URGENTE, or Answered Fasts

Woo really felt that we would never hear back from SEF about fixing Ruby’s account to renew her residency permit. He called and had been told to send emails. He’d sent emails... where they would disappear into a black hole of cached emails... then SEF was disbanded (long story involving police brutality). There was nothing we could do. 

So we made that our April fast. The kids were very sincere (as we told them there was no way we’d be visiting the US this summer without it). Archie fasted two meals (with encouragement and distraction from Ruby).

Tuesday Woo tried again. He used his nerd skills to find the email address of a SEF employee and sent another email to the same old email address with the subject line we learned from Ruby’s teacher (URGENTE).

Both were answered within a couple of hours. The problem was fixed!

I praised Woo for his nerd skills in getting the problem solved, but in reading scriptures with Ruby and Moses we were both called to repentance. Jesus Christ had been the hero. He inspired Woo with what to do, and there had been work done on the other side (with those receiving the emails) in which Woo had no influence at all.

After that, Woo was able to get online and renew Ruby’s account. We’re all legal for the next three years. It was a miracle.

After two days the renewal was clear to pay the fee at any ATM. The other seven were very easy, but Woo wasn’t able to pay Ruby’s on the first try because there wasn’t quite enough money in our Portuguese bank account.

He transferred money, and when that was clear the next day, he left the house to go pay. But for no reason his phone died on the way (important because it had the ID code). He got it up and working, continued to the ATM, when it died again!

When he got home, Woo was breathing hard from stress, but he did get it paid!

Now hold your horses. We’re not immediately buying tickets to the US. The current flight restrictions (and other concerns) make getting all eight of us on an international flight sound... ugh.

The current conversation between Woo and I goes something like this:

Woo: What do you think? Me (with a sigh and a grimace): Difficult. What do you think? Woo (with a sigh): Yeah.

Then we roll over and go to sleep or talk about something else to avoid having to think about how difficult it would be.

The kids are still praying for it though. Maybe something will change.

Ruby was tested for covid this week as part of her return to school. (All high schoolers were tested.) She received the deep, double nostril test, which is the only one I’m aware of here.

It wiped her out for the rest of the day. She was on edge and had a headache and a sore throat and fell asleep about an hour early.

This was on her third day back to school. She was super tired after the first day back too. She built up strength for a full day of online school and now has to readjust to a long day of in-person school.

We got Ruby’s test result back just before she fell asleep (negative), but in the morning she anxiously asked me if any URGENTE emails had arrived from her teacher during the night. She was dreading someone in her class testing positive and the whole class returning to online school for the next 10 days.

Herbie already has two teachers in quarantine and has missed a few classes. He came home and went surfing two times, I think. One missed class was in the middle of two present classes, so he waited that one out at the school.

Herbie has enjoyed being back in school and talking with his friends during the break. Also, his teachers. Art is his nemesis, though. He can never seem to figure out what his teacher wants.

On his latest project, she didn’t like any of the ideas he had, but on the next day of class, she suddenly liked one of the ideas she’d rejected the class before.

Herbie turned fifteen! Moses followed him around talking about how he couldn’t believe Herbie was FIFTEEN! I could hardly believe it either, even though Ruby’s already sixteen.

Herbie requested an Oreo mousse that we once had at a branch party and Herbie’d loved it so much, he got the recipe. He (and Woo?) thought it would be a good idea to double the recipe, but at 4 cups of cream I thought not.

However, whipping it up I began to doubt myself; it looked so insufficient. There were some disappointed looks when I dished it out, but in the end only a third of us were able to finish it; it was so rich, and Herbie still loves it.

Also Herbie has already broken two fins on his new surf board. We can easily buy replacements in a 3-fin set from Decathlon, but still more of a pain than never breaking them.

Moses has been waiting two months to get into the Galina Gorda (store name) and buy a nerf gun for his birthday. He and I went on Monday. I tried to warn him ahead of time that this was a reconnaissance shopping trip—that I didn’t think he should buy anything right away.

