Little Miss Perfect and Captain Destructo

by Kristi Van Dyk in

I can't believe it's been over a month since I made it a priority to sit down and blog. Then again, when I think about what's happened in the last month in our lives, I guess it's not so surprising. I went from rarely leaving the kids, to leaving for 2-3 hours a day to help coach tennis. The kids met two new regular babysitters (and a few other helpful friends who stand in when the regulars can't make it). Their schedules look different EACH day, something that is NOT normal for them. The weather dictates our lives on almost an hourly basis (nap early because tennis outside? Nap normal because it's cancelled, nap early because it's inside and they're coming along, nap regular because Chelsea is coming and we have some stability, etc). In the midst of all of that, we have been enjoying watching Benjamin figure out how to move. Plus, we went to Florida on vacation (and a day at the Magic Kingdom), fixed our broken transmission in the van, and had lots of family visits with both sides all over West Michigan. BUT, in that time, our little man has figured out how to make life even more chaotic. Ben's size gets in the way of his movement to a large degree. His legs and arms simply can't support his head and the weight of his upper body in a traditional crawl. Therefore, he's an army crawler. It's not nearly fast enough to suit his disposition, so he usually whines/cries/whimpers as he moves (or gives up entirely and just rolls there). He's also learned how to stand supported AND take a few steps while holding on to Mommy/Daddy's hands. He is SO proud of himself, but again, he's not learning fast enough to suit himself. His little disposition desires MORE movement, and not later, NOW! It's like he went, overnight, from being content to sit to being furious that he can't be everywhere at once.

To top it all off, he's not just interested in moving to explore, he's interested in moving to DESTROY. Each time he encounters a new object he bangs on it, beats on it, throws it, or pounds it with another object. It's almost instinctive to him .. pick something up, attempt to break it or destroy it. This is hilarious to his parents, but quite mortifying to his older sister (who would honestly never THINK of destroying ANYTHING.) In fact, Kayleigh makes it her goal to put the room in order, fix up all puzzles, put together all toys (with their corresponding pieces), re-assemble all blocks, etc before going to bed. Ben makes it his personal mission, as soon as Kayleigh has finished "perfecting" something to roll/army crawl right on over and bash it in. She is usually crushed and begins scolding him right away. He then gets scared and cries and Mommy has to intervene.

I love trying to watch them work it out in their own way, but I know that it's my job to teach them how to respect the differences in each other. I'm sure it's going to take some time, but Kayleigh can certainly learn a little from Ben's curious, strong nature - one that isn't afraid to explore, touch and take control. Benjamin can certainly learn a few lessons from his big sister - her desire to respect property, find a place for everything, and wait and assess the situation to make certain it is safe. In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the God-given differences between my baby boy and my little girl.

Together they create the best celebration of life. I'm so blessed that I get to watch it ... We sum it up best together with our little "family" cheer. Benjamin's first, true, clear, you can understand it from another room word is "YEAH!!!!" It's always accompanied by clapping and huge smiles. Kayleigh and I get so excited when we hear it that we do the same cheer and clap along with him. This excites him, his entire body shakes from head to toe and he repeats his little cheer. We do this about 100 times each day ... each time I try to treasure a little piece of these moments in my heart. I know it won't be long before they're totally not interested in celebrating together (or with me).

I know I'll have some great pictures to post soon from our cousins matching Easter Sunday ... Have a blessed Easter season, remembering the sacrifice of Christ that gives us reason to celebrate all of life.

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.

