Lessons from my Littles

by Kristi Van Dyk in

There's no point in masking it - anyone who knows me well can see it: we're stressed.I've been commuting to work 2 days a week for 4 months WITH the kids in tow; Steve has been commuting for almost 1 month now, daily. We've been freshening up our house for sale - amidst the busy lives of 3 precious ones, WHILE we're both learning these new jobs. Emotionally, I'm spent. I don't like goodbyes - and there is a big one pending. At the same time, there are plenty of hellos to say when we do finally sell/buy and move it all. I can see that it's taking its toll on the kids too. They're tired - they miss more naps because our schedule is crazy (our schedule is usually crazy but this is a monster all its own).  I do things like have them skip Weds night church (and miss my Bible study) because the kids are simply too exhausted to function. We even had a skip school day because I'm sure Kayleigh would have been too much trouble for the Maestras at school.

But, if I really take time to reflect ... even if its just a few minutes while waiting in a traffic jam on 131 ... there are some incredible lessons in this time of our life.

Each child is a gift for just this moment in time I love our babies. I believe they are a treasure, specifically gifted to Steve and I, from our gracious Lord. But what astounds me is that it seems all three of them were made for me - in this moment - in this time of life ... specifically as they are.

a. Kayleigh Elaine - My first born is head strong, and in my negativity sometimes, I can see her as "difficult." But that head strong, independent nature, with a keen mind for details, saves me more often than I'd like to admit. Just yesterday, I was in a whirlwind getting everyone out of the house - trying to keep it tidy in case we got a showing while everyone was in Holland. I'm dressing the baby, finishing the systematic packing of the van, calling over my shoulder for the only kid who can dress herself to please hurry up ... and there I see her ... standing on the tile: boots dripping water all over, coat zipper stuck, hat on the top of her head, backpack sliding down her shoulders, barely able to walk...as she carries my leather laptop bag. "Mommy, you can't forget this! How would you work?" Or the other morning as I'm scrambling to get the little kids to the babysitter so that I can help at Pre-School - We're loaded down with diaper bags, pull ups for the potty training son, a cooler for the school snack, snacks for the little ones and a fully dressed for school Kayleigh. I'm about to slam the door closed to block IN the escaping cat when a tiny voice says, "Mom, don't you need your keys???" (as she points to them -  still on the counter - narrowly avoiding a locked out of the house disaster).

My headstrong, independent child, who sometimes tests my patience  is the one who saves me from yet another disaster of my own making.

What a gift from God!

b. Benjamin Steven - My middle man is in the depths of "two year old tantrums" and all that that implies. He's resisting potty training (not surprising considering our lifestyle right now), but he is making progress. He struggles to get along with other little boys - and often instigates some knock down drag out nasty fights with his big sister. BUT more often than not, even when I'm really frustrated or stressed - this little man can fix it. He has one liners that make you laugh out loud and he has a keen sense of just when Mommy needs cheering up.

Last night as I pulled onto the freeway for our return trip home he says, "Aww man, the freeway again? I wanted to take the back roads!" Or the other night, as we sat down for dinner - without Daddy, yet - he looks at my tired eyes (as I balance the baby and try to eat pasta while its warm), "Momma, thank you for my dinner! And thank you for my milk. And thank you for my toys. And thank you for my hugs!!! I love you, Momma!"

So little middle man might be super emotional - causing big fits of anger, but that passion creates a tenderness and sensitivity that gives me the boost I need to survive another day! 

What a gift from God!

c. Madeleine Mae - Sweet baby Maddie - who God blessed with a gentle, quiet spirit. I'm not exaggerating when I say she cries, truly gets upset, MAYBE one time per day. There are times when I'll check on her to find her simply laying peacefully, wide awake, in her crib - happily looking about. Not a sound came from the monitor for an hour or so - so who knows how long she sat alone and simply took it all in ... Maddie is beginning to form happy squeals and carry on "conversations." But, she's shy about it - always preferring to have her Mommy to herself before speaking. So, in the early hours of the morning when I'm awake to work - she's next to me, chatting happily - just to remind me that someone is there.

Maddie's contented nature makes our life right now possible. Some days we have to eat lunch at 10:30 or 11:00 a.m., and we don't get home until after 3. She happily takes whatever she's given and waits until we have a chance for feeding again. There are days when the roads are nasty and we don't get home from Zeeland until 6:45 or 7:00 ... Although that's typically prep for bed time, she waits as patiently as possible (Sometimes she shouts at me a bit... but considering her situation its amazingly calm). I know she's just a baby and isn't consciously teaching me anything, but what peace and trust her disposition shows. "I know you'll get to me Mom. We'll get our time. I trust you, and I'm okay with that." What if I had that attitude ... that attitude about selling our house - about ending this commute - about living our life in haphazard fashion. "You know my needs, God. I'm sure you have a plan. I trust you, and I'm okay with that."

What a gift from God. 

If you're still with me, thanks for "listening" as I journal these precious thoughts. Its important to me when I look back on this time in our life - that I trace through the beauty in the simple things and remember the lessons. I don't want to look back and remember that I was simply stressed out and exhausted and overwhelmed - because there's so much more to it than that.

Lessons on the Move

by Kristi Van Dyk in

It's been months since a blogged. My baby was a newborn the last time I sat down to think life through. She's sitting here now, desperately trying to roll over - plump, happy, and a fantastic sleeper - curious about EVERYTHING that moves around her. She's 5 months! Our big boy is on a potty training mission and our firstborn is rapidly becoming a young child with an identity all her own. To say life is moving quickly is an understatement. I think hyper speed is more accurate. With our impending move - and all of the changes that our little ones (and Steve and I too) have experienced and will experience, I'm learning so many lessons. God has been faithful (in ways I never would have guessed) and its an adventure (albeit stressful and scary for me each morning) to see just how He's going to provide.

It's no secret that I'm a planner by nature. I like control. I like order. I like to manage craziness. (In fact, I'm pretty positive that's what got me the current job I have outside of our home) So, the fact that each morning this week I've risen early, started my coffee, and THEN pondered how "everything" was going to fit into my allotted waking hours, is something rare for me. It's even more rare that, after thinking, I come to the realization that its never going to fit. No matter how many ways I twist it, the naps I re-arrange, the errands I push off ... it isn't going to work.

So, I'm forced to begin each day - with eager expectation ... waiting on the Lord ... seeing just what He is going to put in my path that makes it all work out. A week ago it was a family friend who took my kids for the morning (all three of them) so I could pack, clean, run, shower, work, anything I wanted without balancing the babes. Over the weekend, it was Steve's parents who came to touch up the paint, do window work, clean the basement, and give us general manpower that we desperately needed. On Monday, our sweet neighbors (and former student) shoveled my driveway and the sidewalk because he knew I was husbandless for the night and wouldn't get to it. Yesterday at work, it was friends who listened, truly listened, to what was plaguing me - and offered sincere help. Yesterday, our school connections gave us wonderfully clean carpets - on less than 12 hours notice - and it makes all the difference in the world in here! And last night, it was Kayleigh's pre-school teacher who gave me a ride home because I got dropped off at school with no vehicle. This weekend, Steve's sister is going to play with the big kids so I can continue packing - and his parents will bring their trailer to help us haul more than a vanload up to storage.

It's a very difficult adventure for me - I don't like relying on other people. I don't enjoy "flying by the seat of my pants" and lots of this feels that way to the planner in me. BUT I truly know that I'm learning valuable lessons about who controls my life - my day to day - and about how to live in community. I can't count the number of people who have been a blessing to us through this process - and I'm sure there are more to be brought to light yet. But, I'm thankful for the powerful way that God is teaching me to rely completely on Him, each morning, - and to humbly ask for help when I need it.

Sigh ... God IS good.

