Back to School!

School started this week. It’s been a weird time because no one has been excited without reservation like past years (except maybe Linus). Ruby, Archie and I were dragging our feet. 

Every assignment I got from the school was like a physical “ugh” and a mind block where I would consider it nearly impossible. Then after a day or two, I’d slowly be able to come up with something that while not the full assignment would be enough to slide us by... for now. 

We managed to get all the school meetings done. Woo went to half and I went to half. In the past, I’ve gone to all of them, but after attending Archie’s and not understanding more than a couple sentences, Woo had to attend the ones we decided were the most important to actually know what was going on.

In looking back, Archie’s class meeting was easily the worst one. His teacher did not hand out any flyers, nor use any slides (so nothing for me to read simultaneously). She spoke very fast, did not give the usual back-to-school spiel, and I was sitting near the back, so couldn’t hear as well. 

Buying supplies from everyone’s supply list seemed like an unconquerable burden, so I just bought a bunch of likely things when we went grocery shopping and luckily, it appears to have been enough to get everyone started. 

Ruby had her back-to-school meeting alone. (Parents were invited to a separate meeting to keep numbers low, that Woo attended later that evening.) She was not very excited, but she walked bravely off to the high school, which was a mystery to all of us, to figure out what she was supposed to do.

She came home feeling better. Her main teacher appears to be a pleasant person, her class was almost entirely new people, and the new school building is intriguing.

And then everyone was off to school!

Penelope and Archie do not need to wear masks, but they do have a staggered entrance and release time, which is irritating when dropping off or picking up more than one kid, because they are 20 minutes apart. 

Archie was very hesitant to go into the school alone. I walked him through the gate to the door, without a mask (which I now know is against the rules), but he shuffled in from there. I watched him turn the wrong direction to his classroom and it wasn’t until later that I realized he hadn’t been allowed to the start-of-school meeting I went to and he had no idea where his new classroom was. Of course, the 1st grade teacher helped him figure it out. 

The country has a shortage of school books, because at the end of last year they told everyone to keep the books. Normally, they collect books at the end of the year and reissue a lot of them. The publishers did not foresee having to supply every student with new books this year, and they’re on back order. Our kids do not yet have their books, along with about a third of the kids in each of their classes. So far it has not been a problem because everyone seems to have agreed to start teaching from last year’s books (that everyone kept, from the grade before.) 

Ruby, Herbie, Moses and Linus were issued a package of 3 school-approved face masks, and they are not allowed through the school gate without a mask.

Herbie, Moses and Linus also must each use a separate entrance into the school. Their classrooms have plastic dividers between the desks and the desks are also turned at angles to one another so no one is breathing directly in the direction of another. They say that it is difficult to see through the dividers and Linus, who sits on the far end of the room with the board at his right shoulder, has already been told he needs glasses (which to be honest, he might).

These three also tell us they need brand new athletic shoes to be worn in gym and only in gym to prevent the spread of spit and sweat from someone else on the gym floor spreading to their shoes that they wear everywhere else. 

Ruby’s back-to-school blessing said that she would thrive in a difficult environment, and we saw that by Friday already. Her philosophy teacher is also the theater teacher. Ruby came home with a poor impression of the teacher who was very dramatic, inappropriate and disrespectful.

Then Ruby said they were each asked to share something important to them. Ruby was near the end and considered a few things to say before settling on chastity. Which she said, I’m sure, with no nervousness or embarrassment at all. Can you imagine how courageous that must have been?

It was completely silent after she said that, and it turned out that many kids in her class had no idea what chastity was. The teacher explained and said she would respect Ruby and encouraged the class to also even though she was different, and afterwards the teacher’s manner was more respectful. 

Friday I went to pick up Penelope and Archie from school and found myself fighting against the strongest wind I’ve ever felt in my life. I even said a prayer to make it. I arrived to find one of the employees leading a child out of the school door, where both of them were immediately struck with such a terrific wind that they were both dragged to the east. The employee managed to grab hold of a window sill, hug the boy and inch them both back into the safety of the school.

Archie was just inside of the door, waving at me. I knew the employee couldn’t manage it, so I went inside the gate to get him myself where I was almost blown off my feet and had to hold onto the doorway of the school. I wasn’t leaving with only Archie. I asked for Penelope, but her teacher wouldn’t release her with some of Archie’s class waiting at the door.

