About two weeks ago my morale was sinking. At dinner I said something along the lines of, "Can’t I have a Christmas tomorrow?"

"Or maybe my invitation to Hogwarts can come tomorrow?"

Which Ruby scoffed at as I’m forty-four, not approaching eleven.

“They want me to teach.”

She shrugged.

“Muggle studies, I guess.”

And the very next morning I DID receive a Christmas present. I learned that Sister Cordon and Sister Porter were coming to Lisbon, and we could listen to them speak in person. I was immediately excited, and even more touched when I realized that it seemed like a special little present just for me after my plea the night before.

I did a lot of things I don’t normally do, or don’t think are worth it, or that I know are going to be exhausting, or that are going to produce a day or two of fall out from the kids to get my present.

Ruby, Penelope and I went to the women’s meeting Friday night. I also gave rides to three branch members and a baby. It was a late night for us, and I had a handful of surprises driving around an unknown European town in the dark while being shouted instructions in Portuguese, but overall we had a good time.

Ruby, Penelope and I had fun dressing up and having a girls night out, and I assume the boys had fun too. Woo let them all stay up a bit later and showed them some clips. Also, they ate some candy.

For me, it was such a treat to hear good talks in ENGLISH, where I understand every word and every thought and expression. There was a sentence or two just for me.

There was a meeting for children and youth and their parents on Saturday at 4 pm. We already had a temple appointment on Saturday for baptisms at 9 am, so we planned to hang around Lisbon until then.

This was, of course, a bit stressful. We had to get up just as early as a school day and get ready for the temple and a day in Lisbon.

The reception building near the temple was closed (it always is when there are visiting authorities… I think they use it for meals and rest…), but we arrived just when the stake president was walking into the stake center, so there was a safe place for Linus, Penelope and Archie to wait.

There were many people in the baptistery, so they only allowed us to do ten names, but I was a witness, sitting by the recorder, with a stack of names in my pocket. Whenever anyone didn’t have ten names, the recorder would turn to me, and I would supply him with however many names he was short, and I think we did the usual amount of names, maybe more.

We were there with branch members who also officiate in the temple every time they go, so we took their daughter with us to the park until they got out at lunch.

Ruby was, of course, a good friend to Mariana, helping her to not feel too out of place in a group of loud and crazy Americans.

The park was crowded, but there was still fun to be had at the skate park, bar workout area, and (everyone’s new favorite thing), the pump track.

Except Woo fell and got a painful scrape on his hand that bothered him for the rest of the day.

Ruby and Moses asked two kids with a ball if they could play basketball with them, and the kids agreed. The kids said they were from Russia, but that didn't seem right. They simply said, “It’s a long story... during the Cold War... ” so talking could end and basketball could be played.

Herbie joined them a few minutes later, and when I went to take pictures he was smiling.

I called, “Herbie! Aren’t you traveling?!”

He smiled even bigger and put a finger to his lips.

I tried again, “Herbie! You’re traveling!”

He laughed, shook his head and said, “Shhhh!”

I gave up.

There was trouble waiting for Mariana’s parents. Our kids were hungry and jumping around the temple grounds (and getting increasingly grouchy). We were making security very nervous. They frequently kept tabs on us, and in one instance told us they didn’t want the kids to get hurt. (They weren’t climbing on anything, just being antsy and jumping around.)

Woo finally came up with the wonderful idea to leave Ruby with Mariana and the rest of us go to the Lidl for lunch.

That took some time, and we all were very hungry when we returned to Ruby. My plan had been to eat in the temple parking lot (I had seen people do it during the open house, and there is a somewhat secluded upper part), but when we entered the temple grounds, two security guards strode purposely behind us, and I knew they wouldn’t let us.

We kept right on walking through the temple grounds and out the gate, onto a small alley.

The alley wasn’t the ideal spot for a picnic. Woo had to steer the kids away from a crack pipe that they thought was a pen, and there was nowhere to sit.

Linus was especially grouchy. And loud. And shouting. Archie joined in. Ruby did some complaining. (Moses and Penelope were goodnatured 95% of the time.)

The thought flickered across my mind that maybe this had been a mistake. This meeting would be a disaster. We still had to take all our food back to the van, get back into the stake center to change our clothes, read scriptures as a family, and get everyone settled into the meeting. I was sure there’d be trouble with the security guards at some point, maybe even the second we tried to come back in the gate.

Woo kept his cool and complimented and kept the peace. I got a little grouchy, which moved Ruby to repentance. We came upon the idea of having the kids act as spies to tiptoe to the van, which they did pretty well.

They calmed down quite a bit, and also there were a lot more families milling around. We hardly stood out anymore, and the security guards forgot about us.

We found a spot on the other side of the temple and were just about to start to sing, when members from our branch approached. We sang anyway.

We sang “I’m a Child of God.” Penelope and Archie stood in front because they were practicing. (They had the special musical number on Sunday.) It was very nice.

Fearing the branch members would want to chat until the meeting started, I immediately told them we’d just started our family scripture study and they smiled and nodded and walked on. Whew.

We were threatened a couple of other times, but finished our scripture study on the temple grounds and walked back to the stake center. We were all in much better moods.

We’d been in and out of the stake center a couple times, but this time we had to show our vaccination certificates and disinfect our hands (we always wear masks in public buildings).

We don’t sit in a regular chapel very often, but we all remembered that we walk straight to the front. Also, I was concerned with Penelope being able to see. Her new glasses still haven’t arrived. (Customs, we believe. Customs laws were tightened even more since Covid.)

The center front seats were taken, so we tried the side. There was a scuffle for a few minutes where we at first thought we wouldn’t all fit, then several rearrangements until everyone was happy. The meeting started.

Sister Porter asked for comments several times, and we were right by a microphone. Archie, Linus, Ruby and Penelope each went up at least once. Nobody said anything profound, but it was fun for them, and Archie was upset once when Linus got to the microphone with his answer first, but it didn’t last long.

I believe it was a wonderful meeting for everyone.

After the meeting, our boys surrounded Sister Cordon’s husband. Ruby helped Penelope brave the crowds for the bathroom. Woo and I ducked as we realized we were in way too many people’s pictures, but also we were kind of trapped in our row.

Suddenly, Sister Cordon was talking to me.

"Who are you guys??"

I said the most enlightening thing possible.

"Um, we’re Americans."

Then the visitors were whisked away (I'm sure it all is exhausting for them), and we almost made our escape, but found a few more people in the stake and branch we had to talk to.

We left later than we wanted. I drove us out of the crowded (with people, not cars) parking lot (tires squealing, like they always do for the first 30 seconds of any drive), and from the passenger seat Woo handed out breads and fruits and carrots and waters (leftovers from our Lidl lunch) for dinner.

Woo and I missed half of the leadership meeting getting kids home and in bed.

Woo (when it was over): I hope they have a recording. If it was all that good we missed out!

And that was our weekend. Of course we’re all kind of tired. One little fun thing from our week was when Moses came home after completing his music class assignment.

It was basically karaoke. He tried out several youth songs and picked his favorite at home.

When he came home, he was obviously walking on clouds.

“I could do that every day!”

So I guess it went well.

And that’s all. Hope your week was great!