Three Years

This week we copied Karen’s revelation of last week to draw secret siblings (I remember doing this a couple times growing up also).

I changed it a bit to draw a new person everyday to keep it fresh and prevent anyone from getting discouraged... every morning was a new start.

The ground rules were that a minimum of three nice things had to be done, none of them could be notes, and if anyone tried to guess who you had, you just smiled and said: “maybe.”

I also managed to plant in the kids’ minds that they could do nice things for the people they hadn’t drawn to throw others off their trail, and all of them did do that.

I knew the kids would be excited, but they loved it even more than I was expecting.

The first day was a trial run. There were new topics for argument, but they all had fun and were anxious to start the next day. Everyone had ideas of what to do better the next day, and the next day was better.

Also, Woo and I put our names in the draw the second day. The kids were completely shocked at the end of the day when Woo confessed that he’d made Moses’s bed. They thought he was so sneaky!

Woo and I had only half of our bed made at different times by different secretive people.

Penelope was absolutely sure that we’d conquer contention and rudeness on Tuesday and I have to admit it was pretty close. In part because Herbie drew me and he worked extra hard to not be contentious as one of his nice things to me. It has been his best week.

Wednesday the squabbles returned, but they were pretty mild until Saturday.

Some things given as service were not recognized as service. Like when Archie kept trying to wrestle with Ruby after breakfast. But Ruby, trying to give service herself, was very kind in escaping, and never guessed that he’d drawn her name until the end of the day when he’d told her the “nice” things he’d done for her.

By Wednesday the kids were super good at fooling us all. Penelope and Archie each chose a pretend secret friend that they did very visible things for. They both completely fooled me. I was convinced Penelope had Woo as she helped me do some things I always do for him, and constantly walked in the room to brightly say hi to him and give him a hug. She had me.

I thought for sure Archie had me. He straightened a blanket over my legs very gently and gave me lots of smiles. When Ruby tickle tortured him he shrieked, “I have Mom! Don’t tell her! I have Mom!”

He had Penelope. I was his “pretend” secret friend.

Linus had Woo and no one knew because he did only one direct thing with Woo (a hug), but as he went about his day he did the things that his dad had asked him to do in the past, but he usually didn’t do, like picking up his scriptures off the stairs and not hanging on the faucet when he got a drink. None of us guessed.

Ruby enlisted Moses as an accomplice and he delivered all her services to her person.

Woo and I were starting get tired of it by Thursday or Friday (in part because I drew myself one day and instead of having everyone redraw, decided to do everyone myself. Trying to be sneaky, keep track of what I did for who and also do things besides what I normally do was a bit taxing). But the kids are still going strong and remind me to draw names every morning.

Our neighbors replaced their roof. It was hours of entertainment for our boys. Herbie is not too old to love watching this kind of stuff. It was only mildly interesting for Ruby and Penelope.

Saturday marked the Fourth of July and also three years in Portugal. We’ve been in Spain the last two Fourth of Julys/anniversaries, but had no real ideas for anything special this time, and almost didn't do anything.

But in the morning we enjoyed a parade (I think Herbie was the one with the original idea) with a military battalion, stunt vehicles, floats and an appreciative crowd.

After a couple of setbacks we went on a hike. Google maps showed us driving up a narrow dirt road to the trail head. It was flanked on one side by a deep canal and a stone wall on the other. Woo took it quite slowly, but after easing the van around the corner of a house built right on the road and seeing the road narrow even more into a climb, he decided this wasn't for us.

Unfortunately, we had to get out. There was zero space to maneuver anywhere, but backwards, around blind corners and the constant, unforgiving threat of the canal drop off. I said a lot of prayers and tried to encourage the kids to do the same. However, a couple of them looked out windows straight down into the canal and declared we were going to die, or asked if they could get out of the van.

Woo did a wonderful job, as always. He did tear off the right corner of the front fender on a stone plinth that was impossible to see. A small price to pay, in my opinion, for getting us out of the scrape we were in.

