Easter Break!!!

I spent most the week counting down the days until Easter break. Every morning I'd greet the kids with "Only 3 (or whatever day it was) more days of online school!!" 

That was only true of Herbie, Moses and Linus, but everyone knew what I meant. (Ruby has 2 more weeks after the break, and Penelope and Archie are already back in school.)

We only get a week off (Easter break is normally 2 weeks), and we can't leave the conselho (county, literally council). There were some concerns that the break would be super boring, so I planned a fun thing for every day (a picnic in some dunes with trees that the kids want to explore, roasting marshmallows and playing steal-the-flag in the pinhal, a nature scavenger hunt, driving to and exploring the outer reaches of the conselho, etc.) I think everyone is looking forward to it now. We just need the weather to cooperate.

Of course we're also excited for conference and have been counting down for that also. I got another word of wisdom reminder, so I decided to make this year as sugar and face-stuffing free as possible. We usually have used treats for at least some sessions, so I had to do a bit of pre-planning for that also... I think it will be fun!

Archie came home from school one day and announced that his teacher was going to give him an entire chocolate bunny for Easter. I was surprised because one of the awesome things about the schools here is the complete lack of candy (and it's use in motivation). (They do always have a bucket of fresh fruit in the back of every classroom for anyone who wants a snack--donated from local farmers?) But I knew an entire chocolate bunny in Archie would be bad news, so I emailed his teacher.

She agreed to not give him one, and Archie and I worked out a plan where we'd make granola together when he came home. Archie's teacher was distracted and accidentally handed him one, but Archie reminded her himself and came home without a chocolate bunny.

We learned Penelope might get one also, which she did, but she brought it home (as requested), and Woo divided it between him and the kids on Saturday. The older 4 kids were super grouchy Saturday, but that had nothing to do with chocolate. Probably just the end of a long online week.

Herbie once again protected his brothers at school. Last year during the lockdown, for French, Ruby was assigned to watch one of those unrated European films that would have had an unacceptable rating in the US. Herbie was assigned a movie for PE this lockdown that he also didn't watch. Both of those were when we had the packets and Woo and I were able to intercept it.

But this week at the school library, Moses was assigned a movie for PE, and because he assumed no could possibly assign a bad movie, and certainly not for PE, he was super excited and tried to get Linus to watch it with him. But Herbie stepped in and it was discovered that it was indeed not a movie that they should watch, and no one did.

Ruby was super excited one evening to not have any schoolwork after dinner. She cheered and smiled and made plans to do something she wanted to do. But after dinner, she decided to double check, and found that her Portuguese teacher had assigned an assignment at 5PM to be finished by 6PM. This seemed nonsensical to us as all of Ruby's class was in PE until 5:30. Ruby did not even see the assignment until after 7. She did not finish it in an hour, but she was tired and wanted to go to bed. We let her. Woo just had her turn in what she did get done.

Ruby's been incredibly cheerful and positive, though. Learning long-suffering appears to be an important part of her education right now, and also her father's blessing over Christmas mentioned the importance of her learning to get along with people that she disagrees with. She's getting this too.

Linus had to finish one assignment Friday afternoon. He decided to enlist Archie in taking the picture of him with his shield. When I thanked Linus for including Archie later, he said that Archie kept taking pictures with his head cut off, until he told Archie to take a picture of the ceiling. Then they finally got one. 

I looked through the deleted photos. There were about 12 pictures, none with heads missing. There was one taken in pretty close, but I guess the one above is the one that Linus felt was the best.

Linus had a bad beginning Sunday morning, but by sacrament meeting he was doing great. He encouraged a sad Archie (who wasn't ready early enough to get a seat by me) and helped him be reverent through the whole thing. 

Linus also helped Archie melt his perler bead temple together after lunch.

Woo's email to SEF concerning Ruby's account was forwarded to another division on Monday. Then we heard nothing, so Woo made the dreaded phone call. It did not seem to be nearly as long or as onerous as expected, but it wasn't that effective. Woo was instructed to write another email to have the bad account deleted, and then start another one. The first email still had not been answered, but Woo dutifully wrote another, and we continue to wait.

Penelope pretty much tries to be perfect at all times. Sometimes this makes the other kids mad, especially Moses. When she jumps up to immediately help someone or do something we ask, he is not happy. To make matters worse, she started rolling her eyes at him when he's pointing out something she needs to correct, which makes him even more mad!

I can't remember exactly what, but I said something to Penelope just as Woo announced it was time to pray for dinner. She told me it was time to pray. It probably came off much more haughtily than she intended. When I laughed and gave her a little jab, she dramatically rolled her eyes at me, which made me laugh even more, and made her burst into tears.

