Under Construction: How Life has Changed

 

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I was reflecting today on how much life changes when someone becomes a parent and even more so how the change does not stop at child birth; with each stage, the child grows and the parent changes.

At conception, I grew in my passion, responsibility and intent to protect my unborn children. I witnessed a side of me that I had never seen before- the Mama bear. I was keenly aware of the needs of the “fruit of my womb” and there was nothing that was going to stop me in fighting for their lives.

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Photo Credit: Hayley Painter

At birth, I grew in love, and all that encompasses this word: sacrifice, friendship, and intimacy. I never knew this type of love; the love of a parent for their children. It is this love that grounds all future growth and is the “why” for each and every day.

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In infancy, my managerial capabilities were tested; could I pump, feed, bathe, cuddle, console, play and nurture five infants every day? We would see. We did, but not alone, and thus I grew in humility. I had to fight my pride and welcome- and rely- on the help of others. Still to this day, our family is living proof that it takes a village.

In toddlerhood, the challenges shifted to be more mental and psychological than physical. Yes, it can be tiresome to chase around five two-year-olds, but it is more challenging to teach and coach them through their new emotions, experiences and misunderstandings. It is in this stage that I took Daniel Tiger’s advice, “when you feel like you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.” Between this mantra and my many parenting mishaps, I believe I have learned the value of remaining calm during chaos and calamity… unfortunately knowledge does not translate into skill very easily.

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Photo Credit: Kaitlin Hansen

Today, we are in the preschool era. Being three is so very different than two. At three, children move with ease, can articulate what they are thinking and have a basic understanding of the world that they witness day-in and day-out. They are still naive to everything outside of their four walls but that presents caregivers with a priceless opportunity. Preschoolers are hungry, hungry for knowledge of all of the what, when, where, why and how of this world. It is a true joy to help a youngster navigate a new experience that you know they will remember with smiles in their heart.

Yes, I will not deny there are the threenager moments and mood swings; the “holes” in their oatmeal, the zipper that won’t budge, when they wanted triangles instead of rectangles, or even when all of the bubbles in the bathtub have come and gone. These little things that make the littles steam; it is in these moments that I pray I am able to remain calm and that my peace would transcend their anguish. It is these times that are preparing me for their true teenage years.

At the end of every day, I lie in bed reviewing the day- as I’m sure they do- recalling my good choices and my bad choices. I try to remind myself of the elementary lesson that bad choices don’t make you a bad person, or a bad parent for that matter. We are all under construction… works in progress… building, refining and polishing each other in each moment of everyday and in each stage and we all play a role in this process independent of our age.

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Photo Credit: Kaitlin Hansen

Trick, Treat, or Teaching Opportunity

Halloween can be a scary time for more reasons than the goblins and spooky ghosts. Halloween seems to kick-off the season of treats beginning with the tempting sweets that line the grocery store aisles. Many parents dread Halloween due to the amount of candy that their child drags home after a long night of trick-or-treating.  However, I am looking forward to this teaching opportunity.

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Many of you know that food, nutrition and overall wellness are near and dear to my heart. I love equipping and empowering people in their health pursuits… especially my children. Trick-or-treating is a great time to teach moderation. There is a growing body of research that encourages families to mark no food as forbidden. Ellyn Satter encourages parents to help their children to, “Learn to manage sweets and to keep sweets in proportion to the other food [they] eat.” Moderation can be a difficult concept to grasp, but it is a lesson worth learning. According to research, treat-deprived children often end up weighing more later in life due to hoarding forbidden foods. I appreciate these findings but also recognize that these lessons need to be age-appropriate.

At three years young, my kiddos still are led by their frontal lobes (aka Impulsivity) therefore, we have tailored the moderation conversation to one of “wants” versus “needs” and “wants” have a time and a place. Since candy and sweets are unnecessary “wants,” my children have never had any. We don’t have any in the home so, if they encountered a candy bar on the street they wouldn’t know what it is. This is intentional because I know the power of sugar and I also know the consequences. Sugar is a sweet and silent killer that is a great contributor of morbidity and mortality around the world. Because of this I often associate excess sugar with excess alcohol or even smoking. As parents, we are guides and guardians for our children. We are blessed with the opportunity to guard their hearts, minds, bodies and souls until they are able to “digest” the media and message and then tasked with helping to guide them through this muddy world.

