Let the Games Begin!

At 5 ½ months the quints are starting solids!spoons

How do you know when to start solids?

There are several signs that a child is ready to start solids:

  • At least 4 months old (Check!)
  •  Significant weight gain.

The quints have definitely doubled their birth weights)

    • Theo is now 14½ lbs.,
    • Bella is 11lbs,
    • Lily is our little one at 10½ lbs.,
    • Kali is 12 lbs., and
    • Ellie is just shy of 12 lbs.
  • Able to make chewing motions and loss of “extrusion reflex.”

The extrusion reflex is when an infant uses their tongue to push solids from their mouth. An infant’s mouth develops in sync with their digestive tract. Therefore, if the little one is able to push food to the back of their mouth with their tongue and simultaneously swallow their gut is ready to accept the food.

  • Able to support their own heads with good neck strength. bumbo

In preparation for solid food we began feeding the kids in their bumbo seats. At first this was a disaster! The bumbo is designed to teach little ones to use their core to sit up, so you can imagine what happens when they are all tensing their abs during mealtime. Spit ups and blowouts galore! But, thank goodness this did not last long. A week’s worth of feedings and they got the hang of it.

I attribute the great gains in their neck and head strength to their time in the bumbo seats. Even big brother, Theo, with his 95th percentile noggin can hold that coconut up proudly!

  • Good appetite and often still hungry after their feeding.

This is definitely the case for Theo, Kali and Lily who often are quite upset to be sucking air at the end of their bottles.

  • Curious with what Mom and Dad are munching on.

So, needless to say after reviewing the list above, I was confident that the quints were physically ready for solids.

Which foods do you start with?

There is a bit of a debate on which food is best to start with. Currently, there is no strong evidence to support a specific sequence of introduction. Nutritionally, the best foods to start with are those that are highest in iron. This is because around 4-6 months of age a child’s iron stores are becoming depleted. This is especially true for premature infants because their time to accrue these stores was cut-short. Additionally, foods high in zinc and vitamin D are especially important because these nutrients are traditionally low in breast milk.

Traditionally, people start with iron fortified rice cereal. However, from my research this appears to be merely a generational tradition and in fact meat is a much better first food. This article from Dr. Greer, one of the quints’ physicians at the Madison NICU, offers a great explanation! Rice cereal is very easy to digest and has a very low allergy risk, but the iron from the food is not as easily absorbed and this food is high calories and low in nutrition. Plant-based iron (non-heme iron) is not used by the body as easily as that from an animal source (heme iron). Additionally, meat is a great source of zinc.  I believe that chicken is a fantastic first food, followed by beef.

The quint’s sequence will be as follows, with a new food every three days: Baby-Bullet-Batchbowl

I chose butternut squash and sweet potatoes because they are fairly high in vitamin C. The body uses vitamin C to help the absorption and use of iron. Zucchini was next as their first dark green vegetable because it is easy to digest and a low allergy risk. Their first grain will be gluten-free oatmeal because it is naturally high in iron and B-vitamins.

This delicious faire will be homemade with an awesome Baby Bullet, courtesy of a fellow quint mom. I puree the vegetables using breast milk and the meats using bone broth. Both are fantastic sources of vitamins and minerals and freeze very well! In just one hour, I had a month’s worth of food for the kiddos.

Let the games begin!

Frank and I thought we would catch this monumental meal on film. This video illustrates why it is important to feed your little one their bottle before trying solids. Can you guess which quints had eaten first?

If you guessed Theo and Lily you were right! They were cool and calm during their trial. Ellie and Bella were quite the opposite and approached meltdown mode. Kali, well, Kali enjoys mealtime in whatever order it is presented.

The other very important reason to offer solids after their milk is because breast milk should remain the primary source of nutrition for infants until at least 1 year of age, and thus you don’t want to ruin a feeding with an unfortunate food trial. I do promise you that Theo, Ellie and Bella all recovered from this feeding experience.

So, at the conclusion of food trial #1, all of the quints tolerated chicken. I would say that Lily, Ellie and Kali even liked it. I believe Bella will come around to liking it, too. As for Mr. Theo…I’m pretty sure he just wants a butter burger and some crinkle cut fries.


Dedication Celebration

The Vanderwall quints have started the New Year with a celebration!

Grandpa Brett, Nana B and the V7
Grandpa Brett, Nana B and the V7

This past Saturday we dedicated our children to God at Blackhawk Church here in Madison. It was an amazing experience to gather with family and friends. I have to admit it was difficult to take in the service as I was surveying our children and trying to keep track on when it was our turn. But, as I sit and write this post I am reflecting on the “village” that was present to support our family in this intentional dedication, and what dedication truly means. I- again- am overwhelmed by how God’s love and provision continues to wash over are family.

On stage with Grandpa Turzy, Grandpa Brett, Nana, their Godparents (Alex & Danielle) at Blackhawk Church's Child Dedication.
On stage with Grandpa Turzy, Grandpa Brett, Nana, their Godparents (Alex & Danielle) at Blackhawk Church’s Child Dedication.

Overall, the day went very well. The kids looked adorable in their outfits, they did great in church, and we were able to celebrate this faith-filled moment alongside the people that mean the most to us: their grandpa’s, grandma (Nana), God-parents (Alex and Danielle), and very close friends.

The Whitakers and the V-7
The Whitakers and the V-7

The dedication concluded with a personal blessing for our children, read by Alex, and a prayer from the youth pastor.


