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!


Trophy Week

This week I learned about the origin of the word trophy. It comes from a Greek word which means to turn. At the point in a battle when fortunes changed and the Greeks began to press forward to victory, someone would erect a small stand of stones or battle debris to mark the moment. This was called a tropaion.

And this is what happened to us this week. The direction of our battle turned. I could feel it like a wind change on about Tuesday or Wednesday. There’s still a battle, but we’re now advancing.

Many times I thought of how each of the children and also Woo and I have changed for the better in the few months we’ve been working on overcoming contention and rudeness.

There was very little contention this week, which is especially surprising when you know the kids got a new board game this week (Monopoly), that they’ve spent many hours playing as school winds down, and I only remember one short argument.

The kids had some trouble holding still in our classes, but like I told Woo, probably every school in the world has difficulty holding school in June... for any of them crazy enough to do such a thing...

The kids were definitely feeling that it was time to be done. They kept asking me when we were going to have “Surprise Day.”

Surprise Day is actually our annual awards ceremony we have at the end of school where we call a kid up in front of everyone, announce a few of their accomplishments for the year, clap, and they receive a small present (hence the name Surprise Day, I guess). School is not yet over, and we still don’t know when the packets will end. Ruby, Herbie, and Moses would’ve been out of school already, but they all got another packet on Friday.

But we decided to have Surprise Day anyway and I went shopping for gifts. The gifts are usually summer activity things to kick off the kids’ summer, but I had a difficult time finding anything and padded all their gifts with things like 2 ice cream bars and a pack of ramen each. (We never buy ramen here as it’s expensive, and probably because of this the kids have decided that they love it.)

They were all excited about these, and also very gracious about their other gifts that they all told me several times that they loved, even though they were kind of lame. Moses got the previously mentioned already-opened game of Monopoly that was hiding in Woo’s closet and never getting played. But wow, has it been a hit.

After we had our “ceremony” Moses walked around with a huge smile on his face and he’d stop to give me a hug every time he passed me. Later he told me he knew why he was feeling so good. It was because he’d given all the other members of the family a present himself, and not only that, but he’d written a little note on each one to tell them what he thought they’d done well that year.

Also he’d inspired Herbie, Linus, Penelope and Archie to give out little gifts or cards to everyone themselves.

Ruby has come a long way and she did even better this week, stripping herself of that little bit of pride that would waylay her when Herbie would get ahead of her in dictation or she was corrected.

Ruby wrote a great poem this week and also had fun singing many primary songs she’d forgotten when we received a children’s song book in English from the Elders’ apartment (which they’re closing).

Herbie has a list of things that he’s supposed to pray for every day. He got this list through personal revelation, some of his father’s blessings, and in one case, something I told him he needed to pray for. There is a HUGE difference in his behavior when he remembers to say these prayers and when he forgets.

He’s been remembering them this week, and is hopefully through with forgetting them.

I asked all the kids what their favorite class was. Most of them said Oliver Twist, but Herbie said Church History. We only do this for 1/2 an hour once week, but he wishes we did it more often.

Linus also really likes our Old Testament class (also for 1/2 an hour once a week). I’m reading straight from the Bible, but picking out more exciting stories at random. He gets out his Bible and reads along with me.

One of his most recent blessings blessed him that he would find the scriptures to be exciting and he definitely does.

This is pretty typical Penelope... While I was making dinner, Moses spilled the recycling he was supposed to be taking out all over the kitchen floor. He was getting very frustrated, so I called to Penelope to see if she could help.

She yelled, “sure!” and came running in, wiped up milk, put new bags in the garbage cans and anything else he needed.

When that was over she asked if there was anything she could do for me. All I needed was the table set, so she did that, then went upstairs where she decided to pick up Archie’s legos for him. No one else needing help, she was free to play or read a book.

I should probably also mention, that while Moses and Penelope were working in the kitchen, Linus was selflessly moving Moses’s legos from the living room to Moses’s room for dinner, and Ruby helped a bit at the end when she arrived from taking out the garbage.

Archie also loves Old Testament and he also runs to get his Bible to read along. He loved the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace... I realize it’s probably the first time he’s ever heard it.

Unbeknownst to me, at some point during the week Penelope and Archie memorized several scriptures together.

Archie (While trying to come with an idea for a talk): ... oh yeah... “Alma, arise and stand forth, for why persecutest thou the church of God?...”

He had the whole verse memorized and based his talk on it.

Woo wrote a nice page or more about memories he had growing up in the old house his parents recently sold and moved out of. Writing personal stories and daily blessings is something that Woo has been doing progressively more and more frequently over a year or more, and I think is contributing to his progressively more and more happy daily demeanor.

Woo and my sacrament meeting talks have changed. Faced with 40+ minutes of talking and keeping the kids’ attention they’ve become more personal and also follow a single topic that we have several stories about.

I last spoke about patriarchal blessings, explaining the procedure of getting one, my experience, my feelings, how my interpretations had changed over time, as well as parts of my patriarchal blessing.

Woo spoke today about his mission, from being set apart, what the MTC is like, also your first days in the field. What he was prepared for, wasn’t prepared for, what he learned, etc. It worked out well as several parts of primary had to do with missionary work and reinforced what Woo had said.

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



We’ve had a pretty quiet week. Almost too quiet. I realized that the kids had been out of school for 12 weeks, which is essentially a summer. Except we’d had no road trips and the kids never went outside without our supervision. Kind of amazing when I thought about it. I would’ve been worried, if it had been proposed to me that way when this whole thing started, but we’ve been fine.

