Per the prophet’s request, Woo and I posted things we were grateful for to social media. Woo’s posts were all substantial and creative, but also cost him a lot of angst and time. We both had some positive experiences, but we are exhausted and very excited to be going back to spending extremely little to no time on social media. 

My prayers of gratitude were significantly more refreshing, and I was led to several changes there that I will be continuing.

Woo suggested to the kids (who don’t have social media accounts) that they raise their hands in class and express gratitude to their teachers. 

Ruby did exactly that in her Portuguese class. I’m frequently amazed at Ruby’s bravery... this is the teacher that she has a strained relationship with (long story that I’ll probably tell sometime)... I personally would’ve picked a more sympathetic teacher, so I can only assume Ruby was following the spirit.

Anyway, Ruby thanked this teacher for coming to school and teaching them everyday (as some of you know, this is not always a given in Portugal). This teacher just gaped at Ruby speechless. And then didn’t come to school the next day or since! (She’s being super, super safe about a COVID transmission—so safe that doctors told her they weren’t going to test her for the virus when she told them the circumstances—but she’s still taking her two weeks :). 

Penelope also expressed gratitude to her teacher and was rewarded with a big hug as expected. 

Moses started out the week with some beautiful thank you prayers, but we are just tired by the end of the week. This school schedule is wearing us down, by Friday we are barely holding it together.

I’m so excited that the next two weeks have public holidays that would normally mean a day off of school each, but now each have been extended to two days in an effort to “save Christmas.”

Our Christmas is already taken care of. I’m looking forward to REST. 

Herbie finished his poncho in time for surf club. He wore it on Friday and was not believed that he’d made it (until he showed them the inside stitching close up :). Then he was praised for transforming something he already had into something he needed.

This kind of thing is looked upon highly here. There are regularly contests for local artists and school assignments to create things out of trash. Both Ruby and Linus currently have assignments to make Christmas decorations out of recyclables. I do think that increased materialism is something we’ve escaped in moving here. 

To be honest, every holiday season I recognize that being in Portugal is a personal blessing to me personally. So many things that were very difficult for me around this time, simply are not possible or don’t exist here, and I feel like I’m getting a warm, personal hug from my Heavenly Parents, saying: “Remember what we’re sparing you from? We’ve done it because we understand you and we love you.”

All the kids have been making snowflakes for use around the house and on our tree, but Linus and Archie have been especially excited about it. Archie also made this snowman. 

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



I’m grateful that I felt an urgency to do the Christmas shopping and we’re 99% done! Besides the obvious stuff, I’m talking 2 cases of spiced biscuits, wrapping paper, tape, gifts for our secret 12-days of Christmas recipients... Woo even got some David Attenborough series to watch as a family over the break... everything! I definitely feel like “all is safely gathered in ere the winter storms begin.” 

I’m grateful that Woo, concerned with Archie throwing his brain out the window since school started and his decreased ability to concentrate on scriptures or the instruction of his parents, devised a chart and reward system for Archie that they sit together and go over at the end of morning scriptures and the end of the day. 

I’m grateful that Archie is really excited about it and goes to bed feeling that he’s successfully done well and wants to be good again.

I’m grateful that when Woo and I played pass with the frisbee that Archie sat between us and said things like “SUPER!” or “GOOD JOB” or “YIPPEE” or “EXCELLENT” or “MUITO BOM” or “PERFECT!”for every single pass. 

I’m grateful that I have the opportunity everyday to pray and walk to and from school four times with just Penelope. She and I don’t often have that much alone time.

Once, when she was chattering along and I realized that I hadn’t been listening, I raised her hand (which I was holding) to my mouth and kissed it.

She loved that and when she asked why I’d kissed her hand I had to tell her that I hadn’t been listening, but I wanted her to know that I loved her anyway.

She said, “Oh, I don’t care that you weren’t listening, Mommy. I’m just happy you kissed my hand!” 

I’m grateful that Ruby loooves PE this year. It’s by far her favorite class. She has a really good teacher that is really pushing her and there’s a knot of soccer playing boys for her to compete against. They run every class, increasing the run by a minute every couple weeks (?).

At six or seven minutes she started beating all the boys, but when they switched to eight minutes, one came from behind to almost beat her, so she’s keeping on her toes.

