Something tells me I'll want to remember this ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Very few people read or follow this blog, and I have no intention of posting this message to Facebook, so I feel safe in posting this conversation here ... 

I believe in my heart of hearts that some day this conversation will be very significant - one of those things you look back on and realize that God was planting seeds. Whether the story becomes significant in 3 years, 5 years or 20 years, God only knows ... but regardless, I want it captured, verbatim, until that day ... 

Last night, May 12th, 2015, I tucked our firstborn in to bed. She had had a busy day and was exhausted. Chapel at school had been particularly moving (her words, not mine). Dance was busy and her little sister was trying her patience (intentionally) at dinner. Nevertheless, Kayleigh massaged my head as I read her a few pages in Anne of Green Gables. We let the words drift over us, simply enjoying the beauty with which Anne phrases all of her comments. We are early in the book, so there are lots of references to orphans/orphanages and children whose paths are marred by pain. Reading this brought to mind chapel today, which, incidentally, was also about orphans, adoption, foster care and children whose paths are marred by pain. 

After we finished our reading, and sighed that deep sigh of girls who are too busy dreaming ... Kayleigh found her voice. 

K: Mom, did you see the little girl who I brought home in my bag? Her name is Autumn. She's bigger than me and she doesn't have a home. 
M: I did see her picture, and I read about her. 
K: Can we keep her? Our house is plenty big enough, Maddie and I can share a bedroom, we wouldn't mind. We shouldn't each have our own room when she doesn't have any room. 
M: (still struggling to find words)
K: (... allowing her thoughts to collect again, and with some tears in her voice) I wouldn't even really mind giving up my birthday so we could bring her home. I wouldn't be the firstborn anymore, and that would be hard, but I would do it because having a Mommy and a Daddy would be more important than being first ... 
M: (Seriously, Jesus ... help me out here ... how do I do this ...) (with a giant kiss to the top of her head) Precious child, this is something Mommy and Daddy need to pray about, to talk about. We've always been open and interested in adoption but its a big calling and we would need God's help to make it all happen. Its so good to know that you would be open and welcoming to another sibling should we choose to adopt some day ... 
K: (more wise long pauses as she thinks and lets it settle) Okay, so it probably won't happen because Daddy will say no. 
M: (couldn't stifle the laugh out loud at her honest assessment of the moment) Why do you say that, sweetheart? 
K: Well, because he wouldn't want another kid. Our house is wild enough already ... 

.... And that is where I leave the conversation to sit. With a lighthearted chuckle after a seriously deep and selfless moment. If you're a praying friend, you can pray with us as we consider God's call to adoption. It's been stewing and brewing for a while in my heart - and the Lord is using moments (like this one, I believe) to bring the conversation to the surface. There are so many unknowns, so many potential heart aches, so many huge huge huge ($$$$) obstacles, but our faith is not one of limitations, its one of trust. God can do big things, but we must first dream big dreams and have the courage to follow Him as he puts one conquerable challenge at a time in front of us. 


Life with the VanDyks, Lately

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Well, since mid-July life has sped up for the VanDyk family. Our happy little clan now contains 3 beautiful children (well, we think they're beautiful, anyway) and two semi-sane, on the go adults. And although our home looks like it's been through a tornado (or two), and it probably will look that way for the forseeable future, I find myself happily humming as I go through each day. I am almost always talking to myself repeating the words, "I am truly blessed." Is it always rainbows, sunshine, and sweet smelling roses? Hardly ever. BUT, can I see God's blessings each time I turn around? Absolutely (even though there's usually at least one small person who is quite upset with me), there is no shortage of hugs, love, and moments I need to treasure forever. Since time is of a premium, and I really do rely on this blog to help me recall some of the most precious details of my children's baby-hood, I'd like to do a quick "Top 5 recap" of each child "lately."

Kayleigh Elaine 1. This summer's greatest find was Ballet Arts. Kayleigh adores Miss Holland, LOVES taking ballet, and can't wait to watch the big girls who are en pointe. 2. She had such a blast at Maranatha's Children's Program this summer. The chances to "perform" in the tabernacle are repeatedly emphasized at dinner. I truly think she's a different child than when she began the summer. She's so independent, very confident, and not really a bit the "shy" little girl she was last fall. 3. Due to some scheduling circumstances (see Mommy's update at the end of the blog), we made a snap decision to switch Kayleigh to pre-school 3 days a week. She's still in Spanish Immersion at Kalamazoo Christian, and she would have had her treasured teachers (Maestra Winegar and Maestra Gonzales) either way, but the MWF afternoon class fit our schedule the best. I was a little nervous because she's still only 3, and young for this, BUT after just one week, I knew we made the right decision. As we often find with our firstborn, she pushes us to let go, we resist her (thinking she isn't ready) and when we finally give in, she proves to us just how ready she really was. School COULD NOT be going better. 4. Kayleigh, by virture of being in pre-school now, is enrolled in Gopher Buddies on Wednesday nights at our church (Calvary Bible). She has memory verses to learn, stories and projects that she regularly tells us about, and acts of service to complete. I LOVE watching her grow with this program. Nothing makes my heart sing like hearing her say, "Mom? Can you help me with my devotions now?" Or, at breakfast when I ask her to practice her memory verse and she rattles it off (reference and all) at lightning speed. What a blessing to see her growing in the Lord. 5. With all of these school, dance, and church activities, our little princess does get a little tired out. BUT amidst it all her best friend is still her little brother and sister. She dotes on Madeleine's every whim and wish. She plays incessantly with Benjamin, teaching him how to pretend, engaging in his pretend play ideas, and developing inside jokes and little secrets with her first best bud. ... It steals my heart each time I have to interrupt their very independent play (up to 1-2 hours at a time now) to check on them.

Benjamin Steven 1. HELLO LITTLE FIRECRACKER. This little man took the summer to bud from a sweet little toddler boy to a very active, energetic spitfire of a little man. His brain and heart are working 10x faster than his little body and it shows. The BIGGEST change in our boy came about the same time his little sister was born. HE LOVES TO RUN! The kid DOES NOT stop moving, hitting, throwing, jumping, punching, jabbing, slamming into things, crashing, etc. It's not mean spirited, in fact he almost always offers to kiss/hug/apologize for anything he accidentally injures (including the cat). He is just ALL-BOY. 2. Along with Benjamin's "All-boy" energy has come his inseparability from his Daddy. He used to be Mommy's little shadow, always wanting snuggles with me, extra kisses and hugs, and sending his father packing if he tried to interrupt. BUT, with the change over in his energy levels came this enormous attachment to his Dad. If he's feeling especially overwhelmed by the women in his life he will simply request "Man Time." That's Dad's cue to take him to the car wash, grocery store, out to grab a coffee for Mom, even to work ... ANYWHERE to get him out of the world of "women" and into the "wild." At almost each turn, he insists on wearing his Tow-Mater hat because when Daddy goes out, relaxed, he wears a hat. Benjamin saw fit to copy ... 3. Kids Gym ... Benjamin started gymnastics class. This was a spur of the moment thing, largely in response to his limitless energy (along with the fact that he's not allowed to sign up for ballet at BAE, and the other ballet option didn't work with our schedules).  HE ADORES IT. He can run, jump, be rough, tumble and it's all completely acceptable. The videos Daddy sent of their first class together were to DIE for. I can't wait for my turn to chaperone. 4. Potty Training  - This little man is SO READY. He asks to go poopy; he wants to be a big boy (largely so he can go to school with Kayleigh), but Mommy is struggling to find the time with Maddie being so little. So, potty training is on hold, but just know this little man has his big boy underpants ready (and often wears them over the top of his jammies just for fun). He is waiting to make the transition as soon as his momma makes the time to teach him (probably AFTER our insane October). 5. Sunday Classes - Benner adores church class, really, any class that makes him feel bigger and older like his sister. He just wants to grow up far too fast. At Calvary, when children turn 2 they start actual circle time, crafts and singing. Ben fairly danced his way into the "big boy class," and each time we pass church from the road (something like 10-12 times a week) he shouts, "CHURCH CHURCH CHURCH!!! I go to my CLASS!" He can usually remember parts of the story. Last night he told me (after Weds night class), "God said Make a BIG BIG BIG BOAT! (like grandpa's) and put in the animals." I asked him why they had to make a boat. "Cuz it's gonna be REALLY REALLY REALLY WET!!" I told him that was great and decided to press my luck. "Who built the boat, buddy?" He paused, thinking, "God DID!" I didn't correct him because, despite the fact that Noah put in the labor, God did build that boat! Again, such a blessing to see my children taking in truth.

Madeleine Mae Our precious gift from God, Miss Maddie, entered this world on her due date. I started labor naturally and very quickly, and was well on my way to my shortest labor ever ... when everything halted. I froze, dilated at 9 cm for over 5 hours. I never made it past that dilation, and Maddie was born via C Section. This was not my ideal delivery; it wasn't what I'd been waiting (not so patiently) to do. BUT, nevertheless, God was present. He gifted us this gorgeous girl, for whom we truthfully did pray. And she is one of the most fantastic gifts He could ever have given our family.

