Chelsey and Her Weaknesses

This week was hard, but not the hardest week we've had here, and not because of kids hating school in Portuguese and throwing lots of tantrums, like I was expecting. The kids have behaved exactly like they do starting school at home, and we're used to that by now.

But Woo and I found ourselves under a lot of stress, which at the time had us wanting to pull our hair out. The specifics are, by now, kind of trite, but there were lots of hours spent on the phone getting no where, lots of hours standing in lines in crowded shops getting nowhere, and little to no time to do the stress-reliever things we enjoy (and kind of need for sanity).

On one of my busiest days someone from the branch invited me to hang out in a cafe, which I reluctantly accepted. I was reluctant because hanging out is close to the last thing I want to do. Ever. And on a busy day it was pretty close to torture for me.

Ruby was confused, mostly because she's never seen me doing something like that before and also because she associates going out with dating.

"But, Mom. She's another woman--"

I started to explain, "Ruby it's not all about dates, and hooking up. Sometimes it's about being friends... "

I would've explained more about how I personally never felt that way, but most people did. I never got the chance because Woo was doubled over laughing. He couldn't believe those words had just come out my mouth.

By Friday some things had been accomplished. The last of Linus' books were available at the book shop. Herbie's last book came in the mail (and we were here to get it--we didn't have to wait in line at the post office). And Woo finally reached someone who understood our gas company conundrum and did something about it. (We think!)

Ruby comes home and tells us the interesting things she's learned in her classes. She rarely did that in the US. I don't know if it's because the bus ride home distracted her, or because now she has to work harder to learn through the Portuguese and there's a greater feeling of accomplishment when she does. She's really enjoying astronomy and French. She read ahead in her French book and did pretty well on the pre-test, but missed the one that had a line up of celebrities and asked which one was French. Most were American and she'd never heard of any of them.

Herbie's math class is already beyond what he's learned. He and I worked on it together. There was one symbol in it I didn't recognize. Reading the book led me to believe it meant one thing, but that was wrong. The internet showed me it was another. Still, we weren't getting it quite right. Woo came to the rescue, and I, at least, understand what's going on. (I did 8 more problems just for fun :). Herbie is still shaky, but now that we're teaching him the right thing, should get it.

Moses' proudest moments are when he makes a new friend. That's always a good day for him, and something he's excited to tell me when he comes home. He's made a few friends this week. He is loving recess. It's longer here and as the oldest aged kid in the school, he's feeling pretty successful on the soccer court. He was very upset when Penelope got a scrape and he, as her oldest brother, had to miss some recess to help her. Woo tried to help him see that he should be happy to help his little sister, but it was a miss.

Linus is also excited about new friends and thought it was fun to have girls chase him all recess and not catch him. It became less fun when everyone decided to be on Linus and Moses' team and there was no one left to do the chasing. Linus is a second grader in a merged class of mostly third graders. The tallest third grade girl in the class has decided to be his girlfriend. And he has one more, he says.

Linus' teacher said, "Copy this exactly." And look at the q's in the first few words Linus wrote. He's coping the printing exactly!

One morning Penelope's teacher said (in Portuguese), "Penelope doesn't speak. She sings. But she doesn't speak." Woo told her to pretend she was singing when she needed to talk. Penelope giggled and I guess it worked. Her teacher says she's speaking now. Penelope smiles and waves at all sorts of kids when we're leaving the school, and they say, "Tchau, Penelope!"

Archie loves, loves school. He's finally lost the bags under his eyes he had the first few days because he couldn't sleep for excitement. His teachers say he's repeating some Portuguese after them. He's also teaching himself how to read and write. He wrote this note for me, which says "Archie" and "I love mom." Then he drew a picture of us walking over a bridge together. And of course, I think it's a masterpiece.