I got in trouble and was sent back out to the gate, when the wind immediately lost it’s ferocity. Both Penelope and Archie were released to me, where immediately Penelope was upset because I was 20 minutes late for her (the first I’d heard of it; I was right on time for Archie). 
(Penelope made the Friend!--lower left)

This getting the stagger time right is clearly very important to Penelope. She’s mentioned it to me several times since then; I overhear her talking to the other kids about it; and she’s offered me a couple of plausible solutions I might consider. I guess I have to make a greater effort next week. *sigh* 

Moses decided he was really excited the night before school started and did not sleep well. He was a complete mess that first day and Woo warned him many times to pay attention so to not hurt himself.

Adding to Moses’s anticipation stress was that he had to wait to leave a couple of hours after Linus and Herbie has already gone. The middle school is staggered even more with Moses starting school in the afternoon some days. He gets out of school later than we normally eat dinner almost every day, which I was worried about until we saw that Ruby (who is also on a staggered late schedule) gets out at almost the same time. Her school is only about a quarter mile away, and they’re able to meet up for the walk home.

But until afternoon is a long time for Moses to wait, although he enjoyed his bike ride he got to take with Woo and I, even when it rained.

After the bad wind experience picking up Archie and Penelope I also struck out to meet Ruby and Moses coming out of school. The wind had died down quite a bit, but I still wanted to be sure. They were happy to see me and walking home with them and hearing about their day was the highlight of my rough day.

Herbie has put a lot of effort into organizing everything just right. It is important to him to get 30 minutes of family history in every morning before school. He and I worked together to get that figured out. He’s labeled all his notebooks, carefully placed dividers, post-it notes..., organized it all according to school day, cleaned his gym shoes, etc. etc. 

He and Woo apparently had a very fun surf playing around on a board Herbie busted.

Woo bought a new board from Decathlon. It came a day or two later and Herbie successfully encouraged Woo to toss his broken boards and take a few pictures. 

Herbie and Linus are school buddies, having the same start and return times every day of the week, except one morning. 

Linus has been anxious for a sewing kit to repair a few of his favorite things and we finally got one this week. Saturday he carefully sewed the button back on his suit coat, then made several attempts at fixing his swimsuit, but it was beyond his ability and he ended up very frustrated. I did it for him. He’d clearly done his best, so it was time for me to step in. 

He ended the day on a high note with this collage for his HGP (History and Geography of Portugal) class. 

Our branch joined a new stake a few weeks ago. The stake president, a councilor and a high councilman visited today. They were all three very impressive.

And that’s our week! Hope yours was great!


Russians, Italians, Portuguese

I decided to put some of my goals up along with the kids’ when we put the Children and Youth stuff up on the window. I wanted the kids to see I’m doing stuff too. 

Possibly the biggest benefit to me is to realize that I do make goals. I’ve always hated talks/lessons, whatever, about goals because they’ve never made any sense to me. I hate the thought of making a 5 year, 10 year, 20 year plan, etc.

But the truth is I do make goals, almost constantly, but I never write them down as goals. Sometimes I write them down as revelation, but mostly I don’t think about them much. I just do them when I get the prompting for as long as the Spirit tells me. 

I knew that the kids were also working under the same “goal” plan as I was (probably because it’s what I’ve taught them), and I’ve always kind of disliked these external goal programs that are well, external.

BUT, I’m trying to be obedient and follow the prophet closely (big goal), so I had a prompting (little goal) that this would be something worth trying, so we posted our stuff on the window, according to the Children and Youth outline. 
And it has helped. Like I said, the kids and I are realizing that the things we are already doing are goals. Almost all the kids are remembering their small, daily goals better. Ruby was already pretty well self-sufficient. Herbie and Linus do many things on their own, but sometimes need a little extra boost to remember a new goal. Moses sometimes needs a little extra boost to continue a goal and see it through, and Penelope and Archie are still working on both those.

Also, it helped me too. In putting up my post-it notes, I realized I’ve been eating 1 piece of fruit so successfully for so long (over 2 years!), that it was time to up my game to 2 pieces of fruit a day. To no one’s surprise, in the past two weeks, I’ve found I have more energy. I notice it especially when I’m running intervals. 

