For Good ... For Grandmas

by Kristi Van Dyk in

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

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

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

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

Thanks for letting me share my heart ... K

God's Miracle in My Life

by Kristi Van Dyk in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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]

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 :).

Labor Day Cottage Tour-Day 1

by Kristi Van Dyk in

We are so blessed to have two "cottages" in our family. As you know from previous blog posts, Steve's parents have a wonderful cottage on Slayton Lake. My parents have a trailer at Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference. On beautiful weeks/weekends in the summer, our biggest issue is finding enough free days to divide between the offers for lake front time. We didn't start the weekend with any plans. In fact, we were committed to spending at least one day at home, just being together. Saturday was great for that. But with a 4 day weekend that still leaves at least two days for playing. So, play we did. Saturday much of the family (and all of the immediate family) gathered at the Van Dyk cottage. Here are some of my favorites from that day.

Kayleigh Highlights:

[caption id="attachment_607" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="I like peanuts"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_608" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Just copying the adults ... eating, talking, sitting in adirondacks"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_609" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="My beautiful girl, sipping her milk"][/caption]

Benjamin's Highlights:

[caption id="attachment_610" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Eating with Jess"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_611" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Chatting with everyone while in the exersaucer"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_612" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Benny watches the lake"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_613" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Benny snuggles with Jackie"][/caption]

And a special shout out to all of the extended family who was able to come and so willingly helped out with my kids. I know the immediate Van Dyks are always ready and willing, but it was fun to have aunts and cousins so eager too! It was a super fun/relaxing day! Thanks a bunch!

We've got personality ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Both Kayleigh and Benjamin have so much personality at such a young age. I don't consider myself to be super wacky (although I definitely have my moments). So, I often wonder where they came up with the wackiness ...  then I pull up images in my mind like this: Or perhaps this:

Either way, it's clear that their silly craziness comes from their Daddy ... Some proof? No problem:

Kayleigh imitating her father by sitting at the table, alternating whether she's drinking Pepsi or Mt. Dew (all empty cans she pulled from the recycle!) ... I personally love the tip back the head to drain the last drops, I see him do that CONSTANTLY! Benjamin just started pulling his stunts today. He was in the exersaucer, sitting between Kayleigh and Mommy, while we ate lunch. He didn't know who to focus on so, he nearly made himself dizzy switching from Kayleigh to Mommy to Kayleigh to Mommy, etc. :) It was good for a laugh. Video won't upload, but I'll work on it for a later post.

In short, as silly as they are, at the end of the day, they love each other. See picture snapped THROUGH the stroller screens. Ben is chilling and Kayleigh is making sure his paci stays in place, just holding it there while she relaxes. :) I love watching them work together ... it makes me so proud.

It's the little things ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

This post will start quite negative, because, let's face it, it was a rough day. However, if you bear with me, I promise to bring about the lesson I learned in it all. I think all of the things that were horrible about the day just made the blessing that much bigger ... This is Tuesday ... My morning began at 2:00 a.m. when my growth spurting baby woke up, ready to eat. After he slammed down 5 oz, I put him back to bed. I was back in bed by 3:00 a.m. for another short nap. Benjamin decided he'd like more food at 5:30 a.m., so I was up again. This time, it wasn't worth going back to sleep, even though he was very efficient in his efforts. He was restless in his sleep, and I wasn't going to get any myself with the monitors going off all of the time. So, I got up and started my day. I knew I needed to go to Sam's Club and to Meijers during the morning errand period (I have a two hour window in the morning when both kids are awake and reasonably happy) and that was going to be tight. So, I had to be efficient. The kids weren't interested. Neither of them were having their morning dirty diapers (I like to try and leave AFTER that because grocery stores and parking lots are NOT fun places to change dirty cloth diapers), and both were very clingy. I spent the time getting ready, trading off who was crying (whichever baby didn't have Mommy carrying them around was left screaming as if their life was over).

Eventually we made it into the van, packed and ready by 9:45 ... perfect timing to drive across town and get to Sam's by 10:00. I pulled into the parking lot, just as Benjamin fell asleep and stopped screaming. It was 10:05, perfect. I surveyed the lot ... no discarded carts, awesome. I was prepared to walk Kayleigh in, but I'd have to wake up Ben to strap him in the Baby Bjorn. As I was going through my wallet (I always have the Sam's club card in my pocket because I have my hands full of other things and I want it easily accessible), I discovered ... no card. Then I recalled that Kayleigh emptied the entire contents of my wallet into her room. I must have not seen the card when I was replacing them. Cool. No Sam's club (and formula was the basic reason we even ventured out today!), so I'd have to buy soy formula at the more expensive store. Driving home to find the card definitely wasn't going to fit the time table. So, off to Meijers we went.

