January Greetings

Date: January 2, 2010
Location: Quito, Ecuador

Packing up our Christmas decorations on New Year’s Eve has become one of our yearly traditions.  In the midst of wrapping up Christmas lights and packing small ornaments, I found myself wondering where the time went.  The last time this Meier family sent out an update was the end of October.  Now, a new year has already begun.

Sorting through all the events that have taken place in the last two months is almost as challenging as making sure that I get all our Christmas decorations packed away for another season.  Invariably, I will tape the “Christmas box” shut before I find that one last bobble or Christmas kitchen towel that I forgot to pack.  It usually ends up in a little plastic bag sitting on top of the Christmas box.

As I sort through my recent memories, I’ll try to remember those that are the most significant.  Please visit our new posts to find out about the following “happenings” in the lives of the MK Meier Family in Quito, Ecuador:
Current Prayer Requests for the Meier Family (Home Page)
– A Thanksgiving Trip and a “Compassion” Visit (Ministry)
– Nearing “half time” as the first semester comes to an end (Ministry)
– How Stephen broke his thumb bone playing Flag Football (Family News)
– Is Jared ready to be potty trained or not? (Family News)
– Luke nears his first birthday and first steps (Family news)
Christmas Ills and Good Wills (Family News)
– The amazing fruits and vegetables of Ecuador (TCK Views)

We are grateful to each of you for your friendship, love and support even during these times that we do not keep in touch as often as we should.  Give us a “shout out” when you have the time through whichever communication tool you are most comfortable with: e-mail, Facebook, Blog comments, Phone call to our Florida Vonage number or Skype.


Cristina Meier (for the rest of the Meier family)

New Year’s Prayer Requests

We are so grateful to all of you who have kept us in your thoughts and prayers as we continue our ministry at the Alliance Academy International (AAI) in Quito, Ecuador.  Here are a few specific prayer requests:

*Stephen’s Conference Trip to Miami – Stephen is traveling to Miami, Florida for a week to attend an education conference focused on curriculum mapping.  This conference will help him gain the skills he needs in his role as director of curriculum at AAI.  He will be there from January 11-15.  Please pray for his safety and that he will learn a lot at the conference.  Also pray for Cristina who will be playing the role of “single mom” of a two-year-old and one-year-old in his absence.

*Cristina’s Ph.D. research – Although she passed her exams in October, she has been struggling in really getting her research together to begin writing her dissertation.  Please pray for the mental energy she needs to begin the writing process as she is experiencing some writer’s block and mental burn-out at this time.

*Students Finishing their First Semester – this is very stressful and busy time for most of the students at AAI.  Please pray for them to continue to be diligent and not to get discouraged by the amount of tests and projects that they need to accomplish, and that they will still be able to find time to grow spiritually in spite of these challenges. 

*Our nephew Joshua Alexander Cobb – he was born three months early (November 29) and is under neonatal hospital care in Gainesville Florida.   Pray for him to develop normally in spite of the challenge of being born so prematurely and pray for his parents to have patience, wisdom and peace during this time as they wait for their baby boy to be strong enough to bring home. 
Link to their blog here: http://joshuacobb.blogspot.com/

Blessings in Christ,
The MK Meier Family

A Thanksgiving Trip and Compassion Visit

I had heard about Compassion International since I was a high school student.  The father of one of my classmates worked in the Quito office for Compassion for some time.  I remember when Michael W. Smith came down to Ecuador to visit a Compassion child that he sponsored in Guayaquil.  He gave a free concert at my church during his visit to Ecuador.

However, it wasn’t until I was a graduate student in late 1999 when I decided that I would try to sponsor a child through Compassion myself.  I remember the feeling of nervousness I felt when I mailed a letter to Compassion saying I was interested in sponsoring a child.  I knew I was making a monthly commitment and I prayed that I would be able to remain faithful to it. 

I was extremely excited when I received the information for my sponsor child.  Was it coincidence or God’s hand that they selected a little girl from Guayaquil, Ecuador to be my sponsor child?  Such a joy surged through my soul as I looked at the photograph of the dark-haired, chubby little four year old by the name of Kiara Zulieka Reyes Cruz. 

