August Update: Another Fall Approaching

Date: August 28, 2010
Location: Quito, Ecuador

It is hard to believe that the summer is already ending and that the fall season (and a new school year) are fast approaching.  I apologize for staying silent these past few months.  The end of the school year and summer busy-ness kept me away from the computer most of the time.  Please go to our blog to get caught up on the recent events and happenings in our family life and our ministry here in Quito, Ecuador.

You will find….

1) Jared’s Milestones (Family News)
It’s hard to believe that our first born is already three years old!  Find out some of the new things he has accomplished recently

2) Stories of a Fearless Luke (Family News)
Watching Luke’s personality develop has been both interesting and a little scary as he launches fearlessly into toddlerhood.

3) Two Plus One Equals Three (Family News)
Find out what will become the new equation of the Meier family

4) Changing Caregivers AGAIN (TCK Views)
After only four months of working for us, Jenny had to resign at the end of July.  However, she did introduce us to her niece, Sonia, who has been working for us for the past three weeks.

5) World Cup Fever (TCK Views)
Our experiences watching the 2010 Fifa World Cup games in Ecuador

6) Summary of our Summer Travels (TCK Views)
Some highlights of what we did during our travels to the U.S.

7) Changes for the new school year (Ministry)
Find out what is new and different about the 2010-2011 school year at AAI

Our prayer request list is also here if you wish to join us in prayer for the items that are most pressing on our hearts.

Sincerely,

The MK Meier Family

Stephen, Cristina, Jared, Luke & “little kidney bean”

Meier Prayer Requests for September

Meier Family (August 2010)

As we begin the new 2010-2011 school year, please keep us in prayer for the following needs:

1) Financial – We had a tough summer this year.  Our renter moved out of the townhouse we own in West Virginia at the end of June, just as we were needing the extra money for our summer trip to the U.S.  Fortunately, we only went one month without renters.  Our new West Virginia real estate agency found renters to move into the home on the first of August.  However, we are still recovering from the deficit created for the month of July. 

2) Future prospects – Stephen and I are looking at making this our final year ministering at the Alliance Academy International of Quito, Ecuador.  We are looking at other international schools where we can continue to minister or to a Christian school in the United States.  Please join us in prayer for wisdom and discernment as we make a decision as to where we will move after this school year is finished.

3) New pregnancy – After two pregnancies without any complications, Cristina is trying not to worry about anything going wrong with this third pregnancy.  Keep this new child in prayer that he/she will develop to be a healthy new addition to their family.  Their first doctor’s appointment is scheduled for next Tuesday, August 31 and they believe she is about eight weeks (roughly two months) pregnant.

4) Raising godly sons – Be in prayer with us as we are raising our sons, Jared and Luke, to be godly examples to those around them as they learn about the world around them and the God who created it all.

5) New school year – Be in prayer with us for the new teachers as they start a new year in a new school and learning a new system.  We have around 30 new teachers for middle and high school alone.   Also be with the returning teachers that they will find new passion for their classes and their ministry to the students they will teach this year.

Jared’s Milestones

Jared poses at a butterfly exhibit.

When Jared turned three years old, I determined that I was finally going to get him potty trained “for real.”  Ever since Jared turned two, I have been going through phases of trying to potty train him and then giving up for months at a time.  This time around, I decided on a strategy that would put my focus solely on Jared.  We had just gotten back from our summer trip in the U.S. and I had a whole month before school would begin again. 

So, I pulled out all of Jared’s diapers and told him, “Jared, these are the last diapers I am going to buy for you.  When these are finished, you have to wear pull ups.  When those are finished, you have to wear underwear.”

It took about a week and a half with a few setbacks along the way, but I can now officially say that Jared is potty-trained during his waking hours.  We are still working on getting him potty trained during his naps and overnight.  So far, he has woken up dry in the morning at least three times in the last three weeks.  The best thing about the whole process is that Jared is finally on board with the activity.  He really wants to be a big boy and not use diapers any more.

Jared and Luke sit on the potty after having had their morning bath.