The kids loved the hike and were generous in their praise. About halfway through Moses learned that trees have spirits. He kept saying, "You mean they're alive?!"

And then he spent the rest of the hike praising the trees and plants for their appearance and smell; he thanked them for everything they did and told them he loved them. He apologized if he had to step on one.

He topped it off today by bearing his testimony about God's creations and knew we should treat them like people. This from the kid who's first reaction to a butterfly had always been to stomp and who's first reaction to a plant had always been to rip off a few branches for wands or swords or mustaches.

We had a picnic for dinner and each had a chance to say what we thought had been the best and the worst thing about living in Portugal. The most popular best thing had been working at the temple open house and the dedication. The worst things were all pretty varied.

And I think that's our week. I hope yours was great!



Yay!!! We're finally all out of school! In theory, the packets weren't a big deal, but I was more than happy to be done, especially with the younger kids. They definitely were too.

Archie had a zoom party with his class to say goodbye. He only made it because Woo got him there.

Penelope and Linus also had zoom goodbye parties, but we'd already been excused from all their other zoom meetings and I didn't give it a second thought. Linus didn't care, but Penelope was a little sad.

We started our summer schedule. Our 15 weeks of home school have taught us a lot. It's much more simplified than last year. On Thursday, I was worried it was a little too simplified, because everyone but Linus was weird and seemed to need something to do. (Linus was diligently working on his last assignments.)

But I think it was something else. I did make a tiny adjustment, though, and I think we'll all be fine next week.

Ruby has been writing poems lately. I think they're great, especially for a collection of first poems. They're certainly better than any poem I've ever written.

The first book of the summer she wanted to read was Great Expectations. She's read a simplified version, but wanted to read the original. She's laughed out loud several times.

Moses got a very nice email from his Portuguese teacher telling him that he would be getting a 5 in the class (an A). Moses was thrilled as that was the 5 that had always eluded him, and he'd been working extra hard for it.

Moses has become a reader, very much enjoying Holes and even reading some of Ruby's books.

Herbie has been reading her books too. Seeing him read Beauty I asked him if Jane Austen was next.
Herbie: No! 
Me: There's a reason they're classics... 
Herbie: Never!

Penelope and Archie have been discovering the joys of the Boxcar Children. Archie reads his in a whisper with occasional exclamations. I'm surprised, but also impressed that the author has managed to make finding bread and milk or chipped dishes such an exciting event. Even for little boys.

Woo bought some cookies that reminded him of a graham cracker crust, which reminded him of a key lime pie, which was hard to forget.

One morning he disappeared to the store and returned with some limes, cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk... He called all the kids into the kitchen, who were jumping all over themselves to juice limes and mix cream cheese at his orders.

When I arrived in the dining room everyone had a cookie, coated with pie filling and garnished with a thinly sliced lime. It was pretty delicious, but hard to keep the filling on the cookie. We transitioned to spooning filling into a bowl and dipping our cookies into that.

In preparation to start church meetings again in two weeks, Woo went to help Mario clean the church. We're pretty sure there is no virus hiding out in the empty building, but Woo did what he could and did a lot of dejunking. He found these canned vegetables in the relief society closet, for example.

While he was gone I took the kids to the park. By Saturday they had decided the park was boring, and I had to lure them there with a bag of roasted peanuts. After shelling and eating a few dozen peanuts each, they decided to play freeze tag.

I always enjoy watching the kids start a game. They use the Portuguese ways of picking sides and choosing who's it, always accompanied by a little Portuguese song.

And then they were off. They were all playing so well together. Archie and Penelope were running so fast; they're weren't as far behind the others as they usually are; they were actual threats, and everyone was clearly having so much fun... we stayed much longer than we normally would so they could play and I could watch them, remembering how fun a game of tag is when you can run and run and run.

And that's a small part of our week. Hope yours was great!


Sunburnt Rice

We could see people playing on the soccer court behind our building again. Also, we saw kids playing on the playground. We avoided that, but I took the kids to the soccer court a time or two to check it out, and everything looking fine, I started sending them on their own. It was liberating for all of us, but the fourth time the kids went they came back saying that the court was locked up and closed again.