Those first few years, her older sister or her cousin would write letters on Kiara’s behalf and began to correspond to each other in that way. Eventually, she was able to start writing letter to me by herself.  Eventually, her elementary handwriting developed into swooping cursive letters.  She was starting high school and growing into a little lady. 

When Stephen and I moved to Quito, Ecuador, we decided that we would try to visit Kiara at least once while we were living in the same country with her.  Looking at the calendar, it seem the best time to make the visit would be during our Thanksgiving holiday.  Not only was it a good time for us to visit, but it was a special time of the year for Kiara.  Her fifteenth birthday was coming up two days after our visit.  For Latin Americans, the “cinceanera” birthday celebration is similar to the idea of the “sweet sixteen” for girls in the U.S.  So, we set up the “individual sponsor visit” with Compassion and booked our flight to Guayaquil. 

Cristina and Kiara

Ten years after I started sponsoring this little girl, I was finally meeting her in person. I had been sending her pictures of my husband and my growing family.  Now, I would finally get to introduce them to her in real life. 

We met up with the Compassion project manager, Kiara’s uncle and Kiara in front of a large mall.  Jared was a little shy at first.  Luke warmed up to her right away.  And Stephen just smiled a lot, because he couldn’t understand Spanish.  We all crammed into one taxi and rode to the Compassion project where we got to see the church area and classrooms were the kids would come for help with their homework and to study the Bible. 

Afterwards, we went to another mall and wandered around a little bit before eating lunch.  Then we had to cut the visit short, because the baby boys were in need of their daily afternoon nap.  It was hard to say good-bye to Kiara after such a short visit. 

We gave her a new Bible, a journal and a devotional for her birthday.  We hope and pray that she will continue to develop into a wonderful woman of God that he has created her to be.

Nearing “Half-Time”

For many students, the Christmas break was not to be spent entirely on relaxing and enjoying the time away from school.  In fact, several of my students mentioned that they would be busy with homework, projects and study to be prepared for those first few weeks of January. 

Now that the school year begins in September, the end of the first quarter has been pushed to the last week of January.  Therefore, the four weeks in January are the last four weeks of the first semester. 

For Cristina Meier, this means getting final project guidelines prepared for her students and getting ready to grade them all when they are finished. 

Her Journalism class of twelve students has written articles for four “issues” of their on-line newspaper known as the AAI Witness.

Link here:

They will be writing articles for one more issue before they focus on completing their final project, which is a portfolio of their work and what they’ve learned.  It has been a tough semester for this class, because English is a second or third language for most of these students and writing does not come easy.  Spiritually, it has also been a difficult class for Cristina, because the students are either nominal Christians or do not believe Jesus is anything besides a religious tradition.  Still, she begins each class with a moment of prayer and tries to integrate her faith into journalism as much as she can.

Cristina’s computer classes are winding down to their final tasks and projects.  Her eighth grade students will soon be learning how to use Power Point and will create a presentation to share with the class during the final days of the semester.  Her high school keyboarding class will get a chance to test their keyboarding skills to see if they’ve improved in their typing speed over the semester.  They will also do a small project to prove their skills at word processing.

January is a busy month for everyone at AAI.   In the middle of this month, Stephen will actually leave for a week to attend a conference in Miami, Florida to learn how to be a better curriculum director.  He will be flying to Miami on January 11 to attend the conference from January 12 to January 14 and then return to Quito on the evening of January 15.  Unfortunately, the rest of the family has to stay in Quito.  So, Cristina will have to take care of two energetic, little boys on her own for about five days.

In the midst of all this activity, Cristina is also trying to pull off a political cartoon contest among the high school and middle school students.  She is hoping that there will be enough entries to make the contest valid.  So far only three high school students and two middle school students have submitted artwork.

Stephen’s broken thumb

Stephen loves sports, especially when he can participate in them. Whenever the school hosts a sports event, he tries to get involved. Every November, the sophomore class has traditionally sponsored a flag football tournament known as the “Turkey Bowl.”