Now, off to see how we manage Pre-K, ballet, basketball buddies and gymnastics with 3 kids, 1 (tired) mom, and 1 car!

Mother's Day, 2012

by Kristi Van Dyk in

I'm having trouble concisely composing my thoughts this Mother's Day (probably due to the kicking, squirming, LIVING little child inside my womb who takes up a lot of the oxygen which ordinarily might flow to my brain). But somewhere in my heart, I have lots of joy I want to express. Usually, when that's the case, a song will erupt and flood my mind all day, quite literally becoming, the song of my heart. Embarrassingly enough (or appropriately, I haven't rationalized which one yet), today's song is this little mother's chorus that my mom sang to me COUNTLESS times when I was a little girl. I'm sure you've heard it (though I bet some of the editorial side remarks are unique to my experience).

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray (like they are today) You'll never know dear, how much I love you (until you have kids of your own) Please don't take my sunshine away. 

The parenthetical references are Deb Creswell originals (I believe). And it's that phrase, "You'll never know dear, how much I love you, UNTIL YOU HAVE KIDS OF YOUR OWN." That's sticking with me today. My kids aren't perfect. In fact, lots of times, after they're in bed, Steve and I dare to wonder aloud when we'll start to even "like" them again. (That's the truth ... we always love them, cherish them, and hug and kiss them, but there are days when they make it really difficult to "like" them.)

So when I think about how best to show my mom I love her today, and that I'm thankful for her work ... I know it's not a gift or a present that she wants. (Although my husband created some amazing photo canvases of the children for both our moms). Because it's not a gift I want (Although the 3 roses, yes, Daddy thought of Baby Tres too, on my table with a hand colored card bring tears to my eyes ... and the still disassembled bathroom, soon to be renovated for a Mother's Day surprise, are pretty spectacular). What I want to know, for Mother's Day, is that my children know, beyond a shadow of a doubt just how much I love them.

I want them to know that the kisses and hugs I give when I let them out of their rooms each morning are something I treasure (infinitely more than they do)

I want them to know that it's BECAUSE I love them that I send them to their rooms, give them time outs, have to give spankings, endure the temper tantrums, and enforce dreaded nap times/sleep schedules so that they stay healthy and grow strong.

I want them to know that I don't care if I ever have clothes that are in fashion, a home that is tastefully decorated, or vehicles that are younger than they are.  I want them to know I'd sacrifice all amounts of creature comforts and luxuries to give them things they need or even want (like a bi-lingual Christian education, or dance lessons, or violin (?) lessons)

I want them to know that I pray, every day, sometimes multiple times during the day (and even in some cases on an hourly basis), that God will grip their hearts with love for Him. That as they grow they will discern their calling in His world and live fully in that calling no matter the sacrifices it might cost them (or us!)

In short, I guess I'm saying, I want them to know how much I LOVE them ... and what a Mother's love really means.

It's this Mother's Day that I realize, they aren't going to know that for a long long long time. Maybe Kayleigh will be 35 before she sits down at whatever publishing apparatus she will have and records what her Mother's love meant to her, and how it changes the way she raises her child. Maybe Benjamin will be 40 before he pauses to think about what a Mother's love is, and notices it in his wife. But regardless of how long it takes my kids. I'm thankful, ever so thankful, for a mother who modeled all of those ways of loving I aim to possess. And she was right, I didn't understand it then. In fact, many times I was CONVINCED she didn't love me and that's why I had to endure whatever punishment/discipline was occurring at the moment. But when I see that "you must not love me look" on my daughter's face ... I remember giving it out myself. And I know what my mom must have thought ... "Just wait until the shoe is on the other foot, Kristi Joy .... you'll see. It's not because I don't love you that I'm doing this, but because I love you TOO MUCH to not."

Happy Mother's Day, Moms ... I consider it a sheer blessing to be part of your legacy. I hope that God gives me the strength be a Mom that my kids look back on (someday) and understand and appreciate.

Kudos to my amazing spouse

by Kristi Van Dyk in

This week has been incredibly busy for me. Tennis season is always a little hectic, but Spanish Immersion Coordinator training in Zeeland on top of 2 matches and a tournament made for some very long days. I have no doubt that God is calling me to both of these tasks right now, but it does put a strain on completing my usual household responsibilities. I'm so blessed that my supportive husband is willing to pick up the slack when I can't keep up. This week Steve did ALL of the following (on top of all of his work at school):

1. Made supper every night from Tuesday through Sunday!! (No, it wasn't take out each night... He made pigs in a blanket, tacos, grilled cheese sandwiches and apples for the kids (when I had team dinner), and ordered pizza one night (when his parents came to help babysit). 2. Did grocery shopping, made the menu for the week (and his own lists), and returned all of the bottles. He did the shopping WITH Benjamin as well ... 3. Packed lunches for the kids, handled pre-K transportation and picked/up dropped off at the sitters when I had my work days early. 4. Did two nights of baths with both kids when I wasn't home until very late. 5. Did all of the laundry (including DIAPERS!) 6. And kept the kids happy (with fun events) like park trips, stroller rides, special bubbles (cars for Boo and Princesses for K) and a trip to visit the cottage (with a special packed lunch again so they could have a picnic).

And to top it all off, when I came home from Battle Creek on Thursday (at 9:00) I was greeted with fresh baked chocolate chip cookies made by Steve and the kids...

I don't like being away from the kids that much, but when work/life require it it's SUCH a blessing to know that my kids have such an amazing Daddy to help them grow up...

I pray our boy(s) turn out just like him... And that our girl(s) find someone like him to help them travel through life!

"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.


Who Painted the Beautiful Sky?

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Even though I'm nearly 30, I've graduated with high honors from my undergrad AND my MA programs, I'm still the same old Kristi. I over commit; I overstress and then I unbury myself and do it all over again. This fall is proving to be no exception... The biggest difference? I know it's coming; I'm in control of the spiral, and I'm prepared. Today I felt the panic start to rise, so, I went for a run. I had to skip this morning's run because Steve left for work at 5:30 am. I wasn't running before THAT. So, since he still works until 5:59 pm, running in just in time to eat, I had to run with the kids. I started my 2.5 mile loop pondering my commitments: Kayleigh's preschool (and the effort/time I WANT to put into helping with that), fitting in a women's Bible study, helping Kayleigh do Weds nights at church, being around for Benjamin, conducting off season fall hitting sessions for the tennis team, and now, most recently, coaching 8th grade volleyball again. I need to keep the house in order still, and we have to make some headway on some home improvement projects. All of this balance is weighing on my heart when I hear this tiny voice say, "Mommy, who painted this BEAUTIFUL sky?"

Her question caught me dead in my tracks. I said to heck with my per mile pace, and we talked. We talked about who painted the beautiful sky, the trees, the Lake we love so much, even who painted her pretty eyes and hair.

After all, if I get too busy to impart God's Truth to my kids, I've really lost some of the reason I'm staying home in the first place. I praise God for the sweet little heart that snapped me out of my "funk" and reminded me that God painted this beauty for me to enjoy. And all of the busy-ness we do should help center our lives toward Him or draw us closer to His purposes. What a great mid-day refocus! ;)


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 :).


A Day in the Life ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

When Benjamin was a newborn (just about this time last year), I was certain that life with two children was as difficult as it could be ... I had one VERY needy baby and an 18 month old. As Benny grew things seemed to get a little easier and a little easier ... until movement happened. Now, I maintain that life with two children who are both mobile is probably the toughest balancing act I've ever learned to juggle. I slide into bed at night and wonder how in the world I got so tired out .... I have nothing to "show" for my day. In stubborn refusal to believe I do "nothing" I decided to journal the events of my day. It is 2:40 on the day of my journaling and I feel like I could write a novel describing all that was "noteworthy" about today ... I'm going to actually blog it, so I can feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from looking back over all of the things I managed to juggle :) ... So, enjoy my narrative (or skip it if doesn't sound amusing) ...

