Lemons (?!)

We finally got a van! The first time Woo looked at this one (a whole month ago?) Moses woke up excited to tell me he'd had a great dream--about our new van. Whenever we didn't buy it, he kept saying that this one was the one in his dream.

After we finally bought it, Woo asked Moses if it was just like his dream.
Moses: Kinda. Better and worse. The van in my dream had a food machine.
And the new church shoes he dreamed about had rockets in them.

Woo took Herbie with him on the actual purchase day. Woo pulled the van into our garage under our building, which has a very short, steep descent. Herbie said it was like a roller coaster and kind of scary.

We were excited to go for a joy ride in the new van, so we all piled in, only to spend the next twenty minutes going back and forth as Woo tried to maneuver out of the garage. There are pillars in all the wrong places... it's clearly designed for a mini, NOT a minivan. Anyway, we did finally get out before asphyxiating (and luckily, one of us had thought to open the garage door before we started... someone overly optimistic about a quick escape... )

We drove to the store and loaded up on a lot of big, heavy items that are obnoxious to carry home, like laundry detergent. Woo got us back into our parking space in the garage with less pain, but we haven't driven the van since.

Here's Ruby. The only girl in a court full of boys playing soccer. In fact, she's had a hard time finding any girls her age at all. Where are they? They're not walking around town or at the park or even at the beach. Very occasionally we think we see one at the store.

Woo bought a lemon when we first got here that he never used, so Ruby decided to eat it. She peeled it up, ate half of it, saying it was delicious, and would've eaten more, if the other kids hadn't begged for some. Crazy kids.

Linus sat with Woo during one of his visits to the bank this week (and no, he still doesn't have an account). I assume Linus worked his usual magic, sitting there, looking everyone in the eye with a giant smile on his face. And of course it worked. At one point the supervisor had to come out and she couldn't get over Linus.
"He is so beautiful! He is just like a doll! Are all your children as beautiful as he is?"
And Woo answered "Yes" without any hesitation.

Penelope may be the most responsive child to my and Woo's impassioned lectures on this, that or the other. I often overhear her reminding her brothers or sisters about something we've said. Even things from quite a while ago.

Woo talked to some kids her age at the park. One told Woo they didn't like the school's rice. It was yellow and they called it the pee rice. Pee was the only word Penelope understood, but it was enough for her to laugh heartily.

Archie woke up one morning and came stomping in our bedroom.
Me: Archie, don't stomp. There may be people sleeping below us. 
Archie: Oh, lemme go look.
(He ran away, then ran back)
Archie: Nope, Mom. They're awake. 
Me: How do you know? 
Archie: I looked out the window and there are lots of cars driving around.

Woo tried surfing a couple times this week on some smaller waves. It seemed to be going well until he accidentally slept on his hurt arm and had to ice it yesterday.

Woo got me a wet suit.
Ruby: Why does Mom get a wetsuit? 
Me: So when you guys are in school, crying because you can't speak Portuguese, Dad and I can be out surfing-- 
Woo: Giving each other high fives after the big wave we've just caught--
Because see how much fun we have now when the kids are not there and are in bed? See??

This is all we got of the eclipse before the sun set, but Woo and I were in Europe on our missions when a solar eclipse was here. Pretty cool. Sounds like most of you enjoyed it.


Acampamento Jovens

We were surprised to learn on Sunday that the youth of the district (not yet a stake) were coming to our town for their version of youth conference/camp/summer activity/whatever. Ruby, of course, was going. Then we learned that Ruby, Herbie, AND Moses could go (and really it ended up... we all could go).

It was super nice because their camp was within walking distance of our apartment, so Woo and the older kids could do the activities, the little kids and I could make a token appearance, and then we could all skip the camping and the late dinners.

(Moses looks like he's been camping 3 days within the first 3 minutes.)

Woo, Ruby, Herbie and Moses hung out most of the first day. Linus, Penelope, Archie and I met them in the afternoon at the beach. Moses was super excited because he'd made a friend who spoke english. His friend's parents are separated. He lives in England most of the time with his mother, but spends summers in Portugal with his grandma, because, apparently, his father is in jail.
Linus: Why'd his dad go to jail? 
Moses (completely serious): Tattle telling.

Linus ended up being able to go to the waterpark (the stuff of his dreams). Only, he spent the first few minutes crying. All the pools were too deep for him and his swimming skills aren't strong enough to get him to the side. That was solved by Woo going down every slide first to catch him at the bottom, and then he had lots of fun.