Our personal blessing reads:

Dearest Theo, “God’s Gift” to us, Isabella, who we “Devote to God,” Lillian and Kali, our “Pure ones,” and Elliott, who reminds us “Jehovah is God.”

May the Lord always walk with you on your journey in life, and sprinkle you with His love and light.

May you learn to love with kindness and grace, and know within your soul: Truth, courage and faith.

You will be wrapped in the warmth of family and friends, and our love for you will never end.

Today, we present you to God, your Holy Father, and commit you to Him for His glory and no other.

We also chose a life verse for each one.

For Theo, Corinthians 16:13-14. “Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous.Be strong. And do everything with love.”


For Bella, 1 Peter 3:3-4 “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”


For Lily, Ephesians 2:8-10. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand,that we should walk in them.”

Smiley lily

For Kali, Philippians 4:8-9. “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

The Kali Smirk

For Ellie, Psalm 139:13-14. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”


Looking Back and Looking Forward

Babys First cmas

All we wanted for Christmas was a Silent Night, and we got it! 


At the conclusion of the holiday season, we celebrate not only the kids sleeping through the night but the passing of a memorable year. It certainly is a time of recollection; I ask myself: where have we been and where are we going?

A, 12-25-2013

It is hard to believe that at this time last year we were not even pregnant. We were amidst the emotional journey of trying to conceive. After years of trying, we found out in March, 2013 that we were going to have a family all at once.

The news that we were going to have quintuplets definitely took a few weeks to digest, and even longer to wrap our minds around. As many know, the emotional journey did not stop at conception but rolled on. With discussions about multi-fetal reduction and attempting to navigate the best possible perinatal care, our pregnancy was a trying journey.  In May, I said goodbye to Frank, family and friends in Madison and hello to Mesa. Arizona brought new friends and the best doctor I have ever worked with. It truly seems like just yesterday that we hopped on a plane, praying that we would not be too late to have our urgent surgery. I also cannot believe that Frank and I were apart for almost 3 ½ months. Despite the miles that separated us, our marriage grew greatly during that time.

Then during the early afternoon on August 3, a nurse came into my hospital room and shared that were going to have babies in a few hours. With a bang we had a beautiful family. Many know the trials and tribulations that followed; the life of a NICU parent.

I sit amazed. I am truly awestruck at how God’s hand has cared for us every step of the way, His provision through His strength, Spirit and people never left us and continue to be ever present.

One of the many ornaments and generous gifts that we received from from our family at the Community Christian Church (Lincolnshire, IL). Many thanks!
One of the many ornaments and generous gifts that we received from from our family at the Community Christian Church (Lincolnshire, IL). Many thanks!

I look at my beautiful children, each a unique blessing, and am overwhelmed by His handiwork. The quints are now 5 months old. They are happy, healthy and developing right on schedule.

Lillian Grace
Lillian Grace
Kali is not so sure about this Santa character.
Kali is not so sure about this Santa character.
But, Kali definitely loves her Grandpa!
But, Kali definitely loves her Grandpa!
Theo loves his pinky hippo
Theo loves his pinky hippo
Bella sporting her Christmas outfit
Bella sporting her Christmas outfit
Baby Ellie is pretty in pink
Baby Ellie is pretty in pink

What else could we ask for?  Where are we going?

Instead of choosing a self-improvement goal, I resolve to soul-improvement and to continue to be present with my family and to truly seek what the Lord desires for our family and I. On January 11th, we will dedicate our children to God at Blackhawk Church. I am excited to commit each one of our miracles to their heavenly Father for His will and His purpose.

I close with a prayer from Billy Graham,

 “Our Father and our God, as we stand at the beginning of this new year we confess our need of Your presence and Your guidance as we face the future.

We each have our hopes and expectations for the year that is ahead of us—but You alone know what it holds for us, and only You can give us the strength and the wisdom we will need to meet its challenges. So help us to humbly put our hands into Your hand, and to trust You and to seek Your will for our lives during this coming year.

In the midst of life’s uncertainties in the days ahead, assure us of the certainty of Your unchanging love.

In the midst of life’s inevitable disappointments and heartaches, help us to turn to You for the stability and comfort we will need.

In the midst of life’s temptations and the pull of our stubborn self-will, help us not to lose our way but to have the courage to do what is right in Your sight, regardless of the cost.

And in the midst of our daily preoccupations and pursuits, open our eyes to the sorrows and injustices of our hurting world, and help us to respond with compassion and sacrifice to those who are friendless and in need. May our constant prayer be that of the ancient Psalmist: “Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end” (Psalm 119:33).

We pray for our nation and its leaders during these difficult times, and for all those who are seeking to bring peace and justice to our dangerous and troubled world. We pray especially for Your protection on all those who serve in our armed forces, and we thank You for their commitment to defend our freedoms, even at the cost of their own lives. Be with their families also, and assure them of Your love and concern for them.

Bring our divided nation together, and give us a greater vision of what You would have us to be. Your Word reminds us that “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).

As we look back over this past year we thank You for Your goodness to us—far beyond what we have deserved. May we never presume on Your past goodness or forget all Your mercies to us, but may they instead lead us to repentance, and to a new commitment to make You the foundation and center of our lives this year.

And so, our Father, we thank You for the promise and hope of this new year, and we look forward to it with expectancy and faith. This I ask in the name of our Lord and Savior, who by His death and resurrection has given us hope both for this world and the world to come. Amen.”  © 2008 Saturday Evening Post Society.