Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 28, 2010 (Part 3)

Part “tres” – that’s 3, in Portuguese – betcha didn’t know that
We really enjoyed skyping our family (sorry dad, we’ll skype you again this week).  We miss everyone, but we’re glad you all had a great Thanksgiving.  Ours went something like this…
We received a phone call telling us that we weren’t going to be able to get a turkey.  Rick had ordered one at a store on Tuesday, but they ended up not being able to find one.  So, we waited until our dryer was delivered (they had told us between 8am and 2pm).  They came at 2pm.  Then we headed out to go to the dog pound again and some other grocery stores to see if we could, by chance, find a turkey. 
I first want to tell you our dog pound experience.  Saddest thing ever!!!  We sent Rick up to the door/gate first to make sure it was open and to see if we could go in.  It is located in an alley type of thing across from the ciganos (gypsy).  Not an attractive area to begin with.  The ciganos set up these “camp” type of communities.  Basically, they find a vacant area and then start building shacks out of whatever they can find.  They have beat up old cars and they hang their laundry wherever they can find a spot.  It’s one step above “homeless”, in my opinion.  I’d really love to see the inside of one of their houses - I’m so intrigued by their lifestyle.  Anyways, back to the dog pound.  So, the lady tells Rick that we can come in.  So, Kaylie, Tanner, and I get out of the car and walk up to the entrance gate.  I almost gagged.  Kaylie and I looked at each other with the same expression at the same time – pure disgust!!  The smell was so overwhelming.  I told Rick I didn’t know if I’d be able to handle the smell.  But, the kids wanted to go see the dogs so badly that we forced ourselves to handle it.  Really, the only way I can describe the condition of the place, is – it was a concentration camp for dogs.  It was like walking through a cave at first – a narrow passageway, made out of concrete type walls, with very little light.  That area had bowls of cooked rice and bowls of bread pieces.  Rick assumed that they were probably given leftover bread from the bakeries (the stuff that didn’t sell).  Once we got passed that area, there was a concrete path that led you in between the dog pens.  I think there were a total of 6 cage areas full of dogs.  We found out later that they house over 200 dogs.  Along that pathway we had to be careful where we stepped – there were piles of doggy diarrhea right in the middle of where we walked.  That explained why the lady who worked there was wearing rain boots and a full plastic apron.  The whole time we were looking at dogs the lady would be yelling (and I am not kidding – I tried to secretly video tape her, but I couldn’t pull it off) at the dogs so loud to shut up.  We could hardly even talk to each other over the dogs barking and the lady yelling.  We found a few that the kids liked, but it was so hard to decide because they all looked like mangy strays and every time the kids would try to pet one through the gate 20 other dogs would crowd around barking.  There was a cage area right when we had walked in the main gate that was housing puppies, so we went back to look at them.  Of course we all fell in love with them (except for Rick).  After looking at the puppies we went back to the other dogs.  For me – that was the wrong choice.  I had already left once because I had to go out and get some fresh air and clean my hands.  When we went to the back again the dogs were so excited to see us.  As I walked up to one of the gates several dogs jumped up and flicked poop and urine right at my neck.  Then my natural instinct was to quickly wipe it off.  So, at that point, I now had poop and pee on my neck and my hand.  Can you say vomit?  Because that’s what I almost did.  At that point I was ready to go and we decided that it was too crazy to try to choose a dog anyway.  The lady said if we came back the next day there would be 2 of them to help us.  So, we decided to leave and think about it.  Before getting in the car we all had a good wash down with the antibacterial wipes.  Although, we still smelled like the place.  Luckily Rick had an extra sweatshirt in the car that I changed in to.  We still had turkey shopping to do.  We went to several stores looking for a turkey.  We even drove to the next town, Torres Noves, which is bigger (and a half hour away).  In Torres Noves we were able to find a turkey – in pieces!!  We could buy turkey wings, turkey legs/thighs, and they had 1 gigantic turkey breast (12 lbs - it was actually both breasts together).  So, we decided that the turkey breast was better than nothing.  We had the butcher cut it in half and took the one breast home with us.  We called and told the missionaries that we’d be having Thanksgiving the next day.  So, when Friday came along I was all set to go with a unique Thanksgiving dinner.  I started cooking in the morning, typical.  But, I soon realized that I had forgotten an ingredient for the pumpkin pie.  And cooking with a single oven that doesn’t work too well was a real challenge.  Because we called Thanksgiving for the next day, I didn’t really have a chance to make anything ahead of time (like the pies, for instance).  So, working with a single oven was difficult.  I prepared all the veggies, marinated the meat, made the pie crust, partially cooked the stuffing, then we headed out to get a dog and go to the store for the ingredients that I forgot to buy.  When we arrived at the pound the other lady came to the gate.  And it turned out to be the lady that we had met at FHE the previous Wednesday night.  Funny.  She talked with Rick for a few minutes.  Rick had told her about the dog that we wanted to see again.  This time we had stopped by a “Chinese” store and bought a collar and leash.  She went back and got the dog and brought it out to us, so that we could see it interact with the kids without 100 other dogs barking.  The dog was scared to death.  She just coward away from us with her tail between her legs the whole time.  I was kind of bummed because I was hoping she’d be playful once she was away from all of the other dogs.  But she wasn’t.  We tried to get her to play with us for a while, but she just wouldn’t.  I told Rick I thought they should go back in and check out a few more.  So, they did while I ran back to the store to get my pie ingredients.  Rick called my cell phone and said that they had adopted a dog and were heading to a park and for me to pick them up there.  I was surprised.  Turns out this dog was happy and playful at the pound, but once they got her on the leash and took her down the street – she froze.  I guess these dogs like their concentration camp.  We’re hoping she opens up and becomes playful again.  Now we’re trying to come up with a name for her.  When we got home it was back to cooking again.  I felt pretty panicked because I was running out of time (Rick was picking up the Elders for dinner at 5pm) and the whole oven issue, hmm….
