On Turning 30 ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Milestone Birthdays ...I CLEARLY remember counting down the days until I was in "double digits" for my 10th birthday. I DEFINITELY remember my surprise 13th birthday party (my first co-ed party too). My 16th MONTE CARLO CARD GAME party that was bursting with people was also memorable ... as was the bright red 1980 Ford Mustang my dad got me as my present. I don't really remember my 18th birthday ... BUT I definitely remember my 21st. A close group of my college friends and I went to see one of the LOTR movies before going to Friday's for a few drinks. I also remember after 21 thinking, "well, the next big thing is 30 ... can't imagine where I'll be when I'm THAT old."

Well, let's recap what the last 9 years have brought: The "highlights" of my 20's: 22: got engaged, 23: graduated college, got my first "REAL" job, got married 24: Began my MA in educational leadership, took a Varsity tennis coaching job on top of teaching 8th grade 25: Took on a professional certificate program in teaching, learning and the brain on top of volleyball coaching, tennis coaching, teaching and my MA program 26: Kept up with all of the above?? :) 27: Got pregnant with our first child, finished my MA, finished special program in teaching, learning and the brain, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl 28: Taught/coached/was a mommy with a baby in day care, transitioned to full time Mommy, got pregnant with baby #2, worked part time with Add.a.lingua doing pre-school curriculum with ZCS, gave birth to my handsome Benjamin Steven RIGHT AFTER helping Coach Ipema and the team hoist the league trophy for Varsity tennis 29: Continued coaching tennis and raising my little ones and trying to balance the busy life of our family

When I was 21 there was no way I could have conceived of the crazy journey God took our family through. We had some amazing accomplishments and some incredible life experiences. I know, KNOW that God has some excitement up his sleeve for us ... I can't wait to experience it.  But I also pray that He gives me peace to know that all of life has cycles of EXCITEMENT and contentment. It might be that the "30's" for me might be way less "exciting" than the 20's ... or at least "exciting" in a different way. I realize I have a lot of life to live yet, and lot of the things I've "dreamed" about doing as a child are things that God has already brought to pass in my life. So, now, I just get to wait in anticipation for the next dream He  brings about ...

Benjamin's Update

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Hello friends,It's been so long since I've sat down and made the time to blog. My dear children are keeping me so busy (what with two full battles with the flu already on top of Kayleigh's Birthday, Thanksgiving, Daddy's Birthday and Christmas ... which for our family begins tomorrow, I don't know how we even have time to sleep!). BUT, as I was talking to Benjamin today, yes, talking to him, that's what we do now, I realized how very long it's been since I've updated my blogger friends on my little man. His 18 month birthday slipped on by with his sister's 3rd birthday and Daddy's 31st birthday and all of that other great stuff ...

So ... a little update: Physically: Ben is 34 1/4" tall and a whopping 31 1/4 lbs. He is still over the 95th percentile in both height and weight. So, even though to us, he looks as if he's shrinking and he's finally leveling off in the clothing sizes (2T-3T depending on the brand), he is not "normal" sized just yet. :) He is VERY good at walking on his two feet and only falls when he's "Nunning" (running) to keep up with his sister. He also LOVES climbing on EVERYTHING. At least 3-4 times a day he drags the kitchenette chairs over to the sink, climbs up on it and starts "hopping" (helping) me with "ceenin'" (cleaning). There is NOTHING this kid won't try. He sleeps very well in his toddler bed (although he can climb out, I've seen him do it repeatedly) and doesn't leave the bed until we open the door and say "Good Morning." Once, after a nap, Steve found him getting his "Tati" (Paci) out from behind the bed. He crawled out of bed, MOVED HIS BED away from the wall, grabbed his pacifier and was about to put the bed back ... He's not short on strength :).  Ben takes one nap (mostly because that's what we need to do to keep up with sister's pre-K schedule) that is between 2.5 - 3 hours long. I think he'd be happy to take 2 naps (and sometimes I still make him on Wednesdays when we are at church late), but when he takes one it is SO MUCH nicer because it's so very long :).

