Summer, Kinda

The three oldest kids are out of school now. After one day of no school it was clear that Herbie needed more work. It’s times like these I wish we had 50 acres for Herbie to build a fence around or something. I think he would really enjoy that kind of thing. 

But we don’t have 50 acres. We don’t even have a yard. Instead, Herbie swept out the entire garage (of the apartment building), cleaned fingerprints off the wall all the way up and down the stairwell (he disliked this job), swept our two terraces, deep cleaned and organized our front entry, patched and sanded dings in walls, vacuumed out the van and 3 closets (and pretty much the rest of the apartment), made a pound cake and left a plate with a slice for each sibling where they would find it when they came home, watered our vegetable plants (only the peas are thriving), pumped up all the flat soccer and basketballs, cut Moses’ hair, and so on…

The three younger kids still have school for two more weeks. (And I’ve heard that the plan is to start school two weeks earlier in the fall.) After a rough morning I emailed the younger three’s teachers to find out if they would fail if we pulled them out of school a week early.

It was only a question, but it was not the teacher’s favorite email :), and one teacher never answered…

Anyway, Linus has missed one day of school a week for about a month, with various types of feeling unwell. It was clear we were not just pretending when the school called us Tuesday morning to pick Linus up after his first class. He couldn’t stop shaking and he felt like he was going to faint or throw up.

Linus came home and laid in bed for about an hour, and then he picked up his crochet book and taught himself how to crochet a granny square.

He did about four that afternoon and made plans for a blanket for him and for Herbie and a scripture case…

When I went up to check on kids before going to bed, Linus was still awake.

“I’m too excited about crocheting!”

When I laughed he said, “I really am!”

Anyway, it didn’t help his health, I’m sure. But he does have something to look forward to.

He has prayed to get out of school early all week, and always prayed that that day will be the last day, but he finished out the week.



Moses has been enjoying his first half week of summer break, playing basketball or soccer in the park a couple times a day with his siblings and burning through the Three Investigators. He’s reading about three a day.

I was somewhat sad as a mom to find that the Three Investigators were out of print, and I couldn’t share them with my kids. I had read every one that the library had as a kid, and I could never read Hardy boys or Nancy Drew because I felt they were inferior.

But now I can print them! After they’d read a couple, I asked Ruby, Herbie, Moses and Linus their opinion, and they each, separately, had the same opinion I’d had.

Moses had class as usual up until the last day, but all his teachers let them out a few minutes early so they could play soccer during breaks. Soccer was outlawed all year until this last week, so it was as good as a party for Moses.

Penelope had never read the first Anne of Green Gables. She devoured it during all her free time, and when she was done brought me the book with a funny look on her face.

Me: Are you okay, Penelope?

She frowned and smiled, laughed and groaned.

“I didn’t want it to end!!!”

We were surprised this week with a package containing a scripture case for Archie that we had ordered back in January and thought had been cancelled because it was out of stock.

Herbie (who has always had a soft spot in his heart for scripture cases, especially red ones) was home when it came, and he filled it all up with Archie’s scriptures, hymn book, notebook and a couple of pencils. Then he put it in Archie’s cubby and requested we say nothing to Archie so he’d be surprised at scripture time.

We didn’t say anything, but Archie found it beforehand with a squeal of delight. He inspected all the pockets and their contents, hugged his scripture case, carried it with him everywhere and told me how much he loved them and the red color.

We use all that stuff when we read scriptures as a family, and to be honest, collecting it all each evening has been beyond Archie, most days. But now it is all nicely put together, and he’s succeeded in bringing it and cleaning it up most nights since then. Friday night he was too tired to do much of anything.

Penelope also recently purchased a clipboard for herself, which she has loved, and everyday she writes lines and lines of repentance lists, gratitude lists and scriptures answers to family questions and her own personal questions.

Woo got his first shot this week. He did research into which vaccination he’d prefer, and in the end there wasn’t a choice. He got the Pfizer and will be back in four weeks.