Anyway, she was horribly embarrassed (I hope it's okay that I'm writing this :/), and eye rolling made it on her repentance list that night. She says she hasn't done it since to anyone, and I believe her.

I did not bear my testimony on the relief society Zoom meeting, but Woo had me say what I was going to say to the family afterwards. Moses has mentioned it a few times since then and said that he also is going to try to be more concerned about bring souls to Christ than his worries or thinking about anything else he wants.

What Moses really, really wants is a new house. On our walk today, he would point out a house, or talk about a house he'd like, or something that would be fun in a new house, and then he would end his sentence with "... and bring souls unto Christ."

A couple motorcycles drove by and Moses muttered, "Bring souls unto Christ, bring souls unto Christ--"

Anyway, that's our week. I hope yours was great!


First Day of Spring

Monday was a beautiful day. It seemed a shame to send Archie and Nellpea back to school, but they ended up spending most of the school day outside playing. 

This seemed to be partly because the teachers were given like two days notice, and also as a detox for online school. Penelope said many kids in her class had not left the house at all since the end of January, and her teacher said that kids need to play. (Amen.)

Tuesday they had more class, and Wednesday seemed to be back to normal. Penelope is very happy to get back to more math.

Herbie, Moses and Linus felt like they were getting more than enough outside exercise walking to and from school, so all that remained was Ruby.

Ruby is not interested in running unless there’s significant competition (which I am not), but she enjoys bike rides, so she and I went for a bike ride everyday when she had a break in classes (and she worked through lunch).

These have been enjoyable. The sun has always been out and I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the beauty of the area.

Ruby likes to skid out in gravel (she learned it from her brothers... also they call it “making smoothies”). We live in a place where there’s a lot of sandy gravel around.

However, Moses started to get depressed around Tuesday. A lot of it is that the stores still aren’t open for non-essentials and his birthday gift keeps getting shoved back, but also I felt he could really benefit from a bike ride. Linus too.

They were so mad! I had to bribe both of them to get them out the door! Herbie was very willing, and of course Ruby was too, and Woo was available to go right then, so it was a mostly happy party that started out.

Herbie had a good suggestion of some dirt roads in a neighboring town near a surf spot, so we headed off in that direction. Linus largely forgot his revolt once we got started, but Moses pedaled slowly, bringing up the rear.

He was determined to not have fun. But as soon as we hit dirt, even Moses could be determined no longer. We followed a few roads near the coast, and when Moses and Linus were in the lead, Woo called them back to follow a little used track.

This led to a little motocross or bmx track with lots of fun rolling hills. Herbie, Moses and Linus felt like it was a dream come true. Even Woo said he’d been dreaming of dirt hills (maybe literally?).

Unfortunately, Herbie broke his chain on only his second time around the circuit. I had to get home to pick up Nellpea, and Ruby had schoolwork, so we 3 headed home, leaving the other 3 (two of whom had been adamantly against the bike ride) to stay and have fun.

I thought is was going to take forever for Herbie to scoot home, but he and Ruby worked out a plan where they connected the two bikes with a coil of bike lock and took turns pedaling the lead bike. They had a lot of fun, and were faster than I was at times (depending on the steepness of the incline or decline) as my bike only works at one speed.

Woo returned with the other two about a half hour later. Moses had gotten a flat and had to walk quite a ways, so he still got to pretend he hated it, but he didn’t fool me. He was anxious to fix his flat tire the next day and go to the hills again as soon as possible.

Woo, Herbie and Moses spent time fixing all the bikes, so we could go again. Friday has been a tricky schedule for getting out of the house for a couple weeks now. Long story short, it was a disaster with Woo and all the kids out on bikes and me at home (after failing to bike more than 100 yds on two tries with two different bikes).

There was a similar incident Saturday night while I waited two hours to give my testimony in a stake Relief Society meeting on Zoom, but was never called on. I was relieved, of course, but it was a lot of kid wrangling for Woo.    

I started praying to have the humility of the people of Melchizedek this week (Alma 13:14), and I’ve had two dreams teaching me about it. Wow. Even just one of them had humility worthy of legend, but a whole group of people? Amazing.

I woke up both times grateful because I truly felt that I’d been given a gift of knowledge. When I describe the dreams it sounds pretty obvious that the people of Melchizedek would have this kind of humility, but in the dreams I was experiencing the humility myself, which was special. No wonder they were a Zion society.

Archie came home from school Thursday covered with yellow paint. He had been working on his Fathers Day present and when his teacher had taken them outside to dry their artwork, Archie’s still very wet paper had blown into him.

