Notes From a Single-Parent Household

Date: February 24, 2011
Location: Quito, Ecuador

It is times like these that I most admire single parents of small children.  Stephen left Quito day to spend a few days in Lake Jackson, Texas (a city about an hour south of Houston) to visit a Christian school there that is interested in hiring him.  He will return to Quito to rest for about 24 hours before he gets back on a plane to travel to Bangkok, Thailand to visit the International Community School there about a possible job position. He will not return from that trip until next Friday night, March 4.

That leaves me, Cristina Meier, to care for two energetic toddlers and a quickly growing child in the womb whose due date is approaching in about six weeks.  However, I wanted to take a few minutes to update you on what has been going on in our lives since the new year began (which was the last time I wrote).

Visit the posts in this blog to find out about:
1) Stephen’s current job opportunities for the next school year (Ministry)
2) Cristina’s pregnancy update (Family News)
3) Experiencing Valentine’s Day the Sophomore Way (Ministry)
4) Special Prayer Needed for Stephen’s brother, Kurt (Family News)
5) The Meier boys’ bedtime routine (Family News)
6) Girls Come Early (TCK Views)

We pray that God’s blessings will be with you as the month of February draws to an end.  Feel free to contact us by phone, e-mail, blog, Facebook or Skype.

Cristina (for the rest of the family)

Stephen’s Current Job Opportunities

The year began slowly as Stephen found himself back at the beginning of the process of looking for a new job.  He began to send out more applications to more schools both in and out of the United States.  He looked at the job conference taking place in Chicago in February for a while.  After much prayer and asking different people for advise, he decided the expense of the trip wasn’t worth the risk of not coming back home with a sure job offer.

So, we continued to wait.  As the weeks of February passed by, he received both positive and negative feedback from different schools.  He was interviewed over the phone and Internet for several schools.  A school in Lake Jackson, Texas, called Brazosport Christian School (BCS) was the first to ask for an on-site visit from Stephen and agreed to pay for his travel expenses and hotel stay.  Soon, they had scheduled him to leave Quito on Wednesday, February 23 and return to Quito the evening of Saturday, February 26.

Bangkok, Thailand

In the midst of talking to this school in Texas, another school in Bangkok, Thailand called International Community School (ICS), had also started interviewing Stephen.  Just a few days before Stephen was planning to leave on his trip to Texas, they also asked for him to take a flight over 12 time zones to come and visit them. 

With Cristina’s due date approaching, he asked for the trip to be booked soon after he returned from Texas.  Just this morning, he has been given a tentative itinerary which would have him leaving Quito only 24 hours after returning on February 26.  His flight will leave soon after midnight on Monday, February 28.  He will arrive in Thailand on Tuesday night and spend all of Wednesday and Thursday there before flying out early Friday morning to arrive in Quito late on March 4.

Fortunately for him, we have a two day holiday on Monday and Tuesday for Ecuador’s “Carnival” vacation.  So, he will hopefully be able to recover from his jet lag soon after returning to Ecuador.

Besides these two schools, there is a school in Peach Tree, Georgia, which has told Stephen he is among their top eight candidates for the administrative position they have there. There is also another international school in Casablanca, Morocco (northern Africa) and in Tegucigalpa, Honduras that have been interviewing Stephen, but have not requested an on-site visit yet. 

However, since Cristina has requested that Stephen not travel anywhere in her last four weeks of pregnancy, these two trips are the last he will make until our third little bundle of joy arrives on the scene.

If you would like to call Stephen and encourage him in the next few days while he is Texas, he is using the following cell phone number: 352-215-4524.

Cristina’s Pregnancy Update

Just as I was entering my final ten weeks of pregnancy, the Lord blessed me with a lighter teaching load for the second semester of the school year.  My English Department Head Teacher told me that he had decided to cancel my English class for second semester, which was supposed to be a small group of students taking Speech and Debate.  He figured that it would be easier to put all the students into other established classes for second semester than try to supervise and train a substitute teacher to take over the final half of the semester when I would go on maternity leave.