He recommended that I bring some water with me when I get mine because he had a few minutes of sweating and really needing a drink after the shot, but there was none to be had. He said a few prayers, and it passed.

He came home feeling a little bit celebratory, so he ate a McKennedy peanut butter cup.

Last Saturday, I printed out a couple of great drawing books, and all the kids were enthralled for hours. Even kids who don’t normally like to draw.

I’ve been working on getting an article and picture of the new branch presidency in the local news.

No masks is friendlier, but masks are in keeping with the law.

And that’s our week! 


One Kid Out of School... Three Weeks to Go...

When we returned from the temple last week, Archie told us he didn’t steal a mamba while we were gone to the temple, even though he was tempted. 

He didn’t steal any because he remembered the scripture study question we’d asked “what should I do if I’m tempted to lie, cheat or steal?” And his answers.

Woo was called and set apart as Branch President last week. Most of the stake presidency was there and we thought they were going to do some training (except with the primary).

But when the Stake President announced that the primary was invited to stay, Linus gave an audible groan of disappointment. He’d planned our lesson and had been looking forward to it. When I explained this the Stake President suddenly decided that after the settings apart, we’d all listen to Linus’ lesson.

Linus had a slow start, where Woo and I exchanged glances… “What is he going to do???” But he pulled out a wonderful lesson to the enjoyment of all. I think it might’ve been especially perfect for the two nonmember visitors we had too.

Woo did a lot of jumping through hoops this week to get a health number in order to be vaccinated. They ended up giving him a temporary number, which was (so far) good enough to make him an appointment.

I was eligible for an appointment weeks ago, but was put on hold until this week when I was assigned a date in July.

Because of this Woo tried signing up in a nearby, slightly bigger city and successfully got an appointment for next week.

Woo changed out of his t-shirt (donning a white shirt and tie), but kept on his shorts to issue new callings to Ruby and Linus.

Ruby’s first words were, “You look ridiculous!”

But she accepted the calling (branch social media specialist).

Linus had no comment about Woo’s outfit, but he’s super excited about his new calling (branch music leader).

Thursday evening we got the news that the metro Lisbon area would be closing (no entering or leaving) from Friday afternoon to Monday morning.

The temple only has baptism appointments available Friday evening and Saturday. If we had scheduled a week later, we wouldn’t have been able to go.

The little surge in Lisbon has also stalled the expected announcement that American tourists would be allowed into the country this summer.

Archie came home with a cardboard iPhone and excitedly told me that he and Zhe had a scheduled call at 6PM. He stuck to me very closely for about 15 minutes, afraid he would miss it, until I told him he still had two hours.

At 5:59PM I mentioned that he had a minute. Archie went into the kitchen with his phone, talking to Zhe for about 30 seconds before he decided it wasn’t quite 6PM yet. I alerted him again at 6:01PM when he had another quick call in the kitchen and returned looking very proud.

This was Herbie’s last week of school. He was super excited for his class party on Monday: games, bbq, canoeing…

He came home with his grouchy face on. He’d had a horrible time.

There was an altercation when the 5th graders stormed the Futbal Humano field that was reserved for the ninth graders (Linus would say differently), Herbie only was allowed 1 hamburger, and had to drink water because iced tea and Pepsi were the only other options.

While waiting in line for a paddle board, someone else said they were next in line, and when they rock, paper, scissored for it and Herbie won, they took it anyway. He had to use an old leaky canoe that hurt his back. He got yelled at for going the wrong way over a wave while trying to retrieve his surf boot that had fallen out of the canoe, and so on…

There is another, all-night party put on by one of his classmates, but Herbie has NO interest. Even when someone suggested he didn’t have to stay all night, but could go home at 2 or 3 AM, he thought that was ridiculous.

He had a few other last week of middle school adventures, but I’ll let him write them.

Last week I did missionary work. This week I was supposed to get ready for summer. We have a printer now! Tons of great books are out of print or no longer under copyright, and can be printed for free!

The kids and I feel as if a long drought is over… they can have a new book in English at anytime now! (Yes, we have iPads, but there’re a whole host of problems there I don’t want to get into.)