Saturday we had a baptism. It was in the ocean. We walked through tiny, cobble-stoned streets from the church to the beach (Ruby regretted wearing high heels). The water was rough and cold. I thought Maria Julieta was very brave, and this proved to be true when after being immersed in the water, the waves knocked her back down, and then the Elder too, on top of her. I laughed. The kids watching on the rocks laughed. Woo claims he did not laugh. He was too concerned for our newest member. I paid for my inappropriate laughing while waiting to drape Maria Julieta with a dry towel. A fast wave came in and soaked my shoes and sprayed my dress.

Walking back to the church, Herbie slapped a random door. Much to our surprise, someone opened it immediately. Even more surprising, they knew Penelope and were thrilled to see her. They called behind them for their daughter and a little girl in Penelope's class came to the door. "Ol√° Penelope!" It was too crazy to be coincidence.

I think I'm finally done. I'm just going to leave with this public service announcement: Smoking kills.

Hope your week was great!


Escola! (Or, more than you ever wanted to know about school in Portugal)

School started! The good news is the kids love it, even in Portuguese. Everyone has someone who speaks a little English (except Archie and Penelope), but they all seem to feel comfortable and are excited to go back every day.

There is a lot for me to like. Mostly the schedule. Everyone comes home for lunch. Moses, Penelope and Linus have an hour and 45 minutes off at noon (Archie is done), and about an hour later Ruby and Herbie show up for two hours.

Ruby and Herbie have had 5 hours of school before lunch and sometimes head back for another hour and a half, but sometimes don't (That will probably change in a week or two. Ruby wants to join the sailing club and Herbie the basketball club, and the school is arranging for a Portuguese tutor, so that'll take two more afternoons).

Ruby and Herbie's schedule is kind of fun. It's not like the junior high or high school schedule we're familiar with. It actually reminds me more of college with different classes each day and on a small campus with several buildings.

I like it because we spend time together during the week besides the get-ready-for-school rush in the mornings or the everyone's-had-a-long-day-at-school evenings. Also, the kids' time at home is kind of staggered. I get a few at a time and I feel I can address their individual concerns better.

The night before school started Archie and Nellpea wanted to go to bed early so they could go to school sooner. "Mom! Do bedtime short!"

Penelope always has someone holding her hand or her shoulder on her way out of the school building, but then she says she hasn't made any friends. Until Friday. She came home feeling like she'd successfully communicated at recess and spent the rest of the afternoon speaking half Portuguese, half English.

Linus and Archie had false starts. I sat in on Archie's class presentation for back-to-school night and thought I knew *mostly* what was going on. I did ask his teacher at the end about something she'd said about the first day of school that I didn't quite get. She said just bring him in the morning (which is all he's doing anyway). But then when we showed up, she didn't want him until the second day. So... I missed something there.

Linus was the last kid we took to his classroom and it was completely empty. No teacher, no kids, just a few bags of school supplies on some desks.  And... we could not get anyone to tell us what was going on! Until, finally, we learned that Linus' teacher was sick and there would be no school for him. He and Archie walked back home with us, fortunately not too sad.

Apparently, a teacher has to be gone for 30 days before they can hire a substitute. (Ruby's English teacher got married the first day of school and will be gone for 15 days. The whole class goes to the library that period.)

When Linus did get to go to school the second day he was excited to sit by a super friendly kid he'd met before and hoped was in his class. But, it's not like Linus has trouble making friends. Woo heard some excited kid point at Linus and say, "That kid is in our class?!" as we were leaving.

Moses' teacher had him stand up and tell his class about Utah and his school (in English, she translated). It was a huge hit. His teacher showed pictures of our house and the school from google maps as he was talking, and the Portuguese kids thought they were so huge, someone asked Moses if he owned a Ferrari afterwards.

Moses was excited to learn cursive this year, but the Portuguese learn it in first grade, so he's behind there. Also, our kids know next to nothing about the metric system and lots of math problems want them to do things like add 10m to 15 dm to 5 km. Thank goodness the metric system is easy!

