Change is the only constant in life

Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher said, “Change is the only constant in life.”
We have all experienced significant changes over the last several weeks. We are familiar with change but, often only anticipated change such as the growing of our children, the changing of seasons and of course the dreaded time change. But recently we have all experienced changes which were unanticipated and have left many of us feeling confused, anxious, sad, and lonely.
As I reflect over the time of this pandemic, I see that it truly has only been a few short weeks but has felt much longer. It is also hard because we don’t know how long these “short-term changes” will last. We know that they are necessary to “flatten the curve” the changes were successful in doing just that. We also know because the curve is now flat that we are destined to long-term change.
It is too easy to dwell in the darkness and rehearse the sad stories over and over in our minds. I have heard that negativity is like velcro in our brains. We have to work hard to not think about the shortages across the world, the astronomical number of deaths and those who have died without anyone by their side, the lonely funerals, the distance between loved ones and the unknown future. It is much harder to rehearse the blessings in disguise. These are often like a fried egg slipping off a well-greased pan.
We need to practice gratitude and slow down enough to smell the roses and see the beauty that will rise again. With great tragedy comes hardship but I know that our lost loved ones, our economy, our country will rise again.
There is beauty amidst this darkness; like the opportunity to spend more time as a family. The time which used to fly by has slowed; days used to feel like minutes and now those same days feel like weeks. The weather is warming and many are seeking outdoor fun and a breath of fresh air. Organizations have had to think creatively and divergently about staffing solutions, shortages and strategies for the pandemic, this has brought about new leaders, teamwork and efficiency. Again, it is too easy to sit back and complain but much harder to take this change in stride as children do.
I have taken time to think about how my children have handled the last several weeks. They have grown accustomed to schooling at home and now love it! They have never complained about not being able to leave the house or not being able to go to the store. They have been flexible with the food we have available to us; while there was complaining at first this has become the new normal. They question out of curiosity but never argue with the answer that “this is how it is for now.” They’ve soaked up the extra snuggles, enjoying having everyone at home and look forward each and every day to the high fives and embraces that await when they reunite with their friends, their teachers, and loved ones.
So, I hope that all of us can take a moment to let go of the darkness and for a brief moment welcome in the light that our children so easily see. This too shall pass, the only constant in our life is change so, let’s enjoy each and every step by finding the goodness in each day. For without rain we would never see the rainbows.
Here are some of our blessings and memories from Quarantine in 2020…

The Most Magical Place On Earth

After nearly a year of planning, our family took on Disney with confidence, gratitude and sheer awe. The Disney experience is truly life-changing. From the built environment to the personalities of the cast members, they truly transform the world for kids of all ages. Our 8-day plan included a 4 park pass to the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot. We made sure to keep our park days manageable by getting their at rope drop and bowing out around dinner time each evening. This helped with the traffic and prevented major meltdowns. Since we were staying off property our fast pass opportunities were fair, especially because we were booking for a party of ten. But, it still helped to provide the necessary structure for our Disney Park agendas. At the end of the day, we were tired but not exhausted and after our 2-day respite we were ready for the remaining two parks.

Instead of rambling on about our daily itineraries, I’d like to tell the story in pictures, which starts of course with our BIG REVEAL!

My Favorite Things

“Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things”

Gratitude, gratefulness, thanksgiving, contentment; these are a few of my favorite things! Many keep a gratitude journal but I would challenge them to not only recount their grateful moments but to live them! Slow down life just enough to appreciate these moments before they become memories.

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As I type this, it is a challenge for me, too! Many of my entries and posts are recollections because life whirls by us. This post is yet another account of my children and their favorite things because I know that too soon, these faves will be likes of the past.

Mr. Theo

He is outnumbered. This describes his life, his challenge but also his greatest gift. He has no one to compete with in our household simply because he was blessed with that Y chromosome. He shines bright- not only because he’s the only boy – but also because his patience, inquiry, maturity are far beyond his 6, well, I’m reminded 6 1/2 years. Here are a few of Theo’s favorite things:

  • Favorite Color: Orange and Green
  • Favorite Sport to Play: Baseball
  • Favorite Sport to Watch: Football
  • Favorite Team: Chicago Cubs
  • Favorite Hobby: Building… anything
  • Favorite Food: Chinese
  • Favorite Animal: Humans or more specifically homo sapiens
  • Favorite Memory: Going to the Cubs Convention with Daddy
  • Favorite Song: Go Cubs Go
  • Favorite Saying: Why?