In the parking lot, a woman was not carefully watching her children. They ran out in front of me as they were leaving the store. Fortunately, I had seen them from behind the pillars and knew they were coming. I had already stopped. The car coming from the other direction was not as careful and SCREECHED to a halt (equally at fault for going so fast in a parking lot!) with a blaring horn (THUS startling both of my kids and sending them into a screaming frenzy). As I turned into a lane, the same kids darted out in front of my van again. I just parked in the middle of the lane until their mother loaded them into their vehicle ...

By the time I entered the store, I had the kids quieted down and we began conquering our long shopping list.  Mid-way through the list I feel the tell-tale groans and wiggles of my 3 month old. Awesome. He's strapped to me AND doing his business ... (well, at least he's going ...) I didn't have the diaper bag inside, and this would have cost us more valuable time, anyway. So, I resolved to let the cloth diaper be its sturdy self and get him when we got back to the van. As we enter the checkout lane (only two were open with a cashier, and I don't brave the self-checkout with 2 kids and a week's+ worth of groceries), we prepare for a long wait. Kayleigh looks at me and says, "Mommy ... Poopy ... and then proceeds to grunt." I'm sweating from carrying Ben around, as well as the exertion of trying to hurry, while finding each specific item for a few recipes I'm cooking. AND I now have two very stinky children ... The woman in front of me starts freakin' out. "I threw my credit card! Where is it? Everyone help me find my card." I spotted it and grabbed Benny for extra support while reaching to pick it up. She said, "Don't touch it! Just point!" I was so taken aback, but I pointed her in the general direction and let her reach to grab her own card. I was quite embarrassed though, it's not like I was going to steal it after she'd just broadcasted that it was on the ground!

Anyway, I reach the register and, the cashier is less than sympathetic to my situation (I don't expect pity, but people are usually friendly when they see how full my hands are). She grunts a hello, ignores my cheerful daughter who is trying to talk to her, and is less than helpful about turning the groceries to a reachable position. I'm trying to keep my cool but am on a slow, quiet burn, just wondering what obstacle I'll have to overcome next when I truly believe God decided to smile upon us.

An elderly man, rises from the bench beside the door. He limps over, with the help of his cane, and says, "Ma'am, would accept a hand from me? I remember those days ... long ago ... I can load your cart." He braces himself against the turning grocery wheel and places a single bag at a time into the cart. I was speechless ... He didn't stop until I had completed the transactions, I was ready to take off. I thanked him profusely, asked if there was anything I could do for him, and he said, "No, your beautiful little girl was smiling so sweetly. I just couldn't resist. Hang in there, these days are precious." As he turned to walk away I noticed he was wearing WWII veteran's clothing. I believe I'll be making a donation to the local veteran's facility this week. It'll take some research, but I'll do it.

I walked away with tears brimming in my eyes, and saw some very very sheepish faces in the checkout lane behind me. This man's simple gesture changed my attitude for the entire day, and I'm sure the rest of the checkout lane learned a thing or two. Thanks, Jesus for the reminder that it doesn't take much to make someone's day. And that keeping our eyes open for simply ways to help can be a catalyst for incredible change.

Kayleigh's Love Affair Complete

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Well, it was only a few hours after I finished writing the previous blog post that the playset was completely assembled. However, it was too dark to take pictures, and the little princess had been sleeping for at least an hour. So, her joy at the rest of the project would have to wait until morning. Daddy left for work SUPER early (like 4:00 a.m.), but he came home for about 30 minutes at 8:00, when Kayleigh wakes up. He wanted to be able to show her the playset and be there for the initial playtime. She was unbelievably excited and alternated her attention between the slide and the swing, slide and the swing ... pretty sure that during Benny's afternoon nap that will be calling as well ... "Mommy, slide, Mommy, swing ..." At one point she noticed the other attachments and started "driving." Steve wanted to get her down the slide at least one more time before he had to go back to work, but she wasn't interested at the time. "Daddy, I'm drivin'!" At the rate she's growing, I'm sure she will be, before I know it. Sigh ... oh Kayleigh.

