed hard at that, which effectively shut her up (and she was able to right herself from cranky once we got home). But now that I think about it, maybe chili sandwiches aren't so absurd. They do have things like sloppy joes and chili dogs. But I still think I'll let Ruby try it first.

Penelope also started swimming this week, but she had it last year already. She rides the bus over with Archie, but they're in separate classes there.

We finished A Little Princess this week and Penelope loved, loved, loved it! Linus also loved it ("What if someone came into my room and left new stuff? A bed! A chair!"), but of course it resonated with Penelope even more. She wishes she owned it and could read it over and over again. (I've been reading it off my phone, which she is not allowed to use.)

This is also the first time I've ever read A Little Princess. I've been turned off by the title my entire life, but it kept coming into my head when I was looking for a new book to read, and it was a delight for me too. Secret Garden is next, and I'm even open to Little Lord Fauntleroy if the kids are interested (something I never thought I'd say).

Linus had a field trip to Obidos that he was excited about. When they came back, they finally did their volcanoes!

I think that every year we do Come Follow Me is going to be a bit different. Last year, I was the only one familiar with the NT, so we spent all our CFM time in the scriptures and I led the discussion. This year, we already are reading the Book of Mormon at other times so we're reading the manual and Woo is leading the discussion. It's nice to get a break and to have all the kids familiar with what's going on.

I did a pretty sorry job on my talk today--my Portuguese is getting worse and worse. In fact, sitting in Linus's teacher meeting this week I thought, "I haven't heard any Portuguese in a loooooooong time!" even though I mostly knew what was going on (by some miracle). I couldn't understand Ruby's talk today; it sound too much like the Portuguese. And Linus said he couldn't understand my talk; my pronunciation was so bad :). Primary has been in English since the start of the year.

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

Testimony Below:

Several years ago I recognized that I was not as patient with my family as I could be, especially when they were tired or I was tired.

I knew that reading the Book of Mormon every day gave me an extra portion of the Spirit to help me during the day, but I decided that patience was the quality that I was in dire need of. I began to pray for the Spirit to bless me with patience before I read the Book of Mormon. I did this every single time I read the Book of Mormon for a long time.

The effect was immediate. Soon I would only lose patience during trouble spots during the year, until now I am very, very rarely not patient.

Reading the Book of Mormon every day helps us access the grace of Jesus Christ. I know that the Book of Mormon is gift from our Heavenly Father to bless our families. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


My Baby is 7

The most exciting thing that happened this week was Archie's birthday.
Me: What do you want for your birthday dinner, Archie?
Archie: Oh! Sausage and lasagna! And NO MUSHROOMS!
Me: Okay, no mushrooms, but you can only have one of those other two.
Archie: Oh! Sausage and... pizza! And NO MUSHROOMS! ... Unless it's that mushroom noodle thing... then you can make that. 
Archie (twisting his face): You can make that.
Apparently he didn't want mushrooms, but was willing to sacrifice if he had to.

Archie is always so thrilled and grateful for every little thing on his birthday; it's sweet.

This week he beat me in Settlers twice and also Ruby (somehow he got a monopoly on clay and completely creamed us), which I'm sure he feels is one of his top accomplishments for the week.

Last Sunday Woo scheduled several things for us with branch members, but they all fell through (except the one I said no to), and we ended up not doing much this week. I was concerned it would be a long dull week, and I had one day with a severe lack of motivation to do much of anything. I was almost missing our old road trips to Madrid, but no one else was and in the end we made it through okay.

The kids were pretty happy to read, play games with each other (Ruby bought a set of dominos as a family gift and I taught them to play chicken feet, which has been popular.), go to the new park, and watch Planet Earth.

I always left the park first to make dinner, but twice I had to leave even earlier with an injured Penelope. Both times there was a concern that we'd have to make a trip to the hospital for a broken bone or stitches, but both times she was okay with some home care.

Other times, Penelope and Archie have been inseparable friends there. Archie got a watch for his birthday and set a timer for Penelope and Archie to do "stations" at the park, rotating to different sections and games at regular intervals. I'm happy that they're still such good friends.

I was a bit hesitant about the new program for children and youth because I had a vague idea that I was going to have to do more, but I shouldn't have worried. The kids all brought their pamphlets home and worked on them themselves. They were excited to show me what they'd come up with, and they're in charge with following through.

One of Linus' goals is to bathe more frequently. He did not get the exact days he'd outlined, but he did do better than in the past. He re-motivated himself for this week ahead, and learning to remember and keep his goals, also to form his own new habits, appears to be one of the benefits.

Herbie and Moses were ordained today, to the offices of deacon and teacher. Herbie taught Moses how to pass the sacrament after church, and Moses got his temple recommend. He is very excited.

When we moved here, Linus got a blessing that said he would be the first member of our family to be baptized in Portugal. At the time I was thinking of Linus, and news to me at the time, Penelope. But now I also know it was talking about Ruby and Herbie and Moses doing baptisms in the Lisbon temple. I guess maybe Archie's birthday too. He has one year left.

Ruby was also excited about the goals she set for herself. She started running with me again, after a several month pause, and made a greater effort to play tag or other games at the park.

This morning we did a Come Follow Me activity for the first time: write down your testimony of the Book of Mormon and pray about who to share it with. Ruby wrote a whole page and was so happy with what she wrote. She and Linus read theirs to each other (My favorite part about Linus's that I overheard was, "Without the Book of Mormon, I would not be writing this testimony... ")

She read it to me later, starting with a, "It's just so good!" and she decided to translate it into Portuguese and give a copy to each of her teachers.

