Resilience

Resilience: “the ability to overcome serious hardship; toughness.”

One week ago, I got yet another call from the school nurse sharing that our little buddy was in her office. Theo had been a frequent visitor to the nurse’s office since the first week of school with perpetual tummy aches. We were chalking it up to pooping problems given that their water intake had been likely cut in half since the start of school. However, last Wednesday he was refusing to go back to the class. He didn’t have a fever but was unable to keep anything down so, a quick Google search told me he was either severely constipated, caught norovirus, or a different stomach bug. Unfortunately, water, miralax and a glycerin suppository didn’t produce the results we were expecting so we settled on a bad stomach bug. Then, Thursday evening we noted that his stomach had blown up like a water balloon and nothing could soothe him; Off to the ER we went.

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Obstructed portion of the small intestine

I was hesitant to jump to emergent care because Theo was showing these same symptoms back in February which didn’t show anything significant; this time was different. The abdominal x-ray didn’t demonstrate stool burden so we moved on to an MRI. Here we saw that Mr. Theo had a bowel obstruction. The next 2 hours flew by as an emergent surgery was organized. The best case scenario was that Theo’s small intestine was simply kinked like a garden hose… the worse case scenario was that the obstruction could be so bad that he would leave with an ostomy.

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Frank rushed to the hospital as we were moving to pre-op. Theo was cool, calm and collected. He simply wanted to know the facts. This young boy knows the word surgery and all that it entails far too well after 4 surgeries in his first 4 years of life, including a repair of a spontaneous bowel perforation (day 1), anastamosis (3 months), an epiplocele repair, and a tonsil-and adenoid-ectomy. We discussed two plans with the surgeon; Plan A which was a simpler laparoscopic procedure where they would enter through his belly button and two small sites on either side and Plan B where they would convert Plan A to an open procedure for more extensive repair.

The surgery took two hours and we were notified after 90 minutes that they were progressing through Plan A. To say that we were relieved would be an under-statement. Once Theo procedure had concluded, the surgeon came to visit us to explain that this obstruction was a spontaneous occurrence and had nothing to do with bowel habits, hydration or anything we or Theo could’ve caused. The obstruction was caused by the omentum.

The omentum is a fascinating apron of fat within the abdomen which not only keeps our organs in place but also plays an immunological role. The omentum’s central role is the abdominal defenseman, it adheres to sites of inflammation and provides leukocytes to combat infection. In Theo’s case the omentum had adhered to the sites of his previous bowel surgeries, stretching across a portion of his small intestine. This part of the small bowel proceded to push through the stretched omentum- creating a donut-like shape- and then curved back around and came back through the same hole.

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Kinked small intestine

This kink in the intestine had been developing since Theo’s first symptoms in February. During the procedure, the team trimmed back the omentum, releasing Theo’s small intestine. They then inspected most of small intestine to examine other sites of adhesion but felt no further alterations were necessary.  We found this pathophysiology to be fascinating, as did Theo. He even got surgical pictures as a keepsake. He enjoys retelling the story to his sisters with these graphic images.

Amazingly, Theo displayed his resilience by discharging from the hospital 1 day later and returning to school on Monday. His bravery, curiousity and recovery truly make him one of our five super heroes!

 

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Extra-Curricular Fun

Now that we’re big elementary kids we are eligible for extra-curricular fun. While our little ninjas have been doing karate since 4K, they have been asking about other after school activities, too. We were holding on to our commitment to minimize extra-curriculars until, this summer when we were worn down by our budding ballerinas, flipping fanatics and aviation connoisseur.

Our biggest concerns for having kiddos in separate activities were 1) not having enough adult manpower to get kids from here to there and 2) not having enough energy to actively engage. Surprisingly, after school endurance is improving, however transitions remain difficult. It appears that the kids are emotionally spent but maintain a high degree of physical energy. If we aren’t careful, tantrums and disputes arise quickly and are difficult to manage. We have found that a post-school snack, quiet time and independent play are helpful. This is much easier with two adults on-deck but with one can pose to be a challenge.

We have surrendered and currently Kali and Bella are enjoying Ballet and Tap on Mondays, Lily and Ellie are enrolled in Gymnastics and all continue their karate two days each week. So far so good but we continue to wade carefully into these waters knowing that margin is a good thing.

Here are two videos which capture our baseline skills, can’t wait to see how these four ladies grow in their new found love for dance and tumbling!

Practicing our “Flips”

Pre Dance Lessons Sesh:

We also want our children to have capacity for spontaneous school and family events that arise. One fun run event that is coming up for them is the Terrapin Trot! This is a fun 20-minute run to raise school funds for everything from in-classroom technology to field trips. If you are interested in pledging, you can do so at the following links:

Theo’s Fun Run Pledge Site

Bella’s Fun Run Pledge Site

Lily’s Fun Run Pledge Site

Kali’s Fun Run Pledge Site

Ellie’s Fun Run Pledge Site

 

Ready, Set, Kindergarten!

