Perfectly Imperfect

Perfectly Imperfect – The Dawning of New Era

As I sit down to write today, I am watching the rain fall along the panes of our windows. Cold, wet days often don’t bring the joy of bright, blue 72-degree weather but rather tend to slow many down and often times slow us down enough to see the muffled memories or quiet reflections in our mind. I have been pondering what, when and how of what I’d like to share in this post for several weeks. Today, I decided to simply put pen-to-paper or rather fingers-to-keys.

Today, my story is intended to empower families and caregivers in fostering mental healthcare in their homes and creating a compassionate space for each other. There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic heightened stress and brought about new stressors for all people. I often wonder how my children will recall these last few years. Will they remember the isolation sadly? Or will they recall the extra time each other and Nana has their second-grade teacher fondly? Will they recall the big feelings that they navigated with pride or remorse?

I recognize that their reactions and recollections are out of my locus of control but my response in the here and the now is. The last year and beyond we have navigated budding mental health concerns that we knew would eventually arise due to the prevalence in our genetic pool. At first, we sought out strategies to combat the stress. We tried T.I.P.P. breaks, individual and family therapy, breathing exercises, bedtime and wake up routines, more structure, less structure, lavender, diffusers, the list goes on and on. Scenarios would improve temporarily but then we felt like we were back where we started and often times in a worse situation.

We have come to realize that this approach is simply exhausting. What if we rather embraced the stress? And, while we’re at it, what if we also embraced that are mental and emotional wellbeing don’t have to perfect? It is freeing to own that fact that we’re perfectly imperfect!

How to Embrace Being Perfectly Imperfect

  • Don’t Combat Stress, Combat Stigma.

We begin with education and the opportunity to educate ourselves and others about mental health disorders using resources such as NAMI.org or the CDC. This includes being conscious of our language and labeling of others using mental health conditions as adjectives.

  • Separate the Person from the Condition.

People First language puts the person before their diagnosis and/or ability. It acknowledges that their identity is not in their medical condition or history but rather who they are.

  • Equate Physical and Mental Illness.

We don’t discourage people from going to the doctor when they are physically ill, but some think twice about pursuing mental healthcare. The brain is vulnerable to disorder just as other organs in our body. When we can correct disruptions or abnormalities in brain function with medication, equip a young mind for healthier growth, create a mental environment that permits therapies to “stick” and provide that individual with a tool to achieve more equitable experiences.

  • Own Your Story.

I encourage everyone to find time to reflect upon your story. Whether you choose to share it or not is up to you. Sharing our stories make us truly vulnerable. However, the reward from sharing with safe people can be greater than the risk. Human connections are made through stories. In our weakness, we become stronger.

Our Story

If you were to open the medical charts of our family, you would see anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, oppositional defiant disorder, and panic disorder. We are not strangers to mental illness nor the therapies that accompany them. I, personally, appreciate the fact that my parents exposed me to mental healthcare providers at a young age because I became comfortable and accepting of this resource. Years later, when Frank and I perceived that there may be more to the tantrums we were witnessing, the first place we looked for help was a LCSW. Even with our personal relationships with therapists over the years, when the psychiatrist recommended medication for one of our children we were a bit taken back.

I asked myself questions like… “is it really that bad?” “have we exhausted all of our alternative therapies?” “what will their siblings think?” “will they need to take it forever?” It was in this moment that I realized I was standing in the way of a potential solution for my child. Then, I looked into their young eyes and asked if they’d like to try it. They held their gaze and provided a confident yes.

Needless to say, we started the medication and while the story is not over, the chapter filled with fear, horrific bedtimes, concerns for self-harm, and words that belong only in parents’ nightmares is closed. We are experiencing a rainbow as the sun emerges upon our personal storm. With this dawn, we see restored sibling relationships, the return of a sparkle in their eyes and a little more peace of mind.

