No Pain, No Gain

Well, we've been sick. Everyone except Woo. It's this weird sort of cold, whose main symptom seems to be feeling like you've not gotten any sleep and then actually not being able to sleep. It has lasting power. I've had it for a week and I usually am over these things in a day or less, but not this one. I only ran once or twice and went to bed early a few times, but to no avail. I wake up every night for an hour or two and then wake up an hour or two early.

I'm pretty sure all the kids have or have had it, because they're not sleeping well and they're all pretty grouchy. Incidentally, Ruby and Herbie can now argue in Portuguese, which I guess is an important milestone??

Woo isn't sick, but he's in a lot of pain. He bought a longboard and took Herbie and Archie down to the garage to try it out. He came up limping and moaning and just wanting to lie down. The old shoulder pain is there too, and his toe that maybe is broken (?). All in all, not our best week.

Ruby ran her big race this week. It's only her second race and she made a couple of rookie mistakes (like starting at the very back of a huge pack and spending all her time and energy catching people and running around them). She took 11th, and spent a day or so recognizing the things she'd done wrong and how she could've placed better. Kind of painful to know you could've done better, but it's all part of the learning-to-race process. At least she got a lunch with Dad out of it.

Herbie was not excited to walk to and from school without Ruby, for fear of meeting Rafael and having him say something to him on the way. Apparently, everyone leaves Herbie alone when Ruby's around (and I thought having the two go to school together would be more for Ruby's safety!)

Moses is obsessed with cards. Or cars. Or really anything small and collectible. We were talking about being addicted to video games one evening and one kid said something like, "We'd never be addicted to video games!" and Woo and I were like... "Er... Moses probably would be... if we let him."

Anyways, the current cards are Star Wars cards. He's learning Star Wars terminology in Portuguese.

Moses and Linus got a new set of scriptures and case this week. Moses paid for his own. Linus received his from grandparents for turning eight and being baptized (in two weeks!). Marking scriptures is one of their favorite quiet activities and this is how I found them Saturday morning.

Moses likes to mark those long genealogy lists of who begat who, and gets excited when he finds a new one.

You'd think with less people on the beach in the winter, there'd be less garbage. But there's more. I think because it washes up on shore and there's no one to throw it away. Linus isn't complaining.

In one session Linus taught Penelope how to tie laces (she's never had shoes with laces before now!) and she's super excited about her new skill. Also, she lost another tooth, which is always cause for rejoicing.

I pulled about five garbage bags worth of stuff out of Penelope's room---clothes, and hats. and purses, and bags people are always giving her, and of course, some trash. That same day she both thanked me for making her room so clean and complained that people never gave her stuff (when someone else got something).

Somehow Archie got in his head that he was going to invite his teacher to dinner. He worked on this all by himself.

"M--, come at six pm for dinner. Dear Archie."

Talk to you later. Hope your week was great!


Still Us, Just Here

Ruby had an exciting week. She went on her first field trip to Lisbon (has another next month) to visit the planetarium, see a play and eat at McDonalds (something her classmates were excited about, but Ruby was not and took her own lunch).

The school held time trials for the 1k, long jump and 100m. Ruby won the 1k and 100m and took 3rd in the long jump. She qualified for regions in all, but can only choose one. She's choosing the 1k because that's the one she won by the most.

Herbie seems to be experiencing social extremes. He is pretty unpopular with the boys. He has one good friend, but a 14 year old boy in his class (they think nothing of holding kids back here) and a 16 year old kid in our neighborhood are making his life tough.
Herbie: I prayed like one million times that I wouldn't see R-- on my way to school. And I didn't.
We think he's safe, but it's not fun to have people picking on you. Herbie has noticed that both Elder Uchtdorf and Elder Renlund have talks where they mention they moved to new places as 11 year olds and had troubles with their peers.

On the other hand...
Moses: Do any of the girls in your class like you?
Herbie: Yeah, all of them.
Moses: Really?
Herbie: Yeah. And some in Ruby's class too.
Ruby and Herbie were late coming home from their Portuguese tutor because they got talking about missionaries and our new prophet with their tutor and W--... some guy who works at the school, just happened to be in the room taking out the trash or something, and got drawn into the conversation.

Linus also had a good experience, where his class was talking about visiting different countries and his teacher brought up that he'd recently been to Spain. He said he'd been to the temple. His teacher asked the class if they knew what that was. They didn't, but his teacher, for some reason did, but she let Linus explain. They also talked about baptism (Linus was able to say he was getting baptized soon), and then the Book of Mormon.