We did find some nerf guns and Moses did find one that he felt was a good price and wanted to buy right away. I almost let him because what do I know about nerf guns??

But I do know that that “I MUST have this thing right NOW” feeling is not good. So I took a picture for reference and convinced him to wait.

Woo found the same gun on Amazon.es for a third of the price later that afternoon. Moses was not really happy with us because he felt that he had already waited for sooo long. (I DESERVE this!—Another bad sign.) But I had him go in his room and pray about it, and he came out with a sheepish smile and said he could wait.

Patience was the lesson for him this week. We ordered a few needed clothes from Decathlon and several times a day he asked if I’d gotten the email that the package had been sent yet. And then when we knew the day the package was coming, he desperately wanted it to come in the morning so he could wear his new things to school in the afternoon.

The package not only wasn’t there, but the bell also wasn’t working. He’d run home to be early and get his things, but he ended up waiting outside a few minutes LONGER until Woo and I came down the stairs to pick up Nellpea.

The package came on one of his late nights when he had about five minutes to look over all his new things, and then the next day it was raining, so there was the tension of: ruin my new clothes or wear them? He wore them.

Moses also finally ended his two week streak of lying awake in bed for two hours. It was worrisome as some nights he was getting less sleep than me!

But I fasted for him and had the idea to have him drink a warm glass of milk before bed, and he’s slept great 6 out of 7 nights since.

Penelope took a bunch of her perler bead creations to school where they were a huge hit. Only two other kids had ever seen them. She made a trade with one friend, who made a stress ball for Nellpea out of a balloon and some couscous.

Nellpea was very happy with this trade as she and Archie always envied Woo for the stress balls they’d made for him for Fathers Day.

In fact, Archie broke one of Woo’s a few weeks ago, sneaking in a few squeezes when Woo was out of the house. It was the flour one, of course, and left a telltale flour residue over our bed and floor that Archie had to clean up three times before Woo was happy with it.

Archie also gifted one of his friends a ninja perler bead creation of his, and gave another friend all of his “fossils.” They aren’t really fossils, but a collection of rocks with scratches or funny-looking sections. It was cute how excited Archie was to discover that his friend liked fossils and to generously bestow upon him his own entire collection.

I woke up in the middle of the night this week with the urgent (URGENTE?) thought: cut Nellpea’s hair!

She’d asked me to cut it, and I had plans to, but it kept not getting done. I cut it that very day during her lunch break.

Nellpea is a very diligent mask wearer. She often wears it in the house until Woo or I tell her to take it off.

Penelope enjoys our family scripture routine so much that she’s started to do the same thing in her personal reading. She writes down a question in her notebook, then writes down all the answers she gets. The question she first showed me was: how can I feel more success?

Her question on Herbie’s birthday was: how can I better celebrate other people’s birthdays? And she had some good answers that I should probably consider.

Our family questions now are all questions we’ve pulled from talks in the last conference. I’m really enjoying them. The ones teaching us about Jesus Christ are not quite as expected. At least not for me. Many have been delightful. Others have made me a tad nervous. I’m sure that this (along with our repentance) are an answer to our education fast we had for the kids a few months ago.

It’s always fun for us all to see that the question chosen (usually at random, each of us taking a turn) has been the exact right fit for the verses read. Often the primary song we sing afterwards is a perfect match too.

Archie has really taken off here also, especially after Woo insisted that Archie use lined paper and write more neatly (Woo bought him his own little notebook for this purpose.)

Archie is following along intently and is getting too many answers. We have to limit him on how many he shares.

Woo and I had some concerns about Linus. He wasn’t being his best at home. He seemed to be skirting along, doing the bare minimum, frequently tripping into rude and contentious territory.

I had him pray about it one night and in the morning he told me that he wasn’t being his best and that he needed to help his family. So I’ve been reminding him of those two things, and he’s been praying for them every prayer he says, and there’s been some immediate improvement!

This is the best repentance list he’s ever written and he went around to everyone after he’d written it, saying his apologies with a smile on his face.