This does not mean my children will never have the pleasure of candy; recall those that are deprived often become the secret hoarders. Instead, we will continue to be intentional about when, where, why and how we introduce these types of foods and experiences. I also feel led to set others up for success that is why we will continue to be the weirdo house on the street that does not handout candy, but rather an allergen free snack. There are also a host of other food and non-food alternatives including…

Non-Food Alternatives:

  • Stickers
  • Glow sticks
  • Play dough
  • Rings
  • Toothpaste/Floss/Toothbrush
  • Pencil/Erasers
  • Seasonal Post-it’s
  • Bubbles

Food Alternatives:

  • Gum
  • Granola Bars
  • Pretzels/Crackers
  • Popcorn or Puffed Corn

So, with moderation in mind may the force be with you as we forge into the season of sweets and continue to guard and guide our children in the days to come!

Looking Back at Kali Mae

Kali Mae is the most compassionate quint. She has a sixth sense for the needs of others and truly enjoys caring for her brother and sisters. She also has a special place for animals in her heart. She loves Papa’s dog, Holly, and enjoys going to the local petting farm to see all of the “cute” animals.

K-Mae is our little firecracker and the queen of temper-tantrums. It doesn’t take much to lay Kali out on the floor and send out that shrill, monkey screech. Her cure is typically an outlet for her anguish (stomping her feet, talking it out, etc.) or simple reassurance that it is okay to be angry. She is also the human emoji and has a collection of facial expressions for every occasion.

Kali’s name has ebbed and flowed over the years, but has settled on the originally Kali Mae. She enjoys a variety of nick names, including K, K-Mae and Mae. But, when asked what her name is, she now replies Kali Mae.

Kali has many loves, but the following are her favorites…

Her Favorite Animal: Piggy

Her Favorite Stuffed Animal: Piggy Pancake (featured in If You Give a Pig a Pancake), but you will also find her Moose (If You Give a Moose a Muffin), Minnie Mouse and Yellow Bears tucked in her bed with her.

Her Favorite Animated Character: Peppa Pig

Her Favorite Show: Super Simple Turn and Learn ABC’s

Her Favorite Food: Anything sweet, but in all honesty she’s enjoys everything

Her Favorite Activity: Gardening

Now, here’s a look back at Kali Mae’s second year…

Kali at two years…

If you really want to turn back the clock, check out Kali’s First Year…

Looking Back at Isabella Marie

Isabella Marie is three! As we look back and ahead at our Bella-Bean, it is clear that Bella is the most creative, artistic and imaginative among the five. She can entertain herself for hours with intricate story lines. She is a social butterfly, but truly enjoys her alone time.

Bella also appreciates order; “A place for everything and everything in its place” truly describes Bella’s space. Her room may appear to be a mess, but it is perfectly imperfect in her eyes.

She also appears to be the “popular” girl among the V5 and tends to rule the roost. The only card that will trump Bella is Theo; He has a special place in her heart of hearts. Also, since Bella (Felix) and K-Mae (Oscar) have been rooming together they also have become besties. It warms our heart to see them playing hand-in-hand and caring for one another’s needs.

Bella is the opposite of “even keel” and often unpredictable in mood, opinion and action. It’s also difficult to pin her favorites but we’ll try!

Her Favorite Animal: Seal

Her Favorite Stuffed Animal: Truly her Fuzzy blanket or Her Ginormous Brown Bear

Her Favorite Animated Character: Lambie from Doc McStuffins

Her Favorite Show: Doc McStuffins

Her Favorite Food: Avocado

Her Favorite Activity: Snuggling on Daddy’s lap

Now, here’s a look back at Isabella’s second year…

Bella’s at two years…

If you really want to turn back the clock, check out Bella’s First Year…

Turning the Corner

Time continues to roll by; days turn into weeks, weeks into months and now months are quickly turning into years. At some point in the last few months, the V5 turned the corner. One evening, they went to bed little squirmy wormy caterpillars and woke up beautiful butterflies. We have truly witnessed our babies’ metamorphosis into little people.