But, it all came together – a little late, but none the less – we had Thanksgiving dinner.
Ok – it’s going to be a 4 part-er.  Good night!!

November 28, 2010 (Part 2)

Part “dois” – that’s 2 in Portuguese
See how the days just slip by?  I’ve tried to finish part 2 several times and look – it’s 4 days later. 
Well, I forgot to mention about the car situation…  Here, in Portugal, gasoline vs. diesel is not so easy to tell the difference.  I am very paranoid about putting the wrong type of gas in our car (therefore, I haven’t offered to pump the gas).  In Portuguese the word for gasoline is “gasolina” and the word for diesel is “gasoleo”.  See how you could easily put the wrong kind of gas in your car?  And when you’re tired and it’s raining and you have a bunch of young punks getting annoyed with everyone at the gas station, it would be very easy to error on the type of gas.  So, I have to cut Rick some slack.
The next day (or actually the same day, since it was 2:20am) we slept in.  We figured we didn’t need to get up for church since we didn’t have a way to get there.  We didn’t really know at this point what would become of the car situation.  But, all we did know is that we were carless for the time being.  Our Sunday was nice and restful.  We had planned on taking a walk around to see if anyone claimed the dog that had spent the last few days with us.  A few hours had gone by and the groundskeeper, Francisco, showed up to rake up the leaves.  He’s an older man, probably in his 60’s or 70’s, and feels that it’s very important to clean up the leaves.  I told Rick to ask him if he knows of anyone missing their dog.  He said he didn’t.  I was secretly happy about that because I was hoping the kids would be able to keep this puppy – he was very good natured.  But, about an hour later he came back with his 2 nephews that live down the street from us.  Turns out the dog belongs to them, and Francisco hadn’t known that they were missing one of their dogs (they own 6).  We had named him Rex (short for tyrannosaurus rex – because he bites a lot), but his real name was Flash.  The other dog that had run through our backyard with Rex/Flash was his mother (nice mom for not coming back to get her son).  Anyways, the boys were thrilled to get their dog back.  I guess the day that we had kidnapped their dog, they had spent looking around the neighborhood asking everyone if they’d seen him.  They told our kids that they could come see him anytime.  They also told us that there is a pound in Tomar if we wanted to adopt a dog – they probably didn’t want us stealing any more of theirs!!  Just kidding – we had asked them if there was a pound.
We had planned on just hanging around the house on Monday because we didn’t have a car anymore.  I had looked up some recipes online to make pancakes and my mother in law had sent me a recipe for homemade syrup (that doesn’t require maple flavoring – because they don’t have that here).  We had a very yummy breakfast.  After that we just hung out and did school work.  But, a little while later, and much to our surprise, Fatocha called – she had arranged for a taxi to come pick us up and take us to the car rental agency, in town, to get a replacement car.  So, we quickly got ready for the day and headed out to pick up the rental and go car shopping again.  The kids just hung out at home and got some school work done.  The next few days were spent car shopping.  Obviously last Saturday was NOT the day to get a car.
THURSDAY was actually the day to get a car.  We had found 5 cars that would work.  SERIOUSLY – 5!!  We took Kaylie and Tanner with us again and headed out.  We had decided that today was REALLY going to be the day to ACTUALLY buy a car.  We drove 1 ½ hours into Lisbon.  We test drove the cars, went to lunch at the mall, talked about it, then headed back to one of the dealerships to “seal the deal”.  Everything went well, price agreed upon, paperwork filled out, then Rick was told we couldn’t take the car for a week because it came from France and they had to have a week to get the registration in Portugal done.  BUMMER!!!  We were all set to drive home in a new car.  That was a disappointment.  But, at least we were finally done car shopping.
So, Friday was good.  Felt like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders – house hunting, DONE; car shopping, DONE.  Now we can move forward.  Today Kaylie and I went for a walk.  The first time we’ve been able to experience our nice surroundings.  Our neighborhood is wonderful.  Not your typical neighborhood.  It’s very hilly with a single, narrow road, old homes, very green, very quiet, very quaint.  Perfect!!  In the back of our property is a very nice lake.  It is actually formed by a dam on the Rio de Zezere.  We are on one of the “fingers” of the lake.  So, it’s calm and quiet.  Later in the day Kaylie colored my hair – I was considering going gray while in Portugal, but I guess vanity won!!  Luckily, my wonderful hair lady (Julie Bainter) taught Kaylie how to color before we left Utah.