[caption id="attachment_566" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Inaugural swing ride"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_567" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Sheer Joy"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_568" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="I'm Drivin'"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_569" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Livin' the dream"][/caption]

I'm sure there will be yet another blog post because my husband is NOT finished with this project yet. He has drawings littering the dining room table detailing a perimeter enclosure around the playset as well as a sandbox (most likely below the tree-house area). There is a canopy that attaches to the top as well, but that wasn't critical to play time, so it will get up when it gets up.

Thanks Linda for the playset :) We love it!!!

P.S. During my laundry work this morning, I took both kids out to play. Kayleigh was IMMEDIATELY on the playset sliding and Benny watched in the Bumbo. After I got done hanging the diapers, I let him have a shot at the swing. The result? Kayleigh fell to her news, screaming and crying, "NOOOOOO SWING BENNY!!! BENNY NO SWING!!!" I tried to tell her it was okay to share and that sharing was good, and important and that we really planned on buying them both their own swing we just hadn't yet. Her curt reply, "No share. Car ride ... Myhers (how she pronounces Meijers). New Benny swing. Come on, Mommy. Ready, Set, GO!" I laughed so hard!!! As a concession to the fact that she DID, after much scolding, share with her brother, we went to Lowe's to buy an additional swing. Now I can push them both at the same time. :) AHH the life :)

Kayleigh's Love Affair

by Kristi Van Dyk in

No, we aren't encouraging anything in appropriate at nearly 2 years old. ... My daughter LOVES, LOVES, LOVES slides and swings. We seriously spend nearly 3 evenings a week walking to the park, playing for 20-30 minutes and walking home. She could NEVER get enough time on the swings and the slide. Now, I'm not saying our new "equipment" will replace trips to the park, BUT when Benny's sleeping and we can't leave ... we have in-home entertainment! Kayleigh COULD NOT be more excited. It all came about very quickly. My mom had offered, in the spring, to buy us play equipment for the backyard. We weren't thinking we wanted a HUGE playset (very expensive), and it seemed silly to pay $250 for a tiny plastic one. So, we sort of held off, waiting for the right time. ENTER: Linda Dahnke, high school principal ... looking to clear out her daughter's old playset. Price: FREE for the taking. Well, we can do that!!!

SOO on Saturday (our only UNSCHEDULED Saturday all summer), Steve begins to disassemble the playset, hauling it over in pieces in the van. Nearly 6 hours later (minus time for a quick supper), the playset is in pieces in the backyard. It's now Sunday, nearly 9:00 p.m. as I write this, and the playset is ALMOST assembled. Today's total work time: nearly 7 hours and 2 trips to Lowe's. BUT it just might be done, rendering Kayleigh and I 2 of the happiest people on the planet come time for Benny's late nap tomorrow.  As soon as the slide was up, Kayleigh HAD to try it ... so, here are a few preliminary snapshots :)

[caption id="attachment_558" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Trying to help Daddy"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_559" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Halfway constructed"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_560" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="On top of the world"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_561" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Letting her go"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_562" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Thank You Daddy!"][/caption]

Thanks babe for all of the time you put into it. I know Kayleigh's smiles and screams (for several years to come) will make it worth it, but thanks for her for now. We love you!

Celebrating a Little One

by Kristi Van Dyk in

One of the huge blessings of marrying Steve has been inheriting some of his incredible friends. Steve is still as close with his high school friends as he was when they were younger :). They might not see each other as often, but the guys make a point of staying in touch. As they have each gotten married and started to expand their families, we get to share in the joy of new little ones. It makes our get togethers so much busier, but so much fun. Kayleigh, Carson and Benjamin were the 3 babies at the last get together. Since then, Texers have added another. Plus, there are three more on the way in the next 6 months! Summer camping trips with 7 under 4 and only 8 adults? Hmmm ... Could get interesting! So, our fun times are just beginning. Anyway, Kayleigh had a little tribute to the Texers precious little girl, Emma Rae.

