Saturday, April 19, 2014

Catching Up: November

We celebrated Halloween at the beginning of November (a few days late due to just having completed our move out to the camp). Here's some of what we did:

We painted pumpkins
The finished products (Side note: I think it's hilarious that I went to so much trouble to find orange pumpkins here in Ecuador, and what color do my kids paint them? Green!)
We carved jack-o-lanterns.
Alex wanted a pirate jack-o-lantern.
We went to a costume party and Bingo night hosted by the Tabacundo Church of Christ. Ben made a very cute elephant!
I also added a new activity to our list of Halloween traditions. We made and decorated guaguas de pan (bread babies) in honor of Dia de los Muertos, the Ecuadorian version of Halloween. I got the recipe from a friend of mine, and she has the recipe and a lovely write-up about the holiday posted on her blog here. Here are some pictures of our guaguas:

We hosted a Harvest Party for all Operation Ecuador missionaries and a few other expat friends again this year. Having the party out at the camp meant that we could add in some fun activities like a hayride for the kids and a hotdog roast around the fire pit. Here are some pictures of the fun:

Rusty hitched the trailer to the tractor, filled it with hay, and took the kids on a hayride
Ben driving the tractor with Daddy
Roasting hot dogs
The kids came in costume and we even had trick-or-treating after it got dark
Devo around the campfire
The kids got to frost and decorate Halloween cookies
Much of November was taken up just by settling into our home at Camp Bellevue, trying to re-establish a routine in homeschooling, and figuring out our roles as camp administrators. We were thankful to have the Reeger family nearby as well as Jhon and Laura, who also live and work at the camp, to help us as we made the transition.

In addition to managing a small staff of regular employees and hosting both local and North American groups (the bulk of which occur during the summer months, although we do have occasional groups throughout the year), the camp also runs an After School Program for children of low-income families in the community. The program runs from 2-5 p.m. from Monday through Friday during the school year and is provided free-of-charge. The 100+ children who come receive Bible lessons, tutoring with their school work, snacks, and hot showers twice weekly. It is a great way to use our facilities to bless the community throughout the year, and we consider it one of the camp's most important ministries.

Circle time! These kids love to sing.
Devotional -- listening to a Bible story
Every so often, the teachers perform a little skit for the kids to reinforce the Bible lesson.
At the end of every six weeks, the kids are given a test over the Bible stories from previous weeks. Those who perform well are awarded a special prize. This was November's award ceremony.
At the end of the month, we celebrated Thanksgiving. Our family drove into Quito on Thanksgiving Day and had a lovely dinner with the Marcum family. We stayed the night and traded off childcare so each couple could have a date. Rusty and I went to see "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" and had coffee afterwards. On Saturday, we had about 30 expat friends out to the camp for another Thanksgiving Dinner. We ate, played games, and just enjoyed the blessing of a shared cultural heritage. This event brought back such wonderful memories of Thanksgivings in Kenya when all the missionaries would gather for several days of food, fun, and fellowship. Rusty and I hope to make it an annual event at the camp!

Carving the turkey
We give thanks.
A game of horseshoes
Cheering on the dads in their horseshoe game.
Burning calories after a very big meal!
* Thanks to Julie Marcum and Mari Hernandez-Tuten for many of the pictures of the Harvest Party and Thanksgiving at the camp. When I am hosting an event, I often forget to take pictures, so I am thankful these two ladies brought their cameras and snapped so many great shots!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Catching Up: October

October passed in a whirlwind of events that left us completely worn out by the end of the month. Less than a week after we got back from our trip to the States, Rusty was packing his bags again, this time for the men's CCC conference in São Paulo, Brazil. In 2012, I enjoyed a week of renewal and replenishment, thanks to the wonderful folks at Great Cities Ministries. This past fall, it was Rusty's turn! I stayed home with the boys, and we actually had a nice, peaceful week (as in nobody got sick or had to be taken to the ER).

While Rusty was in Brazil, the boys and I went "back to homeschool." I planned a special day to kick off our year that included pictures, interviews, lunch with a homeschooling friend, and an afternoon tour of the library at Alliance Academy with our homeschool group (those last two just happened to fall on the day I chose as our official first day).

This year, I have a second-grader, a pre-schooler, and a toddler! It's my first year to be teaching two at once.
Story-time at the library. We also got a tour and learned how books are cataloged.
Group picture of the elementary homeschool students
At the end of the month, the teenagers in the homeschool group hosted a "county fair" for the younger students. There were lots of fun, carnival-style games, and also food available for purchase, with all proceeds going towards the teen spring retreat. Our kids had a blast!