6:00 a.m. hit the snooze button twice 6:20 a.m. manage to lace my running shoes for a now shortened (because of hitting the snooze button) but very hilly 2.2 mile run 7:15 a.m. finish recovering in the garage/stretching in the breezeway and get ready for KIDS to be up ... and here's where the fun begins ...

During breakfast my daughter (who is wearing pink sponge rollers and her Mickey jammies because she didn't want to "get dressed right away") says to me: "Mommy, when is Daddy coming home (he literally walked out to the door not 5 minutes before this)." "Later, K, why?" "Because I want to listen to Rock n Roll. My iPod only has worship music, and Daddy needs to fix that. He has to give me my rock n roll music."  (Daddy claims to know nothing about why her previously adored worship music is now insufficient).

I continue feeding Ben, who is quite a bit less focused on his food than usual. It takes me a little while to figure out why ... then I notice a pattern. Take a bite of oatmeal, stare at sister's crazy head, point ... laugh like a hyena. Chuckle a little more ... laugh again like a hyena ... regain composure and take a bite. Repeat ... I was so flabbergasted at his lack of eating that I didn't notice he was actually mocking his sister; my baby boy had learned to "make fun" of someone else ... Funny now, not so funny later ... :)

After breakfast I'm cleaning up the dishes and Kayleigh's forgotten worship music is still playing ... She's downstairs in her kitchen "making Mommy some snacks" and Benjamin is sitting in his favorite chair. He crawls up in the toddler chair any chance he gets (which is basically whenever Kayleigh's little bottom isn't in it). He gets up, calls Mommy over and says, "Jake..." (while pointing at the tv .. "No, Ben, it's not time for Jake yet. Listen to the music and dance." At first he appears angry with me and then resigns himself to music instead of tv. He relaxes a bit and NO LYING, he starts bobbing his head to the beat. No wiggle his hips, no clap his hands, no imitation of his sisters crazy waving ... he starts gently bobbing his head to the beat, like a grown man, too cool to bust a move. I just about died laughing ...

As I was still wiping the tears away, Kayleigh comes up with my snack. She serves me a "pretend cupcake" in a bowl from her stove. When I say, "Kayleigh, this is DELICIOUS (her favorite new word), where did you learn to make this." She looks at me with a very demeaning expression and says, "Oh Mommy, you know I learned that at Spanish school. It's my favorite place ever and they teached it (what she said!) to me. You know this."

And again with the tears ... no wonder I'm so unproductive. I spend most of my morning laughing at my hysterical children ...

During "Jake and Mickey time" I manage to get the Tuesday chores finished (I know it's Wednesday, U2 set me back a bit), but no sooner did I have Ben down then I'm back to laughing at my children again ... I told Kayleigh she could play downstairs in her kitchen and with her downstairs puzzles while I took a quick shower (still hadn't after a 6:00 a.m. run ... I know, I'm gross). She amuses herself quietly for most of the time until I hear, "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!!!" I peek out of the shower and almost trip over her princess bike.  She's right under my nose. "I think my bike works now! It's not broken anymore. I rided (yup, we struggle with past tense irregulars) it in to the bathroom to show you! It's fixed! YEAH!!!"

Sigh ... there's another milestone we've checked off the list ... She can ride her bike. Before I know it she'll be riding off with her friends to someone's house for a play group ... I manage to finish getting dressed with a bike in the bathroom and then tell Kayleigh I'm heading upstairs and she can join me when she's ready. "In a minute, Mom. I'm working down here ..." (It's usually not long before she comes along; she simply hates being alone).

Nearly 10 minutes passes and I'm just thinking to myself that we've reached "independent play stage," when I see her, trotting into my bedroom. "Mommy, I need help putting on my shorts." Instead of being annoyed I'm thrilled ... she's had a little trouble with learning to "put things back together" after bathroom time. (It's the only obstacle left to feeling CONFIDENT in her early pre-school experience.) If her shorts (that have a zipper and a snap on them) are the only obstacle here, she may just have used those 10 independent minutes for something good ... "Did you go potty?" (Kayleigh was never one to mince words) "Oh yeah Mom. I did both. It was really really big one! But I already took care of it (cupping my face in her hands); I'm a good girl like that." After I get down chuckling, I race downstairs to see what I'm gonna have to clean up now ... sure enough she did take care of it ... all but flushing the big toilet. Whew ... crises averted (AND ANOTHER MILESTONE REACHED ...)

Just as I'm getting nostalgic I hear Benjamin laughing in his room (yeah, he pretty much STILL wakes up happy all the time). It's now 11:00 (anyone tired yet? I am, ) BUT that's my errand running window ...  It's gotta happen now.

So, we race back upstairs pack up the kids (and all that that means) and head to our first stop ... the bank ... I no sooner pull into the parking lot than I hear from the backseat. "Benny, you have to ask NICELY if you can have a sucker. You can't just grab them from the lady. You have to say, 'May I please have a sucker, please?' And then wait your turn, ALRIGHT?" I laugh smugly as this was our last lesson from the bank. We walk in to no line (HALLELUJAH) and my precocious toddler races to the first teller. "I'm not shy anymore. I can ask you like a big girl. May I please have a sucker, please?" The teller laughs hysterically and gives me the questioning look (I'm still positioning the stroller through the door and trying to catch the toddler). I nod and Kayleigh now has her pick of candy is happy (for the moment). I shrug and continue with my business - before long, it's off to the next errand.

I had to go to KCHS to handle some tennis details. So, I thought I'd use my BOGO coupon to get Steve a McD's frappe on the way. (Thoughtful for him, not well thought out considering my van load of children ...) I anticipated a fuss from K who can usually spot a golden arches nearly half a mile away. BUT, seeing as she had a sucker to occupy her mouth, she gave her little brother a chance to be the smart aleck. He sees the McDonalds from at least 3 blocks away and as I start towards it he screams, "EAT EAT EAT EAT EAT!!!" (Seriously??? He's got this association down already ... I have to be the world's worst mother!). As I pull into the drive-thru he begins his screaming/shake/excitement move that accompanies just about anything he finds too great to wait for. He continues this through the drive thru line, as a I fold the contents of  small bag of fries into his cup. The shaking only ceases after he's stuffed about 4 fries into his face ... Ahh ... now, they're both happy ...

It's this tiny moment of blissful silence that reminds me ... I still have a LOT to do yet. So, we pull into the school, unload, carry Daddy his treats and I'm about to head out to do my errands around the school when the sucker/fries are no longer sufficient. "I'll hold your coffee, Mommy. You can sip it when I let you." (Sigh .. oh right, the mother of the year also introduced her toddler to iced coffees last Spring. She didn't forget). But this time, she has a hungry/curious brother. Steve and I share (very small) sips of the coffee with our kids. While I'm running about, he lets them have a dance party with him in the lab.

Ben wastes no time turing everything into a toy. He used the rolling chairs as a walker, the carts as a personal jungle gym, and Mommy and Daddy as instruments critical for moving from one to the next. He wasn't naughty, just very busy ...

Within 25 minutes, we have to be off ... I want to prune the badly over grown, spindly petunias in the front yard before we must do lunch and naps. So, we pack it all up and head on home. I pull out the tennis racquets and a can of balls and set the kids up to play a little in the grass/on the driveway. They are amused for all of the time it takes me to pull out the pruning sheers. Then it's on to both of them "helping Mommy." At this point, I don't much care how dirty they get (gonna have to change 'em both and get them ready for naps anyway), so I just plug away. In the time it takes me to prune my tiny bed of petunias/daisies two injuries, 5 "fights," and 3 acts of disobedience occur. I am convinced that if it weren't for these, I could have been done pruning in about 10 minutes. I'm sure it was closer to 40. We were now behind schedule, the kids were cranky, Kayleigh is bleeding from a scrape on her knee and Benjamin, well, Benjamin looks like this:

He's soaked his pants from dumping out the watering can; he's covered in grass from clippings left in the lawn. He's got double strands of snot from his being upset at being told "no," or the fights from his sister, and most of all, he's HUNGRY! I muster up the strength to deal with this mess because, well, because there's a light at the end of the tunnel. It's nearly nap time. They strip in the garage, get clean diapers/underoos, which they'll eat in (no sense in having PB and J in the clean stuff ... yes, they still wear bibs, but my boy is a full contact eater).

