Kayleigh is 3

by Kristi Van Dyk in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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












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

















oh, and one of Boo Boo too :)











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

Highlights from our October

by Kristi Van Dyk in

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

















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





























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










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



















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






















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







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










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



















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













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

by Kristi Van Dyk in

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

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

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

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

More time to digest ...

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Our first day as parents at KCES ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

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

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








The whole ensemble ...











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








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








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








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










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








Making her handprint with Maestra Gonzales.








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

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

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

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! ;)


Our Little PreSchooler ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in












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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Kathy Mosier Photography

by Kristi Van Dyk in

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

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

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

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

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

Go ahead; take a look: http://kathysphotos1.zenfolio.com/p532482509

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Moments of our Summer "Vacation"

by Kristi Van Dyk in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer - Lately

by Kristi Van Dyk in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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







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

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

A 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.

Benjamin and Kayleigh -

by Kristi Van Dyk in

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













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

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

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

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


Father's Day 2011

by Kristi Van Dyk in

I can't believe how much has changed in our house since last Father's Day. Our kids are in such a different place in life; Steve and I are in a different place ... Last Father's Day, Benjamin was still a "newborn," and Kayleigh was just 4 months passed learning to walk. She had a constant pacifier and still wore diapers. This Father's Day was unique for us. We weren't able to coordinate our schedule with my brother, Alaina and Ryan to do something with my Dad (it's next weekend). And Steve's dad is in Costa Rica (like he is every Father's Day). So, we had entire day to focus only on Steve. And you know what? We had a blast. Here's how we decided to "spoil" him: * Benner and Kay slept until 8:15 (That's a new record for both of them!!) so we all got plenty of rest * K, B, and I did Daddy's "drive thru" breakfast (He's not a big breakfast guy but there are a few things he likes) and got him a donut from Sweetwater's and a coffee at Starbucks while he stayed in bed a LITTLE extra * While B napped we set up the swimmin' pool, water table, and dried off of the swingset for a little backyard oasis. (Picture highlights below) *After fun in the sun, we came in for lunch and a WHOLE FAMILY NAP (from 1:00 - 4:00 ish). * While Daddy cleaned up for dinner, the kids finished up their Father's Day cards (Ben's coloring was pretty priceless; it was his first real art project) * We headed to Kohl's to let him pick out (seriously, he prefers this as I usually pick the wrong stuff) his new Father's Day dress shirts and then it was off to Texas Roadhouse for dinner

Highlights of the Day: Benjamin's squeals and screams as he played outside with all of his favorite outside toys Kayleigh singing (all the way to Kohl's and Texas Roadhouse) her special rendition of "Happy Father's Day to you ..." (to the tune of Happy Birthday) The kids being as GOOD AS GOLD at the restaurant, forcing our waitress to call us "her favorite table." (Mostly because Benjamin was just too charming for words.

We are so blessed to have Steve as the head of our household. He's a caring, giving man who loves his wife and his children more than anything else in this world. Thanks for being such a great Daddy, Steve!! They're amazing kids ...

[caption id="attachment_1163" align="aligncenter" width="717" caption="Daddy's favorite boy"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1164" align="aligncenter" width="717" caption="Daddy's precious girl"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_1165" align="aligncenter" width="717" caption="Daddy and his blondies"][/caption]

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.

Kayleigh's Bike

by Kristi Van Dyk in

For almost 4 months Kayleigh has stared (while sitting on the potty) at a picture of a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse tricycle. The photo held countless stickers from successful potty trips. We had told her when she filled the paper, she could have the tricycle. She was SO excited. She'd tell me each time she was successful that she could 'GET A BIKE!!' Well, as potty training became "being potty trained" Mommy and Daddy kept delaying ... "When the snow melts ..." We'd say. Well, when the snow melted one day she reminded me, quite graciously that it was time to get her a bike. Well, again I dragged my feet, citing the fact that Daddy needed to come with us and he was very busy. Finally, my mom emailed me about a sale on bicycles ... princess bicycles at Toys R Us. That was the motivation we needed. So, we went to Toys R Us and she absolutely fell in love with a 12" Purple Disney Princess bike. She wasn't quite strong enough (and still isn't) to pedal all by herself, but she loved the idea. Since she was, size wise, fine with the princess bicycle, we saw no need to get a tricycle for her. It seemed like a waste of money. So ... Daddy went back later and purchased the Disney Princess Bike. It sat in the trunk for a few days until he had some time to put it together. Then, there was the unveiling .... We made her close her eyes ...







