Half-Birthdays and Rain

Penelope really looked forward to her half-birthday this week, and the other kids encouraged her in that. She excitedly reminded her dad (because they share a birthday). We do not celebrate half-birthdays in our family. All that happens is that I do the chores of the half-birthday kid that day, and they get to read.

I did that, and Penelope got to read, but afterwards is where her half-birthday excitement fell flat. She ran in to Woo to tell him, "You don't have to work today, Dad! It's our half-birthday!"

And Woo had to inform her that yes, he still had to work, even on his half-birthday. No one wished Penelope a happy birthday, no one gave her presents, no one acknowledged that it was a special day for her at all. She ended up going to bed crying.

Every morning I ask the kids what their revelation was (because I expect them to get some during their evening prayers). Penelope said she didn't get any.
Me: Didn't you pray in bed when you felt bad? 
Penelope: Yes.  
Me: Did you feel that Heavenly Father loves you and it would be okay? 
She nodded.

Me: That's revelation!

She gave me a big smile and a big hug.

A few days later Archie was not doing his chore. He got rebellious and asked why he had to do a chore? And what was my chore? I didn't even have to answer, several kids immediately jumped to my aid, listing all the things I have to do, and that Woo has to do. Most adamant was Linus, but also Penelope, who said, "And Dad doesn't even get a day off for his half-birthday. He still has to work!"

I overheard Penelope and Linus speaking in another room.

Penelope: I was the first one done with my math assignment!
Linus: I was NOT the first one done with my math assignment, but all those other people got tons wrong and I did not miss a single one!

(FYI I doubt Penelope missed any either, but this conversation shows how careful and diligent Linus always is with his work, and he will not be persuaded that anything else--like speed--is more important.)

Herbie had a field trip. His first to Lisbon. He was very excited; as he'd already heard about the planetarium from his siblings who'd already been there on field trips. His class was set to watch a presentation on black holes, but all did not go as planned.

His class was not the only one visiting the planetarium on that day or hour. They had been double booked with a preschool class and as a result Herbie's class watched the baby presentation with them, where they learned about the sun and other things in the sky. During the part on thunder and lightning, one of the little kids started to cry, and afterwards, they all got cookies for being good, including the kid who had cried.

Herbie still had fun, and we (especially Woo) laughed a lot during his telling of the planetarium experience.

Woo and I met with Moses and Ruby's teachers. Moses is doing wonderful; he's everything his teacher would like him to be, except maybe speak up a bit more. She was a little undecided about this because of the behavior of the rest of his class and she didn't want to set Moses up for trouble as the know-it-all.

Apparently, Moses had the worst class in the whole school. So bad, that they have an extra class every week with their home room teacher and a school counselor where they learn about feelings and proper reactions and how to work with others.

Anyway, this was Moses' bom in English explained. He's doing great and has done all his work, but the class is so bad, the teacher has not been able to cover all the material, and the best anyone could get was a bom. Also the case for his lower grade in Portuguese. She felt he understood the work in Portuguese more than most of the class, but they had not been able to get far.

She further exposed the different philosophy on grades by saying I shouldn't worry about Moses at all; the lower grades were nothing to worry about; he was doing wonderful.

This shines further light on the almost impossible goal Ruby has set of all 5s (muito boms). She had a similar setback when her technology teacher was sick for a large portion of term; they never had a substitute and everyone in the class got a 3 (sufficient).

Woo talked to Ruby's teacher who absolutely loves her. She listed everything Ruby did well then said, "She's a marvel! If only we had 20 of her!"

Woo smiled and said, "If only!"

When I told Ruby this, I then told her that Woo said, "If only we could find a man good enough for her to marry..."

He really didn't, but this teacher is the mother of the boys Ruby has had crushes on most of the time we've been here. Woo didn't put two and two together until after the meeting.

My Portuguese is not getting any better. Sometimes I think it's getting worse. The school wants us to get some new registration thing for the kids, and I went into the office to see, what, exactly. I barely understood a word. Luckily, Ruby walked by at that moment, and she was able to help me out. Also, I had the man write it down for me. They wanted me to register each kid at the health center.

I went that afternoon, but left when I saw the huge line. Another day, at another time, I made it to the desk, but each of the kids needed a different registration number first. I went to that office, and it felt like a miracle and a huge success when there was no line, they accepted my registration the realtor had helped me get over a year ago, when I told him I didn't have residency, and was able to get the numbers for all the kids. Health center again next week.