Here's our little one, celebrating a new girl to the "gang." Happy Birthday, Emma

Benjamin Predictions

by Kristi Van Dyk in

I have started going through the previous blog entries from the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of my pregnancy with Benjamin. (I'm beginning to put together what I hope to be a yearly tradition: The Van Dyk Family 20_ _ DVD). I thought it'd be a fun thing to watch on New Years morning as a way to "kick off" the year together. So, I'm making a compilation of Kayleigh photos/videos, Benjamin photos/videos and Family Events. I'm using the blog I so diligently post on in order to help me remember the most memorable events over the calendar year. ANYWAY ... as I was reviewing and putting together my "storyboard," I came across a few statements I made regarding "Baby Boy ____" when he was in my belly. I thought it'd be sort of fun to review how his actions in utero manifested themselves in his 3 month old self. :) A few of my "predictions" made me laugh out loud; there is truth to the fact that who they are in the belly is who they are in the world. Prediction #1: "I thought his sister was active in utero, but he brings new meaning to the word busy." He is indeed a busy boy! Napping is SLOWLY coming into his routine, but for these first few months, he simply wants to move, move, move. He twists and turns so that he's sometimes facing a completely different direction than when I put him down at night. (And no, it's not because he got up and Steve put him facing another way). HE MOVES. His arms are going constantly, and he's always moving that head and looking for his sister ... Prediction #1: Right on!

Prediction #2: "He often chooses to move at night; I'm positive he'll have his schedule mixed up." No siree! I was totally wrong on this one, and I'm very glad to admit it! This little man, from the start (well, almost start, the hospital wasn't quite so restful for us), figured out night time. Even at the tender age of 14 weeks, he's really, really got the sleeping thing down. Praise the LORD :) Prediction #2: Total fail!

Prediction #3: Despite the drs. predictions, my body's readiness for labor, and the due date, this baby has his own timetable. I went so far as to joke with my tennis girls that I was never going to have this baby. They said, "Yeah Coach, he's basically gonna come out a toddler." Bottom line: This baby has his own timetable. Based upon his eating habits, his sleeping capabilities, and his head/neck control, I don't think I was too far off base. He's a very strong baby with great habits (after that whole 2 week milk issue!!). He's almost EASIER than my toddler (at least right now).  He's working on many gross motor skills that Kayleigh wasn't considering at this age. (I know it's not fair to always compare; I don't expect him to be her or her to be him, but she's my best point of reference...) He resisted scheduling, FIERCELY, and wants to eat when he wants to eat and sleep when he wants to sleep ... no timetable fits HIS timetable. :) So, Prediction #3: He didn't come out a toddler, but he definitely has his own timetable!

Here's Benjamin's latest timetable (thankfully, the last 4 days have looked almost EXACTLY the same!!) I think we might be getting a "routine!" (Amen!!) 6:00-6:30 Wake up take a 5 oz bottle 7:00 Back in crib sleeping, usually gets himself to sleep without rocking 9:00 - 9:30 Wakes again for the day and takes a 6 oz bottle 9;30 - 12:30 Plays with Mom/sis, runs errands, generally keeps WIDE awake 12:30 Eats 8 oz bottle 1:00 - 3:00 or 3:30 NAP 3:30 - 5:00 eat 5 oz bottle, play 5:00 - 6:00ish Nap 6:00 - 8:00 Play with Daddy/Mommy/sister and maybe get a snack bottle (3 oz) 8:00 - 9:00 Snuggles with Mommy on the couch 9:00 Bath, Bottle, hit the hay until 6:00 tomorrow morning :)

Yup ... This baby is a keeper. Here's his latest playtimes. Personally, I adore Saucer1, where he pouts when the music stops but figures out that if he hits it again all is well! What a little detective!

8-27 Saucer2

8-27 Saucer1

Waiting for sleep ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

I was blessed with really, really good sleeping babies (knock on wood). The newborn Kayleigh would get up 2 to 3 times a night on her worst nights, but by the time I went back to work (10 weeks), she was waking just once. Benjamin started making it all the way through the night around 5 weeks. At 3 months, he wakes for a middle of the night bottle MAYBE once a week. I know, it's insane. They've spoiled me. Kayleigh is still a girl who loves her sleep. She asks for naps and asks for bedtime. When she's short on sleep she is the crankiest toddler ever. BUT, when she gets her 7:30 bedtime, her 8:00 a.m. wake up call and a 2-3 hour nap in there ... wow! A dream come true. Today, since I'm blogging at 4:46 a.m., it was Benny's night to get up. He chose to wake up after we'd taken an evening trip to GR. His schedule was off (and has been for about 2 weeks now due to the fact he and his sister fall asleep for the night in the car about 3 days out of 7). AT any rate, we are now at my, honestly, favorite time of the day/night. Don't get me wrong, I'd MUCH rather be sleeping. BUT if I have to be awake, the time gap between when I place Benny down, relaxed, in his crib, until I check on him and find him soundly sleeping is easily my most productive time of the day. I know I can't bring myself to sleep until I'm sure he's out (what's the point of getting in and out of bed 100 times anyway), so I work. I will fold laundry, wash bottles, put away dishes from the dishwasher, straighten up the living room, pack up stuff for the next day ... and, of course, write a blog (if everything else is finished).