Anyway, she’s getting a really good workout a couple times a week which makes us all happy. 

I’m grateful Herbie has been organizing games and playing kindly with his younger brothers and sister while they wait for Ruby and Moses to come home. He’s consciously working on keeping contention and his voice volume down. 

I’m grateful that Herbie got revelation to make his own "Turkish poncho" for surf club out of one of the old TAP blankets we got on our flight here 3 1/3 years ago. (I’m grateful TAP let us take those blankets... we’ve used them in some form or another every day!) 

Moses as soon as we were done listening to President Nelson: I’m grateful he didn’t ask us to fast again!

Moses had to make a digital presentation for Portuguese class and I’m grateful Ruby helped him with Google slides and his Portuguese. She had the same teacher for the past three years and knew what she would want. 

I’m grateful Moses cleaned some fingerprints off the wall of his own initiative.

I’m grateful Moses says that when I play frisbee I look 22 instead of 43.

And then one of the Elders asked Woo and I if we were alive and remembered the launching of the first rocket. I’m grateful for that because it gave us a good laugh afterwards... the first rocket launch that began the space age was in 1926... 

I’m grateful Linus has added an extra “reset” scripture read in the afternoon after school so he can be happy until the end of his long day.

I’m grateful that Linus loves school and is excited that he has gotten more “excelentes” (100%) on tests and assignments than “muito boms” (A’s).

And I’m grateful that sitting on my lap is still comforting to him. It’s nice for me too to have him sometimes be tired or upset and then calm down just by sitting on my lap. He doesn’t like kisses, but I usually kiss his cheek anyway.

I’m grateful that we have a prophet to remind us of gratitude which truly is a fast-acting, long-lasting cure to pretty much any negative feeling possible.

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


The Days Are Long...

We’re tired by Friday, the week is long and Friday is a long day. It would really be the perfect day to wind down an hour or two early, but instead were all stuck waiting for Ruby and Moses to come home. 

This week Woo gathered all kids into the kitchen to make tapioca pudding. He felt we needed something that felt a little celebratory or exciting. The kids loved it. 

During a break making dinner, I saw that President Nelson was going to give a special message in a week. It was just the faint glimmer of hope we needed to make it through the evening.

Woo told Ruby and Moses at dinner about the special message. 

Moses immediately said: “We should pray to prepare.”

Then both Ruby and Moses thought of who they could share the message with.

Then someone asked if we had to wear church clothes. There were many responses at once and I could only hear Linus who was exhausted, grouchy and loud, and didn’t think it was necessary. But later I learned that Ruby, Moses and Penelope were for it. (Archie and Herbie voiced no opinion.) 

Ruby fasted today to overcome contention and rudeness and also to be prepared to hear the prophet.

Anyway, we are excited to hear from President Nelson, and while we know that he will likely say something that will seem small to the understanding of men, we want to be ready to recognize what he’s really saying to us and to do whatever he asks. 

The primary program was this week. Linus, Penelope, Archie and I were the only participants, which meant the kids had four talks each. I originally said they could read them. It seemed like a lot of talk to expect anyone to memorize, but on Friday I decided they could do it. They only needed some motivation.

I took those three to the Chinese store were they each picked out 3€ worth of prize for memorizing their talks and also the songs (we’ve been singing primary songs in English since March and they needed to be in Portuguese for the program). Linus and Archie picked action figures and Penelope picked a pretty storage bucket and a bunch of fake flowers. 

They worked on that for the rest of Friday afternoon until they got tired and on Saturday morning as soon as they were up. It was cute to hear them working together on the songs and drilling each other, and by mid-morning they had all gotten it! 

Linus, Penelope and Archie did great in the program. But we only have three kids in primary and I used the same format I have the past three years... in that way the program’s getting dull. I’m going to have to do something different next year to breathe more life into it. 

Herbie had an English project that he’s been putting off... interview someone about their job. He finally texted Grandpa Kip on Friday who answered with pictures.

Herbie had time to make a slide show before Monday and was excited to “have the best job in the class!”

That’s our week! Hope yours was great!


Spiced Biscuits!