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They are verbal and becoming more articulate; all can mumble through the ABC’s. Their coloring and writing skills are becoming more and more impressive; all can spell their names. Most often you have to rearrange a few letters but they’re all on the paper. They are becoming more independent with each day; all are day-potty trained. They are scary-mobile. I recall keeping them down off high equipment at the park and back from ledges knowing that their little bodies would keep them from doing what their minds were determined to do. But, now, now I just wince a bit as they jump from here to there, or climb as high as they feel comfortable and run as quickly as their legs will carry them. It’s amazing.

My favorite marker of growth, however, is the growth of their imagination. I love watching my children use their creative minds to make up games, stories and scenarios as they either play alone or with each other (rarity, but it does happen). Most of the time you’ll find…

Theo having some “boy-time” playing with his orange lam-bor-ghini and green tractor, heading off to Farm and Fleet.

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Bella playing dress-up and hurrying off to church, the grocery store or the eye doctors. She has the most elaborate imagination and will keep herself busy in her creative world for hours if we let her.

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Lily typically hovers around any and all of her siblings, wanting to play along or simply snatch the toy their playing with. It’s not malicious, only devious. She’s a little troublemaker. Her favorite scenarios these days are caring for her little koala (Uti) or mouse (Mousie) and helping them learn how to use the potty.

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K-Mae loves to write, draw and color. You’ll find her at the blue table writing her name, drawing shapes or coloring little yellow bears and piggies. When she’s not practicing her penmanship, she’ll be running around with Bella. Since those two became roomies a few months ago, they have been nearly inseparable.

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Ellie is a mover and a shaker. All of her imaginative play is as active as it can be. Her favorite games to play are “obst-cle” course and “bouncy house” where we rearrange the couch to be a huge square for her to bounce around in. It was a real treat when the Whitakers’ borrowed us their real bouncy house.

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When Rosie is all tuckered out, you will also find her snuggled up with her entourage of stuffed kitties and a pink blanket.

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It is ever so hard to believe that they will be three years old in two weeks. The transition from toddlerhood has been real physically, emotionally and socially. We have truly watched them turn the corner and are now excited to watch them head down the road to new knowledge, skills and adventures.

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Bouncing into Spring

Spring is an amazing time of new beginnings, shedding of winter’s layers and welcoming new life. The V5 are enjoying every minute of exploring our new backyard, the neighborhood and all of the flowers and plants starting to poke their heads from the ground.

We formally welcomed Spring at the Madison Area Mom’s of Multiples Spring Fling. The kids had a blast at the Open Gym with all of the trampolines, mats, parallel bars, obstacle courses and toys. We now adoringly call the open gym, the Bouncy House. We, however, picked up a nasty bug at the event and riding on the fun memories, giggles and smiles that we shared last weekend to carry us through. Here are a few of our faves…

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Isabella is Cruisin’
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Lily in her Bug
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Theo is in his Little Deuce Coop
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Pedal to the Metal Ellie Rose is gone in a Flash
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K-Mae was swerving with authority and a smile

Video Clips:

Bouncy House Fun…

Obstacle Course Run…

K-Mae’s Obstacle Course Run…

The V5’s Got Hops…

Theo escorting Ellie Rose…

Cabin Fever

There is a cabin fever epidemic in our household. We are quite thankful that Spring is upon us because we cannot wait to get outdoors!

We tried to make it outside throughout the winter, but the quints’ affinity for snow and cold varies on a wide spectrum. Ellie Rose took on Frosty and loves to galavant through the snow; she anchors the scale at the “love for snow” end point. Mr. Theo dislikes all that snow has to offer; thus anchoring the other end of the spectrum. Kali Mae is our mid-point; She enjoys sitting amidst the drifts catching snowflakes and munching on a snowball. Lily and Bella are a bit more free-spirited and can tolerate it for a bit, but then quickly want to go indoors. Needless to say, our snow experiences typically last about 20-25 minutes, or half of the amount of time it takes to prepare.