As I make lunch I watch my hungry, tired and sad baby boy reach yet another milestone. He gives up on the toddler chair, it was fine this morning, but now it's too easy (probably all the practice he got at Daddy's work). He scrambles his butt up into the BIG ikea chair and pulls a magazine on to his lap. He sits quietly flipping through it while I fix his sandwich. Princess Grace won't be outdone either. She's insistent that the job I did fixing her "really big owie" wasn't sufficient. So she says, "I'm going to clean this off myself." And she heads off to the cupboard, grabs a Microfiber cloth, soaks it in water and spends the next 5 minutes dabbing at her scrape ... (I'm already not good enough and she's just 2 1/2) :) ...

The pre-nap Mickey plays while they INHALE their lunch and as soon as they finish dancing to the Hot Dog song, they are whisked away to bed ... 2:00, on the nose ... and Mommy crashes ... to write a blog, catch up on chores, print out the time sensitive coupons, handle emails, oh yeah ... and eat so I'm ready by 3:40 to leave the house and go teach 2 hours of tennis with some of the best girls on the planet.

.... Why is it again that I fall asleep by 9:00?? Oh yeah, I'm a mommy ... and you know what? I wouldn't change a thing ...

I hope you caught the undercurrents of sheer joy amidst all of the "venting" I did today. I truly love my life, exhausting as it is right now, and I thank God for the privilege of being able to be here to see it all ... He is SO good to me.

Blessed to be a Coach ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Tennis season is difficult at this house. It means:* Hiring sitters for the kids * Feeling constantly "behind" in all of my home responsibilities * Skipping things I love (like running/reading/blogging) * Losing time with the babies (pretty sure I came back from state to two different children) * Wondering, constantly, if I'm doing the right thing/saying the right thing/making ANY difference at all ...

But this weekend, God gave me an incredible gift. The pleasure of being an assistant tennis coach to a the most amazing team of God-fearing young women I could have imagined. There are highlights beyond measure, but let me share some of my favorite moments with you.

* Driving up with 3 freshies, 2, sophomores, and 1 junior who literally made me laugh until tears were streaming down my cheeks. * Eating BD's Mongolian BBQ (again while laughing until I cried) at "Smashing Out Hard Time," "He wants a piece of THAT!," and learning all about Revelation 16:19, or was it 19:16 ... * Listening to my girls pray :) (even for meals) and be open about their faith (even when talking about body art) ;). *  Playing photographer at Target while they exhibited all manner of "modeling" trends (pictures ARE/will be on Facebook) * Coloring the van with our fav inspirational "quotes" and the obligatory "honk if you love us." just because "other teams did and we had to keep up." * Watching at least an hour of female cop television and helping Frenchie acknowledge her inner desire to BE a law enforcement official! (As soon as she exceeds 100 lbs, she might start working on that!) * Skipping bed checks because our girls are responsible enough (or at least made us think you were responsible enough) to take care of themselves * Watching girls play their best tennis (WITH CLASS!!!!!) and do amazing things  ... like Megan going from unseeded to challenging the 2 seed and Lo lo up-ending the #4 seed without dropping many games, and Frenchie taking a set off the 4 seed! * Cheering and screaming for the 2D when they played AMAZING against Schoolcraft to make it to the semis * Encouraging/chatting/partnering with South Christian girls and parents/NPC girls and parents to root for all of the other Christian Schools making THEIR way in the tennis tournament. * Crying tears of joy as our girls took the lead and helped us all voice our "snaps" for each other at dinner. (highlights: listening to how much the girls had grown to love each other, hearing things they appreciated about us as coaches, and having a chance to watch their faces while we shared the truly amazing things we remember/cherish about them) * Singing Happy Birthday to Jenny Ruth at the top of our lungs in the middle of Luca's Chop House * Watching as the girls turned the restaurant into a dance party after dinner * Taking pics in the middle of the parking lot because everyone was "just gorgeous." * Competing in the semis/final matches ... watching our 2D split after losing the first set and playing so gutsy! Cheering our 1D as they split after losing their first set and managing to bounce back even after getting a "late arrival" game penalty!!! (They won 6-2, even though the ump gave the first game to ASH!!!) * Screaming "SMASH OUT HARD TIME" at the top of my lungs like an idiot because Jessi beat an incredible senior athlete from NPC in order to win the 3 Singles Final ... and "get revenge for Sylvi." * Praying with my girls as they were down 5-6 in the State Final .. not for a win, but that God would give us the strength to play our best and honor Him (and He did ... despite the circumstance my girls were amazingly gracious) * Finishing 4th in the State (our 5th consecutive year in the top 5) when Coach Ipema and I truthfully were just "hoping to qualify" this year. * Screaming like idiots for Meika when she won the 1S state title because her team wasn't there to do it. * Praising God at Wendy's because "He had a better plan" for this season ... even when we all thought it was caving in around us.

So, that, my blogger friends, is what I'm so so blessed to be a Coach ... After all, look at these faces ... who WOULDN'T best blessed to work with them!!!

A Heart Overflowing

by Kristi Van Dyk in ,

Ahh my friends, the first FULL week of tennis is over. And you know what? My chores are caught up, the kids aren't dramatically overtired, I'm not stressed in the least, I don't feel like I have to sleep all weekend, and I am TRULY enjoying myself. Despite the fact that I now have a cold! I've always loved coaching, seriously, it's a passion for me. But since Kayleigh came into the world almost 2 1/2 years ago, we haven't found a great solution that lets me coach guilt free. I've spent time hauling her to matches/practices, even tournaments at times. It wasn't fair to Kayleigh, and it wasn't fair to the girls. I always felt like no one got my best. For those reasons, I was completely DREADING this upcoming tennis season with 2 little ones. I wanted to coach - but I didn't want to feel torn between two loves. (And truthfully, if push came to shove, every mother knows what my snap decision would be ...) I gave my worries and my concerns to my faithful group of prayer warriors that is my Women's Bible Study. And through their petitions, God provided all of the answers (or rather, all of the best people to help!) I know my group has continued praying - because I've felt their prayers. Everything has been incredible. Here are some of the blessings I witnessed just this week alone:

* My little daughter picked up a tennis racquet and with the help of her personal coach, Lizzie Bauss, hit her first forehands. (Now, we need to get that jr racquet because she is HOOKED!)

* My little boy sat giggling as a host of high school girls took turns making him laugh

* Kayleigh devoured a cake pop given to her by Auntie Robin but crafted by a former "favorite" student, Colleen.

* My little boy found  a little baby girl who makes him smile ALL of the time! (Okay, so he always smiles all of the time, but he does shine a little brighter when Alexa is around).

* My little girl taught Alexa all about eskimo kisses ... quite a few eskimo kisses over just a couple of days (and that was what I saw, who knows how many more were given when I wasn't there!)

* My incredible sitter went above and beyond and helped with cleaning, laundry, baths (!!) and would have started supper once (if I hadn't come home early).

* Both of my kids played with the children of some of our good friends. And I believe, found some great new future playmates! (Katelyn and Jared Witte)

* My daughter fully accepted her new babysitter into the family by commenting that we were "missing" them at dinner. It went exactly like this - K: Daddy, one thing is missing here ... just ONE THING. Daddy, we're missing just one thing. Daddy, (she repeats everything until we acknowledge her) D: What's missing, K? K: Chelsea and baby Alexa ... Apparently to my sweet baby girl, her new babysitter needed to be at dinner for us to have a family meal.