I believe that him recognizing all these things and praying for help to stop them will help him improve even more.

I walked Linus to school one morning when Herbie was going in late. On our way there, one of his friends stopped and offered him a ride (it was sprinkling). Linus said no and refused, even after I told him it would be okay.

When I asked him why he hadn’t gone with his friend he said, “Because I wanted to keep talking to you.” 😊

Linus (bragging about how tall he’s going to be when he grows up): I’m going to be FIVE feet tall!

But when we laughed, he realized that couldn’t be right and quickly changed his goal to six feet and beyond.

Woo surprised me with a new, fancy power strip this week, and a few other adapters, and set it all up to make my charging life much more convenient.

Ruby was a youth speaker today, but she gave an adult talk. She should’ve been the last speaker.

And I think that’s it. Hope your week was great! 


Easing of Restrictions

The split evening scripture study is helping us. Instead of being super cranky all week, Linus was only kind of cranky Thursday, Friday morning and super cranky Saturday. Yay! He also became more affectionate with Woo and I and more willing to do things with the rest of the family.

Archie was also a lot better. He stopped making his I'm-being-bad-face, which we call the I-got-in-the-flour face, because of a video Woo took of 18 month old Archie after he pulled off the lid of the 10 gallon bucket of flour and played in it. Archie still makes the same face when he's doing something he knows he shouldn't, which happens way more often when he's been going to bed too late.

Archie prays almost every morning before he and I leave the house for school, and he always prays to be a good missionary and to stand up for the right. No one told him to pray for those things. Those are his personal goals.

We eat a lot of carrots. It is the number one snack for Herbie, Moses and Linus, but everyone else eats them too. We buy several large bags every shopping trip. Anyway, we got a bad batch or something because three bags of carrots got moldy seemingly in one day.

If we'd had a carrot peeler, it would've been an easy fix, as all the mold was on the outside, but we don't own a carrot peeler because we never peel carrots (or potatoes for that matter).

I cut up a few of the larger carrots for two dinners, but my I'm-happy-while-slicing-vegetables threshold is very low. (And so is Woo's.) So Penelope managed to cut the mold off of several carrots and placed them back in the fridge in a plastic bag to share with anyone who wanted them. Thanks, Nelps!

Ruby was uncharacteristically cranky Wednesday night. Oh, by the way, I'm sorry I sent the picture of Ruby glaring last week. She really was having a good time working on her dugout, and the sentiment the picture caught was not accurate.

Anyway, Ruby was uncharacteristically cranky Wednesday evening, and we knelt down to repent and all I could think about is that I hadn't gone on bike rides with Ruby, and she hadn't left the house in almost three days. I kept trying to repent and kept getting, "Ruby needs to exercise!"

So, that's what I said the second we were done, but she was too cranky to accept that idea. Herbie offered to go with her, and then Woo did too, as soon as we were done with scriptures, but Ruby would not hear of it. They did not give up though, and finally, she changed her mind and ran out the door ahead of them, hoping to lose them. They did find her in the park, where she tried to keep up her crusty demeanor, but by the time she was done, she was clearly feeling much better.

Since then she's been walking (really they jog) to the middle school with Herbie or Moses or Linus when it fits her schedule and then she runs home. Also she went on a bike ride with Woo. Danger averted!

Ruby also had an experience where the teacher said that the kids with the highest scores had almost certainly cheated. He had purposely made a test very difficult. Ruby had not even been able to finish in the allotted time, so she was encouraged when she heard that. Also, the teacher will be giving an oral test to all kids suspected of cheating next week. (When they go back to school!)

Ruby also made dinner rolls Saturday, something she's been wanting to do for awhile, and proud of herself for finally accomplishing.

Herbie continues to be fantastic. He was good to offer to help Ruby get outside on Wednesday night. On Thursday, Woo was talking with Moses while Moses finished his dinner and I put younger kids to bed. There was a small bowl of sliced onion sitting in front of Moses (for pulled pork sandwiches). When he was done, Woo jokingly asked Moses if he was going to finish off the onions.