Besides the potty training, we’re finally getting Jared to eat his meals mostly on his own.  He’s really becoming a day dreamer, and sometimes I can just see his mind go off into another world in the middle of a meal. 

You can just tell there is a lot on his mind.  Recently, Jared decided to memorize the alphabet song and sometimes goes around the house singing it.  He has also memorized his first Bible verse.  We just started to do devotions with the boys each night.  And a verse that I’ve been reading to Jared recently is from Psalm 118:24. 

“This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Sometimes that verse has really come back to bite me.  There have been times when I wake up in the morning grumbling to myself about all that I have to do that day.  I feel this dark cloud hovering over my head.  Then I hear Jared quoting Psalm 118:24 with a big smile on my face, and I know God’s using him to tell me something. 

I’m so glad that God can use little Jared to remind me to be glad for each day that He has given us on this earth.

Stephen thought it would be fun to scare his son by placing him close to the mouth of this alligator statue.

Stories of a Fearless Luke

In the past few months, we’ve watched our little baby go from crawling to cautious walker to fearless mountain climber.  Well, he hasn’t exactly climbed Mount Everest, but at his size, the living room table and kitchen counters might as well be one of the many mountains that surround the city of Quito.  Luke has figured out how to push a chair up against his desired object of ascension and makes his way up faster than we can catch him.  All of a sudden, we turn around and he’s standing on some high counter top reveling in his new perspective on the world below him. 

Living on campus, we have access to the elementary playground.  The toys aren’t particularly designed for children under pre-school age.  However, Luke has figured out how to climb most of the ladders and ropes that are available there.  It used to scare me to watch him climb around, until I realized that he really does have a good sense of balance.  It’s always interested to be out on the playground at the same time with other parents.  I can hear them gasp and yell out, “Watch the baby!”  I try to calmly explain that he won’t fall down, but I stand near Luke, just to give them some peace of mind.

Luke can climb this rope ladder in under two minutes.

That’s not to say that Luke doesn’t get his fair share of bumps and bruises.  He is always trying to do everything that Jared can do, and sometimes his fearlessness ends up giving him a knock or two on his little noggin.  It’s challenging when most of the floors in our home are made of hard tile.  Sometimes, Luke comes down hard when he trips over his running feet and lands on his head. 

Other times, Luke underestimates the hard surfaces of some of his toys.  He starts waving toys around and sometimes hits himself in the face with them.  I actually got to experience some of that pain myself in the last few weeks.  Luke was running toward me one afternoon while carrying a small plastic basket in which he usually kept his cars.  I thought he wanted to give me a hug or a kiss.  So, I leaned in and closed my eyes as I waited for his little lips to land somewhere on my cheek. 

Instead, Luke decided to bounce his small plastic basket off my forehead using all his strength.  Needless to say, I was reeling back in a wave of shock and pain as my forehead started dripping blood.  Luke got so upset by my tears and moans of pain that he began to cry hysterically and threw up his last meal. 

Luke’s lessons seem to come in a lot of bumps and bruises, but he remains fearless and ready for the next adventure.  At nearly 20 months of age, he doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.

Luke's not afraid to fall from the top of this jungle gym.

Two Plus One Equals Three

The test that came out positive

This following week, Stephen and Cristina and the boys are going to visit Cristina’s obstetrician to talk about a new discovery she made at home a few weeks ago.

 She was noticing a slight difference in her body at the end of the month of July.  Early in August, she took a home pregnancy test that came out…positive. 

So, we are ready to announce to the world that the Meier family is planning to expand to include a third child sometime next spring. 

If all is going as can be predicted, I am currently eight weeks into my pregnancy and should be do in early April.  We would appreciate your prayers for a healthy pregnancy.  I know….I know….some people are also saying, “I hope you have a girl this time!”  We’ll see what God blesses us with as two plus one will equal three little ‘MK’ meiers in about seven months.

We will keep you updated as time goes by.

Changing Caregivers AGAIN

Ever since early April of this year, our boys have had to adjust to a new person to care for them.  The lady who had been taking care of them since we moved to Ecuador, Marina Hernandez, had to quit working for health reasons.  However, we were excited when Jenny Pilataxi was able to begin working for us immediately after Marina left. 