It's a little pathetic, but this time of the morning is THE ONLY time in the course of my day when a baby doesn't need me, my husband isn't awake, and there's nothing but chores and alone time. It's time for me to do exactly what I want. And, since my first choice of activity (sleeping) has been ruled out, I get to be productive.

Ahh well, since it's almost time for Benjamin's 15 minute check-in (and Steve has agreed to do the next half hour's worth of "waiting for sleep"), I'm going to get going. Here's to a productive, fun day at the Van Dyk house!

The Many Faces of Benjamin Steven ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

[caption id="attachment_516" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Mid-sentence"][/caption] Our little boy can be so mellow. He just enjoys being with people ... and that makes him easy to take places. However, when he is uncomfortable or distressed you have a VERY limited amount of time to correct the problem. As soon as he snaps, he snaps FULL FORCE! He, very early in life, found the upper register squeal. It is MOST effective in getting Mommy's immediate attention. He doesn't use it OFTEN, but he has learned that when he's had enough, it gets him results. It's not only the crying, though, Benjamin has VERY VERY vivid facial expressions. See here some of the faces we snapped in our picture taking frenzies.

[caption id="attachment_515" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Daddy is funny!"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_517" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="You want to do WHAT??!!"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_518" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="I DON'T think that's happening"][/caption]

More often than not, we see Benjamin with his million dollar smile. This smile is accentuated by his single dimple! I never thought about it while pregnant, but it would stand to reason that at least one of our babies would inherit their father's single dimple. It's entirely appropriate that it's his namesake, Benjamin Steven. Here are both of my boys, happy together.

[caption id="attachment_519" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Happy with Daddy"][/caption]

Summer Reflections

by Kristi Van Dyk in ,

Wow ... it's mid-August ... the time when I'm used to gearing up for school. Last August was the first fall that I didn't have to prepare for school at all. I had no Band Camp, no pre-season tennis workouts, no orientation preparations for incoming freshman, no dorm decorations or door signs to make, no courses to schedule, no plans to revise or classroom to prepare. I only had the dwindling summer evenings, the cooler weather coming, and my sweet baby daughter to get on a schedule. (I made it just 2 months last summer home with Kayleigh without a schedule ...) This summer seems largely the same only with two babies to keep on 'routine' and preparations to make for how to keep a very active toddler entertained. As I begin to think about what fall will look like at the Van Dyk house, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on the best this summer has given us. 2010 Top 10 Summer Highlights 1. Language Explosion in my tiny toddler who went from 50 some words to well over 200 and is almost always speaking in 3-5 word phrases. 2. Several great weeks/weekday trips to the Maranatha for fun with the Creswell Grandparents 3. Benjamin and Kayleigh learning to love each other despite their serious gap in development at the present moment 4.  Benjamin learned to smile, giggle, hold his head, and reach and grab objects (the latest most recently and he still surprises himself when his actions cause reactions: i.e. he grabs the little dog on his rocker and it plays a song, he hits the buttons on his exersaucer and a cow moos) 5. We had a fabulous day at the Meijer Gardens as a family and with Great Grandpa 6. Steve and the kids had several days at Slayton Lake with the Van Dyk Grandparents 7. We had a host of super fun playdates with Auntie Alaina and Ryan 8. A fun filled playdate with Carson Van Dyke 9. Got a fantastic new camera that makes capturing precious family moments incredibly fun. 10. Took a whirlwind - needs to be repeated when the kids are older - trip to Chicago and Shedds Aquarium

2010 Top 10 Lessons from summer 1. A baby pool is not a luxury - but a necessity (even if Mom and the 2 month old are the only ones "swimming") 2.  Schedules ARE NOT maintainable during the summer season -- park visits, long walks, time with grandparents, swimming, beaches, all can AND WILL interfere with naptime 3. Despite what "makes sense" a 10:00 a.m. nap will not replace the typical 1:00 p.m. nap no matter how long it is! 4. Window air conditioners, turned on BEFORE everyone's mood goes bad, really is better than saving an additional $2.00 per day in energy costs. 5. Vacations are way different and not nearly as relaxing with 2 kiddos, but they are, most definitely, way more entertaining. 6.  A window air until is picked up constantly on the voice activated setting of a baby monitor. Therefore, all night, you will hear/see the baby monitor going off (though it's 99% likely that it's NOT the baby). 7. Placing a sleeping baby on sheets that have been in a window a/c'd room without blankets for shielding will yield a no longer sleeping baby. 8. Candy works great as a last minute bribe to pry a toddler off of the beach for clean up/supper time without shrieking. 9.  When all else fails (constipation meds, extra napping, more food, less food, etc) Soy could help :) 10. Sigh ... summer is fantastic but it isn't meant to last forever. Enjoy the break in routine, and get excited when the routine returns.

