Looking Back at Kali Mae (2020-2021)

The birthday countdown to 8 begins! This year we’re starting with Kali Mae!

As many of you know, Kali is a unique blend of sugar and spice. She has been on a journey of exploration this last year. The social isolation that accompanied COVID-19 was hard on Kali; she would often comment on how many days, weeks, months it had been since she saw her besties.

As we open back up, Kali’s spirit returns and is highest when she’s with friends.

Kali’s curiousity rivals Theo’s and her love for animals is great! She has also discovered a new adventure- horseback riding! She even hopes to become a professional equestrian!

Before we dive into our montage, due to copyright claims all music had to be muted in the videos. Kali’s song for this year was Refrigerator Door by Luke Combs.

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

Kali at seven years…

Kali at six years…

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…

Exploring 7-year-old Wisdom

It has been quite some time since I posted. In all honesty, I didn’t have words or perhaps enough emotional energy to put my thoughts into words. The last 365 days have forever changed our lives. Rollercoasters of feelings as we witnessed a viral pandemic that sent us to our homes. It was hard to swallow the fact that for many their home may not feel safe or be secure.

Inequities came to light. Racial and class tensions grew. Politics continued to polarize and many didn’t know how to process. “Flatten the curve,” “quarantine,” “new normal,” “coronavirus,” “COVID,” and “pandemic” are all words that were foreign over a year ago and may be everyday language now and forever.

As the country re-opens, people are emerging from a yearlong hibernation. Some appear scared, timid, and anxious while others are over-joyed and excited to “get back to normal.” In conversations, at home, at work, at the grocery store you hear people recounting what they’ve learned and what they finally took time to do. Habits and routines they worked hard to develop and don’t want to lose, Some open up to share how old, ugly coping strategies have returned due to periods of high stress in socially isolated homes.

While we didn’t choose to share all of the events that unfolded in the last year, I believe our children learned more than we sought to teach them. I continue to be humbled by their perspectives and learnings.

Most dinners, the kiddos chat about anything and everything while the adults take turns playing crowd control and wait staff. But, the other night we shifted the conversation to reflect upon how this Spring break was different and what they had learned because of the pandemic.

Theo shared that masks are uncomfortable and don’t feel good but they’re important because they protect others. We need to continue to wear our masks.

Lily echoed Theo’s sentiments about masks but shared how important she believes it is to be kind and put others’ first.

Bella recognized how she hadn’t been to a store to browse, dream or purchase everyday items. She shared her gratitude for online shopping conveniences which helped us to keep home feeling “normal.”

Ellie pointed out that not everyone had it the same. She is grateful that we always had what we needed. She also shared how good it felt to be able to spend a lot of time with her family.

Kali wrapped up the children’s contributions by sharing how more time at home created more time for each other and other activities.

We sat and smiled and thanked them for their wise words. As I sit here now, I continue to believe that my children will forever teach me more than I will ever teach them. For this, I am grateful.

It is my ongoing hope that we’re raising game changers. We aim to preserve their precious outlook on life, foster their imagination and creativity, encourage their curiosity and willingness to ask questions and the ability to know when to speak up and share their voice and when to be quiet and simply listen. Our home has privilege and I believe our children are beginning to realize this. It is my prayer that they will continue to share this power, dismantle imbalances, explore history and its implications so that we can have a more equitable and just tomorrow.

Looking Back at E. Rosie (2019-2020)

Ellie, who is fondly called Rosie by mom and dad, is proving to be Mom’s mini-me. It is not uncommon for us to say the same things at the sametime and for our mannerisms to be eerily similar. While Ellie is the “baby” of the bunch, her BIG personality hides it well. She easily identifies her feelings and is able to articulate her emotions and her logic in a way that surpasses her years.

This little firecracker LOVES to move and is happiest when she is upside down doing cartwheels, round-offs, backbends or whatever new act is assigned in tumbling and cheer. Our Rosie is the most organized and determined quint and she will be sure you know it. She loves to lend a hand, especially when it involves outdoor chores, caring for the chickens, meal prep or sorting, however the result will almost always be in rainbow order.

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

Ellie at six years…

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 (2019-2020)

Kali Mae wins the drama mama award of the year! She is a bundle of amplified emotion; a feeler inside and out. While carrying all the feels, she is also a thinker. She is easily lost in her mind and able to think steps ahead of a situation.

She loves to lead and orchestrate plans whether it is a dance routine with her sibs or an eloquent tea party for her nest of Minnie Mouse friends. Our memorable Disney adventure this year was the trip of a lifetime for this little princess; everyday was a magical adventure.

Kali’s inquisitive nature and desire to lead will be sure to take her to great places!

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

Kali at six years…

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…

Looking Back at Lily (2019-2020)

Lily Love-Bug is exactly that! She is a compassionate ball of energy who is up for anything. She is the most fun play-mate because she’s not afraid to be herself and accepting of whomever you are. Her personal mission in life is to make a new friend everyday.

Safer at home orders have been hardest on this little socialite but she finds freedom in her imagination, daily dance parties and Frozen 2 or Trolls World Tour musicals performed for all to see in the backyard.

When she isn’t entertaining, you will likely find her amidst an exciting Lion Guard portrayal or plotting her next invasion of Bella’s privacy. Her faves remain her little koala (Uti) and her ever-growing pride of lion stuffed animals.

Join me as we take a look back at Lily’s last year…

Lily at six years…

Lily at five years…

Lily at four years…

Lily at three years…

Lily at two years…

Lily’s First Year…

Looking Back at Bella (2019-2020)

Miss Bella is no longer the only princess in the bunch and thus has diversified with her new aspiration to be a pop star when she grows up! She remains a budding artist and continues to take her reading, art and writing quite seriously. She still cannot live with her assortment of white fuzzy animals including Tiny her ginormous bunny, Feliz her little puppy and Whitey a small white bear that she received when she graduated from the NICU step down clinic.

Bella also loves to sing, dance, and swim as well as continue create vast imaginary schemes. Now, a look back at Bella’s last year…

Bella at six years…

Bella at five years…

Bella at four years…

Bella at three years…

Bella at two years…

Bella’s First Year…

Looking Back at Theo (2019-2020)

While birthdays feel a bit different in 2020, our excitement to celebrate our five miracles does not.

Big brother Theo continues to lead his sisters by example. He is a budding gentleman who is still the King of Questions. He wants to know the what, when, where, but most of all the why and how. Digging, building, drawing, swimming, and playing Mario Odyssey or RBI baseball are among Theo’s favorite hobbies. His number one, however is playing baseball.

Theo and Daddy are baseball buds! If they aren’t tuning into the Cubbies on the TV or radio they are outside in Quintupletville Stadium hitting homers into the pool or playing some good old-fashioned catch.

Now, here’s a look at Theo at Six Years…

Theo at Five Years…

Theo at Four Years…

Theo at Three Years…

Theo at Two Years…

Theo’s First Year…

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.


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?


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-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 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


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.


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!