Examples and Such

I forgot to mention that last week Ruby played her first hymn for the congregation (while we sang, not prelude music or anything). She played Sweet Hour of prayer and it was great! No mistakes. It was like playing to the recording on the keyboard, but better because it was a human.

She also taught Sunday School for the first time this week. I wasn't there, but Woo said it was a good first attempt.

I had a question to be answered during conference. It was "What could we further do to protect us from Satan?"

The answer did not come in a talk; it came in a prayer. And not anything specific said in the prayer, but only feeling the Spirit and remembering an earlier speaker that mentioned that inspiration often comes in recurring thoughts and then I remembered that I'd thought a couple of times that I wished the kids knew the conference talks better.

So that is why I now have the kids review (watch or read) a specific conference talk and prepare to mention something they liked about it before dinner.

Archie calls it the Conference Quiz Thingy.

Moses and Herbie took it very seriously and took notes to share during our discussion. They were good examples for Archie, who immediately made his own, and Ruby and Linus, who took notes today.

We only spend 15 minutes or so discussing, and we mostly just let the kids talk, but I think it's good.

Linus won a cool multi-colored colored pencil this week for having the best score on a reading comprehension test and also was one of only a couple of kids to get 100% on his math test. He does careful work in school.

Archie: Linus played tag at recess with Gui.
(Gui is an autistic kid in Linus' class.)
Archie: Gui doesn't have a lot of friends.
After thinking a couple of seconds.
Archie: I'm going to play with Gui at recess sometimes too.

Archie woke up one morning and told me he'd gotten revelation to give one of his teachers a Book of Mormon. I told him great, but he'd need to find a Book of Mormon, I didn't have any to give away. I thought nothing more of it, but Archie did.

On the day he had that teacher, he asked again for a Book of Mormon, which I didn't have. When he came home that afternoon, he'd given his teacher a Book of Mormon! Penelope had had one in her backpack, and they'd rendezvoused the recess before that class.

Penelope took some standardized, nationwide test last year. She was insistent that I come into her classroom in the morning and pick up her results. I couldn't go in that day, but did the next. When walking into the classroom, Penelope said, "Now you can see how loud my class is."

But I didn't notice them. The best part for me was seeing Penelope sitting upright and alert in the front row with her proud, that's-my-mom face on while I spoke briefly with her teacher.

Herbie had some extra time this week because two of his teachers are in Slovakia on exchange, and they don't get substitutes. He went surfing with Woo twice.

One of those times he cut his foot on his fin. He came in early and changed, but went back out to film Woo. Woo has been wanting someone to film him for awhile so he can see what he looks like. Herbie was a willing and eager accomplice.

Moses is already packed for Poland. We went to his parent meeting and I was reassured to see that some of the teachers also going look like sweet grandmothers.

Woo likes to offer rewards for overcoming bad habits. It's not his favorite reward to offer, but it seems to be the one that gets the best results--Linus stopped biting his fingers for 2 big bags of candy.

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


16 Wonderful Years

Woo and I celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary this week. The kids are better at celebrating it than we are. They were so, so excited. I made sure to pick them up a treat (donuts) for lunch to make their excitement worth it.

Linus had been planning a special surprise for several days. He was the first down that morning and wanted us to come up and see his surprise. He even added, "You might want to take a picture or video... "

When we got to the top of the stairs Archie and Nellpea were standing there beaming, holding a nice sign between them. We admired the sign, but I was a little confused about the fact that Linus had disappeared. He had been the most excited one...

So I said, "Where's Linus?"

And then he popped out with a bright, little, "HI!"

Woo and I laughed and had a nice start to our day. We then spent the rest of the morning at the lawyer's... twice... but we did finally get the all the legal stuff signed for Moses and Ruby to go on their school trips, and it also was our temple day.

Because it was our anniversary, we were of course going to do sealings, but Woo also wanted to baptize Ruby and Herbie a few times, and maybe I would witness?

But in the waiting room, a few other kids came in, a couple were two boys old enough to baptize who'd also been there last week, so we decided to just go up and do sealings.

