1.31.2021

Love in the Time of Quarantine


Overall this was a relaxing week. I do love when the kids are home. 

Woo and Herbie have surfed everyday, which is mostly fun for them, but they complain that it’s too crowded. Much too crowded for January, and it’s been crowded all year. Woo blames covid and people either out of work or working “from home” (out of their vans?). Woo fears the school shut down will only increase the amount of people in the ocean. (We did hear this week that in person class is down for the foreseeable future.)
 


On the upside, they some times get photographed.

(Woo says the photographer took plenty of photos of him like Herbie’s, but chose this one to hide that Woo’s on a giant foam board :).
 

At other times it feels like the pandemic was heaven sent just for us. Remember all our struggles with SEF and getting visas? Woo renewed his with three clicks of the mouse this week, and it’s good for 3 years too.

I received a lot of revelation this week and one of them was to “command your children to repent.” Apparently the nightly reminder was not enough. It’s more work for us in the beginning (like everything), but already has yielded some nice results.

Herbie discovered (in a complete surprise to me) that he needed to stop complaining about his cut hands.

He has two slices on his index fingers from the fins on his surf board. These cuts make things like washing dishes and peeling oranges difficult, but he needs to stop complaining about them anyway :).
 

A true repentance session makes everyone feel better, and Moses felt fantastic one morning, spending a lot of time creating a treasure hunt for his little brothers and sister. (Archie won; he would like everyone to know.) Moses also organized a costumed forest warrior game and a hide and seek in the dark. (We have fantastic blinds here that shut out all light and can make the apartment completely dark even in the middle of the day.)

Moses had his temple recommend interview by zoom and Mario delivered the recommend by mask, outside the building, to Woo a few days later.

We never heard from “the authorities” about the positive in Ruby’s class, so we assumed along with Ruby’s teacher that we were “in the clear.”

Another girl in her class tested positive, but no one’s been in school since the 21st.
 

Ruby has been happy at home, reading, working on her little projects, doing family history, seminary, and running to help everyone and anyone who is upset or hurt.

On Monday I woke up with the revelation to write out a daily schedule for myself so I could get more done than I thought with the kids home. It was great and I was able to return to some things I’d given up for many months.

I felt so good doing them again that I didn’t even mind that we were living in a cloud this week with condensation mold sprouting on every wall and ceiling before our eyes. I also had time to start cleaning ceilings and it was not as exhausting or painful as I remember. (Woo did clean two rooms at the end of the December, but it was too early in the winter to avoid doing again... It seems February is the end.)
 

Of course later in the week, I realized that the kids needed to make their own schedules themselves. Linus and Penelope gave this their best effort, and on their own, blocked out time for prayer, reading the doctrine and covenants, their fathers blessings (which they’ve already been doing), exercise, cooking, writing poetry, crocheting, looking over their goals, etc. There’s still plenty of time for fun reading, playing... everything kids like to do anyway.
 

Archie is loving his time with his brothers and sisters, of course. He’s read stories with Ruby, played maze ball and legos with Herbie, played forest warriors and legos with Moses, Linus and Penelope... he and Nellpea also worked on their book: Adventures in Meligamar.

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

1.24.2021

Ferias de Emergencia


And... school is out. 

I thought they’d wait until after national elections (today) and close school next week, maybe even make it through the entire week, but in one day (Thursday) rumors began and yes, by the afternoon there was an announcement that school would be closed for everyone in the nation for 15 days. 

Also, complete lockdown again. 
 

Thankfully, they’re taking the school days out of Carnival, a couple other holidays and a week of summer, so we’re not bombarded with online school.

Also, Woo and I went on a big grocery shopping trip on Wednesday (the day before). I kind of thought we’d be out of school soon, if not an official cancel, then with someone in one of the kids’ classes testing positive, so I bought a bunch of food the kids enjoy making themselves, and we’re comfortably sitting here, waiting it out. 
 

Woo thinks they’ll use these two weeks to gear up for online school again, but we’ll take that hurdle when it comes.

We have our science documentaries; I found a new series to read to the kids (The Green Ember—a lot of fun so far); Christmas presents are still new enough to be highly interesting; outside exercise rules have been relaxed from the last lockdown (March/April); so all-in-all we feel pretty prepared.

Moses and Linus are sad school is out; Ruby, Herbie and Archie are happy; and Penelope’s happy with whatever.

The kids were pretty creative this week (I guess in their own personal inspiration to prepare?), so when school did let out they were very busy on their own projects. 
 

Archie made his own “maze cube” from a kiwi container, paper and a round lego.


He and Linus made their own fuss ball table, which inspired Moses to spend even more time on a bigger, sturdier one. This is the one all four boys spent quite a lot of time playing the last couple days.


Woo also tried to play once, but the game had to go back to the shop for improvements based on his feedback.


Herbie’s hands are chapped, or are maybe having an allergic reaction? to the hand disinfectant at school. He’s happy to have a two week break from that so his hands can be in less pain. I learned this for the first time today.


On Friday (when we were already all home), we learned that a girl in Ruby’s class tested positive. This girl didn’t sit by Ruby, isn’t her friend and also hadn’t been in school since the 15th. We were told we’d be contacted by the authorities with what to do, but no one has contacted us.

It doesn’t seem to matter either way, as we’re under lockdown and won’t be in contact with anyone other than ourselves for sometime. 
 

Also, we found several bags of Woo’s beloved tortilla chips at the store, and he and Nellpea made salsa for her daddy day, so Woo has everything he wants for the next couple weeks too.

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

1.17.2021

Waiting


Usually, it seems, January is blah and boring. Not this January. The four older kids kept hearing rumors that school would be closed again for everyone older than 12. Some of them were for it, some were against. I’m sure it was a topic of great interest in all of their classes. 

I was barely paying attention. I had no feeling that they’d close the schools. I did notice Moses prayed that the schools would stay open the night before the day appointed for closed door meetings, debates and crucial decisions, and when the doors were opened—school was not cancelled! 
 

There are, however, some new school restrictions. For example, Herbie is no longer allowed in the high school. This is a problem because all the surf club equipment (wetsuits, boards, etc.) is stored at the high school. Surf club now consists of skateboarding and other dry land training in the gym of the middle school. He still had a lot of fun though. Herbie always comes home excited to talk about what happened in surf club. 
 

Shortly after Christmas I was suddenly seized with a desire to improve our living conditions. It was a fun diversion as I made small changes here and there... I bought some bath rugs, a table cloth...

Then, this week I thought it would all be over—we’d be moving to a fully furnished place! I made all sorts of plans, stayed up too late in excitement... and then it didn’t pan out.

Logically, I knew it was okay. Logically, I knew it didn’t matter. Logically, I knew I was being irrational, but I was exhausted and needed a day to mourn emotionally. I tried really hard, and I did a lot of praying, but unfortunately for Woo, I’m pretty sure I went through all 7 stages of grief in that one day. (Again, thankfully, I had eaten no chocolate... what a disaster that would’ve been!) The next day I was fine. 
 

Woo tried really hard to help, and we’ve racked our brains for every possible solution, but truly improving our living conditions seems to be tied completely around whatever it is we’re waiting for. Nothing else is right. So we continue to wait.

Some time ago a mold began to grow in Archie’s room that had a dirt smell. I moved him out of there and kept the door closed. (Thankfully, we have plenty of space so this is no problem.) I used bleach; I painted over it, but it always returned the next day.

A guy from the condo association (I think that might be what it’d be called?) came to look at it this week. He found that the clay tiles on the roof above were not broken, but disintegrating, becoming soft like sponges. He also found a few other leaks into Liney’s room. He said he’d inform the association and they’d discuss it at their next meeting... so there’s that too :). 
 

Since we read poetry over the lock down Ruby has been writing a lot of poetry herself. Her poems are pretty good. She’s actually working on a series that she works on regularly. Penelope also set a goal to write a poem every week.

One morning Ruby was reading several of her poems out loud.
Herbie: Your poems are better than mine!  
Archie (who often co-writes poems with Penelope): Your poems are better than Nellpea’s!
Then he quoted from a poem of Nellpea’s titled “Wisdom.”
“If you want knowledge, you have to go to college!”
No one laughed louder than Nellpea. Apparently they’d giggled over that line together earlier. 
 

Ruby also writes poetry in Portuguese. Woo thought she should read some to her Portuguese teacher, since most of them are inspired by the Book of Mormon.

We discussed President Nelson’s Liahona message instead of a conference talk a couple of weeks ago. One of the changes Woo has made is to intentionally find a quiet place to pray out loud every day. This means going down to the garage and into the van once the kids go to bed.

There have been some kind of fun results from this: a doorbell ditch with a bag of groceries, and Woo drawing up a daddy day sign up sheet and list of suggested daddy days to get those going better again.

Friday morning Woo played maze ball with Moses then they fixed bikes together. 
 

He made paper airplanes with Archie and went to the park to fly them in the afternoon.

Saturday he made waffles with Penelope and Ruby.

Herbie gets plenty of daddy days surfing. Linus is up next. 
 

Getting Linus to take a quiet time in the afternoon has been no problem, but it isn’t working. We’ve been back in school two weeks and he gets a little worse (more tired and cranky) each evening of the week and then a little worse each successive week.

I have two more ideas to try this coming week. We’ll see how it goes. 
 

Also, Archie and I set up his FamilySearch account this week and I started sending him names to reserve. He’s very excited to get started.

We had sacrament meeting at home today for the first time in about six months.

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

1.10.2021

Getting On With Our Lives


Monday was a horrible day. After we put the kids to bed I was completely frazzled. Afterwards, when trying to calm down, a thought flickered across my mind, but I blew it off because I’d been careful. Woo suggested it again later, which meant, yeah maybe, which grew into probably... 

Chocolate. 

I’d eaten 5 small dark chocolates from a box someone at church gave us. Even worse? I’d given 5 to each of the kids.

The next day I was transcribing blessings Woo had given me from the previous year so I could remove them from my phone. I had a couple mention blessings I would receive from obeying the Word of Wisdom. At the time, it seemed slightly odd. I’d never had a blessing mention the Word of Wisdom before, but in relistening it clicked.


I’d received revelation to stop eating chocolate only a couple weeks before the lockdown. I’d never associated chocolate with the Word of Wisdom, really, but there it was, and what a wonderful blessing it has been to have been warned and to be mostly free from those particular problems for almost 10 months. (We did make a few other discoveries during that time such as no brownies or no vanilla/chocolate/almond ice cream bars after dinner on Sunday nights...)


January is normally a difficult month, but I’ve been fasting and praying and other than Monday a few small miracles have happened: Ruby and Moses decided to run home from school, I decided to start serving dinner before they get home, and we’re getting kids in bed 45 minutes earlier!

I got inspiration on how to help Linus and Archie cope better with their long days, and I’ve gotten inspiration on lots of little projects for myself that are quick, doable and drive away that blah January feeling I often get.


Archie was baptized on his birthday, which was exciting, but it was also a Sunday and a fast Sunday which is less fun for a kid’s birthday.


Archie figured out the situation months ahead of time and proposed himself to eat his birthday treat (breaking his fast) for lunch and opening his presents after dinner. He was so good and so patient, waiting until Monday morning to play with his presents, and then having to leave them for school, to be reunited at lunch, to again be separated... he got kind of grouchy about it on Tuesday, but that was the only day.


Woo was on the ball with yearly interviews this week. He prepared a list of questions and pulled everyone aside to record at different points during one day. He would’ve been able to check it off his to-do list that day too, but I still needed to interview him and I couldn’t get to it until the next day.

All the interviews start with him asking the kids (and me) the exact same question, but I decided to ad lib and ask a question of my own first, so that one’s out of sync... darn it!


Also the DVDs Woo’d ordered in November finally came! But he finished showing kids a documentary about the planets on Saturday. Herbie and Archie thought it was the best thing of the day.


It was cold this week. Woo and Herbie still went surfing. When they got home Wednesday, Herbie looked to be in shock, stiffly holding out his bright red hands. Apparently, during the surf, all was well, but on the bike ride home he endured great pain while his wet hands froze on the handle bars, and he experienced the other extreme with his body burning up and sweating under his new warm wetsuit.

They continued to go surfing every afternoon after that, walking through the door with Herbie holding out his hands, barely being able to walk and a different expression of discomfort frozen on his face. My favorite was the time the wind had also slicked his wet hair down in the middle and fluffed it up on the sides so he looked especially woebegone.


Meanwhile, Woo thought it was funny that I wore four jackets to pick kids up from school.

We took advantage of after Christmas sales to order the kids some new clothes. They arrived this week and Penelope got the pair of boots she’s been dreaming about and is so, so happy to wear.


Despite her efforts to be ready for school early one morning, she was thrown for a loop on her homework and left for school in tears, further compounded on the walk there when she realized she’d forgotten to put on her new boots (that she’d planned her outfit around) and slipped on her old shoes. She rallied when she realized she could put her boots on again when she came home for lunch.


Ruby has had a great week. She’s been very content at home with her new, warm sweats, fun books and better keyboard. She’s been doing an excellent job on her chores (the apartment continues to be much cleaner).

She wanted to do her book report on one of her new Christmas books, but it didn’t exist in Portuguese, so she read Journey to the Center of the Earth instead. It was easy to find a free Portuguese version online.

Today for our conference talk discussion, she took most of the time herself, with genuinely great insights, and was humble and appreciative. Near the end she praised me and told me she loved me... sometimes it’s fun to think about how far she’s come :).


I decided to enforce a quiet time for Linus in the afternoons in an effort to improve his evenings. However, it didn’t need a lot of enforcing. He was very excited to lie in bed and read one of his many new Christmas books. He and Moses both feel that they went from having nothing to read to having tons and tons of good books to read.

For Portuguese Linus practiced reading 110 words in 1 minute. He shouted excitedly when he did it. Then he shouted my name each time he whittled off another second. When Woo came home Linus was thrilled to report he could read 110 words in 51 seconds!


Moses’s maze ball was also a big free time hit. Moses has been good at sharing it with both Herbie and Linus.

How Moses speaks to and treats his siblings is highly influential on most of the rest of the kids. When he is being kind the other kids are anywhere from over the moon to content. When he is muttering insults they range from upset to shattered. Almost everyone but Ruby and kind of Penelope seems to live or die on his approval.


They built a new Aldi in our town. Woo had been really looking forward to it because there was a chance they’d have a constant supply of tortilla chips. He was a bit depressed when he found out they wouldn’t. He waited in line at the grand opening anyway, and came home with a bunch of new snack food to try, but not the dreamed of tortilla chips.


Both Ruby and Herbie have kids in their class who tested positive for Covid, but they had no contact with their class since before Christmas. For now school continues as normal. Except that Ruby and Penelope both have one teacher in quarantine and they both got to come home early on Friday afternoon because there are no substitutes.

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

1.03.2021

2021


This Christmas break was not the most relaxing I remember. The kids only settled on New Years Eve into a comfortable, school vacation mode, but I think this was probably the cleanest Christmas break I remember.
 

It was Penelope’s job to hand out each gift to be unwrapped this year, and of her own initiative, she waited to collect the wrappings, which she brought to me and the waiting garbage bag, before picking up the next gift to be unwrapped. Also, everyone’s gifts were gathered and carted off to individual rooms by dinner.
 

The kids were not calming down during evening scriptures like I thought they would as soon as school was out and we could do it at our old time again. Linus was the worst—so grouchy and constantly talking! I thought he’d gotten stuck himself in a bad habit. But really everyone was off.
 

I had all the kids pray about it and I also did and realized that it was time to change things up again. We had read five verses each for many years, then in preparation to move here, we each read in Portuguese and translated our verses to English. About a year and a half ago we realized that wasn’t working for us anymore. After a family council we decided to read very slowly, one verse at a time and discuss it (discussion having been missing from our reading before... ) 

Anyway, after another family council, we’re having one person read straight for about 10 minutes while the rest of us take notes, looking for what those verses teach us about a very specific question (announced ahead of time—Woo has been picking the question each night from a list he and I made).

Then we each discuss one answer we got and talk about what we’re going to do differently because of it.

On the same evening I also decided it was time to revamp the housework and by next lunch had a new chart, specific requirements for reorganized chores (for example, some smaller chores that were getting overlooked are now grouped into bundles) ... everything, posted on the kitchen wall.

One of the biggest changes I made is that everyone washes their own dishes immediately after using them. We now have a clean sink all day! I didn’t know this was possible with 6 kids and no dishwasher!

But most importantly (and the motivation behind the change), the burden on the kid with the dishes chore is much, much less. Now they’re only washing the dishes used to make and serve dinner (and I’m quite economical in that area).


Also, each kid is doing their own laundry—Archie is no longer a baby and has the same chores as everyone else!

Another big help has been two five minute cleaning blitzes, one in the morning and one before dinner. The kids can move very fast and these have been really, really effective. This one earns a bean in a jar for every 10 things picked up—working towards a family reward like eating out or a special dessert.

Most importantly, the changes breathed new hope in everyone. Ruby said thank you in her evening prayer that things could change and not always be the same. And really, isn’t change a wonderful blessing that keeps us all sane?
 

Other things were good. Ruby and Penelope read the Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict out loud to each other for hours (thanks Williams!). Linus worked on crocheting his scarf, listening to Archie and I read every other page out loud in Mouse on a Motorcycle. Herbie and Moses tried to read the entire Fablehaven series and they all break for car races. (Almost all the kids got each other matchbox cars for Christmas so there are many new, untested cars... )

Only one gift never came... the David Attenborough collection Woo had ordered. He briefly considered getting a month of Disney Plus, but in the end we watched The Cokeville Miracle and then assorted astronomy (a recent hobby interest of Woo’s) documentaries with lots of input from Astro and Experimental Physicists. (Some of whom were clearly physicists, but one show appeared to have actors with fancy labeling under their profiles. They were all too good looking and expressive to be a sampling of everyday people.)

They had fun, documentaries that met everyone’s needs: accurate and technical for Woo, exciting explosions and nice pictures for the kids.

The kids might all know what quasars are now! Black holes continue to be a perennial favorite.


Herbie burned through his spiced biscuits and created several uneasy situations with the other kids as he tried to get more out of them. I think most survived by yelling at him loudly, but Moses gave up a few to get some things he wanted out of Herbie.
 

For some reason Archie’s teacher assigned a bunch of homework...
 

And... Archie was baptized today and received the Gift of the Holy Ghost!! (Also, he turned eight :)
 

He was baptized in the ocean because we couldn’t drive to Caldas (where the font is) under holiday covid restrictions. (We also had to be in the house by 1pm, but that didn’t really effect us. We had plenty of time.) Luckily, Archie had gotten over his fear of being dunked under water, even cold ocean water, ages ago.
 

He was not disappointed at all when we told him what his options were and he opted for the ocean with a smile.
 

It was a sunny, clear day, much warmer than expected. Archie was baptized in a picturesque spot under the fortelaza. I believe the water was cold, but he did not complain, only patiently listened to Woo and went under without any hesitation.
 

Penelope and Linus were witnesses. Ruby and Herbie gave prayers. Moses and I gave short talks, and Woo did the baptizing and conferring of the Holy Ghost. Also, Archie bore a cute testimony just before the closing prayer.
 

We’re all baptized now! No more sentences like: and because we all (except Archie) have the gift of the Holy Ghost...


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


Testimony Below:

This morning I read President Nelson’s message in the January Liahona.

He said: In this new year, I encourage you to take the necessary steps to hear the Lord better and more often so that you can receive the enlightenment He wants to give you.

As I read, I paused to pray and ask how I could hear the voice of the Lord more clearly and more frequently.

First I learned that I should have less fear in not receiving an answer. Then I learned that I should slow down. Listen longer.

These may not be your individual recommendations for improvement. I encourage each of us to read President Nelson’s message in the Liahona and ask our Heavenly Father what we need to do to hear the voice of the Lord more frequently and more clearly.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.