2010 Things to Get Excited for in the Fall 1. More growth from both Benjamin and Kayleigh 2. Women's Ministries Bible Study during the day (with nursery for both kids!) 3. Benjamin learning to nap for longer than 30 minutes at consistent times! 4. Kayleigh's 2nd birthday 5. More playdates with more babies (VanDyke's new baby, hopefully the Texers will want to as well!, and of COURSE my amazing nephew and his mommmy, even perhaps adding a few dates with Suzanne and Thomas!!). 6.  Cool mornings and very cool evenings for great walks/runs in the double jogger 7. Fun fall activities like: Apple picking, pumpkin carving, football games (probably just on tv I doubt we're braving anything live!), visits to the farms, jumping in the leaves, etc. 8. A trip to Mackinac with the extended Van Dyk family 9. Steve's 30th Birthday!!!! 10.  More fun pictures, stories, and family times together.

Here's a fun comparison (I love that I can start doing this):

[caption id="attachment_502" align="alignleft" width="269" caption="Kayleigh, 3 months in February of 2009"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_503" align="alignright" width="276" caption="Benjamin, 3 months in August 2010"][/caption]

Happy Birthday Great Grandpa!

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Great Grandpa turned 80 years old this Spring. Kayleigh gave him a trip to the Meijer Gardens with her as a birthday present. She was gracious enough to say that her baby brother (yet to be born) could tag along as well. We had planned to take Grandpa with the family in June. BUT, one thing led to another and it was the middle of August before we found a date that worked. The forecast was gloomy for Saturday (and it was certainly hot!) but the rain held off and we had a really, really fun (and very exhausting day). Steve and I enjoyed watching Kayleigh just LOVE the gardens. All the way from stopping to "touch" every "flower" to allowing her the freedom to walk/run/jump without being worried that she'd get hit by a car, or lost from our sight. She enjoyed it too. She also enjoyed asking Great Grandpa to carry as often as she could. I don't think he minded too much.

Here are some picture highlights:

[caption id="attachment_489" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Learning about the water pump"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_490" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Walking and talking with Great Grandpa"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_491" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Doing the bean bag toss"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_492" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Running with my Daddy"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_493" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Playing in the fountains"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_494" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Benny and Mommy came too"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_495" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="I think it was a Happy Birthday"][/caption]

The full gallery of Steve's pictures from the day can be seen at:

We miss our big sis ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

At the risk of completely embarrassing her, I'm going to dedicate this blog post to my children's "big sister." No, Kayleigh IS my first born, but my children do have a great "big sister." Almost 5 years ago, at "Meet the Teacher Night" at KCMS an energetic, 13 year old flew across the room (quite literally), landed on top of a table, and practically shouted, "I'm SO excited that I got you for a teacher!" Young or old, all teachers love hearing that (even if they don't show it). From that moment on, I had an inkling that this young lady was going to be special. I didn't know just what the Lord had planned, but He's been good. After an amazing year in the 8th grade, getting to know Bri, I wasn't quite sure I was ready to say, "Goodbye and Good luck" just yet. Fortunately, she was pretty committed to keeping me in her life too. Through 6 a.m. tennis lessons at the YMCA, random drive by/run bys at the house, and countless text messages, we made it clear we were making this stick. As my life changed dramatically since we met, (the birth of two children did quite a bit to my free time) Bri stuck with us ... she just revised her expectations of what our friendship has become. It's not just about us hanging out, but about her becoming a mentor for my babies too. (That and the world's greatest house/kitty sitter ... what 17 year old cleans for free???!!!)

We'll be very excited when Bri gets home from her work trip so we can get back to our weekly playdates. Kayleigh and I had to have a talk yesterday about where Bri was because 10 days is the longest we've been without seeing "Bi Bi" in about as long as Kayleigh's been able to recognize her presence. So, any day now would be great :) ....