The Portuguese sealers are awesome; they talk so fast, we got almost completely through our large stack of names. And they just rolled with those Czech names, there was not a single instance of them raising eyebrows or gulping or sighing or anything else when they saw a Czech name; they just barreled through them. They actually had more trouble with the English names we had.

Woo and I also went out to eat later that night.

A brother and sister from Spain were in the baptistry. Ruby and Herbie shared some of their names with them, and made fast friends. Ruby did a lot of talking, in Portuguese and French? Herbie didn't seem to think she could speak Spanish, because I guess he can?? Either way, they somehow found ways to understand each other with their new friends.

Apparently surprised, one of the Portuguese boys asked Ruby how many languages she could speak. She matter-of-factly answered English, Portuguese, French and Greek... I know that she knows some of those far better than others, but she does have a powerful drive to speak, and can probably make herself somewhat understood in all of those.

Herbie has been spending a lot of time this week on a group project. They've been doing a lot of extra work during lunch and one morning, where he usually starts late and does family history during that time.

I was pleased to see him arrange his time wisely the night before all on his own. He did a lot of his morning things (his chore, making his breakfast, etc.) that evening so that he could have more time to still do family history in the morning before going to school. He feels it's important for him to have that protection that comes from doing family history work for school.

Another thing Herbie often does is take his little brother (Archie) and Nellpea to the park. They love the attention of their older brother, and it's a nice thing for him to do for them. He shares his skateboard with Nellpea, who likes to do her own thing, and he races Archie across the court on the scooters.

Penelope has been into pigtails the last week or so. They are pretty cute on her, and they were a big hit at school. She started putting them in after a dream she had where she wore pigtails and her teacher loved them.

Archie continues to love school. I like delivering him to school and seeing a couple boys calling his name and excited to see him. Archie lost his backpack one afternoon at school. He was very distraught, and all his prayers mentioned it. Luckily, he found it the very next day. How happy he was.

I asked him once if he missed preschool and he said, "No. I like learning real stuff. In preschool we just played all the time."

Moses had a really excellent day, I think on our anniversary, also. He was extremely obedient, kind and showed a lot of initiative. His revelation for that night was that he'd been a very good boy that day. (Of course, the day after he was kind of cranky :). Moses was excited to get a muito bom (A) on his very first test of the year--in History and Geography of Portugal.

Woo had a couple of really fun days of surfing. He came home with huge smiles and told of how fun it was to be catching waves and really fun ones on his big foam beginner board, when everyone out on their short boards could catch hardly any. I was reminded that we'd fasted for him last Sunday. I think an abundance of fun was one of his blessings.

He's taken all the kids to watch part of the World Surf competition at Supertubos, but I think he's done. Once you've been to one pro competition, they're pretty boring--much better to watch the highlight clips. Herbie and Moses did get some free hats and tote bags and Nellpea got a free lunch when her class was invited to watch a concert that was supposed to be at Supertubos for the occasion.

And I had fun this week doing things like designing a conservatory, reading the 3 Investigators to the kids, and going on a few extra runs, now that Archie's in school in the afternoon too.

While writing this, Linus just found his own name to take to the temple--the very first time that's happened to him. He's pretty excited about it.

And that's all I have this week. Hope yours was great!

This is possibly the laziest talk I’ve ever given. Luckily, it also was the right talk to give.

For several years I have read a recent conference talk everyday. To be honest, it gets kind of boring there at the end and I get really excited for general conference, if only to have something new to read. However, I keep doing it because more than once, I have received clear and memorable revelation while reading an old talk in the last week, and because I know the talks very well. They easily come to mind when I need them while teaching my children or a lesson.

But now, something I enjoy doing is fasting and praying over portions of conference talks. President Nelson’s talks are especially good for this because he is the prophet and also because he often gives us specific things to pray about.