Fatocha, Luis, and Tomas were coming to stay for the weekend.  They arrived in the late afternoon on Saturday.  Rick and Tanner wanted haircuts before they got here, but the clippers didn’t work (cheap).  Rick ran back to the store to buy a better pair and while he was there – he bought me a dryer – whoo hoo!!  A dryer!!  I won’t have to hang clothes outside in the cold and all over the house anymore.  They are supposed to deliver it on Monday.  When Fatocha’s family arrived we showed them around the place, hung out for a while, then headed to buy food to make Fatocha’s yummy “bacalhau” (which is dried codfish).  We were going to have American food (tacos – ok, Mexican), but we decided to save that for Sunday night, when the missionaries were coming over.  Before bed, Kaylie and I made homemade syrup for the next morning; and homemade dough for flour tortillas (for the tacos). 
Sunday, we took Fatocha’s family to church with us – after having a delicious French toast breakfast.  Luis is not a member of the church, but he really enjoyed the “services”.  He is originally from Angola and he connected with Elder Duarte, who is from Cabo Verde.  Elder Duarte (remember he’s our branch president) had asked Rick to give his testimony during Sacrament.  He seems to do that – he has a member bear their testimony and then has a speaker, then a song, then another speaker.  Rick seemed to touch a lot of people.  That evening the elders came over and we all feasted on tacos.  Devan had been harvesting crawdads for the last several days.  He keeps them in a pool area in the back yard.  Fatocha taught Devan how to cook them her way – which was WAY DELICIOUS.  He spent about an hour gutting them and then had them in the tacos.  Crawdad tacos – yum yum.
Monday – we waited for the dryer to be delivered, but they never showed (not surprising).  Have I said it before that nothing is ever easy in Portugal?  Oh yea – I have.
Tuesday – After doing Seminary and some school work – we took Tanner and Kaylie into Sao Pedro, where the elementary school is.  We have been contemplating having Tanner go to public school.  But, he’s been fighting us on it.  He was wanting to go at one point, then completely changed his mind.  Well, we took him there to check it out.  We had a tour of the school by the administrator.  We met the 4th grade teacher, who was very nice and introduced Tanner to the students.  Everyone was very nice and we’re still considering enrolling him.  Although, he did leave me a giant note on my pillow, that night, that said “I am NOT going to Portuguese school”.  I guess he’s serious.  After traumatizing him at the school, we took the kids to the dog pound to possibly adopt of dog.  But, the pound was closed.  We figured we'd check it out tomorrow.  Devan got invited to go to the movies with the friends from Marinha Grande (the friends we first met when we arrived in Portugal) to see Harry Potter.  So, Rick being THE nicest dad in the world – drove him 45 minutes to see a movie that started at 9:30pm (which is already past Rick’s bedtime).  Rick was going to go shop around for a bike, but everything was closed.  So, he ended up back at the movie theater and watched a different movie, by himself, to kill time until Devan’s movie was over.  Harry Potter had some technical difficulties and therefore started late, so Rick’s movie ended before Devan’s.  Anyways, by the time they got home it was about 1:30am.  Crazy!!  Oh – PS, Devan went with 5 girls & 0 boys.  Oh – PPS, they all like the cute American boy.
Wednesday – So today was a big government workers strike.  We found this out a couple of different ways.  1 was because we were wondering why the kids would be seeing such a late movie on a school night; 2 was because Rick received an e-mail from the guy at the car dealership that said we couldn’t get the car until next week, due to the strike (the paperwork was delayed).  Really?  Can you believe that?  And, can you guess why they went on strike?  Well, Portugal’s economy is one of the worst in Europe right now.  They have made all the workers take pay cuts, they’ve put tolls on their freeways and highways.  Things are just a mess right now.  Anyhow – I don’t know how the strike turned out since we don’t watch TV here and we don’t get the newspaper.  All I know is kids didn’t have school and we didn’t get our car.    Just a few other thoughts for this wonderful day – I HATE HOMESCHOOLING!!  I really don’t know how parents home school their children.  Takes a lot of patients.  Tanner drove me crazy ALL day.  I think he’s out of sorts with himself.  He really doesn’t want to go to public school, but then he drives us completely crazy at home.  Doesn’t quite make sense.  Kaylie is a great homeschooler, though.  She keeps track of everything she does, she’s very organized, and she’s actually interested in learning so she reads all of her stuff on her own.  Devan, well, it’s taken him 2 months to get motivated to work, but he’s actually doing it now.  Luckily for him, it’s a self paced program; and, he has a year to complete it.  So, he’s doing good now.  This evening we went to the church for FHE.  A new family came.  They have 3 kids.  A boy who’s almost 13, a girl who’s 15, and a little boy who’s probably 3.  Elder Duarte gave a spiritual message and then we played “Pictionary”.  Very interesting to play “bilingual Pictionary”.  It was fun, and the branch is growing a little more.
