Feels Like Spring

It should've been a quiet week. It probably was, for some of us, but not for me. I spent every weekday afternoon out and about trying to find someone qualified to take my fingerprints for my FBI background check for our visa appointment in March. It also coincided with a really horrible Portuguese week for me, where I felt like I hadn't learned a thing and couldn't say anything at all.

The police station was the worst. I was barked at several times until they finally told me they wouldn't take my prints unless I committed a crime. No, was also the answer in the city offices, and in the courthouse, the second I started talking, every single person in the room stopped talking and looked at me.
Woo (later): Did you bear your testimony? 
No, but I guess I should have. I wasn't aware that I had the power to stop a room with a word and I was already in a pretty humbling position. I gave my standard, "I'm sorry, I don't speak Portuguese well" and forged on, where they told me they had no idea of any place I could have my fingerprints taken.

I took my own and mailed them. They're probably okay... maybe...

One thing Woo has struggled with for a long time is finding someone to snowboard with or, now, surf. He prefers to do things with people, but it's rare to find someone with a flexible schedule, around his age and skill level, living nearby, etc. But, this weekend he might have found someone?? An American in his early 40s, works 4 months out of the year as a ship engineer and is an avid surfer (with a young family, so not *too* avid). They had a good time on Saturday and plan to meet up again soon.

Linus had a really great week. He gave his English teacher a Book of Mormon and started asking his friends to stop saying bad words. I wasn't aware of it before, but apparently the entire range of English swearwords are used by a lot of the kids here in the 2nd grade. Linus felt really good about it and told me proudly every time he'd asked a new person. And he had a much better Sunday in primary than he's had in a long time.

Linus' teacher quit completely this week. We don't know why, but commuting 3 hours a day and being the mother of young children always looked like a painful situation to us. We *think* he's going to have a substitute on most days until a replacement is found.

Moses' teacher didn't show up on Thursday because she was sick. Most of his class went home, but Moses just went to the pool with Linus' class and went to his swimming class. That same day, his afternoon teacher didn't show up. We didn't know, and he was alone on the front porch for a while until Herbie showed up and they both went to the park.
Me: Mose, were you okay? 
Moses (shrugging): Yeah, I had my stick to defend myself.
He does have a pretty wicked swing with a stick.

Herbie's done some group projects with kids in his class where they all get along and are nice to Herbie, and then he's hurt when they reject him as soon as the project is over. This is an additional blow to Herbie because I'm pretty sure he considers himself to have been one of the cooler kids in the US. He does have two boys he always hangs out with, other outsiders, and to be honest, I think it's probably good for him to experience what it's like. It will make him a better friend in the future.

Archie has a long, black cape that he likes to wear around town, and I'm fine letting him. He feels pretty awesome; although, he's embarrassed and tries to ignore any stranger who points it out. But, it brings a smile to most people's faces, and many try to talk to him about Batman or 'Arry Potter.

Archie often has bad dreams. Every night in his prayers he asks for help to not have them. One day he told me he'd dreamed that he saw Penelope get eaten by a shark.
Archie: I thought it was real, Mom. 
Me (frowning, thinking of how that was pretty frightening): Hmm.
There was silence for a few moments before he smiled.
Archie: But when I have a good dream, I think they're real too.

Penelope comes home from school almost everyday excited about how well she's done in school. She really feels successful there, not only with her school work, but also with her behavior. Here's a typical one of her stories:

"My teacher took me upstairs to show the Portuguese teacher how well I could read and my class started yelling and being bad... my teacher got really mad...

Actually, all my kids tell me that there've been behavior problems, starting about a week before Carnaval. To confirm it, we got notes telling us that a new stricter, discipline policy had been put in place, the specifics of which had been posted on the school doors. Woo wondered why they hadn't just sent notes including the specifics.

Our kids have also been less than their best. Woo suggested we put them to bed an hour earlier, back at their old time. And as much as we both, at times, would like to be done with the super early bedtime, they have been better.