This week I read his talk Spiritual Treasures and I made a list of the things the Holy Ghost told me I needed to fast about. I’m going to share that list with you.
  • to understand the spiritual treasures that are mine in the temple. 
  • for truth to register upon my heart that will change my life. 
  • what I need to do to lay aside the things of this world and seek for the things of a better. 
  • to draw liberally upon the Savior’s power to help your family and others you love. 
  • to discover what the Holy Ghost will teach me in section 25 of the Doctrine and Covenants. 
  • for the Holy Ghost to prompt me about what is no longer needful, what is no longer worthy of my time and energy. 
  • to embark upon and continue this lifelong process of consecrating my life to the Lord. 
  • to speak and teach with power and authority from God. 
  • that every time I serve and worship in the temple, I will leave armed with God’s power and with His angels having “charge over” me. 
  • to prepare a people for the Second Coming of the Lord. 
  • for my prayers, fasting, time in the scriptures, service in the temple, and family history work to open the heavens to me.
 (In my opinion, this is one of the most important sentences in the whole talk because the prophet gives us a nice list of 5 things we need to do for the heavens to open to us: pray, fast, study the scriptures, go to the temple and do family history.)
  • what truths can the Lord teach me about priesthood power in Doctrine and Covenants sections 84 and 107. 
  • for my understanding to increase as I exercise faith in the Lord and His priesthood power, so that my ability to draw upon this spiritual treasure that the Lord has made available will increase. 
  • that I may understand the priesthood power with which I have been endowed and that I will augment that power by exercising my faith in the Lord and in His power.
I would encourage all of you to read President Nelson’s recent talks and make a list of the things you should pray over.

I also read about Captain Moroni this week. The thing that I was most impressed about this time was that Captain Moroni never stopped preparing his places of security. Even after his fortifications had successfully astonished and driven away the Lamanites, he continued to strengthen them. He knew a worse attack was coming and also he added things that wouldn’t have done a great deal with out his earlier efforts, but were brilliant with them.

Our places of security are our homes and we should never suppose that we are done strengthening them. I know these things to be true. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Some Old Stuff and Some New

At Woo's request, I'm sharing this story.

When we got back from Utah this summer, Woo's asthma returned and I disinfected the bedroom. A big problem, in my opinion, was the pile of stuff Woo had tossed on his side of the bed, collecting dust.

The two biggest offenders over there were his tortilla chip stockpile and his giant teddy bear (which he would occasionally bury his head in and then have trouble breathing later that night... he denies this... )

I hid the teddy bear and put the remaining chips on top of the fridge. Woo has kept that area mostly clutter-free and so far, so good. His asthma problems are gone.

A couple of weeks ago Lidl had tortilla chips again (they're seasonal here), and Woo happily piled two big boxes on top of his cart. I eyed him with suspicion, but said nothing because I knew two boxes would fit above the fridge, but when he gleefully went for box number three I put my foot down with a forceful, "I am NOT dusting your chips!"

He thought that was funny, but he put the other box back.

The air in the church has also not been too bad. There is a room or two that he feels are the worst, and he tries to avoid them. However, watching one session of conference in the church last week was too much (something on the TV that was pulled out of a closet?), and he came home wheezing.

The inhaler he brought to Portugal is practically empty so we stepped into a pharmacy this week, where he picked one up for 3.75€. Quite a bit cheaper than his original.

Another story I'm forgetting from a couple of months ago is of a sacrament meeting. The kind of summer sacrament meeting where everyone shows up pretty tired already and the first two talks are dead boring. Woo was the final speaker.

Archie always sits with Woo in the chairs behind the pulpit. He does the best up there, but with Woo standing at the pulpit speaking, there was no one to keep Archie in line. He stood up several times to give Woo a big hug from behind.

Woo would interrupt his talk every time with a "thank you, Archie," and a pat behind him, which made us all smile.

And then just when Woo was making his most emphatic point, Archie stretched out on three or four chairs behind him, opened his mouth and let out a huge, audible yawn.

Woo paused, looked behind him, then wrapped up his talk.

We had no hot water for the last week, but the water heater has never worked well, and there's a process of calling the realtor, waiting for the workman (sometimes a couple), and then it actually getting fixed. We've already had weeks without it. I was surprised this week when I reminded kids to shower/bathe, and no one complained about the cold water. We can all do it now, even me. But this time the water heater was apparently dead enough to replace. Our cold water days may be forever over?