I printed a fun book for everyone right off the bat, which they all started reading in their free time, then worked on more educational books for required reading during the summer.

Also, I came up with a summer plan.

Moses was not looking forward to summer. (To be honest, I was feeling it was going to be pretty blah too.) But now that I’ve posted the summer plan on the wall and printed him a book or two, he’s super excited.

He is extremely intrigued by the two “Surprise!” spots. (Yes, I do have a plan, I just couldn’t write them without giving the whole game away.) He keeps asking me about them and trying to guess… there’s nothing Moses loves more than a surprise and a mystery.

He’s next excited about the Settlers tournament, which he feels pretty confident he’ll get second to Woo.

He and Archie want to know why I didn’t write down the beach or pinhal, but those kinds of things are saved for spontaneous outings when the mood hits us.

Summer has always taken more planning here than in Huntsville (I think because we live in an apartment?), but since Covid it really has to be done to keep up morale. There has to be something on the menu to look forward to.

Ruby has one more week of school, but there are two kids who missed Friday who are likely positive. There’s a good possibility she’ll not be going next week. Her whole class is scheduled for a test next week if they are.

She’s still serious about studying for her final exam. She has plans to pick up next year’s books at the school library to study over the summer. We’re also going to start preparing her for the ACT, and hopefully all will go well????

When I mentioned we could print sheet music for her over the summer too, she jumped up and said, “Yay!”

Ruby does not have a summer job, but she does have a couple callings and frequent opportunities to speak and teach, sometimes even in the Stake. I’ve thought of maybe having her ask at the library if they need any volunteers, but they seem overstaffed already. The place is always dead. We’ll see.

I bought a package of plastic medals and a package of larger trophies, back when I thought I might attempt a birthday party for Penelope’s seventh birthday.

That never happened, so I let Archie and Nellpea divide up the awards and distribute them among their classes.

Penelope had big plans to hold a few races at recess to award the trophies, but she didn’t have afternoon recess that first day (early out day), and the next day it rained.

When she left for school under clouds and a drizzle on the third day, she was sad.

“I’ve already waited two WHOLE days!”

But the clouds cleared and the sun came out right at recess time and she was able to hold her races.

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


A Bunch About School

My missionary efforts have increased 500% this week. Really, it’s ridiculous it’s taken me so long to to figure out what to do. 

I’m increasingly getting the impression that we’re like chickens running around with our heads cut off… or exactly like chicks… trying to run away, being distracted immediately by the tiniest, most insignificant thing, constantly having to be corralled into the place we need to be, constantly having to be reminded of the things that matter most, constantly needing to be prodded and pushed in the right direction… Or we’re sheep. Sheep probably behave in much the same way :).

In my ongoing efforts to be willing to do anything to “Hear Him,” I cut out ALL cookies, ice cream, candy, chips, etc. This is a step that I personally would not have thought was necessary, but I did as I was told a few weeks ago, and yes, it has been the right thing to do. Of course it was.
  Remember Herbie‘s self portrait that his teacher finally liked? She gave him a C on it. I think he’s always gotten a C (suficiente) in that class, but he's getting a B (bom) this term. He was excited to come home and say that he would not have another EV (educação visual) class ever again!

In better news, he was one of only two kids to get an A on his physics/chemistry final, which will be his final grade.

Linus had a bad experience in TIC (technology) and matemática digital, which are taught by the same teacher, and for some reason, had the same group report assignment on Venice for both classes’ grades for the entire term.

Linus tried to attend a classroom meet about once a week all term for this group project, where he was the only one who showed up. They finally got four out of five people together about a week ago.

The five people in the group were all presenting, Linus was at the end. Part way through the third person’s effort (Linus kept saying about him, “He can’t even read!!”), the teacher stopped them. He told them the report was so terrible he wouldn’t listen to anymore, and they were all getting a failing grade for the two classes.

Linus came home and cried in my lap. This one was bad enough that Woo offered to email Linus’ head teacher to complain.