I’m going to make this a 3 part blog.  It’s late again.  I seem to always do this when it’s late.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November 23, 2010

Well, I’ve sat down to write an update at least five different times, but then something always comes up and I get distracted and it goes undone !!  I just looked up my blog and realized it’s been over 2 weeks since the last time I wrote.  SAD!!  I never was very good at keeping a daily journal.   And now I have to get all of our happenings caught up.  And we have definitely had a few “happenings”.  Because, you know, nothing can be easy here in Portugal. J
The last I wrote – the plan was to possibly take the missionaries to Lisbon.  Well, we did end up driving the Elders to Lisbon that next day.  It was quite fun to see these young guys with beat up suitcases bungee corded to a skateboard for wheels, heading off on their next adventure in Portugal’s largest city.  As for us, we spent the rest of the day in Portugal’s largest city – CAR SHOPPING.  Although, we did have a great time eating lunch – Chili’s!!  The only one in Portugal.  We were shocked!!  I guess things really have changed, in Portugal, over the last 20 years.  And the menu was the same.  It was so nice to have familiar food – it made me feel like I was back home.  I really wanted to order 1 of everything – but I refrained and ordered my favorite salad (quesadilla explosion) and endless chips & salsa.  Oh my – was it good!!  The rest of the day was spent trying to look at cars.
We seem to have left our kids home, quite often, looking for a car.  So, the next day (Wednesday) was spent at home – Rick looking up used cars on the internet, so we could try to hit a bunch the next time we go in to Lisbon.  There are several things that make buying a car in Portugal difficult for us.  First, the language barrier (although Rick speaks very well, he’s never had to learn words that have to do with buying a car); second, finding “dealerships” are a joke – even with a GPS, finding an actual address that exists can sometimes feel impossible; and third, getting accurate info on a car (before spending a half hour to an hour finding the car, in the first place) can be extremely frustrating.  Just an example – we’d been looking at minivans - We felt that having a car with extra seats would be helpful in case we needed to give the missionaries a ride somewhere, or pick up branch members that may not have a way to get to church, or just to have a couple of extra seats in case Tyler or other people come to visit – so, we go to look at an older 7-seater minivan, and when we get there it is missing the 2 back seats.  We ask if he has the seats and he tells us they are back at his shop and he has another van there we can look at.  So, we follow him back to his shop.  Turns out the 2 back seats are different upholstery.  Very typical.  No joke – that happened a couple of times.  Well, we spent many days looking for a car.  I’ll finish that part of the story in a bit. 
Wednesday night (the day after we got 2 new Elders) we went to Family Home Evening at the church.  We had told the old missionaries that we would come, and so we did.  Plus, we wanted to meet our new Branch Presidency (the new Elders).  Every Wednesday night (8pm) they have FHE at the church, in hopes that the branch will become more united and have a little fun and spiritual upliftment together.  Well, after stopping at a bakery to buy some goodies to share, we arrived about 15 minutes late to the church.  Our new Branch President is Elder Duarte, a young African elder from Cabo Verde – which is an island off the African coast that was settled by the Portuguese.  The other elder is Elder Walter, from Arizona – he is 6 foot 5 inches – OH MY!!  He dwarfs the Portuguese people - and the Maingots, of course.  Oh, and FHE?  Well, we were the only ones who showed up, except for the man who is the other counselor in the branch presidency.   It was nice though.  We talked with them for almost 2 hours, shared our sweets, and then went home. 
One other bit of our Wednesday – cooking dinner.  What a frustration.  I had not been able to figure out our oven.  So our dinner consisted of a roasted chicken that was burned on the top and raw on the bottom with uncooked potatoes and carrots.  Smelled delicious – tasted disgusting – well, the part we could eat without worrying about salmonella poisoning.  Kaylie thought my frustration was very funny.  Her favorite saying has become “calm down”, spoken with a Portuguese accent.  Ha Ha!!
Thursday was spent looking at cars in Lisbon again – just me and Rick.  LONG DAY!!!
Friday was a pretty happy day for the kids.  We had planned on going to the Feita – which is basically a swap meet put on by the Ciganos (Portuguese for gypsy).  But, as I was getting ready to go – the kids came knocking on my bedroom door.  They had a cute puppy in their arms.  Turns out 2 dogs went running through our backyard.  The kids ran outside and called them and the puppy came back.  Portugal has lots of dogs that roam the streets.  So, we had told them that if they wanted to befriend a stray that would be fine.  Well, the kids all chose to stay home and play with the puppy while Rick and I went to the Feita and then car shopped again.