At this point in his story Linus said, "And then I ran and got my Book of Mormon out of my backpack to show them!"
Me: You had a Book of Mormon in your backpack?
Linus: Yeah, I always do. My English one.
Swimming was once again the highlight of Moses and Linus' school week. Moses was happy they got to swim finally. He swam all the way to the other side and then back. I was expecting everyone in his class to be better swimmer than him, but he says they aren't.
Moses: No, they're like Linus. (turning to Linus) You swim like a foot before you stop and come up.
Linus: No, I don't! I go way more than a foot!
Moses: No, it's a foot.
Linus: No, when I look up I'm way closer!
I'm inclined to believe Moses here. Linus does a lot of wheel spinning.

It's not that cold here, but the water's cold. Woo only went surfing like 3 times this week. And he still got that old January/February itch to go somewhere warmer. He did a bit of research where Fiji, and South Africa and everywhere else failed. He zeroed in on Laie, Hawaii and Raglan, New Zealand (low population, near temples and surfing... the three things our lives will revolve around in the future??).

But our adventure here isn't over yet, and we know we'll return to Utah for at least a couple years.
Woo (complaining about something related to his calling): ... now I’ve lost all potential blessings... just to make sure... I’m going to say the word “butt” right now.

The kids whined and complained and I practically had to kick them out the door to go to the beach Saturday. Of course, almost the second their lungs filled with fresh air they were having the time of their lives. Archie and Moses, in particular, ran in and out of waves. They really should've worn their swim suits, but I didn't think they'd get in above their knees.

Penelope was feeling a little sick. She didn't run at all, but walked along behind me picking up treasures in a little bag. But she was feeling strong enough to walk back to Archie when he started crying and hold his hand the last bit home. They were the best of little friends, eliciting smiles from old people everywhere.

In fact, we had two people walk into church today. One woman who has watched us walk to church every Sunday morning from her balcony and another woman we met our first week here, who's always so excited about the kids and was surprised to see her friend (the one with the balcony) talking to us. They both accepted Books of Mormon, took a tour of the church and talked about coming to a meeting. We will see.

People often ask me if I like Portugal, if I like living here, and I say yes. Because why not? I'm pretty adaptable and I'm with my family. There are parts of life here that I really enjoy (my runs, opportunities for us to learn a language and be missionaries, etc.)

At the same time, I've discovered again, that you're the same person, with a lot of the same problems, and after the initial transition it feels a lot like the life you were living before. Moving somewhere new and exciting doesn't erase those things and it's a mistake to think it will.

But I'm pretty comfortable with myself and my weaknesses. There are really only two things I don't like here: the visa struggles looming over our heads, and the fact that I have to mop the ceiling and walls of our apartment every month to clean up mildew and mold. Oh, there's one more: the dog poop everywhere. Ugh!

Well, that's about it. Hope you're doing well!


January Rainbows and Blue Tie Spies

It was our first full week back to school, and boy was it exhausting. We're all going to bed at the same time, but the kids all have circles under their eyes... from waking up early again, I guess. And waking up too early the first few days of the week.

There was a lot of fighting... a parent of the kids' school friends told me, "We're fine except the kids are always fighting."

They were at that very moment tackling each other at the foot of the stairs. I was able to reassure them (and me) that it's just post-holiday January. We'll all even out in a few weeks.

We met with all the kids teachers. Everyone is progressing and learning more and more Portuguese. If we finished the year right now, they would all pass. Of course, they all have their weaknesses and strengths.

Ruby is failing two classes, but her teachers are confident she'll bring those up as she continues to learn Portuguese and she is constantly speaking (or attempting to speak) Portuguese.

Herbie is passing everything, but hardly ever speaks.

Moses is very well-behaved, but timid.

Linus works hard and does great work, but distracts others when he's done with his own stuff.

Penelope... okay, maybe there were no complaints about Penelope. She's speaking Portuguese and excelling in all her first grade studies.

And we didn't talk to Archie's teachers, but I can guess. He's the calmest and most well-behaved kid in class, but rarely tries to speak Portuguese.

I got a new calling today--Primary President. In the past, that has meant sole Primary worker here, but I requested Ruby and she was called as the junior Primary teacher. She taught last week and this already and has done a great job. She instituted a point system with a coloring reward at the end of class to encourage reverence. I never hear them while teaching the older kids and when I go in at the end, they're all quietly coloring (including Ruby).