Jenny was considerably younger and full of energy.  She always came to work smiling and with a positive attitude toward anything I asked her to do.  Her positivity helped to make the change easier on my boys as I had to continue teaching for the rest of the school year.  When the summer break began, we told Jenny to take some vacation time while we traveled in the U.S. 

When we returned, I was able to get to know Jenny a little better since I wasn’t teaching classes.  Jenny’s husband runs his own mechanic shop.  She has two daughters in their twenties, one daughter who is nineteen and a son who is nine.  Her nineteen year old just started attending a local university last year and still lives at home.  Her oldest daughter is married and recently found out that she is pregnant.

That was when the trouble began.  Her oldest daughter also is the secretary/book keeper for her husband’s mechanic shop.  In Ecuador, the labor is cheap so they make most of their money off of the parts they replace on cars.  This requires a lot of purchases and paperwork and negotiating with the bank. 

A few weeks into her pregnancy, Jenny’s daughter went to see her doctor with concerns about bleeding.  Her doctor ordered her to go on immediate bed rest for the following three weeks.  This left Jenny’s husband without a secretary/book keeper.  The situation was tough, because he couldn’t hire outside help that was both willing to work temporarily (so the daughter could continue working for him after her maternity leave) and willing to accept the lower salary that he gave his daughter. 

He began putting pressure on Jenny to quit her job with us so that she could work for him full time.  Jenny told me the situation and said that she was trying to reason with him.  But after a week of arguments and stony silence on his end, she told me that she had no choice but to quit.  However, she also told me that she had a niece who had been recently left unemployed and needed a job. 

That is when Sonia Yanchapaxi enters the scene.  She has been working for us since August 9 and says that my sons are the boys she never had.  She has two teenage daughters.  One is going into eighth grade and the other is going to be a senior.  Although we were very sad to have to say good-bye to another caregiver that the boys were finally getting used to, the past three weeks have not been as hard as I thought they would have been.  Sonia enjoys playing with the boys and has been very helpful during the times that I have to work on preparations for the new school year and working on my Ph.D.  We are hoping that Sonia can continue to work for us for the rest of the time that we live in Ecuador.

Sonia encourages Luke to come down the slide.

World Cup Fever

I have to take a few minutes to go back in time to the beginning of June.  It was the last month of school.  The world was getting prepared for the most televised soccer games in the past four years.  The FIFA World Cup of Soccer was being hosted in South Africa which was seven hours ahead of us in Quito. 

The normal afternoon and evening games, taking place in South Africa, were played in the early morning hours and early afternoon hours in Quito. 

The first day, a game started at 9am and a second game started at 1:30pm.  My first class of the day started at 10:35, which was right at the half-time of the game.  When I strode into my classroom, I could feel the excitement among the students as they talked about the first half of the game between France and South Africa.  They turned to beg me to let them see the game.  They were currently working on a final project for the class, so I was feeling more lenient toward them.  I made it clear to them that they would have one less day to work on their project if they watched the game instead.  They said they didn’t mind.  So, I brought all 12 students back to my home to watch the game.  (Living on campus allowed me to do with without taking my students off campus.)

After lunch, my sixth period class began at 1pm.  But there was an excitement and energy in the air about the upcoming game.  A few teachers had brought their television sets from home to hook up in their classrooms so that students could watch the game as they studied.  (Studied? Ha!)

I told my students that they had to complete the day’s assignment before 1:30 if they wanted to watch the beginning of the game.  To my surprise, they all finished.  This time, we headed up to the library where AV center was also playing the game. 

The rest of the afternoon, I was stricter on my students.  My middle school computer students really didn’t have the time to take away from working on their final projects.  However, I had some very grumpy students for the rest of the day. 