2176_1535072438870Our transition to kindergarten has been deemed a success! The kiddos are loving their new school, their teachers and their “specials.” The first week was very exciting but we quickly realized that we needed to be cautious and careful of after school activities because our endurance for a long school day was not up to par. Day one ended with a 20-minutes sob fest laid out upon the kitchen floor. We are still trying to navigate how to sneak in a cat nap or quiet time when they arrive home to assist with the transition… this remains a work in progress.

Overall, our keys to a successful transition are as follows:

  • Prepare. Preparation begins the night before or even weeks before and includes IMG_20180903_192834planning breakfast, lunch and snacks. Most of this preparation happens the night before when breakfast is partially prepared, lunches and snacks are packed and clothes for the next day are laid out. Sharing the plan with the youngest members of the team is also key because it can’t remain a best kept secret if it will be successful. It’s helpful to share the plan for the next morning or day the evening before.
  • Delegate. Mornings can be hurried and easily become chaotic, but delegating tasks to children and adults, all members can work as a team. Kid-friendly tasks include getting dressed, setting the breakfast table, filling water cups, serving themselves breakfast, brushing teeth and hair, etc. Older kids may be completely self-sufficient and simply need morning nudges to stay on task. Younger children may require more nudges and time stamps at each check point along the way. We have found our Alexa to be really helpful in these efforts. Our munchkins wake between 5-6a and often play upstairs until they are que’ed to come down. The first reminder comes via Alexa around 6:30 (Time to pick-up and get dressed), the second around 6:45 when “breakfast is ready.” We carry out these reminders every 10-15 minutes until we leave for the bus stop at 7:15.
  • Be Flexible. Stuff happens. A well thought-out plan can easily fall to pieces. Families can still get out the door in one piece and on time by remaining flexible. Flexibility can be difficult but by focusing on core values, remaining calm and being optimistic one can roll with the punches (easier said then done).

We got to share these tips on a recent news segment in Wisconsin!

Here are the captured memories from our Kindergarten prep!

The V5 Turn 5

This year’s birthday felt monumental. Perhaps, it is because we are now a household of school-aged children with friends and these friends joined us in celebrating the V5. Or, perhaps it is because it was a multiple-golden birthday. Even more so, it may have been because the kiddos were more aware than ever what this celebration meant. Either way, it warranted a week-long party! A day for each and a weekend for all!

We kicked off the birthday week with a trip to the Dane County Fair

Earned their Purple-striped Belts

Took a trip to Sassy Cow Creamery and toured their Farm. Of course they had to dress the part.
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Woke up at 5am on their Big Day and put on their Friday-best (all by themselves) ready to celebrate!

Celebrated Friday Morning with a trip downtown to meet a few of their favorite characters and to check out a real fire truck

Birthday Cupcakes with a side of Sunbutter and Carrots (No, I didn’t offer the veggies; they asked and it was there birthday so, how could I say no?)
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Double B-day Bash Saturday. They loved celebrating with their friends in the morning and family in the afternoon. The mid-day break was just long enough to give this Paw Patrol crew a break.

The week concluded with each getting to break their very own birthday boards at karate!

Many, many thanks to all who made this year’s milestone birthday so special!

Looking Back at Elliott Rose (2017-2018)

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Ellie is still the self-proclaimed, resident cat lady and veterinarian of the Vanderwall household. She commonly expresses her emotions as a “purr” or a “hiss.” Her love for all animals continues to grow and we have observed a special connection all of the pups to chickens that she comes in contact with.

She also continues to be one of extremes. She is our happiest girl when she is happy but flip a switch and Ellies-goes-boom! We find the same is true for her activities. She is moving from the moment she wakes but come 7pm and she is o-u-t. She is by-far the best sleeper of the bunch; thank you, Ellie!

Ellie finds the most joy in playing with her hippity-hop, swinging, hanging out in the chicken run and swimming. She also loves to color rainbows and draw kitties.

Here’s a look at Elliott Rose’s fourth year…

 

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 (2017-2018)

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Kali Mae is our drama-mama. She is the most expressive, thoughtful and emotional of the V5. Like Bella, she has also heard the calling to become a princess. She will not come down to breakfast without a dress, her crown and a pair of mama’s high heels. In all honesty, she wears and walks in those heels better than I ever have… perhaps practice makes perfect?

Kali also loves to draw pigs, pups and cats, as well as, color. She is a deep reader and still the champion at Hidden Pictures and Seek and Find books. Like her brother and daddy, we believe she has a photographic memory.

Surprisingly her love for art and royalty do not trump her dreams of one day owning a farm. She loves to help out in the yard, in the garden and care for our chickens. She’s a hard-worker and always finishes the job she starts.

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

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 (2017-2018)

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Lillian Grace remains the most laid back of the quints. Her easy-going personality is refreshing. She loves hard and let’s go easy and is ever-so forgiving.

Lily is also very loyal and the queen of routine; if we did it once a certain way, it can be assumed that it must be done that way every time. Luckily, type B Lily can be swayed as long as you have a reason.

Lily is also an animal lover. She loves Papa Ron’s Holly girl and aspires to one day live nearby so she can care for Holly while Papa is on trips. This is just one example of Lily’s consideration. She loves to help and her intuitive nature brings her to your side before you even know you need a hand.

Join us as we watch Lily over the last year…

Lily at four years…

Lily at three years…

Lily at two years…

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