Each child is a unique treasure, and unpacking who they are as people is part of the fun of parenting. Madeleine is her own baby, and she proves that to me every day. She has no schedule, no timetable. She sleeps when she wants to, eats when she feels like (however much she feels like it), requires constant diaper changes, but rarely cries. She is not demanding of certain positions to be held in, she doesn't require me over Daddy or vice versa. She tolerates being packed into the car to run countless errands NUMEROUS times per day. She's been to several teacher observations, 3 weeks of pre-school drop offs, 3 ballet classes, sat through services at church, and every time we come away with her, we chuckle to ourselves. "She's just the quietest baby you could ever imagine."

Maddie is a peanut and still is in 0-3 month clothing, 3 months if I put her in cloth diapers. She sleeps 12-15 hours per night, with one feeding (usually at the 8-9 hour mark). She takes naps after each feeding and sometimes plays, a little, if we aren't in the car. She smiles for Mommy, Daddy, and Kayleigh. She's flashed her smile at babysitters too.

We couldn't be more proud of this beautiful treasure from the Lord, and we can't wait to watch her grow to love her brother and sister (who already protect and adore her, respectively).

Kristi Joy This coming month I start a new job, a work away from home job. I COULD NOT be more excited about the job itself. It is/was not my ideal timing. When we got pregnant with Madeleine I did not anticipate going back to work so soon (eventually, when the kids were all in school, yes, but not really before). BUT God has placed before me a very unique and exciting opportunity. AND, as is His way, He has provided childcare options that make me very comfortable (as comfortable as a mom can be when she's a control freak). I will start work on October 16th and work full days, 2 days a week. Tuesdays and Thursdays the kids will join their new childcare friends (all in-home care, some including Grandma Van Dyk). I'm confident that God fore-saw this option for us and gifted our precious, go with the flow Madeleine to ease this transition.

Nevertheless BIG changes are on the way for this little family.

Amidst it all, we look forward to Fall (Kayleigh has been begging to pick apples, pumpkins, and go trick or treating since about July) and all that that brings in our house. The start of fall programs has already begun, but we have: Family pictures, Color Burst, Hope Football, Pumpkin picking, Mackinac Island, and that's just the weekends ... to look forward to.

We're so blessed with God's providence and provision in our lives as a family. I can't wait to see how He guides us through these next seasons of life. He is a faithful God!

"Love"ly things in our Life ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in ,

Since 2012 began we have been so completely overwhelmed with great news and wonderful new opportunities. Clearly, the kids and I (and Steve) have been so enjoying life, that taking time to write about it really hasn't happened much. I know I'll look back and wish I had blogged through these moments but ... it just hasn't been possible. In order to avoid fully "skipping" these incredible last few weeks, let me just make a quick list of the "love"ly things we have to praise God for. 1. Steve and I have had a surprisingly large amount of dates these past few weeks. We aren't the type to take time for ourselves THAT often, but between Gracious Grandparents (both sets) and wonderful sitters, we have had quite a few "date night treats." Among the highlights: A day trip to Ikea for new furniture, a night at the symphony with teachers/friends from school (where we got to have "drinks and appetizers" with the performers afterwards), AND a fantastic Valentines dinner with some of the closest friends we have here in Kalamazoo. Tomorrow we look forward to a long anticipated "Siblings Birthday Dinner" with Sarah, Dan and Maria.

2. Our kids are getting to this stage in life where they are company enough for each other. It's not always perfect; we have to referee, pick up messes, and occasionally teach them how to share/take turns. BUT they no longer REQUIRE attention from us at all hours of the day. They don't need us to make up games. Their favorite past times include: playing "dinner time" at the basement kitchen/Mickey table (where they cook and eat together, with baby Olivia), making ice cream with the Play-doh machine while sitting ON the dining room table, coloring at their new IKEA double desk, and, my personal favorite "helping" Mom with dishes in matching chairs at the kitchen sink. They like tag in the backyard, sliding down slides and playing in the fort. They often shut themselves in their newly created SHARED bedroom and play for 45 minutes at a time doing who knows what (but there's lots of laughter). I have walked in on them, several times, pretending to sleep, snuggled up together in the same bed. The fact that they want to hug each other (and that Benjamin sits STILL that long) is just a blessing to me. Nevertheless, this Mommy CAN NOT wait for the Summer weather to take hold so they can chase each other around in sprinklers, play in the sand/water table, and drive their cars all around the yard (while I park my large, pregnant self in lawn chair and cheer them on ... Come on, picture it ...then laugh)


























3. This third one I have been BURSTING with joy since I found out it was happening (back in December) ... We have these "for life" kind of friends ... you know, the ones who have seen you through all of the crazy stages in your life ... and the ones who, despite the geographic distance, will be there for you no matter the situation ... Well, anyway, between the lot of us, we currently have 7 children 3 years old and under (Kayleigh is the ELDEST in the bunch!!!). Its such a blast when we get them all together. At any rate, we found out that two of the couples are due to add to their families in late June. And, recently, one additional couple shared they are due in October ... So, between all of us (our newest addition included) we will have 11 children. Its been such a blessing raising my two children with these amazing, godly women as friends/advice givers. I just can't imagine the joy we will soon experience by adding MORE babies to this beautiful brood. (Adults will be outnumbered soon enough!!)

[caption id="attachment_1343" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="When there were 7 ... last May!"][/caption]









4. I'm relatively confident that the frequent recurring butterflies I'm experiencing is NOT nervousness, but rather, the evidence of the life living inside my belly. I don't remember Kayleigh's first kicks (I was getting wailed on during her ultrasound and I swore to the technician I couldn't feel a thing); Benjamin's were VERY distinct, somewhere around 16 weeks. I'm 15 weeks now, and I'm confident I've felt this baby on any number of occasions, making his/her presence known. I just LOVE the evidence of growth/life. God is so GOOD.

5. I've been contacted lately about doing two separate work-from-home VERY part time jobs. This would be on top of the seasonal job of coaching, the monthly job of publishing the KCHS TORCH, and well, the full time job of keeping this house in some state slightly more sightly than, "move along at the risk of broken limbs or death by toy." These opportunities are so exciting to me because it lets me provide a little income to the family, but it also allows me to practice using my intellect ... something that Kayleigh challenges often, but not often enough :).

6. At the risk of being a tease, Steve and I are also experiencing God's Almighty, powerful hand of guidance in some other areas as well. We aren't just exactly sure how He's going to orchestrate all of these coordinating events together, but we sure sense something AMAZING. Its incredible to be witnessing, firsthand, God's powerful sense of direction and leading. We are BLESSED to be a part of the unfolding of His will.

Thanks for letting me share the beautiful things we're seeing in our life. I know that life isn't always rosy, and it's not always easy (can I get an amen?). But when it is GOOD, I'm one who firmly believes in giving praise where praise is due! So, thanks God for the blessings.


A Heart that is Full ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

I sit here tonight with a heart brimming over with joy. Sometimes, God gives me moments - glimpses - into how very fortunate I am. (I often don't take time in my busy comings and goings to think about it). But, I'm sitting here on the couch, covered in a blanket with Rafael purring at my feet. It's 8:35, and I hear quiet giggling coming from Kayleigh's room. Considering all of the change that took place in there today - quiet giggling only adds to my joy. Here's why: We're doing some home remodeling  - well, we're waiting on some things, but we're probably doing some home remodeling in early fall. ... We want to turn the basement "work room" into a "big kid" bedroom for Kayleigh.

Kayleigh needs a new bedroom because Benjamin will be taking over hers. Benjamin is taking over her bedroom because ...

The BABY will be moving into the nursery. Yup, Baby #3.... due August 16th.

We are OVER the MOON excited about this baby. Actually, 3/4 of us are OVER the MOON excited about this baby. Bet ya can't guess which one isn't ...???

Benner ... Benjamin is in complete denial that his place in the family (the role of "baby") is being threatened. We've tried to talk to him countless times/ways about the "baby," and being a "big brother." Any time we approach the subject, he simply shakes his head and starts yelling, "NO NO NO NO NO!!"

Kayleigh, on the other hand, has been toting around a baby doll that cries and talks since I told her about it. She's interested in "touching" the baby and "hearing" the baby's heartbeat; she "kisses" the baby as often as she can. She's also adamant that it IS a baby girl. She wants a sister more than anything in the world. When I asked her why she said, "Because I already have a Benny!" (I didn't have the heart to tell her that even if it IS a boy, it won't be another Benny; you can't duplicate that kid!)

At any rate, this home remodeling is slow in coming ... and, having been through two labors/deliveries and newborns now, I'd like to keep the major changes in this house to a minimum nearing August. So we decided we should get the kids trained at sleeping together well before the newborn arrives and disrupts sleep patterns for a few months. Tennis season is upon us soon, so now seemed as a good a time as any to change things.

NOTHING ... and I mean NOTHING ... could have prepared me for what we've experienced tonight.