Saturday was the day to buy a car!! Our hopes were high!!  We had found several that we thought would work and then Rick wanted to check out a couple more.  We took Kaylie and Tanner with us.  Because Kaylie is carsick all the time we thought it best if she come and drive in them before we made a final decision.  After several test drives, Rick dropped me and the kids off at IKEA while he went to test drive 1 more car.  We had a fun time shopping at IKEA, but it was late (11pm) by the time we were done.  Because the next day was Sunday we figured we better make a quick stop at a store to buy a couple of food items.  After driving around forever we came to the conclusion that Portugal stores don’t stay open 24 hours.  And, because we had driven around trying to find an open store, we now needed to get gas.  It was raining and late.  We finally found an open gas station.  Actually, it had a “debit card” pump.  The line was fairly long and everyone seemed to be having trouble with the machine.  When Rick got up to the pump he was having a hard time figuring out how to get the machine to work.  Several car loads of young punk guys had pulled in and were getting annoyed that it was taking so long.  The guy that had used the pump before us helped Rick get it going and we headed out.  By this time it was after midnight.  We jumped on the freeway and not too long after, the engine started making a funny noise and the car started to hesitate.  I said something’s wrong with the car.  Just as I said that Rick realized that he put “gasoline” in our “diesel” car.  We pulled over to the side of the freeway and stopped.  Now, what would you do if you were in a country where you don’t have any family or friends nearby, a Bishop to call, you don’t speak the language all that well, and you’ve just ruined the engine in your rental car at 12:30am on a cold rainy night?  Hmm…
Well, Rick does what he’s done most of this trip – he called his friend, Fatocha and woke her up.  She told us to look at our rental car accident form in the glove compartment.  Sure enough – there was a 24 hour roadside assistance phone number.  She called it for us and arranged a taxi and a tow truck.  After sitting on the side of the freeway for what seemed to be forever, we finally made it back to our house at 2:20 in the morning.  Can I just say one thing on the subject – I’m glad it was Rick and not me!!! J

I’ll post this for now and finish tomorrow – it’s late!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

November 8, 2010

I know this is back tracking a little bit.  But, several of you have asked me (via e-mail) if they celebrate Halloween here.  Well, they do – sort of.  It’s called “Dia dos Mortes” which translates to “Day of the Dead”.  I might be pretty clueless when it comes to Halloween.  I don’t know exactly what we are “celebrating” on Halloween.  All I know is that, as a kid, I couldn’t wait to fill up the pillowcase.  And now that I’m a mom I dread my kids filling up the pillowcase (unless they get the good stuff and they don’t notice it disappearing).  Well, for the Portuguese, it is a day that they honor their dead.  We saw lots of people at cemeteries putting flowers on their loved ones graves.  The children do go trick or treating.  In fact, they trick or treat 2 nights, October 31st and November 1st.  Kaylie said American kids get ripped off.  The kids dress up and knock doors.  The people hand out candy, or little cakes, or roasted chestnuts.  (Fatocha showed me how to roast chestnuts and they’ve become one of my favorite snacks).  The problem with this Halloween was the weather.  It rained pretty good both evenings – we didn’t see one trick or treater either night.  Kaylie was pretty bummed about that.  She wanted to see what the kids dress up like here.  I heard you all in Utah had a similar Halloween.  Hail storm, cold, etc.  Bummer!!
So, I’m trying to get caught up to the current day.  I know I already told you about our moving experience on Friday.  Saturday we hung around our new home (trying to get the kids comfortable with their surroundings).  Most of my day was spent vacuuming and mopping.  Because this home has sat vacant for a while it was filled with cobwebs, spiders, and dead bugs.  I guess since the owner was giving us a good deal on the house, he didn’t feel the need to have it cleaned.  Oh well, at least cleaning it made me feel like it was my home.  Devan and Tanner spent most of the day down at the lake, Kaylie hung out and organized her room.  Rick was given a “get acquainted with the property” tour by the lands keeper, along with walking through with a repair guy getting a few things added to the home – like shower head holders.  Europeans often just hold the shower head – strange.  He also brought plug in heaters, since it’s winter and not all of the rooms have heaters in them.  His wife, 2 daughters, and their dog came with him.  Very nice people.  We didn’t know they were here, though, because they walked straight down to the dock and started laying out.  I think that caught Devan by surprise because he came up a little while later and said some lady was there with her 2 girls and they were laying out in bikinis.  And we were told the dock was our own private dock.  It took us a while to put it all together, and we had a good laugh about it.  That night Rick and I and Kaylie took off and went grocery shopping.  Devan and Tanner wanted to keep crawdad hunting – by the way, we now have a small pool area filled with crawdads awaiting their death.  And this time Devan and Tanner had a good flashlight.