Detroit Adventure Part 2

by Kristi Van Dyk in

It's now Monday - I've caught up on the housecleaning, the laundry from our time away, and the rest we all needed. We're back in the routine and I have a few minutes before tennis to blog about our time in "the D." The kids were AMAZING, sleeping in the hotel. Kayleigh took a little longer than normal to fall asleep (Mom and Dad watching tv and packing for the next day didn't help), but once she was out, she slept soundly. She managed to not fall out of the bed (my biggest worry) despite sleeping without bed rails for the first time in her little life. I think it helped that she had her own double bed to thrash around in. Benjamin, slept like a champ in... the CLOSET. The room had a large, walk in closet that housed his pack n play perfectly. He had a cozy little "room" all to himself and he rarely woke (even to find his pacifier). As a result, Mommy and Daddy had VERY restful evenings, despite sharing a hotel room with 4. The kids and I ate breakfast and lunches in the room to save $. So, they ate while watching a few extra episodes of Disney Channel television. Before morning nap we would stroll around the Renaissance Center, people watching, site seeing (Kayleigh LOVED watching the "choo choo train!" (aka people mover) go in its loops), and making friends. Kayleigh had no shame and approached many VERY well dressed businessmen and said, "Hi... what YOU do today?" Then she would listen politely as they listed their day's activities. She'd smile and say "Ohhh that's nice." When some adventures men returned the question, she would say, (with SO MUCH excitement) "I sleepin' in my HOTEL BED!!!! It was SO SO SO nice." And with that she'd run along to the next waiting person or curious object, leaving me to simply smile at the man, and push my son along after her. It was QUITE the adventure. I had several people say that it was so nice to have a little girl brighten their day. If they were too busy to stop, Kayleigh was unconcerned and simply moved right along (but those were VERY rare.) Almost everyone she approached engaged her in conversation. Benjamin was not without his OWN adventure ... he made it a point to smile and wave at nearly every woman he could find. He'd flash his dimple and they'd light up ... commenting on what a sweet, handsome man I had. It truly was nice to have no particular place to go. Kayleigh and I shared coffee (she had the kids hot chocolate) each morning during our "visit downstairs." Afterwards we'd return to the room for an hour and a half nap.

On Thursday, we ventured out to the Detroit Children's Museum. Kayleigh absolutely adored it. There was almost no one else there (one other family was there for a bit while we were), so Kayleigh had the staff to herself. She talked and charmed her way through each location, and as is typical, we ran out of time before she was done doing all that she wanted to do. I took lots of pictures and will post them below. In the evening, we met two of our friends from KCSA for dinner. At first, Kayleigh was a little shy, but after her dinner with Mr. Chuck and Mr. Ivan she warmed quickly. The trip out of the restaurant, back through the people mover and up to the room was as though Mom, Dad, and Benjamin didn't exist. She only had eyes and ears for her two new friends. We love how she makes friends so easily (and that our adult friends are willing to "fall prey" to her charms). The kids went down easily for bed (quite an exhausting day) and slept well. The next morning was very similar to the first and we were on the road by 12.

We tried to stop at Ikea on the way home, but after the kids ate their cheap hot dogs, they had had enough of being good sports. We ran out of patience somewhere in the kitchen section and abandoned our search for a new dining room table. They both slept like champions on the way home ... not really waking until Battle Creek for a snack. After all was unpacked, unwound and tucked in for the night, Steve said, "you know, we really do have great kids." I have to agree .. they went through a lot this week with tennis starting and being gone in Detroit ... but no one melted down ... sigh ... it was delightful.

As promised, here are some photo highlights of our trip:

[caption id="attachment_1122" align="alignleft" width="224" caption="Watching the River through the beautiful glass windows"][/caption]

Front and Center at the Children's Museum


[caption id="attachment_1120" align="alignleft" width="224" caption="First stop inside the museum ... a computer, was there any doubt?"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1119" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="Kayleigh lovin' the travel snacks we packed"][/caption]


[caption id="attachment_1118" align="alignleft" width="224" caption="Hot chocolate with Mommy"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1117" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="Chattering away to Mr. Commeret"][/caption]


[caption id="attachment_1114" align="alignleft" width="224" caption="Getting her prize for finding "gold" in the "mine""][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1112" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="Coloring ... I guess it's more fun when you're somewhere else :)"][/caption]



[caption id="attachment_1110" align="alignleft" width="224" caption="Hanging out with her two new friends"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1108" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="Playing in the triangular mirrors"][/caption]


[caption id="attachment_1106" align="alignleft" width="224" caption="Wishing he could color too"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1104" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="Just takin' in the view!"][/caption]


[caption id="attachment_1107" align="alignleft" width="224" caption="Proof we aren't THAT horrible. The closet was plenty big :)"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1109" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="Cashin' out on the way home ... iPhone still in clutches!"][/caption]


That pretty much concludes the picture highlights :) ... We had a blast. I'm so glad we could join Daddy on his conference trip. It was great to have that extra time with him in a different location.