Rainbow At The Dawn Photograph by Edward Pacil

I would be remiss in a post like this to not offer immediate help for those who feel ready. If you or a loved one are seeking help, know that it is there. SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. They can be reached at 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

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…

One Week Shy of 21 Months

The munchkins will be 21 months old in just 1 week and I wanted to capture how much they have changed with a few profile updates!

DSC02909Theodore Joseph

  • Nicknames: Theo, Mr. Theo, Buddy, lil Koala (he gives the best hugs!)
  • Favorite animal sounds: Woof Woof!
  • Favorite word/letter: Ooooo (must be a Wisconsin thing)
  • Favorite food: Banana (nana) or Cheese (Cheeeeez)
  • Favorite toys: Stuffed Bear and stuffed moose
  • Personality: Nana’s boy

DSC02943

Isabella Marie

  • Nicknames: Bella, Bella-Bean, Beanie
  • Favorite animal sounds: oo-oo ah-ah (Monkey)
  • Favorite word/letter: Is giggling a word?
  • Favorite food: Avocado
  • Favorite toys: Soft and cuddly toys (blankets, stuffed animals and even pipe cleaners)
  • Personality: Social butterfly

DSC02924

Lillian Grace

  • Nicknames: Lily, Lil, Lily-bug, Love-bug
  • Favorite animal sounds: Baa Baa (Sheep)
  • Favorite word/letter: Ma-Ma (Milk)
  • Favorite food: Milk and Meat
  • Favorite toys: Spoon and bowls (She loves to pretend that she is cooking)
  • Personality: Silly Lily

DSC02905

Kali Mae

  • Nicknames: K-Mae, Monkey, Monk
  • Favorite animal sounds: Meow (Cat)
  • Favorite word/letter: Kali has her own language and will babble all day to herself and imaginary friends
  • Favorite food: Kali is an equal opportunity employer and doesn’t appear to have a favorite
  • Favorite toys: Rubber bath toys
  • Personality: Daydream Believer

DSC02915Elliott Rose

  • Nicknames: Ellie, Ellie Rose,
  • Favorite animal sounds: Ney Ney (Horse)
  • Favorite word/letter: La-la-la (Ellie loves to sing)
  • Favorite food: Much like Kali, she loves a variety of foods
  • Favorite toys: Anything she can collect and organize (cups, blocks, dishes, animals, etc)
  • Personality: Independent Woman

Growing Pains

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

Cheezeburger

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.

LilyBug

  • 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.

Bella

  • 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.

 

The Habituation Hypothesis

Christmas and New years have both come and gone, and 2015 is upon us. This holiday season flew by faster than in previous years, and I have closed the case on the vanishing holiday season. I have confirmed six reasons why the days seem to pass in the blink of an eye: Theo, Bella, Lily, Kali and Elliott. The sixth reason is a bit more scientific- the “Habituation Hypothesis.” This hypothesis is based on the fact that human brains use an abundance of energy everyday, and as we age the brain looks for ways to conserve energy. One way it conserves energy is by placing daily routines on auto-pilot; these may include emptying the dishwasher, driving to work, or changing diapers. This adaptation makes time seem like it is passing much more quickly since fewer unique moments are being recorded by the brain. When we are younger, everything is new; when you become a parent, everything is routine.

This realization made me want to slow down these special years by creating more unique moments, or “elevating our daily experiences.” The following are a few snapshots of cherished memories of this winter season…

 

Our Lead Nudest (video)-

 

Theo & Bella loving their new Teddy’s from Grandpa and Grandma-
Teddy Love
Kali’s rendition of Shake it Off and the V5 showing off there physiology skills (video)-


A sneak peek on how we keep our house so clean (video)-

Kali showing off her favorite Christmas present from Uncle JD- Pandy-
Kmae & Pandy
A very Vanderwall Christmas morning (video)-

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!

Tailgate Pic V5

One Small Step For…

The V-5 are now 1 year and 2 months and just 2 weeks away from their due date. Since their first birthday we have been witness to milestone after milestone, including first steps!