And Herbie, who thought Woo was serious and wanted to help Moses, said he would do it and immediately stuffed about 1/4 of a pretty strong onion into his mouth. To Woo's surprise he finished it all off without a complaint. He did brush his teeth a couple times and took a mint to school with him the next day to keep from overpowering people. But otherwise no ill effects.

Herbie bought a new surfboard for his birthday. He's excited about that, and also he was happy because the person he bought it from was very grateful because they said they needed the money.

We went to a skatepark for the first time in over a year. Linus is happy to retreat to some area and quietly work on his technical skills for as long as we'll allow. At the park he is always trying to ride his bike backwards.

At the skatepark, he rode up and asked Woo how it was supposed to feel when you dropped in the bowl on your bike. He could tell something was wrong with the way he was doing it. Woo and I said some things, but he quickly decided we didn't know what we were talking about (which we don't), and he rode over to ask Moses.

Moses hopped on a bike himself, dropped in a few times, described it to Linus, and when Linus tried again, he had it!

Moses spent a lot of time on Saturday, carefully measuring every key and space on my laptop and reproducing it for a laptop on his own. Moses is not careful in a lot of things, but he is extremely careful whenever he is constructing anything and on all his art and craft projects.

Penelope learned how to make popcorn on the stove this week. She was very pleased and has made it a few times for herself and Archie, and offered to make some for Linus too, but I just told him how to make it also.

One day Ruby and Moses read their journal entries out loud to each other. Penelope was also in the audience and it had a big effect on her. It opened her eyes to how a journal entry could sound, and she's completely changed how she writes in her own journal. Instead of writing a dry list of events, she now tries to pretend she's talking to someone. She seemed to feel this was significant and told me about it several times. She also said it was the best thing that had happened to her all week.

Woo decided to try some mild intermittent fasting. He forgot on the second day, and considered giving up, but copied the kids' idea and wrote a reminder on his cereal box. (The kids' cereal boxes all say "PRAY.") The waves weren't wonderful this week, but the weather mostly was. Woo went on several bike rides, walks and runs on the dunes with, I believe, every member of the family at different times.

He thought his skatepark skateboarding was slightly better, thanks to his skateboarding time in the parking lot (when we used to go there every day).

He had a fantastic night of sleep last night, which he attributes to having a talk in the morning and not being prepared for it at all.

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


Back to School

The kids got grades from this term that was mostly online. Their grades were about the same, a little lower for some. But some other kids in their classes had much, much improved grades. Better than they’d ever earned before. 

Woo and I discussed how online school really was better for some kids.

Then the next day I was thinking about Archie and Nellpea’s dioramas of recyclables that were assigned before the return of school, but brought to school when they did.

Many of these were huge, cut precisely with an exacto knife, painted expertly and labeled neatly—clearly the work of an adult... far out of the range of any 2nd or 4th grader...

And it occurred to me that the kids in the older kids classes, who’d had such a sudden improvement in grades, had also had parental help.

When I mentioned this to Linus and Moses, they said that their teachers had agreed, saying things along the lines of, “Now that we’re all back in school, we’ll see what kind of grades you’re really earning...”

The kids were EXCELLENT during conference! Easily the best they’ve ever been! We had Linus raise his voice after one of the end sessions. Herbie and Ruby were disappointed about something Saturday night, that Herbie quickly got over, and Ruby immediately fell asleep (clearly wasn’t feeling her best).

But there was NO grouchiness, antsy-ness, distractions or irreverence. All kids sat quietly, took notes or drew pictures, and listened.

We have our conference tricks to help things along that we’ve learned through trial and error over the years. Three differences this year that I think all helped were very little sugar and snacking, the kids are simply older, and I added a 10 minute gratitude/repentance/pray-for-help-to-avoid-mistakes-of-the-day-before session in the morning (to complement the 10 minute session in the evening).

This last one seems to be helping Moses and Herbie especially, all the days.

I also had the best conference I’ve ever had. One family scripture study where our question was “how can I prepare for conference?” I learned that I needed to pray for humility, charity and faith while watching.

