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.

 

The Thrifty Gene

Do you have the thrifty gene? Not the “thrifty genotype” that’s another story for a different blog, but rather the innate desire to be frugal? I do and I certainly hope my children do, too. Signs that you have the frugal-kind of thrifty gene…

  • You maintain a minimalist wardrobe
  • You re-use Zip-loc bags
  • Forget about napkins, paper towels, Kleenex and other unnecessary paper goods with the exception of toilet paper
  • Use the library
  • Enjoy free entertainment
  • Cook from scratch and brown bag it daily
  • Seek to reduce water usage and electricity

These may sound like confessions of a cheap-skate, which perhaps it is, but it is also a list of habits and a philosophy that I hope to share with my children.

There is so much want, desire and greed in the world. So many people “thrive” and try to survive by chasing after the next big innovation, but what about maintenance? What about using what we have? Being grateful and counting our blessings. I, personally, believe life can be so much more when we live below our means and seek and savor the things in life that are priceless.

I know that my children will reap the benefits of frugality in mind, body and spirit as we continue to model ways to avoid waste by- not only preaching- but practicing the differences between “wants” and “needs” and being greedy versus grateful. At the ripe age of 3 1/2, I have already witnessed my children using this language and even discussing a need versus a want with each other; it makes my heart smile.

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What are the non-monetary benefits of frugality?

They include:

  • Creativity
  • Being green and friendly to the environment
  • Reduces waste
  • Keeps priorities in check
  • Fosters relationship and community
  • Keeps life simple

Those last two are what keeps me from drifting from my thrifty gene. The minimalist mindset reduces the number of choices, keeping it simple and crafting an environment where the healthy choice is easy. It also minimizes distractions so we can build true relationships that will last a lifetime.

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The Anti-Walnut Campaign

Food allergies- when food is the enemy. Allergic reactions range from the mild rash to the very scary anaphylaxis. We have known for some time that little Ellie Rose is allergic to walnuts but thought it was prudent to pursue testing to rule out any other allergies.

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What happens in the body to make your child puff up like a puffer fish?

The spectrum of allergic responses to food trigger is modulated by the immune system. It is important to note that not all allergens result in “Food anaphylaxis” or are IgE-mediated.  The difference in how the immune system responds results in the array of visual symptoms. The role of specific cells and mediators remains a hot topic for debate. Most people believe that more mild food allergy and intolerance symptoms are the result of increases in histamine without a change in basophils, however some have found that eosinophils increase. Basophils and eosinophils are both granulocytes, and white blood cells active in immune responses. The basophils are called to the front lines to interact with foreign bodies and are involved in inflammation by releasing histamine and heparin; histamine dilates blood vessels leading to warmth and swelling while the heparin prevents blood clotting. Eosinophils are phagocytes and consume, or “Eat” foreign bodies and can help to calm inflammation.

IgE, or immunoglobulin E, is an antibody that leads to a systemic inflammatory cascade which utilizes mast cells. Mast cells are another white blood cell rich in histamine and heparin. The IgE response causes reactions in the nose, lungs, throat or on the skin. Epinephrine is the antidote for anaphylaxis; at recommended doses epi can constrict the blood vessels and alleviate symptoms of swelling and itching via α-adrenergic pathways and can restore airways by β-adrenergic properties. In low concentrations, epinephrine can also block the antigen, or allergenic protein.

At Ellie’s first encounter with walnuts, she simply didn’t like them and told me they hurt her mouth. I, originally, thought it was a new texture that she needed to get used to. At second try a few weeks later, her face quickly swelled causing her eyes to swell shut and her breathing became labored. I quickly rushed to get Benadryl (anti-histamine) which calmed her body down and she recovered in a little less than an hour. Since that day, we have carried out a strong educational campaign among the quints and her caretakers to strongly reduce the risk of another exposure. The campaign has worked but knowing that she will be starting school in a few short months, we thought an epi pen may be a great tool in our tool box. This warranted a visit to Allergy Clinic.