Isabella

She will forever be my Bella Bean but has explored a variety of identities this last fall… Isabella, Izzy and has come back to Bella. Bella remains the artistic Princess. She has notebooks filled with doodles, hearts, stars and of course the new love of her life… King Boo, or has she refers to him, “Boo King.” While it’s an odd pairing, it works! Here are a few more of her favorite things:

  • Favorite Color: Purple and White
  • Favorite Sport to Play: Cheer
  • Favorite Sport to Watch: Sportsball
  • Favorite Team: Chicago Cubs, Chicago Bears and 49ers
  • Favorite Hobby: Drawing and Playing LOL dolls
  • Favorite Food: Chocolate Mint Ice Cream
  • Favorite Animal: Bunny, Lamb and well, Ghosts
  • Favorite Memory: Joining the Siwanatorz fan club
  • Favorite Song: I want candy by JoJo Siwa
  • Favorite Saying: “Sto-op, Mo-om.”

Lily

Lily-Love-Bug is exactly that! She is the most heartfelt, helpful and considerate little girl from 6a to 6p. If you catch her outside of her normal business hours, her sensitivities run high and so does her temperament. Lily continues to adore her little stuffed koala, Uti, horses and unicorns. She also loves to entertain with her Y.O.L.O. approach to life.

  • Favorite Color: Green, Teal and Black
  • Favorite Sport to Play: Gymnastics
  • Favorite Sport to Watch: Dance
  • Favorite Team: Brewers and the Cubbies
  • Favorite Hobby: Spending time with family and DANCING
  • Favorite Food: Bananas
  • Favorite Animal: Baby Koalas and Lions
  • Favorite Memory: Snuggling with her baby Koala
  • Favorite Song: Everyday Pop Stars by JoJo Siwa
  • Favorite Saying: No words, simply places her palm to her forehead  and subtly shakes her head

Kali Mae

Kali Mae is a thinker. Her thought life is rich and tough to break into. She is a natural observer and at times is not afraid to share her thoughts and emotions. Other times, she is a tough nut to crack. She is a sweetheart and loves to take care of others. To say Kali loves Minnie Mouse would be an understatement. She plans to one day live next to Minnie in Disney World.

  • Favorite Color: Yellow, Blue and Pink… are polka dots a color?
  • Favorite Sport to Play: Cheer
  • Favorite Sport to Watch: Gymnastics
  • Favorite Team: Chicago Cubs, Chicago bears and 49ers
  • Favorite Hobby: Playing Minnie Mouse
  • Favorite Food: Minnie Mouse Cake
  • Favorite Animal: Mice and Puppies
  • Favorite Memory: Opening up her Minnie Mouse presents at Christmas
  • Favorite Song: D.R.E.A.M. by JoJo Siwa
  • Favorite Saying: “That’s Weird!”

Ellie

Ellie Rose, known strictly now as Rosie in the household is truly a depiction of the rhyme, “Sugar and Spice and everything nice.” She is super sweet but can also be quite spicy and salty for that matter. She continues to love to move, bounce, dance and flip. She is counting down the days to see JoJo Siwa in concert and acquiring more JoJo bows than there are days to wear them. Her love for animals continues, as well as, the joy she finds in organizing her things… in rainbow order, of course.

  • Favorite Color: Gold, Silver, Turquoise, and Rainbow!
  • Favorite Sport to Play: Cheer and Backyard Football
  • Favorite Sport to Watch: Volleyball
  • Favorite Team: Chicago Cubs, Chicago Bears
  • Favorite Hobby: Making up dances to JoJo Siwa songs
  • Favorite Food: Donuts
  • Favorite Memory: Going out for donuts as a family
  • Favorite Animal: Kittens
  • Favorite Song: Everyday Pop Stars by JoJo Siwa
  • Favorite Saying: “That’s Rude!”

Our favorites come and go. But, our gratitude for these things, these moments and memories never will.

A Magical Season

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Temperatures drop and the wind chills as households warm up with family, traditions, and celebrations. The holidays are truly magical! Despite being sick, the V5 still had twinkles in their eyes on Christmas morning. The queasiness in their stomachs was cured by the excitement of traveling to family’s homes for delicious food, fun and of course thoughtful gifts.

Before the big day, we were able to visit with all sides of the family!

Bella and I were sad to miss the Vanderwall Christmas this year but enjoyed our special one-on-one Christmas with a long winter’s nap and a short viewing of Olaf’s Holiday Traditions.

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The germs cleared and we rung in 2020 fever-free with our annual tradition of yummy appetizers, counting down with Australia and blowing poppers throughout the house!

We had final Christmas celebration with Papa Ron and Holly Girl. Kicked off 2020 celebrating Frank’s successful year with a delicious Hibachi dinner.