Here's a few of my favorites of our big sis:

[caption id="attachment_422" align="alignnone" width="225" caption="You can't see Bri's face but I'm positive that's her fingernail polish, holding my newborn Kayleigh"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_424" align="alignnone" width="300" caption="And with Benjamin - 1 day old"][/caption]

AND ...  with us on vacation for a day long visit

[caption id="attachment_425" align="alignnone" width="224" caption="Helping Kayleigh with one of her top 5 activities"][/caption]

I look back at that first encounter (and like so many others that God places in our lives), didn't realize the weight of it until I look back, nearly 5 years later and smile.

Life Changes Things ...

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Yeah, the title's not a typo ... I am not blogging about the changes in my kids or even growing up, but stopping to reflect on how life's circumstances have changed me. I was sort of slapped in the face recently (no, not by the fact that situps (after my C-section), which used to be the easiest workout I could do, have now become akin to a root canal) by the magnitude of change that has occurred in my life in the last 10 years. I'm positive that some of the friends I believed were life long buddies would look at me today and chuckle ... "Wow, she never did anything." Or "REALLY? That's what she's doing? I wonder what her story is ..." And you know what? The 18 year old version of myself might say the same thing to the 28 year old version ... "What HAPPENED to your ambition?" I think my answer would be ... Life changes things ... Let's look at some of the changes in my life that make me MOST proud.

(1). THEN: My favorite day each semester was the first day of class ... do you know why? We got our syllabi ... I would greedily begin (even before class was over) plotting out just when I'd complete those assignments. I'd place them, meticulously in my Palm as actual dates with time brackets so that I couldn't schedule anything over them (invariably I would anyway, but it was the PLANNING that I loved). I'd color code them to match each category (MAJOR, MINOR, ELECTIVE, REQUIREMENT) ... I also color coded my extra curriculars, my jobs (I had 4), and my social events (they were often not scheduled) ... NEVERTHELESS, there wasn't a day in my collegiate life that wasn't scripted, planned and scheduled. I'm pretty positive that's the only way I could smash in the insane number of activities I chose to do. NOW: I TRY to schedule things in my life (AKA Monday is laundry day, Tuesday is vacuuming and cleaning, etc) but more often than not the kids have a mind of their own. Laundry day becomes whenever I have 15 minutes free and cleaning happens when we're having company and it needs to ... About the only thing that must stay scheduled are the doctors appointments and the playdates ... I'm pretty positive most anyone who knew me (including my own father) would assume this lifestyle would drive me insane. I'll admit sometimes, I long for the pre-planned days, the scripted lifestyle ... but I'm learning to appreciate the spontaneity that babies bring :) ... Would I change? NOT ON YOUR LIFE.

2). THEN: I was NEVER satisfied to sit at my apartment and hang out. As my roommates will verify, I spent far more time away than I ever did at home ... and 95% of the time spent at home was eating or sleeping ... This on the go, always active, constantly moving lifestyle might have been preparation for chasing my two babies, but it's what gave me joy. I LOVED being busy and was never happy unless that was the case! NOW:  The things that bring me the most joy are things that are largely slow moving, relaxing, and allow time for reflection. Among my favorites: A long walk around the block with Benny strapped to my chest and Kayleigh relaxing in the stroller, playing in the park with my daughter, getting a 45 minute power nap while BOTH kids are sleeping at the same time, listening as my daughter explores her vocabulary, watching Benjamin smile and laugh and hold his head. None of those things stem from a life on the go ... It's a quieter pace that brings me joy.

(3). THEN: It's shameful to admit, but a lot of my relationships suffered in college. I was pretty interested in doing THINGS and not investing in PEOPLE. As a result I had TONS of acquaintances but found it difficult to keep up with them as friends ... You see people need time and time was something I didn't have ... I only had stuff ... NOW: People are the most important piece in my life ... most specifically my two little people. They demand my attention, they require that I revisit and follow up with them, and they return my attention with the greatest and most rewarding love I could have imagined. This has taught me a lot about my friendships ... I'm making a more concerted effort follow up, to initiate get togethers, and to PAY ATTENTION to people. It's odd that it doesn't come naturally to me, but I understand the importance and am working to make this central to my life. Hopefully, I'll be able to re-build and sustain some of the friendships that my life choices have "left by the wayside."

