Get Well, Stay Well

Starting school is truly a milestone and stimulates a child’s body, mind, heart and, well, immune system. The chill of Fall and Winter air in the Midwest, reins in not only the holiday season but the flu season. This year, we felt the cold, dry air earlier and thus were tossed into the trenches earlier. Experts have noted that this flu season (2017) has been worse than in years passed and will peak at Christmas. This is a relief for a Mom of five- knowing that reprieve awaits.

I swear we have all had the sniffles since that first week of school, but the last 6 weeks have been especially bad. From croup to the latest 24-hour stomach bug, the V5’s immune systems have been challenged. This warranted a post for other parents who are sick and tired of being sick and tired. While the young ones appear to be somewhat energy-immune to runny noses, fevers, seal-barking coughs, malaise and nausea; it is a good sign to me that they still want to run, jump and play. One knows it is bad, when all their child wants to do is snuggle.

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What can we do?

  • Practice Hand Hygiene. Teaching children to wash their hands for 20 seconds with soap and water at transitions in routine at an early age is very important. Pausing when coming home or inside from playing and always washing before meals and snacks can be a great protective strategy. Viruses enter the body through the nose, eyes and mouth so keeping hands clean coupled with keeping hands clear of these body parts can keep the cold and flu viruses out.
  • Don’t Share Germs. Kids are notoriously not good at sharing, except when it comes to germs. Teaching children to not share their straw, cup, silverware, napkin, toothbrush, etc. can be helpful. Also, teaching them to cough and sneeze into their elbow [Vampire Sneeze] can protect others around them. Washing bed sheets, blankets and those favorite stuffed animals and toys weekly can also help to keep their beds from becoming a breeding ground for bad bugs.
  • Stay Active inside and out. Most don’t have to tell kiddos to move but it can be hard to maintain summer activity levels in the winter chill. However, research supports that moderate physical activity can cut cold and flu occurrences by 25 to 50% by boosting the immune system and increasing the circulation of the body’s natural cellular defense. We have found that the Just Dance, Indoor Recess, and Go Noodle are a great way to get our kids’ blood pumping. Also, indoor obstacle courses, hide-and-go-seek and of course bundling up to get outside are all great ways to stay active year-round.
  • Catch those Zzz’s. Inadequate sleep can increase a person’s risk of getting a cold or flu by 200%. Most infants and toddlers need 11-15 hours of sleep each day and preschoolers need 10 to 13 hours. This is collective between evening and naps. While sleep needs do decrease with time, most adults still need 7 to 9 hours each night.

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  • Eat your Vitamins. There are an abundance of over-the-counter immune-boosting supplements but nothing beats getting your vitamins and minerals from solid food sources. Many know that Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that helps to keep the body healthy. Amping up vitamin C from citrus fruits, berries, melons, tomatoes, leafy greens and broccoli. Many may not know that zinc has been shown to decrease the length of colds and help to prevent illness. Adequate zinc is also important from lean meat, chicken and seafood, as well as, beans and nuts.
  • Make a Flu Shot a Family Affair. This may be a controversial suggestion because many believe their vaccinations do not help or actually make them sick. This is unproven. Some feel ill after getting the shot because the body is bolstering its immune response. It also takes 2 weeks for the vaccination to provide protection so, if an individual encounters the flu virus or a cold within those 2 weeks, the shot is not to blame. We feel that the shot is much better than 2 weeks of the flu.

So, those are just a few suggestions to help stay well during the cold and flu season.

If and when we get sick, getting well is the priority to keep the duration of the illness as short as possible. During these days, rest and rehydration are tried and true. Well wishes to all!

 

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Offering Thanks on World Prematurity Day

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This week we honored world prematurity; Offering gratitude to those who walked with us, served us and cared for us on our journey from birth at 29 weeks and one day to four years old. We too easily recall all of the sad conversations that were had, scare tactics used and doubters early on. But, we also recall the reassuring love, guidance and strength which we heard much louder. Throughout the month of November each year, many draw their attention to the life-saving research, treatments and support that give every baby a fighting chance.

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Giving thanks to the one above!

We felt that the V5 were old enough today to participate in thanking those who were critical in their survival from Dr. John Elliott and his team at Banner Desert to the elite NICU staff at Meriter. We honored world prematurity day by perusing their memory boxes, watching their first year videos, visiting the Meriter NICU to offer our thanks and enjoyed a special lunch!

Another day to praise Him for our blessings and thank His angels here on earth!

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Fall Fun

The Autumn chill is here, the leaves have fallen and 2018 is nearly here! I’m uncertain if it’s because the kiddos are in school now but the weeks are passing by at great speed. I was determined to post about our fall fun before the first snow so, here we go!

This year for Halloween there was a unanimous vote that the V7 would become the Paw Patrol!