So, my rushed exit from my home, to arrive at a 9:30am English class each day, was suddenly out of the picture.  A couple weeks after he told me of this development, the registrar’s office informed me that there were no high school students who needed to take the sixth period keyboarding class that I had been teaching directly after lunch.  Therefore, my teaching load went down from four classes to two.  Since then, I met with the director to talk about some projects I can work on to keep me on the same funding as before and he gave me a video project to work on that I hope to finish before I go on maternity leave.

I have felt significantly less stress this past month as I have been teaching only my two middle school Computer 8 classes for four days out of the week.  This is a good thing as my body seems to be slowing down a little more with each passing week and as my belly continues to inflate. 

By tomorrow, I will be officially 34 weeks pregnant.  I am excited that God did provide the money for my mom to come and stay with me for three weeks in April.  She is set to arrive on April 4…just four days before my due date and will stay until the end of April. 

I also had my third trimester and final sonogram today, February 24, and the doctor was able to confirm that the baby still looks like a girl.  He scared me for a while saying he wasn’t sure, but would check again before he finished the sonogram.

From this point on, I begin weekly visits to the doctor.  He is predicting that I will make it full term, but start thinking in terms of giving birth sometime between the last two weeks of March or the first week of April.

I am looking forward to taking my final blood tests this weekend.  Also, some of the ladies at the school are planning a baby shower for me to take place next Thursday, March 3.

So far, everything is progressing as normal.  The only concern my doctor had with me is that my thyroid is still working too hard and he has told me to take a higher dose of the thyroid medication that was prescribed for me. 

I am planning on teaching until my due date on April 8 or until Grace Erin is born…whichever comes first!

Cristina can still pick up both her boys at 33 weeks of long as they don't get in the way of her belly.

Experiencing Valentine’s Day the Sophomore Way

One of the challenging tasks in my life has been sponsoring the sophomore class. I don’t know if every student goes through their own “sophomoric” phase in life, but the students I have to say that these particular sophomores live up to the meaning of their name “wise fools.” 

It takes a lot of patience and a pinch of humor to make it through weekly class meetings and try to motivate the students to be involved in the fund raisers required of their class.  At the beginning of February, we realized that the sophomore class was in charge of selling roses on Valentine’s Day, which has been a big tradition at this school for a long time.

We quickly threw together a sign up list for volunteers to help sell flowers during the week before Valentine’s Day and somehow managed to sell over 500 roses that we were also in charge of delivering across campus on Monday, February 14. 

Cristina with two students and a mom organizing the Valentine's Day delivery at AAI.

Since our family lives on campus, it seemed easiest to station all the flowers in our home.  Two of the class officers (and one of their mothers) came over to our house on Sunday afternoon and spent over four hours arranging flowers and organizing them according to the buildings and classrooms where they would be delivered on Monday.

On Monday morning, I rounded up the sophomores who were in their study halls.  Some came willingly, others grumbled about it, but they all helped to deliver all the flowers in about thirty minutes.  I was actually quite impressed that all but about two dozen roses did end up in the hands of those who were intended to receive them. 

 Stephen ordered 30 red roses for me and they stood proudly on our dining room table for a week.  That is one great thing about living in a country that has become one of the largest producers and exporters of quality roses.  One can buy quality roses for somewhere between 10 cents to 35 cents each.

Special Prayer Needed for Stephen’s brother, Kurt

Something happened to Kurt Meier on the night of February 17.  No one knows for sure what happened to him.  All his parents know is that he woke up the next morning with bleeding wounds on his head and stated simply that he had fallen down on his way home from work and hit his head.

Kurt lives and works in Portland, Oregon and takes public transportation to and from work.  He bus drops him off within a short walking distance from the home he shares with his parents and sister. 

As soon as his parents saw the wounds in the front and back of his head, they knew they had to take him to the hospital.  His mother described the situation as follows:

“He was checked at the VA Hospital and then moved to the Trauma ICU of the OHSU (Oregon Health and Science University). He has a big gash and fracture on the back left side of his skull and bleeding in the part of brain that controls speech. He also has numerous other bruises and scrapes, including a black eye and deep cut on his right forehead. The first three days he was not able to communicate more than a word or two. Saturday he recognized me part of the time I was visiting, sometime speaking clearly, sometimes slurred; sometimes making sense, sometimes not.”

The gashes seem a bit too serious for a simple fall, suggesting that Kurt might have been assaulted and he did not remember it happening.  Perhaps someone was trying to rob him and found that he was carrying nothing but his VA card and a little pocket money.