I've been praying over lines from President Nelson's talks. This week I was praying about praying with more power, and I shared some things with the kids.
Me: Prayer should include thanks, praise, ... telling Heavenly Father how good He is--
And complimentary Moses piped up.
Oh! I love doing that!
That must be his secret.

Every few months Woo gathers us around to have a family counsel about our missionary efforts. This time we decided that maybe our goals are wrong. Maybe our goal should be to have others feel the Holy Ghost, because on my mission Elder Gene R. Cook came, and I remember him saying that if the Austrian people feel the Holy Ghost, they will respond.

We discuss ways to help others feel the Holy Ghost and then Woo dismissed us all to our rooms to get revelation on a specific person and thing. The kids all came back knowing what they needed to do, and they did it this week. Some of which, I'm kind of amazed at, and don't know that I'd have the courage to do.

Herbie bore his testimony to his friend about Jesus Christ. He just began with, "I want to bear you my testimony... "

Linus told his friend his talk about gratitude and prayer he'd just given in church, and so on.

Woo gave a talk this week on the same topic he'd given a talk on last April (How to Worship Heavenly Father and Jesus). He considered giving the same talk, and I said do it, but he ended up writing a new one, because he said, "I'm a different person than I was last April."

And this talk was better. I enjoyed it and Penelope really did. She talked about it and what she had learned all the way home.

Sorry about the pictures. They're mostly of a rainy Saturday in the garage. Hope your week was great!



Last night I read Luke 13:7, the most important parts to me are "Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none... Let it alone this year also...And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down."

And I was reminded that four years ago was 2015. 2015 was a big year for me; I remember waking up January 1st and being very excited for what was coming that year. I have never had that feeling on January 1st before or after. That was also the day and year I started writing daily blessings every day, so I was able to look back and read my year in about an hour.

The year started poorly. January is never the easiest month, but many days I had only one or two blessings for the day, and they were big sweeping, general things, like "no one died today."

Whenever I read those times, I remember and feel a lot of things, mostly gratitude. I'm grateful that my life is much easier now. I'm grateful that I knew God was helping me and made things easier for me over time. I'm grateful that at the time, I really didn't even know how hard it was; I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, and I'm grateful that I didn't complain or give up.

I began a lot of things in 2015 that I'm still doing today to improve my relationship with my Heavenly Father. There was an immediate improvement then, and more over time. I think these were what my feelings of excitement were foretelling. I also struggled to accomplish a lot of things then that I still haven't done today. Those are a little painful to read, mostly because I had so much hope and I now know that hope never panned out. I still haven't given up hope, but that hope has changed. It's a more patient, mature hope, maybe?

Anyway, last night I was reminded that anything I started at some point during 2015, will be ending its 4th year at some point during this year, and even though I've already seen a lot of fruit, there is a harvest coming.

It has gotten colder here. We wear our jackets and usually pants (Linus is still wearing shorts, and we're fine with that). The Portuguese wear big, puffy coats. I think we'll start to see snow pants when it becomes rainy in Marchish?

Anyway, our apartment is not heated. The school is not heated. The chapel is heated, but the classrooms at the church are not. Most people just wear their coat and hats all through school and church. Dropping off our kids to school one morning, and noticing the teachers greet the kids from their classrooms in their coats, Woo tried to imagine this scenario happening in the US. Of course, it would be truly freezing in Utah with no heat, but having to wear a coat in a building for a couple months is something not everyone could accept.

We asked Ruby to play prelude music before sacrament meeting (no one else was doing it), and today she sat down and played, "He is Risen" with the accompaniment, without any music. I had no idea she could do that. The keyboard is really paying off.

I bought some resistance bands with my Christmas money. The kids were fascinated by the giant rubber bands. Ruby was confused by the mini ones until she slipped one on her head.

"Oh! It's a headband!"

Herbie's skateboard has had some problems with the bearings, but we have a spare pair of roller blades someone gave us, and Woo thought the bearings in those would work. They do and Herbie's been replacing those by himself. It's nice having kids old enough and able enough to make repairs. Moses was also able to fix Herbie's broken remote control car... mysteriously not working after Moses drove it down the stairs...

Linus, Penelope and Archie are still young enough to display typical January behaviors... shouting for nearly all communication, wild laughter alternating with unconsolable tears, a complete inability to hear anything their parents say... But unlike the US where my January day with the kids consisted of getting them off to school and then wrangling crazy, tired kids at the end of the day through dinner, scriptures and bed, I get them for 2 hours at lunch, where they behave fairly normally. (I'm going to miss this long lunch at home when we move.)