Ruby really seems to be enjoying herself here. She told Woo she wanted to live here forever and never leave. She tells stories at night of her enjoying and participating in discussions in class. One that happened this week was about volcanos and her teacher mentioned the volcano in Yellowstone that could destroy "the whole world." I was surprised to hear that even here in Portugal some are concerned about that volcano.

Another kind of surprising thing (to me) is that Ruby and Herbie say all the kids have seen (and loved) Studio C's Scott Sterling Soccer Shootout. Some even recognize the letters BYU from that.

Our cold snap is over and the weather has been in the low to mid 60s--feels really nice. Hope your week was great!

P.S. Can you find the picture of me?


American Boy Demolishes Three National Treasures With One Boulder

The kids had three days off school for Carnaval, so we headed down to Sintra for one of them. It absolutely lived up to all of the hype. I would go there again (and probably will, if any of you visit--it's only an hour away). There are several castles, museums and historical sites, and we only saw one: the moorish castle.

We had no idea where we were going, but found a place to park and started walking. We entered a park, walked through that, entered an ancient part of town, and found ourselves on the trail to the moorish castle (built in the 9th century).

We were half afraid all of Sintra would be overrun with people because of the holiday, but it wasn't. I don't know if it was because of February or because it was Ash Wednesday, but it felt pretty lonely most of the time.

It was however, Valentine's Day and in the park, we kept coming across couples sitting in benches or standing in little alcoves.
Moses (shouting): Hey!! They're kissing!!
Woo: Everyone, trying to get a moment... and no one will get it... as long as we're here!
Woo and I did have Herbie take a few engagement style pictures of us to mark the occasion. This was the best one.

We stopped by Ericeira, the town we almost chose, on the way. I was happy we didn't move there. It was more crowded, more touristy, tougher beach access and there's no way we would've been set up in such a sweet spot with the schools, church and beach so close. Ericeira doesn't even have a branch, and they don't have an elementary school a block from the beach like we do... instead, they have stacks of high apartment buildings for blocks and blocks.

We did also go to the Carnaval parade on Tuesday. Woo and I drug our feet, but went for the kids. In the end, they weren't that impressed either.
Me: So, was that the best parade you guys had ever seen?  
Archie: No! It was the worst! We didn’t even get any candy!!
(He still can't get over that lack of candy thing)
Herbie: And everyone was drinking beer and smoking...
While some groups were fun--had lovely costumes, danced well and looked like they were having fun--there were too many groups of men, dressed up as women, with a cigarette hanging out of their mouths and a cup of beer in their hands. It made me kind of mad every time I had to grant them space in my head because they'd showed up on the road. (And now they are here in my email!)

It was good to be back in school. Ruby had another field trip to Lisbon the first day. She visited a hindu temple and the National Archeology Museum and enjoyed it. It was a long week for her, though, and fell asleep on the bus ride home.

Linus and Moses had their swimming class. Moses was super excited to use a kick board for the first time, which he called "the surf boards."

Herbie, as one of the top kids in his class, was invited to start extra work with Khan Academy. He's taking math, computer science and grammar (Portuguese and English). He's been having fun and has more to do in the afternoons.

Linus went running with me one morning and he, Moses and Herbie went another. I imagine it was a little bit like running with puppies. I ran my steady state jog and they ran here and there, looking at everything, and asking for pictures of themselves with washed up marine life.

Sometimes (more and more lately), Ruby buddies up with Penelope, and Penelope LOVES it!
Woo (listening to Penelope read in Portuguese): Perfect, Penelope! You sound just like a little Portuguesa!
Woo invited our new member, F--, to the church on a week day to teach him all about preparing and blessing the Sacrament; he printed out a list for him of the order, etc. Maybe that was all F-- was waiting for? Because he came to all of church for the first time in weeks and passed the Sacrament for the first time today.

Well, that's our week. Hope yours was great!



