I've slowly come to realize that any fun or exciting or exotic trip is not going to work out for us while we are here. We seem to be allowed short day trips, but anything requiring an overnight stay needs to have some purpose: a temple, visiting someone Woo baptized, or an old mission area of his, etc.

I’m understanding now that the inspiration I received about visiting Switzerland was not so much that we HAD to go there, but that if we were going to hop on a plane and fly anywhere more exotic than Portugal it needed to be somewhere with a purpose.

At the time we had just been freed to leave and re-enter the country and our first thoughts were Norway! Or Morocco! But in Switzerland there are people we could see: an Elder who’d been in a few of my districts, 3 people my dad taught (and baptized 2) while on his mission, the girl I worked with and gave a Book of Mormon to while I lived in Switzerland, my boss...

The cost and stress of getting to Switzerland has turned us off for the time being, but that seems to be okay. Only if we get that itch to travel, it needs to be Switzerland.

And that seems to be because even though we are mostly going about life as usual, we really are on some type of a mission. We were allowed to move here because we wanted to go on a mission; we called ourselves on a mission. And there must be certain parameters we can’t cross if we want to receive the blessings of a mission. Also, we need to learn some things about consecration.

For example, our birthdays. I don’t remember any of us having a birthday here where we have had the whole day free for things we want to do. We’re always at the temple, or there’s some branch activity, or someone who needs us to come to dinner, or they need to come to our place for dinner and it’s the only day that will work...

And that is why for our 2 year anniversary in Portugal, we found ourselves in Southern Spain near Seville. I had suggested we spend the night visiting a couple of slightly distant towns in Portugal I’d heard about, thinking that would be okay. But it wasn’t.

We came to Spain to visit a member family that lived in a little branch in Portugal (a lot like we are now) while Woo was a missionary. This same family had a son called to the Provo, Utah mission and we visited him in Santaquin one of our first Christmas’ back in Utah.

The kids were awesome for a six hour stint in the car, and then we immediately went to the small apartment of the family Lopez, where we ate and talked for a few hours more. The kids all were really great in that completely un-kid-friendly situation.

The Lopez's were quick to tell us that the Portuguese go to bed much too early; in Spain they stay up even later! Also, no one goes outside during the afternoon or hottest part of the day.

We left their apartment at about our bedtime anyway for our Airbnb, which was very nice and the kids were thrilled with all the "technology." (We never met our host, for example, he unlocked the door remotely when we texted that we'd arrived.) But what I thought was the best thing, by far, was how absolutely dark it was with the curtains were closed. The second morning the kids and I slept in later than we have in years.

Woo slipped on the stairs earlier in the week and hurt his back. He laid in pain on the bed after all that driving and sitting, unable to get comfortable -- "So this is what it's like to be 40????"

But he did go to sleep and that seemed to be the worst of it. I never heard about his back again and yesterday he said it was fine.

The kids really needed to move the next day, however. They were less than impressed with the sights of Jerez... moorish ruins, a "palace", and a proud member of the "famed sherry triangle", but we did get a lot of walking in.

After they played hide-n-seek. Some were better hiders than others...

Woo: The cockroaches in Spain are REALLY big. 
Me (alarmed): Really? 
Woo (pointing under the bed): Yeah, can't you hear them?

In the afternoon we found a park with some paths for skateboarding, and it was true, there was no one outside. It was completely dead, but I thought the weather was fine. Really pleasant if you had some shade and a bottle of water, which we did. However, the Lopez's later told me they were experiencing something of a cold snap while northern Spain was setting record heat temperatures. So for a cold snap, yes, it was pretty hot.

The family Lopez invited us to a ward party (not their ward, but in their stake) and to the beach for about an hour before. The kids loved the beach; they thought the water was very warm. But they loved the ward party even more. The ward building had a soccer court in the backyard and they played and played and played with a bunch of Spanish kids until it was time to leave.

Ruby found a girl to talk to. She kept running up to us asking how to explain things like leap year and how to translate "sons of Adam." She kept telling Herbie how easy her friend was to understand because she spoke so slowly.