Ruby had her first experience witnessing the fallout of sexting this week. She came home at lunch pretty shaken after the uproar that had taken place in her grade with the gossiping, fight that broke out on the patio, police involvement, etc.

In the last year she's become grateful that she doesn't have her own phone yet, as she sees the problems that often accompany it. She was home alone with me for about an hour that afternoon, so we were able to talk a bit. But she is becoming self-sufficient in re-centering herself emotionally and spiritually, and before we talked she was already feeling much better.

Herbie bought a new (used) skateboard this week. He was excited to try it out, and he did eventually get to the skatepark, but it almost seemed like the thing he wanted to do most was pull out the tools and switch around decks and trucks and bearings. Woo talked him out of it and convinced him to skate on the board as it is for a while, but Herbie was clearly disappointed.

Herbie made a greater effort to study and do homework at the end of last year. He has continued that this year, and his first few tests have shown it.

I didn't assign a talk for primary today, but instead asked kids to stand and say something they'd learned from conference. I was amazed at Moses remembering almost every detail from talks he'd only heard once a week ago, and to recount them in Portuguese.

When Moses was praying about going to Poland, he got a prompting to do more family history work as protection, and he has been doing that. Ruby and Herbie are being baptized for all his names in the temple.

Elder Bednar's conference talk was an instant hit with the kids. First, he mentioned Spiritual Crocodiles, a talk and video clip they're all familiar with, and then he talked about cheetahs with lots of illustrations.

Linus bore his testimony about it today in sacrament meeting. Linus has had practice recognizing symbols in stories and he identified one that I don't remember Elder Bednar saying. He also made one branch member's day by asking him how to say cheetah and topi in Portuguese, and his testimony was mentioned by a couple other people.

Penelope has suddenly become the messiest kid. There is a pile of sand on the floor anywhere her shoes have been, and if she sits in my chair, there's a pile of sand there too. She and her friends must have some new game in the sandbox area of the playground.

Also, we bought her a brand-new Sunday outfit for her birthday, but she got ink on her shirt and skirt the very first day she wore them. I managed to mostly get that ink out, but every time she wears them there's a new ink stain. Pale pink clothing is still a mistake for her.

(The real star of this photo is the phone booth graveyard behind me.)

The kids and I have switched places in fast and testimony meeting. I give a basic, 3-4 simple sentence testimony. They share a short experience and a personal, thoughtful testimony. Woo's testimonies are the same good in English or Portuguese.

I am going to include my talk from last month. I've been putting it off, because of its potentially controversial nature (shield your teenage daughters and eating disorder sufferers...). And also because this is something that probably no one wants to read.

However, I didn't fast last week (I thought a break on conference Sunday might be nice), and it was a horrible day for me. This whole week was not that great either. I'm not doing that again anytime soon; I'm convinced it's the right thing for me. I'm including this talk for posterity and because it's part of my story.

Anyway, I hope you all have a great week!

I’m grateful that Mario allowed us to pick our topics this month. I thought I was going to speak about temples, but then Heavenly Father reminded me that this is a chance to talk about one of my favorite topics—fasting and fast offerings!

I grew up in a home where my mother and father fasted every fast Sunday and paid fast offerings.

My mother once told me a story of a time when my parents were first married and had a small family and did not have a lot of money. Someone suggested that they not pay fast offerings at that time, but they continued to pay them. They knew they could do it, even though it was a sacrifice, and they knew they would be blessed.

And they were. They always had enough money, never ran into serious financial trouble, and over time they made more money. My father later told me that they had always been blessed because they had paid tithing and fast offerings.

As a very little child I also remember going to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house for dinner on fast Sunday and my Grandma explaining that she was fasting and my Grandpa speaking about it in his prayer over the food.

As I grew up, my parents taught me how to fast. When I was 8 years old and baptized, I was expected to fast one meal every fast Sunday. When I was 12 years old and in young women’s, I was expected to fast two meals every fast Sunday.

I was taught to fast with a purpose, to open and close my fast with a prayer, telling my Heavenly Father what I was fasting for, and I almost always remembered to do that.