Ruby's regional race is later this month, so she's been doing "special training" in PE class (running a few extra laps) and went running with me Saturday.

Herbie, Moses and Linus' church clothes all died at the same time. They got matching tuxedo shirts, velvet bowties and plaid pants from Zara.com's yearend sale. They are pretty pleased and spent an afternoon in them as spies.

Linus, the spy, answered a call from Herbie on his walkie-talkie.
Herbie: blah, blah, blah... roger. 
Linus (sneaking through the living room): My name’s not Roger. It’s Wilson, kay.

Herbie gave his first talk here this week. He was excited to talk about the Holy Ghost and shared two experiences where the Holy Ghost had helped him. Herbie's Portuguese is excellent, but he was quiet. Probably only the first two rows heard him.

Moses and Linus were super excited to start swimming for PE this week. They go to the pool every Thursday morning. They were told to bring a hat, which we assumed was a beanie for their wet hair afterwards, because we think the Portuguese are a little overblown about their 50s and 60s winter weather--everyone's constantly wearing puffer jackets and we've even seen kids in snow pants! But no, we were the fools. They wanted swim caps.

Moses had an okay time. It was more fun than normal school, but they did "baby stuff." He wanted to go to the deep part and go off the diving board, but they did lots of exercises in the shallow end as well as swimming basics.

Linus LOVED it! He can not wait to go next week and he loves the "egg" float he learned. The shallow end is still pretty deep for Linus, so he had no complaints about where he was, in fact, he seemed kind of proud that it was up to his chin for a lot of it.

Penelope might have a crush on one of the Elders, which is a first. Mostly she attaches herself to the moms and grandmas in the branch. Also, one afternoon she discovered dust on the baseboards and went around with the spray bottle and a rag, cleaning the baseboards in many rooms. I was happy because I'd noticed the dust myself, but hadn't yet done anything about it.

Archie has been walking around with his head cut off all week. He can not follow the simplest of instructions. He can not figure out the easiest of problems. One thing he's been great at is playing with his new toys and making gigantic messes of clothes and toys with Penelope. Archie came home with his first craft--Senhor Croc--a paper crocodile that he is very proud of.

He's still thinking about Spain:
Archie: On my birthday, when I turn 13, I want to be in Spain. 
Me: You do? 
Archie: Yeah, cuz then I can get one of those bow and arrows at the Costco. You had to be thirteen. 
Me: Okay...  
Archie: I’ll remind you everyday, okay.
Thank goodness he hasn't.

The internet's been working well all year, which has been good news for Woo. He's gotten back into the swing of work stuff. Also he spent his afternoon Saturday making salsa for all those tortilla chips (or corn chips, as he insists they're called) we bought at Costco.

These Inferno chips (WARNING: EXTREMELY HOT Not Suitable For Children) were purchased here. Woo found them to be better than expected and did serve some to the children.

Anyways, that's about it. Hope your January's been great!


Archie Turns Five!

Archie was very kind to be patient for his 5th birthday while we were in Spain at the temple. We only had a token gift for him, with the promise he could pick out his birthday gifts the next day at Costco.

And even though he mostly waited through the day while Woo, Ruby and I did ordinances, he was very grateful. Saying things like, "Thank you that I could go to the park for my birthday, Mom!" and "Thank you that we could watch a movie for my birthday, Mom!" and "Thank you that you could make these (microwave dinners from the Lidl) and you could let me pick one."

Almost everyone got a small nerf gun for Christmas and it quickly became clear that Archie had the most accurate and deadliest shot. He was feeling pretty pleased with his new-found talent and announced he wanted a police suit for his birthday (which immediately reminded me of Ruby's 5th birthday).

Costco did not have a police costume, but they did have a "US Special Forces" costume. I'm pretty sure they use nerf guns too.

The kids missed the first two days of school because the Temple Patron Housing finally had room for us (which they've never had before). After we'd arrived, Woo and I had left the kids in the room with a movie while we did a session, we'd come back, put the kids to bed, ran to the Lidl for some food, and sat in an underused lobby outside our room (where they apparently store their cribs) eating treats, I was pretty convinced this was the way to go. We'd actually been on a date.

We used our time way more effectively because we only had to walk downstairs and across the courtyard to the temple. Woo and I could switch off sessions even before the other was completely finished, if we left the kids with a movie.  We also got to do sealings together.

I did four sessions. I listened to one in English, two in Portuguese and one in German. The German was so clear and familiar--I missed it. One of the Portuguese was much harder for me to understand, but it all was fun for me. I even understand quite a bit of Spanish now.