Detroit Adventure Part 1

by Kristi Van Dyk in

So, here I sit, with only the iPad for entertainment; Kayleigh is all aflutter as she's staring at "all of the cars." (Her way of describing the breathtaking view that we have out of the window of our hotel room.) My infant son is snoring in the closet on the other side of the bed. Steve is tolerating (rather well, considering our evening) Kayleigh's incessant chatter very late at night as he tries to snuggle her into silence. And so, I have a few moments to reflect on why on earth we take ridiculous trips like this... Why is sharing one hotel room with two small children in a busy city worthwhile? Wouldn't it have been easier to stay at home? We always end trips asking ourselves those exact questions ... But we always take them anyway when the opportunity arises.

On the car ride down, I started making notes on my notepad ... Little things the kids said or did that made all of the packing, the sleeplessness, the travel worthwhile ... It's a good thing I did because we were met with disaster immediately upon arrival.

I actually don't even want to waste my breath explaining all that went on. I'd rather just focus on the things that, thus far, have made it a pleasure.

Exhibit A: We had barely been in the car more than 10 minutes and Kayleigh, ever our daughter, said, "Mommy? I probably need my iPod now so I can watch my Mickey movies and play Angry Birds." 1.5 hours later, we piled back in the car after a rest stop and were barely back on the highway before the same question came out again. She needs to be plugged in, even if it's not Mickey Mouse or movies, it's something to do with her hands ... Buttons to push. She even told me once that she was texting Daddy while he was driving!

Exhibit B: During our dinner at Wendy's, Benjamin, began chuckling at something. We followed his gaze and discovered, it was a clover hanging from the ceiling. This small clover captivated him so thoroughly that he was simply roaring with laughter by the end of our dinner. To add to our noisemaking hilarity, Kayleigh began to rid herself of excess energy by doing laps around our table. Each time she would pass her brother he'd relapse into more peals of contagious laughter. Steve and I found ourselves completely captivated by the simple, beautiful sound of our children laughing together.

Exhibit C: Benjamin has taken to repeating everything as of late... He wants to copy all sounds! While riding in the car, Kayleigh began playing with Talking Tom. He's a cat who repeats all you say. Her favorite button is the one where he scratches the screen of the iPod and it makes a horrendous noise. Benjamin found this noise to be worth listening to and replicating. So, by they time Steve and I realized what he was doing, it was a regular part of his new "vocabulary." It's eerily similar to the Talking Tom screech... What a talented little boy we have.

Exhibit D: While Daddy was taking Kayleigh around the hotel, managing the issues we had with our reservations, Mommy played in the room with a very exhausted Benny. He was well past tired and into a slap happy stage. I was working on keeping him from melting into the screaming stage, so I made his favorite sounds (not surprisingly it's the letter "B".. Anything with a B sound sends him into solid giggles. So, I said, "Big Benny Boy" 5 times fast and the little man laughed for a minute solid. Listening to his incessant giggling made all of the annoyances of the evening sort of fade away.

And that, my friend, is just night 1... I'm excited for a fun day tomorrow at the Children's Museum. I know my kids will enjoy their day, pool or no pool... And we will look back fondly at these days someday and wish for this much closeness with the kids.

February Photo Challenge - 22, 23

by Kristi Van Dyk in

After our delightful, action packed playdate on Monday, I had my work cut out for me. Kayleigh was ready for some entertainment, and we were basically back to being stuck inside. It was way too cold for the kids to play in the snow, but she had a taste of Spring (like her mother) and was ready to blow off some steam. So, I had to get creative. I saw a few ideas for "keeping kids happy on Snow days" and modified some of the ideas for my toddler. Here was her favorite:







The baby bathtub required at least 3 refills before she was done being entertained by scooping and packing all of the snow. Even Rafael enjoyed getting in on the action.

Today, I decided a little photo shoot was in order. I’ve been slacking a bit on the quality of these photos for my photo challenge. So, I made an effort today. Just after naps, with plenty of candy to bribe, here’s what I ended up with. Now my only regret is that I didn’t dress them up a little better :)







This is especially sweet because today was a tough day for Benjamin (3 teeth at once is a bear)! Anyway, he didn’t have many moments when he wasn’t whining. Kayleigh is at her best with him when he needs her to be. So, each time he’d cry or whimper or “get frustrated with his mouth” (as she calls it) she would work on cheering him up. She gave him her iPod, she gave him her all of her little Mickey/Minnie dolls (which he ALWAYS wants and she never gives him), she even tried to share her Smarties (no worries, I stopped it in time). So, when I told her I thought Benjamin needed a kiss she was determined to do so. She probably tried to kiss him about 15 times before he finally realized what was happening and (as you can see here) graciously accepted it. (He loves kisses).