Big Eight

Food allergens are water-soluble glycoproteins that are typically stable to heat and acid. The most common food allergens are called the big eight and include:

  1. Cow’s milk
  2. Chicken Eggs
  3. Peanuts and Legumes (almond, pecan, coconut, cashew)
  4. Tree Nuts (Brazil nut, chestnut, hazelnut, pine nut, walnut)
  5. Cereals (Wheat)
  6. Soy
  7. Fish
  8. Shellfish

In clinic, the team tested Elliott using the skin-prick test. Since Elliott consumes peanuts, almonds and coconut safely, they chose to only test those nuts, legumes and tree nuts that are unknown and most similar to walnuts: Black walnuts, English walnuts, Hazelnuts, Pine Nuts and Pecans.

The skin prick test is completed by scratching the surface of the back while applying a diluted allergen solution. Then, a labeled grid is drawn around the test area. The control is always included to demonstrate a sample “wheal,” or raised, red and itchy bump. After 15-20 minutes, the team can see which allergens cause a response. It is important to note that the size of the wheal does not necessarily correlate with the allergic response. So, as one can see in Ellie’s photo the A column demonstrates her response to the control solution and the two types of walnuts, as well as, pecans in column B. Despite, pecans larger than walnuts it may not produce anaphylactic reactions. Of course, we have added pecans to Ellie’s list and have restarted our walnut and pecan allergy campaign. We also left the office with school plans and a prescription for epinephrine.

Now, while Elliott won’t be eating any walnuts or pecans in the near future, the doctor said it is unlike wheat allergies/gluten allergies and we can keep them in the house. They shared that despite popular knowledge, nuts do not commonly produce allergic responses via airborne contact. Therefore, Theo can still enjoy his walnuts at snack time despite sitting right across from Ellie.

To lighten up this post, I’ve also provided some fun Snapchat photos which were taken while waiting for the Doc.

Quints 3.5

Quint 3.5 sounds like a new software program and is indeed a new reality. All in the Vanderwall-Turzy compound would agree that in the last few weeks the V5 have turned the corner. They have made great gains in not only their communication, personal insights, emotional intelligence but their physical aptitude.

Let’s take them one-by-one!

Communication

The V5 represent the spectrum when it comes to communication. When they are not imitating their favorite animals (A Roaring Dino, Hopping Bunny, Squeaking Mouse, Snorting Piggy, and Purring Kitty), they are conversing.

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It is my understanding that there are several ways that families can do to promote solid communication skills and a vast vocabulary in their children. These include:

  • Have Grown-up Conversations with children
  • Giving them a chance to tell a story
  • Play Word Games
  • Listen to how they speak and correct with care. (This has caught on and now the kiddos correct each other with care; Namely Bella and Theo correcting Lily)
  • Imbed new words in an engaging story or activity

In our house, we celebrate a new letter each week and this provides a foundation for new poly-syllable words and new activities that start with that letter. For example, this week is “S” week so we…

  • Investigated the differences between sweet, sour and salty.
  • Allowed Theo to teach us all that he knows about the Solar System.
  • Explored the United States and who lives where.

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Personal Insights

We caught the nasty bug that swept and is sweeping through the Midwest. It appears to nestle into the respiratory tract and morph from virus to the next. This bug altered the kids’ appetites and taste buds for the first time in their young lives. I was blessed to have never had to handle a “picky eating” situation in my home until a few weeks ago. I quickly went to what I share with my families in clinic and I now know that I preach effective strategies such as modeling comfort discarding uneaten food, embracing their feelings/dislike in the moment but also demonstrating surprise and inviting them to choose and prepare the meal or snack. For example, Bella and Ellie were barely finishing any meals so; we would allow them to save the food they didn’t want/like for another meal or snack. When they determined they didn’t like the food, I would say that’s okay but that’s surprising because you really liked it yesterday; half of the time they would remember and finish their green beans. We also have been inviting them to plan and prepare meals with Mom; this has gone over really well.

I am so proud of these new insights and how they are becoming more aware of hunger and satiety cues. Now that they are feeling better, they will stop when they are sensing they have had enough versus stuffing it down like they had in the past.

Emotional Intelligence

What is EI? Emotional intelligence, or Emotional Quotient (EQ), is described as the individualized ability to recognize your own and other’s emotions and to discriminate between the various feeling while using emotion- and managed emotions- to guide thinking and behavior. Now, don’t get me wrong the kiddos are by no means little Dalai Lamas walking around, nor are they gurus in mindfulness, but I have seen great gains in their self-awareness in the last few weeks. They are accurately identifying their feelings and the feelings of others. If they perceive sadness or anger, they respond… usually with a hug. We are still developing skills to work through feelings like anger and anxiety. I’m fairly certain that these will forever be works in progress, or at least they are for me. The instant surges of fear and nervousness or even anger are treacherous waters to navigate for an adult, let alone a three year old.

