Taking on Three

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The V5 have fully embraced being three! They love being “big” kids who can pick out their own clothes and dress themselves, go potty on their own, take on any playground equipment mom will let them and enjoy new foods, which were previously no-go’s due to fears of choking. I believe my favorite part of them being three is watching their imaginations grow! They are finally learning how to engage with one another in thoughtful and dramatic play. Some days… okay most days… it is tug of war and a battle of wills, but there are moments when I catch them caring for one another, using nice words, and even complimenting each other.

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Their favorite play time activities include whipping up their favorite meals in their play kitchen, taking care of their dear stuffed animals, running pretend errands to the grocery store, heading to work or church, the doctor’s office and even tournaments (like Daddy). Outdoors they enjoy going to local parks, swinging on their play set, hunting for caterpillars, gardening (or picking unripened fruit) and playing in the sand.

They also are growing like never before. They love discovering which new ledges they can reach, how fast they can run from point A to point B and now which doors and windows they can open. It is a new challenge to stay one step ahead of this gang. Our best “red flag” that danger is impending is silence.

The girls’ hair also was growing so fast and so long that we took them for their first haircuts. They did so well that the stylist thought they were regulars. And, of course, Mr. Theo played “I spy” patiently throughout the salon as he waiting for his four sisters.

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Their knowledge of the world, emotions and others is also ever-increasing. I, now, have to agree with many parents when they say that threes are more difficult than two’s. The two-year-old is still learning to navigate the world before them and tantrums can often be the result of simple confusion; I have pity on the two-year-old. The three-year-old, while of course still learning, knows their world better, knows what they want, and knows each and every strategy to get it, or at least try to get it; I do not pity the three-year-old. I also am now a firm-believer in threenagers; they’re real and they’re nasty.

I can’t say it better than the Huffington Post’s Top 10 Signs You Are Living with a Threenager

  1. You live in constant fear of how to cut the shape of their toast. Do they want triangles today, rectangles, squares? And when they do tell you, they change their mind right after you cut it.
  2. They say things like (with hands firmly placed on hips), “I don’t want to. I want to do what I want to do!”
  3. You go through three or more wardrobe changes a day.
  4. Your child goes boneless the second you remind them that a transition is coming, especially when they are asked to stop playing. By the way, when was this ability given to children? You know, lay limp and double your body weight so mom can’t move you. It’s a talent reminiscent of a possum playing dead…
  5. They run away from you when it’s time to get dressed, or undressed, or do anything they deem unnecessary. In fact running away from you is their favorite activity. (Cardio workout?)
  6. To nap or not to nap, that is the question. A threenager’s answer will always be emphatically “NO!”
  7. They want three (or more) of everything because they are three.
  8. Threenagers do not possess patience.
  9. You have to leave a 10 minute buffer on any activity so they can it all on by their “OWN SELF!”
  10. You realize they’ll be a great trial lawyer one day when they’ve just negotiated their way out of a time-out.

I won’t miss the drama of the threenager years, but I know I will miss the sweet cuddles, sincere naivete, and their expressions when trying something for the first time.

Looking Back at Theodore Joseph

Another year has passed and it is time to take a look back at each one of the Vanderwall-5. Starting with big brother, Mr. Theodore Joseph!

Mr. Theo is the most well-spoken, genuine and loving three-year-old. His brilliance and considerate-nature often leave me speechless. If he catches you staring off into space, he will kindly ask you what you are thinking about with honest interest. The little guy is truly a sponge; you only have to tell him once and he will remember it. He also enjoys quizzing others to be sure they know, too. It is adorable to catch him teaching his sisters- not only- their abcs and phonics, but all manners.

He is an even keel little fellow, but when he gets excited watch out he will transform into a T-Rex (Theo Rex)! His favorites have also remained the same over the years.