Fathers Day in Portugal was on Friday (like it always is... we never have Fathers or Mothers Day talks in church because they never fall on Sunday :)

Archie was super excited about his painting and stress ball (with rice) for Woo. He did manage to keep it a secret until the next day.

From Penelope, Woo got a card and a stress ball (with flour, the teachers coordinated so Woo wouldn’t get two of the same :).

The card was in English because the kids always make their Fathers Day cards in English class, and we laughed a little wondering how the Portuguese fathers feel about that.

Seven of us now have our residencies updated and paid for. It was very easy online, and it would’ve been perfect... if not for Ruby’s... we entered an email address for Ruby that would forward to Woo’s account. The website accepted it fine creating the account, but will not let us login with that email. We also cannot create another account because that one is linked to Ruby’s identity.

This is the cause of a lot of stress for Woo. He’s emailed the agency, but they’re notoriously bad at customer service even when everyone’s not out of the office for a pandemic. We have until March 31st, which is a week longer than Woo expected, but still... we’re praying.

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


Patience and Long-Suffering

Monday morning I got the message that I needed to be patient in preparation for the next day. 

Which was an alert that Monday was going to be a tough day. It was, but I was very patient through it all because I knew everything was going according to plan. (Basically it was back-to-back frustrations, annoyances, injuries, arguments, illness, screaming emergencies, etc.)

It wasn’t until Monday evening that I realized the message might have been also saying that Tuesday would be even worse. Which when I got to Tuesday, I found out that yes, yes it would be worse.

However, I looked at the whole thing as if it were set up solely to see if I could be patient through it, so of course I could.

After that (Wednesday) we were good. We seem to have hit our school stride for our situation right now?? Although, it’s all going to change again next week as Penelope and Archie go back to school.

Penelope chipped a front tooth (the source of one of the screaming emergencies). I think all the kids, but Herbie and Linus have chipped a front tooth now. Archie chipped his last lockdown in the parking lot.

Ruby’s is the only one that’s required a dentist, which is of course a potential fear. The last thing I want to do right now is visit the dentist.

Penelope’s tooth-chipping (on the counter in front of the sink) appeared to be very bad. She was in a lot of pain, and she handed me bits of tooth she’d pulled off her tongue. I was (patiently) envisioning an entire crumbled tooth (and if we had to see the dentist and she had a missing front tooth for the rest of her life, so be it... ).

But when she stopped crying enough for me to look into her mouth, I saw that she’d handed me everything, and the chips had come off the back of the front tooth, not visible at all without peering deep into her mouth. Also, she’s had no sensitivity while eating.

Linus cried in my arms for awhile coming home from school Monday because he had 29 assignments that hadn’t been turned in and the teacher in the school library told him he wasn’t going to pass 5th grade. (Which is, of course, ridiculous.)

After he’d had a chance to eat and run around outside, I sat with him at the computer, where he pretty much took off on his own. He went to work on the most recent back assignments. We discovered that 22 of the assignments were assignments he’d already done in the packets, so Woo had him write a message saying he’d already done it on each one. Now he’s caught up and much more happy.

Moses finds his online classes to be extremely boring, so when he gets home, he’s excited (more like desperate) to do something he enjoys. He built this new car race track, and he’s pretty upset about being interrupted or delayed by car races are going on.

There was a gigantic fight among all the boys on Monday dealing with this, and an even bigger blow up on Tuesday, which proved to be end.

Herbie and Moses finally humbled themselves to see the things they were doing wrong (instead of being so mad at the other!) Moses drafted a set of rules that everyone agreed to and seem to be working well, and Herbie (who is developing an incredibly deep and loud voice) has been working extra hard to keep his voice down.
Penelope (waiting yet again for Woo :): Dad’s the slowest in the family! 
Except when he’s sprinting!
Then we all know he’s still the fastest.

When Herbie, Moses, and Linus went to school, and while Ruby was doing school, and Penelope was reading herself, Archie finally picked up a chapter book for fun (one of Linus’ I Survived books) and loved it! He spent several mornings reading those, and I’m happy that Archie is now firmly in “Reading for fun and learning” (Stage 3 of Reading Development).

He was a little reluctant to get there. This is the first time Archie’s gotten into a book series himself without any prodding. At least not any prodding from me. There might have been some from Penelope, who wanted quiet for her own reading.

Ruby had a presentation that didn’t really seem to go well on Tuesday. At least Woo and I could hear her teacher’s remarks. (It was weird to hear a teacher not even try to say anything positive about an oral presentation... )

We were able to go in and give Ruby some hugs and listen and give her some council. She said that all the teachers are complaining that all the kids are getting bad grades, and all the kids are complaining that they’re doing the best they can, and they’re getting far too much work from each individual teacher... lots of complaining on both sides...

