Sundays are busy. Email on Saturday.

I’m starting to feel like we’re not the only people here who are tired and feel like we need a break. 

School has been extended to make up for lost time during the shut down, with no holidays the entire time.

Woo was getting more and more sick. Linus and I ran to the pharmacy for a new inhaler on his worst day. No one knew if the old inhaler was empty, but it seemed worth a try. Woo and I kept thinking that might be part of his problem.

He has gotten steadily better with the new one, but there’s still something somewhere irritating his lungs.

Archie has a personal goal to be a missionary at school. He told me this week that he said in a class discussion, “In my church we aren’t allowed to divorce.”

I don’t know how that came off or how it was relevant, but Archie said he felt good about it and that he was brave, so I guess it was a success.

Penelope has started to turn her grateful lists into poems. Here are a few lines I remember:

I am grateful for green things, 
And prophets’ exhortings.

I am grateful for my life, 
For every husband and wife, 
Who are one, 
And help others to have fun.

I’m grateful for my breath, 
And the prophets before and after Seth.

Linus made this ship for History and Geography of Portugal (HGP).
Linus: Do you like my ship, Mom? 
Me: Yes. It’s better than I expected. 
Linus: Yeah, me too.
Ruby and Linus both wanted to buy some food for a food drive with their own money, so I took them to the store one afternoon.

They were both pretty crabby when we left, but felt steadily better as we were there, and came home happy.

Linus imagined himself picking out food to feed the entire hungry world. I had to limit him to what they could carry, because there’s no legal parking outside the church. I pulled the van up on the sidewalk, they unlocked the church, ran everything into the chapel, locked the church, and we were off.

Herbie finally finished a project his art teacher was happy with! His self portrait. Still, he’s happy to leave this subject behind this year.

The older kids seem to do one book report a year in Portuguese. There’s no suggested or required list to pick from. The quality of books chosen seems to be pretty low. In fact, Ruby said her teacher mumbled something about allowing a lot of books this year that she normally wouldn’t have…

Anyway, Herbie‘s Portuguese teacher was happy to allow him to do his report on books he’s read in English and wanted him to read a segment in English out loud to the class (which he had to translate anyway).

But he said the best was that they were supposed to bring a book to read after the test, and his teacher was visibly shocked when she saw he was reading All Creatures Great and Small.

His English class read a simplified Oliver Twist and watched one of the movies. Of course, he was the expert there too.

Ruby did her report on Journey to the Center of the Earth, but she read the Portuguese translation. She’s currently reading a big book of all Jules Verne’s works that she got at the school library. She's been really excited about The Adventures of Captain Hatteras.

They both really liked The Chosen, The Hiding Place, and want to read more of PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves. (I’ve never read them, but I assume they’re okay?)

Ruby had a field trip. The first field trip anyone’s had in over a year. They went to the beach and picked up trash and also did some biology and physics/chemistry related things with those teachers. Something about the wildlife and composition of the river?

She was pink when she got back that evening and had a cute mask line, that was mostly gone in the morning.

Woo gave a great talk on hope that was like a breath of fresh air in our tired little branch. I’m always happy when he’s on the line up to speak. He is less happy.

Moses is always super concerned about being late (unless it’s bedtime). At the beginning of the year, with the staggered schedules, some of the kids said it was a relief to not be walking to school with Moses anymore and his constant fear of being late.

Anyway, on Friday he came up to me in a rush (several minutes early), said his prayer, grabbed the backpack in the entry and ran out the door.

A couple minutes later, Ruby (who was home for lunch), came out of her room and announced that Moses had taken her backpack. His was still in his room.

She spent a couple minutes grumbling about Moses and his hurrying until it became clear that she needed the things in her backpack for class that afternoon. She grabbed his backpack and took off where she caught him just before he entered the school gate.

We were able to get an appointment the first week the temple is open for baptisms, so we’re pretty excited about that.

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


Continue As You Are

After continually praying about moving, but always getting the answer “wait,” or “continue as you are,” we turned our attention to trying to buy a place here. 

