Our Christmas season began with our branch Christmas party on the 19th. A few Sunday’s ago (I was serving in Primary) the ladies quickly planned a party to be held the next Saturday afternoon. We met at the church building at 4pm. They had bought some meat and everyone else brought some goodies or side dishes to share. Our branch president, Elder Duarte, gave a message and Elder Duarte & Elder Walter did a reading from the scriptures. We sang a couple of songs, then headed into the other room to eat some yummy food. After we ate we played a game led by Julio (Tina’s husband). The game was called “Cat and the Rat”. Basically, you sit in a circle and he has 2 men’s ties. He gives 2 people, sitting across from each other, each a tie. Then he yells “go”. The person who is the cat has to tie the tie once (just in a knot) around their neck. The one who is the rat ties it in a knot twice. After you’ve tied it and untied it you pass it to the person sitting next to you. The object of the game is to not get “caught” by the cat. So, if the cat (tie) is catching up to you, you need to tie fast and pass it on. If you still have the “rat” tie when the “cat” tie catches up to you, you have to give Julio something. Elder Walter had to give up his nametag and his watch (he got caught 2 times), Kaylie had to give up her CTR ring, others lost their scarves & jackets, Julio’s son lost one of his new earrings (haha).
(Side note: just glanced up from my computer and it’s totally sunny outside and totally raining – and Rick and Tanner and Devan are out jogging)
When the game is over (basically when everyone was ready to be done) Julio handed out your “item” to someone else. That person would think of something you had to do in order to get your item back. Kaylie had to sing a Christmas carol, Rick and I made Elder Walter sing a Christmas carol at the same time as break dancing, a couple of the kids had to hop on one foot or jump up and down a few times, etc. We thought Elder Walter’s was the best though. I filmed him with my small camera, but because he’s so dang tall I could only get the top half of him and I had to turn my camera sideways. He was hilarious – could not remember the words to Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer at all, but his dancing was just “amazing” - haha. One other funny thing about the party – Tina & Julio’s son, Paulo, kept taking pictures of Kaylie with his cell phone – thinking she didn’t see him. Hilarious. The party was simple, but so much fun. Reminds me that things can be fun without a ton of work and stress.
(Side note: boys are all back)
A couple of days later we finally went to our “local” castle, Castle of Tomar with the Convent of the Order of Christ. What an amazing castle. It is huge. We spent several hours walking the inside and some of the grounds and still didn’t see every nook and cranny. It has beautiful carvings and an amazing “round church” inside. Every time we tour a castle or “ruins” I am just so impressed thinking about the time it would’ve taken to build one of these structures. I really can’t imagine how many people it must’ve taken to build a castle, especially back then – this one was built in 1160. Think about how many government workers it takes to fill a pothole in the road. Haha. Anyways, if only I were a history buff I’d be able to tell you all about the significance of the castle. But, since I’m not – you’ll have to “google” it, like I did. Where’s my friend, Bryan Cowley, when I need him. He was our personal history buff tour guide last year, when we were here. The castle was well worth the visit. Rick has decided that he wants to buy a castle, just for the land of course.
The next thing we did to help us “get in the spirit” was go to Coimbra on the 22nd. Fatocha’s stake was doing a “soup” kitchen for a homeless shelter. We arrived a little late – it’s an hour and 45 minutes away. They had a lot of the tables already set. So, we just helped with the last stuff – putting soup and rice pudding and a piece of bread at each place setting, etc. The people from the shelter came over about ½ an hour after we got there. This was done at a local high school. It was pretty cool. We all sat and ate together. After dinner was done there was a huge table of desserts that everyone helped themselves to. Then, we just visited with people. There is a couple in the Coimbra ward who are from England. The man, Mark is studying to be a translator. He speaks English, obviously, served his mission in France, so he speaks French, of course, and now is living & studying in Portugal to learn Portuguese. His wife just had their first baby (brave soul!!) here in Portugal, so her parents were visiting. We visited with them for a majority of the evening. That was fun. I also talked with one of the men from the shelter – he was from India, but has lived in Portugal for about 30 years. He spoke decent English. He said his time in Portugal has been pretty tough. As we were leaving, Kaylie and Rick and Tanner had to use the restroom. The man from India had followed them down to the restroom. He started going into the women’s bathroom so Rick told him, in Portuguese, that that was the women’s. He looked at both of them and then went in the women’s anyways. They couldn’t quite figure that out, but Kaylie had to wait a while until he left. Anyhow, the evening was good and put me in the mood for Christmas.