Getting the rooms rearranged was an ALL DAY project for everyone. But, somewhere around 5:15, the kids started to understand what was happening. As soon as they realized it, there was no turning back. They promptly kicked us out of their room and started a "secret" meeting and playtime that lasted an UNPRECEDENTED 45 MINUTES. It might have gone on longer, but Mom had to go and MAKE everyone eat dinner. Once I went to check up on them and Benny screamed, "MOMMA! NO!!!" Kayleigh promptly translated and said, "Mommy, we are practicing our sleeping. This door must stay closed!" I happily chuckled to myself, re-turned off the lights and backed my way out of the kids' new 'clubhouse.'

I'm not sure how long it's going to take the two BFF's to go to sleep tonight. It's been almost an hour already, and they are still chattering away. I've gone in once to tell them that they need to get quieted down, and they just giggle and say, "Okay, Mommy ... Okay." ...

Contrary to what I expected, my kids aren't bitter. They don't resent their loss of "personal space." They aren't angry that "the baby" gets a space prepared and they have to share. In fact, I'm beginning to think that when Kayleigh's new room is finished, we will then experience the bigger problem, retraining them to sleep without each other.

I came from a family where rooms were seldom shared (maybe Dan and I did for a night or two while the other got remodeled/decorated) but not on a permanent basis ... we had rooms to spare. Steve shared a room with his sister for a while when they were younger, so for him this was not a big deal. It's in our plans to make it so that each child will have their own room and own space - someday. But for now, I'm blessed by the fact that my children are giddy - happy - even believe this was a PRESENT - to be able to share a room and be together. (Not to mention that it will make staying over at our parents summer cottages that much easier since they know how to share space!!)

So tonight I'm thankful ... more than thankful ... overflowing in the heart ... for my 3 children: the one who will be welcomed into the world (Lord willing) late summer, and the two who are each other's best friends (and I pray will be that way for a long, long time... or, until adolescence threatens to pull them apart).

Here's a few photos we snapped of them enjoying their space:

[caption id="attachment_1324" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Benny's Corner"][/caption]










[caption id="attachment_1325" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Cheesing it up"][/caption]










[caption id="attachment_1326" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Kayleigh's Corner"][/caption]

"The Mothering Chain..."

by Kristi Van Dyk in

There are lots of days when it turns to the magical 8:00 p.m. and my children are in bed that I collapse on the couch and say, "I'm just glad I'm still breathing." These two little gorgeous blondes know how to take it out of their mom like no other job (okay, calling) I've ever had. Other days, I listen to them play (like right now) and hear the love in their voices for each other. I see the independence they are gaining (did you catch that, they're awake, they're playing, I'm BLOGGING with my glass of OJ!!) and say, "How fast did THAT go!!" There are still other moments that catch in my throat, make me swallow a little bit too hard and blink back a flood of tears because it's more than I could ever have hoped for. This past week alone, it seems those tear jerking moments are coming faster and faster and more tightly packed together. I could be overly emotional (a side effect of being a woman AND the holidays, or something) ... but, I'd like to think it's the sort of stuff parents want to see from their kids. Moments like when:

Benjamin wakes up from nap and Kayleigh is still asleep. He sits, quietly, cross legged with his teddy just outside her closed door whimpering her name.

While they're headed downstairs Kayleigh gently takes over my role with her brother, "Benjamin, I'm going to walk so I can help you down the stairs but you must scoot on your bottom. That's a good boy!!"

Kayleigh invites Benjamin to play a game with her and although its WELL BEYOND his level of understanding, she patiently spends a half an hour teaching him anyway ...

OR, right now ... they are sitting in the basement with our wedding photo album, each has a chair at the Mickey table and is munching on granola bars (they already had 2 waffles and OJ this a.m., but they love granola bar snacks). I can hear Kayleigh say, "Ben, who is THIS friend?" Ben replies, "MUMMYY!!" Kayleigh "Good. Now this is Grandma, say it clearly ... GRAND-MA." Ben shouts, "NANA!!" Kayleigh, "Okay, for now ..."

But, the moment that has me in the most complete stage of delirious joy was this mornings "Mothering chain." Kayleigh woke up and immediately went to wake her brother. She greeted him with a hug, stowed his pacifier in his drawer and led him by the hand out to the living room. She gave him a Minnie doll to hug (as she had a Mickey) and said, "You have to take care of the babies, Benjamin. Be VERY careful with them." He immediately stopped holding Minnie by her ears and instead cradled her over his shoulder as his big sister was doing. He patted her back and kissed her ear ... and then an idea hit him ... (a friend of ours recently returned a borrowed baby cradle/rocker. It's sitting in our living room since I haven't packed it away yet). Benjamin ran to the cradle, gently (as gently as a 19 month old boy can) placed Minnie in the cradle, ran to get his blanket, covered her up, kissed her nose and said, "Night Ninnie." He pulled the toys in front of her eyes and started the lullaby songs!!!

I teared up because my little man has picked up on our routine ... he tucked that Minnie in EXACTLY the same way I have tucked him in for the past 18 months of his young life ... and the same way I tuck in his sister for the past 3 years. When he was done tucking in his Minnie, I was brimming with tears over the steaming waffles and Kayleigh was a pleased as punch. She came up behind her brother gave him a great big hug and said, "Benjamin, that was EXACTLY the right way to care for your baby! Good boy! I'm proud of you!"

And there I saw the "Mothering Chain." I mother my kids, who in turn pick up all of the traits of me as a mother (good and bad). It's such a blessing to see them practicing some of those traits in reference to each other AND the things they choose to care about. Mostly, though, I just love knowing that despite my flaws - and how often I lose my temper or do it the wrong way - that God is using my best INTENTIONS to help my kids grow into loving small people.

Sigh ... Now, I'm being summoned to the basement by my daughter. "Mommy, you should really come join us for the DARING adventure!" A daring adventure, how could I pass that up?

Kayleigh is 3

by Kristi Van Dyk in

I'm taking a pause from our thank you blogs (yes, I'm still doing them even though they're quite a bit backlogged) to celebrate our first born's 3rd birthday. It was quite a whirlwind weekend for us (when Kayleigh is at the center of the activities, she has a way of making us feel that way even if it wasn't the intention) for several reasons. First of all, for the 4th November IN A ROW, we have had a birthday where the family gets sick. The November that Kayleigh was born was the WORST fall for my sinus infections. I had one during labor/delivery (and haven't had one since, PRAISE GOD!). Following labor for me, while we were still amidst the feeding adjustments, etc, Steve came down with a flu bug. On Kayleigh's 1st birthday, the entire family (including poor K) had fevers around 103-104 and were unable to keep down water. For her 2nd birthday, we skated through the event free of illness BUT, beginning at Daddy's birthday dinner (November 30th), the entire family went down with the stomach flu, beginning with baby Ben. This year the birthday girl was the first to present symptoms. On Wednesday, she had a fever of 103 and complete exhaustion. She napped for 4 hours and woke up fine. Steve and I proceeded with caution, and she was fever free for 24 hours. BUT, again, on Thursday at noon ... more fevers, more lethargy ... never any other symptoms. At any rate, this weird fever and no other symptoms spread through the whole family until we discovered (on day 3) the ummm other kind of flu. It passed quickly, and wise or unwise, we kept everything on the agenda. Hopefully, dear family, we haven't spread the joy on to all of you.

Anyway, Kayleigh had 3 birthday "events" for her 3rd birthday celebration. (No, we don't expect this to continue for subsequent birthdays ... it's just how this one worked out). Steve and I have developed a tradition with her (beginning last year) to do dinner alone with the birthday child followed by something "fun." This year it was our plan to take Kayleigh to dinner, follow up with a toy from Meijer (of her choosing), and then come home for movie night (We bought her The Lion King on Blu-Ray). Since she had been so miserable on Wednesday, we did movie night on birthday eve and saved the dinner/toy for Thursday. When we went to pick up Ben after Kayleigh's date, she got a surprise from Michael, Chelsea and Alexa. They had candles in her birthday cupcakes and sang to her (oh was she so happy about that). AND Michael and Chels got her a Minnie Mouse Bow-tique cash register (she still keeps the key hidden and tucked safely away from everyone). She had plenty of moments to feel spoiled and special that day, and all day long kept sighing and saying, "Oh Mommy ... thank you for my birthday." A few times her tenderness and sincerity would catch me off guard and I would whisper quietly to God, "No, thank YOU for this birthday." She's truly a blessing, and we loved spoiling her.

Friday night it was my parents' turn to get in some spoiling. We drove Kayleigh up to Logan's on Alpine (she LOVES peanut restaurants) so she could have a dinner out with Grandpa and Grammy. Then we went back to my parents' place in Walker for presents and Coldstone cupcakes. Kayleigh and Daddy were feeling a little sick, yet, so they didn't enjoy the cupcakes so much (but Ben and Mommy didn't have trouble taking care of their portions). Kayleigh loved her clothes from Grammy (on the way home she commented on how soft her faux fur coat was and how much fun she was going to have getting ready for school with her clothes) and her new music player-book and beads. We still haven't opened the bead set yet ... it'll be a special occasion when we do!