Woo has been experiencing a lot of pain in his neck and shoulder area besides his usual aches and pains. I've tried to help him a bit, but he didn't marry me for my massage skills, and I'm a pretty sorry masseuse. However, he is not lying around... he's surfing and playing with the kids at the park.

I think it was last week that he told Herbie that he was retiring from skateboarding because it was hurting his foot, but he's been skateboarding probably every day--mostly with Herbie and Moses, but also with Ruby around the path at the park.

With Moses and Mariana graduating from primary, we finally have a youth group. They will teach each other, but Woo was asked to supervise. Herbie stood up and taught this week after Ruby complained that she didn't know and hadn't prepared. The lesson was on... exactly the same thing we'd studied together as a family in the morning.
Woo: Any member of the church who's done their home study should be able to stand up and give the lesson at any time.
He was very proud of Herbie for doing just that.

In my down time I read a book about the Mayflower and the first settlers of Plymouth Rock that was enjoyable and another wake up call to the sacrifices of others for the ease I enjoy. Also, it made me feel like we were eating an extremely bounteous feast the night I made vegetable soup.

Anyway, that's our week. Vacation ends tomorrow. I hope your week was great!


Yet Another Christmas Miracle

This week the weather has been sunny and warm. Last Sunday while we were discussing Elder Bednar's talk and Woo was pointing out the part about how Satan uses distraction and deception, a motorcycle gang in Santa Claus suits roared by and very effectively distracted all kids but two. Blast.

Monday I decided to have the kids scrub out the laundry room. This is the kind of work they like to do. Maybe because they don't do it every day and also because it beats sitting around waiting for Christmas.

Ruby, as the birthday girl, was excused from all house work. She spent the morning trying out her new calligraphy set, then somewhat reluctantly picked up her other present: The Complete Novels of Jane Austen. We rarely saw her again until Christmas morning.

I'd planned to scrub out bathrooms on Tuesday morning, but I woke up with a cold, and the kids all seemed to have found other acceptable things to do... so I took a nap, wrapped up the rest of my Christmas preparations in about a half hour (while Woo was napping).

Moses and Linus helped me carry all the presents up to our little tree that they also decorated; then we all went to the new park.

I'd planned on making a quiche for Christmas Eve dinner, but Woo suggested cinnamon toast and hot chocolate, which I was happy to do as it's much easier. I added some loaded scrambled eggs and everyone was pleased.

They don't sell hot chocolate or anything peppermint here, so I dissolved a jar of Nutella in milk on the stove and put a mint Mentos in the bottom of everyone's cup. It was easily better than any powdered hot chocolate I've ever had.

We had our usual Christmas Eve things to remember the birth of the Savior, but they seemed to fall a bit flat. Maybe because I was sick.

Christmas day went well. Herbie and Moses did some family history while waiting for Woo and I to get up. We read scriptures and opened presents. It was the most relaxing Christmas I remember since having kids. Everyone was happy to work on new lego sets or read their books. I went on a head-cold-jog in my new running shoes from Woo, then put a super easy roast and vegetable dinner in the oven.

Herbie was too exhausted from excitement to think straight all day. He did some legos, then kind of wandered the house in a daze. I read him a chapter of his Sherlock Holmes to get him started. After that he was fine.

Linus was feeling so good he gave two of his presents away: a airplane lego set to Moses and an extra hopper ball (we got another from a friend) to Woo.

Woo went for a surf, which luckily was a very fun day. He came home and said it made his Christmas. Also, he was hungry enough to eat dinner. My Christmas dinner efforts sometimes feel wasted, as no one is hungry enough to eat it, but Woo was ravenous and ate almost all of it himself.

The day after Christmas was equally relaxing, but I was more sick. I only went for a walk (although it was very pleasant in the sun) in my new shoes. While the kids were occupied, Woo and I tried to pin down our feelings about Christmas. Woo was equally bothered by the Christmas is only about Christ dogma.

My feelings have evolved a lot. I believe that simple is best, but only because I believe that simple is best in pretty much everything. We’ve never done Santa, but only because we never had anything to say about him when Ruby and Herbie were tiny and after that it was just easier to tell the truth.

Obviously, we try to keep Christmas Christ centered. It can be a good opportunity to celebrate Him in many ways.

But on the other hand... if Christmas falls flat and isn’t a time of amazing spiritual or service experiences, that’s also okay. We both realized that Christmas is not the time the Savior himself set up to remember him. Nor is it the time to rededicate or devote ourselves to him. That’s the sacrament.

And really, that’s what the Savior himself wants. He wants us to repent and covenant to follow and remember him through baptism and then to re-access how well we’re doing each week in the sacrament. We read about the doctrine of Christ in the Book of Mormon on Christmas evening, just in the regular course of our Book of Mormon reading, and really, it was perfect.

We had a little adventure coming home from the temple when the headlights were left on and the battery died. No one tried to give us a jump start, instead they suggested we pop the clutch. Woo had heard of this, but had never tried it, and his first three attempts failed, mostly because he forgot to turn the car on.

But we had the gardener jump in the van while we and the 2nd counselor in the temple presidency pushed the van down the hill to the street, and he got it for us.

Penelope got a kite from friends, but it has been so easy to fly that she quickly lost interest. Only Woo would stay with it.

Also, I've been surprised to discover that she is completely unfamiliar with the story of Beauty and the Beast. She has been reading an adaption with all of it being a complete surprise.

The rest of the week was pretty much more of the same. We invited kids to read scriptures in our room almost every morning, visited the new park (which was at times very crowded), and managed to help the Elders clean someone's car (after many failed appointments). Two of Archie's classmates lived on the same street and kept calling out his name.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas!