Not the Best Week (Not the Worst Either)

On our Sunday walk Woo stepped off the path, planted his feet, bent his knee, swayed slightly and gave us his David Attenborough commentary on the landscape. 

I laughed; the kids began to imitate. Ruby and Moses plucked up plants and gave us their best imitations for probably an hour.

Moses usually went for comedy.
“THIS is a monstrosity! No larger than the size of my THUMB, this organism subsists ENTIRELY on minuscule plankton. A monstrosity INDEED!”

Linus followed them, making no effort at a British accent himself, but would feed them lines.
Linus (interrupting Ruby’s description of a plant she’d plucked off the ground): ... even Charles Darwin himself...
Me: Linus, do you know who Charles Darwin is?
Linus (smiling): No.
I laughed really, really hard when Woo lugged his foot up to a precarious spot on top of a pole and gave a commentary on a bridge built “by a series of humans.”

Ah... impressions... even better with a British accent...

Remember last year when we drew names every day for a secret sibling? The kids loved it and would’ve gone on indefinitely, but the organization was tough on Woo and I. We had to shut it down after awhile.

Anyway, two weeks ago Herbie or Moses or both decided to take the burden upon themselves. They wrote down everyone’s name (kind of... there are some abbreviations that have led to confusion...). Then they hold a drawing every morning and a reveal every evening at dinner.

They’re still going strong and it’s so nice to have them entirely in charge of it. I’m not sure it’s actually led to more peace and less arguing, but the kids sure love it.

The kids have done some very nice things this week. For example, Linus took Archie under his wing to study the week’s conference talk. He went at Archie’s pace and they took notes together. Linus was incredibly kind and patient the entire time.

Penelope saw the dirty cake pan and realizing that I was going to be making apple crisp for Sunday dinner, washed and dried the pan for me. It wasn’t her duty, no one asked her to, it was only Penelope thinking ahead (although Moses says he’s the one who pointed out that I would need the pan again soon).

I thought for sure that Linus had drawn Archie and that Penelope had drawn me (the kids have been generous to keep our names in the drawing), but no. They had completely different people for whom they’d done things like said “Hi, how are you?” and not gotten mad in situations where they’d normally get mad at that person.

We’ve also had a few injuries this week. As always, I’m very grateful nothing’s been bad enough for a hospital.

Moses and Linus were running laps together in the parking lot. They were doing very well, and as they moved out of sight near the stadium, I heard a scream, then Ruby shouted, “Mom! Moses is hurt!” Then she and Herbie sprinted across the parking lot to the place I couldn’t see.

When I got there, Moses was lying at the base of a concrete pillar. He’d been checking his watch or talking to Linus or something and run right into it, hitting his head. There are so few pillars or anything in that parking lot... why on earth did he have to run into one??

Anyway, he appeared to be hurt, but fine. He wasn’t up for running anymore, which was understandable, and he wanted to move to the shade. His pupils were fine; he could walk and sit up fine; there was no blacking out or throwing up, but he did get a very large bump on his forehead.

Then Herbie, who’s been moving from one injury to the other as soon as he can heal from one, broke his nose surfing.

He’s in a lot of pain when he bumps it against me while giving me a hug or someone accidentally brushes against it. Also, he can feel it separating while running or doing jumps on a bike. It’s still straight and doesn’t need setting, but not fun.

He also developed a rash under his watch. I finally remembered to direct him to baby powder, which is the only thing that helped my eczema last year. Sometimes we just have to dry ourselves out here.

While I’m listing things that have gone wrong... Moses, who’s room is on the ground floor of our apartment (in other words, Linus’ room is above his), has a leak in his ceiling that drips water every Spring. By now, Moses quietly takes care of it himself, placing a bowl and some towels in that corner whenever it starts.

This week he discovered a new leak, a tiny trickle of water down the wall by his bed. We also had one of those in the kitchen that we knew about, but this week discovered two.

In happier news I finished disinfecting all ceilings and walls and it’s close enough to spring that I’m likely done until next winter! Yay!
Ruby continues to plug away at online school. She is doing waaaaay more school, and it takes much more time than regular school did. She gets started right after breakfast and morning chores, and other than a break to go to the parking lot with us and dinner and scriptures, she is working on some assignment or another until bedtime. This is including Saturday as well.

She is trying very hard to be cheerful and positive in a tough situation. Last week I know she was frustrated with her lack of free time, especially as there were some things she wanted to read for fun. But this week there has been less of that.

Archie wasn’t as tough this week as last week. He did a lot of whining and wouldn’t try his best in our workouts at the beginning of the week. His worst day was our bike ride day.

We took a route that is mostly a paved bike trail, but ventured off into the dunes a couple of times for variety. The other kids loved it, but Archie hated it!

Sure, trails through dunes are not the best. Sometimes you can ride and sometimes there are sand traps, but’s not like you’re on a steep incline or at 10,000 ft. It’s no problem to walk your bike a few paces every once in awhile.

Archie would’ve been fine on another day, but this day he was convinced it was torture. Still, I tried to encourage him and tell him he was doing great. I stayed near him so he didn’t feel abandoned. The other kids scouted ahead so we could tell him how much farther he had to go.

When Ruby reached the paved trail, she parked her bike and ran back to carry Archie’s for him. He cried and cried on the paved trail after that, until Woo zoomed past us and then Herbie. (They weren’t back from surfing when we left.) Archie knew there was no turning back now, and he also was reminded that riding fast is fun. So away he went with comparatively little complaining.

Woo was my helper this week. He did my chores while I put away groceries because we tried to hit the grocery store as early in the day as possible.

Also, he took Penelope to the school to pick up a book for a reading contest she has next week. I had tried the day before and failed, but we got a message that it really was waiting at the gate for us this time.

Thankfully Woo went because there was still A LOT of confusion amongst the funcion├írios about what was going on. At one point, he said, there were several crowded around trying to figure it all out. Some said Penelope needed to enter the school, but Woo couldn’t. I imagine there was a lot of rummaging around at the gate desk and phone calls, like when I went. In the end, Woo succeeded where I had failed and came home with the book.

Moses’ wanted to celebrate his birthday on Saturday, which we did. He only got about half his presents, opting to wait until stores are open next week to choose the rest.

We let him pick our games in the park. Enfeita was fun with all of us. Friend tag was less fun.

We also had stake conference by Zoom after his birthday dinner. There was a misunderstanding between Woo and I about how much the kids should watch, which did not go over well with the kids.

This week we also got the news that starting next week there will no longer be any packets for Herbie, Moses and Linus. They will need to go to the school and attend online classes there. It doesn’t seem to be as bad as I originally thought. They’ll all be in the library and only for the morning. But Herbie has a lot of pain wearing a mask, so we’re figuring that out.

Sometimes it seems people think that all we have to do is decide to come home and we will. That is not the situation at all. Above all we want to do the Lord’s will, and we know that the Lord’s will is for us to wait. The situation is sometimes difficult here, but we also know that we are being protected from even more difficult things, likely eternally damaging things, that would occur if we were to move home at the wrong time. We will move home when it is the Lord’s will that we move home and not a minute sooner.

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


A Week

My project this week was to improve the kids’ and my time outside. Well, all kids but Herbie. He gets enough time and exercise outside with Woo. I wasn’t worried about him. 

I came up with the plan during family scriptures while I was supposed to be looking for answers to the question: how can I be less selfish? So I felt kind of guilty when I had nothing, but had spent all the time working out my own problem.

However, I now feel like the prayer for our question was answered. I had to merge my own exercise time and the kids’ outside time in an effort for us both to get more, so in the end I had to be less selfish.

I wasn’t really excited for the plan. I wasn’t sure it would work for me, and I braced myself for a lot of arguing from the kids.

But by Friday it seemed certain this was going to be good for me. Also, the kids gave me no trouble at all, in fact they were awesome. Even Herbie, who is already getting plenty of exercise, did great.

I was reminded of the revelation I’d gotten way back last spring when I’d set up a homeschool plan for the kids that this would be “the last battle.”

And it really was. The kids have very agreeably gone along with anything I’ve come up with since then. It’s kind of amazing.

That first day, Moses told me that my workout was much harder than what they do in PE, but that was it. All the kids did excellent lunges, push ups, sit-ups. They have learned great form in PE, even Archie.

We were all sore that first day, but they did the next workout again without complaining, and by Friday, a few kids told me it was their favorite thing of the day. What?!?

Saturday was game day, which was our worst day. It was raining so we had to go down to the basement. Also, games bring out a lot of arguing, and Archie and Penelope often get frustrated when they can’t compete with the older kids.

Ruby was less frustrated with class this week, but she had two days where her zoom meetings were not working. She thought she was in the meeting, but just couldn’t hear, and she wasn’t too upset. I think she was happy for the break. Woo helped her, then answered an inquiry from her DT (head teacher).

Herbie is trying hard to be grateful all the time. He says, “Thank you, Mom! All the thank yous!” whenever he remembers, which is a few times a day.

Moses was happy to get his packet this week. He has 9-11am blocked off for packet and assigned a subject for each day as soon as he got it. He had a test for one class, so he blocked the first half of packet time for studying for the test, and the second half for taking the test.

Linus finally started the original Hardy Boys books he got for his birthday and he loves them. He’s already planning on getting more for Christmas. These are about the only books Woo remembers fondly from his childhood. There were seemingly hundreds of Hardy Boys books in his school library, and here the only English books the kids read are those we’ve hand picked for them as gifts. Quite a different situation.

During one workout Penelope started crying because she’d gone too fast and felt a little sick. She didn’t cry for long, and she didn’t stop running, but she also wouldn’t tell me why she was crying until after we were done. I had thought she was frustrated with another kid.

That night on her repentance list she wrote that she hadn’t mourned with those who mourn. When I asked what she meant by that, she said she’d cried during her workout and forgotten that there are people with much worse problems than that, and she shouldn’t have cried about hers. I nodded solemnly and gave her a hug, but later Woo and I laughed as Penelope is really polishing herself beyond what we would’ve asked of her.

Archie’s teacher gave him more work than last year, which was good for him. He still had to do reading, writing, classes, chores and workout for me. He is steadily becoming a better worker and less of a shirker, which has been one of our concerns for him.

I can’t remember if I already wrote that I started holding a short quiz after all of our reading subjects? Anyway, this has really motivated the kids, and it’s most amazing in Archie, who is trying to hear and remember everything he can from things like straight Shakespeare.

Woo found an old bike by the garbage that was extremely frustrating to fix, but he eventually got to where it was rideable. He rode it with us on our Tuesday bike ride (part of the workout plan).

I found a jar of milk on our window sill, and when I bent closer to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing, Woo smiled sheepishly. He was experimenting with making his own sour cream.

He made a baked potato on Saturday to try it out. It looked like sour cream to me. He said it tasted like “slightly lemony whipped cream without sugar,” which is close enough?

A few weeks ago Woo had a few dreams about earthquakes. Last week he felt one in the night. It woke him up, but the rest of us slept through it. This week he thought he felt another one, but we think it was that I was sitting close to Woo, and Archie was sitting close to me, and Archie was wiggling all over the place.

Somehow we found ourselves without bread or a tortilla or anything for the sacrament, so Herbie whipped us up a pancake. This is likely to be one the sacraments that lives in everyone's memories for the rest of our lives.    

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


Personal Reference Email

This was a quiet week. I started out not having anything to write about, but ended up writing a lot of details about our daily lives, so I guess this will be a personal reference email. 

It rained a lot in the beginning of the week, leaving a giant puddle in the parking lot that the kids enjoyed floating “boats” on and playing Marco Polo.

We continue to refine our at-home routine. I have my 10 subjects that I read to the kids from for an hour total a day (20 minutes a subject): Poetry, History (The Story of Mankind), Literature (The Story of the Treasure Seekers), Geography (Japan), Biography (Columbus), Church History (On the Wings of faith), Old Testament, Shakespeare (The Taming of the Shrew), Natural Science, Temples (churchofjesuschristtemples.org), Biography (Washington)

I added a three question quiz at the end of each subject last week which has improved motivation a lot. The kids are actually upset if they miss something now. But a lot of the books are fun. We’ve really enjoyed The Treasure Seekers—lots of laughs—learning more details about Columbus and Washington is also enjoyable; our geography book has also been a hit.

Ruby was sad to miss the Taming of the Shrew for her online class. This was Ruby’s first week of virtual school and she spent some minutes after class was out Friday evening in bed crying. It is exhausting and uncomfortable, and some of the deadlines have been stressful. Friday is also the day with the most classes, and being at the end of the week is extra exhausting.

She felt better at dinner and for the rest of the weekend, but we are actively racking our minds and prayers for solutions for her. Maybe she just has to tougher. I don’t know :(.

Before Friday she had an enjoyable week, working on her own projects in the mornings before class. Her drawings are looking very nice.

Woo has been taking an hour a day also to show a documentary. He started the David Attenborough collection, which starts right at the beginning with the simplest forms of life.

Moses spent some time on our walk today closely inspecting flowers and mosses and telling me some things he’d learned over the week.

We don’t get the packets until next week, and Moses wasn’t doing enough work. Also, it was cloudy and dingy. He started to get bored, but improved later in the week when he stopped spending all his free time playing. On Friday he made some berry pancakes that made the apartment smell like a delicious donut shop.

Herbie and Woo went surfing everyday. They still complain that it’s crowded. Herbie said one day this week was the most crowded ever.

Woo got hurt spending a couple hours trying to fix a bike and also spent other hours missing snow. He does realize that probably all ski resorts have become just as crowded as the waves, and he mourns the fact that now everyone else is enjoying his cushy work-from-home lifestyle. It was a good 11 years ­čśŐ.

Here’s Woo’s foray into modern art. 

 Woman in repose: under a blanket

Linus had a great week. He went out of his way to play a castle game with Penelope and Archie for an entire morning. He doesn’t normally do that, preferring to hang out with his older brothers (or comforting Ruby if he’s been grouchy).

Penelope also left her coat back in the parking lot and he immediately volunteered to ride back fast and get it for her. It reminded me of when they were younger, and Linus was so kind to Penelope.

Penelope was the only one besides Ruby who had anything from the school this week. Building a castle from recyclables was one of her assignments. This is not the kind of thing she naturally does, so I was surprised at how excited she was about it.

Archie’s teacher was the most difficult to work with last year, before she finally agreed to help us, and she has been the most difficult this shutdown too. That was a day or two more stressful than I like, but things should be good now.

Archie’s English writing made big improvements this week, and his reading is noticeably better also.

He’s begun to get the hang of our family scripture study and always has things he’s learned (looking for answers to a specific question), while before he’d always say he hadn’t learned anything. A time or two he has gone to bed feeling really good.

We have over 20 questions like: how can I be less selfish?, how can I improve my learning?, how can I overcome pride?, what does Heavenly Father want me to be better at?, what question does Heavenly Father want me to ask Him?, how can I Hear Him better?, how can I improve my Sabbath day?, how can I use my time better?, etc.

This has really been good, as one person reads and we all concentrate on the question. All of us are taking notes and learning things. Rarely do we have kids not paying attention or distracting others. Many truly inspired things have been said by pretty much everyone.

This isn't really what I'd like to write, but I guess I’ll also talk about “command your children to repent.”

Many months ago I asked when we’d overcome contention and rudeness. I got an answer that I did not understand. A couple months after that understood that part of the answer was when the kids (also Woo and I, probably) would repent. Now I understand the answer was when I would command the kids to repent (however, I have no idea how long we’ll need to work on this.)

Anyway, what’s been working well is after evening scriptures having the kids go to their quiet place, and ask: what do I need to repent of today? Then ask: is there anything more? And again: is there anything more?

Then, I’ve asked them to write down anything they got about how they’ve treated anyone in the family. Then I go around and read it with them individually. For some reason, many of the kids don’t really repent well without this, and also I can tell if they’re sincere or not.

Herbie was really the leader here, catching the vision of it right away and humbling writing sincerely repentant things every evening. He’s not perfect yet, but he’s has become must less bossy. He has a special notebook that he keeps a running list in from day to day, also a special pink pen that he MUST use for this and also his scripture study notes.

Moses resisted passively for awhile, and we could tell he was just writing random stuff down, but he’s gotten it now. He writes big, long lists, all of the items on the list requiring some humility to write down, and he hands the paper to me with a smile. 

Like Ruby said: Moses, don’t you know that repentance is fun?! And there have been nights where the kids have walked around to each other, apologizing for the things on their lists, and giving each other hugs, with lots of good feelings all around.

The kids have become more humble, and have stopped a lot of things they’ve done for a long time. They’re also learning what are sins and what Heavenly Father thinks they could be better at. Penelope once wrote on her list that she hadn’t complimented any of her siblings all day. I always laugh when there's something like "called Mom names in my head" because I can tell they're doing exactly what I hope they're doing, and writing it out a couple times seems to be all it has taken to be aware enough to stop.

I think this was a big reason why Linus started to be nicer to Penelope, for example. One night he wrote that he hadn’t told Penelope thank you for something nice she’d done for him. The next day he was willing to do nice things for her.

Anyway, I’m sure this is long enough. I hope you all had a great week!


A Bit of a Ramble

We heard from all the kids’ teachers this week. I was so confident that the kids would be able to do packets again that I didn’t worry too much, but there did come a point where it was in question enough that I began to pray (but nothing near to the stress of last time!!). We did hear on Friday that Herbie, Moses, and Linus would be a go for the packets. Penelope and Archie have the same teachers and didn’t object when I answered that we’d like the same arrangement as last time in answer to their questionnaire, so I assume they’re good too.

We also got Ruby’s online schedule (she’s now in high school with completely different school administrators), and it was not horrible at all. Only 2 hrs a day (3 hrs on Thursday and Friday) in online gatherings (none of which disturb our family schedule), and the rest of the school day to be spent working individually on assignments.

However, during the course of my prayers for the packets and everything to work out, I began to wonder if there wasn’t something better for us out there. I’m doing my own stuff with the kids, but maybe there was more, an opportunity or something already prepared for us.

