Meier Boy Accomplishments

I have been surprised to see how well my sons have been able to handle the different baby sitters who came in and out of the house during the time that their nanny was sick.  There was only one day when I really could tell that they were struggling.  I was on my way home one morning when I began to hear them chanting, “Mommy! Mommy!”

I found them standing at the child-safety gate in the front door, rocking back and forth and looking for me to come home.  It made me laugh as I reached in the door to give them hugs.

Jared and Luke look at books together as they drink their morning bottle of milk.

They are learning so many things, so quickly.  One of the things that our nanny has contributed to is teaching my boys how to count in Spanish.  She plays these little jumping and counting games with them.  Luke can actually count from one to ten in Spanish and he can’t even count that far in English.  I heard Jared once count to 24 in Spanish. 

Another one of Luke’s new fascinations is trying to have a conversation with you on the phone.  You should try it sometime.  Give us a call and we’ll hand the phone to Luke.  He will talk your ear off.  Will you understand what he says?  Well…possibly ten percent. But he loves to talk on the phone. 

Jared, on the other hand, is getting much better at having a conversation….if he doesn’t get shy.  He’ll say, “How are you?” I’m fine” all in one breath and then continue to tell you about his latest exploits or the most recent treasure he has found. He is also able to make himself understood by Luke a lot better than before.

Luke is so used to having his big brother around all the time that he always looks a little confused or lost when Jared isn’t around.  Sometimes Daddy takes Jared in the running stroller when he goes out to exercise.  Just recently, we’ve started sending Jared to Awana (for 3 years and up) and allowing him to attend Sunday school instead of staying in the nursery. 

Whenever Luke realizes that his brother is missing, he usually spends about five minutes wandering around saying, “Jey-wed…where are you?” before he notices that he has full and complete access to all the toys that his big brother usually yanks out of his hands.  However, it seems that Luke has more fun when his brother is there to wrestle over the toys than when he is playing with toys by himself. 

Both boys are soaking in more vocabulary every day.  Recently, I realized that Jared had the Bingo song memorized.  I thought to myself, “If Jared can memorize how to spell ‘Bingo’ than he can certainly spell his own name which has the same amount of letters.”

A few days later, Jared is singing:
“There was a boy who had a friend and Jared was his name. 
And Jared can spell his name-o.”

Jared has also memorized three different verses from the Bible after several months of doing bed time devotions.  He knows Psalm 118:24, John 4:16 and Psalm 27:1.  Feel free to quiz him on any of these verses the next time you talk to him.  He’ll probably tell you, if he’s not feeling shy at the time.

Jared’s Sharp Mind

I know that every parent thinks that their child is brilliant.  But I have to say that I am quite impressed with the vocabulary and memorization ability of my son, Jared. 

In the past few months, he is picking up on a lot more Spanish than he ever has before.  He won’t speak to me in Spanish very much, but I’ve heard him having conversations with Sonia completely in Spanish.  When he is with her, he remembers to pronounce both his name and Luke’s name in Spanish and not English.  Sonia has also been playing counting games with the boys and once I listened to Jared count from one to 25 in Spanish…well…give or take a few numbers that he might has skipped in between. 

And he’s still working on counting in English, but he can reach twenty without too much help. 

Besides having conversations with Sonia, Jared also spends a lot of time having conversations with Luke.  Sometimes those conversations end in frustration on both their parts as they aren’t quite able to communicate clearly to one another.  At times, I have to stop Jared from arguing with his brother, because he will yell at Luke for pronouncing something incorrectly.

“No, Lukie! That’s not the way you say it! Don’t say it like that!” Jared will tell him. 

It doesn’t seem to bother Luke too much.  He just continues to babble in his little language that is just starting to become intelligible to our listening ears. 

What’s really fun is listening to them interact first thing in the morning.  There are times that they will play together in their bedroom for a while, before they come out looking for us.  Those times are nice, because I can continue lying in the bed listening to them chatter before I have to get up and feed and dress them.