I did not realize that I had watched past conferences with a lack of humility, charity or faith, but clearly I did. I know that now.

Monday evening was our first late school night with Herbie, Moses and Linus returning to school. It was discouraging feeling all the old feelings and sensing Linus and Archie’s tiredness... here we go again...

Anyway, we did end up splitting our family scripture study. The kids all now have their own somewhat complicated morning study, and we chose the simplest, least disruptive change. Which is to feed everyone but Moses, repent, sing, scriptures, sing, and at that point Moses comes home.

Then we all say our family prayers together, Moses eats while we put younger kids in bed, then Woo and I go through everything Moses missed with him alone in our room. (Ruby will join him in another week when she goes back to school.) It’s too early to tell if it’s much better, because good sleep continues to elude us, but it's encouraging enough to continue.

All the kids had at least one night where they couldn’t get to sleep. Moses had several, then got himself wound into that hyper mode where it’s difficult to believe that you could or should sleep more. I’ve been there myself and it’s tough to break. I think that a lot of people must spend a lot of their lives there.

Anyway, behavior is the clue, and Moses is having a hard time calming down ever and is a bit paranoid that everyone is against him. Hopefully it breaks next week.

Herbie came home from school on Friday complaining that his eyes were funny. Woo and I have never had a migraine, but we know this is a sign that one is coming.

Herbie never complained of pain, but luckily he only had a half day of school and didn't need to go back because he got really confused and very suggestible. We suggested that he take a nap, and he rolled up in a ball at the bottom of Moses’ bed and fell asleep for a couple hours.

Woo had a few nights where he felt he didn’t sleep at all. Finally, Saturday morning he announced: I slept 8 hours!

Ruby had a relaxing week of online school, as the term ended before the break and her teachers didn’t assign any new work until they’d had class at some point during the week.

In her extra time she helped Archie deep clean his room, which was very nice, and she also started writing a story that she read aloud to Penelope and Archie a few times.

But by Friday evening school had caught back up with her, and she had a frustrating math test right before dinner.

Linus broke his glasses twice this week. Woo superglued them once. I taped them the second time. Neither lasted long.

Friday afternoon everyone was out of school (except Ruby and Moses), but too tired or meh or sick to leave the house, except Linus, who went on a walk with Woo.

This was kind of surprising because Woo likes to go on walks to look at waves, and Linus thinks looking at waves (and walks) are boring. But they had a good time in the middle ground: the dunes. Then we all had to go on Saturday.

When we walk or ride past the elementary school there are often kids outside playing and we try to wave and say hi to our kids. However Penelope NEVER sees us!

Woo had one frustrating encounter where he yelled and yelled Penelope’s name, and she either didn’t hear or kept looking up in the opposite direction.

This made no sense to Woo as he felt Penelope should recognize his voice and know what side of the school he would be on (the one where we live and always are), but maybe there was an echo?

Anyway, he had a few more situations like this until this week Penelope came home and Woo said, “Hi Penelope! I saw you at school, but I didn’t say anything because you never hear me anyway. Sorry.”

Archie got on a paper airplane kick, which was a lot of fun for him, but nearly impossible to get him to do or think about anything else unless the paper airplanes were confiscated.

Archie started the week with his old “I don’t like school. School is boring.” But slowly lost that train of thought in favor of telling me about all the games he and his friends play at recess.

Archie’s best friend (at least the one he talks the most about) is a little boy named Zé who is very happy and friendly. Zé’s dad always smiles and waves when we meet at the school as if we’re best friends, even though I’ve never once talked to him. It’s impossible to not smile and like people like that.

A favorite game is for Zé to be the king of China and Archie to be the king of America because those are the countries they’re from.

I discovered that most of our kids don’t know the pledge of allegiance, and this kickstarted Woo onto an enjoyable (to him) hour of pledge of allegiance research, where he read many versions and court decisions out loud to me. Also the pledge in Spanish (funny when you know one early version pledges not only one nation, but also one language).

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