Sunday we headed to church.  It’s very interesting walking into a building that’s pretty much empty and knowing that it’s going to be pretty much empty the whole 3 hours.  We talked with the Elders for a few minutes and they told us their plan for us.  Tanner went with Elder Tanner for Primary (another little girl showed up about half an hour later), and the rest of us went to Gospel Principles together.  During class I couldn’t take it because the teacher was having everyone answer a question (the same question), he gets to me, I have no idea what is going on, I get all flustered – what a joke.  Then, I’m trying to read my book in English, while they are reading aloud in Portuguese and I couldn’t even focus enough to comprehend the paragraph.  Basically, my brain was confused.  So, I ended up leaving and sitting in on the Primary lesson with Tanner, which was good.  Since it was fast Sunday Elder Tanner was teaching Tanner and Isabella about testimonies.  Then he asked Tanner if he wanted him to teach him how to bare his testimony in Portuguese.  So, we got a language lesson.  Tanner ended up writing out his testimony in Portuguese – and shared it during sacrament.  WOW!!  What an awesome kid I have – very brave.  He didn’t even care if he pronounced it right or not.  I wish I was 10 again.  PS – Rick bore his testimony and introduced our family and then I grabbed him and made him translate my testimony to – it’s hard to keep track of your sentences when you have someone translating your previous sentence – FYI - This Sunday was a little more full.  There were 20 of us total.  Well, after church we visited with the Elders for quite a while and made plans for them to come over.  Elder Sagebin wanted to cook us his famous white chili dinner.  After their last appointment Rick went and picked them up and he cooked us dinner, which was extremely yummy!!  .  They hung out with us till about 11pm – oops – and then Rick took them home. Since it was their P-Day the next day, we made plans with them to go see the Castelo do Ourem.  It is a castle that Elder Tanner had been wanting to see and there was a possibility that he may get transferred Tuesday.  We met them in Ourem on Tuesday, which is today, and the first thing they tell us is that they got “whitewashed”, which means both of them are getting transferred.  What a bummer!!  They said it was very unexpected and that the mission president very rarely “whitewashes” an area where a missionary is the “branch president”.  It was funny to hear them calling all the other missionaries and talking about the transfers.  I told them they sounded like a bunch of girls.  Visiting the Castle was pretty cool.  I’ve decided, though, that exploring castles when we were younger was a lot more fun.  Now, I just worry about my kids falling to their death the whole time.  Exploring a castle usually consists of old ancient, crumbling rock with hundred foot drops that don’t have any guardrails.  And with my boys – it’s completely nerve wracking.  Kaylie is the only cautious, sensible one.  And, to top it off – it was raining and very windy when we were exploring.  So, all the rock was mossy and slippery. It is one of the coolest castles/ruins, though.   Oh, and we had to park down the hill because the road up is cobblestone and our tires couldn’t grip it. That was scary too.  Devan and one of the missionaries were trying to push it up the hill as Rick gunned it – didn’t work.  Well, the day was good – although we were wet and cold.  Went to lunch with the missionaries afterward, then took them home (30 minute drive with Tanner sitting on Devan’s lap and Kaylie sharing my seat with me – that was fun).  They move to their new areas tomorrow – I think Rick and I are going to drive them there – they both will be in different cities near Lisbon (Portugal’s Capitol).  I guess we’ll see who our new Branch President is next week.  Good times.
Love you and miss you (and my Armada)

November 6, 2010

Where do I begin?  How about with the ending? (for now anyways)...
So, now if you don’t want to read the rest, at least you know we are FINALLY settled.  The last couple of weeks have been exhausting – mentally and physically.  We have had quite a few long days looking at different areas & homes.  We even had a realtor show us some different areas and homes for sale & rent.  No, we are not going to move here forever, but often times owners that have their property for sale will also rent it do to the real estate “crises” here – sound familiar?.  It’s been a hard decision because we came to Portugal for a few specific reasons and so we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to find just the right house in just the right area. But, I think we made the right decision.  About 2 weeks ago we had pretty much come to the conclusion that we were going to take the house in Vila Nova de Poiares – which was the home I talked about in a previous post.  It seemed like just the right place to me.  But, not everyone in our family agreed with that.  And we had looked for so long that I was ready to move there or give up completely.  Well, the day before we were going to let the landlord know that we wanted to move in Rick found a home via internet that was on a lake in a small town.  He was tired of looking at homes, but I said – “no, let’s go take a look just to be sure” (or something like that).  So, we packed up the kids once again and took off on a day trip to go check it out.  It was about an hour and a half drive.  The GPS couldn’t get us directly to the house, so the lands keeper met us up the road and took us to the house.    Devan instantly loved the lake, Tanner ran around the property exploring, I fell in love with the grounds (although the house was way too big), Rick liked the whole set up, but Kaylie was still stuck on Poiares.  I was torn between the two homes because there are so many great things about both.  And they each offered different great things.  So, then it put us into a position of choosing between the two, which confused us even more.  That was 2 Saturdays ago.  We hadn’t brought clothes to change into for church the next day (or we could have stayed in a hotel), so we drove the 1 ½ hours home and drove all the way back the next morning to check out the ward.  When we pulled up to where our GPS led us, there wasn’t a single car parked in front.  That was kind of weird.  But, there was a plaque with our churches name on it, so we knew we were at the right place.  We got our stuff and headed in.  Come to find out, after being greeted by 2 missionaries, we were supposed to change our clocks.  I guess Portugal changes theirs a week earlier than Utah.  Funny.  So, we were an hour early for church.  And then the second thing we find out - it’s a “branch”, not a “ward”.  So, sacrament meeting only had a total of 12 people (counting us).  Crazy.    Poor missionaries.  They do everything.  One of them is the President (Elder Sagebin) and one is the 1st Counselor (Elder Tanner).  Elder Tanner usually teaches Primary (which has 2-3 kids, depending on the week), but this Sunday he taught Relief Society because the Relief Society President didn’t show up and there were no Primary kids.  We had taken off to drive back to the house to “clock” it and check out the area in the daylight.  We figured we’d come back for sacrament, which is the last hour of church.  Church usually starts late because 2 ladies have to take the bus and it gets them there late, and the other families usually show up late.  They have to be pretty flexible since they have that small of a group.  Anyways, sacrament was cool because Elder Sagebin gave an impromptu talk half in Portuguese and half in English (I wonder why).  That was pretty cool, for our kid’s sake.  The missionaries were pretty jazzed that we were considering moving in to the branch.  Before sacrament started the Counselor in the District Presidency (who was visiting the branch) took Rick aside and was trying to convince him to move our family there because of the lack of Priesthood.