We decided that we would do our “traditional” Christmas morning on Christmas Eve morning. We had stayed up very late the night before – had a great conversation with Devan. So, we all slept in kinda late (for Christmas morning) – well, except for Kaylie who got up early to exercise. We finally got everyone up and opened presents. Didn’t take a whole lot of time, since this Christmas we scaled back quite a bit. Plus, Devan & Kaylie had already gotten their bikes, and Tanner’s big surprise was a bunny & guinea pig. I know I know I know!! We really are becoming a farm. Tanner had decided that’s what he wanted because he “needed something soft and cuddly so he doesn’t hate Portugal so much”. And did you know that bunnies and guinea pigs can go in the same cage and they eat the same foods? That’s what they tell us here, anyways. When we went to the pet store to pick up the bunny a guinea pig was in the case with it. So, for an extra 5 Euros we got it so the bunny wouldn’t be lonely. After presents were opened Rick went and picked up the Elders for breakfast. I was so bummed because I thought breakfast was going to be so yummy. But, I had kept our traditional “fritters” warmed in the oven – which I had up way too hot (you know, Celcius) and so they were hard as a rock. Major bummer. Live and learn. After breakfast we gave the missionaries their Christmas “basket” (food to last them a little while) and then hung around for several hours playing games and such.
That afternoon we headed to Fatocha’s home for Christmas. She had a table full of traditional Portuguese desserts and was in the process of cooking a traditional Portuguese Christmas Eve dinner. We had soup (a must!) and bacalhau (dried cod fish). But, the bacalhau was prepared differently than we had it before. She had cooked it in cream with shrimp and other stuff. Then she layered it in a casserole dish with mashed potatoes and veggies. It was extremely tasty. In their family it is traditional to open their gifts on Christmas Eve. They wait until midnight when Santa comes (a neighbor dressed up), but Tomas (their 6 year old) usually can’t make it that late. Plus, this year the neighbor couldn’t do it. So, we exchanged gifts about 10pm. Christmas day we ate all the desserts for breakfast. Had an early dinner – roast, rice, and veggies (I know I’ve said this before, but, sooo way yummy) – and then headed home that evening. We picked up the Elder’s on the way back home, brought them to our house, and Elder Walter skyped his family. Wow – I hope my kids love me (eventually) like Elder Walter loves his family. It was so nice to hear him talk to his family. His whole family – parents and siblings, nieces, etc. He is such a nice guy. Maybe he’s just super nice all the time, or maybe it’s because he’s on a mission. Whichever it is – he’s sweet. He talked for quite a while and then we took them home.
That about sums up our Christmas in Portugal. All in all it was a good one.
Now, we’re sitting here on New Year’s Eve trying to decide if we’re going out or not. Believe it or not (I know you will) we’re sick AGAIN. Please don’t roll your eyes. No really – don’t roll your eyes. I wasn’t even going to put it in here, but since this is my “journal-ish” I thought I needed to put it in here, so when I all of a sudden die, no one will ever say “but she was so healthy, I just don’t understand”. I got a terrible backache (down my spine) when I was wrapping presents 2 days before Christmas. I thought it was just from sitting on the floor wrapping, but the next day the backache was combined with a fever and headache. Those fun symptoms have gone on for over a week. Thank goodness for a drug called Benuron. I’ve kind of lived on it the last week. Although that’s probably not smart, I’ll probably end up in the hospital with a hole in my stomach. But, at least it got me through the holidays. Rick has also had a terrible head cold the last few days, and Kaylie has an ear infection. I know – we’re a mess. Luckily Tanner & Devan are both well.
Well, I hope all of you have had a wonderful holiday season. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year. I hope the holidays didn’t cause too much stress in your lives – I know Heavenly Father never intended the birth of our Savior to cause us stress and grief – do you?
I love you all & miss you (and In & Out chocolate shakes – it’s really all I’ve craved through this flu – weird, huh?)