I fasted this way every month for a long time until my mission. On my mission I was expected to pay fast offerings for the first time. I had no idea how much to give, so I asked my companion. She told me how much she paid and I immediately paid double :).

But I did not tell her that. I knew the Lord would bless me and He did. Many missionaries run out of their stipend by the end of the month, but I always had much more money than I needed and at the end of my mission, I was able to return several thousand Austrian Schillings to the mission home.

My first companion also had a tradition of reading Isaiah 58 every fast Sunday. I began to read it with her and I learned even more about the law of the fast. I grew to love Isaiah 58. It is like poetry to me. 

I don’t know if it is as beautiful in Portuguese, but these are some of my very favorite verses:
6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? 
And now these are the promises for properly keeping the law of the fast and paying fast offerings. (And they are wonderful!)
8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward.
9 Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.
10 Then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
11 And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
12 Thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. 
I continued to pay fast offerings after my mission, and I increased them periodically when I could, and then I got married.

Steven had a new fasting tradition, that I had not yet done. We started our fast in prayer together and we started our fast on the Saturday night before fast Sunday, immediately after Saturday dinner.

This improved my fast in a couple of ways. First I discussed the fast with someone, and together we came up with better things to fast for, and secondly, by starting Saturday night we always got our 24 hours or 2 meals in and we never woke up in a wild rush fast Sunday morning having forgotten it was fast Sunday and needing something quick! to fast about.

And then I got pregnant with Ruby. I had heard that when pregnant or nursing many women modify their fast. They don’t go without food, but they don’t eat anything delicious or they don’t eat any treats, or something like that. They still eat.

The problem was, I really loved fasting. I knew it was a time that I was closer to my Heavenly Father, and I did not want to give it up.

So I didn’t. I fasted just like I normally would, and I was happy to see that I was just fine. No ill effects at all. In my 10 years of pregnancy or nursing I fasted completely normally for all but 5 or 6 months. On those months I could tell and I only fasted one meal, but on the next month, I was right back to normal fasting.

It’s impossible for me to say exactly how I was blessed because of this, but I do know that I was. I assume I was blessed with health for myself and my children and also with the inspiration and strength I needed to be a better mother.

And then when Archie was a couple years old, I started to find that I had too many things I wanted to fast about!

So many of my questions or requests are answered close to immediately while I’m fasting, just like Isaiah says, “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.”

And I wanted that more than once a month! I started to experiment with more frequent fasting.

I know that what I am about to say is not required or recommended for everyone. In fact, it is completely the wrong thing for some people. Maybe most?? And I have told very few people that I do this. Really only my family knows.

However, for me, I have found that fasting once a week is the right thing for me. I have done it for many years. I have not lost nor gained weight nor had any ill side effects, but it is something that I do to feel closer to God and I know the Lord hears my prayers.

I have received some truly wonderful bits of revelation for myself and for my family through more frequent fasting and fast offerings.

I guess what I’m saying that applies to everyone is to not be afraid to fast at times outside of fast Sunday, especially if you need it.

As we had children, Steven and I included them in our Saturday night discussion of what to fast for and our prayers to start and end our fasts. Starting as babies they did not eat delicious things on fast Sundays, just very plain and basic foods.

As eight year olds they have been expected to fast one meal and as twelve year olds, a full two meals, although almost all of them have started earlier than expected because as we have fasted as a family, they have gained their own testimonies of the law of the fast.

Living here in the branch, they’ve all gotten to add bearing testimonies to their fast Sunday habits, which has been another blessing.

I love fasting and paying a generous fast offering. I do it to as a way to show love to my Heavenly Father, bless His other children, and feel His love for me.

It is also my testimony that as we keep the commandments and are open to change, we can improve upon the commandments we may already think we are keeping, not necessarily by doing more, but better, with an eye single to the glory of God.

This scripture in 2 Nephi 28:30 also applies to how we keep the commandments. If we are invited to improve them by the Holy Ghost and we refuse, thinking we do it well enough, we will lose what we have.
For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


Do Not Worry

We have been busy with conference.

We only took 3 pictures this week.

We are all still alive.

Will write more next week.