I always read to Linus, Penelope and Archie during lunch for 45-30 minutes, depending on how quickly they can get their chores done. This year, I've mostly been reading Magic Tree House ebooks from our library in Utah (they prefer the Merlin Missions). Lafayette, the latest Hazardous Tales, was another hit, but one day without an internet connection, I read a book I already had on my phone--The Chamber of Secrets.

Linus cried and whined and jumped up and down. He did not want to read it! I started reading anyway. After about 4 sentences he went silent, and then he was hooked. He is now its biggest proponent; although, Ruby, Herbie and Moses catch the end of it when they come home, and they've been asking me to continue while they eat.

Penelope started her swimming unit this week. She was very excited and packed all her swimming gear the night before, even packing an extra cap in case someone forgot one (someone did). She is excited to have progressed from last year.

Archie is still loving his bike riding. Woo took him and Penelope on an official bike ride, and Archie came home and said he rode his bike "sooo far!!" Farther than he had ever ridden it before. He told me his favorite sport was now biking and in his prayer that night he asked that he could get even better at bike riding.

Woo finally bought a new surf board. I think he likes it? The waves haven't really been ideal to tell. He bought some lamb they were selling for Christmas and I finally got around to making lamb saag. We all liked it, but Woo LOVED it (the fennel in the rice at his suggestion was a nice touch). He ate 4th or 5th helpings? Well, he finished it all off.

And that's our week. Hope yours was great!


Archie Turns 6!

We had a pleasant last few days of Christmas break. Plus, it was Archie's birthday! He turned six and was so, so excited, and delighted with everything that happened or he got. I love that he is so easy to please and grateful. The back-scratcher I randomly got was a surprisingly successful present.

The kids went back to school on his birthday. When we walked into Archie's class, all the kids spontaneously shouted his name as if they had missed him and were happy to see him. It was a great birthday welcome.

The weather was great and Woo took the boys to the skatepark several times (and occasionally Penelope).

They were all very excited about their progress there: Moses and Herbie dropped into the 5' halfpipe, Linus rode the scooter around the bowl, Archie rode his bike around and around.

I, of course, decided a little skatepark was what was missing from my house plan, and I spent time researching and designing one with input from Herbie and Moses (mostly).

Ruby continued to spend a lot of time with her keyboard. She can pick out and play the melody of almost anything after a few tries. She went to the recycling center for some pvc pipe and spent a morning washing, measuring, cutting (with the help of Woo), and assembling a pan flute for a class.

This week I noticed that blessings the kids were promised in their blessings before we left (a year and a half ago), are happening.

Ruby was promised that with her ability to mimic others, she'd be able to speak Portuguese and sound as if she was born here. Check.

She, Herbie and Moses also think its fun to speak like Brasilians, which always makes them laugh a lot.

Moses (who you might remember was very timid), was promised he'd learn to speak up for himself. He only got a bom in English, which he and we think can't be right. I told him he needed to ask his teacher about it, and he nodded his head and agreed, no problem.

A few minutes later we were in the store; he found something he wanted, but there wasn't a price marked. He walked up to the cashier and asked her the price... in Portuguese... what??? I couldn't believe the change, which seems to have happened overnight.

Herbie was promised that he would learn to sacrifice for his younger brothers and sisters. He's been buying them Christmas presents with his own money, bought Archie a birthday present, and has become much more patient with them. A couple days ago Penelope spilled water on his leg and new slippers at dinner. He took them off and cleaned up the mess himself, without any shouting or accusations at all.

He also had the kind of weird experience of being in line behind a lady who refused to pay the rest of her bill (0.35€). She walked out of the store. The cashier asked Herbie if he could pay it. He counted his money, agreed, and then bought his present for Archie.

We made it to the bumper cars one last time--they were so fun and a reasonable price--we met the Sisters there (and Elders from the nearby town). It was their p-day and they wanted to say goodbye one last time before they were transferred.

We discovered Archie could have fun if he sat right in Woo's lap.

The kids were at the park before we left. Linus hid his soccer ball and goalie gloves in the bush he's hid them in all summer, except now they're looking pretty scraggly. Linus' bright orange soccer ball was completely visible from all angles everywhere in the park. Woo warned him that anyone could see it... but Linus swore it always worked before... when we got back from the bumper cars, Linus' soccer ball and gloves were stolen.

He was devastated. He cried and cried. I carried him part of the way home. Then I suggested his hoody pajamas... getting into something fuzzy always helps him feel better... Ruby shared her piano with him, and we managed to get him cheered back up.

Archie told anyone who would listen that he was going to buy Linus a new ball and gloves with his birthday money, and he really meant it. He was still talking about it a few days later, but I told him it wasn't necessary; Linus had his own money.