On Saturday I baked a birthday cake (probably one of the worst ones I've attempted ... I need to get the proper tools now that my sis in law is in NH and I can't borrow hers) and we did make-your-own pizzas with the Van Dyk family. Kayleigh was THOROUGHLY spoiled by all of the attention from her two Aunties, Uncle Dan, Grandma and Great Grandpa Van Dyk. She even got to Skype (though she wasn't very attentive) with Grandpa, who couldn't make the party. She had a wonderful time and was thoroughly spoiled with lots of books, games, and clothes. Today we must have played EVERY GAME (except checkers) in the 8-game Princess Game Set ... her favorite is princess BINGO. (Oh, and for the Van Dyk family who read this, we played a TWO ENTIRE FAMILY, yup Benner too, games of Hi-Ho Cherry-O THE PROPER WAY ... and Kayleigh won both times ...)

It was a fun weekend, but as I'm explaining to friends now, here comes the hard part ... Kayleigh needs to understand that her birthday has stopped. We aren't going to keep singing Happy Birthday to her every day, and she can't get candy/toys/balloons/an excuse to not share with Ben indefinitely. This should be a fun week to remind her of all of those rules ;)

Here are some of my favorite photos from this weekend of birthday fun:

[caption id="attachment_1297" align="alignleft" width="224" caption="Helping to bake her birthday cake"][/caption]












[caption id="attachment_1298" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="...with her new Columbia Fleece from Grandpa and Grandma V"][/caption]

















oh, and one of Boo Boo too :)











I have no pictures of our Wednesday night movie night (who wants pictures of their sick little girl anyway) and I don't have any of our Friday night dinner with my parents (Mom???). BUT, if I get any updates from that, I'll be sure to edit and re-share. It was a fun weekend, and we are happy to have our princess, Kayleigh!

Highlights from our October

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Several times throughout the end of September and October I thought about blogging. We had a few priceless moments that I said, "This HAS to get blogged" BUT, by the time I got a chance to blog it, the moment had past. So, rather than doing a monthly update on Benjamin (he hasn't changed THAT much), I thought I'd give highlights of what happened this last month. (This may also give you a clue as to why I've been unable to blog ...) :) The weekend of September 23rd the kids went to the GR Children's Museum with my parents. Steve and I were able to use my Uncle Ron's tickets to head to the U of M game. We had AWESOME seats on the 45 yard line just about 10 rows up. It was an amazing game .. and the kids had a great time with Grandpa and Grandma.

















  We had a great weekend on the last week of September, just hanging out at home. On Saturday morning, we went over to the nature preserve. Steve brought the camera and we snapped a few of the kiddos, just having a great time.





























The following weekend we had Auntie Sarah over for dinner/hanging out. We ended up going out to ice cream after a bike ride and time at the park.










While Daddy was at CEA, Mommy and the kids went into Grand Rapids to hang out with Auntie Alaina and Ryan who were here for Ryan's upcoming birthday! It was SO GREAT to see them after a month of being gone. On Friday, we drove in for Ryan's party at Crazy Bounce in Holland. It was a spectacularly fun evening ... so fun, that, well, Mommy had a little problem with her pants!!



















That same Saturday, Steve left to go to the ColorBurst ride in the Lowell area and I went back to Kalamazoo to coach the first of my two scheduled Volleyball tournaments. The kids stayed with Grandpa and Grandma Creswell and went to Post Family Farm with Auntie, Uncle Dan and Ryan for the annual pumpkin selection (and homemade donut consumption) afternoon.






















This past week was JAM packed. I took the kids to Grand Rapids to had a little catch up chat with my childhood friend, Suzanne; we had Alexa over for a couple of hours that day too. We had dinner with the staff at KCHS. On Tuesday, I had a game in Delton in the afternoon. Wednesday we had a crazy fun SPIRIT practice at KCMS. The girls were incredible; they were so competitive and yet so encouraging to each other. It might have been my BEST spirit practice yet.







Thursday of last week we had our last volleyball game, right AFTER Kayleigh had her first FIELD TRIP! K went to an apple orchard and cider mill with her class. It was 40 degrees and rainy but that did not dampen Kayleigh's enthusiasm for picking apples. She was so ready to pick apples, learn about cider making, and ride the hayride.










On Friday, we packed up our stuff and headed North to Mackinaw City. It was time for the race on Mackinac Island. We had a few snags over the weekend (including a blown tire on the way there). All in all, though, it was a beautiful day spent with lots of family. Steve and I ran a great race (for us), and we were SO SO thankful for Auntie Sarah who sat this one out so that we could run it.



















We still have some exciting events on the October calendar: Alexa's Birthday Party, Trick or treating, and soon after October wraps up, Kayleigh will be turning 3!!! (Not to mention Daddy's 31st birthday party, Thanksgiving, and the beginning of the "holiday" season!!!) AHH ... Life just never slows down, does it? :)













Our 16 month old son ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

It's been a while since we've had a post dedicated to our Benjamin. Each day he seems to surprise me more and more by what he is able to know and do. He is growing so quickly that it just makes me want to pick him up and squeeze him - as if by holding him tighter he'll freeze right here ... I know that's nonsense, but I don't think I've wanted to savor any time more than this stage, with him, right now. Physically - Ben runs. Ben climbs. Ben spins in circles to music. He slides down slides independently, feet first but on his tummy (he's quite cautious) He slides down stairs on his bum without being reminded (I'm still not ready to leave the stairs unprotected but he is pretty good) He throws balls and chases them Ben empties out his sister's piggy bank and neatly plunks each coin back in. Ben colors (he LOVES coloring) and draws with chalk (we haven't tried paint, though I'm sure he'd love it). Ben pours water from cup to cup (and then over his and Kayleigh's heads) He completes puzzles (with help) He stacks blocks And He SCREAMS (at TOP SPEED) around the house pushing anything with wheels: walkers, his mail cart, and his most beloved STEEL Tonka truck (when that hits the shins at full speed, it leaves a mark!)

Socially - I continue to be impressed with Ben's speech. I know to expect boys to be a little slower at language PRODUCTION (not necessarily comprehension, but repeating sounds). So far, Ben is impressing me in every way ... He says:

** HI (it's so cute, you HAVE to hear it) ... He even fooled our honorary "3rd child" over the phone. She thought she was talking to Kayleigh and it was Ben saying "Hi." ** Waves Bye (to just about anyone) ** Combines two words when he really wants something (this has NEVER occurred outside of the realm of food ..) "Mo' Nanana" Translation: More Banana or "Eat Ninn" Translation: Eat Dinner or "Mo'  Dat" Translation: More of that (accompanied by an exuberant pointing finger). ** Cries for the appropriate parent MOST of the time. (though he still calls me Dadda more often than I'd like) ** Repeats nearly everything you ask as best as he can ** He knows every single Mickey Mouse Clubhouse character as "Ninnie" which makes for some awesome conversations with his sister. (i.e. "Ben, do you want Mickey or Pluto to play with" response: "Ninnie." Sister: "Oh, Minnie???" (graciously offers Minnie to a frustrated Ben who responds: "Nah ... NINNIE!!!") It makes me laugh anyway. ** Ben's comprehension is thoroughly amazing to me. I've seen him follow multi-step directions, with plenty of space between the instruction given and his ability to follow it through ... For example: Ben, get your shoes so we can leave. (said tossed over my shoulder while I'm helping K finish a potty break) By the time I've cleaned her up, he's got his shoes, his socks and is sitting on the floor holding them out to me. Another time I told him that we were going to get a snack and go outside. He raced me to the pantry, pointed to the veggie straws, stood panting "eat, eat, eat..." the whole time I was putting them in his cup and then immediately, upon receiving his cup, made a B-line for the back door. ** He understands schedules - and routines - ... As soon as we get home from our afternoon errands/playtime he runs straight for his high chair screaming "Ninn .... Ninn." Because he knows it's nearly dinner time. We only have to mention the idea of water or bubbles or soap and he practically rips his own clothes off his body as he shouts "Dath ... Dath ..." and tries to climb in the tub himself.

Emotionally - ** This boy is a parent's dream. He's a LOVER!!! We were at the nature preserve the other day - plenty of space for him to run and play. He'd get excited and run ahead, but as soon as he realized I wasn't right by his side, he'd come screaming back, ask to be picked "Up, Up," and plant a kiss on my face before repeating the same pattern. ** He ADORES running clear across the back yard to land straight in someone's arms - he even does this to Kayleigh (she's not always a willing participant, but he is). ** We've recently made our evening wind down time a family snuggle time in Mommy and Daddy's bed (we moved a TV back up to our room). The kids sandwich together in the middle and Mommy and Daddy are the bookends. Ben CRAVES this time and asks for it frequently ... He isn't satisfied, though, unless everyone is there. Sometimes Daddy starts early while I'm finishing dishes and Ben comes down from the bed, wanders to  the kitchen, asks for "Hand, Hand ..." and leads me to the family ... ** Benner adores snuggle time any chance he gets, even just at the store, he'll give my hand a nuzzle, or plant a kiss on my face. I ADORE it ... I know it won't last forever.