 

Mr. Theo can now:Quints-59

  • Cruise along with a push-along-walker,
  • Stand-up by himself,
  • Stack cups and blocks,
  • Match colors,
  • Place rings on a pole, and
  • Throw a ball.

No real words yet for Theo but he can rattle off a host of consonants. He also can recognize the word ball.

 

Ms. Bella Jumping Bean can now: Quints-4

  • Cruise with a push-along-walker,
  • Pull herself up and stand,
  • Remove her bib and shirt,
  • Throw a ball,
  • Dance like a queen, and
  • Point at things and people, especially those that she thinks should get into trouble.

Bella is great a monkey-see, monkey-do and will mimic most actions. No words yet for Bella, but she is definitely the singer in the group.

 

L.G. can now: Quints-60

  • Pull herself up and stand with assistance,
  • Match colors,
  • Point at things and people,
  • Throw a ball, and
  • Make the sign for milk.

Lily also knows a host of consonants and her favorite is Da, Da, Da, Da.

 

K-Mae can now: Quints-3

  • Pull herself up and walk slowly with a push-along-walker,
  • Collect similar objects (puppets, chewy tubes, clothes),
  • Stack cups, blocks and rings, and
  • Play peek-a-boo.

Kali loves to rattle off consonant sounds and certainly knows the word, “no.” Needless to say, she’s our little trouble-maker. For those that know the Pigeon and Duckling books…she’s our little pigeon.

 

Sweet Ellie Rose can now: Quints-36

  • Stand up along and… walk!
  • Collect similar objects,
  • Point and pull things, and
  • Place objects into a box and remove them

Elliott is the quietest quint, but when she is excited she loves to squawk and repeat consonant sounds.

T.I.K.L.E. at One Year

The stages of infancy fly by, often times I don’t recall specific days, but rather specific moments. It is these moments- these memories- that still give me goosebumps and have left footprints on my heart. Milestone stages at 3 months, 6 months and 12 months give me a reason to reminisce.

How do we spell love? T.I.K.L.E.

T is for Theodore

Theodore Joseph

T is for theo2

I is for Isabella

Isabella Marie

K is for Kali

L is for Lillian

Lillian Grace

L is for Lily

E is for Elliott

E is for Ellie

Quints-51

Another special thank you to Hayley for the beautiful photos that she took of our children at 3 and 12 months. She is a very talented photographer. Her talent and patience are divine!  Be sure to check back at her homepage for more Photos by Hayley.

First Year Stats

The numbers are in! The V-5 tolerated their one-year check-up like champs.

 

fam photo

 

Here’s how they weighed in…

Theodore Joseph- “Theo”

  • Birth Length: 14.5 in
  • Current Length: 28.8 in
  • Birth Weight: 2.87 lbs
  • Current Weight: 23.2 lbs

Isabella Maria- “Bella Bean”

  • Birth Length: 15.7 in
  • Current Length: 27.6 in
  • Birth Weight: 2.49 lbs
  • Current Weight: 17.5 lbs

Lillian Grace- “Lily Bug”

  • Birth Length: 14.6 in
  • Current Length: 27.9 in
  • Birth Weight: 2.69 lbs
  • Current Weight: 17.8 lbs

Kali Mae- “K-Mae”

  • Birth Length: 13 in
  • Current Length: 28 in
  • Birth Weight: 2.29 lbs
  • Current Weight: 20lbs

Elliott Rose- “Ellie Bellie”

  • Birth Length: 14.9 in
  • Current Length: 27.6 in
  • Birth Weight: 2.41 lbs
  • Current Weight: 18 lbs

 

The kiddos also were featured on Madison’s local NBC station (WMTV-15). Check out the story and video at:

http://www.nbc15.com/home/headlines/Vanderwall-quintuplets-turn-the-big-1-270422081.html

Her First Year: Elliott Rose

Last born by seconds. Our baby girl.  Sweet as she is stubborn. Independent by nature. The best self soother. One determined little girl.

Most likely to walk first. Will likely be the most compliant child.  Most likely to land a job in the C-suite.

Ms. Elliott Rose.