Jared enjoys a mid-morning snack with his brother, Luke.

Jared Boy and Baby Luke

It is amazing to see how quickly my two little boys are growing.  Jared is becoming more and more articulate in his speech (both English and Spanish) and Luke is an independent walker.  It is very interesting to watch them interact and to see their similarities and differences.

Jared has always been my little shadow.  He does not like to be left alone for anything.  Therefore, using a “time out” as punishment usually works like a charm to get him to straighten out attitude…to the extent that two year old can accomplish this.  Or if I am about to go somewhere and I want him to follow me, I can just tell him, “O.K. Jared.  I’m leaving. Bye!”  That usually brings him running in my direction. He is also learning how to sing.  We have been listening to many children’s songs, and Jared has memorized some of the songs already. 

Here are some of his favorites:
“The Gospel Train”
“The Bear Went Over the Mountain”

Luke is a more independent boy.  He doesn’t care what everyone else is doing.  If he has him eyes focused on something, nothing will tear him away.  Going for a walk with Luke is a bit of a challenge, because he wants to go in his own direction and doesn’t follow Mommy at all.  I can tell him that I’m leaving him and he doesn’t even pay attention.  He is just so excited to be able to walk on his own that he wants to use his new found freedom as much as possible. 

He has also mixed a lot more Spanish into his first words that Jared has.  He’ll say “Chao” when he says “Good-bye” to people.  I’ve heard him say the word for cookie in Spanish as well.  There are a lot of other things that Luke says now, but I simply haven’t figured out his language yet.  Sometimes I think he’s mixing both languages together into his own unique language. 

Jared always tries to be the “big brother.” Sometimes, he’s a little too bossy and rough with his little brother.  Luke isn’t quite old enough to retaliate.  It will be interesting to see what happens when Luke starts fighting back.  For now, he just starts crying and then Mommy comes running into the scene to rescue Luke from Jared. 

There are other times that Jared and Luke are sweet and kind to each other.  Sometimes, I’ll find them both in a fierce embrace as they roll around on the floor together. 

Jared and Luke play in the the grass.

Stephen’s Lessons in Ecuadorian Culture and Language

Stephen’s three weeks of intensive language classes gave him more than just a taste of the Spanish language.  He was also able to go on some “field trips” with his teachers and classmates to some of Quito’s cultural attractions.  Stephen has appreciated being able to learn more about the country in which we have our ministry.  It is especially significant, because we didn’t have the time or opportunities to do much sight-seeing during our first year of living in Quito.  These opportunities have helped enrich Stephen’s cultural experience here.

The first place that his class went was to a wax museum in Quito known as the “Museo Albert Nema Caamaño” of Quito.  He took lots of pictures of the wax figures that were made to represent different historical periods of Ecuador and the diverse people groups that are included within the Ecuadorian borders. 

They also visited a small museum dedicated to the works of Osvaldo Guayasamin.  Guayasamin was a contemporary modern artist whose works became most popular throughout Latin America, although he is also known in Europe.  Stephen was able to see many of his works displayed in the Museo Guayasamin.  If you are interested in seeing his work that focused on abstract representations of human bodies and body parts, you can visit his website:

The second field trip that his class took was to the Botanical Gardens of Quito.  Here Stephen got to see some of the interesting and exotic plants that grow in the diverse landscapes of Ecuador.  Although I lived in Quito for nine years of my childhood, I had not really stopped to realize how much diversity there is in the landscape of Ecuador. 

Ecuador boasts of tall mountains and deep valleys.  Its mountainous area has its own dry and spring-like climate and temperature.  If you travel down to the coast, you have a completely different climate that is warm and humid all year long.  The humidity level rises if you head down to the jungle area.  The climate there is even warmer and muggier than the coast.  And finally, if you travel away from the mainland, you will find the Galapagos Islands with an island climate different from the rest of the country.

With special care, the Botanical gardens are able to maintain plants from each of these climates. Stephen had fun taking pictures of many flowers and plants that he found to be interesting.

