Friday, June 21, 2013

Catching Up: April

We kicked off April by celebrating my birthday and then Stephen's 4th birthday a few days later. We decided to throw a joint birthday party for Stephen and Alex this year with a Mario Kart theme. I will write a separate post about this later, as it really did turn out to be such a fun party, but here is a picture of all the kids who came:

With the lull between short-term groups, we decided to devote the months of April and May to some extended, focused language study. Our teacher came 4 days a week for 3 hours a day. By the end of the two months, she said she felt like we had made some definite improvements and were now between mid- and high-intermediate in our ability. So that was encouraging. Rusty also preached his first sermon in Spanish during this time.

Our teacher, "Chela"
 At the end of April, we went on a field trip with some of the families in our homeschool group. We visited the Cuicocha crater lake and had lunch in a restaurant on the crater rim. Afterwards, we had planned on visiting and touring the Cochasqui pyramids, but we ran out of time, so we went to see the Cascadas de Peguche instead. Here are a few pictures. (I also wrote extensively about -- and posted several pictures of -- this day on my other blog, so if you are interested in reading more, you can click here.)

Some of the boys in the homeschool group posing with our very first Flat Stanley, received from some friends in Oregon!
Benjamin really loved this little dog at the restaurant
The Cascadas de Peguche

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Catching Up: March

We began March with a few much-needed days of family vacation. Some missionary friends here in Quito own a condo on the beach and offered it to us for an unbeatable low-season price. (One of the perks to homeschooling is being able to take advantage of deals like this... as we are not tied to a school calendar, we can take our vacation days whenever we want and not just in August.) We spent several days just relaxing and enjoying being together. It was exactly what we needed after the frenetic pace of January and February. The resort was practically empty and so quiet and peaceful. There were several times we went to the pool and were the only people there.

One thing I noticed during our time there was how much of a difference nine months can make in the stress level of taking 3 children to the beach or the pool. The last time we went to the beach was a year ago this month (June). Ben wasn't walking yet and both he and Stephen needed nearly constant supervision in the water. Nine months later, Stephen is much more confident and can pretty much swim anywhere with his floaties. I took the two older boys down to the pool myself a couple of times while Rusty stayed in the apartment with a napping Benjamin, and I was able to just sit on the side and read my book, while they splashed and swam in the water. Of course, on the beach, we have to be a lot more vigilant since there are things like big waves and undertows to worry about. And Ben still needs somebody to be right there with him all the time, even in the pool. But it is getting easier.

Here are a few pictures of our time at the beach.

Boys and their toys
In the hot tub
On the beach
A beautiful view from the balcony

After we got back from the beach, Rusty headed out to Kumanii again for a few days. The entire student body of the Bible college participates in a mission trip each year, and when their first choice of locale fell through at the last minute, Kumanii was Plan B. They spent several days out in the jungle, participating in both "spiritual labor" and "physical labor." Here are a few pictures:

Bible class with some of the local kids
Bible studies
Making progress on the new kitchen
A typical village on the Cayapas River

Also in March, we finally bought a second car! You can read all about it (and see a photo) here on my other blog. We had been looking to purchase a second car for awhile, but were having trouble finding one that we both liked and that fit our budget. Buying a used car in a foreign country can be a tricky business, as several of our missionary friends can attest to! We found this car through the sale board at Alliance Academy (thanks to my sister, who works there and who had been scoping them out for us). It was being sold by a former missionary who was the original owner, so we felt sure we were getting a solid vehicle that had been well cared for. The price tag was right, AND it had an automatic transmission (pretty high on my "wish list" for a car). So we bought it -- and then Rusty spent the better part of the next three weeks trying to get the proper papers for it. I told him he needs to write a post about that whole experience for the blog!

Then, of course, Easter came at the end of March. We hosted a Passover Seder in our home again this year (for an explanation of why we do this, you can read this post on my other blog) and invited the Marcums to participate. Of course, with seven small children, it wasn't exactly a quiet, formal affair. Still, I hope everyone was able to glean something from the evening. We kept the Haggadah short and I provided the kids with some Passover activity placemats to color during the service. Here are a few pictures:

The Passover table. The Seder plate is on the bottom right corner, and in the middle on the left, you can see a copy of the Haggadah (the order of service). Here is a link to the one we used.
Homemade matzah!

We also did the traditional Easter activities of coloring eggs and going on an egg hunt in the back yard. And we participated in the Ecuadorian tradition of eating a soup called fanesca, which is made with vegetables, beans, and dried, salted cod (or, as we affectionately know it from our time in Portugal, bacalhãu). This soup is traditionally eaten on Viernes Santo, or Holy Friday -- which is, interestingly, a bigger deal in Latin culture than Easter Sunday. The kids weren't crazy about fanesca (okay, I'll be honest, I wasn't either!), but at least we can say we've tried it!

Look what I found!
Egg hunters extraodinaire

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Catching Up: February

In February, we finally saw some slowing down as far as the short-term campaigns at Kumanii. There was a medical campaign the first week, so Rusty was gone for that, but then we were finally done with all the big groups for awhile.