Woo got a haircut this week. He probably would like everyone to know that he thinks it looks stupid, he looks older, more bald, personality-less, etc. It wasn’t his idea, and if it were up to him he’d still have several months of hair-growing to go. The only reason he did it was for me.

I am grateful that he did what he didn’t want to do only because I asked.

Herbie and Penelope keep telling him he looks younger and handsome, but he doesn’t believe them. (And he’s not going to believe you either, so best not to mention it.) 

A couple from our branch (he’s Portuguese, she’s Italian) bought a new house a couple months ago and invited us to dinner. One of their sons and his family (from Italy) were also there.

It has been probably a year (since we were in Utah) since we’ve been to someone’s house for dinner and the kids stayed up late playing with their kids. It doesn’t quite seem like summer without a few of these.

They had a pool and basketball hoop and swings and a looong strip of land (like down one valley and up the next rise), four orchard trees wide, from which they sent us home with a bunch of apples and pears. We all loved it. 

Every member here seems to have an amazing story of finding the gospel (against all odds) and then living it successfully for so many years (against all odds). I love everyone of them for it.

For this couple, he was one of the first baptisms in Portugal in the 70s, and almost immediately went on a mission (without ever having been to the temple). She also was a missionary in southern Italy... they met after their missions in the Bern Switzerland temple and the Spirit immediately told them that they were to marry.

It’s been a lifetime of living and working in small branches, long trips to the temple, raising kids in an hostile environment, not having the support of even their immediate family, etc.

Their son had gone on a mission and when he returned home, there’d been a new baptism in his home branch(?)... his wife. 

We had a senior couple visit our branch from Brazil that I was also so happy with. They had been baptized 20 years ago in Brazil (the same time Woo and I were on missions). And here they were, a senior missionary couple in Portugal. Probably no where near where they ever thought they would be 25 years ago. And here they were! Being awesome :).

We had a short period of a handful of missionaries condemning the members for lack faith (because of the lack of baptisms). Unfortunately, it really made me mad when I thought about it. If those missionaries had any understanding of what faith really is... they would have been honoring and learning all they could from these amazing members.

Anyway, back to the Italians... their two little girls only spoke Italian. Our kids could mostly understand them, but were powerless to answer them (and the Italian girls were too young to get the jist of Portuguese?).

The oldest little girl developed the impression that Ruby was really shy and didn’t like to talk, and we laughed to think that no one has ever thought that of Ruby ever. 

Someone told Herbie that Woo was the best surfer he had ever seen on a foam board. Mostly this was fun for Woo to hear, but also a frustration because Woo has broken all his foam boards and only has a fiberglass board that he was talked into getting almost 2 years ago as the next progression, but it hurts his feet a lot and is not as fun. He’d rather have fun on a beginner board and be in less pain.

In other events, Woo fasted for a personal concern last week, and as so often happens when God is blessing you, a bunch of humbling and trying things happened. I won’t mention any specifics here because they’re, well, humbling and trying.

Herbie chipped a tooth while surfing somehow. I’m not sure we have a kid that doesn’t have a chipped tooth now. 

Moses came to say good night with a giant smile on his face. He’d just gotten the revelation to write a book. Then he said he was going to dream about it that night and get his story, and he ran off to bed eagerly.

When I checked on him before going to bed myself, I saw that he’d already written a flowchart with a title—Dragon Fight, and some character names (Incendoroar, Salascorch) with some arrows and rough drawings.

He’s spent a lot of time on it this week, and also illustrations. He didn’t want to share it with his siblings (I think partly for fear they wouldn’t like it), but I encouraged him to read it out loud to all of them and they were all so admiring (especially his younger siblings), that I’m sure it boosted his confidence. 

Linus built a dragon out of legos for Ruby and those two spent a lot of their free time together playing legos. This isn’t normal for Ruby. Possibly because she doesn’t have her own legos, but Linus was eager to share.

We’d heard from the teachers of all the kids, but Ruby. There was also nothing on the school’s website, so Ruby called. She spoke with someone who was very annoyed (too many calls with the same questions?) who told her to come into the school or check the website.

We checked the website again, and yep. There it was. 