Emotionally: This little boy is the most hilarious thing. He LOVES making people laugh or smile. I ADORE his giggle - which we hear often. Today, for example, he fell over and tripped. I said "Ba BOOM!" And he  went into about 15 minutes of straight belly laughter. He couldn't even stand up he was laughing so hard. Each time he'd catch his breath Kayleigh or I would yell "Ba BOOM!" and it'd start all over again. When he's laughing neither of us can keep a straight face and we're laughing too. Benner LOVES to dance. Any song, any type - although he has shown a preference to country. He and Kayleigh dance around the room to "Jingle Bell Rock" at least 3 times a day. He uses music as a language teacher and I've seen him respond to the lyrics of songs ... Kayleigh has this "exercise song" and Ben will do ALL of the motions, even when she's not modeling it for him. So, he is paying VERY close attention to words.

"Benny-isms:" 1. Boo Boo still loves to eat, everything. His favorite things: pretzels, CHEERIOS, veggie straws, APPLES, bananas, macaroni "'roni", hot cocoa (thanks to sister's obsession with it), juice, toast (he'll eat 3-4 pieces in one sitting), COOKIES, CAKE (he had two birthdays in a row to eat cake and now asks for it after his naps .. it's hilarious). 2. Ben loves everything with wheels: cars, trucks, trains, bikes etc but there is noTHING in this world he loves more than his Lightning McQueen car. He loves watching the Car movies, he loves playing with his driveable car, he loves playing with little model cars, he just ADORES cars. He can't get enough. I think he'd watch the Cars movie every day, all day if I'd let him (which I don't, not even once a week!) 3. He also adores Mickey Mouse. He walks over to the TV and asks for "Mouse" often. He also really loves playing with Kayleigh's Mickey "dolls." I'm sure that going to Disney is going to be about the most amazing thing he has ever thought of in his life. He just can't get enough of Mickey Mouse. 4. Sleeping - I love how my little boy LOVES his sleep. He goes to bed well, he wakes up happy, and he LOVES his little bed. His bears are still his favorite thing about sleeping. Each night he asks for "pink" and "bear." They are his best little buddies - I don't know that we're going to separate him from those guys for a VERY long time. 5. SCHOOL - Benjamin adores school. He loves picking Kayleigh up; he loves "talking" to Maestra Gonzales - and getting stickers from her each day. He wants SO desperately to be like Kayleigh that he just cries some days when we leave her. And he simply can't WAIT to race back and pick her up. I love how much he loves her - and how much he wants to learn/be at school with the big kids. Today he got in, quite unabashedly, to the kindergarten line headed out to recess. I had "lost" him for a minute in the shuffle and that's where he was ... with the bigger kids. 6. Benjamin is the most affectionate little thing. He loves kisses, hugs, snuggles, and any affection he can get or give. When you tell him to say goodbye instead of waving he blows kisses. So, he's almost constantly blowing kisses. Today at school there were two 4th or 5th grade girls in the office one hurt and one supporting her friend. I told him to say good bye to the girls and he blew two kisses. He has a way of making people smile from ear to ear. HE got that from another Van Dyk man I know really well :). It would seem that our same gender children inherited the personality of their same gender parent. Kayleigh is my carbon copy (on steroids) and Benjamin is his Daddy (amped up about 10 degrees).

Goals for Benner: Potty training - he's shown an interest in replicating everything Kayleigh does. Plus, he lets me know everytime he's going to have a dirty. He screams "POOP" and runs into a corner. So far I haven't gotten a chance to get him to try that on the Lightning McQueen potty we bought. BUT, it can't be TOO far off :). I'm going to take my time with it, but I know he's getting closer :).

NO MORE PACI - he absolutely loves his pacifier, not as much as his bears, but I think it's getting closer to time to break it. I have a feeling it's going to get ugly, but I know we need to have the battle soon.

In short, we adore our funny, happy, adorable little man. And, in case you haven't noticed, he's got a host of nicknames: Benner, Benny Boo, Boo-Boo, Boo-Boo-Benjamin (that's Kayleigh's), Bo, Little B, Bb, Benjer, AND (my personal favorite for when he's being mischevious) Benjamin Steven William Van Dyk the 14th ... (don't ask. Daddy used it once and Kayleigh picked it up, so it stuck). His own name for himself is "NEEEEEE." I think it stems from "Benny," and since he leaves off all of the initial consonant sounds in all of his words, it makes sense. :) So, our little NEEEE ... is a constant joy and a blessing. We can't IMAGINE our lives without his Joyful presence.