(4). THEN: I was always planning for my future ... which course had the professor I needed to get to know. Which summer job would help me establish the proper connections to get ahead, which extra curricular would put me in contact with the MOST people, which organization could I quickly jump to the chairperson position ... All of these were done intentionally, deliberately and with my future resume in mind. I can't say that I ever went so far as to harm anyone else intentionally to get where I wanted to be ... I just worked and worked and worked to get myself into a position to take what I wanted. NOW: While I have day to day and week to week learning goals for my children, I'm not always scheming, planning, and resume building. We're enjoying life ... living in the moment. I only get to watch my little ones grow up once. I don't want to look back and wish that I had spent more time treasuring them. This blog is helping me remember that ... that each day holds something new for these little ones ... and for me as their mommy.

So, at a 10 year reunion would I be where I thought I'd be ... absolutely not. BUT at a 10 year reunion would I be ashamed of where I am ... absolutely not. I consider the changes that God has brought through my life to be the most rewarding and important changes I could make. I trust His plan and look forward to my reflection at age 38 as to how God has continued to unfold His plan in my life.

** Now, off to hang diapers on the line, dress and change the kids, and head to the pediatrician before running the first 3 miles of my 10K training run ... Good bye baby weight.

Family Photos/Benny's 2 month

by Kristi Van Dyk in

As part of our welcome home party, we had a wedding rehearsal/dinner last night, we have a wedding this afternoon and evening ... So, we need to unpack, grocery shop, shower, and prep the kids for sitters all while getting ready to video the wedding. SO ... super short blog post for today: (You'll have to cut and paste these links into your browser to follow them). Benny's Session:

Family Session:

It's a link to our family photo preview from Tsakani Studios. My sister-in-law, Alaina, used her friend, Kristen, for several sessions: pregnancy photos, Ryan's birth, and Ryan's 6 months. Her photos were all so excellent, that we decided to use Kristen for family photos at the beach and Benny's 2 month pics. We were NOT disappointed. Enjoy the previews ... I LOVE THEM!

The electronic babysitter

by Kristi Van Dyk in

When I was preparing to become a mom for the first time, I swore I'd never use television as a babysitter. That my child WOULD NOT watch any program before 2 years old, and that, if he/she did I would sit down and talk through any educational value with him/her as we watched. I had heard too much research on the early effects of television and the brain, that I simply didn't want this for my baby. However, as most resolutions do, reality sets in and you're forced to compromise. My compromise came when Benjamin was born. I did lots of his feedings while Kayleigh was napping/sleeping or playing with Daddy. Yet, there were still time when I had to feed the baby while she was awake. It was difficult for both of us ... she always wanted to share my lap with Ben (not because she's a snuggler but because she was jealous). So I needed something (at least once a day) to keep her occupied while I was occupied :). In a morning of desperation, I flicked on the Disney Channel. The result was instantaneous (though not in the way I expected). She stared into the television, saw her beloved stuffed animal singing and dancing on the screen ... screamed "MICKEY!!!!" and ran to get her toy. After that she stared, mesmerized, at Mickey Mouse Clubhouse while clutching her Mickey doll. (I'd be worried at the blanket staring except that she stares ONLY at Mickey. If it's a Donald Duck or Goofy feature, she's wandering the house again in seconds, only to be brought back whenever she hears that silly mouse's voice).

The 30 minute program brought us both such joy that it's become something of a routine. Eat breakfast, watch Mickey, change dirty diaper, run errands ... :) And each morning (whether she wakes up at 8:00 or 9:30) she expects to see her Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. No amount or reasoning can explain with her the concept of a television programming schedule. ENTER: YouTube. Since Kayleigh really just loves Mickey, if she sleeps through "the clubhouse" we just pop on YouTube and watch a recorded episode ... yesterday she was content to simply cycle through "The Hot Dog song" about 25 times ... If she keeps sleeping in, I'm going to have to find another solution because I can't take too many days of THAT!!!

At any rate, Kayleighs love for Mickey is incredible. Last night we were coming home late from Grand Rapids, at least 2.5 hours past Kayleigh's bed time. Her brother was conked out, but she was too hyped up (playing in the "fountain" with Grandpa and her cousins was just too exciting). Mommy and Daddy needed a few moments of quiet: ENTER: iPhone, YouTube, and Mickey Mouse ... RESULT: Singing, happy baby instead of constant whining.

End result: Mommy can still be vigilant about time spent watching television (it's really the only show she watches), but it's probably okay, for Kayleigh to fall in love with her 1 program :).

[caption id="attachment_371" align="alignnone" width="224" caption="Kayleigh's morning Mickey fix"][/caption]

Here she is dancing away to the music on the program ... at least she doesn't sit while she watches :)

Morning Mickey Fix 7-11