The high school seems to have the best library in the whole town. It has the Portuguese version of lots of books we recognize and also many books in English. Ruby’s brought home big fat books titled Great American Poetry, Great American Short Stories and also Eragon (and other modern American books) in Portuguese. 

Ruby hadn’t read Eragon in a loooong time and she was enjoying it, until about three chapters in when she realized that the novel she’d been writing all summer was basically Eragon, but with girls. Whoops.

Moses never seems quite settled. Some weeks he’s unhappy with school because of the COVID measures and breaks are boring. Other weeks he looves school and hates the weekend because he can’t be at school, and then he switches back and forth again.

This week itself was volatile where he got 100% on his history test and the high score and loved school, but then he worked on his space shuttle project at home and only wanted to be home all the time to finish it. 

The stores began carrying all their Christmas treats before Halloween, which means Spiced Biscuits!

Spiced Biscuits are a cinnamon type cookie... the kind that has a windmill on it... similar to Biscoff cookies... anyway...

I bought a couple packs to eat with ice cream for dessert on Sunday and the kids were so excited. Last year, I bought them each a pack for Christmas and tasting them was bringing back all kinds of Christmas memories.

Herbie: Mmmm, this makes me think of reading Sherlock Holmes over Christmas! 

Herbie loves the spiced biscuits by far the most. He cleaned the whole kitchen for 6 of them, deep cleaned his bedroom and closet for 5 more, and did that dreaded Saturday night sink of dishes for an after dinner Spiced Biscuit snack.

But we all like the Spiced Biscuits and apparently the whole country (continent?) does too because there are large stocks of them all over the store.

Another thing that says autumn to us now are roasted chestnuts. The grocery stores always have plenty and I roast a batch in the oven every couple weeks. 

Penelope came home very excited because she’d just had math and had been learning more complicated long division. She immediately found a piece of paper and made up her own problems to solve for about an hour.

She thought it was so fun and exciting and couldn’t understand why the same problems she whipped out took other kids in her class so much longer and many of them couldn’t do them without a multiplication table in front of them.

Woo, Linus and Herbie skated past the school on their way to the park and saw Penelope out to recess all by herself. She was the only one who’d finished her division problems.

“This is boring,” she said. 

Linus and Archie have taken the time change and our new later schedule the hardest. Linus shows it by being cranky or constantly making obnoxious squeaky voices.

Archie shows it by also constantly making noise or running around like a crazy nut.

They both spend a couple hours together in the afternoon very pleasantly (often also with Penelope), playing legos or a board game or working on project, but about a half hour before dinner (when we’d normally be winding them down for bed) they are nuts.

Some nights Woo is able to take kids that are home to the park (which they love because it’s dark then now) while I make dinner and wait for Moses and Ruby to come home. 

Linus and Archie can usually keep it together through dinner and scriptures, but they’re the ones who need the most reminders and sometimes have a bad day. 

Woo and I have been fighting infections. I’ve had an eye stye (which is why I’ve been wearing glasses). Nothing seems to work except if I can get myself settled and asleep by 10pm, it’s noticeably smaller in the morning. It doesn’t hurt or anything, just feels like a lump, and it’s really close to nothing, but not quite. Hopefully next week.

Woo has had something in his ear, which has often been quite painful and has made it difficult to not be irritable. It wasn’t improving at all for about a week, but two days ago he was excited to find that it was no longer throbbing and today it is much better.

Then, of course, he got a rash from his wetsuit and hurt his neck.

He did learn a new skateboard trick, though. Right after telling Herbie he was too old to learn new tricks.

My patriarchal blessing says that my home will be an island of security amidst the chaos that will in the world during my time, and we’re definitely feeling that now.

We can tell there’s a storm out there, mostly from what we hear from many of you or even some things in conference, but it all feels very far away. I don’t think it’s so much because we’re here in Portugal (we still have an Internet connection and covid, for example), but it is a blessing for where we’ve chosen to put our time and energies, especially our discretionary time.

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



Tired of making salsa and out of tortilla chips, Woo took up mixing cocktail sauce this week. Then we went to the store for some shrimp. I convinced Woo that the kids would help and he bought two big tubs.

Then I forgot and made a big dinner. The kids hardly ate any. Woo polished them off in two days and later in the week bought another tub. 
Woo: Well, I can’t have steak, but at least I can still have shrimp! 