November 11:

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Today I'm thankful for my parents. I have had the distinct pleasure of growing up in a stable home, where I never worried about having food to eat, clothes to wear, violence, abuse or so many other things that kids today have to carry through life. My parents raised me in the church and taught me foundational truths that carried with me through adolescence (even if I wasn't the best example all of the time). As I'm in the "trenches" of discipline and training with my kids right now, I appreciate all of those things about my parents in a way I never could (until I had to do it myself.) I'm pretty sure that was part of many a lecture too... Thanks Mom and Dad ... And thanks for supporting us as we do our best to bring up our children in His way. Kayleigh is thankful for her puzzles to work on: (I know, she said toys already but I'm thankful that she likes to solve puzzles too!!! It's so good for her logical/spatial reasoning) ;)

November 10:

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Today I'm thankful for God's protective angels. This evening, after Kayleigh's birthday date, amidst the aggressively falling snow, we experienced that power first hand. Steve was driving, and being very careful. He lost control of the van and we began a free-slide. We were spinning out and I was certain my face was headed for a tree. I remember shielding my face and thanking God that it wasn't Kayleigh's side of the car (and Benjamin was at Chelsea's). By some miracle, (or the angel's hands), our van spun more than it should. We "backed gently" down the hillside, narrowly missing two trees. If we had slid any other way, we would have crashed into BOTH trees. As it was, we were able to drive out ourselves and no open beverages were spilled (it was that smooth/gentle). Truly, we were protected by angels. Kayleigh is thankful for our (naughty) kitty, Rafael. (I should note that we did our first "re-do" of these videos today because as she said her thanks for Rafa he charged at her and started attacking her toes... Nice, kitty, nice...)

November 9: Thanks

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Today I'm thankful for wonderful teachers and teacher aides. My daughter ADORES school (most days) and she lists Señorita Poortenga and Maestra Gonzales among her top favorite friends!! What a blessing to know she's loved while she's learning. Praise God for these women and their heart for my little, almost 3 year old. Kayleigh is thankful for her nightlight and that it keeps her safe at night.

November 8: Thanks

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Today I'm thankful for the chance I had to coach volleyball this past season. I wasn't planning on it, but a friend called and asked me to fill in in a pinch. Chelsea was around to help with the kids, and Steve was prepared to take a few extra late nights alone. So, I volunteered and I'm so so glad I did. I would never have known what an amazing group of 8th grade girls are currently at Kalamazoo Christian. I was blessed by them over and over and over. They are fun, creative, SWEET and full of integrity. What a JOY they were to get to know... As evidence, here's what a few of them did at last night's party... It was a scavenger hunt and they had tasks to complete. In the midst of their competition two teams bought gifts for my little girl, and one team got me a spontaneous gift and card.. I mean, what coach wouldn't fall in love with that?!!!




Kayleigh's thanks for today:

November 7: Thanks

by Kristi Van Dyk in

As I'm preparing to bake goodies for parties and birthday parties and get togethers, I'm reminded of what a blessing it is to have enough to eat. We live in a place where food (especially an abundance of food) is taken for granted. I'm usually measuring, calculating, obsessing over my food intake to create weight loss... But today, I'm going to choose to be thankful for the huge blessing it is to be well fed. Kayleigh's thanks: (I'm so proud of these ideas she comes up with. She hasn't once repeated one, and it's never a battle to get her to come up with something!! That's another thanks in and of itself!)

November 6: Thanks

by Kristi Van Dyk in

I am ever so thankful for WEEKENDS!! God gave us a day of rest, and I just GLORY in taking it. We usually take our "no work" day on Saturdays (well, at least I do). We focus on spending time together and not on getting things done. So, each Friday, I have an almost breathless anticipation towards the coming day of no laundry, dishes piled up, and no cleaning chores. I only cook if I want to and it's glorious. Kayleigh's Thanks:

November 5: Thanks

by Kristi Van Dyk in

So, we are a little behind... Not because we didn't each reflect on our thank you's but because I am terrible at being productive on the weekends. I love getting stuff checked off on the weekdays, but when Steve is home on weekends, I just want to be with the family. So, the agenda goes awry, as does all housework and anything deemed "chores." we just work on having fun! So, Saturday's thanks. On Saturday, I reflect on amazing friends. The world is a crazy place and it can be lonely navigating it alone. Our family is amazing and so supportive too, but we are also blessed with amazing friends that see us through all kinds of stages. I'm especially grateful for my "mommy friends," those women who share parenting advice, cry with me, laugh with me, and joy/bemoan the ages and stages of our kids together. I praise God for these women in my life.