Then dramatically wheeled the bike into the room. She had almost no expression at all when she saw it ... it was actually very serious. But she IMMEDIATELY climbed on (hiding behind her hair and ignoring my pleas for a smile).







She checked out all of the "features" like the special streamers on the handlebars, all of the princesses all over the bike and she just LOVED the bag on the front. So, like a little girl would, she went to get her "accessories" (in this case food from her kitchen) to zip into the bag. I mean, come on, if you have a bag, you HAVE to fill it!







After some help from Daddy, she was more than willing to flash me a smile. I see her beaming with pride ... she looks more and more like a pre-schooler, each day. It kills me ...







And just like that we're knocking down another "milestone" in our first born baby's life. What a treasure she is to us ... and such a beautiful blessing. We can't wait to watch her ride around the driveway (JUST as soon as she figures out how those pedals work!) :)

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.

The B-I-B-L-E

by Kristi Van Dyk in

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

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

February Photo Challenge Conclusion

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Wow! So, I sort of failed on the last few photo challenges. Again, I knew I should, but I simply didn't take the time to post. So, what do I owe you, 5? Yikes ... fortunately, I take a lot of pics of these kids :) 24 - Benjamin watching the Indy500 and pretending he's driving too:










25: Rafael in the laundry - It's a tough call who likes laundry baskets more, Rafa or the kids ... He's staking his claim early on this one.










26: Benjamin Misses Daddy - This kid LOVES his dad. Each time the door creaks open he gets whiplash looking for who came home. When he discovers it's not daddy, he gets pretty mournful. Being the mean mommy that I am, I staged a "gotcha" moment so I could get his face ... What Daddy could resist coming home to turn this frown upside down?










27: Hope for the WIN!!! - We have some great friends who, unfortunately chose to attend Calvin. While the women lost the tournament final at the buzzer, the Men won. So, Benjamin is celebrating in his Orange and Blue (then we sent the picture to our friends via text). I know, I'm so nice.










28: Mommy, Take my Picture - Kayleigh is getting bossy and jealous! She can't stand it when I'm snapping pictures of Benjamin. So, she demands to get her share of the limelight. Here is the result (which she verified as, "OHHH super cute!") after much begging and pleading AND re-taking.










While I still promise to post pictures of the kids, I don't intend to do another Photo challenge. A picture a day is FAR more work than I thought ... Goal for March - Schedule each day to the minute (no lie this is what my Bible Study book suggested to try for improving time management). I have never had trouble with time management, but kids throw a whole new level of unpredictability into life. Therefore, written schedules seem like they could help. So far, 2 days into March ... I am 2/2 and have had 2 of the most productive days I can remember in a LONG time (despite having a son, who is NOT sticking to his normal routine). So far, I'm excited about this possible life change. All other goals are progressing, weight loss - happening, but much more slowly, bible reading - I'm almost through the Old Testament (about halfway through Zechariah at present), garden - yeah, I think I'm going to abandon that. The way the summer is shaping up, it's not looking like I'll have any time to prep it before June and once we hit summer we're gone almost constantly. So ... maybe next Spring. Enjoying a family of 4 - AMEN!!! Benjamin is feeding himself, Kayleigh continues to do so, and Mommy is counting down the days until she's done making all kinds of separate meals/specifications. Just a few more months and we're all on the same meal plan!!! WOO HOO!!!!

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).