Once Stephen’s three week intensive course was finished, he was left to practice his Spanish on his own, and to do his own sight-seeing.  However, he was also given an opportunity to join a Spanish class field trip to some other museums in the city.

They visited the same wax museum that Stephen had been to before.  From there, they traveled toward Quito’s “Old Town” area to visit some of the old Catholic churches that had been build there in the 16th century. Located in the main plaza, each church boasts of fine silver and gold inlaid into its architecture.

The largest church is called the San Francisco church. According to, the church was built in the 16th century and was known as the “richest” church in South America for many years.  The gold is specifically found in its altar room where the walls are coated in Inka-Gold from floor to ceiling.  However, they were not able to visit that church because of renovations taking place to restore and maintain the ancient structure.

They were able to visit the church known as La Compañia.  It is known as “The Gold Church” because it has one ton of gold layered within the walls from the main entrance to the altar area. 

The sad thing is that some of the poorest in Ecuadorian society sit in front of these churches to beg.  All it would take is a little chip off the walls inside the building to completely change the economic situation for these people.

Becoming Bilingual at Two

One of the amazing things about two-year-olds is the speed in which they learn new things.  Jared continues to astound me with his level of comprehension of the world around him and his ever increasing vocabulary.

Jared pushes Luke in his stroller

Jared pushes Luke in his stroller

Jared is now two years and three months old.  He has definitely reached the full flower of toddlerhood and all of its glory.  He is the typical two-year-old who wants to be held and cuddled one moment, and then wants to do everything “by Jared self” the other.  And he’s a very possessive brother in his relationship to Luke.

The moment I put Luke in the stroller, Jared wants to push the stroller alone…even though the stroller handles still reach over his little head.  If I try to help him push, he’ll push my hands away and tell me, “No! No, Mamma help….Jared help.”

Of course, Jared’s language tends to get a little mixed up between what he is hearing in English and Spanish.  He usually speaks to Stephen and I in English and speaks a mixture of the two with Marina, the lady who cares for our children while I’m teaching classes. 

He’ll form sentences like “Esto is my auto.” (Which is a combination of the languages to say, “This is my car.”

When he plays with his playdough or rice, he calls them “masa” and “arroz.” That is probably because I usually don’t pull out those toys unless he’s going to be spending some time with Marina.  He also has a little sandbox full of “arena” (the Spanish word for “sand.”

One day I heard him telling her that the cat says “meow, meow” in Spanish.  He’s not quite figured out that there is a difference between the two languages.  Sometimes he’ll stubbornly refuse to call an object by both its Spanish and English name and will want to use just one or  the other.

Jared likes to see his cars roll down the front walk way to our home.

Jared likes to see his cars roll down the front walk way to our home.

He still can’t pronounce the hard “C” or “K” sound.  That creates a whole list of cute phrases that bring smiles to our faces.  His brother Luke is now called “Baby Oot.”  When he wants cookies, he’ll say, “Jared want tooties, please.” One of his babysitters is “Kristina” and he’ll call her “Thirstina.”

He’s a talkative boy with a strong desire to repeat everything he hears.  Stephen was flipping through channels one day and stopped on a channel where a lady was randomly screaming, “Stop it! Stop it!”  Jared went running around the house repeating that phrase for the next several minutes.  Ever since then, he’s known to tell his Mamma to “stop it” if she is tickling him too much. 

Although we don’t know when he’ll learn how to pronounce everything correctly, we do know one thing.  Jared is not going to be a shy boy as he grows up.

August Prayer Requests

We have a few prayer requests as we wrap up our summer months and prepare for a new school year at the Alliance Academy International.  Please be in prayer with us for the following situations:

1) Stephen’s Intensive Spanish Classes – That Stephen will get the most he can out of a three week intensive class in Spanish.  After finishing one week of classes, Stephen has felt challenged in taking in and retaining the mountain of language that is being thrown at him each day. 