Kayleigh's Thanks:

November 4: Thanks

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Today I'm so thankful for the beauty of each season. I LOVE living in a place where the variety of the outdoors brings us new and exciting things every few months. Summer is amazing at the lake access we have. Fall is gorgeous in our neighborhood, and to me, nothing beats watching my kids forage through woodsy parks as gorgeous colors of leaves fall around them. Spring is exquisite too, when it's not raining for the sheer relief we get after being cooped up so long!! And winter, well, winter brings the excitement of Christmas and New Year. AND a chance to sled and play in the snow. Thanks be to God for his creativity that we enjoy!! Kayleigh's thanks (proving that although she is profound at times, she is, still, 3, almost):

November 3: Thanks

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Mommy's Thanks: I am so blessed by my little boy's affectionate personality. Several times each day he will run from any corner of the house screaming, "Mummy!! Mummy!!!" As soon as he finds me he does his "charge" pose (arms out to sides, head ducked down, sprinting forward) and plasters himself to me. He gives me full kisses and then, just as quickly he runs away again to play. Any Mommy who understands that some day he will be a teenage boy who rubs away kisses, turns down hugs and doesn't want to be seen in public with his "Mother," is wise to cherish these moments ... And oh today, I am ;) Kayleigh's thanks:

November 2: Thanks

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Today I am thankful for the opportunity to stay at home and watch my babies grow up. I know that operating on one income isn't always easy for us. It's a blessing to me though to be able to spend all of this time with our little treasures from the Lord. Kayleigh is thankful for (the man who makes all of that possible):

Kayleigh and Kristi's Thanksgiving Countdown

by Kristi Van Dyk in

My daughter loves to count. She counts in English, in Spanish and she counts all of the time. She counts forward, backwards and tries to teach her brother. So, I know she will LOVE her advent calendar from her Great Aunt Marlene. Nothing beats German chocolates for 24 straight days, right?? Anyway, we have a while to wait before that countdown begins so we started out Thanksgiving countdown. We talked about why we have it, what it's about and we are starting our very own countdowns. Mine will be in text and Kayleigh will present hers in video form ;). Here's our countdown beginning yesterday.

November 1: I am so thankful for the spirit God has given to my daughter. She is growing into a helpful, kindhearted little lady. She loves her family and friends and works very hard to show that love to them in her own special ways.

Here's Kayleigh's thanks for November 1

The Bananaphone Dance ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Curious??? ... Don't worry, we re-enacted it for you and got it all on video.

Now, doesn't that warrant a place in a parent's top 10 moments? Who doesn't love hearing the extreme joy/delight of children simply having fun. Go ahead, watch it again and giggle at my little man's moves, believe me, we have :).

Thanks God for loaning us these 2 BEAUTIFUL children who give us so much excitement and joy. And thanks for the fun that was "The Bananaphone Dance."

The B-I-B-L-E

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Today is the 10th which basically reminds me that Kayleigh is aging. She is now 2 years and 4 months. She is a constant jabber mouth and has more personality than a 2 year old probably should. She teaches herself and is a language sponge. I enjoy spending time with her and teaching her things. Just this last week she dusted her room by herself, put away her laundry and helped me fold Benjamin's diapers. But sometimes, every so often, she does something that no one taught her. She learned it herself! Today was one of those days. I heard her talking and made out the words "I stand alone on the Word of God" and it caught my attention. She was singing the B-I-B-L-E to herself. I asked her where she learned it (expecting Grammy, Miss Susan her nursery teacher, or Daddy). "My iPod taught me, Momma!" Then she ran to get her iPod and found the song. She's been learning right under my nose. ;)

Here she is singing for you. We will work on her annunciation... But it's not bad for her iPod teaching her!

February Photo Challenge - 17th

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Steve had a late night meeting, so the kids and I survived the "difficult 4-6" time frame and had dinner alone. Then we did our dance party without Daddy (so sad) and did bath and bed alone. It's 8:46 and he's still not close to being home. BUT, we wanted him to know that we were still doing okay. So, this is a photo to Daddy, taken on my iPhone (so quality is not so awesome). BUT, it conveys the appropriate sentiment, "We love you, Daddy, but we're doing fine!"