Herbie had a super rough couple of days at the beginning of the week. So rough that we didn't allow him to go to the waterpark the second day; he got to stay home with me. He took it surprisingly well, and during his time home admitted he thought he'd sleep better in Archie's room where it's darker. He spent the morning moving all his stuff down and organizing.  And he has been better since.

It was fun to meet some of the district members. One of them told me they needed me to teach them how to make chocolate chip cookies; they had never gotten them right in Portugal. I made a batch today to see if they were truly impossible here. They seemed fine to me. Possibly even more tasty because I chopped up a chocolate bar instead of chocolate chips.

The kids were very excited. (I only make chocolate chip cookies once every three years or so... )
Moses: Mom! This is the best smelling thing ever! 
... Except for your breath.
I thought it was a joke until he turned and gave me a big hug.

Penelope is not speaking a lot of Portuguese but she is worming her way into plenty of people's hearts. They usually respond by giving her something--the necklace off their necks, a trinket in their purse, etc.

The youth group had a "Peddy Paper" on the third day. It was some sort of competition where teams went around a course in teams, doing different things at different stations. Penelope was put on a team with three teen boys, one of them a big German kid who had been invited by a friend.

The other two boys were not excited to have Penelope on their team. They wanted to win. I saw them try to encourage her to run off with another team. But the German boy decided she was his personal responsibility. After the start, he picked her up and ran with her.

(None of the boys should've been afraid she'd slow them down. She ran by herself after that and beat all of them to all the other stations.)

Anyway, afterwards, the boy went into his tent and came out with two German treats--one for him and one for Penelope, and he stuck close to her the whole time we were there.

Archie and Ruby were on the same team. That's Archie tearing it up on the wheelbarrow.

And then... to cap the week off... Woo, Ruby, Herbie and Moses were invited to pick pears for the branch president's brother. Woo mentioned that at one point, Herbie and Moses were throwing pears, but Ruby worked the entire time.
Woo: But, I'll be honest, after 9 hours of picking pears, I was ready to throw some myself.
And they really did pears for that long. I was thinking 2, maybe 3 hours... the rest of us at home would've spent the day a bit differently if I had known. Anyway, they came home extremely tired. The rest of us were a bit bored.

Today was a good day, but this email is long enough already. I hope your week was great!


Salty Tears, Salty Sea

Well, the kids are still not normal. There was a lot of crankiness, but they're also showing signs of wanting to be better. I went to Moses and Linus' room in the morning to find they'd already cleaned it and made their beds without wrinkles. (Linus got mad when I sat on his.) Herbie helped me clean up after dinner without anyone asking. Ruby and Penelope played quietly together with their dolls. Archie did his chore, then helped Penelope with hers.

But we rarely have everyone happy at the same time. We also make clear mistakes like taking all the kids with us while Woo goes over the branch list with the Relief Society President. I don't know what we were thinking. That kind of stuff's super boring for just a junior companion, let alone a bunch of kids. Anyway, this happened:

Then I removed all boys outside where we had a super rocky thirty minutes before they calmed down.

Woo has strained his tricep. It's been hard for him because 1) he's in pain, and 2) he can't surf until it's healed. Also, he's tired. Also, the van purchase he lined up on Friday fell through.

Finding ridiculous things in the grocery store is the tiniest silver lining.

I hesitate to make blanket statements for all of Portugal because all I've seen so far has been this one city and I don't know what's regional, or unique to one city, etc. But it appears there are no thrift stores. Instead, people leave perfectly good stuff on the sidewalk near the garbage bins when they're through and anyone who wants it can take it (Or it can be picked up with the garbage).

The son of a branch member found Penelope this baby carriage and doll. I was happy he could give it to her. He's a recovering drug addict and generally acts like he hates all people, so I was pretty shocked that he did this for her and was smiling about it.

Really, we've just been picking up soccer balls (all sturdier than the one we bought, which is already falling apart), but this week we found a surf board. The tail was partially ripped off... cue Ruby to the rescue... luckily, she'd stashed some twine in a bush earlier...

Then, Ruby, Herbie, Moses and Linus took turns just playing around on the board and getting a feel for things.

Almost all the kids got to where they could stand up after a lot of falling into the water, but Herbie was the most determined and spent the most time trying to get it just right.

