A Season of Firsts

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We have finally reached the age that everyone has been telling us about. The age of wonder with the ability to articulate curiosities, joys and fears. The age where memories are made by the minute. The age of near-self-sufficiency and ability to help… truly help. The age where messes are made but also cleaned up in a fraction of the time. The age where feelings are felt and are now being able to be navigated, understood and managed. Four- going on -five is an amazing age. This is partially why this summer has been so much fun. The other part is the opportunities that we have been blessed with to explore. Here are a few of our most memorable firsts this summer…

First Parade. The V5 represented Kicks Unlimited’s Little Ninjas class in the Flags of Freedom Parade.

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First Time Riding a School Bus. The kiddos are enrolled in the Kick-off to Kindergarten program this summer which include a bus-ride to and from school. They have been doing great! No fear.

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First Firework Show. Talk about awe and wonder! It’s difficult to explain fireworks to a child. While not everyone was fond of the sound, they all loved the show. They also enjoyed the entertainment at WaunBoom!

First Tragedy. The Sun Prairie community was literally rocked this last week with the tragic explosion downtown leading to the sudden loss of a hometown hero. We couldn’t have hid this from our children, if we wanted to. Instead, we chose to embrace it and use it as an opportunity to explain what happened, how it happened and how to respond. Service and social responsibility are very important to me and being able to serve alongside my children was very memorable. The V5 willingly headed to the store to make care packages for displaced kids and brought them to the Red Cross shelter at the high school. 

Red Cross Efforts

First Trip to Michigan. This first was inclusive of the first 4+ hour car ride (7 hours one way) with only 2 bathroom break (total victory). During our time in Michigan, they experienced their first: trip to the beach, sandcastle, sand dunes, boat ride, and hike. On the way home, we had the opportunity to ride the Ferry- another first! Many, many thanks to Uncle Jeff and Aunt Sue for their hospitality and these memories!

 

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And Then There Were None

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Over the last week, the V5 kissed their last nap goodbye. While it was bittersweet, after 7 days of being nap-free, we believe we did the right thing. The transition went surprisingly well so, I had to share the success.

How did we know it was time?

Most sleep consultants and specialists agree that most preschool-aged children between the ages of 3-5 years need 10-13 hours of sleep every day. For us, this was from 8pm at night to 6am and a nap from 12:30-2:30. In the last few months, we had more and more mutinies during nap time and surprisingly the munchkins that didn’t nap made it past dinner better than those who did. We also noted that they were having trouble falling asleep and winding down at night when they did nap. This Mama turns into a pumpkin before 9pm so the staying up until 9:30-10p had to go. The V5 have always been early birds but even the worms were still sleeping at 4:30am. So, all of these signs pointed to the need to transition.

How to Transition

Like most childhood transitions, whether it be starting solids, potty training or decreasing daily naps, it is best to let the child lead the way. Therefore, be sure not to disregard naps too soon. Those brain breaks are essential for emotional and physical resets during the day.

When it is time to transition, consider a slow fade where you decrease the nap by 15-20 minutes each day. While we didn’t technically follow this suggestion, I believe the kiddos did. In retrospect, their 2-hour nap had dwindled over time.

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Practice quiet time. This is an invaluable practice that can follow them into adulthood. This gives our crew time alone to look at books, do puzzles, sing, color or draw. While it is tricky to keep them separated, it pays dividends in the afternoon.

It is important to note that quiet time isn’t equivalent to screen time. While a 30-minute episode of their favorite show may provide the adult with some quiet time, it is not going to provide rest that their mind is seeking but rather will stimulate the brain.

This last suggestion may be obvious, but one must also move bedtime earlier. Our home now becomes meltdown-city around 6:30p. Therefore, we moved the dinner hour 30-minutes earlier to have be able to head upstairs by 6:30p and those sleepy eyes are shut now by 7p.