* I was able to judge for the Apprentice project at my old school and talk with some former colleagues who I do miss very much.

* I dropped another 3.5 lbs and so achieved 26.2% weight loss ... OVER 1/4 of my body is gone!! WOO HOO!!!

* I added another mile to my running to take me up to 3 miles (where I plan to stay and simply work on speed).

* I visited a chiropractor and got the pain in my hips (that's been plaguing me for months) taken care of

* I shopped for Benjamin's birthday cake pan ...

* I bought myself a bathing suit for Spring Break

* I had coffee with my husband at his office (WITHOUT any babies!)

* I managed (with Chelsea's help) to complete each daily chore on my list.

* I coached tennis practices with my favorite head coach and drilled with some of the most amazing girls on the planet.

* I blogged

* I went to Bible Study and had quiet time EACH DAY!!!

* I heard this prayer from my daughter at night: 'Thank you, dear Jesus, for all all (yes, she did repeat herself that's not a typo) of my FRIENDS. My Chelsea and baby Alexa, my LIZZIE, my Megan and Auntie Robin and my girls. Thank you for my bath times and my Benny brother, and my Daddy and my Mommy and my Rafael.  Thank you for pickin' up in the tub, and pickin' up before Mickey (yes, she says she's thankful to pick up her toys EVERY NIGHT!), and for Mickey. AMEN!"

What a blessing that leaving my daughter with her babysitters appears to her, not as abandonment, but as playmates! She truly believes in her little heart of hearts that her babysitters are her friends. She sees no difference between staying with her sitters and going on her weekly playdates with her cousin. THANK YOU LORD for providing me with friends who are so loving and so wonderful for my kids. My heart simply overflows with gratitude. It's joy undeserved. I'm truly blessed.

The Blessings of Staying Home

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Staying at home has afforded me many opportunities that I truly enjoy: watchingmy kids grow, never missing a moment, getting them to fun places when it's far less busy, having fellowship with other Moms, getting to know my nephew and sis in law so much better, etc.

One selfish reason that I simply LOVE staying at home is because I have energy left for reading. As a teacher all of my time was spent grading, writing curriculum, or designing new lessons plans. When I had a few minutes for fun, I certainly didn't want to spend it reading... It was far too much work. But, now that my work is far more physically demanding than intellectually demanding, I get to read often. Since January, I have made it a priority to read some fiction and some non-fiction. I rotate between fiction and non. So far I've read all of the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo books, and have "Graceling" on the shelf. Alaina passes along good fiction titles to me ;) In the non-fiction category, I make a habit of writing down all of the books my Bible Study teacher or SS teacher recommends. So far I've read Love and Respect by Dr Emerson Eggerich, and am mid way through Bringing up Boys by Dobson. In addition, I studied A Marriage without Regrets by Kay Arthur and A Woman After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George. I think that's more reading in 2 moths than I managed to do during all 5 years of my teaching career. It's so nice to be able to read again. I'm accepting all kids of book recommendations, fiction or family/marriage oriented non-fiction! ;)

On a totally unrelated note, I got to post this from Wordpress for my iPhone!!! I love it!!! Blogging on the go!

For Good ... For Grandmas

by Kristi Van Dyk in

One of things I do while I run is reflect. Since I've been running to the Wicked soundtrack for about two weeks, I've often used the lyrics to help me think about something other than pain! (I know,  I'm a reformer at heart ... I blame my KCMS colleagues) Even though I set the track to random shuffle, I almost always end up hearing "For Good" as I run. It helped me to reflect on some of the people in my life that have really helped shape who I am. There are so many people who are still living, still influencing my choices and decisions. But, there are some who have headed to their eternal home already. Today, I spent my run thinking about the way in which they made their "handprint on my heart." 18 For Good

Grandma Badeau: My mom's mom past away when the cousins and I were young. I don't remember my exact age, but I'm thinking I was close to 13. The photos from our "first Christmas without Grandma" were at Disney. Based on the hairstyle (hahah) it must have been 6th or 7th grade. At any rate, my grandma Badeau was the supreme in grandma's "who spoiled." I remember mom telling her to STOP buying us things, but each time we went over to her house, whether it was candy, eating out, or a new toy, she always had something. I remember sitting in the recliners watching The Jungle Book over and over, eating our meals on tv trays so we could keep watching. Grandma Badeau also made it a point, EVERY CHRISTMAS (yes, much to our chagrin, even as we were quite old) to buy us our footy pajamas. All of the cousins got them ... and as I zip my babies into their Carter's footy pajamas (many of their pairs from my mom!), I think of her. It's in the simple things ... isn't it? ... I love you Grandma.

Grandma Creswell: Grandma C past away, very unexpectedly during the winter of my freshman year at Hope. Her memory is one that prompted this blogpost ... Each week at church, I think of her. I can't even help myself, it's sort of a gut reaction (I know she'd be proud ... especially when she hears why!) Calvary Bible, where we are pursuing membership, makes a point to play a few "good ol' hymns" in their original arrangements each week.  I know most young people would be irritated by that fact, preferring instead the more modern choruses. But I'm not like most young people. I get a sheer thrill out of hearing the old hymns with fantastic lyrics. At any rate, Calvary's minister of music is great at picking all of Grandma's favorites. I used to sit with her and Grandpa C during night church sometimes. (I welcomed it as a chance to sit somewhere else, but DREADED how "loud" both Grandpa and Grandma would sing! I thought EVERYONE was staring at us!) I remember it fondly now, my grandparents loved singing for Jesus, Grandma did it ALL of the time ... and most often it was the oldest of the old ones. So, each Sunday morning I hear my Grandma's bright voice as she belts her heart out to "Nothing but the Blood of Jesus ...", "Come Thou Almighty King", or "My Jesus I Love Thee." And I smile as I picture her singing with us (and the whole host of heaven).

I firmly believe that those "who come into our lives" do come in for a reason. They help us to grow, we learn and we are CHANGED. I thank God that I was able to be "changed for the better" by both of these amazing God-given role models. Even though they were never able to see my college graduation, meet my husband, attend our wedding (at least not in a bodily sense), or hold my babies, I believe they watch from the "Grandstands" and cheer us on.

Thanks for letting me share my heart ... K

February Goal Check: Plus, a new one

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Goal #1 - Reading through the Bible - I'm now in the book of Daniel. That's two more books knocked off in my goal to read through the Bible Goal #2 - Lose the Baby Weight - Lost another 4.5 lbs, short of my goal for January. BUT I've started running - a minimum of 3 times per week in addition to the elliptical each day and Pilates every other day.

Goal #3 - Enjoy being a family of 4 - CHECK! I'm loving how Benjamin is learning to eat by himself. It's making me so excited for the days when I can stop preparing 3 separate meals. He's so close :) I simply can't wait.

Goal #4 - Grow my own vegetable patch - Yeah, not much I can do right now :) ... But, I'm still researching it.

For February I'd like to do a photo challenge. I want to post one photo each day of people in my beautiful family - reminding me of how great being a family of 4 really is.