It was very interesting to watch the way everything seemed to come to a halt during the times the games were taking place.  A few years ago, AAI put up a television screen just inside the entrance to the school for putting up special announcements.  However, they began to use this television to let students watch the games between classes or if they had a study hall. For two weeks there was a game every day at 6:30am, 9am and 1:30pm.  Each one of these games went into class time.  It was hard for the teachers who were trying to keep their kids focused in class.  However, the good news was that students had no reason not to do their homework at night, because the games were finished by the time school was over. 

During that time, I watched as many of the games as I could (when I wasn’t in class).  The boys got used to a routine of seeing the television on when they woke up in the morning.  Cristina taught Jared how to recognize when a goal was made.  It wasn’t too difficult.  Especially since the announcer would start screaming, “GOOOOOOOAAAAALLLL!” for nearly two minutes after the goal was scored. 

There is nothing like watching world cup soccer games in a country where soccer is most popular sport around.

Summary of our Summer Travels

Our summer officially began with our summer trip to the U.S.  We left Quito on the morning of Saturday, July 3.  We arrived at the airport shortly before 6am with four suitcases, two car seats, two backpacks, a diaper bag and a stroller.  Luke was strapped into the stroller and Jared did the big boy thing and walked beside us.  After lugging our entire luggage to the international airport, we found out that we really had to check in at the national gate, because our first stop was in Guayaquil (a coastal city in Ecuador). 

After we finally got checked in at the correct location, we didn’t have any major incidences until we found ourselves waiting in the airport in Guayaquil for our next flight to Miami, Florida.  Our flight was delayed for over an hour.  This made us a little nervous, because we had a connecting flight in Miami to Orlando. 

We arrived in Miami with about 50 minutes to find all of our luggage, recheck all our luggage to the next flight and then go from the international wing of the airport to the national wing to make our flight to Orlando.  The ladies in Guayaquil had suggested that if we didn’t make our schedule flight that we could always take the 10pm flight to Orlando which would arrive at 11pm.  We weren’t too thrilled about that idea, because we still had a two hour drive from Orlando to Gainesville where we would be staying with family.

Somehow we managed to make our scheduled flight and arrived in Orlando as planned at 8pm.  However, not all our luggage made it onto our flight with us.  Fortunately, both car seats did arrive.  But one suitcase had been bumped to the later flight.  It was the suitcase that had all of Cristina’s personal items and all the mail we were planning to drop off in the post office for people at school. 

The representative at American Airlines was very helpful and told us that they would personally deliver the missing piece of luggage to the place we were staying in Gainesville.  As promised, someone came by at 5pm the following day with the suitcase. 

Thus began our adventures in the U.S.  We spent a couple days in Florida visiting with Cristina’s brother and sister in law, her sister and brother in law.  They had each given birth to their first sons.  It was fun to spend some time with the new nephews.  Cristina’s bachelor brother, Tim, also spent some time with them.

After spending 4th of July in Florida, Stephen and Cristina packed up their rental car and two young sons and drove up to northern Virginia.  The on-line directions suggested it would be a 13 hour trip.  With two babies in two, it ended up being a 16 and ½ hour trip.  But we all made it to the Shenandoah Valley area of Virginia in one piece.  We took a week to spend time with friends, supporters and members of our ‘home’ church who lived in the area. 

We were also able to meet our new realtor while in Virginia.  At the time that our tenant decided to leave our home, our realtor also told us that we would need to find someone else to take care of our property for us.  It seemed that God worked out the timing perfectly, because we were able to meet our new realtor in person a week after we signed a contract to have them care for our property.

During our time, we were able to attend church for their Wednesday night service and all of their Sunday services.  Our sons also got to participate in the first night of the church’s VBS program.  Jared rode a horse for the first time in his life.  Luke really liked to songs that they learned that night.

Link on Facebook (you’ll need to be a member of facebook and be on our friend status)http://www.facebook.com/Stephen.CristinaMeier?v=app_2392950137#!/video/video.php?v=423053256650

Monday morning, we left Stephens City, Virginia and drove to Marietta, Georgia to visit some friends.  It was a good half way point between northern Virginia and Mobile, Alabama.  The following morning, we traveled down there to spend time with Stephen’s sister, Susan and her family.  It was a short visit of about 24 hours.  But Jared and Luke enjoyed their time with their cousins, Zoe, Connor and Gavin.