Well, the next week was pure torture (ok, not really).  It actually was pretty cool because we decided to have a family meeting and pray about it.  Devan said our nighttime family prayer, then we all slept/contemplated it.  Then the next day Rick read a scripture about asking in faith and receiving either a “burning in your bosom” or a “stupor of thought”.  We knelt together and each of us took a turn praying about which house would be the “right” one.  As much as I was still hoping to move to the house in Poiares, I really “felt” like the lake house was the one.  And so did Rick.  But, one problem with the lake house was that it was more money than we were wanting to spend.   I guess Heavenly Father knows best because the owner of the lake house sent Rick an e-mail letting him know that he’d drop the price for us.  I guess it was meant to be.
Well, we made the deal with the owner and planned to move in over the weekend.  Then he called us and told us he was going to Spain for the weekend and we wouldn’t be able to move in until the following week.  Then he called back and told us he’d meet us in Coimbra to bring us the key and we could move in whenever we want.  Pretty nice considering it was at least an hour to an hour and a half drive for him and he was leaving for Spain the next day.  So, while we were in Coimbra we rented a truck, headed home, packed up the next morning and moved.  Pretty crazy!!
The house is great.  But, really, it is too big for us.  Each of the kids has their own room and bathroom, we have an awesome master suite, and then there are 2 completely empty bedrooms.  And one of them has 4 twin beds in it. The family room is gigantic with a huge fireplace, and the dining room seats 12.  In other words – plenty of room for guests.  So, if you’ve ever thought about going to Portugal NOW IS THE TIME!!  We have plenty of room (and time) for you.  And we’ve discovered that you can fly to Paris and back for like $25.  So you could even take a day trip to Paris (we’re considering that).  Now that’s a thought!!
Well, we moved in on Friday.  We had to get our rental truck back to the company here, in the nearest town (called Tomar – another thing you can google, if interested).  So, we dumped all of our stuff in the entryway and headed to town, before they closed.  Devan had decided he didn’t want to come because he wanted to fish and hunt crawdads.  So, we left him at the house.  We returned the truck and walked around the town to see what food it had to offer and we run into….     The missionaries!!  So, they tell us about this Italian restaurant that they heard was great; and, we head over with them for a VERY yummy dinner.  While at dinner I get a phone call from Devan.  He was stuck in the PITCH black of night on the dock.  Pretty freaky.  Literally pitch black.  Poor kid – he waited out there, in the cold, for about an hour and a half until we got back.  It’s not a super long walk back to the house, but it’s uphill, on a trail that’s surrounded by bushes and trees.  And without a decent flashlight – you’re hating life.  Guess what Rick purchased the next day?  Yep – a good flashlight.  And I plan on purchasing a few more.  Because the house is big and the grounds are big – the kids were a little freaked out the first couple of days.  But, they are adapting quickly.
Well, I’ll end this now, because I’m sure you’re sick of reading.  In the next post I’ll tell you about Halloween here in Portugal and our weekend.
Love you and miss you (and my GIGANTIC ward back home)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November 2, 2010 (about Oct 26, 2010)

Ricks birthday was on Tuesday (the 26th).  And I basically want everyone to know I love him.  In some ways he is very “high maintenance” guy, but in other ways he very “low maintenance”.  Luckily for me, when it comes to his birthday, he is very low maintenance.  He never expects much so I don’t usually feel much pressure when it comes to his birthday (except for the pressure I put on myself).  But, because I’ve been a little out of sorts since we got here, I thought making him a semi-traditional birthday would be nice.  Boy – that was a mistake.  First of all – his present.  Well, he’s really been missing his “green shakes” (YUCK).  So, Kaylie and I thought the perfect gift would be a blender.  So, while Rick was looking at electronic stuff Kaylie and I headed to the blender section.  Try buying a blender, strong enough to chop up veggies, when you can’t read the box.  So, Rick picked out his own blender.  Then, try making pancakes or waffles for breakfast when Portuguese people don’t know what maple syrup is (or maple flavoring to make syrup). But, he was happy with oatmeal.  And his traditional chocolate cheesecake.  Can I just say YUCK (again)?  After spending several hours looking for ingredients (or anything close to what the recipe called for) and spending a ton of money - the cake was horrible.  Oh well, I guess it’s the thought that counts.  His only request for his birthday was that we all go swimming together at the community pool – at least we managed that – sort of.  I did want to let you all know that he really appreciated the phone calls from home and all the e-mails and birthday e-cards he got.  They were the highlight of his day (since the food obviously was not).


