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!