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 Deus 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.


District Conference

Even Woo agreed that the anchovy stuffed green olives were yi-ick, but Penelope ate them right up (just like everything else she's eaten here).
Woo: Don’t you think Penelope’s going to have the worst pregnancy cravings of anyone? 
Me (laughing and imagining Penelope pregnant anywhere, but Portugal): WHERE am I going to find anchovy stuffed olives in this country?!? And at this time of night???
Penelope (with a little laugh and a confused look on her face): Sometimes I think I'm the smartest person in my class!
The main reason she thinks this is because Penelope can read. She can read very well, really taking off this summer, but in Portugal (in this city, at least), first grade is like kindergarten and they're just now learning all the letters. Her teacher was very surprised and impressed when she found out Penelope could read, but Penelope just explained (in Portuguese, of course) that she'd already learned in America.

I wouldn't have called it, but maybe I should've, because it looks like Penelope is going to be the first of us non-Portuguese speakers to get it.

A teacher peeked in on her class and was surprised to see her raise her hand and say things they didn't think she should be able to say. Once, at home, she said, "Oops! I almost said that in Portuguese!" She likes to sit by and "chat" with the older sister in the branch who only speaks Portuguese. They may be a bit behind in reading, but first grade in Portugal seems to be the perfect place to learn Portuguese.

And... Archie is reading! Woo has been working with him personally every morning after scriptures, helping him sound out words from Archie's illustrated Book of Mormon, and keeping him diligent. While the rest of us read, Archie's supposed to be sounding out words on his own, and he's actually doing it. I think he reads about two of those little square sections every morning. It's in Portuguese, though, so I don't know what he's understanding, but he can sound out the letters and say the words.

I bought Archie this sweatshirt without proofreading it.

At the beginning of the year, the older kids took a Portuguese proficiency test and it was decided they wouldn't be graded. But last week, Herbie's teachers all got together and decided he's understanding enough, his test scores are high enough, he's going to be graded like everyone else. His only problem is that he hardly ever speaks Portuguese. His best friend speaks English, and it's a bit of a crutch, but he knows a lot. He just needs more courage.

Herbie's Director de Turma (DT--like homeroom teacher, I guess) also told Woo, "I saw Ruby playing basketball the other day... the only girl with a bunch of boys! It takes a certain kind of confidence to do that."

And Ruby has it.

We had district conference this week. A couple buses picked up members from outlying branches. I was a little worried about how the kids would do on an hour and a half bus ride, two hours of speakers and another hour and a half bus ride, but they were great. They really loved the bus ride; it was almost as exciting as a plane for them.

We sat in the front row at the conference because I know from experience that the kids behave much better, actually listen and get far more out of any meeting if we sit there. It's a mixed blessing. The speakers all notice you, and often say something about you (bad), but on the other hand, they seem to be thinking about you and say exactly the things you need to hear. I don't think the visiting authority could've said a better talk for our family. He even threw in a few words about inviting friends which was perfect for Herbie who'd had a painfully vehement rejection to his invitation to come to the conference.

On the other hand... I hate to steal limelight from the new converts and the stalwart Portuguese members who'd slaved away for years in small branches (the whole district audience was smaller than our ward at home), but I'm going to have to assume that they got what they needed too because he was speaking with the Holy Ghost.

After eating a delicious dinner of coconut pork curry prepared by Ruby:
Woo (to me): You’ve outsourced your entire job... just kidding, that’s not your job... your job is to raise a responsible... husband. AND YOU'RE FAILING!
(Woo, pre-haircut) 

I didn't even buy Christmas presents for the kids this year--Woo did it! He told me there were all sorts of Black Friday deals on Amazon (We have to use the Spain store). I took a short look, but was having a hard time making decisions and gave up. Woo, on the other hand (always excited about a good sale), had fun and got it all done while I was out on a run.

More fun than he had this week because we were without the internet for five days. It was pretty stressful for Woo since he needs the internet for his job. He worked at the church one evening, and he called the provider, who promised to send a technician out, but that guy never showed up. Instead, the internet just started working again yesterday. Hopefully, the problem has really been solved???

Moses had a rough fall at the soccer court. He came home bleeding profusely and his face was all scraped up. His tooth really hurt; he said it was bent backwards (and it's a permeant tooth). That's the first time I was really like, "What are we doing here?? If Moses needs a dentist..."

I definitely said some prayers (I've been praying the whole time, actually, that none of us need medical care while we're here.) Anyways, after just an hour he felt a lot better and the next day he said everything was fine.

Linus has been feeling pretty well, lately. He's not just been making his bed, but making it fantastic--with tucked in corners and the top folded down, not a wrinkle in sight. He took three tests in school and got a "bom" (good--B equivalent?) in Portuguese, a "bom" in Educação de Meio (I have no idea what that is :) and a "muito bom" (very good--A equivalent) in math. Hardly any complaining or outbursts from him either!

Well, that's probably enough of our week. Hope yours was great! (Just a couple more pictures because the kids always want me to take a picture of their lego creations.