This has been kind of a weird week for Woo and I. I think it was okay for the kids, but the surfing has been bad for several days (a couple weeks?), and Woo has struggled to find things to do with that time he normally dedicates to doing something fun. Also, lots of allergies--cats, cottonwood trees, and who knows what else.

He was desperate to get out and do something fun as a family on Saturday. I suggested we visit a town we hadn't seen before with a castle and an old monastery, which we decided on only because it was the best idea we had.
Me (to the kids): Okay, hurry and eat lunch and get ready to go! 
Kids: Where are we going? 
Me: Alcobaça. 
Kids: Why? 
Me (on a whim, hoping to avoid complaints): To visit their skatepark.

And the kids reacted with many cheers, lots of excitement and jumping up and down. And then I had to go look and make sure Alcobaça really did have a skatepark, which luckily they did--built within the last year.

And that is how we got the kids out of the house without any complaining... because once you've seen a giant cathedral or monastery they're all the same (semi-truth), but a new skatepark??... that's excitement!

Plus, Linus can't even say monastery.
Linus: 8 more minutes to the mom-aterium!

The real miracle, was that not even Ruby, who hates to leave the house on Saturday, complained either. She seemed to have decided to have a good attitude, had fun at the castle, pointed out interesting things on the drive, and discovered that she really enjoys long boarding.

This park had a nice, long, winding loop that she and Woo skated a few times together. On the way home, she even thanked Woo and I for taking her on an adventure, buying dinner (we stopped at Burger King after a failed attempt at a Chinese buffet), etc.

What a difference a good attitude makes!

This park was really a lot of fun. The only downside was the cottonwood trees near the skatepark that were torture for Herbie and Woo. They had matching swollen right eyes last night and today in church.

It isn't fun for the kids when they get stung or swollen or are generally feeling less than well, but I kind of like it for selfish reasons. This isn't the best picture of swollen Herbie, but I think his little sad, swollen face is very cute and he's been sitting close to me at every chance and held my hand to and from church today, as if he feels that just being near me is comforting.

He also found out this morning that he had a talk in Sacrament meeting. I told him it was great preparation for a mission (or life, really) to be able to give a talk with little to no preparation and he came up with something very quickly and did a great job.

Speaking of stepping up with no preparation... the district president came to our branch today and as primary started, asked if he could speak to Woo and I (for 2 minutes only). Woo was about to grab Ruby to come and substitute, but Moses swore he could do it. In fact, he really wanted to. So we let him.

35 minutes later, Moses had run singing time with 5 other kids, led them in our scripture, prayer, and had Archie give his talk. The other kids all had a lot of fun, and said that Moses had been the best teacher ever, and I'm sure that he was. He told me of all the things he'd done to keep class control and how he'd stopped arguments, etc.

Sorry if I've mentioned this before, but Penelope's soccer skills have improved quite a bit since we moved here. Before, she had virtually none. Now, she can play with her brothers. It's still not her very favorite thing, but she enjoys it, and there's really nothing else to do for recess here (the school yard is really sparse).

Anyway, this week she had a new and confusing experience where she made a block that everyone on her team thought was so awesome that they all ran and hugged her and smiled and yelled and all sorts shows of approval and excitement that Penelope found strange.

Linus's school day still revolves around how well the soccer game at recess went. He has distinguished himself as the kid who never gets hurt. When Linus falls to the ground or heads a soccer ball, he just jumps up and keeps playing as if nothing has happened, while apparently his schoolmates roll around on the ground or rub their foreheads as if there's no way they'll be able to go on.

Doing headers is his new favorite thing. He says he's the best header in the school, and he's started leaving the goalie box so he can make a few goals by tapping them in with his forehead. This week he was super excited to be the end of a triple header that resulted in another goal.

Our new family Book of Mormon study is still going well. We've had to make a few tweaks. For example, we've found that Archie listens and behaves much better if he is not sitting near me. However, he always stands up several times to walk across the room and give me a hug. Usually when I am talking.
Woo: Do you think Archie gets up and gives you a hug whenever he feels the Spirit?
Me: I don't know. Or just whenever he hears me and remembers that I exist?

My week was weird because I finished one project, wasn't sure what to work on next, and was having a hard time getting revelation about anything. It was really confusing and disorienting. At one point, for about 4 hours, I even thought that moving to Provo was the next best step for our family... and we all know how ludicrous that would be!

Finally, one day, I just took a nap. And then another, and then I remembered that I'd stayed up late Saturday night reading a book, and I'd probably never recovered... Whenever this happens to me I always think, why didn't Heavenly Father just tell me to take a nap? or tell me I was too tired to get anything? But maybe it's because I've never been asking that question specifically, or maybe I'm too tired to get even that.