Alex and Micah had their picture made at the photo booth, and this was the result. Totally cool!
Spiderman Stephen
Baseball season for the Quito Youth Baseball League started up again in October. Alex was moved up to machine pitch this year. With games almost every weekend from October through December, and practice once a week, it was more of a time commitment than last year's T-ball. But he enjoyed it and learned a lot, so, as much as I personally dislike sports, I think it's good for him to be involved in things like this.

Opening ceremonies -- "Boston Red Sox" team picture
Batter up!
Stephen got to try T-ball.
And Ben just wanted to wear the batting helmet and carry around a bat.
The biggest event of the month was our move out to Camp Bellevue. We decided we wanted to be completely moved before the holidays and before I got hugely pregnant, which basically meant by the end of October. While Rusty was in Brazil, Julie and her kids came and spent two nights at our house, and Julie helped me with a lot of the initial packing. When Rusty got back, we spent the better part of the next two weeks moving. We made several runs out to the camp (over 1 hour from the north end of Quito) carrying loads of our stuff in our two cars. We did rent a moving truck to help us with the large items like furniture and appliances, and we had help from some of the EQEB students with the loading in Quito, and from the staff at Camp Bellevue with the unloading. Moving is always stressful, but this move seemed especially so, partially because the process drug on for so long, and partially because I was 5+ months pregnant. But we eventually got everything moved, and then the real work of finding a place for everything began. The administrator's house at Camp Bellevue is quite a bit smaller than our Quito house -- just two bedrooms, and an upstairs loft that we are using as storage and a playroom right now. However, what we gave up as far as the house, we more than gained in outdoor spaces -- lots of room to run, play, and explore, plus a playground, soccer field, basketball court, and volleyball court just a stone's throw from our front door. (We do plan to add on to the house eventually, and are actually in the process now of enclosing the front porch to create a designated school room. Future plans include adding an extra bedroom and a family room onto the back of the house.)

Our new house
Home sweet home
View of Mt. Cayambe from the camp -- love that we can look out our dining room window and see this mountain every morning (when it's clear, anyway).
Game night in front of our cozy fireplace
Benjamin loved to play in the packing paper

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Catching Up: September

September began with a few days of family vacation at the beach. After the busy-ness of the summer months, it was a needed reprieve.

Stephen conquered his fear of the ocean and actually spent a lot of time playing in the waves.
Benjamin loved the water -- ocean or pool!
Building a sandcastle
Quick! Take a picture before Benjamin knocks it down!
Alex, Stephen, and I went to the zoo again, this time on a field trip with a few families from our homeschool group. The kids did a scavenger hunt and we had a picnic lunch together.

Posing atop the giant Galapagos turtle statue
Stephen watching the turtles
Alex and his friends Ethan and Malachi formed a "secret" club, complete with a special handshake.
Group picture at the entrance
In mid-September, we got the official go-ahead from Hillsboro regarding the Camp Bellevue opportunity. There were many details still to work out regarding finances and sponsorship, but they were on board with our taking the position if it were offered to us. At the end of the month, we flew to Seattle for about a week to meet with the Bellevue church. It was a whirlwind of a trip, involving meetings, dinners, and of course, the requisite shopping trips! We also managed to squeeze in a quick trip to Portland to visit Ronda. We didn't take too many pictures (we were just too busy), but here are a few of the better ones:

Auntie Ronda and her nephews
No trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to the original Starbucks
We promised the boys a trip to Chuck E. Cheese
The closest thing to a pumpkin patch we managed to get -- outside a Fred Meyer!
Before we ever went to Seattle, our contact at the Bellevue church told us that this "interview" was really more of a formality and that the job was ours if we wanted it. After several weeks of feeling sort of in limbo, it seemed that things were starting to happen very fast! Conversations between Bellevue and Hillsboro led to the decision that our family's official sponsorship would shift to the Bellevue church. Hillsboro would continue to be involved as a financial supporter, which we were very thankful for since they have been with us since the beginning. Nearly all of our other supporters decided to continue their financial support as well, which meant we did not have to do anymore fundraising. After working for nearly four years to get our budget fully funded, that was one of our biggest concerns as we considered taking on the Camp Bellevue ministry. We were very thankful that we did not lose much support through this transition.