And Penelope and Archie are still very content to just be playing in sand.

Our plans to have the kids take surf lessons were derailed by the advent of August and the appearance of crowds at the beach and large class sizes. We also don't want to buy the kids a board until we know a little more, so this was perfect for them and the wind and the tide were also perfect. Lots and lots of beginner waves in shallow water.

I gave my first talk in Portuguese today. I'm sure I slaughtered plenty of words, but the District President (speaking after me) said he was surprised, but he understood every word I said. Which I guess was a compliment? Or he had the gift of tongues?

Anyway, you don't have to be afraid I'm going to include all my talks (probably one every month or so in this branch), but I'm posting it below because it's not much longer than my regular testimonies and my last testimony was super short. Also, it's all story.

That's our week. Hope yours was great!


Talk (English first, Portuguese second):

One evening after the kids were in bed I read this story in a talk by President Dieter F Uchtdorf:

"I once owned a pen that I loved to use during my career as an airline captain. By simply turning the shaft, I could choose one of four colors. The pen did not complain when I wanted to use red ink instead of blue. It did not say to me, 'I would rather not write after 10:00 p.m., in heavy fog, or at high altitudes.' The pen did not say, 'Use me only for important documents, not for the daily mundane tasks.' With greatest reliability it performed every task I needed, no matter how important or insignificant. It was always ready to serve."

The line that says that the pen would rather not write after 10 p.m. was important for me because I often said that after the kids went to bed, was my time to relax and do what I wanted. This story told me I needed to repent.

A few days later Steve came home late. He had had a long day of work and bought the groceries.

The Spirit whispered that I should help him bring the groceries in the house. I didn't want to because I was tired and would still have to put all the groceries away after Steve was done.

The Spirit whispered that I was not being a good pen in the hands of the Lord, and right now I was needed to help my husband.

I went outside to help him and put all the groceries away and I felt so wonderful when I was done. I had more energy, not less.

President Uchtdorf says, "When our heart is in the right place, we do not complain about our assigned task. We gladly serve wherever we are asked. When we do this, the Lord can use us in ways beyond our understanding to accomplish His work."

I know that we show God our love for Him when we serve where he asks and that he blesses us far more than the sacrifice we give. Usually with something we have been praying for.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Uma noite, depois que as crianças estavam na cama, eu li essa história em um discurso do Presidente Dieter F Uchtdorf:

Ele diz: "Eu tinha uma caneta que adorava usar quando era piloto de companhia aérea. Bastava girar a haste e eu podia escolher uma das quatro cores. A caneta não reclamava quando eu queria usar a tinta vermelha em vez da azul. Não me dizia: 'Prefiro não escrever depois das dez da noite, na neblina ou em altitudes elevadas'. A caneta não dizia: 'Só me use em documentos importantes, e não nas tarefas diárias comuns'. Eu podia confiar inteiramente nela para realizar toda e qualquer tarefa necessária, fosse ela importante ou insignificante. Estava sempre pronta para servir".

A linha que diz que a caneta prefere não escrever depois das 10 horas foi importante para mim porque eu costumava dizer que depois que as crianças foram para a cama, foi meu tempo para relaxar e fazer o que eu queria. Mas essa história me disse que eu precisava me arrepender.

Poucos dias depois, Steve chegou em casa até tarde. Ele teve um longo dia de trabalho e comprou os mantimentos.

O Espírito sussurrou que eu deveria ajudá-lo a trazer os mantimentos na casa. Eu não queria porque estava cansado e ainda teria que colocar todos os mantimentos depois que Steve terminasse.

O Espírito sussurrou que eu não estava sendo uma boa caneta nas mãos do Senhor, e agora eu precisava ajudar meu marido.

Então, saí para ajudá-lo e colocar todos os mantimentos e eu me senti tão maravilhosa quando terminei. Eu tinha mais energia, não menos.

Presidente Uchtdorf diz: "Se tivermos o espírito certo no coração, não reclamaremos que nossa tarefa designada. Serviremos com alegria em qualquer lugar que formos chamados. Se fizermos isso, o Senhor poderá usar-nos de maneiras que estão além de nossa compreensão na realização de Sua obra".

Eu sei que mostramos a Deus nosso amor por ele quando servimos onde ele pede e que ele nos abençoa muito mais do que o sacrifício que damos. Normalmente, com algo em que oramos.

No nome de Jesus Christo, amém.