Link to a Kodak Album: http://www.kodakgallery.com/gallery/sharing/shareRedirectSwitchBoard.jsp?token=881696395506%3A251583500&sourceId=533754321803&cm_mmc=eMail-_-Share-_-Photos-_-Sharer

Wednesday afternoon, we drove back to Gainesville, Florida where Cristina’s relatives were waiting.  Cristina’s parents, Steve and Helen Cobb, had also flown up from the country of Guatemala to spend a few days with them.  We hung out, celebrated Jared’s third birthday a little early and took a trip to Neptune Beach.  Jared and Luke had a lot of fun playing in the sand.

For our final week in the U.S., we stayed in the Gainesville area, finishing up our shopping and enjoying some of the local sites.  We took the boys to a local splash park one morning.  The boys really enjoyed playing in the water.  We also took the boys to a museum located in the University of Florida.  Jared especially enjoyed the live butterfly exhibit.

We flew back to Quito on Saturday, July 24.  It was the most stress-free trip I had experienced yet.  The only delay was in leaving Miami.  Our flight was delayed for about 45 minutes due to cleaning of the aircraft.   But we still arrived in Quito before the boys’ bedtime.

Changes for the new school year (2010-2011)

During the summer, Stephen and I received an e-mail from the director of Alliance Academy International (AAI), stating the following:

“After prayer, careful consideration, and substantial research of legal risks and implications, the Foundation and Governance Board of the ‘Fundacion Academia Alianza Internacional’ voted to authorize the Director to take the necessary steps to withdraw the Academy from the relationship with the Ministry of Education [of Ecuador]. The Academy’s request was formally presented to the Ministry on Monday, July 5, and documentation was received today which officially REPEALS the 2007 ‘Acuerdo Ministerial’ which brought the AAI under the authority and supervision of the Ministry of Education.

“The Academy’s primary objective in submitting to the Ministry of Education and meeting national educational requirements has been to confer Ecuadorian diplomas for those students who will remain in Ecuador for university studies, especially in the traditional universities which require the national diploma. However, after three years, AAI has not had one Ecuadorian diploma approved by the Ministry, leaving our graduates in the same circumstances as graduates before the relationship with the Ministry was formalized. (AAI graduates choosing to attend the traditional Ecuadorian universities have been obliged to go through the same diploma approval process as graduates prior to Ministry recognition.) 

“The AAI will continue to operate under the legally-constituted AAI Foundation, and will produce academic records and confer diplomas accredited by AdvancED (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) and the Association of Christian Schools International. AdvancED is the world’s largest accreditation agency, with accredited schools in sixty-five countries. ACSI is the world’s largest Christian accrediting agency, with member schools in one hundred countries. AAI’s records and diplomas will continue to be recognized internationally.

“The Academy will continue to offer the instructional content in the high school to assure that graduates remaining in Ecuador will be well-prepared for admission and success in national universities. In addition, graduates will be provided assistance in obtaining recognition of the Academy’s international diplomas by the limited number of universities in Ecuador requiring validation of the such diplomas. Assistance in legalizing academic records for students transferring from AAI to national schools will also be provided.”

This was exciting news for all of us who had watched the struggle the school had in adapting to all the regulations being given to us by the Ministry of Education.  It was because of these regulations that we had the longest school year in the history of the academy last year and did not finish classes until June 25th.  It was during the 2009-10 school year that it became clear that the structures, programs, and processes of the AAI were not compatible with those of the national education system.

We are excited that we will be able to finish the school year a week earlier this year and have extra holidays added to the school year. 

All faculty and staff are expected to be on campus as of Friday, August 27. Classes begin on Thursday, September 2. 

www.alliance.k12.ec/calendar.html

Many renovations have taken place on campus during the summer.  The walkways between buildings have been completely remodeled, buildings have been painted and new wheel chair ramps have been made in the efforts to make the entire campus wheel chair accessible to the students who are in middle school and will be entering high school in the next couple years.