There was no question about who would be who; all assumed their roles naturally:

  • Frank as Ryder, the Patrol’s fearless boy leader
  • Theo as Marshall, the kind-hearted fire dog
  • Bella as Chase, who always has her nose in someone else’s business
  • Lily as Everest, the playful snow pup
  • Kali as Tracker, this girl’s spirit animal is a hound
  • Ellie as Skye, because we can’t keep her from flying
  • Cassie as Katie, pet spa owner charged with keeping the pup’s squeaky clean

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This was also the first year that the troop partook in the Halloween booty. Besides being determined to find more “trick or treating friends” than last year (see video below), our crew wanted to know all about this mysterious candy.

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So, at every house they had more than enough questions for our neighbors about their treats. It also was no surprise that they tried to rack up as much candy as their favorite colors. We needed to exercise caution due to Ellie’s allergies but found some new faves for her, too. I was very proud of how our children handled Halloween. Upon coming home with a heavy load, they each selected 7 pieces and enjoyed them over the next week before turning the rest in to our local dentist for a prize pack.

Then, November hit and hit hard and I’m certain we have been sick with 3 different viruses over the last 3 weeks. The latest is croup; all of the ladies have fallen and Theo is standing strong. We are pulling for his perfect attendance at school and hoping he stays well!  Poor Ellie got the more rare spasmodic croup and had a short stent in the emergency department.  Luckily, she has grown into one of our best communicators and directly informed me that she needed to go to the doctor. Her spasms resolved quickly after a nebulizer treatment and steroids, as well as, her first cherry popsicle.

Amidst the sick days, the girls miss school and all of their friends. The V5 have grown to love school and their teachers. Theo has also started to play with other boys at school, which is tremendously exciting for Mom and Dad. He was so proud to share that he played Super Heroes with another boy at school and got to be Batman!

Their faves of the season are writing their names and favorite words, doing arts and crafts with Nana, playing legos with Daddy and helping Mom in the kitchen. Our little sous chefs made sushi a few weeks back and Theo and Bella loved it; the others were less fond of the seaweed. Overall, they continue to be strong eaters and are beginning to grasp mindful eating. I’ll openly admit that this summer we battled with a period of sneaking food but once we invited them to start preparing and portioning their own plates this resolved. It was a great lesson for me to take back to the clinic.

A final fave that warrants a special call-out is karate. All are enjoying their instructors, the positive reinforcement and physical challenges that come with it. Lily and Theo are now both masters at Star Block 1 and Ellie is a high-kicking master. Kali and Bella are still growing into karate but share that they like the running and calisthenics.

Next up for the V7… school photos, parent teacher conferences and family photos!

Off to School

Today we celebrate the Vanderwall Quintuplets first day of school. We had no worries about being late since all five have been giddy with excitement since they first received their 4k notice in the mail; all were up and had dressed themselves by 6:30 am. In all honesty, we did experience a few wardrobe snafus and fashion faux pas but all easily resolved.. They gobbled down their oats and were eager for their photo shoot.

At School

About 1,000 pictures later, we hopped in the van and headed to school. So many memories were captured within those 5 minutes while we dropped them off…

  • Kali, Ellie and Bella bee-lined it to their cubbies. Took off their back-packs, hung their coats and took their take-home folders to their teachers. Theo wished each sister farewell and Lily grabbed all three for a family hug.
  • In Theo and Lily’s classroom, Theo was amazed at all of the boys and Lily kept saying how much fun today was going to be.
  • We almost made it out tear-free but, on our way out Ellie caught a glimpse of Daddy and needed one more hug.

Looking back

On the way home, they were eager to learn what the others’ experienced. While they maintained the same daily schedule, the individual activities were different. Bella, Ellie and Kali decorated hats and Theo and Lily took a class picture. Bella was proud to share that she made a new friend who helped her put her coat on. Everyone’s favorite part of the morning was playing at recess. All are looking for another day tomorrow.

We are experiencing nothing but pure joy in the Vanderwall household today. We are so proud of our little miracles!

 

 

 

 

 

Bye Bye

Lined up

Lets go

Looking Back at Theodore Joseph

Big brother, Theo, got lucky that “cool blue Tuesday” comes before Purple Princess Wednesday and didn’t have to be number five in this series. While, I’m sure he wouldn’t have minded; he has saintly patience. I’m confident he’s going to be quite the gentlemen.

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He is empathetic, compassionate, and can spot distress from across the room. Whenever, I need it most, Theo’s there at my knees giving me a squeeze and tells me that he never runs out of hugs; my heart melts every time.

He is also Mr. Smarty Pants and has started to help teach his sisters all that he knows. His language, inquisitive nature and critical thinking amaze me; they are beyond his years. As you will see in the video below, he is also quite literal.

Theo also has a silly side and loves to be imaginative with “his girls.” I’m looking forward to watching Theo grow as he starts school and meets other boys his own age.

Now, a look back at Theo…

Theo at Three Years…

Theo at Two Years…

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

Looking Back at Lillian Grace

Our sweet, sweet Lily Bug is a very kind soul. She continues to love to help; she assists with everything she’s able to including making meals, sweeping up, caring for our chickens and folding laundry. Her best stuffed friend remains her koala, Uti but she also has fond affections for her lion, frogs, and owls (her little hooty hoots).

