Maranatha Vacation Highlights 2012

by Kristi Van Dyk in

Saturday, June 30: Move in DayMy parents graciously watched the kiddos while Steve and I unpacked in our beautiful apartment for the week. We joined Mom and Dad for dinner on Saturday night, skipped the concert and snuggled the very tired kids to sleep. Dad then came down and watched the darlings while Steve and I got to take in our first sunset of the week on the Maranatha beach





Sunday, July 1: WICKED Date Since our vacation changed weeks mid-Spring (we were originally scheduled for Week 3, but then a vacancy opened up in the apt we wanted at Week 2) With a baby on the way, we figured a sooner vacation would definitely be less risky. So, we moved up our vacation one week, BUT Steve had already purchased us Wicked tickets for July 1. So, we went on vacation knowing Mom and Dad would take the kids while Steve and I went to Wicked. The kids played happily at classes during church, they went to the pool and by the time dinner was there, Mommy and Daddy were back. We had a fantastic (though very sweaty) time at the show at Wharton Center, but wanted to see the kids after we got home. So, a late night beach trip was in order ...




Monday, July 2: Kayleigh's Pool Marathon We wanted to make certain that Benjamin got naps (in order to make it the entire day), but Kayleigh is ALMOST done napping entirely, so we thought we'd give skipping a try :). After going to morning session, Grammy picked up Kayleigh and we brought Benjamin back for a nap. By 3:00, we were all at the pool, having great play time. By the time we finished playing, Kayleigh was exhausted. She collapsed SO HARD on Grammy's couch that I needed to pick her up repeatedly to wake her. She managed to get through class (they both did), and we spoiled them with family flurries at the Whippi-Dip before going to bed.

Tuesday, July 3: Catch Up day After a late night the night before for both kids, lots of activity (and the 4th coming up with even more excitement promised), and so much learning happening at classes, we decided FULL naps were necessary for everyone. We all went to our morning sessions and came back to the apt for family naps. After nearly 3.5 hours of sleeping, the kids woke to head down to the pool. Benjamin was still exhausted so we didn't last long. We only sent Kayleigh to session that night and let Benny take a night off. After which he headed to Grandpa and Grandma's (thinking he'd sleep quickly there) and we took Kayleigh to Grand Haven for a little Musical Fountain fun. She so dearly loved that when we did it last year that we simply had to try again. While she wasn't as excited about the music (it was pretty slow/low key) this time, she definitely had JUST as much fun with her parents.

Wednesday, July 4th: Parade, Pool, Special Foods, Private Fireworks Delayed to Friday On the morning of the 4th the kids scurried off to class so they could get ready for the parade. Benjamin had a rough morning parting with us, so we weren't quite sure he'd make it in the parade. Kayleigh, on the other hand, couldn't WAIT to get involved in "throwing candy" and "waving at friends." They both ended up in the parade (though Benjamin slightly less happily than his enthusiastic sister). And after short naps, we all went to the pool for some swimming, back to Grammy's for special treats (sparkly red and white cupcakes!) and ice cream sandwiches (with sprinkles). I'm not certain that the kids grasp the entire importance of this day in our country's history (nor do I expect them too) but I think they thoroughly understood that it was America's birthday ... and boy do they LOVE the way "America" celebrates that.

   Thursday, July 5th: Benny's Special Date Kayleigh was up early on the 5th, so we decided another day of swimming all day with Grammy and Grandpa would be good. As it turned out, she was a bit naughty in class! She eventually apologized to her teacher, but we didn't allow her to go to class at night time (it was movie/pajama night). She still had fun swimming with Grammy and Grandpa, but this was Benjamin's turn for a special date. After class, we took him to the Sweet Shoppe where we thought we could find him something special to eat. We ordered plenty of options ($$!) but he ate, literally, nothing ... He just enjoyed being the only child. After lunch he got to take a nap, completely sandwiched between his Mommy and Daddy. He LOVED IT (and slept for over 3.5 hours!) We couldn't even take him to the pool/beach because there was no time left in the evening. BUT, he definitely enjoyed his cool afternoon nap.








Friday, July 6th: Our Last Full Day The private fireworks on the beach were scheduled for this evening ... PLUS, the children's program was also in the evening (at the Tabernacle). Kayleigh was in Pre-K this year, and the preschoolers have a part in the program. So, being that her last "program" was a bit of a disaster (she ran off the stage crying), we wanted to make sure she was well rested and ready to go. Both kids went to morning session, and we all left promptly for the pool after lunch. We swam until about 2:30 and then came back to the apt for a long nap. Both kids slept VERY well and we were up for pizza in a knick of time to get everyone to program ... well, everyone but Benny, who simply didn't want to go. He snuggled with Grandpa at the back of the tabernacle and watched sister perform.

Kayleigh did a great job. She wasn't scared (very proud in fact). She ADORED her teachers and did a pretty good job singing and participating exactly as she was supposed to. They did a Bible memory verse, sang a song, sang a whole GROUP song, and another congregational song too!! It was over 90 degrees outside so the non-a/c tabernacle was quite warm. But again, our little girl did a great job.

This was a really fun moment for me (and my parents) as Dan and I used to sing in these very same programs, at this very same age, in this very same tabernacle. My parents met some of my former youth leaders who saw my little daughter singing that evening. They knew right away which little girl was mine ... apparently we share some similarities. Our friends it was like being transported back 30 years (really, only 27 ... but, who's counting technicalities). Its fun knowing that there are places in this world that don't change ...

As a special treat to Maranatha guests and members, friends of Maranatha put on a private firework display on the beach front. Friends handed out free glowsticks to everyone who came down. My parents made it special in addition to the fireworks with more glowsticks, sparklers, and "old school" candy. The kids had candy necklaces, sweet tart suckers, sugar daddies ,etc. It was great fun ... and such an amazing evening. What a precious gift to take our kids to a late night show and be able to be back home in bed less than 10 minutes later, with almost no crowd to battle. Thanks so much, friends!

We had a beautiful get away! Thanks Mom and Dad for making this possible for us!

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:

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!

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.

A Happy Boy

by Kristi Van Dyk in

I've been into couponing lately ... well, actually, Steve's cousin, Heidi (and my friend, Chelsea) helped me find some great coupon bloggers. I suscribed to the blogs, and I check my Google Reader repeatedly throughout the day. I find lots of coupons that I don't use, but so far I've had some great deals that I will use! One of those finds was a small brag book from Walgreens for free (just pay $2.99 for shipping). I can do a photo book for $2.99. So, I had to figure out what I needed to make in it ... We have lots of brag books of the kids together, and a few of Kayleigh alone. So, this one should really be for Benner. As I thought about what I wanted to capture about my son, I couldn't help but think about just how many photos I have of him grinning from ear to ear ... He's such a happy boy! Once I'd thought of that, the theme being "Happy Baby Ben," I started going through all of Benjamin's 13 months worth of photos. I have them carefully archived, so it wasn't TOO overwhelming a task. But what I found made me laugh out loud

Ages 1-3 months: 10 photos of him smiling Ages 3-6 months: 30 photos of him smiling Ages 6-9 months: over 50 photos of him smiling Ages 9-12 months: at least 100 photos just of his brilliant smile ...

Yeah, I think I have enough to work with here ... Then I did some more interesting math. If I have nearly 200 photos of my happy boy where he's smiling from ear to ear, that has to be close to one every other day ... Benjamin is 402 days old today ... If I have (I really haven't finished all of the sorting yet) nearly 200 photos of him smiling, that really is 1 photo taken almost every other day ...

Conclusion A: He's not crabby very much Conclusion B: I take A LOT of pictures :)

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 :)