Really, if ever there was a time for the kids to be randomly selected for some surprising educational opportunity, now would be the time! When I suggested this to Woo (as a joke, of course) that maybe we’d soon be getting a notice from Kraft that the kids had been chosen to enter their prestigious school of the culinary arts for young chefs in New York City (not that I want the kids to be chefs, or for us to live in New York City, or that Kraft would really be the company with the prestigious culinary arts program...)

When I left the room Woo secretly sent me this email:
Dear valued mother:
You have been selected and your children to win. Yay!
Secret admirers
Anyway, our real hope is in fasting, and that’s what we’ve been doing today: fasting for the kids’ education.

Incidentally, the last time we fasted about the kids’ education we got the revelation to move to Portugal a few weeks later. It exceeded our expectations for what we were fasting about, but clearly the kids’ education needed to include many things beyond school work (which, while not perfect, I also think improved here). Still, time to fast about it again.

Ruby’s teacher (who begins all emails with URGENTE or MUITO URGENTE), informed us that the authorities were finally taking notice of Ruby’s class, and they were all scheduled for testing 13 days after the last day of class.

I was ready to walk her over, but Woo thought it was a waste of time and possibly even putting her at risk of infection, heading into a bunch of people who suspected infection. He texted the health official, who said that in his opinion Ruby should still be tested, but other than that they left us alone.

In the afternoons, we’ve returned to our old friend the parking lot. Ruby spent one entire time there hopping and skipping from one painted line on the looong crosswalk to the other. It was really quite cute and looked fun. Penelope joined her for much of the time.

Herbie keeps getting hurt. His hands are fine now, but his scooter slid out from under him in the park and he fell hard on his nerf gun on his hip. The nerf gun survived, but Herbie cried for a while and has cried a couple times since then when his hip gets knocked or he falls on it again.

Moses found his nerf gun and a handful of bullets, which is mostly annoying, but Woo has a stash of nerf guns and bullets that he keeps for special occasions. He took Herbie, Moses, Linus, Archie, and later, Penelope, down to the garage/basement for a nerf war. They all loved this, but no one more than Moses, who now wants only nerf guns for his birthday.

Linus turned eleven! He put on a pair of footy pajamas and wore them all day. I thought it was only for old times sake because footy pajamas were the ultimate comfort for him for many years. But I think he originally put them on to hide flip flops and several pairs of socks to make Woo and I think he’d suddenly grown taller for his birthday. We didn’t even notice.

Linus got a maze ball and he and his brothers did that most of the day, while his sisters started on the Hardy Boys set he also got.

Linus asked for rice crispy treats for his birthday, but we’ve only seen marshmallows here once. (We bought like 10 bags, and they were already long gone.)

And then, the day before his birthday, Woo and I went grocery shopping, and there they were! Two boxes of McKennedy marshmallows. (McKennedy is Lidl’s American cuisine brand. Lidl rotates through ingredients and foods from different nationalities every month or so. The marshmallows must be a new addition in the last year.)

We had cornflake treats, though, because while not impossible to find, crisped rice is rare and expensive. They tasted fine. Maybe better.

Penelope is the child most eager and willing to run an errand with Mom or Dad. She paid some bills and bought a few odds and ends with Woo. She biked to the pharmacy on a windy, rainy day with me. The first blast of air was not fun, but we got over it after that and had a good time.

Archie still writes anything in English exactly like he did 3 1/2 years ago, yet he writes full sentences, spelled correctly, in cursive, in Portuguese. He wrote out his own talks for the primary program, for example, without help and all correct.

Anyway, I’ve been trying to bring his English writing up to par this week by having him write in English for half an hour every day. He now understands that things he learned in Portuguese also apply in English: capitalize only the first letter of a sentence and proper nouns, indent the first word of a paragraph, etc. Also, cursive works in English too! His English spelling is very slowly improving.

One thing we’ve also noticed about the prevalence of cursive here is that the kids very rarely have a problem reading cursive in their indexing batches.

Woo took us all to Burger King this week. He was feeling good when he suggested it, then had a headache by the time we left (I don't know why Ruby's so mad...). Woo's headache lasted 3 days (?) and was unrelated to our Burger King trip. It finally started to get better after taking some ibuprofen (the purpose of Penelope’s and my trip to the pharmacy).

We were only allowed to use the Burger King drive thru, could not order drinks, and could not eat anywhere near the restaurant. We parked in the parking lot of a nearby grocery store and ate in the van. Luckily, we also had 5L of water and some cups in there too.

Anyway, sorry for the ramble. I hope you had a great week!