October 30, 2010 Part 2

So, I thought I should share with you (again) our Sunday (of last week – October 24th).  We had a great Sunday – I think prayer and a change of attitude works!!  Let me start with last Saturday night.  We are all feeling quite a bit more healthy.  So Saturday night I had a little pow wow with the kids.  I reminded them that the next day was Sunday and that we are all feeling better and that we would need to get up on time and get ourselves to church (did I happen to tell you that me and the kids ditched church last week when I had my “explosion”? NOT GOOD).  Rick said our family prayer that night and prayed that we would all be happy and have a good experience at church and feel comfortable there.  So, Sunday morning we all got up (on time) and took the long 45 minute drive to church.  We actually made it with only one dead end road (GPS doesn’t always work the greatest here) and Kaylie didn’t even throw up – although it was very close.  About 5 minutes before we got there we had to pull over and let her out of the car to get some fresh air. After the long drive there we turned the final corner and…    we see an ACTUAL church building.  I know that doesn’t sound like such a big deal.  But, usually our church is part of another building or a house converted in to a church.  So, to see an actual church was quite surprising.  And then to top it off the sister missionaries were there.  Woohoo!!  They are very sweet girls that we have become friends with through Fatocha.  We had watched part of General Conference with them at Fatocha’s home and had gone sightseeing with them on their P-day (which is the day they have to catch up on laundry and grocery shopping or go and do something fun).  So that was a nice surprise to.  The whole experience at church was good.  Tanner’s teacher spoke English, Kaylie met a girl her age who spoke fluent English, Devan ended up hanging out with Rick because there weren’t any boys his age in the ward, I hung out with the sister missionaries (who tried their best at translating).  The Bishop seems to be a pretty cool guy.  He’s about 30 and has just had his second child (who was a premie and weighed 1 kilo at birth, which is 2.2 lbs – I got to hold him for a while).  The Bishop spoke fluent English also because he served a mission in Florida.
After church we drove around and found a park to have a picnic lunch.  We had planned that because we had time to kill in the afternoon between church and an EFY presentation that evening (and we didn’t want to do the 45 minute drive 2 more times). EFY stands for Especially for Youth.  It is a weeklong “camp”, on a college campus, for kids ages 14-17 – run through our church.  The presentation was very good.  EFY is a brand new thing here in Portugal.  Their first one ever was last year and they will only have it every 2 years. There is a group of very talented kids/young adults that have created this music & DVD presentation.  They are going around to every stake in Portugal showing it in hopes that the kids will get excited and sign up next time it comes.  By the way – it only costs them 70 euros (which is about $100) – pretty good deal compared to the $410 I pay for each of my kids to attend in Provo, Utah.  Well, the kids were amazing singers.  There were about 10 of them.  And, to top off the whole evening, 1 of the performers happens to be one of the top 12 on their version of American Idol.  NO JOKE!!  Google it.  The show is called Idolos.  It is a complete knock off of American Idol – except WAY cheesier.  So funny!!  Portugal television is hilarious.  I swear this country is 20 years behind in everything.  So, “Mr. Portugal Idol” comes over to meet “the Americans” after the presentation was over.  He’s a 17 year old kid named Gerson.  He’s a very energetic performer, and really nice kid.  Basically he’s the “David Archuleta” of Portugal.  Good, clean cut, Mormon boy of the show.  Anyways, he’s standing their talking to us for a few minutes – checking Kaylie out the entire time.  I finally introduce my kids (I could tell he wanted to meet Kaylie).  So, he starts talking to her and asks her how old she is.  When she said 13 you should’ve seen the look on his face.  Pure disappointment.  He goes “You’re kidding – I thought you were like 16”.  It was quite hilarious.  I’m sure he was looking for a date from a cute American girl.  I think his bubble burst very quickly.  Anyhow – now if he becomes Portugal’s Idol we can say ‘we knew him when’.  After that we had some very interesting food at the church and headed toward home.
To end our day – we got a call from Fatocha on our way home.  She and her family were in our neighborhood for a friend’s birthday and they wanted us to come by.  So – we did (at 10pm).  When we arrived they had this huge spread of food waiting for us.  I’m telling you – friends and food – top 2 on the priority list here.  So, we meet everyone and then they feed us a whole dinner.  They served us soup, and then brought out this huge platter of meat.  It looked like chicken and I thought Rick had said it was chicken.  So I take a big bite and just about threw up.  No kidding – I am not a picky eater and I’m usually willing to try just about anything.  I don’t know if it was because I was thinking it was chicken and then it tasted nothing like chicken, but it just hit me wrong.  Turns out it was Leitao, which is baby pig (well, actually it’s teenage pig).  It was very sour tasting.  Hmm… could that be because it’s “teenage” pig? Anyways, I managed to swallow it.  And then I just cut the rest of it up and spread it out on my plate – a trick I learned from my kids.  Luckily I hadn’t taken too big of a piece because we had already eaten at the church, so I wasn’t that hungry.  One other thing I’ve learned about the food here in Portugal is that desserts look better than they taste.  Which is a blessing or I would probably come home weighing 50 pounds more.  Their desserts are very beautiful, but out of all of them that I’ve tried (which is many) I’ve only found 3 that are worth the calories.
Well, our Sunday was good – so I guess Rick’s prayer worked.  Things are looking up.  Health is good.  Attitudes are better.  And we’re very close to making a decision on a home.  All’s well!!
Love you and miss you (and bacon & warm chocolate chip cookies & American Idol)
PS - cross your fingers I don't "lose" this post when I copy and paste