Ruby herself seems to be getting more tough. Long-suffering is an attribute that she is consciously and actively working on right now. I was hoping that she’d be able to be done with online school sooner, but it looks she’ll be online until at least the 19th of April :(.

Woo started watching the Americas Cup. The first one was boring, so I think he just watched the highlights for a bit every morning after that. He watched it with Archie on Friday and had a crowd of boys around him on Saturday.

He spent some time looking up sailing terms and giggling as he read them out loud to me—they sure seem ridiculous and confusing to us incompetents.

Other than that, nothing new with Woo. He’s been testing his app, writing his app. He went into the basement early and fixed a few flat tires before our bike ride on Tuesday.

It was windy, but sunny and quiet and really pretty at times when we could see the bright blue ocean.

It was probably our last Tuesday bike ride. Woo and Herbie fixed the two new popped tires yesterday, but Penelope and Archie are headed back to school.

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


The Plot Thickens... Or Goes Nowhere...

This was a tough week with several tantrums (I’m including the end of last week). I remember when we first moved here, I thought I’d be dealing with repeated tantrums as kids learned to have school in Portuguese. We didn’t, but we’ve had several now as kids learn to have school digitally. (And then I seemingly shot myself in the foot by feeding the kids too much sugar on Fridays... will I ever learn??)

Herbie, Moses and Linus returned from their first digital morning on Monday. Where Herbie pronounced it had been “horrible.”

I’d sent messages to the director about Herbie’s nose and wearing a mask. He’d said something could be worked out.

Also, not knowing what the conditions would be like at the school (only our kids and a handful of function├írios in the whole place?), Woo and I instructed them to stay “in one body as much as possible.”

When they arrived and Herbie explained about his nose, he was given the choice of going in a room by himself or staying with his brothers with a mask. (They did not care that they’re from the same household. Also, the director I talked to wasn’t there.)

Herbie chose to stay with his brothers, even though it hurt him a lot to be wearing a mask. I was so grateful for his sacrifice, and that night we were able to find him a mask that hurt his nose much less.

Linus has a short class three afternoons. We decided to have him try them at home, as it was only him with a class, and we also didn’t want to send him back into the school all alone.

There were a lot of hiccups that first meeting. Luckily, Ruby had a few minutes free right then and was able to help him. (We learned one of our computers is useless for google meet.)

Later, when Linus was telling me about it, he said he was in the class, but couldn’t say anything. He heard his friend say, “Maybe Linus forgot to speak Portuguese!” and Linus laughed merrily in telling me as if nothing could be more ridiculous.

Moses is suddenly stressed about time and convinced that he doesn’t have time to do it all. (They do have an extra week to make up in between the packets they’ve received and attending classes online.)

Yet somehow Moses still had time to build a gigantic pirate ship with three masts and sails (made of paper). He did this in order to console himself on not being able to buy a new birthday set yet. I thought the emergency restrictions (where all non-essential stores and services are shut down) were ending on the 1st of March. I’d failed to notice that they’d been extended to the 16th.

Moses has been kind to share the six Tintin books he got with all his siblings, and nicest of all to spend time almost several afternoons reading Tintin out loud to Archie.

The last couple weeks the kids have talked a lot together about how much they’ve changed. Although I cringe at some of the revelations from when we lived in Huntsville, it’s very good news that they’re better people and recognize it.

I assume that this is the same for everyone (?), but all of us have changed in only the last year. It’s embarrassing already to think about what I was like last year.

As I think about the kids in the time we’ve been here in Portugal (and this is a very broad and sweeping generalization), they spent the first school year (roughly) excited to be here and having a new adventure, the second school year they quietly missed school/life in the US and sometimes pined for it, and the third school year (after we’d made a visit home) they moved on and looked forward to continuing here.

Also, the older kids have recognized that the school environment in the US had not been helping them develop into better people. They loved it, but no, something wasn’t right.

Which is a little counterintuitive that they’d become better here because the school environment here is worse in so many ways, but in the US the grades of decline were more subtle. Ruby couldn’t even really describe it to me either when she tried. Although in her testimony today she did express thanks for moving to Portugal and the opportunity to be different.

(As I told the kids on Sunday when we had a family council, I’ve looked at schools up and down Utah the last couple of years, and I have always—for whatever reason—gotten a very clear “NO!”)

But here, I guess, there is such a wide chasm in language, culture, lifestyle that it’s only made them stronger.

That said, this fourth school year has been difficult. I’m already counting down the weeks until school reopens (3!!!), which is no prize because I was already counting down the weeks until that was over.