Herbie said, "No, it's because she's trying to speak Portuguese."

So with the girl's half Portuguese and Ruby throwing in the few Spanish words she knew here and there, they had a great time.

Woo really enjoyed visiting the Lopez's and when we weren't with them, he kept chuckling to himself about something Melchor (the father) had done or said either 20 years ago or while with us that day.

He really thinks they're a great family and that they were a big influence on him. Marisa (the mother) is a returned missionary and she's part of the reason he wanted to marry a returned missionary. And also, they were Spaniards living in a different country (Portugal) with their family, trying to help in a little branch. They helped him to see that he could do it someday too.

Saturday morning we drove home, with a 3 hour (?!) side trip to the Algarve, where the kids swam for a bit before they decided that they were cold. The water in the Atlantic is colder, but there was also a brisk wind. I was comfortable, perfect even, in my long sleeve shirt and sweats.

I thought today might be a disaster, but the kids were really well-behaved. Each of them gave a very thoughtful and personal testimony.

Ruby talked about reading a story in Pres. Nelson's biography where his wife would start a question, "Could you... " and he would say "Yes!" before she had even finished. Ruby had gotten revelation that she needed to be that way with her parents. Luckily that was near the beginning of the week, and Ruby was definitely a more pleasant traveler than she normally is.

Linus talked about being thirsty last night, but he'd already started his fast, so he said a prayer and went to sleep and in the morning he wasn't thirsty anymore. Also, this morning he wanted to argue with Penelope, but he said a prayer and was able to remain a peacemaker.

And then he was an influence for even more good, because when Penelope wanted to tease Moses later, she remembered Linus' testimony and instead of poking Moses, said a prayer and was able to leave him alone.

Herbie shared his favorite scripture of seeking to obtain the word before seeking to proclaim the word. I thought it was quite an interesting, yet appropriate, scripture for a 13 year old to have. It was by far his most articulate testimony (and even talk?) that he's given since we've moved here (or ever?).

This week he also got out some paper to make a chart. He had just finished the Book of Mormon for 6th time in Portuguese, which is 2 more times than he's read the Book of Mormon in English.

Moses shared his favorite scripture of Nephi encouraging his brothers to be good "... now let us be strong like unto Moses... " And how he likes to encourage his brothers and sisters to be good.

I remembered him in the back of the car on the way home from Spain, bravely soldiering on alone, trying to steer his brothers and sisters away from potty jokes.

Anyway, because of Moses and Linus' determination to be good in church they and Penelope and Archie spent primary with their arms folded and smiles on their faces. Moses and Linus did a lot of complimenting and thanking of everyone for every contribution they did, and they all sang solos in sharing time, because Moses wanted to first.

There was a lot of good lying and dying in the reenactment of Ananias and Sapphira's story in Acts.

On the walk home, Herbie, Moses, Linus and Archie planned their future. Herbie is going to be a computer programmer and have an office at home with a beanbag, but he's going to have a work truck.

Moses is going to be a lego engineer with a lego office at home. He's also going to be an architect and a dental assistant. Linus' assistant, because Linus is going to be a dentist. Moses will design the dental office and in return Linus will do his dental work for free.

Archie is going to be a librarian, but also an architect.
Archie: Mom, I want to build a house like a temple someday.
I can't wait for the future!
My house is going to have lots of play places for kids.

Penelope planned her baptism this week. The thing I'm most curious to witness is the special musical number with Penelope, Moses and one of the Elders. I have no idea if the Elder can even sing, but he agreed to do it without any hesitation.

She had her baptismal interview after church and came out of there excited to be good. She came home and wrote down a testimony to give at her baptism and asked me if she could get a journal for her birthday to write down everything about her baptism.

Also Penelope just revealed that she is not on top of the political scene:
Penelope (reading an old email): Barack Obama?!
(laughing) Did Ruby just make up that name?
Last Sunday, on our walk, we wandered into the old fortaleza, which was once a prison for political prisoners during the time when Portugal was ruled by a dictator. It's been restored a bit as a museum and memorial. Anyway, these last pictures are of that.

And that's our very full week! Hope yours was great!