Teaching in the Bloodline ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Our family is inundated with teachers ... Great Grandpa Van Dyk taught at Calvin Seminary, Aunt Leanne teaches at Western Seminary. Grandpa Van Dyk is a principal and Grandma Van Dyk a teacher. Aunt Maria is a teacher. Grammy Creswell is a teacher. Although his period of teaching was brief, Grandpa Creswell was one for a time. And of course, Mommy and Daddy are both teachers who tend to hang out with other people who are also, teachers. Kayleigh is surrounded by people who are trained educators. I, by no means expect this to rub off on her. In fact, I'd likely expect that she do the opposite since she's so completely surrounded by it. BUT ... this morning's activities gave me a moment to pause. Before I relay my newest "dialogue" I want to say that I have been WAITING for this day since I conceived Benjamin. I was waiting for the chance to share an interaction based entirely between my two children ... for their "conversations" between each other. I never expected it to happen so early ... and, in truth, it probably doesn't count as "conversation." But, for me, it fulfilled the longing I had to hear my children communicate together.

So without further ado, I present, "Kayleigh, the teacher."

Benjamin woke from his morning nap quite interested in babbling. So, as I was folding laundry with Kayleigh, I was talking to him. Looking at his smiling, cherub like face and chanting, "Mama .... Mama ... Dadda ... Dadda ... SISTER ... SISTER..." He was continuing to babble away, repeating his usual garble with a smile brighter than the sun.

As I left to put the laundry away, Kayleigh descended from her perch on the dining room table and plunked herself squarely in front of Benjamin. Here is what transpired:

Kayleigh: "Benny brother you need to say MA-MA! Say MA-MA!" Benny: (After repeated squeals of delight at the proximity of his sister) MMMMMMA MA MA MA! (He's been doing this for days) Kayleigh: "Good job Benny boy. Now you have to say DA-DA Say DA-DA!!" Benny (I had never heard the D consonant before from him): DDDD-DDDA DA DA DA DA DA (Repeated squeals of laughter). Kayleigh: "Good ... now you have to count to 10 ... like this 1, 2, 3, (etc at lightning speed)." Benny: "DA DA DA DA DA ..." Kayleigh: "Okay ... Keep trying a little bit."  (Running to Mom in the other room). Mommy, I teached Benny to say Mommy, Daddy and count to 10."

I'm not certain I'm going to call Benjamin a talker ... but as evidenced by his "spitting" video, he is exceptional at repeating what is given to him. And he delights in learning it ... especially from his favorite teacher, Kayleigh.

Top 10 of 2010 - stolen idea

by Kristi Van Dyk in

So a blogger friend of mine, Rebecca Marcus, received a challenge from a blogger friend of hers - post your top 10 pictures of 2010. I thought it sounded like a fun challenge. So, here I go, in reverse order #10. Cousins Christmas - I love my family - all of them ... and the "Cousins" Christmas picture is a tradition at least 28 years running (I have evidence of one with Justin and I when I'm just 1 year old). Passing it on the to cousins' kids, who still manage to make a point to get together no matter how difficult, is super special. So, here's a copy I had of the Badeau Cousins' Kids Christmas: (from L to R: Benjamin Van Dyk, Kayleigh Van Dyk, Kirsten Nichols, Zoe Scott, Rachelle Nichols, Andrew Nichols and Jonathan Nichols ... just outside camera range: Ryan Creswell)

9. The Kids Love the iPad - During a tornado warning - mid day in the fall - the kids went to the basement with both kitties. I needed something to keep them occupied for an extended period of time while I watched the weather on the tv. As the toys ran dry, I pulled out Mickey Mouse Clubhouse on the iPad. The kids, snuggling together with the iPad, is representative of our 2010 for several reasons - K's growing obsession with Mickey and the fact that nothing brings my kids together like watching a little tv. :)

8. Food Attacks Benjamin - Our friend, Cabeto, titled this picture for us. He lives in Costa Rica and gets pictures through my father-in-law (and from my facebook). He mostly sees pictures of (as he says it), "Ben-yamin (spelled as he pronounces it and is SO sweet), I always see you getting attacked by food!"  So, here is our boy, doing what our boy does better than any baby I ever saw .. EAT!!! It describes him now as well because he refuses bottles in favor of any solid food. So, to our eater, Benjamin:

7. Cousin's Playdates I have a bunch of cute pictures of our kids with their cousin, Ryan, on playdates. BUT throughout 2010 this is the only one I have of all 3 of them together. We ended up putting them together to capture the Maranatha tie-dye onesies that Mom and I made during our week at Maranatha. So, though the kids aren't particularly "Active" in this picture, it's the best of all three of them and reminds me of all the blessings Thursdays with Ryan bring.