Woo hates to think about how much money we’ve already spent in rent, and gets knots in his stomach imagining that going on indefinitely.

Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a single house or apartment here for us. We’ve been looking around our immediate area, but I one time searched the online listings of the entire country of Portugal and came up with nothing. Not a single listing that looked right for us.

Woo keeps looking and we do occasionally find a house that we feel is worth going to look at. We do have a realtor friend from that (unfortunate) time we filmed an episode. She has been very patient with us, and we feel like we must be the worst potential home buyers she’s ever worked with.

I personally am so desperate to set up a home again that I’m about willing to take *almost* anything.

(You might ask: why not buy your apartment or set up a home there? This also is wrong. I think it might possibly the condensation mold we deal with every winter. That would be much more difficult to clean out of furniture. Both Woo’s and my wallets are ruined, for example.)

Anyway, we looked at two places this week.

There must be spirits that linger in a place even after the people move out because one place just felt ick.

The other house was better. It had some quirks, but we’re both pretty anxious to find something, so we decided they could work, and maybe even be fun.

Ruby got to go with us because she started school late that day (teacher missing).

We started out really wanting to like the house. We liked the many little rooms. There was one section with two tiny bedrooms that would barely fit a bed each with a tiny sitting room in front. This had little cupboards and window seats. Ruby wanted one of those rooms, she tried to make it work for herself, mentally.

Half the rooms were also separated from each other by a terrace, that I also thought could be fun, maybe with little solar lights strung across it.

However, as we looked through the entire house there was a sinking feeling that this house was not going to work for us either. Darn.

We’re having a similar feeling about coming to the US this summer. It’s not that there are two or three concerns that are easily overcome with a little help and faith and elbow grease, but dozens of concerns that are moving nowhere. We’re starting to feel it just isn’t right. There is definitely a block on our minds.

Woo took Ruby driving for the first time. And because Herbie is fifteen, Woo also took him.

Woo sent me these two pictures and asked: notice any difference in confidence/comfort?

This is as to be expected. Ruby’s been avoiding going driving with Woo (although she likes the idea of having a drivers license), and Herbie has been studying our every move for years. He told us when he was eight or something that he’d been watching us closely and already knew how to drive a car.

Ruby had fun, but Herbie really, really, really wants to go again.

Moses has struggled to find something to do during school breaks all year, as his classmates’ natural break state is glued to their phones.

We have asked Moses (and our other middle school kids) to not look at the phones of their classmates, and they are very good (exceptionally fantastic?) to honor this request.

However, it puts Moses in a tough spot. He dislikes being alone during breaks with nothing do, so he comes up with games and things to do to lure his classmates away from their phones. Unfortunately, each enticement generally only works for a few days to a week, before his classmates return to their phones.

(Linus’ class is still young and enjoys a lot of running around. Herbie’s class seems to enjoying lots of talking. Also, their breaks often overlap, and they have each other. Phones are not allowed in the elementary school, and Ruby, who sometimes needs a phone for school, has learned, through trial and error, to leave the phone in her backpack for breaks and look for someone who needs a friend.)

Last week Moses took his maze ball to school for the first time. It was a sensation!

Kids from other classes, teachers, funcionários, everyone, had never seen anything like it. Moses was good to disinfect it often, but it was outlawed at the end of last week. Too many people were touching it.

Moses had kind of a blah school week this week without it.

The sneakers I bought at Aldi for my birthday were very popular with the kids. I didn’t even know they were trying to be Vans (and either did most of the kids—only Herbie?).

Ruby, Linus and Archie went to our Aldi a week or two weeks later and bought a pair. Herbie and Penelope wanted some also, but they didn’t have their size. Moses wanted some, but made the (difficult for him) decision to save for something bigger.

I could tell it really pained him, so I offered to let him wear my shoes to school once a week. (His feet are only a bit bigger than mine.) He was very excited and wore them that very day.