His Favorite Animal: Dog

His Favorite Stuffed Animal: Brown Bear

His Favorite Animated Character: Thomas the Tank Engine

His Favorite Shows: Super Simple ABC’s and Blues Clues “Alphabet Train”

His Favorite Food: Anything and Everything, but don’t stand between Theo and his veggies with hummus

His Favorite Activity: Snuggling while reading a book

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

Theo at Two Years…

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

Summer Fun

The summer of 2016 has been a blast! It still amazes me how much children grow up between the ages of two and three; too many milestones to count. At two years… I was so fearful if I caught them climbing, running, and jumping and now at three years, I want them to climb, run and jump! This summer the V5 have had ample opportunity to do so, too! We have explored local dream parks, splash pads, played polar bear plunge in our mini pool and slip and slide, hit up the zoo, farms and bounce on every bouncy house in sight. Not to mention… turning three, moving to “big kid” beds and receiving their very own “park” (aka play house).  The kiddos even go to attend their first wedding!

They soak it all in just like the rays of sunshine. It is amazing what they recall from months ago… down to the color socks they wore when we went to the zoo the last time.

I had to capture these precious memories…here’s to many more!

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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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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

 

 

Growing Pains

What is the product of (time change + full moon + molars + exploring physical, emotional and mental boundaries) x 5?

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Growing pains and simply the beginning of toddlerhood. I try to put myself in their shoes… I have trouble imagining a world where you:

  • Don’t understand even 1/3 of the words spoken to you or about you.
  • Desire to do things just like others (parents) but often lack the physical ability or coordination
  • Can’t comprehend why hitting your head against a hard object or poking your sibling in the eye, or even playing with poop is a bad thing.
  • Want to tell the world, or even just you mom, what you want but find the best way to get their attention is to scream.
  • Experience periodic pain (teething) and don’t know why it is happening or how to make it go away.
  • Have someone else controlling everything in your life from when you sleep to when you wake.

This sounds like a very scary world for me. It is very important to me to help equip my children with both choice and tools for communication at such a young age. I hope that this will help to lessen the growing pains for all involved. So, how do we do it?

  • Recognize their limits by trying to see life in their eyes.

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  • Be the parent. While we try to empathize, we also need to have boundaries and provide a healthy environment with consequences. We now have a penalty box, which is simply a re-purposed baby gate. They are beginning to recognize that “bad baby” gets 2-minutes for hitting, biting, banging their head, throwing food, need I go on?

Silly Ellie

  • Teach them to sign and encourage them to use the words they know. While signing at young children may seem like it is effort done in vain, one day it all clicks. Our kiddos can now sign and say a variety of words, which saves us a tantrum or two.

Kmae & Pandy

  • Maintain a routine. While their schedule needs to grow with them, we try our best to keep meal times, nap times and bed times the same each and everyday. This helps them to know what comes next.

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  • Choice is tricky. We try to provide them options in regards to which books they would like to read, or toys to play with. When it comes to eating, we choose what and when, but they get to decide how much.

While physical growing pains don’t typically start until around 3, you wouldn’t know it around here! The quints are also physically getting bigger! Theo is leading the pack in both height and weight (no surprise), but Lily is just a few centimeters shy. Bella is turning out to be our light-weight partially because she is quite the jumping-Bella-bean. Ellie and Kali were the exact same height at their 18-month visit, with Elliott just a couple pounds less than her.

  • Elliott: 30.6 inches and 20.5 lbs
  • Kali: 30.6 inches and 22.8 lbs
  • Lily: 30.8 inches and 21.3 lbs
  • Bella: 30.1 inches and 19.8 lbs
  • Theo: 31 inches and 25.9 lbs

What’s next? 

Potty training is the next item on our milestone agenda. We have started introducing the potty and the necessary language. We are waiting for other cues that they are ready. At this point, Bella appears to be in the lead by hiding when she poops and wanting to take off her diaper and help to wipe.

While looking ahead to what’s next, I find it a daily practice to remain present; trying to appreciate every moment that will soon be a memory.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

This Thanksgiving all of the V5 enjoyed the holiday fare!

Bella&Gpa_CheeseburgerWith a mouth full of choppers they enjoyed the feast, along with cherished family memories and their own rendition of football.