February 1

[caption id="attachment_1009" align="alignleft" width="764" caption="My two favorite boys - reading together"][/caption]

Momma, Just Watch the Dance!

by Kristi Van Dyk in ,

Lately I've been reading a book called Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerich. It was a book repeatedly referenced by my Bible Study Leader from my Marriage Without Regrets course, and it was brought up, again, in our Marriage in Motion SS Class at church. I decided that if I was going to understand all of the references, I should give it a read. I'm at least halfway through (actually, I'm currently reading the chapters on ways a husband can show love to his wife even though it doesn't "apply" to me), and I've been letting the insights percolate throughout my day. A lot of the premise of the book is that women, deep down and to varying degrees, desire love above all else. They want connection with their spouse, and they want to live their lives in a constant state of "togetherness." This doesn't mean never separating or rejecting independent hobbies and activities, but the soul of woman desires to make certain that her relationship with the man in her life is in harmony. The need for connection is at the heart of woman - and makes her more prone to "chatting at the coffee shop" or just wanting to "talk." Even brain science supports this based upon the relational/connective way that women function neurologically vs. the more compartmentalized/mathematical way in which men function. I'm further challenged that this isn't by nurture, but that we were created this way by God in order to help the family function as He designed it. (ie a woman focused on maintaining relationships and harmony would thus be inclined to maintain the harmony between children/parents and between herself and her children. It serves more purposes than only the husband/wife relationship). Most of these values were things I encountered in our marriage counseling at Calvary in Grand Rapids. So, these aren't new ideas. What I do have the chance to observe now, is how early I can see these traits begin to manifest themselves. (Because I'm not 100% certain that I believe they are ENTIRELY in born. I think they are grown and cultivated, to a degree, by the company and society we keep). So, I wanted to see what my very young children are picking up. Most recently, I've noticed just how necessary this love/connection is in my daughter. (We'll have to see if the same desire is as strong in Benjamin ... all accounts so far would point to "probably not.") But my little girl wants full attention, to be heard, to be cuddled, to be physically close as a symbol of her parents' emotional closeness to her. She's always done things that show me this. If I'm washing the dishes and trying to listen to her story, she will tug on my pant leg, pulling my angle towards her face screaming, "Momma .... LISTEN TO ME WHEN I TALKIN' ... Momma LISTEN TO KAYLEIGH and come here!" If we're snuggled in bed and she wants to show me love (which is almost always), she will cup my chin in her hands, look me straight in the eyes and say, "Momma. You're a really good big Momma. I love you. You know that?? I love Momma." She WANTS love, she wants to show love, to receive love, and to communicate love, CLEARLY. (And yes, she's exceptional at copying the ways I model love/connection for her) Call me crazy, but I'm NOT certain those same types of actions (though I will do them to Ben as well) will come from my busy, rough and tumble little man.

At any rate, these longings for love and connection have taken a new direction as of late. For Christmas Kayleigh received a white board album of sorts that lets her write and color and practice letters and numbers and counting. She can color it up and erase and do it all over again. It is themed based upon the Disney Princesses!! These same princesses appear on her "big girl underpants" too. Well, we were watching Beauty and the Beast at Auntie Alaina's a few weeks ago, and Kayleigh made the connection! Her "Princess Belle" was on the TV, and she was PRETTY!!! Her house was pretty; her dresses were pretty ... and she got to dance in a very pretty ballroom. Kayleigh was so taken by the video that we decided it was time to purchase it for her. We did, and Belle has been the topic of conversation ever since ... "Belle and Beast are coming to the potty with me. Belle and Beast are takin' a nap with me ... etc" She's enamored with Belle AND Beast! I asked her what was her favorite part of the movie. With a look I remember ALL TO WELL (it's that star gazed dreamy face ... a far off look), "I love to watch the dance. It's just so .. so ... (sigh) PRETTY (whispered in reverence). I probably want to dance like Belle." (Her Daddy did teach her how to "dance like Belle" and it was oh so precious!! (But that's a post for another time)

I truly believe that while she can't conceive of romantic love (THANK THE LORD!!!), she can see there's something special about it. She can see a very pretty girl who is very beautifully happy ...and Beast (she doesn't really like the prince he turns into) who clearly pays attention to the pretty girl. I don't claim that Kayleigh knows why she likes it (other than it's pretty) but she's fiercely drawn to it ... She wants to watch it over and over and over. She hums the song, she twirls about the room clutching her Mickey ...  completely fascinated by the entire scene. As soon as Belle is "set free" by the Beast, her attention is gone and she's off to something else. It's amazing to me that a girl so young can be so innocently drawn to something so classic and timeless ... maybe there is something to the idea that it's inborn after all ... jury is still out for me ... :) But for now, I'll enjoy having a little GIRL who loves to, "Just Watch the Dance."

My Goals ... an accountability posting

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Ahhh 2011 ... it's here, a New Year ... a fresh start. I don't really like the idea of setting "New Year's Resolutions" because I like goal setting year round. Nevertheless, I can appreciate the time of reflection prompted by starting anew. I thought I'd take the time and write out some of the goals I have for myself in 2011. I find freedom in sharing, and it helps me keep accountable if I know other people might check up on me. Goal #1: Read through the Bible in its entirety Began: July, 2009

Progress: I'm currently whipping through Jeremiah (I started at Genesis), so I'm over 60% completed (thanks Kindle). A lot of my quiet time was interrupted by the birth of my son. I couldn't find a consistent time to read because life was anything but consistent. But now that things have sort of levelled out, it's a lot easier to be consistent again. I LOVE reading while I work out, especially Scripture. I find I work harder, move faster, and focus less on the pain when I have something to occupy my mind. During these winter months, 30 minutes on the elliptical IS my reading and quiet time. I hope to continue the elliptical when the weather is nice (hits over 50) and the kids and I can get out to start run/walks. It'll still be a good way to cross train and spend time with JESUS!

Next Steps: As soon as I finish my first read through, I intend to go back through and select a chapter per book to work on committing to memory. Thanks for the inspiration Tim Brown

Goal #2: Lose the baby weight Began: Immediately after Ben was born, most actively, October 2010

Progress: 49.5 lbs, with plenty more to go I'm on a strict 1,348 calorie diet with a diary that I keep on my iPhone charting the food I eat, it's protein values, fat content, and carbs. I have, in the last month, managed to fill the protein column while keeping carbs and fat below full. I work out once or twice a day (never 0) doing 30 minutes on the elliptical or an additional 25 minute Pilate session! I'm hoping to add another 10 lbs by the end of January, but so far that seems a bit ambitious as things are slowing down again ...

Next Steps: When the weather hits 50 at the time I want to get out and run (beginning in mid-afternoon), I'll get the kids set in the double jogger and hit the streets. I want to focus my energy on training for 1 5K (probably not the Riverbank Run as it falls in the tennis season) before the summer is over and then just concentrate on improving my 5K timing. My in-laws run, LONG distances, and I feel compelled to participate (NOT BY THEM...) but I don't think it's a reasonable goal for me. With two kids who are quite little and possibly more on the way (MUCH LATER, NOT NOW!!!!), I don't think my lifestyle can hold training for 26.2 mile races. There aren't enough hours in the day. Plus, I want to be able to support my husband's goals to run and there simply isn't room for both of us. So, 5K's it is.

Goal #3: Enjoy 2011 as a family of 4! Began: May 17, 2010 Progress: Working on it :), but let me explain ... Our family has been growing so quickly that I feel like we haven't had time to enjoy each season just as we are. Kayleigh literally JUST reached a point where she could assert her independence and we started the baby stage all over with Benjamin. As Benner works at learning to be mobile, tries eating foods by himself, and starts to show us just who he is going to be (hilariously happy nearly all the time), I can see a bit of light dawning at the end of my "work" tunnel. I see late Spring mornings in the backyard with both kids playing TOGETHER and Mommy trying to figure out a vegetable garden (see Goal #4). I see summer afternoons with the kiddie pool filled up and two kiddos running after each other in the water. I see trips down to the Lake where I can strap on life jackets and sit (okay so maybe not for very long before Benjamin does a header). BUT at least it won't be diaper change 1, diaper change 2, feed one, feed two, next diaper changes, sunscreen lathers, hold kid cuz he's now fussy, let other play for 10 minutes and then back up to the house for naps, etc ... There might be a shot that the kids can enjoy summer (and fall and next winter) .... all without adding to it an additional baby who needs constant attention. So for me, 2011 will be to enjoy the year with just the two beautiful blessings that we have (and enjoy not having to battle the carrying of a baby for the year!)