Cheers to you and yours for a happy and healthy 2020!

A Season for Change

The changing of the seasons has me eager for the holidays. This time of year is ripe with family, friends, thanksgiving and generosity. It is also a reminder that we are on the door step of a new year! While life-change can happen any time of the year, there is definitely something motivating about a January 1st start date.

The year 2020 is going to be a more mindful year. I plan to be more intentional about my words, my eye contact and my silence at home in hopes of modeling these skills for my children. We also will be starting family counseling in December and into 2020 which I hope will improve the dynamics – and maybe the volume – in our home. No cards to hide here; we are all works in progress.

I also plan to be more mindful about our food choices. As a dietitian, our family eats fairly well and are already quite mindful about how meals and snacks are composed. I recently watched a documentary entitled, The Game Changers, based on a recommendation from close friends (Thanks, Alex and Danielle!) that challenged my beliefs about a healthful diet. I have watched other movies that support veganism but this one maintained a more moderate view and did a stellar job of incorporating strong epidemiological evidence. I accepted the challenge and plan to transition our family’s meals to more a of plant-based pattern. This does not mean we are becoming vegans but does mean we will have more meals where the traditional protein is not present but rather we will be experimenting with Tofu, Beans, Lentils, Jackfruit and Vegan queso. I welcome you to join us on this journey. I hope to start a new section on this blog that shares are trials and successes at dinner. Perhaps, we will include a view testimonial and opinion pieces from the kiddos, too!

I think this transition will be a good opportunity to also build into our children’s interest in science. They really enjoyed making their science projects for their school fair and making hypothesis and conclusions based on what they learned. They will have the opportunity to learn about new foods, tastes, and textures as well as how to be an adventurous eater!

 

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The Physics of Pitching
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How to Be a Princess… art is science, right?
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How do cameras take a picture?
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How are bows made?
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How are rainbows made?

 

Now, back to the hustle and bustle of November! Happy Holidays! 

 

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A Language of Love is A Guide to Discipline

I often get questions about if our routine as a big and busy household is any easier now that the V5 are older. I always must pause and reflect to think about what it was like when our life revolved around 90-minute feeding regimens, or the 3 critical naptimes. It is in these moments that I realize life is speeding by us and while moments can be difficult making the days long, the weeks, months and years feel quite short.

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Our difficulties in previous years revolved around time management, physical safety and growth. While these are still priorities, our focus today is on social and emotional health. I have been reading Dr. Gary Chapman’s book entitled, “The Five Love Languages of Children.” I am a big fan of individualizing the way we love others to best fill their “tanks.” This has been important in our marriage and is becoming more important in our family. I have recognized from the beginning that even though the V5 are a unit; this unit is made of very different parts. Parenting is not one-size-fits-all. A post from Positive Parenting Connection states,

“When parents take into consideration that each child comes into the world with a mind and heart all their own, they can then explore the most effective ways to connect with and guide their child.”

This quite holds so much truth for me. It helps me to realize that not only do I need to individualize the way I love but also the way I teach, guide and discipline each of my children.

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The Love Languages can also shine light upon the best way to discipline, or “the practice of training,” our children in the way we should go. We are not simply trying to modify behaviors, establish good habits and make little “yes” men and women, but we are in the business- as parents- in making good humans with strong and compassionate hearts. I don’t want to stifle my children’s questions and creativity with over-scheduling or take away their voice because I believe my way or ideas are better. I don’t want to raise robots; I want to raise 5 resilient, empathetic, creative adults who are not afraid to work, play, or even combine the two.

I am still investigating my children’s dominant love languages and in doing so I am also experimenting with the most effective way to discipline them. For those less familiar the Five Love Languages include:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Physical Touch
  3. Quality Time
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Gifts

I’m certain all my children enjoy getting gifts, but this doesn’t light their eyes up like a note in their bed-time journals, special time with them on the weekends, or getting to sit on our laps during story time. The more effort I put into loving them in their own way, I find that their trust and respect for my changes. These are two things that I hope to never lose. These languages also help me to prevent hurting their spirit when I need to discipline them.

We have tried several different strategies for discipline and sometimes we believe the lie that they will always be this sassy and disrespectful. In the moment, my frustrations, anger and lack of patience are at a climax but at night when the house is quiet I reflect on what was really going on. Often, I was modeling sass and disrespect seeking to “steam roll” versus redirect. I would love to be a perfect parent but I’m not. I’m an emotional parent who is easily over-whelmed. I also find that when I take away their voice, give them a time-out, or send them to their room that this doesn’t work for everyone. Some of them need this time and space to process; others feel abandoned in their inner turmoil. Finding the time and space to process these encounters is difficult but it is necessary. We know anger is a secondary emotion and underneath hides fear and sadness. We need to take the time to dig deep to help our children resolve these insecurities, fears and emotions.