Linus turned eight and was baptized! In planning his program, he wanted to both give a testimony and say the closing prayer. In keeping with tradition, he asked someone non-musical to lead the music. Ruby got to stand and wave her arm around like she knew what she was doing.

Linus was very excited, and we were excited for him. Like many kids getting baptized, he was on his best behavior. We struggled to find a white suit small enough for him, but the branch had a suit that only needed to be rolled up 8" on the legs.

Woo baptized Linus in Portuguese (after explaining to the kids what every word meant in Portuguese and English on the drive up) and confirmed him in English. I decided to speak in English, since my talk was for Linus. One of the sister missionaries translated for me.

The branch members were very generous in their support of us, traveling to the baptism and being thrilled to give a talk or say a prayer. There were a couple of small presents for Linus, and luckily, the RS President came through with a pot of traditional Portuguese fare for the Portuguese after the baptism. They seemed a bit wary of my sandwiches (but the Americans and Brazilian were happy with them).

I thought it was the least stressful baptism we'd ever had--I didn't forget anything! Woo thought it was the most (he spent the morning making too many phone calls to arrange rides for the carless). The day ended with a crazy drive to a chapel for a district primary leadership meeting--wrong turns, tolls, and a complete inability to find the church. We walked around a surprisingly sketchy area for like half an hour before someone came out and found us.

Other events of the week:

There was a weather advisory of "extreme cold." It never reached freezing, but the wind was relentless. We were cold.

Moses' teacher made him promise to wear three jackets to school, because there was a walking field trip planned. He did (and a hat besides!), but the field trip was cancelled.

It's started...
Penelope: Mom! You sound like a... like a... dumb person speaking Portuguese!
Ruby (laughing): Mom! You have such an American accent!
What can I say... I am an American. And I always knew the kids were the ones with the real chance to master Portuguese anyways.

On the other hand... Linus stared at a man speaking English from London before he laughed and turned to me.
"What did he say?"
Carnaval is now? I guess, I don't really understand it, other than it's kind of obnoxious. Moses, Linus, Penelope and Archie got to march in an elementary school parade in the city center. Each school had a different costume theme. Our school was emojis. Moses, Linus and Archie mostly looked horribly bored, like they'd been asked to stand in line, in the rain, for an hour, then go for a long walk around town.

Archie was the maddest, "And then we didn't even get any candy!!"

The kids in preschool wore a different costume every day of the week. Archie only had two.
Archie: Can we go to Lidl tomorrow and buy me a costume?  
Me: No. 
Archie shrieks, then cries.
Penelope: What’s wrong, Archie? 
Archie: Mom said we’re never going to shopping again, ever!  
And we’re just going to run out of food and die!  
Penelope (laughing): Come on, Archie! 
Archie: Okay! 
They ran away, hand-in-hand, laughing.

Ruby and Herbie's school had a three hour long party. Herbie hated it! Maybe partly because he was a little sick, but the music was giving him a headache. He left to sit outside and almost came home.

Woo rigged up a "surfing-exercise-station" in the garage for days when it was too cold and the waves were just too crazy to surf. It consists of an old surf board on top of two flat soccer balls, but I think he's switched the soccer balls out for something better. He also did some skateboarding in the garage, and he even braved the craziness to go surfing a few times. One day was good, one day was bad.

Here Ruby left a little something on the board for the entire Sunday School to stare at for their entire lesson. I think she was suitably embarrassed when she realized what had happened.

Penelope wrote a very nice note to Linus for his birthday.

It came to my attention that I haven't been taking the instruction of our new prophet, President Nelson, seriously enough. I'd been studying the Living Christ and reading all the entries about Jesus Christ from the topical guide, but had started to slow down. I had never started to write lists about the Book of Mormon.

Anyways, after being called to repentance, I memorized the Living Christ in an hour (easy to do when you've memorized it before and have been "ponderizing" it with the kids), read more topical guide entries every day and paid more attention, and started my Book of Mormon list. I hadn't started that one because it sounded so boring to me for some reason. But when I started, I saw that my own list items were more interesting... which was maybe half the point. Your own personal list is... personal.