Our sealing session was interesting. The sealer barreled through name after name. I raised an eyebrow because in the US they are very (overly?) concerned about how people are feeling. Not surprisingly, after 20 or 30 names, one older lady stood up, announced she was leaving and hobbled out of the room, muttering "Oi, oi, oi!" with every step.  I soon saw why the sealer did what he did, though.

We started out with a room of nine, and within a few minutes we were down to three, unable to do anything, because everyone else had been taken by a supervisor to work in other areas of the temple. Three of those six did return after several minutes and we barreled through several dozen more names.

I looked through the schedules of all the temples in Europe because Woo suggested it would be cheaper and easier on the kids for us to fly separately into other temples every couple of months, and despite the lack of temple workers, the Madrid temple offers more sessions a day than any other temple in Europe (except those in the U.K.) There are a lot of people in there working their hardest.

Ruby overheard some kids in her grade (but not her class) talking about us. "Those parents take such good care of their kids. I saw them one time and all of them were wearing suits or dresses--they must be rich!"

I had to laugh, because their couldn't possibly have been a better thing for Ruby, personally, to overhear.

Since we have moved here, we have had the hardest time keeping Herbie, Moses and Linus in shoes. Over the years, we had discovered that it didn't matter the brand or the price of the shoes, shoes from the thrift store lasted longer. I don't know if it was because they'd already proven themselves by surviving through one kid, or what.

Herbie and Moses are the worst. They have both burned through five pairs of shoes in six months. To make it even harder, they seem to wear the most popular shoe sizes in all of Portugal. Most stores are sold out of them, but this week we got Moses a sturdy (fingers-crossed) pair at Costco. They had nothing for Herbie, but the Sport Zone was having a 50% off shoe sale and we got two pairs for him, in the hopes of not having to go shoe shopping again for a long while.

Also at Costco, Ruby, Herbie, Penelope and Archie bought teddy bears--not the gigantic teddy bears they have in the US, or the very large teddy bears we saw last time, but the-still-bigger-than-any-stuffed-animal-they've-ever-owned that they had this time.

Linus was heartbroken. He had no money left. He'd broken the bank on the fuzzy, monster blanket he picked out at Lidl before Christmas (and at the time was the envy of everyone). But now, the teddy bears were more appealing. I think he cried himself to sleep, but in the morning he had lots of plans to get himself a teddy bear. He traded his remote control car with Archie for a few hours and Penelope let him sleep with hers one night, just out of the goodness of her heart.

Most of the kids have eclipsed me in their Portuguese skills. At least their Portuguese conversational skills. On New Years they all decided to speak Portuguese around the house. There were a few things I didn't understand.
Penelope (laughing): I know more Portuguese than you, Mom???

Woo drove us up to Nazaré yesterday to look at the giant waves. It's something he gets really excited about these days, even though he doesn't want to surf them. (I don't think!) We endured high, cold winds; hail and mud. And crowds. There were way too many people trying to drive and walk on a tiny, slick road to overlook breaks.

Also, Woo vowed to never pay another toll in this country, and took us on a background route that was twenty minutes longer, but 20 euros cheaper (!!).

Hope you had a great week!

Testimony Below:

Eu amo o evangelho de Jesus Cristo e eu sei que ele é o caminho para uma vida melhor. Eu sei que Jesus Cristo vive. 

Eu amo o Livro de Mórmon. Eu leio o Livro de Mórmon todos os dias porque ele faz minha vida melhor. Quando ler, tenho felicidade e paz. 

Eu amo meu Pai Celestial e seu Filho, Jesus Cristo. 

Digo isto, em nome de Jesus Cristo, amém.

I love the gospel of Jesus Christ and I know that it is the way to a better life. I know that Jesus Christ lives.

I love the Book of Mormon. I read the Book of Mormon every day because it makes my life better. When I read, I have happiness and peace.

I love my Father in Heaven and his Son, Jesus Christ.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Ich liebe das Evangelium Jesu Christi und ich weiß, dass es den Weg zu einem besseren Leben ist. Ich weiß, dass Jesus Christus lebt.

Ich liebe das Buch Mormon. Ich lese das Buch Mormon jeden Tag, weil es meinen Leben besser macht. Wenn ich lese, habe ich Glücklichkeit und Frieden.

Ich habe mein Vater im Himmel und seinen Sohn, Jesus Christus lieb.

Ich sage dies, im Namen Jesu Christi, amen.