Dad shows Luke was an American football is

Groups of students and groups of alumni and staff create teams that compete against each other. Stephen participated in this event last year, and signed up for it again this year. He was excited about it this year, because the AAI staff team was very organized and had even purchased team shirts for everyone on the team.

Meanwhile, I had signed up to sing in the All AAI Choir which was going to perform for the 80th Anniversary event. I had to find a baby sitter to watch the boys while the two of us were busy at our own particular tasks. When I finally finished with choir practice, I took the boys over to the soccer field to watch the tournament.

During a break, Stephen came over and told me briefly that he thought he hurt his thumb during the early morning practice. Since he didn’t seem very concerned about it, I didn’t pay much attention to it. He continued to play for the rest of the afternoon until his team won the entire tournament and a turkey (which went to the team captain).

When he came home, the knuckle of this right thumb was extremely swollen and had turned different shades of purple. That got my attention. However, it was a Saturday afternoon and we didn’t really know what we should do about it. So, we waited until Monday morning to talk to the school nurse.

Both she and Stephen agreed that he might have fractured a bone in his thumb. So, she helped us set up an appointment with one of the doctors from “Voz Andes.” This is a mission run hospital located next to the school.

After doing some x-rays, they found that Stephen had a complete fracture of the top bone in his thumb, and close to where the bone meets the knuckle. He was told not to do any lifting but to wear a splint on his thumb for the next four weeks.

So followed four weeks in which Stephen could not help with the dishes, change diapers or help with the bathing of the boys. From November 10 to December 10, Stephen wore a splint on his thumb wherever he went. He was even able to get a fancy splint that he could take off when he showered.

When they finally took the splint off, the doctor told Stephen that he should go into physical therapy for a week to make sure he gets all the mobility back in his thumb. We ended up going to the first physical therapy session and asking the nurse if we might possibly be able to continue the physical therapy at home so that we couldn’t have to keep returning for an hour out of each day of the week.

After examining Stephen’s thumb and deciding that it was healing well, she agreed that Stephen did not need to return for more sessions.

Now that Stephen has full mobility of his thumb, the question has to be asked, “Will you participate in the Turkey Bowl again next year?”

It is probably no surprise to many of you to hear that he answers with a firm, “Of course I will!”

Jared’s Adventures

Jared in his Santa hat

Jared Meier is now two years and five months old. For most pediatricians in Ecuador, this is way too old for a child to be in diapers. I, personally, have been trying to take my time in beginning the process of potty training, since it doesn’t seem that Jared is very much interested in the idea of sitting on a toilet.

One day, Jared actually agreed to try it out. I grabbed our little “potty book,” some cookies, some wet wipes and lots of enthusiasm to help Jared adjust to the idea. However, Jared soon became frightened about sitting on the cold commode. As soon as the urge hit him, he wanted to squirm off the toilet and relieve himself into his diaper. I had to hug him and encourage him to relax. I felt like I was coaxing someone through labor.

When he finally finished his duty, I gave him a cookie and told him what a big boy he was. I thought we had made a breakthrough.

That is…until the next time he needed to go to the bathroom. At the mere suggestion of using the toilet, Jared began to run away crying and screaming. To avoid the toilet, he’ll actually go into his bedroom and grab a clean diaper. He’d wait until he had filled his diaper and then runs over to me and says, “Change diaper, please.” Once, he actually hid under the dining room table until he had filled his diaper to make the announcement.

Stephen and I both tried to explain to Jared that babies use diapers and that big boys use the potty. When I asked Jared if he was a big boy or a baby, he looked up at me very seriously and said, “Jared a baby. No potty.”

Sigh. I guess we’re not quite ready for potty training yet.

In spite of this small setback, Jared continues to surprise us with his progress and growth. He have become very clever at reaching items that we’ve specifically told him are “off-limits.” He has discovered how to use footstools and chairs to reach up to table tops and high shelves in order to get what he wants.