Quirky Little Bennerisms: 1. Benner has a bit of a pot-belly. So, when he has hid big ol' cloth diaper on and his big ol' pot belly, he has the greatest little swagger ... It's HILARIOUS ... and when he runs, I still just giggle at watching him go 2. We joke that B is an "old man" sometimes (the pot belly above doesn't help his case) but when he's tired, he will grab his Cars sippy cup, climb up into Daddy's IKEA chair ... scoot himself all the way to back and "veg." He gets this look on his face that says, "Yeah, don't bother me..." If we let him sit there too long without paying attention he'll weakly call out "TT ... TT..." and point at the remote ... as if to say, "Please, give it to me ...I can't bear another minute without it." 3. The bears are still a VERY CRITICAL part of his sleep routine. He asks for them whenever he's tired, he holds them while we change him, he carries them around the house for the first 30 minutes after each sleep, he kisses them, hugs them and cries with a FURY when they aren't around. "Dares ...." in "Boo" and "ink..." are his standbys. They cure anything. I have a feeling they will disintegrate  before I have the heart to rip them from his little clutches. 4. DADDA ... Daddy is this little man's favorite being in the world. NO ONE gets a welcome quite like Daddy. He screams and shrieks, shakes and full on sprints to find his Dad as soon as he hears the car. It makes for some heart-wrenching moments when Daddy leaves for work, has a late night meeting, or goes out with friends. The little man just wants his role model ... I love it. 5. This little guy is still just the light of our lives (with his sister, but this isn't her post). Ben brings us joy and life and personality like nothing we ever expected ... He's a true gift ... I can't wait to see what the Lord has in store for our little blonde baby boy.







How could you NOT love a face like that?

"I need my best friend to help me ..."

by Kristi Van Dyk in

My kids get on my nerves sometimes. I don't want to make this blog a place where all I remember are the good things ... (More on that in a future post) BUT today was one of those days that I need to remember, one I need to treasure. Because, lets face it, there are plenty of days that kick your butt. Today began as most days do ... we were late. I got up late, the kids got up late, breakfast took extra long ... but there was one big difference. Kayleigh had her first day alone at Pre-K today. So, we had a deadline. We couldn't do our usual leisurely morning.

At about 8:40 (a little TOO close for comfort) we left the house. Perhaps because Kayleigh can tell when I'm stressed, or perhaps just because it was her day ... she was feeling a little anxious about school. Here's the ensuing dialogue ...

"Mommy, I need a friend to help me at school." "Kayleigh, Maestra Poortenga and Maestra Gonzales are right there to help you, all of the time. you just have to ask." "But Mommy, I need YOU to help me." "Kayleigh, part of going to school is learning to do things without Mommy. You get to learn to make new friends."

Pause to digest this information ... "Mommy, I think Benny wants to come to school with me. Benner? You want to come don't you?" "YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH YEAH" (Shrieks Ben) "See, Mommy, Benner will come help me at school today." "Kayleigh, I'm sure Ben would love nothing more than to come with you, but he's too little yet. He doesn't know how to use the potty, and he doesn't know how to do the big kid things you can do." "Oh ..."

More time to digest ...

"I will teach him now." Then through an approximately 10 minute monologue, all the way to school, Kayleigh taught Benjamin about the "basics" of class. I heard highlights about "coloring carefully inside the lines," and "using the SAFETY scissors to cut paper quickly" and about how when you hear the music you "Must go sit down by the teachers and not cry and cry about it." She told him "you have to sit very still and very quiet" and listen to the "great music like 'stentadito como pretzel...'"

This was all punctuated every so often with questions like, "Do you like that Roo? Wouldn't you want to do that? Doesn't that sound so fun Roo Boo?"

After all that teaching, we pulled into the parking lot and she said, "Mommy, I think Benny is ready now. I teached him all I could about school. He needs to come with me because I need my best friend to help me at my Spanish school."

INSTANT TEARS!!! "I need my best friend to help me..." Yes, yes they are best friends and how precious that not just the baby misses his big sis, the big sis misses her brother.

On the way out of school Ben kept looking over his shoulder for Kayleigh. When I didn't put her in the carseat, he pointed and screamed ... "DITTER!! DITTER!!! EEEASEEE!!!"


He did better without her today (mostly because I kept him busy at the grocery store), but when I said it's time to get Kayleigh he ran as fast as he could to grab his shoes and fairly tumbled out the back door. When we got to school I let him walk and he took off FULL SPEED towards her classroom. I had to pick him up or he would have been in the room and over to her as fast as lightning. After we greeted her, he started calling "hand ... hand..." which usually means he wants help walking. I stuck out a hand while listening to Kayleigh chatter about "all the crazy things I did today." Ben smacked it away and walked to Kayleigh ... "hand ... hand ..."

... and with that the day at Pre-K was forgotten, the day at the store was forgotten and my two "best friends" walked down the hall hand in hand. ... (for about 2 minutes until she took off running ...)

Sigh ... Thanks Jesus for today :) ... and "the best friends."

Our first day as parents at KCES ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

We have been awaiting this day since the middle of February, when Steve and I decided to enroll Kayleigh. She has worked so hard to be ready to go to school, that I was pretty sure she was NEVER going to sleep last night. She FINALLY drifted off somewhere around 11:30 p.m.!!! She woke up several times in the middle of the night, for various reasons, and was up and out of her room by 7:35 a.m. She opened the door, peaked her cute blonde head out the door and said, "Is it time to go to the bagel restaurant yet??" I had fully intended to make my big pre-schooler a fun "first day of school" breakfast. I bought all of the ingredients for oven french toast and was ready to go when Steve said, "Kristi, she's not going to eat that ..." And sadly, he's probably right. My little girl's idea of a special breakfast is "chocolate toast" (or Nutella). A cinnamon sugar bagel is about as close to a "special" meal as she will eat, let alone on a day as exciting as this ... So, I sniffled a bit and decided that Daddy was right ... Big Apple it would be.

We got Kayleigh all dressed in her new "first day" outfit, put her backpack on her and took a BUNCH of pictures before leaving.








The whole ensemble ...











With her Mommy, who let Daddy go to school ... (It killed me to stay at home, but let's be real, I'll be able to visit/drop her off much more often than he will, so, it was his day ...)








After breakfast, Kayleigh and Daddy took off while Mommy and Benjamin went home. I found it difficult to occupy my time because I kept watching the clock, wondering what they'd be doing at each moment. I tried to focus on playing with Benjamin, who wanted NOTHING to do with me. Instead, he searched every nook and cranny of the house looking for "Yayeigh" when he couldn't find her, he resigned himself to sulking in a chair with his bears. I finally found him so pathetic, that I turned on a Mickey for him and let him sulk in peace while I reorganized a closet :). While we were at home having that adventure, here's a few "winners" that Daddy took at school.








Yup, pretty much have tears flowing while looking at that big girl ...








I imagine she was saying something like, "Daddy, just one more picture. I have to color one more thing."










Clearly Mommy has failed in teaching her how to use safety scissors, oops ...








Making her handprint with Maestra Gonzales.








Her locker (or, more accurately, her locker "neighbor" ... ). I'm sure she'll figure it out soon enough.

According to Daddy, she had 2 1/2 meltdowns throughout the 1 hour she was there. One Daddy claimed as his own fault. The other, well, let's just say we're going to practice going quietly to circle time when Maestra says so and not crying because we can't play with toys anymore.

All in all, we're excited for our year and so so thankful that Kalamazoo Christian Elementary has adopted the  Spanish Immersion program through add.a.lingua. We're thrilled about the possibilities for Kayleigh, and are excited to watch her emerge from elementary school, bilingual. Here's to an exciting year.

Benjamin Steven, 15 months

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Well, folks, he's 15 months ... 1/4 of the way into his second year of life (YIKES) ... how he feels about it? LOVE ... My boy still loves life. He LOVES summer; he loves moving. Benjamin loves being outside, playing at the park, EATING (especially all of the fresh fruits/veggies that are in season), and drinking. Each time he wakes up, comes in from outside, he asks for his "DINK ... DINK" and proceeds to polish off the entire cup. (Sippy, straw or otherwise, he takes all cups). This past week might have been Benjamin's FAVORITE week of summer. In the past 6 days, he's seen just about every Van Dyk family member he has, plus all of the immediate Creswell family in there too. He adores his family ... and as many of you can attest, at this point in his life, greets almost all members of the family with equal (or greater) enthusiasm than his Mommy. I think he feels like he sees "too much" of me. I'm okay with that, a boy has to get independent at some point. (Plus, he still comes back to me each time he stubs his toes, bumps his head, skins his knees or, falls down. Since he's still very much experimenting with this whole walking/running business, he falls down a lot. I'm not feeling too put out just yet).

I don't have much time to blog because the kids are both up (I'm just enforcing mandatory in room time for my own sanity ... today has been quite the "catch up" day). BUT, I really adore this picture of Ben, and I wanted it to go in the blog for the sake of remembering how munchkin cute this kid is ... :) <3 my little boy ...

[caption id="attachment_1216" align="alignleft" width="214" caption="Benjamin Steven, 15 months: August 2011"][/caption]

Our Little PreSchooler ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in












This precious child is growing up all too soon. This picture is evidence that the "toddler" portion of her face is gone. You can't look at her without seeing just how she's turning into a little girl. When she talks, you can't forget that life is marching on. At times she makes me so angry with her disobedience and her stubbornness. I feel like she's NEVER going to learn that Mommy and Daddy are in charge, not her. And other times, I overhear what happens with her little brother and I realize, she IS learning, quickly.

