Remembering smashed potatoes

Learning how to talk is something many of us have taken for granted.  Once we reach a certain age, we do not remember what steps it took for us to be able to communicate with the people around us.  We have already forgotten all the childhood frustrations of trying to tell a grown up something that they just can’t seem to understand, because the right words are just not coming out of our mouths in a way that makes any sense to them.

I remember coming up with the wrong words for certain items and finding out much later that the right word was something different.  For the longest time, if I saw a big bowl of white, steamy, pureed potatoes, I would call them “smashed potatoes.”  No one ever said anything to make me believe they were something different.  Then, one day a little friend of mine began arguing with me that the real word for this food item was not “smashed” but “mashed.”

After getting nowhere between us, I took the argument up with a grown up who finally revealed to me that my friend was correct.  Then I felt a little upset with my parents for letting me go so many years saying the wrong name.

Now that I am an adult, I find myself not wanting to correct my own children’s funny and cute labels for things. Recently, I’ve been buying little drinkable yogurts for Jared and Luke to have a snack.  They have a little picture of a monkey on them and are just enough yogurt to provide a bit of refreshment between nap time and dinner time. Jared has decided that this item is called a “cow snack.” I still don’t know why. But every one of us in the house calls the drinkable yogurts “cow snacks” now.

Just today, I pulled out a little string of Halloween lights to put in our front yard.  Basically, it is a string of smiling pumpkins that glow.  Luke took one look at them and said, “Smiling gummys!”

So, there you have it.  This fall, we will have a string of smiling gummies in our yard. I’ll correct the boys word choice sometime later on down the road.

Jared and Luke learn to milk a cow using this plastic version.

The Lake Jackson Speed Trap

During my initial months of living in Lake Jackson, it didn’t take me long to notice that most people around here drive the speed limit.  In fact, I often found myself driving behind cars that would stay about five miles below any given speed limit.  In past experiences, I had learned that cops don’t usually pull you over unless you exceed the speed limit by over 10 miles, so I often find myself making sure I never drive more than nine miles over the speed limit.

This has worked for me quite well up to this point in my life.  Since the time I got my driver’s licence at the age of 18 until this year, I had not ever been pulled over by a police car.  My driving record is completely clear of any violation of any kind. For all accounts, I am a safe driver.

A couple weeks ago, I was driving down a particular stretch of straight road where the speed limit is 35mph.  I often found myself pushing 10 miles past this speed limit because it was so easy to do.  It looks like a road that should have a higher speed limit.  I think the main reason that it is at 35 mph is because one of Lake Jackson’s public schools  has a huge field that ends right at the edge of this road.

This particular day I was feeling a little more exhausted than usual and I was heading home to get my kids’ fed and put them down for their afternoon nap.  I vaguely noticed there a cop behind me as I pulled up to a red stop light and signaled that I would turn left onto the next road.  As I turned, the police car followed me and now his lights were blinking.

My foggy brain thought, “Interesting, I wonder why he has all his lights blinking like that?”

I kept driving down the road.

What do we do about flashing lights?

It took me a few minutes to realize that the police car was not driving around me, and that it was making some strange honking noises.  Could it be that he was trying to get my attention? Then I tried to figure out what I was supposed to do next.  I had never been pulled over before and the road I was on didn’t have a shoulder.  Finally, I turned down a side street and pulled to a stop at the curb.

The police officer stopped behind me.  As he stepped out of his vehicle and came toward the driver’s side of the car, I tried to calm my beating heart.

“Good morning, officer,” I said, smiling and rolling down my window.

“Licence and registration please.”

I fumbled for the two items and handing them to him.  Meanwhile, he explained to me that he had pulled me over because he had clocked me at 44 mph on a road with a 35mph limit.

As the policeman returned to his vehicle, I could hear Jared in the back seat asking, “What are we doing here, Mommy? Why are we not driving home?”

In my best teacher’s voice, I explained to Jared that this is what happens when you drive too fast.  The police man has the right to pull you over and tell you to slow down.  He can also give you a peice of paper to help remind you not to do it again (a ticket).  Fortunately for me, he decided to let me go with a warning.

A great feeling of gratitude swept over me as I pulled away and finished the drive home. It was my first experience being pulled over by a police man and I hope it will be my last.  I think from now on, I will stick to following the slow cars and not try to push the speed limit.  At least…not when I’m in Lake Jackson. After all, there are limits.

Texan Invadors

Jared practices blowing bubbles from inside the porch before we head outside.

It could be a scene from a horror movie, coming out in a theater near you to help you get ready for Halloween.

A mother and her three innocent children go out into their own yard to play.  They are laughing as they blow bubbles and watch them glitter and dance across the lawn.  Suddenly, THEY arrive.  It appears to be an ambush.  They are intent on one thing.  They must suck the blood of every living creature they find.  They gather in swarms above the heads of the children and begin to dive bomb onto the vulnerable open spaces of skin on their faces, necks and arms. The mother could feel one of the creatures on the back of her shirt, trying to penetrate the material to get to her skin. She panics and rushes her children back inside the house, but not before they are all bitten at least once.