I hope your week was great!

Linus' Testimony:

Eu estava animada para ser batizado e finalmente fui batizado! Jesus foi batizado para mostrar um exemplo e quero seguir Jesus.

I have been very excited to be baptized and now I finally am baptized! Jesus was baptized to show us and example and I want to follow Jesus.

My Talk: (Why?!? Why not? Plus, I didn't include my white-bread testimony last week...)

Linus, the Gift of the Holy Ghost is one of the most valuable gifts we can ever receive in this life. It is more valuable than 1000 soccer balls. It’s more valuable than 100,000 Apple Watches. It’s more valuable than 10 billion dollars. Very few people who have ever lived on the earth have been privileged to receive this Gift. And you are one of them, Linus.

The Gift of the Holy Ghost contains many things great and small. It includes all the gifts of the Spirit. With these gifts men, women and children can do amazing things, miraculous even. They can prophecy or speak with the tongue of angels; they can heal others; they can feel peace even when angry storms rage all around them; they can know the exact right thing to do at the exact right time they need to do it; and they can even get to a point where Jesus Christ himself can come and speak to them.

But the power of the Holy Ghost doesn't come by magic because we have been given the gift, we have to earn it. Dad will lay his hands upon your head and command you to receive the Holy Ghost. He will say, "Linus, I say unto you, receive the Holy Ghost!"

He will give you the gift, but YOU have to decide to receive it. It is exactly as if your Heavenly Father has given you a present, but you have to decide to open it and then use it.

To receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost we have to decide to do things EVERY SINGLE DAY that invite the Holy Ghost to be with us.

You already know and do many of these. One of the most important ones is to read the Book of Mormon every day. I know you have been reading the Book of Mormon every day for awhile now, Linus, and I know that many times you read very well. I know you know when you are feeling the Holy Ghost, and that sometimes, even, the Book of Mormon speaks directly to you.

But other times you do not read so well. You pretend to read and you do not feel the Holy Ghost, but it is important to read to feel the Holy Ghost because the Holy Ghost will give you power. The power to become more like Jesus Christ every day.

Another important way to invite the Holy Ghost every day is to pray. I know you have said prayers when you’ve been scared in the night. That good feeling of comfort that helped you go to sleep was the Holy Ghost. I know you’ve said prayers when you’ve lost things. That little idea of where to look was the Holy Ghost. I know you know that Heavenly Father answers your prayers. When you say a good prayer, even when you don’t want to, maybe especially when you don’t want to, the Holy Ghost will come to you because your Heavenly Father is so happy to hear from you, because He loves you. 

Another way to invite the Holy Ghost is to sing or listen to music the Holy Ghost likes. I remember one time when I was a little girl, I was waiting for my mom to pick me up. She was late and I was all alone. I was scared, so I sang, “I’m a child of God” out loud, right there in a parking lot. I felt the Holy Ghost, and I knew I was safe.

I remember the time you and Penelope sang “Sou um filho de Deus” together in your afternoon class. You came home so happy because you were feeling the Holy Ghost and helping other people to feel it too.

There are others, but I will speak of only one more way to receive the Holy Ghost and that is to go to church every week and take the sacrament. When we take the sacrament the Holy Ghost cleanses us again, just like when we were baptized. But the sacrament does something more. It sanctifies us, which means it makes us a little bit better every time we take it. And when we worthily take the sacrament every week for years and years and years it changes us to become like Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost takes over our weaknesses and lifts us up to Jesus Christ, because the Holy Ghost has the power to do this through the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Linus, I know that you are one of the greatest spirits of Abraham ever to come to earth. I know that Heavenly Father has great plans for you as a priesthood holder and as a missionary and as a father. I also know that you will not be able to live up to those plans without the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is what will bring you to know your Savior Jesus Christ and you will need to make a special effort every day to invite and receive the Holy Ghost.

I know that Jesus Christ lives and that he knows you, Linus. He loves you. And I do too.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.