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Dr. Chapman, in the aforementioned book, states that the most profitable strategies for discipline are to love them through the correction. Start with an expression of their love language, avoid a discipline that is contrary to their love language and end with another expression of love. For example, if a child’s love language is words of affirmation, it would be best to start by identifying that you could see they were really trying to XYZ because you know that they do their best to XYZ. Then, move on to what you observed allowing their voice to clarify. End with more specific comments on their strengths and value. If we use harsh words with a harsh tone this can tear our little ones’ hearts apart who find vitality in others’ words. Another example, is if a child’s love language is physical touch we want to initiate and conclude discipline with endearing touch such as holding their hands, rubbing their back or embracing them.

This also makes so much sense when I read it and write it but is ever-so-hard to put into practice. But like most things practice makes more practice but eventually becomes routine. Thank you for joining me on this 6-year catharsis, I hope it inspires you to hold yours a little closer and love them a little harder.

 

Take Us Out to the Ball Game

Take Us Out to the Ball Game, Where we will be half the crowd;
Eight innings were spent in the bathroom, But made it back for Heyward’s homerun.

Let us root, root, root for the Cubbies, They didn’t win, it was a shame.
For it’s one, two, three strikes, you’re out, At the old ball game.

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Last weekend, we had the privilege of celebrating Uncle JD’s birthday at the Cub’s game in Milwaukee. It was the girlies’ first game and our first -of hopefully many- as a family. It was a memorable day that started with a Jimmy Johns tailgate and ended with a run around the bases and birthday celebration for J.D.

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It was also Grandparents’ Day and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to showcase Papa Ron and Nana B.

While one-third of the game was truly spent on bathroom runs, it was so fun to watch how awestruck the kiddos were of the stadium, crowd and players. Theo and Ellie were most engaged with the game.

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I’m now confident that Ellie could hold her own in the Wrigley Field bleachers… she shoots from the hip and is one tough cookie. I’ll just say that Bernie the Brewer is lucky she didn’t attend the meet and greet after the game otherwise he may have received a swift kick to the shins. Love our fiery Ellie Rosie!

Bella also managed to fall in love with the All-American Hot Dog during the 7th inning stretch!

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My favorite part of this special day was the gathering of family and friends which simply doesn’t happen often enough.

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First Week of First Grade

September is a month of transition. New school routines, fall sports and activities which can lead to an exhausting day and it is easy to go through the motions from wake-up to bed-time. Despite the busyness, we don’t want to sacrifice the quality of our time together and how precious these moments are.

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We have been counting down to the first day of first grade since June because our crew are social animals. They thrive at school. It was evident by the last week in August that they had grown tired of their familial playmates. This first week of school has been a blast. Each kiddo has enjoyed the adventure of learning their new routine, teacher and classmates. Lucky for them, they were exposed to the entire Kindergarten class last year so the experiences was truly a shuffle of each others’ friends and an opportunity to be-friend their siblings’ besties.

All are looking forward to reading more often and with greater confidence, writing with greater clarity and expressing their creativity in art, science and music. We are ready to watch our little miracles continue to grow by leaps and bounds in first grade.

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Looking Back at Ellie Rosie (2018-2019)

Where do I start with Ms. Elliott Rose? She is simply intense. Everything she does, she does to the extreme. When she is happy, she’s incredibly happy. When she is sad, she’s very sad. When she’s mad, Ellie goes boom! She is truly a feeler. I can see that she can sense others’ hurt and pain and it melts my heart to watch her respond in kindness. This is definitely true for our furry and feathered friends, too.

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Rosie is also our athlete who continues to love to move. Her favorites our gymnastics, tumbling, soccer and soon will be trying her hand at cheer. At the end of the day, when she has run out of gas, she is always excited to snuggle up.

Now, a look back at Ellie over the last year…

Ellie at five years…

Ellie at four years…

Ellie at three years…

Ellie at two years…

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

Looking Back at Kali Mae (2018-2019)

Kali is quick-witted and kind with a very active mind. She is just as sweet as she is sassy. She is our observer and -like her brother- has a photographic memory that never forgets. Kali continues to love to be helpful, take care of everything from plants to people and still wants to live on a pig farm when she grows up.

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She loves to chat about her weekly boyfriends but her heart truly belongs to Minnie Mouse (Thank goodness!).

Now, let’s look back at Kali over the last year…

Kali at five years…

Kali at four years…

Kali at three years…

Kali at two years…

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