Luke practices blowing his bubbles.

A few of the militant, angry creatures follow them inside the house.

“I’ll grab the bug spray!” the mother tells her children.

She leaves for a moment and returns with mosquito repellent and a fly swatter.  Sigh.  That’s better.

Yes, the blood-sucking creatures aren’t vampires, but these pesky little mosquitos had been noticably absent all summer in the Lake Jackson area.  Originally it had made her nervous to know that there was an annual mosquito festival in the neighboring city of Clute and wondered what could compel people to celebrate these varmits. Cristina was beginning to think they weren’t such a big problem as everyone was making them out to be.

The drought in Texas had one bright side.  Mosquitos don’t multiply very well without a good bout of rain.  We finally got some rain in the past few weeks and now they are here as if to say, “We’ve got three months of blood-sucking to catch up on.  Let’s get to work!”

Get to work, they have.  These are not the nocturnal mosquitos I’m used to that only come out in the dark of night, keeping the daytime pretty safe for outside activities.  These Texan mosquitos begin swarming at the crack of dawn. They hover around doorways waiting for the smallest opportunity to get into people’s homes, vehicles and clothing. By nightfall, their swarms begin to look like small dust clouds and sounding off their high pitched buzzing sound.

I was told that nearly every summer, the city of Lake Jackson has a helicopter fly over the city and spray for mosquitos at least once or twice during this time of year.  However, because of the drought this year, there had been no need to spray. Now, the mosquitos have caught everyone by surprise.  I went to Walmart to pick up some bug spray and found an empty shelf.  A lady standing next to me at the store gasped in surprise.

“I was just hear this morning and the shelf was full!”

As I look for another place to stock up on repellent, I hope and pray these blood-thirsty creatures will leave soon.  Preferably by the time the cute little Halloween vampires arrive on the scene.

Waiting for Fall in October

Date: October 7, 2011
Location: Lake Jackson, Texas

So, now the MK Meier Family finally updates their blog after nearly four months.  I guess it really did take this long to adjust to a new location, climate and altitude. Perhaps it didn’t take the kids half as long as it took their mommy and daddy.  In any case, it has been a busy four months.  We arrived in July just in time to experience part of the heat wave and drought that the state is experiencing.  I think I can count on one hand how many times that it rained. Of course, it also doesn’t help that the temperature keeps rising above 90 Farenheit into the month of October.  However, it appears that we might experience cooler temperatures soon (such as somewhere between 70 and 80 degrees).

But now we are all finally settled.  Stephen is busy in his position as head of school and Cristina is busy trying to finish writing her dissertation so that she can finally graduate this year. Feel free to browse the blog to find out about the following:

1) Our new Texas routine now that we’e been living here

2) Stephen’s work at BCS

3) Observations about living in Lake Jackson

4) Big Brother Jared

5) The Lively Luke

6) Notes on Grace

Thanks for keeping in touch with us!

Sincerely, Cristina

Texas Routines

In the past few months, we’ve gone to stores and garage sales to get all the things we needed for our home.  We’ve adjusted to a new altitude, new food, and a new schedule in which mommy doesn’t have to rush off to work and in which Daddy has to leave a lot earlier than he used to in Ecuador.  So far, we’ve come down with the following weekly routine.

Monday – Mommy gets up earlier and runs on the treadmill.  Then after breakfast, we go to the pool store with a sample of the pool water to get it tested so that we know how much cleaning agent we need for its weekly cleaning.  When Cristina and Stephen bought the small 8 foot wide by 3 foot deep pool, they didn’t realize how much maintenance would go into keeping it clean.  But they are glad they have it in this hot, Texan weather. After running errands, we come back home for lunch and an afternoon nap.  Mommy is grateful to get all three kids sleeping between the hours of 2pm and 4pm.  She usually gets the house swept and mopped during that time.  Then Stephen comes home to play with the kids before dinner.

At some point during the day, we also work on Jared’s Awana lesson for the week and his memory verses and try to work on some of his phonics lessons.  Right now, he is going through the capital letters of the alphabet.  Luke is trying to keep up with him, but he’s not quite figuring it all out.  He doesn’t seem to mind.  He is just content to repeat everything Jared says.

Tuesday – Mommy tries to get on the treadmill before the kids get up.  Then, after breakfast, we all go to the library for story time with one of the librarians.  This is usually followed by an arts and craft time.  Jared and Luke have fun doing the craft and then selecting new books to check out of the library and bring home.  Then it is lunch time and nap time. Mommy spends some time on the phone with her advisor talking about what she needs to do to get her Ph.D. dissertatation written…ever so slowly.  Then she tries to get some dusting done before the kids wake up.