6. Benjamin's Miles of Smiles We had formal pictures taken in the fall in order to get a surprise Christmas present for Grammy Creswell. Kristen Worst from Tsakani Studios took them for us (she had done our family photos in July as well). She was super patient with all three kids, who had a collective ROTTEN day. BUT, right at the beginning Benjamin was whipping off the smiles. She caught about 5 in a row that were just fantastic. Here's my favorite:

5. The Waves with Grammy - Over Labor Day weekend we hit both family "getaways." Each time we took a few photos, and, from that weekend, three are on the top 10 list. Steve did a fantastic job of shooting special moments. This one reminds me of Maranatha, which was, my refuge this summer. I spent two full weeks there and several other day/evening trips in order to have help with the kids while Steve put in long hours at work. Kayleigh loved her time there, especially at the beach ... Steve is tempted to enter this one in a photo contest. It's so beautiful.

4. Benny and Grandpa - This is another one of the "Labor Day Cottage Tour" pictures. It's beautiful because they are both so unaware. But it also captures how thoroughly the two have bonded. I don't know if it was the week when Benjamin screamed for hours straight and Grandpa took him for walks, or if it is their uncanny similarities in behavior. Both Grandpa C and Benny are largely content wherever they are. They love watching what's going on around them, but don't have to be part of the action to enjoy it. "Being" is simply enough for both of them and I think that's what makes Grandpa C gravitate to Ben so quickly ... I adore this photo ...

3. Our Little Model - Steve took this photo at the Frederick Meijer Gardens in their Children's Garden. Kayleigh went with Great Grandpa Van Dyk as his "birthday" present from our kids. Kayleigh ADORED walking the grounds with him, and taking him by the hand around to everything that was fun for her. We mostly snapped pictures of the special time the two were able to have. It's especially sweet because Kayleigh is named for her Great Grandma Van Dyk. Harriet Elaine (though she went by Elaine only) was diagnosed with cancer while we were early pregnant with K. As  Elaine's condition grew worse, Steve and I were more and more convinced that our little girl needed to bear her name. Elaine fought long and hard and managed to meet her great granddaughter before she went home to be with her Lord. Nevertheless, each time we see Great Grandpa with his little buddy Kayleigh Elaine, we think of Great Grandma. Here's our Kayleigh Elaine on her date with Great Grandpa

2. Benjamin views the Lake - This picture took our breath away when we first uploaded it. It has captured my attention each time I sneak past it in a photo search. Benjamin is searching the lake and the camera lens caught the lake reflected in his gorgeous blue eyes. Steve's favorite place in the world is his parents' cottage. I know it means the world to him when the kids are able to go there and enjoy themselves. So, for Ben to be enjoying himself so much at his Daddy's favorite place ... it's the stuff a mother loves to see.

1. Family Togetherness - I didn't think my top 10 would be complete without something breathtaking of the two kids together. BUT since the BEST photo of the two of them that I have is from their bath time ... I figured I'd have to get back to the drawing board. Posting naked baby photos, however innocently intended, is NOT a smart idea (as my husband reminds me continuously). Therefore, I selected this photo, from Christmas Eve. It contains my 3 favorite people in the whole wide world and they're all together, happily. Thanks God, for this amazing year, and this amazing little family.

Happy New Year, friends ... from Steve, Kristi, Kayleigh and Benjamin Van Dyk!

Mackinac Island Weekend

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Sigh ... we knew it would be difficult, but we knew it was also important to the family. There were lots of highlights to the weekend as well as a few challenges! Highlights: * Dan proposed to Maria and we were there just in time to hear the news! * Lots of family was there: Dan and Rhonda's family, All of Bill's family, Kyle and Rebecca from Bob and Susanne's family and Grandpa. * We (Kayleigh, Benner and I) got to see Cabeto for the first time (or first time in SOOOO LONG) * It was BEAUTIFUL weather * God's splendor was apparent in all of the beauty around us * We got some fantastic exercise * We got to go to Mackinac Island!! (Steve and I haven't been in FOREVER, and Kayleigh and Benjamin have never been).