Her other favorite past-times include using her strength to bull-doze the other quints and is quite the Lil-instigator. Our Lily Linebacker has a fierce Lily-lean. She also is our Y.O.L.O. and is one of the most daring, acquiring battle scars and bruises on a daily basis. When she’s not bruising, she’s snuggling

She has recently taken an interest in photography. She loves using my phone to snap pictures of objects around the house and has quite the artistic eye. I also will find 20+ pics of Uti on my phone if I’m not careful to put it away.

Now, let’s take a moment to look back at Lily’s last year…

Lily at three years…

Lily at two years…

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

Transitions…

You don’t have to tell me that change is hard. I have trouble eating something different for breakfast each day; I’m the queen of routine. The last few weeks have been especially difficult at home; So much so that we needed to put our heads together to figure out the reason for the increase in whining, tantrums, regression, and just plain cruel behavior. Once we started reflecting, we realized how many changes the kiddos have incurred in the last month. They have started to independently get dressed (picking out clothes to putting them on), wiping themselves, saying goodbye to Pull-ups at naps, starting swimming lessons at a new location, and the biggie- bidding Uncle JD farewell as he continuous his academic and professional journey in Chicago.

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What is it about change and transition that is so hard?

We are creatures of habit and change takes more energy, especially emotional and mental energy. Pediatric behavioral specialists believe the primary reason is because it requires that we stop something we enjoy and feels comfortable, in order to, do something very different that we need to do and may not want to do. Many of the negative consequences related to transition, even simply transitions like leaving the park or putting away a toy, require intense emotional management. Since strong emotions like anger, anxiety, frustration and sadness require practice to explore and manage; young children simply haven’t had the time or experiences to learn how to do it well. Our youngsters often look to us- their parents and caregivers- for tips on managing transitions; if we throw tantrums, they will, too. I often catch myself whining, complaining and throwing a pity-party from time-to-time and this negativity is as contagious as the common cold. I try to remind myself that like most things in life, prevention is the best medicine.

How can we help?

Create boundaries with freedom. We all know that people thrive in routine; perhaps because we have the comfort of predictability. I have found that if I set boundaries, create a structured schedule or routine and then grant freedoms within the structure, the kiddos flourish. For example, we eat and sleep at the same times every day but, what we do between these marker-activities is up to the children. Another example, we enjoy four different food groups at every meal: Protein, Grain/Starch, Vegetable and Fruit, but the V5 get to collectively- or individually- decide what we eat.

Prepare for change. We often give several countdowns to transition such as 15-minutes until clean-up time or 5 more minutes in the bath tub. If we’re at the park, they also always know that they get “one-more-thing” and after the last thing, we head to the car. These countdowns are more difficult with big changes, such as moves, starting school, surgeries, etc. From my perspective, you don’t want to start mentally preparing children too early where it can breed anxiety but also want to allow for adequate time to process. Any suggestions from our readers?

Transition Tunes. Life can be better as a musical. Certain activities lend themselves to a soundtrack such as cleaning up toys (clean-up song playlist); we love Daniel Tiger’s Clean, Pick-up, Put-away song. We also sing songs as we head upstairs for nap. We are always open to new tunes, so send them our way.

Visual Cues. It often amazes me how disoriented our children are to the days of the week. Nana B created a color chart for us which has a color for each day of the week. Each of the V5 has their own color and thus their own day. We try to celebrate each day by wearing the color of the day:

  • Lucky Lily Green Monday
  • Cool Blue Dude Tuesday
  • Purple Princess Bella Wednesday
  • Red Rosie Thursday
  • Orange-You-Glad-You’re-The-Only-Boy Friday
  • “Play-doh Rose” Pink Saturday
  • K-Mae Yellow Sunshine Sunday

It truly lends itself to a colorful wardrobe and the children have learned the days of the week. Frank also added little pictures of Nana, Uncle JD, himself and I to the chart so they would know who their primary caregiver was for the day. This was uber-helpful and cut-down on the number of questions each day.

Consistent Consequences. This is a difficult strategy for us. We have our go-to consequences based on our stoplight approach:

  • Green Light: you get a smiley at the end of the day. After three smileys, you get to pick from the prize bucket.
  • Yellow light: Verbal warning and a 2-minute time out
  • Red light: 2-minute time out and lose a toy

But, what happens when they earn several red lights? Or, the caregiver becomes so weary that they can’t keep up and thus be consistent. This is where we struggle. When the number of bad choices outweigh the good, it is tough to remain positive and thus reward the good choices with verbal praise, stickers, etc. I think this is when it’s necessary to let the little lights shine and truly make a big deal out of the good choices so, they can encourage more good choices but also fuel positivity so we all don’t become frowny brownies.

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Catch Quality Zzzz’s. Quality, routine sleep is definitely good medicine for physical, mental and emotional health. Life can get in the way of adequate sleep but it is well worth shifting priorities to achieve it.