It was a difficult 24 hours preceding the holiday celebration due to our first visit to the E.R. via ambulance. Poor little Lily’s nervous system kicked into hyperdrive during lunch on Wednesday. We learned that she has a pretty nasty U.T.I. and some of the bacteria may have snuck into her bloodstream. When this occurred her body sounded the alarms and all of her blood rushed to her central organs leaving our poor little lily-bug blue as can be and short of breath. This- apparently- is common response in preemies.

Gpa&LilyTrying to stay as calm as I could, I called 911 and our local Fire Department and paramedics were at our home in minutes. They asked upon entry if I needed to call any parents of the kids I was caring for (thinking they had walked into a home daycare); I kindly told them they were all mine. The other four behaved wondrously as we took care of Lily. Once Nana B arrived, Lily and I were off to the E.R. where Daddy met us. After one night’s stay and a big-dog antibiotic regimen, Lily is on the mend.

On a happier note…at their last check-up we learned that everyone has “caught up” and the medical team no longer has to adjust for their gestational age. The V5 are now just shy of 16 months and are all within in one inch of one another in height but vary in weights.

  • Theo is now 30.5 inches and 25 lbs.
  • Bella is 29 inches and 19 lbs.
  • Lily is 30 inches and 20 lbs.
  • Kali is 29.5 inches and 22 lbs.
  • Elliott is 29 inches and 20 lbs.

The latest milestone news is that everyone is now a bi-ped and are now walking!

Mr.Theo

 

Ellie Rose

 

Kali

Kali got her wheels about 2 weeks ago now and Lily just started walking this past week.

 

We are very thankful for good health, family and friends this holiday season!

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The V5 are 15 Months

The V5 are 15 months old and raking in the milestones!

Halloween Video (Click to view the video)

Time certainly is flying by and their minds are growing just as fast as their bodies. Our home is full of chatter, balls, blocks, cups, and various forms of transportation. The quints love the Chicco Walker, their new stroller and their activity table , which has been re-purposed (thanks to Kali’s ingenuity) as a walker. They also enjoy exploring all of the cause-and-effect relationships in the world, such as dropping toys from high places, bopping themselves and each other on the head and of course biting. I am very glad that the biting phase, which lasted about 2 weeks, appears to be coming to an end. The kiddos looked like they were covered in hickies during the worst of it. A few of the V5 continue to be quite aggressive. The most common reason for aggressive behavior in toddlers is their inability to express: emotions, energy and the fact that they are in pain. Knowing this has helped us to handle their outbursts much easier. The best ways to respond include:

  • Not reacting and staying calm,
  • Redirecting their attention and possibly removing them from the situation, and
  • Being consistent.

Three- Theo, Ellie and Bella- are walking and Lily has taken a few steps.

Bella’s First Steps (Click to view the video)

 

Theo’s First Steps (Click to view the video)

 

Kali, who has the strength, balance and coordination to walk, continues to choose to crawl, but will most likely just stand and take her few steps any day now.

Kali's characteristic head stand
Kali’s characteristic head stand

The two trends that are sweeping across the V5 nation are taking your clothes off and styling your hair with the day’s fare. Bella continues to be the ringleader of the nudist colony, as well as, the monkey that starts to put food in their hair. As those with multiple children know, it is a game of monkey see, monkey do.

All of their vocabularies also continue to grow. They all can say ma-ma, da-da, ba-ba and na-na, but I’m not quite sure they know what these consonants mean, yet. They also all can recognize the words:

  • Hi,
  • Bye,
  • Nose,
  • Ear,
  • Mouth,
  • Belly,
  • Baby,
  • Ball,
  • Diaper,
  • Good Job, and
  • Our favorite- No.

We are also excited to share our Halloween celebration as Pacman and his 4 ghosts: Pinky, Blinky, Inky and Clyde.
Happy Halloween 2014

The adventures that lie ahead include learning:

  • how to climb up and down the stairs,
  • learning each others names,
  • learning hungry, full, and sleepy, and
  • learning how to color.