Herbie seems to be experiencing instant popularity. There are 18 kids that he has all his classes with and according to both Ruby and Herbie all the girls follow him around and the boys are always hanging out with him at breaks. He dribbled a soccer ball like a basketball at one point and there were audible expressions of awe. Predictions of him being the best basketball player in the school may be accurate.

Ruby does not seem to be making as many friends (she spends all her breaks with Herbie and his friends), but it doesn't seem to bother her and she is really loving her classes. Her teacher in Physics and Chemistry started off having the class guess what she was talking about. Ruby was the only one to know she was talking about black holes, but didn't know how to say it in Portuguese. She is loving the independence of walking across town, getting her own library and student card, and she's reading ahead in her school books.

Which brings me to school supplies... Ideally, Woo and I would have 3 hours in the morning to ourselves, but so far it hasn't worked out that way. Where at home, school supplies would take me one outing to Walmart, here it takes several trips to mom-and-pop shops where we wait (literally) for hours, spend hundreds of euros on books and we're not even done yet! Unfortunately, exactly what each child needs is not exactly clear. Hopefully, we'll get everyone supplied this week.

Archie: Yay! I'm going to school! 
Me: You're going to leave me all alone? 
Archie: You won't be alone. You'll be with Dad. 
Me: But what will we do? 
Archie: You guys will work.
Or you can play with my toys in my room!
I'll go get them for you! 

And... this picture above is part of our junk food dinner we had to celebrate a successful start to school. (Our first ever.) NO ONE is feeding our kids candy at school or church or anywhere else anymore; we finally feel we can indulge in that sort of thing occasionally ourselves!

Instead, people are giving us clothes and clothes and clothes. On Saturday, we visited an inactive, sang her a song and then her neighbor (sitting next to her on the porch), of all people, got up and brought out a box of clothes she'd been hanging on to for just the right family with kids.

Woo attempted to find the best plain potato chip (alleged traditional Portuguese food) through a blind taste test, but results were inconclusive.

And the rest of these pictures are either from Lourinh√£, the dinosaur (obviously) capital of Portugal, or around town.


In Madrid

This was hands down the toughest temple trip I've ever been on. It was just plain hard. I almost went into the bathroom and cried, leaving my last time, knowing how hard it was to get there and how long it would be before we went again. Instead I wrote my own name on the temple roll and walked out the door to my family.

Here's my list of good, followed by bad.

  • Woo reserved us a nice airbnb the morning we left (no thanks to my procrastination).
  • The apartment happened to be right next to a metro station on the same line as the temple.
  • Moses didn't throw up all over the car, but in a garbage bag.
  • Ruby got to do lots of baptisms.
  • The temple is always wonderful.
  • There were six playgrounds within a block or two of the temple.
  • There was a Lidl (grocery store) two blocks from the temple.
  • Herbie has not thrown one single tantrum all week.
  • The weather was lovely.
  • Madrid is a nice city. I almost wanted to move there.
  • We met lots of missionaries and members from a neighboring Portugal stake.
  • There were many senior sisters serving temple missions with their husbands, doing everything in Spanish. I was impressed.
  • We got to visit Costco on our way out with it's super cheap gasoline and professional quality plastic wrap.
  • The van performed beautifully.
  • We're still alive!
  • Stressful driving in Madrid and 3-story down, hairpin curve, parking spot below our apartment.
  • Exhausting.
  • Expensive (airbnb+gas+toll roads+food+clothing rental+???).
  • Everyone's tempers on edge.
  • Moses was sick.
  • Archie and Penelope took forever to go to sleep.
  • The kids grew tired of playgrounds.
  • We didn't understand how a smaller temple worked and wasted time because we hadn't signed up for iniatories or sealings or planned ahead.
  • We tried to do too much in one day.

No thru highway, but the small roads on the border of Spain and Portugal were lovely.

After a long, hard temple trip, Woo found comfort at the Costco.