But nothing can be determined at this time while Kurt is unable to remember what specifically happened to him that evening.  After being in the hospital over the weekend, he began to improve early this week.  On Tuesday, the nurses and doctors were talking about allowing Kurt to go home on Wednesday, but that he should not go back to work until after March 16.  According to his mother, he is home now and is continuing to improve at a slow pace.  He still seems to struggle with some parts of his speech capacity and remembering certain words.

Please keep him in your prayers as he recovers from the injuries to his head and the areas of his brain that were affected.

The Meier Boys’ Bedtime Routine

Jared and Luke put Bible stickers in their notebooks.

Every night after getting ready for bed, we have a “story-time” routine.  In the past few months, this time has developed past simply reading a few story books.  We added a Veggie Tale devotional book for kids for a while.  Then, Jared joined Awana Cubbies and we began to add this Cubbie book lessons to our “story-time reading and activities.  Jared spends some time learning Bible verses and Luke sometimes tries to mimic what Jared is saying. 

When we are all done, we pray together before the boys go to sleep.  For several months, I would sit at Jared’s bed and Stephen would sit at Luke’s bed while the boys prayed laying down and looking up at the ceiling. A couple weeks ago, as Stephen began planning his school-visiting trips, I realized that I was going to be by myself during this process for several days.  So, I began to change their prayer time routine by having both boys kneel at the foot of Jared’s bed so we could pray together.  Luke sits on my lap and Jared kneels next to me.  My heart swells as I listen to them repeat after me.  Jared has actually started adding a few lines he thinks of on his own.

It’s both exciting and scary to think of his little mind trying to comprehend the spiritual aspects of our routine.  One night, he was lying on his bed and staring at the ceiling shortly after I got his pajamas on and I could tell he was thinking about something quite deeply.  Then, he turned to me and asked me, “Mommy, where’s God?”

I felt my heart stand still for a second as I tried to break down that question in a way that a three year old might understand it.  It’s amazing to me that he will soon be at the age where we can explain the message of Jesus’ love and sacrifice and the salvation of mankind.  It is also a bit terrifying that I am the primary tool for communicating that message in his life.  All I can do is pray that Jared will somehow see Jesus’ love in me in spite of my flaws and weaknesses.

Girls Come Early

Everyone knows that there are old wives tales about pregnancy and raising children.  I heard many during my first pregnancy with Jared, and continued to hear them when I was pregnant with Luke and now with little Grace. 

However, there are certain things I have heard only here in Ecuador.  Perhaps they are not exclusive to this country.  I just know I haven’t heard them in the U.S.

So, here is a short list that I will try to add to as I hear more.

1) Girls Come Early

Actually, the first place I heard this was in my pediatrician’s office in Quito, when I took Luke in for his two-year appointment.  It was the secretary who told me this.  I just smiled and nodded at her.  I didn’t want to sit there and give her a list of all the baby girls I know who were born past their due dates.  First example is…me.  My mom told me that I was born over a week late of my due date.

Our nanny told me the same thing the other day…that this baby would be born earlier because she’s a girl.  But then after talking some, she revealed that neither one of her daughters were born early of their due dates.  However, she still believes the saying in Ecuador that girls are born before their due dates and boys are born after their due dates.   Hmmm….

2) Eggs should only be fed to children in the morning

I remember the first nanny we had would not give Jared a snack of scrambled eggs after a certain point in the morning.  She stated that it was bad for one’s health to eat eggs in the afternoon and evening. But then, I guess she’s never been to the countries that serve egg products as part of lunch and dinner meals.

3) The Magical Cure to Any Ailment: Manzanilla Tea

The herb known as “manzanilla” is translated “chamomile” in English.  So, yes…the Ecuadorians drink a lot of chamomile tea.  In the hospitals, they call it “aromatic” and ask if you want pure water or “aromatic” when you ask for something to drink.  They will use this tea for all sorts of reasons.  They say this tea will cure stomach problems, help babies with colic, help decongest someone with a bad sinus or chest cold, aids digestion, helps to make you thinner and many more.

*Note: My pregnant brain can’t remember any more at the moment.  I will add more when I can think of them later