Benefits of Being Nap-Free

If you would’ve asked me a month or two ago about the benefits of being nap-free, I may have struggled but now I am relishing in the freedom to schedule fun day-time activities without restrictions. It also has permitted more hours in the day to have fun family time as evidenced by the Springtime fun featured below. The best benefit of all may be that they are now sleeping through the night with greater consistency and the bed-time battles have also decreased. This means more time for Nana to recoup and more time for Dad and Mom to be husband and wife.

Park Time

Pool Time

Zoo Time

Abundant Love

On the doorstep of Mother’s Day, I am in my typical reflective state. Memories are overflowing in my mind; the laughter, the joy, the growth but also the tears, the tantrums, the opportunities for future learning and development. I have ruminating on the behavioral difficulties in the present stage of life and was having trouble pin-pointing a cause until yesterday. I attended a local strategic thinking summit related to poverty, hunger and health education and the leader mentioned that the root of the issues is the scarcity mentality. Something clicked in my brain and now I believe this is also at the root of the issues in our household.

What is the Scarcity Mentality?

Psychology Today published an article on the mental implications of scarcity; The author investigates what happens to our minds and how does this impact our behaviors when we feel we have too little and concludes that scarcity establishes a playground for envy. In a big household, where the sibs share everything- including the same birthday- it is easy to see why there may be an innate drive to be the “fittest” and a natural urgency to collect, store, indulge, and remain in the proverbial spotlight.

We made and make efforts to allow each of the V5 to be an individual; while this is good and was founded in good intention, I believe it may provide fodder for the rivalry. For example, each quint basically has their own brand… Lily loves green, is the biggest fan of the Paw Patrol by far and is known for her collection of horses whereas Ellie is the family’s “cat lady” and has not lived a day in her life in any color except for pink. Again, I believe this is good, it provides a source for identity but has it also promoted a sense of scarcity? Are there limited favorite colors, animals, favorite hobbies, etc? I’m uncertain on how they view this but am also curious if they perceive a scarcity of Daddy’s attention, special time with Mom and warm and fuzzy snuggles with Nana.

In my study on scarcity, I also learned that it can propel individuals to action. When there is abundant time then there is no urgency to learn, explore and achieve. So, how do we preserve the benefits of scarcity while encouraging an abundance mentality?

What is the Abundance Mentality?

Dr. Stephen Covey, author of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, shares that the scarcity mentality is a “zero-sum paradigm” and that individuals who are rutted in this mindset have a difficult time sharing both recognition and power whereas the “Abundance Mentality” is a product of personal security. This alternative mentality is the paradigm of plenty with enough to share. This security permits the sharing of self and resources to benefit the greater whole, the team, the family.

Every parent who knows love – agape love (Psalm 86:15; John 3:16) – knows that it can be given and received infinitely to a child; it is unconditional. Love is a universal language which surpasses our understanding. A mother’s love starts long before conception and truly never ends. I believe it originates when one is a little girl and she finds joy in taking care of another. I want my children to know this at the core of their beings. Mommy will always love them.

How can we foster Abundance?

Like other parents and caregivers, I want my children to know who they are, that they are loved and that there is enough of most things, whether it be what’s for dinner, toys, crayons, etc. to go around. How can we foster the abundance mentality in our homes so we can help our children to identify the appropriate time for competition and teach them to see win:win solutions? Leaders in this area suggest the following:

  • Model Appreciation. Say please and thank you and mean it. Demonstrate the value that we have in others for what they say and do.

 

  • Remind ourselves and others that there is more than enough. In the day and age of social media, comparing yourself to others is an epidemic but it can be stopped with a choice. We must stop the envy, the peeking at the “greener” grass next door, and embrace a culture of inclusion and attitude of gratitude.

 

  • Seek Opportunity with Optimism. Be the “glass is half full” person that people like to be around. Choose to see hardships as opportunities for progress, not unattainable perfection.

 

  • Be the Change. I love this quote made by Gandhi in years passed because of its truth. We need to give more of what we want. Our children are constantly watching and learning. We can foster gratitude and abundance by giving; giving our time, talents and treasures away.

 

In closing, I wish all of you mothers and blessed Mother’s Day filled with smiles, happy tears and memories that will last a lifetime.