Archie is in that state where he cannot hear or understand a word we say. Sometimes it’s clear that he’s trying. He’ll nod and take off, but in the complete opposite direction of what he should be doing. It’s especially bad in the evening, where he’s distracted by literally everything.

He’s spent more time this week working on his little comic books, writing and drawing them first in pencil, and then going over them with a black pen.

His fascination with those was replaced by his megaphone made out of toilet paper rolls, which was eclipsed by these erasers on a skewer.

Linus has a friend who’s little brother had to go to the hospital for an eye infection. (The little brother is also in Penelope’s class.) There were fears that the eye would be lost or the infection would move into his brain.

We said prayers for him and Linus was excited to tell us the next day that the little brother was already doing better. Then news that he was coming home from the hospital.

The day the brother was to come out of the hospital was a stressful day for Linus’ friend. First, some kids picked on him and he got in a kicking, hitting fight. Linus talked to him afterwards to calm him down and help him laugh.

Then, the friend didn’t do his Portuguese homework (due to stress and worry at home for his brother), and he got in trouble. Linus helped him feel better after that too.

Penelope is so easy to be entreated. I say something once, as a general suggestion to all the kids, as something that would be a good thing for them to do, and I find a couple days later that Penelope has taken me completely seriously and is doing the thing I mentioned.

In some cases it’s minutes. Herbie got an email from a cousin who recently graduated from college and moved to Wisconsin.

I mentioned that it might be nice for everyone to write him a note as it can be difficult to be alone and move away from your family for the first time. Then I promptly forgot about it. A couple minutes later Penelope handed me this.

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


Too Many GIFs

We’ve had a week… many days have been difficult because… I think we’re just tired?? I don’t think we’re sleeping well. 

The kids have been LOUD and difficult to get to sit still or listen to anything we say. And I was so tired, I took a few naps and went to sleep an hour early one night, then slept 10 hrs the next night.

And Woo had his low sleep symptoms too—sinus infection and allergies. Anyway, I don’t know what’s been up.

Ruby has been planning a YW activity and inviting some friends to give a little presentation about their religions to talk about similarities and differences. She’s been very excited and full of ideas.

Herbie flexed, and then laughed sheepishly and admitted that he’s terrible at arm wrestling. I didn’t believe him, but he agreed to arm wrestle me right there, and I beat him! Both arms! He’s much stronger than I am, but not at arm wrestling, I guess. It was kind of cute :).

Moses mastered his maze ball, the most difficult maze ball we have. He could do all the levels separately, but on Thursday he did it all at one time. Herbie was watching him at the time, and they both cheered and celebrated like Moses had won corta mato.

Linus was in a cooking mood, making French toast, fried eggs, and toast in the oven on different days.

He’s been laughing in a more frequent, deep chortle than we’ve heard from him in years.

Penelope got a tiny packet of candies for a classmates birthday. She brought it home excited to share with everyone, but by the time she remembered (after dinner), the kids were so tired, it successfully unraveled almost everyone!

But Archie knew what was expected of him, and when he got a small package of gummy bears the next day, he ate only four himself, so everyone else could have an equal share.

Woo has become more reclusive since we moved here and even more since covid. He used to wish he had friends, but Herbie‘s stepped into the only remaining space a friend would fill (surfing buddy). He still has a friendly smile and a word or two, and even the occasional short conversation, but he’s not that interested in most social situations anymore.

I’ve been receiving revelation about how to share the gospel here, which I may share more about some other time.

Saturday we attempted to play volleyball in the park. We’re really horrible at volleyball, and Woo barked coaching terms at us I an unidentifiable foreign accent, trying to get us in a state to compete.

This led to a lot of laughing when we imagined a situation where the entire US Olympic team was unable to travel to the Olympics, and we were the only possible Americans to represent the country.

Herbie, Moses and Linus seemed to think they could wow the world in the surfing, soccer and cycling competitions (respectively), but the rest of us knew we’d be a comical disgrace in every event we attempted. Of course we assigned Archie to Greco-Roman wrestling and powerlifting. (The next day Penelope expressed a secret desire to do the weightlifting. And the running.)