Challenges: * Arriving at the hotel at 9:30 with babies wide awake who usually are usually long since sleeping * NO sleeping the first night as we all shared a room, and little Benny recuperated from an ear infection * Spending 8 straight hours on the island with two little kids and no naps! * Settling down from a no nap day :( * Diarrhea for both after all of the stress and change (Kayleigh's causing some pretty awful conditions for driving home!) ... we MIGHT be over it now.

Here are some picture highlights that just made it worthwhile!

[caption id="attachment_876" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Kayleigh on the shore"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_877" align="alignright" width="300" caption="The kids "just wakin' up""][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_878" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="B in the coffee shop"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_879" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Benjamin and Cabeto"][/caption]

Family Nights ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Last week was the start of our "family nights." Daddy works from approximately 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. and then, after the kids are in bed, works more from home (usually until about 10:00). So, finding time when we are all stress free to spend time together is pretty difficult. Steve stole my iPhone a week ago and blocked off days on both of our schedules for some "family night." This includes: making a meal together, eating together, and doing something fun as a foursome. NO iPhones, computers, or technology (unless it's Mickey Mouse watching) allowed. The first night was supposed to be personal pizzas and pumpkin carving. As it would happen the kids really only had the attention span/energy level for one. So, we did pizza making on Wednesday and pumpkin carving on Thursday. Here are some pictures highlights for the memory books: [caption id="attachment_863" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Watching Daddy intently"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_864" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Taking time to chat"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_865" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Sneaking a little cheese"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_866" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Like Father .. Like Daughter"][/caption]

Pumpkin carving was a little more of a Daddy/Daughter Date. Mommy had to take Benjamin to urgent appointment hours at the pediatrician and then run to Meijer pharmacy to pick up his amoxicillin for the ear infection. So, I missed Kayleigh's first pumpkin carving experience. Fortunately, Steve took some great photos, and Kayleigh had lots to tell me about it. Most commonly heard, "Momma? K's pumpkin is REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY ICKY!!!! REALLY ICKY pumpkin!" But I also heard, "Momma? Daddy make kitty in my pumpkin ..." (It has a cat carved from a stencil .... nice work, Steve!)

[caption id="attachment_867" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption=""This is MINE book for pumpkins!""][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_868" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption=""K do it, K do it, Daddy!""][/caption]

Favorite Family Shots Friday

by Kristi Van Dyk in

So I've been blogging ahead lately (writing two or three or four posts at a time and scheduling them to post one per day). BUT since the in the last two weeks, we have been so insanely busy, I haven't been able to catch up on blogging all of the fun/crazy moments. Each time one happens I say to myself, "That's bloggable." But when it comes to 9:30 or 10:00 at night, when I usually have time to blog, it just doesn't warrant too high on the priority list. I've been keeping up with the laundry (a never ending chore), keeping the cats from ripping each other to pieces, and trying desperately to rest enough to get my exercise in each day. All of it feels fairly futile with our "special events" calendar loaded as it is. I should just accept it, but somehow I keep trying. There's no way I'm going to be able to recap all of the cool events and fun of the last week, so I'll just post a few highlights with little stories along the way.

This first one really does most of the talking all by itself:

[caption id="attachment_845" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Our Little Minnie"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_846" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Our "Big" Minnie?"][/caption]

Mommy and Kayleigh had a GREAT Saturday at the Post Family Farm in Hudsonville with Grammy, "Uncu" Dan, Auntie, and RYAN! Daddy was at home with a little unhappy, stuffed up Benny boy.

[caption id="attachment_847" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Swinging Away"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_848" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Riding in the wagon"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_849" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Driving the barrel"][/caption]

Kayleigh loved picking pumpkins, eating donuts (she still asks for them for snacks days later), drinking cider, driving the barrels, and feeding the goats. She talked for weeks about going to the pumpkin patch to get her pumpkin; she's spent the last few days admiring the one she picked out. AND, as you'll see later, having her first "pumpkin carving experience." This SAME weekend our favorite cousin/nephew had his FIRST birthday party. Kayleigh LOVED the bubble machine that Auntie set up, and she thoroughly enjoyed having lunch at her own little table. In fact, she carried her little chair everywhere she could around the yard. We had a great day celebrating with our sweet little man!