Penelope bought a bike with the rest of her Christmas money--the coveted "pikachu" brand, but it's pink and the right size, and that's all Penelope cares about.

We finally got all the Christmas junk cleaned up. I cleaned two garbage bags out of Penelope's room. I think she had every toilet paper roll we'd ever used in there, along with a bunch of new Christmas stuff. She must just collect garbage around the house, with the express purpose of storing it in her room.

Anyway, after cleaning it out, she was so pleased with the result, she spent all her free time from one entire day in there reading on her bed.

The Sisters were transferred out of our branch. There was a good feeling from these last ones, and one of them left notes for us on all the chalkboards in the church, which were fun for us to find today.

Woo picked up the new Elders, and has showed them around some. He's already done more with the missionaries this week than he has in months. The Elders seem to be much more comfortable having him around and working with them.

We were excited to start our new Sunday program. Our home study of Matthew1 and Luke1 went really well, and that, along with FINALLY! having Sacrament meeting first, were powerful bursts towards a really fulfilling Sunday.

And there are a few pictures of boys before their nerf war. I was sleeping (head cold) and Penelope and Ruby were playing Settlers.

That's all we have. Hope your week and ease back into regular life went well!

Testimony Below:

Last night I read a scripture that I have never noticed before in Matthew 10:41

He that receiveth a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward;

As we begin to follow the prophets instruction to condense our church meetings and study the gospel more in our homes as individuals and families, I know that we will be blessed to the degree that we are obedient to that instruction.

I know that the prophet speaks for Jesus Christ and that this is His instruction too.

In the name to Jesus Christ, amen.


Ontem à noite eu li uma escritura que nunca estou a notar antes, em Mateus 10:41.

Quem recebe um profeta em qualidade de profeta, receberá galardão de profeta;

Ao começarmos a seguir as instruções do profeta para condensar nossas reuniões da igreja e estudar o evangelho mais em nossos lares como indivíduos e as famílias, eu sei que seremos abençoados na medida em que estamos obedientes a essa instrução.

Eu sei que o profeta fala por Jesus Cristo e que esta também é Sua instrução.

Em nome de Jesus Cristo, amém


A Year to Remember

This past year was a year to remember. We’ll forever remember this last year as being a year of highs and lows… and in-betweens.

Throughout the year the number of new children added to our family was zero... leaving the total number of children in the family the same as it was the year before.

No new pets were added, and no old pets were lost. At years end, the total number of pets in the household was still zero.

Sports, politics, religion and trivia were common topics of conversation throughout the year.

We spent time outdoors when the weather was nice, and less time outdoors during inclement weather.

At times laughter filled the air, other times sadness or arguing.

A highlight of the year was visiting a place we had not yet been, where the weather and food were different from the place we normally reside. We took pictures in this new location. Some of them turned out okay.

We also celebrated another wedding anniversary this year, as well as birthdays, and national and local holidays.

Some time was spent reading, eating and sleeping.

… People, places and things!

The father of the family continued to work for the company he worked for previously in exchange for a salary and other benefits.

During non-working hours he relaxed and did other things, such as hobbies, and spent time with family, friends or alone (While occasionally attending to car, yard or house maintenance or repairs).

The mother of the family enjoyed her time at home and added new hobbies, while continuing the old ones. Some required the use of a computer. Others did not. She also spent a great deal of time teaching the children the things they need to know.

The children did age appropriate things and achieved new milestones, while growing approximately one year in age, bringing more age-appropriate things into their lives, and ours. (And losing some of the now age-inappropriate things!)

They each advanced to the next grade level in school. Clothing and shoes were worn-out, lost or outgrown, and new clothing and shoes were acquired.

Their bedrooms were often messy, in spite of several reminders to keep them cleaner. On occasion, they were deep-cleaned without any reminder at all.

Several minor injuries required band-aids and other rudimentary methods of first aid. Trips to an emergency room totaled significantly less than five.

Our oldest child bought a new pink toothbrush for 1€ at a grocery store. 

Our second born lost a tooth—an upper left molar!

One of our two middle children came home crying, frustrated with the recess ladies one Tuesday.

The other middle child lost a blue jacket. (If you have any information as to its whereabouts, please contact him.)

One morning, our youngest child kicked a rock most of the way to school.

Our second youngest child read two or more books, which she enjoyed. And did her homework.

We’re looking forward to the new year with some things being the same, and possibly some things being different. And to using and reusing this update for many years to come.

With love, from our family to yours,


(Additional boring details available @ www.penelopespad.com)