Where DOES the time go?

by Kristi Van Dyk in

I remember thinking as I walked out of Benjamin's 6 month appointment (with his crying sister, having just completed her 2 year appointment) that we would be heading out of the "winter blues" by the next time we went in for a well-baby. Well, here we are ... 9 months have past, and we've reached the mark where Ben has been "out" as long as he was "in." I have now been NOT PREGNANT for the longest stretch of time since I was first ever expecting. Yes, I'm enjoying that status :) BUT, this post is about my precious, baby boy! Let me take a few minutes to recap just who Benjamin is (for those of you who don't get to see him on a daily basis):

Physically - Doc Stats: Height: 30.25", Weight: 26.2 lbs, Head Circumference: 48 3/4 cm!! Percentile: Height: 95th, Weight: Off the chart, Head Circumference: Off the chart Conclusions: He's still big

* He's still in his 18 months clothing, though it's getting pretty snug. I often put him in the 24 month stuff because I think he enjoys the "space" it provides. * He has (drum roll please) not a single tooth ... nope, not a one. That's not for lack of teething symptoms, they just aren't poking up! * He sits forever and LOVES his jumpy. Between sitting and playing with toys and bouncing in his jumpy, I'm not sure the boy would need another thing. * He reaches and grabs ANYTHING within his arms length (and that includes items that he can basically "fold in half" to grab). That's truly the best way to describe what he does. If he can't get at something, he reaches WAY past his toes and folds in half to get it! It can extend his "danger zone" quite readily. Rafael often underestimates him and winds up getting pulled into Benny's lap. * When placed on his belly, he will push and kick with his legs like a little frog swimming in the water. Sometimes he can get a grip and push up on a fours, but he falls down almost immediately (hey, it's heavy lifting to move this kid, I'd know!) He's very proficient at scooting himself backwards, but often that only frustrates him. Most often, he'll roll right back to his back and find the nearest toy to chew on ... he's not really motivated to move beyond where he is ... (sounds A LOT like his sister in that respect).

Socially/Emotionally - *Benjamin has developed acute "stranger" recognition. He is VERY sensitive to people who aren't familiar. He used to go to the nursery ladies without a single whimper or complaint. He hardly acknowledged that we were gone, but last week has taken to breaking out into piercing screams as soon as he even gets to the nursery wing. * Despite his stranger acknowledgements, he still really LOVES people. As soon as he knows he's safe and secure and that Mommy isn't, in fact, leaving. He will smile and flirt away. I think he has THE MOST fun at tennis workouts on Tuesdays when there are 5-7 high school girls to observe. His little dimple flashes, and he just watches all the pretty young women ...  I'm gonna have to watch out for this one * If you know what you're looking for, you can hear "Ma-ma" and  "Da-Da" quite often. He will cry for me by name when he's angry or scared. He LOVES his Daddy and usually screams "Da-Da" during weekend playdates when he gets extra time with his Daddy. He's also big into kisses ... they are disgusting, nose swallowing kisses, but when he's really pumped to see you (usually first thing in the morning or after naps), you can get a face full of spit really easily from this little guy. * Benjamin knows several words and responds/acts to them appropriately. Each time you say, "Benny, where's..... (Mommy, Kayleigh or Daddy) he can find his target. He knows how to "dance" and will, usually, dance on command. Benjamin also knows "splash" much to his sister's dismay ... He's an excellent bathtub mess-maker. Ben is also JUST learning how to wave. Today at the grocery store he held out his hand in a semi-Hitler-esque solute everytime someone smiled at him. I didn't catch what was happening until this evening when I said, "Hi buddy" and he did the same to me, trying to mimic my wave. He was SO PROUD! He's great with responding to his name, but you have to use the "full name." His sister calls him Benjamin Steven so much that that's what we always call him ... therefore, he pretty much ignores, "Ben" or "Benny" but will respond to "Benjamin" or "Benjamin Steven" pretty quickly.