We fasted and prayed and we talked with the kids, and they’ve been pretty well-behaved despite the time change. I had some leftover Capri suns from eating at the pinhal with the Elders and offered one to any kid who tried their hardest to sleep in two mornings and not be contentious. (Ruby was the only one not motivated by this incentive, or any, really, but she tries to be good anyway.)

A few of the kids think it’s impossible to sleep in, so we emphasized the concept of faking it ‘til you make it, and they did it! By Friday they were waking up when they needed to. 

Still, Ruby got a stuffed, runny nose on Thursday. Not wanting to go to school and be sent to the isolation room or home, she opted to not go to school.

This backfired a bit when her teacher contacted us wanting to know where she was and strongly encouraging her to call the hotline and get tested. This appeared to be a giant headache, until Ruby explained she had no other symptoms, she got a runny nose around the time change every year, etc., etc. Luckily, her teacher was convinced, and she was able to return to school Friday fine. 

With Ruby at home, Moses was set to walk home alone in the dark. I quickly finished dinner, threw it into the oven on low to keep it warm, and ran out the door to meet him at school and accompany him home.

Halfway there I realized I’d forgotten a mask. Masks are now obligatory even outside if many people are around. Moses’s school is in the busiest area of the city and I didn’t want a fine or an encounter with the police, so I smoothed out a paper towel I had on me, tucked one end under my glasses and zipped the other up in my coat and voilá! 

I got no strange looks, Moses said he noticed nothing until he got close, and this is the second time a paper towel has saved us. 

There was still some grouchiness this week, but Ruby diffused a lot of it. She made Archie an egg for breakfast, for example. When Penelope wasn’t feeling well she helped her get water and read to her.

Archie sat by Penelope and told her stories. Penelope suffered from a similar thing as Ruby Saturday morning, but she had more tummy trouble, and she was good by noon. 

Penelope was excited to have successfully asked the girl next to her in class to stop swearing and that girl started telling others around them to stop too. The next day she told them she made her own lunch and could even make soup (from an envelope), which impressed them all so much, that Penelope had to immediately come home and put a pot on the stove to make soup, even though she usually makes a sandwich. 

Linus started his first club: table tennis. He was pretty excited and had a lot of fun. He asked Woo and I if we’d ever heard of a game called “Around the world” and was shocked when we not only had, but had played it and even won sometimes.

Linus continues to get 100% or nearly on all of his tests and was chosen from his class to be a student tutor. He thinks he’s pretty good at explaining things (and probably is), and is excited for this new opportunity too. 

Linus worked on his pumpkin long after everyone else was done, shaving out the inside perfectly and getting more and more creative. 

Moses dislikes afternoon school. He hates getting up in the morning and then having to wait hours until his day starts (in his view). Then when he comes home at night, there’s no time to decompress. It’s dinner, scriptures and bed.

He’s started to throw in a: “... and please bless that I can somehow go to school in the morning...” in his prayers.

We’d love to read scriptures at another time, but it’s the only time on a weekday that we’re all together as a family for more than 10 minutes. 

Herbie has made it a personal goal to become one with his family, and I can tell a big difference. There is a lot less bossing from him, in fact, close to none. He still needs to be reminded to talk more softly at times, but he is trying and gets it himself often. There is a lot less bickering from him. 

He tries to be immediately obedient to Woo and I. Once this week we were sitting at the table, I said: “Time to pray,” and he closed his mouth mid-sentence, bowed his head and closed his eyes. After the prayer he picked up his story exactly where he’d left off. 

Archie brought home some “pumpkin treat” from school. His class had made it together as a fall activity. Archie decided it might be jam and spread some on his bread, but after that he shared it generously because it tasted like “squash with sugar.”

That’s because it was squash with sugar. The Portuguese call both pumpkins and squash by the same word and actual pumpkins are rare. I bought all the pumpkins in the store for a further incentive for the kids this weekend, and most stores didn’t have them. 

The government announced last night that 120 counties are going back to restrictions we had in March and April (but schools still open). Our county was not included in that, nor the counties surrounding us, so we’re in the middle of a buffer zone and we’ve been spared for now.

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