At the Lake Jackson Library

Wednesday – After breakfast, we all meet up with our “play date” buddies.  A lady I met at the library and her four year old son have come with us to the Texas Sea Center (a Fish hatchery), the Gulf Coast Observatory or visit each other’s homes.  This keeps the boys busy for the rest of the morning.  Wednesday evenings, Jared also attends Awana at a church in Clute.  It’s the only church in the area that has an Awana program.

Posing in front of a statue at the Sea Center of Texas

Thursday – After Mommy runs on the tread mill, breakfast is served a little more quickly, because we all have to rush out the door for her to make it in time to her weekly women’s Bible study that she started attending last month.  Most of the time, she arrives at the Bible study about 5-10 minutes late, but no one seems to mind too much.

Friday – This is usually Mommy’s day to wind down and do some things with the kids around the house.  Sometimes they just go out in the yard so the boys can get out some excess energy before nap time. Sometimes they’ve gone garage sale shopping on Fridays and Saturday.  Some evenings, they have gone to watch a BCS football game.

Saturday – There isn’t really a schedule for Saturday.  We’ve gone to garage sales, or driven to the beach or played around the house.  Just this past week, we joined a group of people to do a 5km race sponsored by the school.  Jared and Luke ran a short race for little kids.  Stephen and Cristina ran the 5km race.  It is usually the day that weekly shopping gets done.

Sunday – We go church shopping.  Yes, eventually, we will decide to go to one church on a regular basis.  Right now, we are making sure to visit as many as we can before we make that decision.

So, this is a typical schedule at the Meier household.  Cristina is enjoying being a home maker and spending time with her three kids.

The New Head of School

“Have I told you I love my job?”

The question brought a smile to my face, but I tried to keep it hidden.  Stephen used to ask me this question constantly when we were living in Ecuador and working at the Alliance Academy.  We had been living in Lake Jackson for over a month before I heard this familiar phrase being directed at my person.  I was actually starting to get a little concerned.  Was Stephen finding the job more difficult than he expected?  Was it not everything he wanted it to be?

But, no, here was that question again, and now I know that Stephen is enjoying his new job at Brazosport Christian School (BCS).  We arrived in Lake Jackson on July 8th and Stephen began working on July 12. Classes began on August 17 and things have been busy ever since.  Stephen is working on promoting the school in anyway he can.  At its highest enrollment, the school had over 300 students.  Now, BCS has approximatel 190 students total.

Recently, he had the opportunity to attend a dyslexia conference.  He was interested in attending because of his own issues with dyslexia and also to help students who might have this problem at BCS. He has also become involved with the Chamber of Commerce in Lake Jackson and joined a pastor’s prayer group.  He keeps a busy schedule throughout the week.  He tries to get to work before 7am so that he can get some work done before students arrive to start classes at 8am.  Most of the time, he is able to come home for lunch to see Cristina and the kids, and then returns to work until 4pm before coming back home.

In spite of the financial difficulties we continue to face because of moving and relocation expenses, Stephen feels that he is in the place where God wants him to be.  He has said that this is giving him great experience in running a school. He knows this is where God wants us to be and we’ll stay here until he wants us to go somewhere else.

Stephen takes in the view with Grace from the top of the playground.


Life in the Enchanted City

Learning my way around Lake Jackson hasn’t really taken a compass and detailed map.  After several weekends of garage sale visits, I found that I was becoming very familiar with the small city’s winding, curving roads.  Most of the roads tend to make a circular or half-moon shape throughout the city, so that there are about five different ways to get to the same place at about the same time.

I’ve never lived in a city with so many street names with the word “way.” My favorite street names have to be “This Way” and “That Way”, but there are also the following intersting names:

Circle Way
Center Way
Winding Way
His Way
Her Way
West Way
East Way
Any Way

I think the person in charge of creating names for the streets around here was trying to be funny or play a joke on its citizens and then the joke stuck. All the streets that aren’t named “way” are named after some kind of vegetation of floral, fruit or tree variety. Lake Jackson is so small that it takes no more than 1o minutes to drive through it from north to south.  Right now anyone driving south from Houston to the beach has to drive straight through the center of Lake Jackson.  However, a lot of construction is being done to create an overpass that will divert the highway traffic away from the city traffic.  One day, it will look really nice.  Right now, there are a lot of construction blocks that people need to drive around carefully.

Jared, Luke and I enjoy watching the squirrels play in our backyard.  They scramble down through the trees that are in our yard and in the field behind the yard.  There seem to be squirrels everywhere we go.  One day, I was driving behind a truck when I noticed that there was a dead quirrel laying out flat on his back on his back bumper.  I just kept staring at it wondering if I should try to tell the driver or if he had left the squirrel there on purpose. Before I had a chance to decide, the truck had turned a corner and left the road we were on.  The last thing I saw was that little squirrel tail whipping about in the breeze.

The dead Texan squirrel