Week Before Christmas

The kids were a little crazy this week because, well, Christmas is coming! But, really they weren't too bad. Partly, maybe, because we finally had time and energy to do all those Christmasy things together that I've always imagined. (Stuffing everyone in a phone booth for a Christmas card photo is Woo's Christmas wish, not mine, but we did that too!)

The kids had this whole week off of school, Woo still had to work and we had no plans of going anywhere, so I made a deal with the kids. If they gave me a couple hours in the morning to run and get some other things done, we'd do a fun activity every afternoon. I drew up a schedule, the kids were excited, and I got some time to myself everyday.

We decorated the house--the kids even making a nativity scene for us--notable for it's giant Baby Jesus and Joseph by Herbie and Archie, and it's tiny Mary by Penelope. Also the angel Ruby made has a lightning bolt scar (which she swears is an accident) and converse high tops.

I handed down my top-secret snowflake-making secrets to the kids and Moses and Linus made dozens and dozens of them, many of them very nice.

Each of the kids rolled out their own gingerbread dough and cut out cookies. Most were eaten that day, but a few were saved to decorate the next day, and so on. They loved these activities.

Also we watched an episode of The Blue Planet with David Attenborough every night after dinner. We hardly ever watch movies or tv and even less all together so this was a real treat for the kids. Plus, they love them! Sharks, hilarious penguins, British narration... what isn't there to like?

And... Ruby turned thirteen! We had a baptism that day and she got to say the opening prayer. (Woo spoke and Archie said the closing prayer.) Then she decided to exercise her teenage rights by refusing to walk with us to the Lidl; she'd rather sit in the van (the baptism was in a neighboring town). Anyway, we did get her to come, which she ended up loving because what was going to be a quick trip for a snack, ended up becoming a giant Christmas/birthday spending extravaganza, because Lidl happened to have everything everyone had been wishing for.

Thank goodness it was a short walk because we all came back laden with large boxes. Thank you for the money, Grandparents!

While we were out, we dropped by a convent displaying thousands of nativity scenes made by local artists. Some were even working on site for us to watch in a side room.

Today we only had Sacrament Meeting, but it was all us, all the time, with Herbie saying the opening prayer, me leading the music, Woo blessing the sacrament, Ruby, Woo and I giving talks, all of us singing "Noite Feliz" and Moses saying the closing prayer. Thank goodness that's over. It was too much us even for me.

Everyone we invited to church or lunch today (for Christmas) fell through, so I think we'll walk to the hospital to see if we can visit our sick branch member (something we've not been able to do yet, but not without trying... every minute I've spent in there I've dreaded one of us actually needing to go to that hospital!). Then we'll eat dinner and do our usual nativity, singing, night before Christmas type things, and then sleep until Christmas!!

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Nellpea (reading the Friend): Mom, do you know why the tree of good and evil was bad?
Me: Why?
Nellpea: Because there was a snake in it. It lives in it!

Overheard in the hall:
Penelope (to Archie): You have to run for president. I already raced and I won!

Archie (reading the primary song book): Jesus num presépio. (Jesus in a manger--Away in a Manger) What is that in English?
Penelope: Jesus, the principal!

Woo: What do you want for Christmas, Archie?
Archie: Oh. I just want a Darth Vader. What’s remote control, on a skateboard. And can walk.

Two new Elders were transferred into our branch last week, so now we have 3, which is very exciting for my boys.

Herbie (reminiscing on the walk home about how awesome one of them was): ... And then he knew the names of all the motorcycles!
Linus (nodding authoritatively): That’s because missionaries know everything.


Last Week of School

The middle school got ready for Christmas by holding a bunch of athletic competitions. We signed Ruby and Herbie off for the cross-country race, arrived on time, but found they were no where near to starting. Herbie told us the schedule said he'd start in an hour and a half, so I left for a run and Woo went back to bed.

When I got back early, Herbie had already started and was in the top few of a field of almost a 100(?) 11-12 yr old boys. Buses had been arriving while we were gone, bringing in kids from all over the area. Herbie took it out too fast, but still came in 10th, earning a medal.

I texted Woo who leapt out of bed and sprinted over on his bike to catch the start of Ruby's race. (We never assumed they'd actually be early!) Some tall, intimidating-looking girls took an early lead, but they died hard after about 100 meters, and Ruby won. She didn't just win; she dominated. No one was anywhere near, and I was half afraid she'd stop and walk over the line, but she didn't. As winner she gets to go to the district race next month.

Then, on Friday they had a 3x3 basketball tournament.

Both Ruby and Herbie were the only kids to show up from their team, so they were thrown in to play with other teams missing kids. Herbie ended up playing with the oldest teams (the "iniciados" (freshman)). He played great when he had the ball, but was super nervous and not very aggressive. His team took second. Ruby's game was a comedy of errors and her team also took second.

We also caught a peak of Ruby's crush. No, he doesn't look like Harry Potter, but after watching him throw a stray basketball and watching Ruby laugh in overjoyed delight as his "awkwardness" we now know that she has a giant nerd crush. Which is awesome. It'll keep her safe.

Herbie also bought a wallet this week, which is the culmination of many hopes and dreams for him. He stopped in the Chinese store on his way home from school and snapped up the brown faux leather wallet he'd been eyeing. He immediately filled it with his school card, library card, a used metro card (from NYC), and anything else he could find. When I woke him up that first morning, he had it nestled in his hand under the covers.

The next three kids all went to the Christmas Village on a field trip. They got to ice skate ("Impossible!" "It was soooo slippery!"), get their faces painted (Penelope is painted as Santa), and get a balloon after talking to Santa.

They had fun except Linus who came home with a frown.
Me: Did you have fun? 
Linus: No! I was in the last group and all I got to do was ice skate. 
It was too slippery! And I stood in line the whole time!

Penelope yelled at me from another room. I tried to answer, but I guess not loud enough.
Penelope (through hysterical tears): I couldn’t hear you, Mom! Because you didn’t yell like I wanted you to!!
Woo: Did you hear Penelope telling us that she told people about Santa? 
Me: No. 
Woo: She said she told other kids and Pai Natal himself. I asked her what she said and she said, “Pai Natal é nada.” (Father Christmas is nothing)
Me (later): Were people mad when you told them Santa isn't real? 
Penelope: No, they just smiled. 
Woo: They probably had no idea what she was trying to say!

Moses is great at hearing one sentence in someone else's conversation and jumping to crazy conclusions.

Someone: ...some people were poor and got no presents... 
Moses: No presents? We're not getting any presents?? Why not?!? Are we too poor?!??! Do we hate Christmas??!??!!
(Real quote)
Woo: Moses, always takes it three steps down the hypothetical road...

We bought a tiny tree at the Chinese store yesterday. Moses, Linus, Penelope and Archie hung up the ornaments they'd made in school. Moses added a few of his own snowflakes and Linus immediately went into his room to wrap a present for everyone and hide it under the tree.

Archie read his first scripture verse by himself during family scriptures. We all clapped and the bigger kids gave him high five. He was quietly proud with a little smile for the rest of the evening.

Here's Archie sitting on a cold beach next to a couple packages of shrimp.

Woo got his official residency card in the mail. He's legal! He also snapped his first surf board in half. I have no idea how, but I do know that on his first time out on his new board, he poked himself in the eye with the tip. He's been working on his duck dive and making satisfying progress.

Hope your week was great!


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 Gottes 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.