[caption id="attachment_850" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Happy Birthday, Ryan!"][/caption]

Here's Kayleigh wishing Ryan a Happy Birthday: 10-14 Happy Birthday Ryan

That's it for this past weekend! But there's more coming this week!! We had our first "Family Night" and Kayleigh and Daddy carved their first pumpkin while Mommy took Benny to the doctor for his first ear infection. Many more fun photos on the way.

An Update on Coffee "Dates"

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Kayleigh and I have continued our coffee "dates." (See Coffee "Date") The coffee cake from Oostburg that I love so dearly is long since gone. BUT Daddy's 3 dozen Danishes are still around. Kayleigh has started calling them "Daddy's Danishes." As soon as Benjamin gets put down for his nap, she walks over to me, tugs on my pant leg and says, (Just like I do when I really want her attention). "Mommy, listen to K. Listen, Mommy." I bend down and look her in the baby blues. She says, "K eat Daddy's Danishes with Mommy?" I can't resist and here is what greets me across the table. [caption id="attachment_839" align="aligncenter" width="224" caption="Eatin' her Danish ... with the obligatory "Mickey Fork.""][/caption]

Making Friends

by Kristi Van Dyk in

We haven't been on tons of playdates with new people lately. BUT, we have been working on forming better bonds with the "friends" that live in the same house with us. Here are my two sets of little "friends."

[caption id="attachment_827" align="aligncenter" width="482" caption="My babies having lunch together"][/caption]

My furry children sharing the window:

[caption id="attachment_828" align="aligncenter" width="458" caption="Rafa and Andre"][/caption]

At Home Playtime

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Not every day is exciting ... (although many are much more eventful than I think they will be). Here are a few extraordinary moments on an ordinary day. (Okay, okay, so I forced a few for the camera ... Kayleigh doesn't normally spend her day kissing her brother). Can you tell that I love my life? Staying home each day with these babies (while stressful and frustrating at times) is my greatest joy. Thanks, Steve, for providing for us in such a way that this is possible. We <3 you! [caption id="attachment_810" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Did you say I can be done???"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_811" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="She's kissing me, Mom!"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_812" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Really? More, mom??"][/caption]

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]

Ikea Spontaneity

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Steve doesn't like things to remain the same for very long ... especially when it's our living room arrangement. So, last week when he came up with another "new idea" I rolled my eyes. The more I thought about it, though, the more I liked the idea. It gave us more furniture for "living" in the basement play area. It gave us more space for "living" in the main floor living room. So, to make this plan work (in one weekend because I didn't want my house torn up for more than that length of time), we needed an Ikea chair. So ... to Ikea we went (with the kiddos at Sarah's house ... THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!). As is typical, we didn't leave Ikea with ONLY the items we planned on. We opportunity power shopped.  (we only had 45 minutes after we made the drive) We came away with the planned signature Ikea recliner, a matching one for the baby girl, a wooden block play toy, a plastic wall mount bag holder, and some wrapping paper. As soon as Kayleigh awoke this morning she was all over her new goods ... She beat us out of bed and to her toys before we even knew what hit us ... After that she enjoyed helping Daddy reassemble our stored coffee table. All in all, a very successful (if exhausting for everyone) trip.

[caption id="attachment_732" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Kayleigh and Daddy in their matching chairs"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_733" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Chair + toy = $38 ... Kayleigh's enjoyment - priceless"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_734" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Helping Daddy assemble the goodies"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_735" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption=""Daddy, this is screwdriver ..." "][/caption]

M Go Blue ... and the Grandparents

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Steve and I were so privileged to get my Uncle Ron Creswell's tickets to the U of M/Massachussets game. It was a pretty lousy game on Michigan's part (about as lousy as you can get and still win), but we had excellent seats. My Uncle and Aunt's seats are in row B in the South endzone, right above the letter C in the field paint. The endzone camera is just 5 people to your right. During kickoff practice, the girl in front of us was hit with a football. It's that close to the field. We were so pumped to have such great seats ... and were blessed to have my parents available and willing to take the kiddos so we could go. We had some trouble with traffic (both to and from AA), but it was worth it. The kids had a smashing time with G&G Creswell. Here's a few photos I stole from my mom cataloging the day.