In fact, schools shut down only a few days after a very desperate “help us!” prayer I’d said. It felt like a direct answer at the time, and it was for a few pleasant weeks.

Our best weeks have been when the school was completely out of our lives, but I don’t feel we have what it takes to homeschool these older kids alone (not to mention illegal here). At least without some significant secondary activity or perhaps travel (but preferably something with more meaning, less exhaustion, and less expensive), which is also not possible right now.

We made a tweak to our repenting this week. We made it for 10 minutes before family scriptures. Moses wrote out the most beautiful list two days ago. I didn’t know it was possible for him to write so neatly. I’d never seen anything like it from him before! Also, his spelling was 10 times better than usual.
Woo (sharing what he learned from the scriptures about being a better teacher): I can be a better teacher by bearing down in pure testimony.  
Linus: What’s bearing down in pure testimony?!  
Woo: Linus, I know that if you’ll be quiet, you’ll feel the Holy Ghost.
Linus didn’t get it, but asked Woo several more times and got the same answer, while I laughed. Noticing I was laughing, he finally stopped asking and thought about it a little bit.

Nellpea was chosen to participate in a reading contest. It was on Zoom and Woo volunteered to help her with this. He helped her through the practice session last week, but that was so draining that he dreaded the actual contest.

Penelope, on the other hand, was excited. She very patiently sat through all the things that were driving Woo crazy. She completed her test, read wonderfully, and watched Mr. Bean while the judges deliberated. (Mr. Bean is a popular choice with elementary school teachers here.)

Penelope did not win. Woo thinks Penelope was slightly disappointed (because who doesn’t like to win?!?), but not too much. I didn’t notice any disappointment in her when they finally emerged from the room, and she didn’t say anything either.

Archie’s teacher sent a lot of work and late in the week last week, so we were scrambling to get it done by Friday. In fact, we didn’t make it. We turned it in last Saturday.

His teacher wrote back saying his handwriting was not good and he’d made a lot of mistakes, which is a lot my fault also, as I stressed that he “hurry!” all last week. Luckily, she sent much less work this week. But I can feel my motivation to take pictures of his work and send it in to her slipping to dangerously low levels.

I didn’t do my class this week because I wanted to see how much work everyone would have. The older four had more than enough, Penelope and Archie did not.

I did my class with them alone on Friday. They were eager to resume, and we had a good time. I had a tiny twinge of sadness that the other kids weren’t there (But not a ton—I’m not convinced my class is the best thing ever for everyone...)

Again, with a little sadness, Penelope, Archie and I headed to the parking lot alone for our workout, as all the other kids were only going to get about 10-15 minutes there. Penelope was my workout buddy, leaving me far in the dust on occasion. She’s always done her best on these. Archie did about a quarter of the workout. He spent the rest of it either crying or pulling leaves off a stick.

Woo remained at home to accompany the rest of the kids when they were home. This may have been a mistake because the kids were at their worst right when they came home, hungry, hours staring at a screen, dealing with non-functioning microphones, the power going out, more assignments, etc. I felt slightly guilty leaving Woo to handle that alone. But I also feel Nellpea and Archie should get more time outside, and it’s the only time Ruby can leave the house. 


Woo’s been battling extremes this week. At times feeling like he has a lifetime of work on his surfing app and so many interesting things he could do with it, but also feeling like there’s nothing in the immediate future to look forward to. It’s something we all (except maybe the youngest three?) have struggled with at one time or another in the past year. Thankfully, when I’m feeling that way, Woo is not and vice versa, and hope always returns in some form or another. Woo somehow found out that America’s Cup is starting on Wednesday, which is something???

I don’t really understand Ruby’s school. Sometimes teachers will extend classes from 1 to 2 hours. They hold tests outside their scheduled class time. Usually at lunch or in the evening. Sometimes Ruby will tell us she’s just received an assignment before dinner and it’s due at 7 or 8 p.m.

I decided the best thing I could do was write Ruby’s DT (like home room) teacher to tell her that I, like the students, felt they were getting too much (and arbitrary) work. However, Ruby’s teacher did not agree :).

We did start our 10 minutes repentance that evening, and that alone seems to have revived Ruby a lot. It does feel pretty good.

And also the weather has been beautiful so many days. Sunny, warm, low wind. At times it’s hard not to want spend all day outside. Alas, we can’t.

In Come Follow Me: For his ​​​word​ ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.
Me: What does it mean to receive the words of the prophet in patience and in faith?  
Penelope (first hand up and in all sincerity): Um, if it’s long, to be patient until it’s done.
Also, Penelope and Archie made us a couch and a coffee table!

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