How we are treating cabin fever and getting our crazies out…


Everyone, however, loves to be outdoors when it’s warm. We trekked to the park in our neighborhood the other day for the first time. It was very cool to watch our 29-weekers climb the play structure with ease, run around the park, swing on the swings, and best of all get dirty! The V5 are not, typically, fond of getting messy. If they have a drop of water- fondly known as a Dibble-dop – on their clothes, they demand a new outfit. But, when we left the park, everyone had dirty hands and mud stains; it was a true milestone! We look forward to many more mud pies and grass stains in the future.

V5 in their Spring Gear

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Lily and Turtle
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Ellie and Her Kitty
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Bella, Nana Bear and Mr. Walrus, fondly known as WusRahl

 

The quints also made their first appearance at Sunday School last week and loved it. They learned a new song, made new friends and didn’t shed a tear. We are very excited to watch them grow in their social skills, as well as, learn about God’s love. They were also very excited to get dressed to go to church!

 

The V5 in their Sunday Best

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Ellie, K-Mae, Lily, Bella and Theo

 

We (Dad, Mom and Nana B) continue to try our best to stay a step ahead of our crew physically and mentally. It is evident that our bunch needs consistent challenges that stimulate them intellectually and outlets to get their crazies out physically. We welcome suggestions for challenging the V5. Right now, we are:

  • Reading like book worms
  • Practicing writing our names, numbers and shapes
  • Singing songs
  • Learning our ABC’s and 123’s
  • Building towers and puzzles

 

Theo reading the “Dot Book” to Lily

We plan to start:

  • Practicing with scissors and making more necklaces to improve fine motor skills,
  • Gardening to foster a love for getting dirty, and
  • Getting out and about to increase opportunities for social interaction.

 

The V5’s Vows for 2016

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The holiday commotion has settled and now the only flurry is the typical day-to-day of having five two-year-olds. This Christmas season was very special because it was the first time we got to see the holiday through a child’s eyes.

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The wonder and amazement of gift giving, reindeer, snowflakes and Frosty, as well as, jolly Old St. Nick adds another element to Christmas.

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We enjoyed our first Christmas in our new home, travelled to Lake Villa to enjoy our traditional family dinner, and even had our first sleepover with Papa T and Holly.

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Christmas Eve Morning and a Very Vanderwall Family Christmas Video 

The holiday flew by, and the New Year is upon us. What’s on the docket for 2016? Well, the V5’s vows for 2016 are to…

Learn how to Count to 20

Our munchkins can easily recognize numbers 1-10, but counting (in order) is a skill to-be-mastered. Theo has got 1-11 and a few of the girls can get to 10. One goal is to be able to count to 20 by the end of the year, as well as, count items all the way up to 20. Their new puzzle from Aunt Debbie and the girls will be a key to their success.

Sing the ABC Song

Letter recognition has come easy for the quints, since they have been exposed to so many names since birth. The letters T, I, B, L, K, M and E are hands down the easiest to recognize. Everyone also can recognize all of the upper case letters in the alphabet and most know the lower case, too. Since the V5 are really into singing now, we are hoping to capitalize and teach them the ABC song. If they can sing Frosty the Snowman and Rockabye Baby verse-by-verse, I’m confident we will get the ABC’s before 2017.

Theo’s rendition of Rockabye Baby

 

Spell and Write Their Names

Our bunch love to practice writing their names. We enjoy teaching them how to spell along with fun stories. For example, Theo learned how to spell and write his name by first learning that his names starts with “T,” and Mr. T is a line who always wear a hat, “H” comes after “T” and doesn’t leave home without his belt. “E” is third in line and wears shoes, a belt and a hat. Finally, “O” who looks like a circle.

Use the Potty

Our potty training adventures have ebbed and flowed throughout 2015. However, since everyone asked Santa for underwear this Christmas, potty training is a must in 2016. I must note that this was an unassisted request which was publically declared to the mall Santa.