We are also trying to figure out where he got so polite in answering questions. For the last couple weeks, he has started saying something that sounds like “Yes, sir” to things that he is really fervent in answering “yes” about something.

And there are also those heart-warming moments when he’ll burst out with something sweet. The other day, I was putting him in his high chair when he looked across the room at Stephen and said, “I love Daddy.”

I asked him, “Really? Do you love, Mommy?”

“Um-hmm,” Jared replied. “I love baby Loot.”

Jared hasn’t quite gotten the grasp of the “k” sound, yet. But it is really cute to hear him call his brother, “Loot.”

The World of Baby Luke

As the New Year begins, there are two things that Luke Evan Meier is approaching: his first birthday and his first steps.  Although it appears that he will reach his first birthday before he reaches his first steps. 

Luke may not walk yet, but he loves to climb.  At least, he loves to pull himself into a standing position on whatever object is closest to him.  If it is Mama or Dad’s leg, Luke will climb up and cling for as long as he can.

 Jared has a little walker that he used to help him learn to walk.  However, he refused to give it up and let Luke use it until Christmas day.  That was when we officially wrapped up the walker and told Jared that he was giving Luke the walker as a gift for Christmas.

Of course, this was incomprehensible to our toddler.  Jared cried and cried when he saw his brother open his new gift and play with it.  Jared would not be pacified until he opened his big gift from Mama and Dad.  Once he saw the little fire engine scooter, he became quite happy to give up the walker. 

Jared and Luke test this toy before Mama decides to purchase it.

Luke is still trying to get the hang of the walker.  Most of the time the walker ends up going a little faster than his little legs can walk.  I’m sure he’ll get the hang of it soon.

Luke has six teeth already and two more coming in and is having fun exploring the world of solids.  He’s doing so well that Mama is considering weaning him in the next few months.

Luke’s vocabulary is expanding, too.  He knows how to say “Mama,” “Dada” “bye,” and his favorite word of all, “Yaba-daba.”  We don’t even watch the Flintstones, so I don’t know where he picked up this phrase.

Christmas Ills and Good Wills

The Christmas season brought good will and a few ills to the Meier Family this year.  Apparently, there was a stomach virus spreading among some of the students and staff during the last week of school before Christmas vacation. 

It was during that week that Jared began to throw up his meals and started having some problems with diarrhea.  I assumed he might have been reacting to the amoeba medicine given to him by his doctor.  However, Luke started having the same symptoms during our Christmas break.  By Christmas Eve, both Stephen and I were also feeling ill. We had to decline a Christmas dinner invitation because we were trying to recover.

A Meier Family Christmas Pose

In spite of having weak stomachs, we were able to enjoy Christmas day together.  I actually started feeling better on Christmas day.  Jared had finally recovered from his symptoms and baby Luke was able to keep most of his food down that day.  We were able to talk to our extended family on Skype at different times during the day.

And the family who invited us over for a Christmas meal decided to bring the food to us, so that we could have “a taste of Christmas” at home.

By New Year’s Eve, each of us had fully recovered from our ills.  And I think Little Luke is trying to make up for all the meals he lost during his illness by being hungry all the time.

It will be a Christmas holiday that we will not soon forget.

The Amazing Fruits and Veggies of Ecuador

Baby food in Ecuador does not come cheap; nor does it come without sugar.  After searching unsuccessfully for baby food without additives, I found the best thing to do was to make my own baby food. 

This was when I began to discover the variety of fruits and vegetables that this country of Ecuador has to offer.   One of the first surprises came in the form of Ecuadorian sweet potatoes.  I had tried canned sweet potatoes in the U.S. on Luke and he seemed to like them.  Therefore, I figured it shouldn’t be too difficult to buy some sweet potatoes or yams here in Ecuador and mash it up at home.

The yams I found in the grocery store looked a bit darker than the ones I was used to seeing in North America.  When I brought them home and boiled them, I noticed that the skin looked a bit purple. After peeling and blending it, the sweet potato mash was a strong purple color.