[caption id="attachment_719" align="aligncenter" width="541" caption="Benny's Buddy, Grandpa"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_720" align="aligncenter" width="541" caption="Coloring with Grandpa"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_721" align="aligncenter" width="720" caption="Play-doh with Grammy"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_722" align="aligncenter" width="541" caption="Walking the baby at Grammys"][/caption]

I'm a Mall Walker

by Kristi Van Dyk in

It's official ... I'm one of "those" moms. I didn't want to spend money to entertain the kids, but I had HAD it with being in the house. It had been several days in a row that they were napping a ton/recovering from colds, and it was too cold to take a sniffling/sneezing/coughing infant out for a walk. I was DONE sitting around trying to entertain my very active toddler without some change of scenery. So, I packed everyone up and we headed for the mall. I walked around and around the downstairs, and then rode the elevator upstairs and walked around twice. I made it two laps before Kayleigh noticed the Auntie Anne's pretzels. I figured she had earned a snack. So, we snacked in front of a very jealous Benny and then walked some more. Conclusion: Crossroads Mall is NOT sufficient for mall walking ... :( Sorry Kalamazoo, I need Grandville for that one.

[caption id="attachment_708" align="alignleft" width="224" caption="People watching at Crossroads Mall"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_709" align="alignright" width="224" caption="Too big of a bite ... she's not complaining though"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_710" align="alignleft" width="224" caption="Wishing he could have a pretzel too ... "][/caption]

Amazing morning traditions ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

As fall began I made myself a routine ... certain days I push the kids a little and get a morning walk in. Other days we take it slow and have mornings to ourself. Other days I have afternoon walks and morning errands at their pace. Either way, we have something to look forward to each day ... Yet, despite each day's different activities, there is something that NEVER varies: our morning traditions, and they involve the entire household (minus Daddy who is always at work). Mommy wakes at 6 a.m. to feed Ben and put him back down for a short nap. Then, I grab a shower, make a latté, and have my personal quiet time. By 7:30 Ben is up and ready to play, so he gets dressed and plays on his mat (still working on that rolling stuff). I make Kayleigh's breakfast and do a few dishes, then get Kayleigh dressed and up at 8:00 a.m. Starting at 8:00 a.m., we turn on Mickey Mouse clubhouse and have family togetherness (whether Mommy sits or not). Everyone keeps their blankets from the cozy night, eats and watches together on or near the couch. Ben usually sits on my lap, or in his rocking chair just below the couch. Kayleigh snuggles right into my arm, and kitty sits either on Kayleigh's lap, my lap or in front of the couch by Ben. We're all together for those two 30 minute segments and then it's time to get moving ... to whatever our day brings. BUT, for one hour, everyone is close, very close, almost on top of each other close :) And Mommy cherishes these moments.

I got up to get more juice and everyone stayed right where they were, so I snapped a photo.

[caption id="attachment_642" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Morning traditions ... "][/caption]

I know that very soon I'm going to lose my comfortable, snuggly mornings and have to packing the kids off to school. I'm reminded by that as I hear the neighbors leaving each morning ... BUT, for now, I'm going to cherish these times. :) Thanks Lord, for my beautiful little treasures (even the adopted furry one who makes me smile so much).

Labor Day Cottage Tour - Day 2

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Ahh, the final day of summer ... such a bittersweet day. It was raining most of our day at Maranatha, but we did manage to have some great family time, nonetheless. We arrived around 11:00 and the kids had lunch/settled in. Both napped fairly well until around 4:00 p.m. At 4, we were able to hit the beach (after Steve and I had had time to walk the grounds and get some of the beautiful breeze of the cloudy lakefront) for some playground time. It was a wonderfully refreshing afternoon. Grandpa got some great snuggle time in with Benjamin (who thoroughly enjoyed his time with Grandpa). Kayleigh got some great time with Grammy ... It was a wonderfully relaxing day, even if there wasn't much sun. Here are my favs from today's "photo shoot":

Kayleigh's Highlights:

[caption id="attachment_618" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Feelin' the breeze at the playset"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_619" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="See Thunder"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_620" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Checking out the waves with Grammy"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_621" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="So Beautiful ... "][/caption]

Benjamin's Highlights:

[caption id="attachment_622" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="At the beach with Grandpa"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_623" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="So Sweet!"][/caption]

And with that the Summer of 2010 leaves us. It was sad to see so few people on the beach at Maranatha, all of the apartments emptied, the lodge completely silent ... We watched plenty of residents loading up all kinds of summer bags into their cars for the drive home.  It was so sad ... but exciting for the new season upon us.

Thanks for a great summer, family and friends :) P.S. These photos (and the photos from LDCT- Day 1) were all taken masterfully by my husband, Steve. All credits should be going to him :).