Still, on Wednesday I prayed for something just a little bit fun to happen and on Thursday it did!

After our class, Woo announced there was a surf board he wanted to see... it was only 15€ and probably junk, but we could explore a new place and go to Burger King for lunch. It felt like ages since we’d driven anywhere besides the grocery store. (And it had been, only the one other rainy Saturday drive in 12 weeks.)

The only problem was we were expecting a package from Decathlon. I said a quick prayer that it would come either before we left or after we returned, and a couple minutes later Woo got a text saying it’d be there in five minutes.

Most the kids only got socks (and Penelope and Archie got nothing), but we were all excited. Packages are always fun, and we are a family that gets excited about new socks. The decathlon socks were tried on (and also Herbie’s new shoes) and universally highly praised, and then we were off.

We got Woo’s surfboard first, which turned out to be a pretty nice board and sleeve, but the sellers were trying to move and were having a difficult time getting rid of it in an out-of-the-way area, so Woo (and Herbie) were pleased with the purchase.

We drove to a nearby inlet with a giant sand dune and nice boardwalk. Woo and all the kids climbed to the top of the sand dune and ran down before most kids waded into the river a ways and then we all took a walk on the boardwalk around the inlet.

Before leaving, Woo, Herbie, Moses, Linus, Penelope and Archie raced to the top of the sand dune (Moses snuck up a way out of Woo’s line of vision and won) and then back down (Herbie won).

Ordering at Burger King in a face mask was awkward and strange, but whatever. I think everyone was a bit confused. Woo and I were the only ones to leave out the correct door, for example, but only because they yelled at us especially.

Woo and I ordered while the kids sat on the grass outside, and that’s also where we ate (no indoor dining allowed). All in all it felt like a much needed celebration.

I decided that my life right now requires 8 hrs of sleep a night, not my usual 7, so I’ve been going to bed an hour early.

I was happy one day when time was up for Oliver Twist and all the kids protested. They wanted to hear more. Oliver Twist is pretty grim, but it is also pretty funny and I’m happy when it’s clear the kids are getting the jokes (and also thinking more about poverty).

I am very happy with what the kids are learning with me. We *think* the packets from the teachers will end sometime soon... the older kids possibly next week... but we haven’t heard anything from anyone, so we still plug along.

Ruby has kept her room immaculate for almost two weeks now, and last week she decided to empty all the kitchen cupboards, clean them and organize them. It was wonderful! Saturday she was on her hands and knees scrubbing the grout between tiles on her bedroom floor.

Moses also got on a cleaning kick, but not for fun, for money. He mopped the kitchen, cleaned the walls, and the microwave, then cleaned our two upstairs room that were becoming overrun with Penelope and Archie’s stuff (they’re the only two who really “spread” anymore).

Ruby’s packet had a couple of questionnaires trying to help her know herself and choose a future career. She answered all the questions honestly which came out very gospel centered and she laughed a lot imagining her teachers’s reactions and surprise to her answers that would be nothing like anyone else’s.

This is the picture she sent in with that project.

She and Herbie have kept up their family history goals, doing it everyday. Whenever Herbie gives a talk or testimony, he almost always talks about family history. His talk to us a couple weeks ago was also on family history, but I thought it was the best he’d ever given. The Book of Mormon is his second favorite topic. That's what he bore his testimony about today.

One wonderful thing about Herbie is that he is completely trustworthy with a computer, only doing exactly what we’ve said he can do (and yes, I check often). Not only that, but he is content with the digital confines we’ve set for him. This is true of all the kids, really, but I believe this is one of his blessings for his family history work.

Woo occasionally has to refer to YouTube for his physical therapy needs. There are two guys with a catchy song that Woo sometimes sings. Moses too, with a slight change.

Moses (singing): Bob and Brad, the two most famous physicantologists on the Internet!

Moses and Linus: What can we build next with legos?

Me: Ummmm... a space station?

Moses and Linus: Yeah!

Woo showed the kids part of the space shuttle launch, so they built all of that including a stand with spectators. After admiring Moses and Linus’s work, Woo showed the kids a few space station tours, which the kids loved, but Woo said made him feel dizzy.

Linus also worked carefully on this drawing of his kids. Then he started on another one with Oliver Twist, Harry Potter, and a bunch of “regular guys” with umbrellas or hats or backpacks or pigtails. This is Dumbledore and Voldemort dueling.

He spent Sunday morning working on one of Jesus and Mary outside the tomb, and then a picture of a boy and a lion walking in Paradise.

Penelope and Archie did not complain at all when everyone got something from the package. In fact they were happy for everyone else. I used them as an example today when we discussed envy in Alma 5 today. Archie said he was too excited to feel anything else—the perfect example of selflessness.

We continue to learn bit by bit how to overcome contention and rudeness. Unfortunately, envy over little things contributes to almost all our contention. We’re talking about it and praying for help with that now.

Penelope continues to read every book in the house, run to help whenever she sees a need, put her hair in crazy ponytail arrangements, and be Archie’s best friend.

Penelope taught Archie how to do what she does on FamilySearch and even lets him reserve a few of the names I’ve sent her. He is very excited to turn 8 and have a membership number and account of his own (not to mention be baptized and receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost).

I hope your week was great!