 

 

 

Family First

“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” -Mother Teresa

In this messy world, you hear hundreds of antidotes for the issues that plague society but I agree with Mother Teresa. If you want to change the world, start at home.

From a young age, I was taught that family comes first. We were a family that worked together and played together; quality time was precious and memorable. I hope to instill these values in the V5.

Three practical ways to incorporate family time into busy lives are to:

  • Enjoy Family Meals,
  • Find time for one-on-one memories,
  • Escape for a weekend, and
  • Keep Daddy and Mommy, Husband and Wife.

Family Meals

What parent wouldn’t want their child to have…

  • Higher grades,
  • Larger vocabulary,
  • Higher self-confidence and self-efficacy,
  • Greater sense of resilience, with
  • Lower risks of substance abuse, mental illness and obesity.

As well as, a better sense of personal and family identity.

All of these attributes start around the table. Researchers continue to observe that families who dine together for 4 or more meals each week experience the aforementioned benefits.

Eating together as a family has taken on many forms for over the years but one thing has stayed the same- we eat together at least one time each day: breakfast, lunch or dinner.

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One-on-One Memories

We cherish our breakfasts with each child which we have blogged about in the past. But, recently the girls got to take Daddy and Papa Brett to their Daddy (and Grand-Daddy) Daughter Dance.

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Theo and I took this opportunity to have a date night of our own, filled with a trip to the library, dinner and finished up with some time at a local pool (Thank you, Diane!).

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Weekend Escape

Finding a new environment to explore as a family can be fun and affordable. Whether it’s a day trip to a nearby park or forest preserve, visit to friends and family, or a vacation destination, new settings can provide the reset that families are seeking. We recently spent one night, two days in the Dells.

 

While my attention was split between a professional conference and family, it was magical to watch the kids experience a hotel and resort for the first time. We packed in two waterparks, a four-story play park, go-karts, and arcade games which were perfect ingredients for family fun!

Stay Husband and Wife

This is the most difficult task for Frank and I. We aspire to get away each week but if it’s not broomball season it turns out to be monthly.

Broomball

Whether it be a quick walk after dinner, golf outing, breakfast at a new pancake place, or a strategy game after the kids go down, this time is cherished. It helps us connect, share our days, and stay husband and wife.

 

“Spring” Break 2018

Our first Spring break is in the books! The 11 days left us physically exhausted but emotionally rejuvenated. It was wonderful to be home with the five and get to be just Mom. We kicked off Spring break with family and ended it with family on Easter. After the trying and hard winter of illness and surgery after illness and surgery, this memory-filled week was just what we needed. Here are a few of our favorites!

Broke out the bikes for the first ride of Spring! Theo and Ellie pride themselves on their speed, Lily loves to batter-ram her sibs and Bella and K-Mae just like to look cute as they tool around.

Practiced our reading, writing and arithmetic. It is so amazing to me to listen to the kiddos sound out words and read simple stories, as well as, watch them write out their names, favorite words and cute notes to their friends. They are also quite artistic and I’m fairly certain Ellie can draw a better cat than I.

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I  Love You Note from Theo (Melts My Heart)

Enjoyed their first donut. Savored the sweetness of Greenbush bakery’s donuts. They were already planning their next trip back as we departed.

Dyed Easter Eggs. Who knew Papa Brett was quite the Easter-Egg-Dyeing-Master? His dipping and dyeing skills were quite impressive. The V5 loved personalizing their eggs in their personal brand and colors.

Family Easter Gathering. It is always special to travel down to Illinois to visit with family that we see only a few times each year. The V5 had a blast with Papa Ron and the Vanderwall’s.