Next Steps: Teach the kids to celebrate the beauty of each Michigan season by enjoying it to its fullest (probably beginning with Spring since Ben's a little young for lots of sledding and snowball fights ... and it's more work getting him out there than it is fun for him to be there).

Goal #4: Grow my own vegetable patch Began: .. ummm Spring of 2011? I'm still planning for this and soliciting ideas ... I'm in the research phase, so if anyone knows of any good books on gardening in the Michigan climate, let me know!!! I'm excited to try a few (not a huge variety) vegetables to see what we can do as a family.

I think that's probably enough to get me started ... :) Benjamin is awake now and the coffee is getting cold :) Enjoy your goals or resolutions as you have them.

<3 Kristi

"Thank you for Christmas"

by Kristi Van Dyk in ,

Today the dreaded chore of taking down the Christmas decor came up on the to-do list. I had been avoiding it, mostly because the lights are cheery and sometimes I need that in the dreary Michigan winter. BUT, today was the day. I told Kayleigh it was time to take down the ornaments, her response, "Poor Ornaments." (Said in the most unbelievably sad and mournful pouty voice you can imagine ... it's adorable.) Anyway, Benjamin's "nap" time came and that is when we do our chores together. Let me set the stage: Benjamin has been up and down all night teething, so he's cranky, and he doesn't want to nap. Kayleigh took an early nap yesterday and crashed early last night. This meant that both kids were up and ready to go by 6:15 a.m. I only got 10 minutes on the elliptical before screams tore me away. This means I didn't get a stress release ...  It's now 9:45 a.m., they've both been up for 3.5 straight hours. I have cleaned 3 dirty diapers for Ben, done 2 loads of laundry, one load of dishes, fed two kids and cleaned up one very messy accident by Kayleigh ... Benjamin is so past tired that he's just whining in the crib instead of intently trying to sleep. His moans and cries are the background for all the rest of our activity. I've got the "ducky" timer set ... so Kayleigh knows when to visit the bathroom. Kayleigh is running back and forth across the living room babbling (she's pretty much a constant stream of noise all the time) as Rafael chases her, taking moments to leap up and put both paws on her shoulders, since he can almost "tackle" her. I sigh and look at the tree.

My heart falls ... Christmas is over, the snow is PILING up outside, the "natives" are already restless ... the thought of two more months of this kind of cooped up commotion makes me want to cry ... and now, what do I have to look forward to? Spring Break, when we leave for Orlando with my brother, sister in law and nephew for a week of warmth. April seems so long away ...

I sigh and begin to pick apart the tree. As I begin, Kayleigh's running babble suddenly stops. She ceases her insane sprinting from room to room and approaches the tree.

K: Watcha doin' Momma? M: Taking down the Christmas decorations K: Why? It's PRetty M: Because Christmas is over. Jesus's birthday is past and we have to move on. K: Oh. Are you sad, Momma? M: A little sad, Kayleigh, I like Christmastime. K: (Is quiet. Clearly she's thinking.) Momma, I'll help you take down the orNAments M: Thanks K. K: (After a grand pause) ... Momma? M: (Sigh because I was so enjoying the silence, well, at least the lack of chatter, Ben is still whining). Yes? K: Thank you for Christmas. M: (Taken aback completely!) You're welcome. K: Thank you for Christmas, for presents, for orNAMents, for JESUS!!!. Thank you for birthdays and for Mommy and Daddy and Kayleigh and Benny. Thank you for CHRISTMAS!! I had FUN! M: (Completely humbled now) You're welcome, K! You're so welcome. K: (Duckie timer starts quacking) OHHHH Momma! I go potty now!! (and off she scampers...)

She left to take care of her responsibilities and as I helped her I thought about her long list ... and the one she repeated stuck out the most. Thank you, Lord, for Christmas! It's January 4 and although I have dreary winter ahead, I can still say Thank you, Lord, for Christmas. Thanks for the baby, the humble beginnings, the reason you came, the joy the season brings, and thank you, thank you for the young child who teaches me. (Yes, both of them ...)

Our little "commune"

by Kristi Van Dyk in

"Our Little Commune" It's 11:40 p.m. on Monday, December 27th. I have the alarm set for 6:00 a.m. so I can elliptical before the babies wake up. I should be sleeping, but I can't. It's not a bad thing, quite the opposite. I'm on cloud 9, completely and utterly blown away by God's goodness. And, since I'm not allowed to say anything yet, I'm preparing my "words" for when I can (obviously by the time YOU read it, the cat is out of the bag!). In order to fully appreciate this story, I'll need to back track a little bit ...

In college I had some amazing friends. Some of my friends I still converse with, make plans with, and see on a relatively regular basis. But, and I'm truly fine with this, throughout my life I've always been a "friend for a season." In high school I had great friends, for high school. In college, I lost touch with high school friends and made new friends, college friends. Those friends were amazing friends for that season. As I moved into my teaching career, I made great friends there too ...  My husband is the opposite. It takes Steve a while to trust people and when he makes friends, he makes them for life. Truly, for life! His best friends today are the same guys he hung out with in middle school, high school, through separate colleges (none of them went to the same school!), and into married life. These guys have all married, and managed to bring their wives into the friendship. It's an incredibly unique situation, I know, and I'm blessed to have "inherited" such amazing people in my life. And since we've weathered several "seasons" together, I think we're in it for the long haul.

The boys often joke (just about every time we're all together) about "the commune." A large fictional piece of property that they would construct so we could all live together. It's been rumored to contain things like: a community pool and playground, recreational facilities and even a helipad. I'm positive the guys would all have their dreamed about motorcycles and the girls would be content to live close enough to all workout together and have constant playmates for the children. In all seriousness, Kevin, Scott, and Ryan have been around for just about every "big" event in Steve's life. All three of them stood up at our wedding. And as they got married, Steve and I have been able to be there for them. We attended all of their weddings, had baby "showers" when their children were conceived, visited soon after the births, and camped for extended weekends. We've spent EVERY New Years (since our marriage) together, and built a little community that someday we hope will include living in the same city, (if, of course, the communal property doesn't pan out)!

At any rate, this blog post is to celebrate an incredible year in the life of this little "community." This calendar year God has taken all four of our families and turned them upside down with new life. At our New Year's Eve party on December 31, 2009, the community consisted of two little ones: Kayleigh, 13 months and Carson, 9 months.

In May, as you know, God blessed Steve and I with "Big" Benjamin. So, our "community children" went from 2 under 2 to 3 under 2. In August, God gave Ryan and Renee Texer their sweet Emma Rae. So, our community grew from 3 under 2 to 4 under 2. In September, God blessed Scott and Kelly with their second baby boy, Eli David. We're now at 5 under 2. Kayleigh turned 2 in November and the age range expanded to "2 and under." But we're still a VERY busy group when we get together.

Tonight, after much anticipation, and many prayers, our good friends Kevin and Megan welcomed their miracle twins into the community - Eden Elizabeth and Conner Thomas join the busy band to give us 7 children, 2 and under! Bet ya' wish you could be a fly on the wall at OUR next get together  ... :)

In all seriousness, 2010 has been an amazing year for the Van Dyks, but we are just as flooded with thankfulness for the way that God has overseen our dear friends this past year. It hasn't been easy for any of us (all with separate challenges that are our own stories to tell), but when I look at back at 2010, these will be some of the moments that I thank God I could witness.

Congratulations Kev and Meg, we can't wait to see your little treasures. And thanks, again, God for: Kayleigh, Carson, Benjamin, Emma, Eli, Eden and Connerr!

Hugs to you all, Kristi (and the rest of the sleeping household).