But it's not true that I don't get anything. I do get revelation when tired, but it's vague and hard to understand and I usually don't recognize it until a day or two afterwards, after thinking about it for awhile. Anyway, we're not moving to Provo. Unless something somewhere really changes :).

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


Water and Oil

FYI This post is picture sparse because most our pictures included kids other than our own, and I lifted them before posting to the internet.

Every grade in the middle school here has some sort of program where they either send a few students for a week to another country in the EU, or some other country sends kids here for a week.

Months ago Herbie signed us up to accept an exchange student this week. I was pretty hesitant. I was nervous about hosting anyone here because our house is not comfortable, but mostly I was worried about what some other teenager would bring into our house--most specifically their phone and anything they had on it that we'd worked so hard to keep out.

But Woo was enthusiastic and thought it would be great. He even told me to say we could take two. Herbie was excited. I said a prayer saying I was willing to do it, but if it wasn't going to be good for them or us that it wouldn't work out for some reason. (I say a version of this prayer a lot, and a surprising number of things end up not being required of me. :) Then I went along with it.

The first snag came when Herbie was bitterly disappointed when the school assigned us a girl (knowing we also had a girl around that age... Ruby) and even suggested that maybe Ruby could do the fun activities instead of Herbie.

We let Herbie decide and he decided to do it anyway. About a day before she came I realized that bedtimes were likely going to be a problem, since we go to bed early, and it was highly unlikely that she did too. I decided to stick as close to our normal life as possible.

We welcomed our exchange student, enjoyed her treats from Poland, and spent an enjoyable evening with her... until we went to bed... waaaaaaay too early for her (and actually a little late for us :).

In the morning, we did our usual routine, and let her do her own thing, since I didn't want to wake her up early and we do a lot of scripture reading, chores, etc. Woo took her and Herbie to see the beach before they walked to school (they started an hour later than normal all week). And then about an hour after they'd been in school, Woo got a call: she didn't want to stay at our house anymore.

At first it was kind of humiliating, but when I prayed about it, I kept getting the message that I should be excited about this... I'd prayed for it after all. Herbie was very sad when she came to pick up her stuff and go to another host family. I gave her a little hug and wished her good luck. We had no ill feelings.

Herbie still got to do all the activities (Woo picked up a bunch of these pictures off the school slideshow). He helped a lot by doing most (all?) of the translating for non-English speaking lecturers. (English is always the common language in Europe and probably the entire world. Moving here has made me recognize how lucky we are to be native speakers... everyone is trying to learn what we already know!)

Ruby also got to do some activities when she wasn't in her own classes. They spent a day in Lisbon, but spent most of the week around here presumably learning math while seeing the sights and going surfing.

We all went to the beach during Herbie's surfing activity. The weather this week was quite nice. We didn't have a lot of other pictures, so I took some of the kids doing their regular Sunday afternoon stuff. Penelope is listening to a conference talk. Linus is doing family history. Archie is drawing invitations to the next branch activity and Moses is writing about his week. In a few minutes, we'll go out for a walk, probably drop in on some people (active or inactive) in the branch, and come home for dinner.

I think that's all I've got. Hope you had a great week!


Skating in the Queen's Diapers

There were many promises given last October to families who implemented the new home study into their homes.
President Nelson said, "The new home-centered curriculum has the potential to unleash the power of families, as each family follows through conscientiously and carefully to transform their home into a sanctuary of faith. I promise that as you diligently work to remodel your home into a center of gospel learning, over time your Sabbath days will truly be a delight. Your children will be excited to learn and to live the Savior’s teachings, and the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease. Changes in your family will be dramatic and sustaining.
Elder Cook reported that scripture study in families who already been doing the home study progressed and changed. Anyway, that finally happened to us this week in a big way.

Woo, frustrated with our evening reading of the Book of Mormon, suggested to me that we have a family council about it. Over the course of 6 (?) or more months, the behavior of the kids has deteriorated. There were occasional improvements only to fall back again.

I agree and mentioned it to the kids. Herbie prayed about it and got revelation that evening. The next evening before reading, we had our family council, with the result being nothing what Woo was expecting, but was clearly better for all of us.

Herbie said we should spread out in the room. We had all been sitting at the table, which is tight and all the kids were in easy target range of one another.

Ruby suggested that we have more discussion, like when we read our New Testament chapters Sunday morning.

I suggested we quit reading verses in Portuguese and then translating into English, as it was making our study more of a Portuguese lesson than a word of God lesson. We had done more discussing, earlier, but once we started reading in Portuguese, that had completely dropped off.

