Christmas is Coming!

Grandma and Grandpa were still with us at the beginning of the week and we went to Sintra. Finding a parking spot was an adventure. I finally faced my European driving nightmare--narrow streets at steep angles, big vans coming the other way, hairpin turns, and, as an added bonus, all that also on a muddy dirt road. And Grandpa finally got all the practice with manual (stick-shift) driving he needed.

Then after, we set off on a route I'd picked out from my cursory internet search. Long story short, we walked for over half an hour and reached no where in particular, only to have to come right back. Not a big deal to those motivated only by the walk, but frustrating to those who like to walk to a place. The kids (especially Penelope) did seem to get out a lot of their crankiness there.

We did finally get on a trail going somewhere we wanted to go, and did see the National Palace of Pena for the first time (from a distance) and the Moorish Castle for the second time (first for Grandma and Grandpa).

I think it was mostly a good time, but probably a big sacrifice everyone but Grandpa and me who were just happy to be getting exercise. Woo was walking on a hurt foot; the kids were seemingly starving the whole time; and a lot of parts were rough for Grandma's knees.

Thanks again for coming!

The day after they left was like we'd had a real Thanksgiving and I was ready for Christmas. Woo and I did ride bikes around to a few stores that morning Christmas shopping, but finding nothing, we returned home and turned to the internet, where we got it all finished that day. Yay! Done!
(Well, it's not all here yet, and that is sometimes a pain, even when we order within the EU.)

Linus has been getting ready for Christmas for awhile. I sent this picture last week of the advent calendar Linus made for himself. He said he got the idea seeking revelation one night. He filled it in with his own scriptures to read each day and his own service goal. He has been keeping to it faithfully every day.

I'm pleased because I feel you can follow someone else's idea of a good Christmas, or you can come up with your own... and you know which one I think is better...

Linus has also been writing lists of presents he is going to give, has made his own nativity scene, worked on costumes for the nativity play for the branch Christmas party, made a giant chain to drape on our stairs, cut out lots of snowflakes, and is often singing Christmas songs with gusto. He really has the Christmas spirit!

Speaking of the branch Christmas party... instead of holding a planning meeting with leaders, President Mario started planning with the whole branch in the room, and as a result, Herbie volunteered to direct the nativity play. He is super excited and typed out a short script. It's actually a bit different than any nativity play I've ever seen or been in.

He printed it out in the church today, highlighted different parts for different people, and he's now ready to direct the other kids to amazingness!

He also bought a new surfboard with his Christmas money from Grandma and Grandpa, just in time, as his board had split 2 weeks ago (?) and the repair was not holding up. It's the only early present because Woo found him a surfboard right away, and Herbie needed it to keep up his weekly surfing with Woo.

A day or two before Grandma and Grandpa came Ruby started to feel itchy. She eventually developed a rash on her arms, hands and sores on her lips. This has happened to her once before. Once in Huntsville, after a tasting party at school, she had an allergic reaction to something she ate there. We had no idea exactly what it was nor do we know what caused it this time. She doesn't seem to have eaten anything different last week, but she is allergic to something. She has been getting better all this week.

Penelope has been acting like she's getting 2 hours of sleep every night: super argumentative, feels everyone is against her, never admits she's done anything wrong or should take a break...

She came home crying one day, saying her art teacher had said her drawing was ugly and had hit her. We talked with her, gave her hugs, and Woo sent a message to her main teacher. Her teacher spoke with the other kids in the class and the art teacher (separately), then both teachers spoke about it in a short meeting with Woo. It appears Penelope lost all sense of reason when the art teacher said Penelope could do better and Penelope didn't want to hear that. She exaggerated from there.

Anyway, it's all been worked out now and Penelope felt that her feelings and version of the story had been validated, but I'm looking forward to school being out and Penelope settling down into her regular peaceful self over Christmas break.

Linus and Herbie wear shorts all year round, and I'm fine with it. Archie would like to, but I usually make him wear pants on the coolest days, only because some of the teachers of the younger grades are really disturbed by a kid in shorts in December (even if it never gets into the 40s).

However, this year Archie has chosen to wear pants and a sweatshirt a few times himself. The first day, he yelled to one of his friends while running out to recess (but in Portuguese), "Look, I’m Portuguese now! I’m cold!"

Archie eagerly greeted me at lunch this week.
Archie: Mom, I want to tell you about my first test. 
Me: Oh? How did it go? 
Archie (smiling proudly): I won.
The details are hazy, but apparently Archie got 2 points and everyone else got 1 or 0. What the test was about is still anyone's guess. Well, Penelope knows, but her explanations don't make a lot of sense either.

Moses has been a little sick this week, not to the point of missing school or anything, but feeling kind of lethargic and not having a lot of interest in anything. Except for the Lord of the Rings. He's really enjoying that and has now told me it's his favorite book.

Also, he's excited for Christmas, nothing could ever stop that, but he's not showing it like Linus. He's wondering what he'll get, and about watching another multi-series documentary like Blue Planet II that we watched 2 years ago over Christmas break. I watched a few trailers with the kids yesterday while Woo and Herbie were out surfing and he is definitely for Planet Earth II.

4x wheelers and a rainbow--a Christmas/Sunday miracle for Woo? And I think that's it for the week. I hope yours was great!

Testimony Below:

During the youth and children face to face, President Nelson asked the youth to pray every day to know what they can do to be more like Jesus Christ.

I have been doing this and I was expecting more specific answers connected to specific actions like Linus’s to be nicer to a boy in his class or Archie’s to read his scriptures when he’s scared, but all mine have been general like “be more kind” and “be more holy” and “be more joyful” and “be more hopeful,” ... and I get a new one every day!

It is impossible for me to improve this rapidly! These things are too big!

I know that who Jesus Christ is is not a mystery, it is all laid out in the scriptures. And I also know that it is impossible to become like Jesus Christ without asking for this gift from the Father and receiving it from Him.

In the name of Jesus Christ.