The teachers of these “lesser” classes have been perennially cranky about the grades they issue and no one seems to care because you can still pass the grade or get into college without them.

On the other hand, Ruby, Herbie and Moses have all told me that they learn far more in school here than they were learning in the US, especially in the math and sciences.

Herbie and Moses have both told me they’re concerned about returning and learning less. Ruby’s chemistry class does seem to be much closer to chem 101 than the joke I took for chemistry in high school.

I do like the way math is taught in the younger grades. No one’s ever struggled with math, but it seems to be set up very, very clearly, with an effort to get the kids to see what is really happening by showing it in several different ways.

For all of the kids, math has been the favorite, or a top favorite, since we moved here.

Ruby also has philosophy this year, which I’ve never taken. She loves it. It’s maybe her favorite class.

Ruby has seven people in her class (of 28) who will be getting a failing grade and/or have decided that Math and Sciences isn’t for them, and they will be changing tracks. This means that they’ll have to redo year 10.

Not passing a grade is very common here at all the schools. Everyone knows that even the President of Portugal had to redo a grade in elementary school.

Moses had a math test, but had crushed his calculator the night before. (I never heard how that happened.)

He was pretty stressed and upset as it was getting time to leave, and we couldn’t find one anywhere in the house. We decided that Herbie probably had one on him, but he wouldn’t get home for lunch until Moses had already left.

It was decided to ask Herbie to pass it on to Moses when he returned to school after lunch, and Moses wrote this note and taped it to the front door to ask him.

Herbie walked in without ever seeing the note, but it was okay. He’d crossed paths with Moses on the way home, and the exchange was made then.

(Moses has an A in English, but just barely… because of his spelling :) Also, he was really stressed out.)

All the older kids have had to endure those situations where the teacher says, “Americans are racist,” or “Americans spend too much money,” or “Americans are fat,” and the entire class swivels around in their desks to stare at them :).

Moses has one teacher who is convinced that Moses is constantly eating hamburgers and hotdogs. Whenever Moses is eating a snack at school, even if he’s eating a raw carrot, he feels like this teacher is still glaring at him for his poor food choices.

Penelope had been doing a lot of origami with Archie, but one lunch break she pulled out a puzzle book. She was telling me about how much fun the book was, had just found a pencil and was settling in to her first activity when Archie desperately called out her name from upstairs.

“Nelpea! I need help with a box fold!”

She glanced at her book and sighed, but that’s all the regret she allowed herself before skipping upstairs to help Archie. I had to smile that she’s already a self-sacrificing little mom.

Penelope also took up drawing this week. Penelope and Herbie have about the same interest in drawing, so this was a little strange. To her surprise, though, they had a drawing contest on Friday in school, and she felt that she did pretty well after all her practice.

Archie took an old chessboard to school and with two erasers made up a game with his friends (mostly Zê) that he thought was amazing.

As I was walking him home, we passed Nelpea, who was at recess. He wanted to share the fun with her and excitedly offered to leave the game with her. She laughed.

“I don’t even know how to play it!”

And the game came home with us.

Archie’s teacher went to the zoo in Porto last week and shared stories and pictures with her class. A zoo is something we haven’t been to in a long time, and I thought that Archie might not have any memory of one, but he does.

Woo has been working on his surf app a lot. He doesn’t say a lot about it, but he’s definitely engrossed. He’s worked more in the last week or two than he has in years. He’s barely gone surfing. I think the waves haven’t been the best either because he’s taken the kids to the park a time or two to get out and get some exercise himself.

Woo is the source of exciting and exotic food in our family. He mostly keeps it in a stash in our room (unless it needs to be refrigerated, like shrimp).

He walks out of our room holding a bag of crazy flavored chips or candy (mambas and fennel flavored drops are favorites right now), asks whether anyone wants some, and within seconds he’s surrounded by a group of excited kids.

We went to the temple for the first time this morning. It was good to be back. We were greeted by the temple president, matron, a few familiar temple worker faces, and our stake president, who gave a spiritual thought. I was a witness and all the kids gave me sweet smiles when they waded into the font. Woo did all the baptizing and confirming.