Penelope (who was maybe the only kid still getting a lot out of our old scripture study) wanted to read more verses. We considered this, but it was later modified by Woo as we got going, because we decided to start immediately, where we saw instant improvement.

Ever since Woo and I were engaged, our family Book of Mormon reading has been based on a set number of verses, but after only 1 or 2 verses followed by enlightened discussion, Woo realized that what we should do is decide on an amount of time and stick to that, no matter how many verses we read.

Ruby interprets scriptures very well. She always (so far) gets personal application and symbolism when I ask questions to see what the kids know. Sometimes I'll ask a question whose answer I've only just realized myself, and she'll answer with exactly that.

Although, the truth is that most of us when asked a thought provoking question (I know what you're thinking... I do not ask leading questions... ) can come up with an answer that surprises even us when given the time to think about it.

Moses continues to be my biggest cheerleader. He makes sounds of agreement and nods his head seriously whenever I say anything, which makes me smile. Of course I'm serious, but it's funny to me that he is.

All the kids are motivated to be better after every evening. One night I found this cute note Linus had written to himself to help him remember to overcome his weaknesses.

And instead of his evening ending angrily, he ends them saying a cute, heartfelt prayer about whatever we have discussed together.

Which answered another concern Woo had -- that all the kids' evening prayers had become rote. They have all definitely improved a lot since we've improved our Book of Mormon study.

Several weeks ago, Archie told me I was pretty nice, but he thought other moms were nicer. The (hypothetical?) kind of moms that give their kids tons of treats and toys. I encouraged him to pray and get revelation about it. He did and the next morning he gave me a big hug and told me Heavenly Father told him I was the best mom (for him).

Every since then, Archie prays every night that I'll be the best mom in the whole world--the next frontier, I guess, but I'm grateful for his prayers.

M&Ms are expensive here, but a couple days before my birthday I happened to see they were on sale. I bought 4 bags for my birthday present. After sharing some with Woo and the kids, I ate a bunch, but when I started to feel sick, I took out a handful to continue eating and closed the bag to put the rest away.

Some kids were curious about why I had done that.
Herbie: She's using horse power.

Archie was my favorite to watch at the skatepark this week. He had a route all picked out that he road over and over and over again. It was challenging enough that he had to concentrate and work really hard in a few places, but fun enough to do over and over and over again, apparently.

Penelope and Woo had a good time racing each other down one side and up another. Sometimes Penelope won, sometimes Woo won.

Penelope and Ruby came running with me on Saturday. They both beat me.

Moses has ramped up his school game. He also is now shooting for straight muito boms. He came home excited, thinking he's gotten 100% on his math test. He didn't, but was in the high 90s and got the high score in his class.

Here's the computer Archie made for me.

One of Linus' goals is to make a movie this summer. I made him a step-by-step workbook starting with figuring out who was going to star in his movie, how to follow a story arch to write a screenplay, how to edit a screenplay, how to work with his actors, etc. I'm no expert, but I think I know enough to help a 9 yr old get the best out of his efforts.

When I showed him the workbook, he wanted to start immediately, and all the other kids who read it with us, suddenly wanted to do the exact same thing, so now I have a few more workbooks to make.

One P-day our Elders, the Caldas Elders and the APs (both former Elders in our branch) were in town. Looking for Woo, they went across the street to the beach, where they found him, dropping in on the best wave of the day. As he rode into shore, there was a small crowd shouting his name and waving. Every once in awhile it's nice to do something right while appreciative people are watching.

Woo's surfing friends were also impressed with Woo's supportive crowd who appeared out of nowhere at just the right moment.

And lastly....

It's often really windy here. But a few weeks ago it was extra windy. One morning I woke up and I could've sworn that mine and Woo's sheet (that had just been washed) had been hanging in our porch. Nothing had ever blown out before, but the sheet was nowhere. I could think of no other explanation.

It had blown out the window. But I couldn't see it anywhere outside either, not in the trees or roofs or parking lot below us... It wasn't in the dunes...
Me (to Woo): It's probably out in the ocean strangling some sea life right now.
Luckily, we had two sheets so it didn't really bother us much. And then one day Woo came home laughing from his surf with our sheet folded under his arm. He'd found it wadded up in a tree, as if some thoughtful person had put it there to prevent it from blowing farther.
Woo: Somehow, I don't think this is such an uncommon incident in this country.
And I think I'm finally done! Hope you all had a great week!

Title explanation: if you change a couple of letters in the town with this skatepark, it translates into "The Queen's Diapers."