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I have found that modeling healthy EI behaviors and providing a safe space for them to experiment and process their emotions are key. I have also witness the power of exercise and physical activity in emotional wellness. The V-sprouts are much more even-keel when they have moved. It reminds me of keeping a big dog- who loves to run- in a small apartment. If the owner doesn’t seek out opportunities for the dog to use its energy, it will start to cause trouble. It’s the same for my munchkins, if they have pent-up energy- or are bored- they will seek out trouble.

Physical Aptitude

When you are having multiples, especially high order multiples, the risks and warnings concerning physical disabilities and developmental delays are both numerous and alarming. Therefore, the way my children move will be forever a marker of God’s grace and their success in beating the odds. They all got their wheels (learned to walk) around 1 year of age and since then they have been off and running. I remember last summer being amazed at how they took on any and all playground equipment. Now, they’ve taken on water. We started swimming lessons at it is pure joy to watch them bob, swim and splash in the water.

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Kali Mae, who OT thought may need therapy due to suspected sensory processing issues, is at home in the water. I love seeing her so happy to move versus struggling. I believe this new mode of transportation is also improving their land motions. I’m eager to see how these gains will play out at the park this summer!

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So, what’s next? Well, believe it or not they will be four in a few short months and thus eligible for Sun Prairie’s Four Year Old Kindergarten program. We have been visiting programs, interviewing teachers and comparing and contrasting. They are very excited for this next milestone and we believe it will open a door to a whole new world for all of us!

Under Construction: How Life has Changed

 

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I was reflecting today on how much life changes when someone becomes a parent and even more so how the change does not stop at child birth; with each stage, the child grows and the parent changes.

At conception, I grew in my passion, responsibility and intent to protect my unborn children. I witnessed a side of me that I had never seen before- the Mama bear. I was keenly aware of the needs of the “fruit of my womb” and there was nothing that was going to stop me in fighting for their lives.

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Photo Credit: Hayley Painter

At birth, I grew in love, and all that encompasses this word: sacrifice, friendship, and intimacy. I never knew this type of love; the love of a parent for their children. It is this love that grounds all future growth and is the “why” for each and every day.

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In infancy, my managerial capabilities were tested; could I pump, feed, bathe, cuddle, console, play and nurture five infants every day? We would see. We did, but not alone, and thus I grew in humility. I had to fight my pride and welcome- and rely- on the help of others. Still to this day, our family is living proof that it takes a village.

In toddlerhood, the challenges shifted to be more mental and psychological than physical. Yes, it can be tiresome to chase around five two-year-olds, but it is more challenging to teach and coach them through their new emotions, experiences and misunderstandings. It is in this stage that I took Daniel Tiger’s advice, “when you feel like you want to roar, take a deep breath and count to four.” Between this mantra and my many parenting mishaps, I believe I have learned the value of remaining calm during chaos and calamity… unfortunately knowledge does not translate into skill very easily.

Today, we are in the preschool era. Being three is so very different than two. At three, children move with ease, can articulate what they are thinking and have a basic understanding of the world that they witness day-in and day-out. They are still naive to everything outside of their four walls but that presents caregivers with a priceless opportunity. Preschoolers are hungry, hungry for knowledge of all of the what, when, where, why and how of this world. It is a true joy to help a youngster navigate a new experience that you know they will remember with smiles in their heart.

Yes, I will not deny there are the threenager moments and mood swings; the “holes” in their oatmeal, the zipper that won’t budge, when they wanted triangles instead of rectangles, or even when all of the bubbles in the bathtub have come and gone. These little things that make the littles steam; it is in these moments that I pray I am able to remain calm and that my peace would transcend their anguish. It is these times that are preparing me for their true teenage years.

At the end of every day, I lie in bed reviewing the day- as I’m sure they do- recalling my good choices and my bad choices. I try to remind myself of the elementary lesson that bad choices don’t make you a bad person, or a bad parent for that matter. We are all under construction… works in progress… building, refining and polishing each other in each moment of everyday and in each stage and we all play a role in this process independent of our age.