Whenever both Rusty and Josh are gone at the same time, Julie and I try to get the kids together for a sleepover at either her house or mine. Our sleepover at the beginning of February happened to fall over Carnaval, so we let the kids have some fun out in the backyard with water balloons and shaving cream. They had a blast!

In mid-February, we watched the Marcum kids for a couple of nights while Josh and Julie played tour guides and translators with some Operation Ecuador supporters on a tour of the Galapagos Islands. We happened to be at their house on Valentine's Day, so I made Valentine's cupcakes for the kids to frost and decorate (and eat, of course!) after dinner that night.

We used sprinkles and conversation hearts to decorate our cupcakes
I'll be your Valentine!

Alex started attending a Spanish-speaking school 3 days a week. For details on how this came about, you can read the post I wrote here on my Writing Project 365 blog. It has been somewhat of a rough transition, but we are pleased with the school overall, especially thankful for how it is helping Alex learn Spanish so quickly. Already, in just over 3 months, we have seen such improvement in his ability to communicate in Spanish. He even told me several weeks ago that he is pretty sure that he speaks Spanish better than me now. (And I'm pretty sure that he's right!)

A couple who spent 12 years among the Chachi Indians on the Cayapas River (where Kumanii is) as Wycliffe Bible Translators came to Ecuador for a short visit, and we were able to have them into our home for a meal while they were here. We enjoyed getting to know them and hearing their insights into ministry in that area of the jungle. Read more of my thoughts about our visit with the Wiebes here.

Alex finished out his T-ball season. His last game was followed by a closing ceremony and then a pizza party at a local park. We are thankful not only for this opportunity for Alex to participate in an organized sport, but also for the connections we have made with other expat families through the Quito Youth Baseball League.

Alex and Michaela
The "Kansas City Royals" and their coaches

Finally, Benjamin got his first haircut (it was past time):


And Alex turned 7! We celebrated with pizza from Pizza Planet and homemade butterscotch pudding. (He and Stephen had a joint birthday party with all their friends in April.)

7 years old!

And that was our February!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Catching Up: January

January was a busy month as far as the Kumanii ministry. There were 3 different construction groups that came for a week each, back-to-back, plus a church group that spent a few days out on the river handing out school and hygiene supplies in the villages. What this meant for our family was that Rusty was away from home a lot (like about 3/4 of the month), and I mostly held down the fort here in Quito. The kids and I did make one trip to Kumanii with Rusty, but that was about all I felt like I could manage.

People often ask me how I am involved with what goes on at Kumanii. In short, right now, I'm not. It's just too difficult with three small children. The lodge, while not as rustic as what I first envisioned, is just not very kid-friendly. I find that, although the times of separation are difficult for our family, it is easier and less stressful for me to just care for my kids in the comfort of our own home rather than hauling them out to the jungle.

For the most part, I'm okay with my lack of involvement, although I do struggle with feeling disconnected to what Rusty is doing. I remind myself that my kids will only be little for a few short years. Right now, they are my primary ministry and focus. I have the rest of my life to get involved in ministry outside the home, and as the kids grow, I hope that we can also begin to serve and minister more as a family. But for the next few years, I need to invest most of my energy to teaching, training, discipling them. So at the moment, my involvement in the Kumanii ministry is limited to more of a support role -- writing newsletters, updating our blog, correspondence, keeping track of finances, hospitality -- all things I can do from home.

Here are a few pictures from January:

When Rusty is gone, one of the things the boys love to do is have a sleepover in my bed.
Cutie patootie!

Loaded up for a trip to the jungle
During our family trip to Kumanii, we visited one of the villages on the river, and Alex got to play "Duck Duck Goose" with the kids.
The boys think that taking baths in the river is so much fun!
Thanks to all the construction teams, much progress was made on the new Kumanii meeting hall. Flooring and stairs were completed, a water filtration system was installed, and work was begun on the new kitchen.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Blog Reboot

Well, after several months of radio silence (although I am still blogging semi-regularly over at my Writing Project 365), I have been inspired to start writing again here. This came about because a random reader (whom I have never met in person) sent me a very nice email asking for some advice on getting to the field (aka fundraising), and mentioned how helpful she had found this blog and our newsletters as she and her family make their preparations.

My first thought when I read her email was, Huh, I didn't know anyone was still reading.

And then I felt guilty for not updating in so long, you know for those 4 people out there who still check in on this blog from time to time (you know who you are).

But her email did give me the incentive I needed to take action with what I am calling a "blog reboot." At first, it will look a lot like catching up -- I'm thinking a post for each of the past 5 months, just so you have an idea of some of what's been going on around here. And after that... I don't know, I'm still mulling over it, honestly. But I've been gathering some ideas and thinking of how I can take things in a bit of a different direction with The Campbell Chronicles. One thing I know for sure -- I want to be a lot more regular with my posting. I don't want to get overly ambitious at the outset of my blog reboot and set myself up for failure, so I'm thinking that going back to the goal of once-a-week posts is a good place to start.

So if you're still here, still reading, still following -- thank you. I'll try to be a better blogger going forward!