Here's a sampling of the things heard around my house lately ...

(Benjamin is in the crib for morning nap, which mostly is just quiet time for him; he almost never sleeps then anymore. He's starting to get restless)... K: Mommy, can I go get Benny Roo? M: Sure, just go in slowly (otherwise she busts open the door and scares the poor boy). K: Good morning, Benny boy! Oh Benny Roo, you can't just throw your stuff out of the crib B: (Various excited noises,  screeching, hollering and yelling any combination of "Ditter, Ditter or Yayeigh, Yayeigh)... K: I brought you your snack (she usually snags her bowl and his off of the table before entering). Be careful that you don't spill it, buddy. One at a time .... That's right. B: (jabbering back in his most animated way). K: Oh, sure, I'll take your paci, boo. Here, give it to sister. (Ben drops it in her hand). There, I'll put it away (drawer slides open and closed). B: (Immediately starts whining for it back) K: (And this is literally VERBATIM from me) Oh Benjamin, you can eat AND have a paci. You'll just have to wait until your next sleep. Enjoy your food, bud!


We've just finished lunch and everyone (even Rafael) knows it's about time for naps. The kids find their chairs (or share Daddy's chair if Rafael has already snagged their little one) and snuggle in for pre-nap Little Einsteins. The two are snuggled cozily into Daddy's chair, shoulder to shoulder, K puts her arm around Ben.

K: Benny Roo, we're going to watch Little Einstein's B: (Shrieks and points at the tv) EEEEEEEE K: Yes, Little Einsteins ... can you say that buddy? Li ... ttle ... Ein....SSSSSSStein. B: EEEEEEE K: Okay, maybe later. (Kisses the top of his head).

OR (my favorite) They are playing dominoes together on the carpet while I do dishes. K: Benjamin Steven I'm going to Spanish School. Did you know that? B: (He ALWAYS responds when she asks him questions, even if its gibberish) K: Yes, I am. Do you want to come with me so that I will have all of my friends there? Mommy and Daddy are coming to help me at first so I'm not scared. But you could come and be my friend! Would you like that Benny Roo? B: (excited babbling again) K: Oh good ... and don't worry. I will help you and be your friend too!!

<3 There's nothing better than watching them learn to be friends.


August: Such a "LOVE"ly month

by Kristi Van Dyk in ,

Wow. It's August. I can't even begin to describe how FAST this summer flew. I feel like I've been moving CONSTANTLY from the second week of March (when tennis season began) until now (and I'm afraid it's not going to get better). We've discovered, now that it's the first week of August, that we're booked up through the entire month ... as well as completely booked in the month of October! At present, I'm taking it one day at a time and telling myself that at this rate, I'll be into September before I know it. BUT with September comes ... the first day of pre-school, fall Bible Study at church (YEAH!!!), Wednesday night classes for the kids (Kayleigh is over the moon for that), and everything else that having a "school aged" child means. Sigh ... So, I'm trying to reflect on the things that make this busy-ness so beautiful. Here are my top 10 Looking Forward To's during this crazy month: #10 Watching Benjamin walk independently. He is great while holding my hand (and insists on holding it whenever I'm available to help him get from point A to B), but this afternoon he pushed himself up (totally unassisted) and simply stood for about a minute ... right in the middle of the room. He HAS to be getting close.

#9 Continuing to listen to the kids "talk": Ben adds to his vocabulary exponentially each day. This morning I was struck by how effectively his gibberish gets him what he wants. "Tuck" (I pull the truck out from where it is lodged behind some toys). "Dink .. .Dink ... Dink." (I grab his juice from the fridge and hand it over to be demolished). "Up Up Bear." (I take the bear out of his crib so he can snuggle it). "Ditter ... Ditter!! DITTER" I open Kayleigh's room so he can crawl in there and disrupt whatever it is she's trying to do alone. BUT beyond all that is hearing them communicate with EACH OTHER. They have whole conversations sometimes, and sometimes, Kayleigh acts as interpreter. (i.e. Today at lunch "GO GUR...GO GURR ... GO GURR!!!!!!" says Ben. "I don't know what you're saying buddy. What do you want?" I ask to no one in particular. "Mom, get him some yogurt! He really needs his yogurt." Kayleigh chimes in ... I grab a cup from the fridge and hold it in front of his face. He slams his spoon on the table and screams, "YEEEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHHHH!" Score: "ditter" -1, Mommy - 0)

#8: Seeing all of the "compound" friends in mid-August at  Millennium Park. Words can not express how much I LOVE these girls and their babies. I'm so so so EXCITED to see them ...

#7: Meeting up with a friend from high school and watching our kids play together ... It'd be higher up the list, but we're still working on the details. :)

#6: CELEBRATING my 7th Anniversary with an incredible husband on August 7th. I can't believe where God has taken us in just 7 years. Each time I truly LOOK at the babies that fill my life with busy-ness, I am astonished that these two precious creatures were known about, thought about, meticulously crafted and LOVED by God before I even agreed to go on a single DATE with their father. The exact details of their complexions, their blonde hair, their deep sea-blue eyes, their intricate personalities ... all of that is a testament to the CREATOR who first created a spark between two crazy Hope College juniors (okay, maybe sophomores, if I'm being honest).

#5: Seeing off (from a distance, I'm not a creeper)  some VERY SPECIAL high school girls as they begin their collegiate experiences. I'm praying for them as they embark upon the challenges, freedoms, and joys that await them. God has BIG plans for them ...

#4: Enjoying (and this sort of chokes me up a bit, despite the fact I KNOW I CHOSE THIS) the very last month Kayleigh will be home all day, every day. When August is over, I have to take her in, drop her off, and pick her up from the much anticipated "SPANISH SCHOOL!!!" She's so excited and so ready (and if SHE'S being honest, she's a little scared too ... as best she could she said, "What happens if I have none of my friends there? I might be sad and cry and cry.") ... And so she might ... But for August, there's none of that on the horizon.

These might be considered one, but they are separate things that will likely happen and I'm excited for each of them: #3: Spending some time (however short) letting my kids meet the "German cousins." Kayleigh has really only heard about Kaatje, Jillian and Naomi. She met them when she was approximately 9 months old, at Grandma Van Dyk's home going ceremony. BUT I KNOW she's going to love playing with them, and I can't wait to let her experience that.

#2: Watching my beautiful, mature, precious little blonde child (I can't call her a baby anymore, anyone who has seen her recently will attest to that) walk down the aisle, all by herself (LORD WILLING), as the flower girl at Maria's wedding. Her dress is adorable, her hair will be amazing, she can't WAIT to paint her fingers/toes again in preparation ... And I'm confident (well, semi-confident) that we can bribe her to do the job well. I know it'll make me cry huge buckets ... but if that doesn't, #1 will.

#1: Watching my beautiful, mature, AMAZING, sister Maria (who I've had the pleasure of meeting/getting to know/watching grow up since she was a senior in high school) walk down the aisle with her dad to the man she's chosen to spend the rest of her life with. I'm so excited for her (and for Dan ... I'm ecstatic to not be the only "in-law" now! It's been a long 7 years ...j/k) and all that lies ahead for them. We'll be praying for them, their future, and asking (very selfishly) for some "broken shower ribbons" soon :).


Kathy Mosier Photography

by Kristi Van Dyk in

I HAVE to give a shout out on my blog to Kathy Mosier Photography. I truly think our meeting was a "God thing." Let me give a little background ... Benjamin is 14 months. We haven't had a professional shoot with him since his 5 month photo with Kristen at Tsakani Images. We LOVE his picture but it's a little dated. (He's propped up in a small basket grinning from ear to ear ... and I remember what  a challenge it was to keep him sitting up for as long as we needed his pictures taken.) So, I was looking at that (along with the other family photo taken by Kristen just about 6 weeks after I gave birth to Ben) and decided that it was probably important for us to get some new photos sometime soon. I was thinking that it'd be fun to do them again at Maranatha when the whole family was there. BUT, with Dan and Alaina's trip cut short for Boston, and Maria's wedding (also a great photo op for my kids/Steve and I) coming up in just 3 weeks, it seemed like booking another photo shoot wouldn't be the best idea. So, I just let it go ...

As I was sitting at the pool, I began talking to Kathy. It registered with me that she was a professional photographer when started talking about what we "did" for a living, but it didn't really sink in until later ... I suppose I could have asked her if she'd do an impromptu shoot with my kids ... BUT the moment passed, and I didn't think I'd see her again. Well, I did see her again, the next day at the pool. This time, SHE approached me. She explained that she's moving from more studio work to outdoor settings. She said she couldn't think of a prettier place to take pictures and that she was going to try and update her gallery while on vacation. She was shooting a senior picture that very evening. She wondered if she could shoot my kids. She wanted some "cute ones" for her website. She offered us the sitting fee free and $100 of credits.