Dad, J, V5

Annual Easter Basket Treasure Hunt. It has become our tradition to have an Easter egg hunt before church. The Easter bunny leaves puzzle pieces, stickers and balloons in each of the eggs. Then, it is their duty to assemble the puzzle and figure out where that bunny hid their Easter treasures. This year the weather through us for a loop. After Frank had successfully hid the baskets, the temps dropped below freezing and he was seen scampering about the yard in his PJs at 11pm at night recovering all of the hidden eggs and baskets by light of the full moon and his cell phone. His mission was successful and I was quite glad I didn’t have to participate. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of Frank’s midnight athleticism 😊

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Preschool Prom

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The V5 got to try out their Easter Best last night at their Preschool Prom!

The evening was spent enjoying dinner, dancing and a very long balloon animal line amidst lots of new friends.

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Dapper Mr. Theo

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Purple, Princess Bella

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Kali Mae Sunshine

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Anti-Tights, Laid Back Lily

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Always looking to gain an inch, Ellie Rose on her Tippy Toes

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Bustin’ a Move in her Kitty Shoes

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Photo Booth Sillies

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The only way we could capture a group photo… put them in a box

When I Grow Up…

The V5 recently did a unit at school about Community Helpers and the idea of work, having a job and growing into a profession have started to make sense. I love hearing about their “career” aspirations and views on life. At present, Theo wants to be a police officer when he grows up because he wants to drive a police truck and keep people safe. When sharing this, he always states that his teacher also said that he can change his mind if he wants. It is also important to note that he is heavily considering becoming a paleontologist or aerospace engineer.

Bella’s recent surgery has truly had an impact on what she wants to grow up and she has truly taken to being a doctor. While I find it hard to see Ms. Bean battling through the sciences and physics- I still see her using her creative talents in the arts- I admire how she wants to “help make people healthy.” Who knows perhaps she’ll prove me wrong and use her steady hand and artistic talents to become a surgeon?

Ms. Lily Grace wants to be a teacher so she can tell people to listen to her. We try to explain to her that there’s more to being a teacher than having people listen to you. This apparently is the most obvious role of a teacher in her classroom. I will add that Lily’s teacher shared that she is a delight and one of the best listeners – along with her brother- in her class. Lily continues to grow into the most considerate and compassionate little girl, as well as, a true socialite, I believe she will be in a service field, too.

Kali Mae has taken great pride in being the sole quint that has not had surgery and has truly been quite well through the onslaught of seasonal illnesses. Therefore, she has been called upon to be a caregiver in the last several months. While she is a natural caregiver, instinctively seeing needs, she also greatly enjoys being a little boska and instructing her patients on the best way to care for themselves.

Ms. Elliott Rose continues to have her sights set on becoming a “cat lady.” She recently added that she wants to own a salon where she can take care of all of her kitties and put bows on their tails. She remarks that you will always know when she’s coming because you will hear her kitties. I’m holding out for greater professional goals. Ellie has an affinity for movement, rhythm and puzzles so, we will see where this takes her.

At the age of 4 ½ years, I share all of this tongue-in-cheek while loving to capture their life perspectives at every age and stage.

Other fascinations include reading, writing, money and the inter-workings of everything from time to sunburns (most of these questions immerge right before bed-time). Now, that all five have mastered the sounds of individual letters, we have observed them “sounding out” words, “letter by letter.” Teaching and observing this process is amazing to me. Reading and writing are huge milestones in my mind because they are gateways for communication. They unlock a whole world for understanding. I am so excited to watch my children continue to grow into book worms and budding authors.

The V5 also received banks last year, they were previously used for storing their most precious tinier than tiny toys (i.e. Hatchimals, Shopkins, etc.) but now they have started to understand money as currency and have loaded their banks with pretend cash and coin. I’ve also caught them exchanging these funds for goods. They also have come to understand that another reason why we work is to make money. This learning has helped them to better understand why Mommy, Daddy and Nana have to go to work.

Finally, my favorite fascination at present is their inquisitive nature about how things work. While Theo is by far the most curious about inter-workings, the girls are growing in their curiosity. The best is when Theo stumps us all with his questions and we have to look it up. I believe this demonstrates that 1. It’s okay to say I don’t know, 2. The practice of looking answers up, and 3. We are all still learning. I just prefer to learn during daylight hours and not the minutes before bed-time.