2) Cristina’s Ph.D. program – That Cristina will continue to be motivated as she comes into her final year in the program.  She needs to retake two parts of her comprehensive exams in the fall, as well as work on the first three chapters of her dissertation so that she can defense her “dissertation proposal” in the fall.  If she passes this defense, she will be able to finish writing her proposal and possibly graduate in May of 2010.

3) Renewing Our Visas – That the process will take place quickly and that we might be able to obtain Ecuadorian residency.  We are in the process of renewing our yearly missionary visas for the family.  We had managed to get Luke’s Ecuadorian citizenship (because he was born in Ecuador) and his paperwork was completed before we went to the U.S., but we were running late in obtaining missionary visas for the rest of the family.  We were told to return to the country under tourists visas so we could get the visas renewed after we returned.  As of now, the school’s lawyer has all our passports and legal documents to see if it might be possible for us to obtain Ecuadorian residency based on the fact that we have a son who is an Ecuadorian citizen.  If we do obtain residency, we no longer have to obtain a missionary visa every one or two years, but would be able to pay a one time fee for being a resident of the country.

4) The RE-scheduling of the 2009-2010 school year – That the administrators will be able to make wise decisions that include the recent changes in the scheduling of school days. In past years, the Alliance Academy had started their school year in mid to late August.  However, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Education informed the school this summer that they were not allowed to begin the school year before the first Monday of September.  Therefore, the first day of school is being moved to September 7th.  Recently, they’ve also expressed to the school that they are required to have 200 school days, of which 190 days must be “educational.”  This has the potential of increasing the school year for two solid weeks. Be in prayer for our scheduling team as they work out all the details.

Learning Spanish

Four days after coming back home from all our summer vacation travel, Stephen was waking up early to attend his first Spanish classes since moving to Ecuador.  Yes, he had picked up a few words here and there, but this was the first time that he would attend an intensive Spanish course specifically designed to help him learn Spanish quickly.

The class was set up by a nearby university in the city of Quito as a three week intensive class in Spanish, reaching the needs of various Spanish language learners at their personal level of learning.  The Alliance Academy International offered to provide the class for free to any of the teachers or staff (or their children) who wished to participate. Stephen said that about 20 people showed up for the free rides from school to the location of the Spanish classes.  The only thing that they had to pay for was the meal plan (if they chose not bring their own food from home).

Classes began on Monday, July 27 with classes taking place from 8am to 3:30pm. Stephen described his “placement exam” on the first day of class as a joke.  He couldn’t answer any of the questions or understand anything that was being said to him.  Eventually, he gave up and asked to be placed in the lowest level possible.

For the past week, Stephen has been learning the very basics of Spanish in a setting where most of the discussion takes place in Spanish.  Every afternoon, Stephen comes home with a stack of notes and picture cards to help him review what he has learned that day.

Although the class is quite a challenge for him, Stephen is already beginning to grasp some of the words and phrases he has been hearing for the past year of living in Quito. 

He is hoping to have a basic understanding of the language by the time he finishes this crash course.  He has two weeks left with his final class taking place on August 15th.  This basic understanding will help him as he begins preparing for the new school year next year.

6 Signs you are watching too much Dora

This post is for all of you out there who have a toddler in your life who likes to watch the “Dora the Explorer” series.  Someone in our family gave it to us when Luke was born and Jared has become quite a fan.  I end up watching a lot of the shows with him.  That is why I’ve come up with this short list of “6 Signs you are watching too much Dora.”  Perhaps some of these sound familiar to you.  =)

#1 – You have “Dora the Explorer” songs stuck in your head all day.

#2 – You find yourself throwing your arms up in the air when you get really excited.

#3 – You find yourself shouting “Seatbelts! So we can be safe!” when you get into a car.

#4 – You have random Spanish phrases stuck in your head.  (I’m fluent in Spanish and it still happens to me). 

#5 – You have the backpack and map songs memorized.

#6 – Every time your toddler does something amazingly brilliant, you shout in a sing-song voice, “Good thinking!”