I was totally sold on it ... Free sitting fee, at the beach ... sure!!! $100 of print credits, yup!!! I obviously didn't know what she could do behind a camera, but all I was out was the time (usually spent just hanging out anyway) to get the kids ready and the time the shoot took. I had the khakis already, and clean white shirts were just $5 each. So, for $10 out of pocket, count me in.

I didn't know what to expect (except that my kids are are notoriously AWFUL when it comes to posing for a camera). When we arrived, Kathy was prepared. She had bubbles, balls, and was prepared to let them be "them." She told me she was committed to short sessions 20-30 minutes because that's all that the kids have in 'em.

The session was relatively painless, no forcing kids into anything, no awkward positions and as much "in action" as possible. After the session I left wondering how in the world she was going to get great photos out of what we just did ... but well, the results speak for themselves.

Go ahead; take a look:

There are  very few photos I can pass over ... and certainly more that I want printed than I can afford to buy. So, digital CD with rights and permissions, here we come!!!

Kathy also put together (for our sit down viewing pleasure) a BEAUTIFUL DVD with transitions between photos of these pictures. She set it to music (Billy Dean's Let Them Be Little). I have since been completely enamored with this song ... It's perfect for a mommy, and I was a bawling mess as I listened to this music with my beautiful babies on the screen. My mom is buying the DVD so we can watch it over and over and remember just how adorable these kids are (okay, okay, we're biased).

Anyway, if you're ever in the W Virginia area, or want a summer photo shoot at Maranatha in Muskegon when she's on vacation, she's willing :) :) I'm pretty sure I'll just plan to meet up with her again next year too!

Thanks a million, Kathy! Your artistry will be decorating our house beautifully for a while!

Top 10 Moments of our Summer "Vacation"

by Kristi Van Dyk in

This vacation was difficult at times. We slept in a pop up (yes, all four us for 4 nights), but we spent all of our days at Maranatha. So, each morning we'd wake up, eat something for breakfast (minimal preparation) while we took turns grabbing a shower. Some mornings we did all of this in the rain ... After breakfast and shower for Mommy and Daddy we'd pack up everything we needed (less the stuff my parents have for us at the trailer) and keep busy. The kids went to playgroup (Ben less than half of the time because he was so tired and needed the nap); Mommy and Daddy went to hear Bill Crowder speak. By noon the kids napped (and Daddy went for a bike ride) and around 3:30 we were headed to the beach. We swam/played until around 5:30 when we'd swallow dinner, send K to playgroup, bathe Ben in the camp showers and try to get him down before going back to get K. Then we'd work her through bath in the campground showers and try and get her down. There were nights when Ben didn't get to sleep until well after 10 and there were nights when they were both asleep well before 9. Despite the thunderstorms, there was only 1 night when we (Steve) got up with the kids due to middle of the night crying. AND (and I'm truly proud of this), we were usually NOT the first people up at the campground!! (Woo Hoo!!)

As we were packing to leave for home we had some camper malfunctioning, some overtired kids, and a whole LOT of humidity!! It made us come home early with less than cheerful attitudes. So, it's tempting to say, "It was too difficult." or "Not a good call to try and camp." But, when I sit here, after 36 hours of space from the disasters of leaving, I'm coming up with LOTS of wonderful moments during the week. So, I thought I'd make a top 10 list, so that I'm sure to remember the things that made this trip amazing.

Moment #10: Learning some valuable lessons from Bill Crowder. I truly enjoyed listening to him speak. He's an amazing story teller - and truly blessed with a gift from God for discerning truth from the Scriptures. I was particularly fond of his character sketch about just how closely Moses reflected Christ Jesus's willingness to sacrifice for his people. Moses could have chosen to deal with the problems of his people (namely their enslavement to Pharaoh) through a bureaucratic method. He could have used his position as a son of Pharaoh to "make things better." BUT, having lived the life of privilege (and the life of slavery in his formative years), he chose to give up his position of comfort and power to become like the people he wished to lead. His heart was so moved by the suffering of the people, that he left his "father's" home, gave up his life and took on the life of a slave in order to fulfill his calling from God. WOW ... I never looked at it in such a way; what a selfless act! Learning from Bill Crowder was amazing this week ... what a blessing!

Moment #9: NURSERY STAFF!!! (Okay, so that's not a moment ... I have a "moment" for each child, but wow these kids are so GOOD!) B's moment: I picked up my baby boy on Sunday from the nursery and he was sitting in the arms of a familiar blonde girl. I remembered that she had talked with my dad on the beach last year, after having 6 week old, very fussy Benjamin in nursery. She said she loved holding him and hoped that he would come back. Well, he didn't go back then, but he came back this summer. Hannah remembered Ben, and me ... and made a point to talk to Ben at brunch after class. What a blessing to have these kids who pay attention to my babies and not just "watch them" but really care for them when we're gone. K's moment: Kayleigh cried a lot at being left, but never for more than a minute. Her toddler nursery was FULL of "boys and toys" to play with. One day we brought her in especially tired. We were met at the window by a friend boy (I later learned his name was Jon). He said, "Oh Kayleigh, you came at just the perfect time! It's SNACK TIME." From that moment on, she was smitten. "Her snack friend, the boy ..." as she called him, was someone she looked for right away! What a blessing to have a safe, friendly place to leave the kids in order to go to session (or even skip session and grab a coffee, which we did a couple of times).

Moment #8: Hearing Benjamin learn the language of our trip. He said, more than once the beginnings of "Grandpa" and "Grandma" and would point to the appropriate person while doing so. (Needless to say it got their attention REALLY fast). He learned quickly what "outside," "Pool," "beach," and "walk" meant. If you weren't ready to take him RIGHT AWAY, you might want to avoid saying the word. He'd crawl as fast as his four limbs could carry him to the door, stand up and reach for the door handle, ready and EXCITED to get moving on the fun!

Moment #7: The second to last evening that we had both kids (more on that later), Steve and I managed to get the kids SOUNDLY sleeping before 9:00 p.m.  We hauled out the S'Mores and "contraband" (for Hoffmaster that is ...) :) and had a wonderful two hours of quiet talk time (without phones, computers, or even our books!) GLORIOUS!!! What a blessing!

Moment #6: Waking up one morning and turning right to our phones (to see what time it was) and realizing that both kids had slept past 8:00!!!! Just as we were about to roll over and go back to sleep we hear them stir ... (Here's the dialogue) B: Momma ... Dadda... Yayeigh??? Yayeigh??? (That's Kayleigh, for you "novice interpreters) K: Oh Benny roo (through groggy morning eyes and speech), it's so good to see you this morning! B: YAYEIGH! YAYEIGH!!! (pointing and clambering up the bench to touch her) K: Oh Benny roo! Be careful! Would you like to come in my bed? You can come in my bed if you want Benny roo! You can read my books with me ... Mommy and Daddy's hearts melted across the camper ... WHAT A BLESSING!

Moment #5: FULL SERVICE VACATION ... (again, not really a moment, but something my dad said repeatedly). Because we spent so much time (and so many meals) at my parents trailer, I did VERY LITTLE cooking and only one load of laundry ... YET, when I arrived home, I had no more laundry than if we had gone away for a day or two. Why? Because my dad and mom offered a "full service vacation." I'd bring bags of laundry over from the previous day and by the next morning, my dad would have it sorted and folded, ready to be re-packed. He also served us some great dinners and took care of all of the clean up. It was so nice not doing any of that prep work (that totally WOULD come with any normal camping trip)

Moment #4: I spent a little time meeting a woman named Kathy at the pool. We talked about ourselves, our families and our education. She was nice and I didn't think much of the meeting (which ending quickly when Ben had one of his "epic" disasters). Later that week she approached me to ask if she could take the kids pictures for her photography website. I said sure ... well, the photos she took turned out to be a HUGE highlight of the week for me  ... I'll let you preview  them in a blog to come. WHAT a BLESSING she was!

Moment #3: Benjamin's Night Alone. We asked my parents, towards the end of the week, if they would stagger watch each child (and then both) so we could do some special "dates." Benjamin had his night out with Mommy and Daddy first. We were very intentional about these dates, hoping to give each child something they'd truly enjoy doing! The best we could think of (without TOTALLY tiring Benner out) was that Ben would LOVE going to the Hoffmaster Beach. So, we got him in his suit, let him ride atop Daddy's shoulders and gather leaves (he knows the word and grasped at them frequently) on the long walk down. While in the water he screamed, splashed and belly laughed. The kids was BORN to be in the water. His smiles, his laughter and his genuine love of life (that were noticed by MANY people on the walks to and from the beach) were pleasure enough for his parents. After his shower, he fell fast asleep (presumably VERY tired from his night swim) and we reminisced by the fire about the things that make Benner amazing.