One of Linus’s new goals is to give 5 compliments a day. One thing he is already good at is immediately after evening scriptures, going upstairs to pray, review his day and repent. This means that sometimes he comes back down in a rush, trying to get his 5 compliments out before going to bed. 

Penelope’s birthday blessing mentioned that she would help prepare Archie for baptism and she has taken that admonition very seriously. I overhear her talking to him about it sometimes.

I finally gave up on trying to get to a printer and hand wrote all the kids’ blessings I have for them in the last 6 or 7 months. It took me two evenings. Penelope read one from April (not her birthday) that I wrote out for her the first evening and she said, “Didn’t you forget something in my blessing, Mom? The part where I’m supposed to prepare Archie for baptism?” 

We have some very friendly Russian downstairs neighbors. They were closing an apartment (an Airbnb?), had a bunch of stuff, and gave us a few puzzles and games. 

Archie is old enough to no longer be a terror to any puzzle set up... I mean, people can actually do a puzzle in his presence. But, he also isn't helpful on anything over 200 pieces. He was in the way when he tried. Luckily, our neighbors also gave us a couple of board games. They are complete jibberish to us. So much so that we can't even google if the game exists in English, but Archie has had plenty of fun making up his own games with the pieces.

Ruby’s English writing and typing skills really improved with seminary last year. Now she’s writing entire discourses, quoting conference talks, scriptures, etc in her discussion questions. 

Herbie’s still excited about seminary and wants it quiet while he sings his hymn and says his prayer before every class. This makes me smile as I’m surprised he’s so dedicated to singing that hymn all alone in front of the computer.

That's our week. Hope yours was great!


Another Week

We had a really great week contention-wise last week, but this week was not good. Almost all of us had a bad week. I don’t know what our deal was, but here’s our week anyway. 

Ruby and Herbie start seminary tomorrow. Herbie, as a first year student, had a few lessons this week that he was so excited about and enthusiastically started. (I suspect this is partly because seminary is a well-organized online class, and partly because it means in his eyes he’s growing up.)

On the second day, he was a bit confused, but started a strange lesson that required a lot of work from him (including writing and posting an entire talk). He had messaged his teacher and after struggling with that for 45 minutes, she answered that she hadn’t unlocked his actual lesson, which ended up taking 15 minutes.

On the bright side, we’ve figured out how school is supposed to work here normally. The kids and I went to the school when it was open (after September 1st), successfully went in and got our book vouchers without any confusion, the kids saw their classes posted, and I got all the books ordered without a problem! No lines! No multiple failed trips to the school! No Portuguese language fiascos!

Stopping by the high school for Ruby was not as intimidating as I’d imagined and Ruby was happy to see that she only knows 4-5 kids in her class, and one is her best friend.

Ruby’s on a science track, which I’m sure separated her from a bunch of kids, but also this high school merges kids from a lot of different middle schools. It will be a new start for her in several ways (assuming she’s actually going to school... ).

I finished memorizing the Restoration Proclamation. The kids and I have been repeating a paragraph together every weekday morning, switching paragraphs every few weeks. We’re on the last paragraph, so I figured it was time and took about 20 minutes of work alone to tie everything together.

When I announced I was done, Woo gave me a big smile and a “Good job, Chelsey!” every few minutes.

Woo broke another board this week. If you’re wondering how he has had so many boards to break... at least one of them was from a haul of tossed boards from a surf school Woo and the kids found when we first moved here. The boards appeared to be fine other than missing fins. Woo had put his own fins on.

Woo and Herbie had another short surf when Herbie stepped on a spider fish. Luckily they were only across the street and Woo had already been stung by one a couple years ago when a lifeguard was nearby to tell him what to do (soak in very hot tap water). The sting isn’t dangerous, only painful.

Woo was pleased to catch the end of his first barrel yesterday, and called us all into his room separately to watch it (he’s tiny in the shot).

And he’s been putting extra time in on his own programming project the last couple weeks. He’s kind of excited about it. At least he’s enjoying it.

After Linus cut my hair, I realized there was no reason why I should be cutting everyone’s hair. It’s not like using a buzzer is hard. Also, it’s super exciting for kids. Moses and Herbie cut each other’s hair with a little supervision and instruction from me.

I’ll still do Archie’s for awhile because he’s very wiggly while getting his hair cut, which is probably beyond the patience of most of the kids.