God's Miracle in My Life

by Kristi Van Dyk in

I've debated writing this blog post. It's pretty personal, so I'll leave out the nitty gritties. But the more I hesitate to publish it, the more God nudges at my heart, saying, "proclaim the work of my hands!" I know that when God gives us trials and experiences, He wants us to share them in order to help someone else. I'm not sure who could benefit from my story, but I need to follow His nudging and share anyway. I know I don't see most of my blog followers on a regular basis, so this is probably the best way to share His goodness to our family this year. When I was a little girl, probably close to the age my daughter is now, my Aunt Carol had leukemia. I am told it was VERY serious and that my cousins were living with us for a time because her prognosis was so slim. By His mercy, God healed her. Her two children are grown now and tending to families of their own. BUT it was our extended family's first brush with cancer (in my lifetime). Some ten to 12 years later, my Aunt Becky, another of the sisters, was diagnosed with breast cancer at a very young age. She battled it and won! We all rejoiced with her ... a short time later, during my freshman year of high school, my mom battled breast cancer. Although I was selfish and absorbed in my own life, I was NOT unaware of the serious nature the disease took on my always strong mother. My mom battled breast cancer ... and she WON! The details of additional surgeries for my mom and my aunt are unclear to me, but I'm certain that there were relapses and further battles to fight, claiming more and more of their bodies but leaving them still with LIFE!

As I matured into an adult, sought a career, and prepared for a marriage, the realities of the cancer in my family began to set in. Every doctor's form I filled out was one more place I had to write down a long laundry list of genetically related people who had battled a horrible disease. I listened to my mom, my doctors, researchers even, talk about how likely breast cancer and ovarian cancer (since those are linked) was to arrive early in my body ... how important it was to be vigilant about my health ... to NEVER miss a check up. These things I did ... always preparing, mentally, to battle breast cancer one day. How could I not? It's such a clear pattern ...

Fast forward again to about 6 months ago .... my mom (at MY OB's request) was tested to see if she was a carrier for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene. She turned up positive for a genetic mutation. To her, that wasn't a surprise, or even a really big deal, except that it places my brother and I squarely in line for the same mutation and potential health issues. There was a 50% chance for each of us to have the mutation. My brother was tested, NEGATIVE!! I rejoiced with Alaina when I heard ... and thought, rather logically, (though probably to my hs math teacher's dismay) that if he was lucky to be on the negative side, I'd probably NOT be ... (Faulty math, I know ... I aced statistics in college but sometimes emotions get in the way!).

Steve and I talked and decided that knowing how to prepare ourselves was better than assuming anything. I had the test. I waited ... My appointment to meet with the counselor came and that day I received a call ... No results, please don't come in. I waited ... I waited, over a month I waited (knowing full well the implications this would have on me, but dreading the chance it had on my babies)!

Finally, a chaotic evening, with the crockpot overflowing, Benjamin crying his "starving baby scream," Kayleigh asking for "more CANDY," and me soaked from our recent trip to the grocery store in the pouring rain ... a phone call came. As I saw the West Michigan Cancer Center appear on my caller id, I surveyed the room ... turned off the crockpot and knew the kids would be safe from danger. I closed the bedroom door and answered the phone.

"Kristi, there's no need for you to come in to the center this week. I finally received your results. We don't need to talk ... you're negative! I hope you're dancing for joy."

In fact, I wasn't dancing for joy. I was speechless, yes, me, speechless. I was relieved, thankful, ecstatic ... and speechless. I thanked Karen, hung up and slumped on the bed, thanking Jesus for this amazing piece of good news. My risk for cancer, despite my long family history, was no greater than that of the average population. I still need regular screenings, regular check ups, but no pre-emptive surgeries, no early pre-screenings, no "counting" on the fact that chemo is a part of my life some day.

I say all of this knowing that had God brought a positive mutation into my life, I would have found a way to cope. I would have found joy and purpose in it, because that's how God directs my life. But, this Christmas season, as I watch my 7 month old roll everywhere and try to start crawling, or I listen to my little girl learn Christmas carols and sing Away in the NANGE', I don't have to think about preventive mastectomies or early hysterectomies or the potential for osteoporosis at 35. I feel like I have a new lease on life, a greater chance to give glory to God in the way I live. And that, my friends, is why I've decided to share the story, personal as it is, with you ... Because in giving me this gift of less worry, a "clear" bill of health, and freedom from my children having  the same mutation (unless by some God designed twist of fate they inherited it from their Daddy), He wants me to be thankful, publicly thankful.

When I say I'm thankful for health this Christmas season, I truly mean it, my whole house does (even though K and B aren't exactly sure why right now)!

Kayleigh's Bible

by Kristi Van Dyk in ,

About a month ago I began a Women's Bible Study class at our new church home, Calvary Bible Church. The kids and I pack up and are at church by 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday mornings. They wonderful nursery workers entertain my toddler and just snuggle my baby while I get a chance to talk with other women about what the Scriptures say about marriage. It's always an opportunity for me to grow, and I always walk away refreshed (no matter how difficult it was to get the kids ready to go). Kayleigh must sense my joy at going, or simply pick up on the fact that I'm always juggling her, her brother and my Bible. Either way, she has latched onto my BIG Teal colored Study Bible. She sees it around the house and carries it to me. "Read heavy Bible, Mommy. Read Kayleigh heavy heavy Bible." I started reading her Luke 2 (anyone who knew me as a child will understand why), but she never makes it through the first 10 verses. :) Instead she says, "Kayleigh will read it now. K do it, Mommy." And grabs the Bible away only to flip pages and mumble to herself. This morning I got the idea that she ought to just carry her own Bible. We have several that were given to us as gifts when she was born. We've read them to her at nights during story time, but I never thought to put it out with the other Bibles. So, I went to her room and brought one back. Here, Kayleigh, this is YOUR Bible. (BIG GASP!!!) "Kayleigh's Bible? 1 Bible, 2 Bibles??? One for Mommy, One for KAYLEIGH??" Yes, Kayleigh, it's your Bible. "Oh Kayleigh read it now!" She then proceeded to jump up on the couch and bury herself in the pages. Atta girl, K. ...

Mom, of course, proceeded to snap pictures and take a video. Here ya go:

[caption id="attachment_785" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Kayleigh clutching her Bible"][/caption]

10-6 K's Bible

10-6 K Read Bible

Cottage Get Together

by Kristi Van Dyk in ,

I was blessed to teach with an incredible team of teachers during my 5 years at KCMS. In the time that I was there, I made some incredible friendships. Even though I don't work at the school any longer, the friendships I made still mean a great deal to me. Steve still sees my former colleagues on a regular basis, so I still get updates. BUT it was great fun to be able to spend time with their wives (yes, the teachers I knew were all male) and their children. I used to hear so much about each child - and the going ons of the families ... that it was great to let my kids interact with the kids I heard so much about. With 5 families in total, and all of the children in tow, there were 10 adults and 13 children. One giant community of people who all met because they love Jesus and love kids ... what wouldn't be fun about that!

[caption id="attachment_757" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Kayleigh and Katelyn sharing the very popular barber's chair"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_758" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Kayleigh just reading a book"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_759" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Chuck helping out Adam in a fairly intense wrestling match"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_760" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Chuck getting lambasted by Sam and Ben while Konrad and Isaac take on Adam"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_762" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Dinner for 11 (the youngest two, Benjamin Van Dyk and Jared Witte, weren't available for picture) - Clockwise from the head of the table: Josie Sterenberg, Johanna Van Dyke, Elizabeth Netz, Kayleigh Van Dyk, Katelyn Witte, Zoe Commeret (with Michelle), Ben Netz, Isaac Sterenberg, Konrad Van Dyke, Sam Netz, and Katherine Van Dyke (with Heather)."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_763" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Kayleigh and Elizabeth chatting away"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_764" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Thanks for a fun day, everybody!"][/caption]