Police tape was wound around the playground and exercise stations at the park. Woo laughed a bit over a local news report blaming "vandals" for tearing down the previous police tape.
Woo: Vandals??... or the wind!

So we're back to kids going outside only with supervision, but we parked ourselves on a new patch of grass and the kids started a new trend of playing 500 (or 5,000 as they learned in school in the US).

Woo and I played "5,000" with them once each. The rules are everyone starts with 100, and then it's complicated by things like chainsaws, weed whackers, mystery boxes, spokesmen, and you still only had to get to 500, despite the trumped up name of 5,000.

It made no sense to old fogies like us, and we kind of refused to play it, sticking to traditional 500 rules. The kids themselves began to tire of 5,000 and gravitated towards a simple flies up.

Woo wore his spring wetsuit once this week (it has short legs and arms), and then he went and floated on his belly on a surfboard in the ocean. When he came home he was dismayed to find that the backs of his legs and knees were very, very sunburnt. He was in a lot of pain that first night.

The crazy thing is, we don't get sunburned here. I mean rarely, we'll be pink. Woo's nose can get burnt after a long surf with the sun reflecting off the water into his face, but he usually wears sunblock on his nose.

Then I got sunburnt yesterday. It wasn't painful except when Woo put his ice-cold-straight-from-the-ocean-hand around my red arm. I actually said, "Ouch!"

Herbie didn't play a lot of flies up. He preferred to work on his trials tricks on his bike. He did a lot of wheelies and can ride his bike backwards, and some other trick I don't know the name of... he told me it was his favorite thing he did this week.

Herbie is getting taller. He is about the same height as Ruby for the first time in their lives.

I made a tomato, basil, rice dish a couple weeks ago that we all liked. We put cheese and spices on the top, and it was kind of like spaghetti, or a good tomato basil pasta dish. I tried it again this week, but used a different basil. It didn't go well. We had to eat it in two meals, and didn't even finish it then. I threw the rest away.

Archie, who had barely eaten any, and wouldn't eat any more for even an apricot or a peach, and kept asking for any other food, cried when he saw the leftovers in the garbage.

He was very tired that night. He never comes downstairs, but he'd come down the night before almost 2 hrs after he should've been asleep because he was scared because he'd seen a spider (aka not going to sleep when he should've been).

So that next day he was in a daze from about 4 PM on. When he finally got into bed, and I tucked him in and asked him the worst thing from his day or week, he said, "You threw away the rice!"

(The same rice we couldn't get him to eat any more of.)

"And I was going to eat it for breakfast!!"

And he said that last word with such emphasis and broke into such a genuine burst of tears that it really was as if I'd robbed him of some special treat he'd really been looking forward to.

Moses recommitted himself to being one this week, stretching himself beyond what I've ever seen him do. Yesterday Penelope cried a few times, and every time she did, he ran towards her to comfort her and make her happy again. One of those times I saw him start by asking if she needed a hug, which she accepted, and they ended by scampering out of the room together as a unicorn and a dragon.

Ruby told me several times this week how much better she feels now that she's drinking more water. Apparently, since we moved here, she had been hardly drinking at all. But she got her own water bottle recently and she's been making an effort to drink more (I believe it was one of her revelations). This week she really felt a difference. She keeps telling me how much better she feels and how it seems to be improving every aspect of her life.

Linus can't get over how young he was when we moved here (seven). He laughs about how young he was and how little he knew, even though he thought he was quite old and knew a lot. He (like all the kids) is patient with our situation here (because of the virus), but he is really ready to be done with the packets. He and Penelope and Archie have at least another week left.

Penelope is very excited for her birthday and has been counting down the days for awhile now. Because she and Woo share a birthday, she always announces this to Woo in a very excited way, and Woo tries to respond enthusiastically too, even though he's significantly less excited for his birthday.

The pictures in the trees are from our conference talk discussion last Sunday, and that's our week. Hope yours was great!