Then Ruby suggested that this could be the “special blessing” we had all been working so hard for, which made it all seem even more hilarious.

We found snapdragons on our walk home from church.

Woo (making his snapdragon “talk”): Do you know what masks have made easier?? 

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


A Bunch of Answered Prayers

Covid numbers were rising in town, so Ruby was tested again this week. (This is going to be an every two week thing for the high school??) 

Ruby was nervous about returning to online school and said a lot of prayers as two kids went home feeling sick the day before, but no one in her class tested positive. At least six people in the school did though because six classes are now online for ten days.
Me (looking at the size of the Gilbert AZ temple): I’m always amazed at how many people live in Arizona.  
Woo: Phoenix has what, 3 million people?  
Me: I know! I always think of Arizona as this giant desert or something, but people live there!  
Woo: Your brother is one of them.  
Me: And your sister.  
Woo: Chelsey, this is going to surprise you, but there are millions of people living normal lives... living in houses, sitting on couches, access to hamburgers.  
Me (laughing because decent hamburgers—and couches—have become the unattainable symbol of the good life to us)  
Woo: I’m serious. Name one American that within five minutes can’t go out (or make in their own home) and have a hamburger in their hands.  
Me: ...filling their bellies...  
Woo: Name one! 
I couldn’t name one.

Woo doesn’t get a lot of opportunities to help people move here, but he did get to help someone move their boat for about four hours.

Me: How was it?  
Woo: Well, it wasn’t a cat owner who hadn’t packed yet… but I did get to sit in a car with a dog!

The morning Woo was leaving, I forgot my keys taking Archie to school. Halfway there I realized Woo wouldn’t be home to let me in after my run, and I needed to turn back for the keys right then.

I told Archie to give me a hug and run on ahead so he wouldn’t be late.

Archie: Mom, I’m scared!

I started to list some options for him, but before I knew it and before he’d given me a hug, he had torn off for the school as fast as he could.

I guess he’d decided that he could do it, and to sprint past all the dangers immediately, while the coast was clear. No kidnappers, dogs, or cars got him, and I got the keys.

Archie got an assignment to write a book for school. He had what he felt was a brilliant idea, that no one else had thought of, to write a comic book. He immediately got to work and wrote it that evening.

He took it to school the next day, and read it to his friends, who all wanted their own copies. He’s been working on little books ever since.

Linus finished covering all the upstairs windows with cardboard. The quality of his work and innovation took a hit with each window, but he got them all done. It is much, much darker up there now.

Linus still was crabby until Thursday evening.
Wednesday, as a family, we got the rebuke that we needed to work harder on contention and rudeness. Hard-heartedness was the culprit.

In the morning I had each of the kids pray about what they were hardening their hearts against (and did the same myself, of course).

Herbie, who’d been finding himself dragged more and more into Liney’s grouchiness, was excellent that morning. He talked about his soft heart and immediately did my every suggestion, and even some I didn’t mention, but he’d remembered me saying in the past.

Like he wiped up the sink and counter after Linus did the dishes instead of criticizing Linus and immediately dropped to his knees when we said it was time to pray.

But that afternoon, Linus and Herbie came home shouting at each other, in a big argument.

Neither one of them was able to let it go for a long time. I don’t know what finally helped them (other than prayers?), but that night they forgave each other, and decided to be friends. They even decided to hug, and Linus kissed Herbie, which Herbie acted disgusted about, but listed it as one of his daily blessings. They both mentioned being friends in their prayers and have been talking about their soft, squishy hearts ever since.

I overheard Ruby telling Moses(?) about her dream the night before. It had a pretty obvious interpretation, I thought.

Me: I can tell you what your dream means, Ruby.

Ruby (laughing, amused, but disbelieving): Really? What?

Then I told her in one or two sentences, and she stopped laughing and was dead silent for several moments as it was clear to her that I was right.