His little -isms - I love this age because you start to see the little personality begin to emerge. Unique things begin to happen that are truly YOUR baby .. Here are some of my favorites about my son: ~ FOOD ... I don't believe that Benjamin truly knows "full." The docs always say you can tell when they're done eating because they turn away or refuse food. Aside from "preferences" with his food, but Benjamin doesn't refuse food, not ever! He'd truly eat all day if I let him. In a typical day he consumes the following:

Breakfast - 1/2 cup of oatmeal with 1/2 cup of applesauce or pureed bananas, 6 oz of formula via a sippy cup Snack - 6-10 veggies straws or 1/4 cup of puffs after naptime, 6 oz of water (with a splash of juice for flavor) Lunch - 1/2 cup of a vegetable, 1/2 cup of fruit, 1/2 cup of some meat (chicken or beef usually), followed by 1/4 of some soft finger food (mac n cheese, leftover pasta, casseroles, pretty much anything because he's like a human garbage disposal ... he gets almost all of the family leftovers!) oh yeah, and 6 oz of formula Snack - 6-10 apple straws or puffs, yogurt cup or yogurt melts, 6 oz of water Dinner - A full toddler meal plus whatever table foods he can handle from the family meal, 6 oz of formula.

Seriously, there are days I think he's going to eat the kitchen sink and wash it down with the entire refrigerator! But you know what? He's a happy kid ... So, eat he shall ...

~ His sister - I have no other sibling relationships to compare him to, but Kayleigh can do NO WRONG in this boys' eyes. Each morning she wakes him up with me. She climbs up unto the rails of the crib and peers over the side. I never get as big a grin from him as she does. In fact, he often flips himself over, unto his belly, and pushes up as high as his little arms allow so that he can see as MUCH of her as he can. He just giggles, grins and tries desperately to get as close to her face as possible. They will play together (when she's in a giving mood) and whenever she begins to approach him he drops all of his toys, turns to face her and his eyes and arms and hands just LIGHT UP. She's his WHOLE world whenever she takes time to acknowledge him. They often "play legos" together and will sit on the floor (he's pounding them together to make the most terrific racket and she's coaching him on how to assemble them PROPERLY to make a house). When she dances to music by waving her arms and hopping in circles his little feet tap to the music and his arms pump in time. He giggles and laughs more and just truly believes he is copying her every move.

~ His Mommy - I still get to be this little guy's favorite person (at least for a little while). When things are going south, when he's tired, when he's hungry, he is SO his mommy's little boy. Daddy tries (bless his heart) but when Ben's hurting, it's his Mommy he wants (and it's Mommy he gets). It's amazing how fast "changing of the guard" produces positive results with Ben ...

~ Sheer joy - I'm going to have to go back and check my blog for Kayleigh, but I don't remember her being quite as joyful in all circumstances. Ben can go ANYWHERE, for ANY length of time and be truly happy. He's been to several tennis workouts, a few tennis meetings, office visits and lunch and nap time, Bible study nursery during nap time, it all doesn't seem to phase him. He just is truly a happy kid ... even when he has every excuse in the book to let the screams fly.

We love you Benjamin, you're such a blessing to this family. We wouldn't be the same without you!

[caption id="attachment_1057" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Benjamin Steven, 9 months February 2010"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1055" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Kayleigh Elaine: 9 months, August 2009"][/caption]

The Nap Champ - Benjamin

by Kristi Van Dyk in

So, my not-so-little little man has always loved sleeping. Seriously, from 5 weeks he was sleeping through the night: 10:30 to 7:00 a.m. As he got older he'd go to bed earlier and earlier but keep his wake up the same time. He finally reached his peak at 7:30 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. by 3.5 months old. By 4 months he was in a routine - 3 naps a day, no shorter than 1 hour each! He's since dropped the 3rd nap and extended his 2nd nap to be quite long, while cutting his morning nap quite short. I think, if I let him, he'd be content to take one monster nap from 1-4:30 every day. BUT, since I don't want to deal with the terror that happens from 10-11 by keeping him awake, he goes down for at least a little quiet time. What has made me laugh, lately, about Benny is not just the schedule he keeps but his sheer delight at the prospect of getting a nap. Let me explain ...