Moses shared his secret ambition with me: attend every temple in the US.

Archie has started reading a chapter in the Bible when he first wakes up. He’s done it every day this week. I was pretty sure he was encouraged in this by Penelope, but Archie says no one helps him remember, and Linus says he reminds both Archie and Penelope.

We finally got a Portuguese chapter book from the library that Archie was excited to read—Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Archie says he is not excited to go back to school. He is sad to split up with his brothers and sisters.

Penelope is excited to see her teacher again (they have the same teacher throughout all of elementary school), but not her class. She says they’re crazy.

Linus is excited to go to a new school with Herbie and Moses.

Moses is kind of excited to go back to school. He looks forward to doing something different.

Herbie and Ruby are mostly meh about going back to school. They think the masks and other restrictions (whatever they may be) will not be fun.

But they are all excited for our pre-school Decathlon shopping trip! This is something for us all to look forward to next week.

Penelope had a good evening Saturday night. She washed the dishes, tidied up the kitchen and started a fast.

And I think that’s it. Hope you all had a great week :)



We've still been doing class together for 1 1/2hrs MWF all summer. The kids resented it the first couple weeks they were out of school, but I knew we had to keep something up to keep us all sane. They've settled down now and it's pleasant. 

The kids are appreciating it and retaining things from our classes (poetry, history, Shakespeare, geography, Old Testament, literature, church history and temples). It's a little bit strange to have Archie ask me random things about say Martin Harris or the Rosetta Stone during the week when he's been thinking about them, but I think it's probably a good thing.

We're coming to the end of Oliver Twist (reading for 30 minutes twice a week). At the Back of the North Wind is our next read for literature and I'm excited, partially because I've never read it before. As a general rule reading to the kids=good, reading for my own personal entertainment=bad.

For example, I had started to read Bleak House a couple of weeks ago. The book was interesting enough, but it was bad for me. Apparently, I don't wind down well by being a consumer (I was getting depressed--not to mention staring at the words Bleak House every time I opened the book). I have to be a producer. Even when it seems like vegging out is exactly what I need, creating something myself is in reality what I need. It takes some mental work that I balk at, especially those first few minutes, but maybe that is exactly the point. After I'm done I feel refreshed and something else that is good. Maybe enriched is the word?

Anyway, our Tuesdays and Thursdays are pretty free, and this Tuesday we went to Aveiro and Águeda! Aveiro is like the Venice of Portugal, lots of boats in a series of canals. The kids really wanted to ride one, but we stalled them by getting pizza at the Telepizza, and then the kids got to ride in a train! (I think it's an equivalent excitement level in most of their eyes.)

We started out sitting quietly, but we were practically alone and it was hot under those face masks. The kids ended up putting their faces right up to the windows and thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

We rode to Águeda, which was one of Woo's areas on his mission. He remembered quite a bit more than our visit to Guarda. He found a building he did doors in.

His old apartment.

And the house of a member.

Águeda is apparently home to a few bicycle and umbrella factories? Several of their street lights were oddly hung with tarps like folded up umbrellas.

Herbie worked a lot on his house plans he's drawing up for his future house at the end of the week. He asked me a lot of questions because he wanted to get them just right.

Moses also often works on house plans. He is less concerned with exactness, and sometimes finds tiny toy figures and has them play on the paper in his house plan.

We put our Children and Youth goals up on the window. I was hoping it would help us to be seeing them more frequently, and also to see accomplishment by pulling a finished goal down and saving it for a future awards ceremony. (I mostly was inspired by a family in the Church News.) 

I did tell the kids they could keep private ones private by only writing a code word for them to remember what it was personally. No one took me up on that except Penelope, who's code words pretty much told all. I will have to coach her on that a bit better.

Ruby and Herbie have been fulfilling assignments for their youth thing and sending in clips. Ruby's push ups were apparently so impressive (along with Linus's filming where he insisted that he show her whole body so no one would think she was cheating), that there were comments about why Americans always won all the olympic medals and so forth. (FYI the athletic bar here for anything outside of soccer is pretty low.)

We all went to help Woo's friend flip his sailboat for smearing fiberglass on the bottom.

Archie got jumping jacks!

And argued with Moses over an article titled "Love in our Family."

And I think that's our week!