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


More Fun Than Expected

I was wrong. We do have two school holidays. One was last Thursday. The other is next Thursday. Archie’s teacher also took Friday off. When I responded to her announcement that I thought we all needed a break, she responded with many exclamation marks. Yes! We are really needing a break!!! 

We used our Thursday to visit the cemetery (and then the skatepark) in Lourinhã.

Irmão Pedro died two weeks ago. No one in the branch attended his funeral because no one in the branch knew until about a week afterwards. We knew he was in the hospital (for like three months :(, and we were praying for him. He sounded poorly the last call Woo had with him, and he didn’t always answer the phone anyway…

Anyways, we wrote some cards and left them on his grave.

Soon after moving here I got the impression that I would one day have the marriage I’d always wanted.

Which I assume meant that someday I’d have that fairytale wedding I’d imagined was mostly the norm (without ever having been married before).

Anyway, Woo has become so kind and solicitous, it’s as if his number one goal really is to make me happy.

This week he was so kind… voluntarily fetching me snacks while I laid in bed doing family history, making sure I was happy, and had had enough… I could hardly believe it.

Moses got the air knocked out of him at the skatepark. He panicked when he couldn’t breathe and motioned and gasped at Linus, who laughed because he thought Moses was joking (as he often is).

Moses was not happy about this, we discovered, when he had recovered enough to get up and walk to where Woo and I were sitting (we saw nothing of what happened).

When Linus did his own gasping and motions to defend his laughing, Moses got even more upset.

“I was trying to tell you to do CPR!!!”

Ruby has decided she’s going to ace this final exam that determines college entrance here. It’s in a year and a half? But she’s spent her lunches and free time pouring over her books, doing every exercise, writing down questions for her teachers about things that aren’t clear, going over old tests, etc.

She’s been introducing her friend, Naha, to indexing. Ruby is a champion indexer. She’s really enjoyed figuring out the old alphabet from records she’s doing from the 16th century.

Our kids do almost all the indexing and reviewing for the entire stake. They do a lot, but it’s also too bad that at least someone else isn’t doing more. (I can’t be too critical, as I personally almost never do indexing.)

As indexing group leader and creator, Herbie continues to send cute, encouraging messages to his brothers and sisters to keep them on their indexing goals.

We rely on Herbie for many things because once he’s on a task, he’s on it forever. One I’ve been grateful for this week is that he takes it as his personal responsibility to keep track of what hymn we’re on every evening and to announce it to the rest of us. It’s a real help as Woo and I are usually trying to juggle several other things at that moment.

Herbie has recently overcome frequent annoyance with his youngest brothers. I think what helped him was to pray for them a lot instead. He’s been fantastic in this area the last couple of weeks.

Linus had a good school week. He had an assignment to do a report on micro plastics, and his work was praised in front of everyone because he’d written it all in his own words and understood what he was talking about. (Apparently, he was the only one?!)

Then, his visual was a huge hit with the kids, as well, who shouted that it deserved an A+++ (um muito bom mais, mais, mais)!

Woo and Linus had a daddy day making waffles on an afternoon when only Linus was home. Woo told a lot of jokes, Linus did a lot of good belly laughing, and they got to eat delicious waffles. It sounded like a good time.

It was children’s day this week, which the Portuguese celebrate just as if it were Mother’s Day or Father’s Day (or more, by our level of celebration). I believe many of the kids get presents from their parents.

Penelope and Archie had basically a party day. They each made a keychain with letter beads spelling out their names. They each got an activity/story book and bag from the city, and they each had a more fun activity in the afternoon.

Penelope’s class was interviewed on the radio, and Archie’s class went to the pirate ship park that we always go to, but it’s super exciting to be going there with your class during school!

They were also supposed to eat popcorn, but I think that fell through. Archie said he didn’t eat any.

Moses' tower of liquids assignment:

I asked the building manager about getting new toner for the branch printer to print temple cards, and he just gave us a fully functioning printer instead. (One of the other buildings had recently upgraded.)

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