When we discovered that Ben was naturally a self-soother, that he wasn't going to let Mommy rock him to sleep, ever ... we decided that he needed a routine that include some snuggling. So, at about 3 months old, I adopted a routine. After his diaper change, before I lay him down, I "dance" with him. I hold his right hand in my left and press our cheeks together. I sing to him the same song, "God Bless the Broken Road ..." (Please don't ask me to explain why I chose this one, but I did ... I've tried to justify it over and over but I don't get very far. It was simply in my head the first day I tried this and it's become our tradition). Anyway, we dance through the entire song and then I kiss him on the cheek, place him in the crib, swaddle him tightly in his blanket and hand him his lamby. This lamb has become one of his necessary elements to sleep, much like Kayleigh's blankets. It's ALWAYS his comfort.

Anyway ... as of late, Ben's been adding his own elements to our routine. I know that, after nearly 5 months of repeating this pattern up to 4 times each day, he knows what's going to happen. As soon as he gets off the changing table and sees Mommy heading towards the crib his little arms start flailing and his legs start kicking. By the time I have his hand clasped and my face pressed against his, he's started giggling ... yup, giggling. He snuggles so deep into my shoulder that sometimes I have to push him away. His eyes twinkle and he laughs so hard that he can barely keep his pacifier in his mouth. Before I've even completed the first chorus of our song, he'll start to lean backwards, as if he's pre-emptively laying down. It's difficult to even hold him anymore because he simply can't contain how excited he is to get into bed. When I finally do give in (usually well before we've finished the song), I lay him in the crib, and he stretches all of his limbs out and rubs every bare limb (he usually sleeps pants-less except at night because he does better that way) on his sheets. Then he turns immediately to his right side, fairly "spoons" his lamby and giggles/talks himself to sleep. I never wait more than 10 minutes to check on him, but he's always snoring by then.

I just laugh to myself when I think about how many hours we spent rocking Kayleigh and then teaching her to fall asleep on her own. How many times I tried to get her to follow a schedule (which she HATES breaking now) before it finally clicked ... and here, my second born child (and a busy BOY) giggles his way to sleep.

Thank you Lord for my super happy Nap Champ, Benjamin :) Let his love of sleep continue well into his toddler years :) ...

I realize it's been a while since I've blog posted a picture of my boy, so, here's one of our more recent ones (appropriately in his jammies):

[caption id="attachment_969" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Benjamin and his Christmas Bear from Jillian"][/caption]

Andre and Rafael

by Kristi Van Dyk in

5 years ago I met a sweet, lovable, emaciated young cat. He was pure white with penetrating green eyes. He was clearly struggling as a"wild" cat. I couldn't bear the thought of the coming winter as I knew he'd end up at the shelter. I asked Steve's uncle to "trap him" the next time he came by (they had been feeding him). We picked him up a few afternoons later and took him to the vet. He was diagnosed with a very debilitating condition known as Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. The vet wanted to put him down immediately. We said we'd care for him through his immune system issues and promised that when it became too difficult for him to live that we would do the humane thing. The vet scoffed at us and said she'd probably see us sooner rather than later. We left heartbroken; this week we celebrated Andre's 5th year with us. Because we adopted Andre during Andre Agassi's last US Open before retirement, we found it fitting for our newly adopted kitty. We were the last station before this cat's life ended; our only indoor lifestyle - plenty of food and lots of mid-day naps seemed like our Andre was in his retirement too. I don't know if it was the US Open again, or Andre's 5th year with us, or as my husband and Bri Bri claim, my subconscious being unsettled  with 2 adults, 2 kids and 1 cat or what... but when my sister in law and her family were looking for a home for a 5 week old black kitten, I felt compelled to beg Steve to take him in. Steve, like he always does, gave me what I wanted. So now I'm snuggling Andre at my feet and this year's US Open champion, Rafael in the crook of my arm.

How's Andre taking it??? Like the champ he is...and in fact, much the same way he took us bringing home Kayleigh and Benjamin, a little miffed at mom, but largely indifferent to the newest thing disrupting his peace. It's almost as if he is choosing to say, "Yeah, I've been here longest; Mom always makes changes, but in the end, I know where I stand." What a good boy.

So, in a tribute to Andre's 5th birthday and Rafael's first night in our home... some pics of our furry babes.

[caption id="attachment_655" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Andre - taking his turn on the ever popular "lap""][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_656" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Rafael on his first night home"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_657" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="My favorite from the photo shoot"][/caption]

No Paci Nap

by Kristi Van Dyk in

So this ended up being the first (and only so far) sleep she's made it through without her pacifier... Here's to hoping there are more coming. [caption id="attachment_660" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Sleeping Beauty"][/caption]