Moment #2: Kayleigh's Big Date. We thought Kayleigh would like nothing more than seeing the Musical Fountain in Grand Haven. For the first time with her we picked a TRUE winner ... it was a perfect night. After her beach pictures, we went to Starbucks (Kayleigh truly adores this place) for hot chocolate. She filled our coffee house time with chatter, laughter, and lots of starry eyed looks speculating what this musical fountain would be like. Not knowing what traffic would bring, we arrive 45 minutes early, parked and walked the boardwalk. Kayleigh sipped her hot chocolate in the stroller until Daddy and Mommy decided more spoiling was in order. Her empty hot chocolate was replaced with a bag of flavored popcorn (caramel and peanut because this girl is obsessed with peanuts!!). Then we found a spot on a grassy hill to watch the fountain. For the first song, she was entranced and snuggled nicely. BUT, true to Kayleigh she wasn't going to do that for long. When Dancing Queen came on as the second song, she said, "Mommy, we just have to dance!" We moved to the back and she danced and danced and danced for the entire musical fountain performance. I have a little "picture memory" in my head of this lyric about fireflies and saying goodbye and she's slowly twirling about with a soft summer breeze blowing in her hair. It could have been straight out of a movie ... Steve and I were just talking about some of our favorite moments as parents and when he saw the same picture, he whispered to me, "I'm amending my top 10 moments ... this has to be in the top 3." Tears flooded my eyes because I knew just how right he was.

Moment #1: Date night with Steve. The kids went to my parents and Steve and I were able to finally see Harry Potter 7.2! We are HUGE HP fans and might have, in our pre-children days, joined the throngs at the midnight showings. BUT, as 30 approaches for me, it became impossible to do that. So, we went to Harry Potter and LOVED IT and chased that down with appetizers, dessert and a drink at Applebee's. We laughed at ourselves because we tried downtown Grand Haven, but we just found that we were "too old" for those restaurants at that time of night. We settled on the familiar, chain-like restaurant and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. WHAT A BLESSING to have lived with my best friend for nearly 7 years now and I'm still able to enjoy just hanging out :) I'm sure it'll just get better with time :)

Ahhh ... what a wonderful collection of memories from this summer's vacation adventure!

Summer - Lately

by Kristi Van Dyk in

As it turns out, I'm horrible at blogging in the summer. I thought perhaps it was tennis season that kept me from posting. BUT, as it turns out, I'm just not very good at disciplining myself to take the time. :) It's not that I have TONS of time either, we've kept these children HOPPING all summer long. Last Saturday was the first Saturday we've been home (and really only I was home with the kids and Steve was racing with Kevin at the Urban Adventure Challenge) since the Regional Finals in May! Nevertheless, I haven't updated our blog or posted many pictures of our events. I find myself just struggling to keep up with them. So, for fun, here's a little update on the kids - lately.

Kayleigh has, for the past 6 weeks been experiencing the "terrible 2 1/2s." She tests ABSOLUTELY everything we say. Her default answer is always "No," and she has proven herself to be JUST as stubborn and willful as both of her parents combined. In case you think I'm joking, I let her "scream out" a temper tantrum (over not wanting to come inside) for close to 45 minutes. After 45 minutes of shrieking, (I'm sure our neighbors were ready to call child protective services) she finally took a breath long enough for me to feel justified in going in there to have a "conversation." In addition to being willful, and testing her parents constantly, Kayleigh loves fighting with her brother. She steals his toys, pushes him over, makes funny faces at him (so he cries), basically, takes great satisfaction in making him angry. It's so infuriating that we got to the point where, when Ben FINALLY retaliated, we simply laughed at her. He ran smack into her with this giant dump truck and she was SO MAD (not really hurt). We just said, "stop picking on him and maybe it won't happen again."

So, I play a lot of referee with Kayleigh, and I do a TON of discipline/punishment/consequence dealing. AND I pray ... I pray that she'll grow out of it, and that some of the lessons we're teaching her will sink in. So far, this week, it appears we're making progress. (No spankings or time outs ALL week ... and that's not because I'm easing up ... she just MAYBE is figuring this thing out, finally).

Benjamin is working on walking and talking ... his two BIGGEST focuses as of late. He's making HUGE strides in each one. His "momma" sounds so much like Kayleigh's that I sometimes turn to her when he calls me. He tries DESPERATELY to say words that people understand (most of which is still entirely incoherent). But when he does hit a winner, you've never seen such a smile. His favorite things to say are "DONE" and "Eat." You can call Benjamin from any corner of the house by saying, "Benjamin, time for ______ (fill in name of meal)." He knows that each meal means one thing ... EAT. And he'll come crawling as fast as his chubby body can handle screaming "EAT, EAT, EAT, EAT" the whole way to his chair. It's adorable. He will shovel as much of his food into his face as he can and when he'd like to get down, he will look at Mommy and say, very clearly. "DONNNNNNNE." And then beam at you. If I don't get up IMMEDIATELY to begin washing his face and hands he will repeat himself, louder and with a longer "NNN" sound until SOMEONE gets him down. It's really quite hysterical.

The walking is progressing. He's very content to creep around using everything for balance. And when he can't balance, he drops to his knees and crawls RAPIDLY before returning to a standing position. He's gone from requiring two hands to help him walk, to allowing you just to hold one hand ... so I know he's making progress. I don't think it'll be too much longer before he's entirely on his own (and oh will he be so happy about that!)

Today the two of them were playing together, while I was packing up for the camping trip. Kayleigh took her pink walker and pulled right up next to Benny's white one. She matched him step for step, encouraging him and talking to him the whole way. I was so impressed with her gentleness, her sweet spirit, and her clear love for watching him learn. (Maybe there is hope for her yet!!) :). I asked her to do it again so I could take her picture, and she turned his walker around for him, propped him back up, got herself set and then told him, "Now Benny, look at Momma's camera and say your big CHEESY so she can take a picture of how cute we are."

How cute you are is right ... Here's the result of her efforts:







I finally see a sibling resemblance. (Steve and I still think we reversed and she has more of his features, and Benjamin has more of mine) ... but I'm not ready to say I see "twins." (which is the comment I hear most often). At any rate, they're the loves of my life and I'm so blessed to hear them both call me Mom (frequently). :)

PS Yes, I know, it's time for a haircut for my boy ... at the next available opportunity, we're going in!!!

A Happy Boy

by Kristi Van Dyk in

I've been into couponing lately ... well, actually, Steve's cousin, Heidi (and my friend, Chelsea) helped me find some great coupon bloggers. I suscribed to the blogs, and I check my Google Reader repeatedly throughout the day. I find lots of coupons that I don't use, but so far I've had some great deals that I will use! One of those finds was a small brag book from Walgreens for free (just pay $2.99 for shipping). I can do a photo book for $2.99. So, I had to figure out what I needed to make in it ... We have lots of brag books of the kids together, and a few of Kayleigh alone. So, this one should really be for Benner. As I thought about what I wanted to capture about my son, I couldn't help but think about just how many photos I have of him grinning from ear to ear ... He's such a happy boy! Once I'd thought of that, the theme being "Happy Baby Ben," I started going through all of Benjamin's 13 months worth of photos. I have them carefully archived, so it wasn't TOO overwhelming a task. But what I found made me laugh out loud

Ages 1-3 months: 10 photos of him smiling Ages 3-6 months: 30 photos of him smiling Ages 6-9 months: over 50 photos of him smiling Ages 9-12 months: at least 100 photos just of his brilliant smile ...

Yeah, I think I have enough to work with here ... Then I did some more interesting math. If I have nearly 200 photos of my happy boy where he's smiling from ear to ear, that has to be close to one every other day ... Benjamin is 402 days old today ... If I have (I really haven't finished all of the sorting yet) nearly 200 photos of him smiling, that really is 1 photo taken almost every other day ...

Conclusion A: He's not crabby very much Conclusion B: I take A LOT of pictures :)

Benjamin and Kayleigh -

by Kristi Van Dyk in

I feel like this photo says a lot about my kids as of late -













Conclusion #1a: Benjamin is all of a sudden a toddler ... never mind that he doesn't walk completely independently yet (he's great with one hand hold from Mommy and he whips around the house using furniture or his walker like you wouldn't believe), he climbs. I don't mean just a few things, I mean everything he can possibly get his chubby little knees on. Today he climbed me (yes, I'm like a tree to him), he climbed the water table, he climbed halfway up the slide before I could get to him. He had almost climbed into the bathtub and he, obviously, climbed his way into the toddler chair and plunked his tired booty down in it. Conclusion #1b: Kayleigh is no longer categorized as a toddler. Her face, in the last few weeks has done some serious changing. This picture doesn't do her justice, but she is a full-blown PRE-SCHOOLER if I ever saw one. Even our sweet mail-carrier talked with me on Monday and commented on just how fast my little girl went from toddler to young child. I'm not ready for this ...

Conclusion #2: If He has it, she wants and if she has it, he wants it ... OH my my my my have we started some wars over here. Everything she touches he MUST have (and screams mercilessly until given). Everything he's contentedly playing with, she will rip away from him, or push him down, or hit him on the head to take away. If you tell her to share, she takes one step back, pouts, and watches until he loses interest and then divebombs the item  claiming, "He was all done!!"

Conclusion #3: Summer is EXHAUSTING ... the tired eyes, the sweaty faces, the inability to even look away from Mickey for split second, I couldn't buy a smile no matter what I tried. It makes for long days sometimes, but so far, the put-downs at night have been A-MAZING!!!

Conclusion #4: I might be biased, but my kids are kinda cute :)