Ruby’s morning runs have led to morning showers, which have led to greater care in her dress. She even wore a skirt on Friday because of her friend’s shock that she’d worn overalls and then white pants and basically all the clothes that her friend would wear, but didn’t think Ruby ever would or could.

You know that old parent line: all I want for my birthday (or Christmas) is good kids?

Well, Moses took that to heart and was excellent all day for my birthday. Actually, most of the kids were great in the morning, but Moses was the only one able to keep it up literally all day.

He immediately got to work on his chore in the morning and proudly came and told me that he’d done the best job he’d ever done scrubbing the toilets. He seemed to have surprised and pleased even himself with his efforts.

He thanked me graciously and immediately for any treat I brought home, or anything I did. He never argued with anyone or got distracted or told jokes at the wrong time. He was always on task. He remembered everything we asked him to do with no reminders.

Even in the evening when everyone else was tired or had forgotten it was my birthday after being at school, he was still on task. He set the table. (Linus cut the pizza.) He was the first one with his teeth brushed and ready for scriptures and prayer.

Ruby had big plans for what she going to do for my birthday (deep clean her room, make dinner, etc), but she got hit in the head by a volleyball during P.E. It was also the day after her covid test. She spent her afternoon off sitting in bed drawing and looking kind of miserable. She is, of course, forgiven.

At the end of January, we got an extra sweater in a package of clothes we ordered for Penelope. The sweater was on sale and I think 3€? When I emailed the company to tell them, we were fully expecting them to tell us to keep it. I told Penelope she could give it to one of her friends, and she was excited to surprise her.

But the company didn’t say we could keep it; they wanted it back. The options were to take it to a brick and mortar store (1/2 hr away) or to a drop off point at a cafe in town. Then everything shut down and neither was possible for about three months.

I wasn’t excited about the drop off point. I had to print a return (we don’t have a printer), I’d have to explain (in Portuguese) that I shouldn’t be charged for shipping, it sounded like a mess. A couple weeks ago Woo decided to take it to the cafe for me, but it also turned out to be more work than he was expecting, and the sweater remained in a box in our room.

So for my birthday, I decided to drive to the mall in Caldas, return the sweater, maybe take a look around… something reminiscent of the old “day off” I used to take on my birthday.

Woo made sure the van was in working order (but forgot about the gas), and pulled the van out of the garage for me. (It’s much trickier now that someone decided to permanently store a Jeep in the space in front of us.)

Anyway, long story short, I got lost without a working phone, was low on gas, said several prayers (to find the mall, a place to park, that the van wouldn’t be towed or ticketed or roll down the hill, to effectively communicate the return of the extra sweater, to not run out of gas, for everyone to be safe without me, me to be safe, etc.—all were answered), and got the sweater returned.

I tried to look around the store, but I spent less than a minute in there. I had to leave pronto because the Holy Ghost did not like the music (Woo had prayed that I wouldn’t lose the Holy Ghost when I left the apartment), and the rest of the mall held nothing for me either.

After some more prayers I found the grocery store (which was playing NO music!). I found a running jersey and high top sneakers on sale, bought dinner, treats, lunch and headed home.

At evening prayers Woo expressed thanks that the sweater was no longer plaguing us and that we’d gotten rid of that bit of debris bothering us :).

Woo was happy this week because Ruby’s new residency permit and his replacement bank card both arrived safely in the mail (answers to prayers, of course :)

Every school day without fail, Penelope returns home at lunch and runs to her room to read a little Doctrine and Covenants before I come home with Archie. It was a personal goal that had a few starts and stops as she tried to find the right time and to start a new habit, but she’s got it down now!

She’s also been writing poetry, and she’s working on a treasure hunt for her friend André’s birthday. It’s for him to do at recess.

Archie (tattling): Dad, Moses just took another nectarine! 
Woo: Did he really?! 
Will you go tell Moses that I love him? 
And that you love him?

Archie ran away laughing, I assume to follow Woo's instruction.

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