Mall Santa Pic

Everyone now has the motor skills to use the potty. We are now working through recognition. Bella has mastered number “1” and “2;” she will be the first in her new purple undies. Ellie has “1” down, but often finds she is too busy to take potty breaks. K-Mae also is a “potty-going” superstar for “1” but “2” continues to sneak up on her. Theo is interested but isn’t there just, yet. And Lily, Lily gets an “A” for attempts. She sits and sits and tries and tries, but the poor-thing is still trying to figure out the difference between “1,” “2” and her perpetual gas… toots, toots, toots.

Mind their P’s & Q’s

This is, honestly, the number one priority. Teaching our children manners and respect is a lifelong priority. For now, we’re working on “please,” “thank you,” and “no thank you.” When they are polite to us and one another, the tone of the day is entirely different; dare I say it is easy? However, the majority of the time (nearly all of the time) they are quite the demanding bunch. We’ll get there, one P&Q at a time.

Time continues to fly by and we continue to try our best to savor each moment and stage, as well as, plan and prepare for the next. Childhood is truly a phenomenon; the days can seem so long, but they grow up in the blink of an eye, but don’t dare to blink because you’ll miss them. Here’s to a healthy, happy and fruitful New Year!

 

The 1st Snow

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The first snow of the season is a sudden reminder that the Holidays are just around the corner. This year the Vanderwall Quints are more aware than ever of all the hustle and bustle. “New House,” gobbling turkeys, snow, “Kiss-mas” lights, and “Frosties” abound!


It is so much fun to take a fresh look at all of these events from the eyes of the V5. Their expressions and experiences are priceless and a stark reminder to appreciate the little things that otherwise would be overlooked. These include the winter wind on your cheeks, learning how to walk in big clunky snow boots, having snowflakes land on your eyelashes, and sliding down a slick snow hill. In addition to all the wonderful elements of winter and the holidays, the kiddos have also grown to enjoy:KMae Cheese Burger

  • Coloring
  • Forming animals with Play-doh
  • Cooking and tasting new fruits and vegetables
  • Playing matching games
  • Hide and Go Seek with their animals
  • Writing their names

The biggest challenge of the day is naptime. Since saying good-bye to our cribs and hello to toddler beds, their mid-day nap has been nearly non-existent. Bella is your typical, “Jack in the Box” child and thus almost always needs to be removed from the situation in order to allow the other munchkins time to sleep. Other obstacles that we have been navigating include the typical two-year-old-tantrums. We ride the emotional rollercoaster of being a toddler right along side of them. We hope that the additional space that our new home will bring will help to ease some of the tantrums that result from simply being too close to one another. In the mean time, we are rolling with the punches… hair pulling… biting… and “puddling” on the floor. One new tool in our tool box for combatting these days is exploring the winter wonderland!

Sledding Video:

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Ellie Sled

Lily YOLO

Theos Ready

Lily and Ellie

 

 

Mom’s Everyday: Consider the 3 P’s

Mom’s Everyday- Madison asked me if I had any advice for parents. I encourage the three P’s for all parents:

  • Planning
  • Priorities
  • Perspective

Check out the interview at:

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Article:

Cassie Vanderwall is a dietitian, personal trainer, diabetes educator, blogger, and most importantly, mother of quintuplets. Her five kiddos just happen to be two months shy of two years.

She offers her advice on how to stay sane with the three P’s: Planning, Priorities and Perspective.

Planning: We all know that kids benefit from schedules and routines, from short term to long term planning. Where are they gonna go to school? When’s the next meal? What’s for dinner? All of those questions are important to answer ahead of time so we can be present with our kids every moment.

Priorities: We often as parents pour into our children and end up running on empty. But Cassie believes we have a lot to learn from airline safety. Put that air mask on first. Keep your emotional and physical tanks full with monthly dates with your partner, a quick workout in the morning and healthy food throughout the day.

Perspective: We all have those days where we throw back our heads and say really, really did that just happen? Feel free to fill in the blank with your latest and greatest moment. And it’s at those times you should remind yourself that you’re blessed with a beautiful family.