Another vegetable with a different color was the carrot. I have discovered that carrots come in a variety of colors (red, purple, black and yellow), but this is the first country I lived in where both orange and white carrots are cultivated in abundance.  The white carrot looks similar to a turnip or a parsnip, but has the same texture as a carrot. I found it was more of a nuttier flavor than the orange carrot, perhaps because of the carotene found in orange carrots.

Another interesting vegetable that I’ve found is called “oca” in Spanish.  I am not sure there is any English translation for the word.  It is cultivated by the indigenous peoples of the Andes mountains (considered originally a Peruvian food) and the Quechua Indians call it “mashua.”  Our son’s babysitter recommended it as a good vegetable to be boiled and made into baby food because of its sweet flavor.    She was right.  Both Jared and Luke will eat it without a bit of protest. 

A plate of oca before it is cooked

Moving away from vegetables, Ecuador also boasts of a wide assortment of fruits that I have never seen anywhere else in the world.  There is the small persimmon looking fruit known as the “naranjilla.”  The only English translation I can give for it would be “little orange.”  It is cannot be eaten in the same way as a persimmon.  It is most commonly squeezed into a juice form and is a very common fruit in Ecuador.

A whole and sliced pitahaya

Another fruit that I juice and give to my son, Luke, for breakfast is called “pitahaya.”  It is pronounced (pee-ta-HA-ya). Some people like to eat it, although it is not recommended to swallow the seeds, which some say are indigestible.  The taste is similar to that of a kiwi, but a lot sweeter and the skin is much thicker and not as hairy as a kiwi.  My doctor says this fruit has the similar effect of eating prunes and helps the digestive system.

Besides pitahaya juice, I often give Luke the juice of a “granadilla.”  I believe this fruit is similar to start fruit in English.  It looks like a large, golden balloon.  Once the skin is broken, you can find large seeds surrounded by a thick, juicy mixture.  Because it doesn’t hold much liquid, it usually takes about 10 granadillas to make one small glass of juice.  However, it is a very healthy fruit and recommended by pediatricians here in Ecuador because it is high in vitamin C.

A Granadilla fruit

There are various other fruits I have not tried yet.  There is a small, green fruit that looks kind of like a spiny pepper and it is called “tuna.”  There are also sweet “pepinos” which would translate into “sweet cucumber” and it looks similar to a cucumber, but is yellow and develops purple streaks when it is ripe. 

And just when you think that the banana is an average fruit, you just need to walk into a Ecuadorian supermarket or grocery store to find that there are many varieties of bananas.  There are several types of plantains, such as the “maduro, ” the “maqueño” and the “platano verde” which are used for cooking.  The “maduro” is a sweeter banana, where the “verde” is not edible raw and used for making crunchy chips.  And the maqueño is often used for making desserts. There are also mid-sized bananas that are sweeter than the average banana and called “oritos.”  Then you have the very small, snack bananas that never grow larger than a few inches.   

I end my discovery of new fruits with the fruit that most often confuses westerners.  I will never forget when I first moved to Ecuador with my family and my dad wanted to order tomato juice with his breakfast.  He saw something on the menu that said “tomate de arbol.”  This is translated “tree tomato.” 

Thinking it was the same thing as tomato juice, he ordered a glass.  To his surprise, he discovered that the juice was nothing like tomato juice. 

Tomate de Arbol (Tree tomato)

Tomate de arbol is another fruit that normally not consumed in its raw form, but boiled and peeled and squeezed into a juice.  The tree is a native plant of the Andes mountain region of South America.  Although it looks somewhat similar to the normal tomato, its flavor and texture is completely different.  It also contains more Vitamin C than most citric fruits and is prized for its nutritional and medicinal value. 

According to an Ecuadorian agricultural study, the tree tomato is the most widely cultivated of the Andean fruits and is gaining global popularity, especially in the U.S. and in Europe.

When liquefied, tomato juice turns a maroon-red color, and is a thick, sweet drink. 

We are thankful to live in a country where so many interesting fruits and vegetables are available to try.  It makes me glad that I have so many good choices in picking good food for my sons.