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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Fall Fun Down on the Farm

Yesterday we visited Busy Barns and had a blast exploring all of their friendly farm animals, working through the obstacle course and unwinding on the hay ride. These pictures were too cute not to share!

Exploring all of the Baby Animals

Bunny Snuggles with our Snuggle Bunnies

 

Huge Hamster Wheel

Need one of these for before bed time 🙂

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Our Favorite Characters

Group Photo Opps

Behind the Scenes of a Desired Family Photo

 

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!

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 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…

Looking back at Theo (2017-2018)

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Our little boy is starting to look not so little. His patience, charm and inquisitive nature are amazing. Mr. Theo loves to investigate how things work. It is not uncommon to catch him examining a lamp, taking a part our noise machine or peering inside of something. He finds such joy in figuring it out; a budding engineer, perhaps.

He is also my side-kick in the kitchen and loves to help plan and prepare healthful meals and snacks (always pairing energy with a protein 🙂 and is my most adventurous eater. I can’t name a food he doesn’t enjoy… well, there’s kombucha; he can’t get passed the smell.

Theo is fascinated by dinosaurs, space and airplanes… not atypical for a boy. He also loves his boy-time where he’ll excuse himself from the pack to go play with Daddy’s LEGOs or his trains. The girls are still learning to respect this time.

Our big brother has truly set an example for the whole family.

Here’s a look back at Theo over the last year…

Theo at Four Years…

Theo at Three Years…

Theo at Two Years…

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

When I Grow Up…

The V5 recently did a unit at school about Community Helpers and the idea of work, having a job and growing into a profession have started to make sense. I love hearing about their “career” aspirations and views on life. At present, Theo wants to be a police officer when he grows up because he wants to drive a police truck and keep people safe. When sharing this, he always states that his teacher also said that he can change his mind if he wants. It is also important to note that he is heavily considering becoming a paleontologist or aerospace engineer.

Bella’s recent surgery has truly had an impact on what she wants to grow up and she has truly taken to being a doctor. While I find it hard to see Ms. Bean battling through the sciences and physics- I still see her using her creative talents in the arts- I admire how she wants to “help make people healthy.” Who knows perhaps she’ll prove me wrong and use her steady hand and artistic talents to become a surgeon?

Ms. Lily Grace wants to be a teacher so she can tell people to listen to her. We try to explain to her that there’s more to being a teacher than having people listen to you. This apparently is the most obvious role of a teacher in her classroom. I will add that Lily’s teacher shared that she is a delight and one of the best listeners – along with her brother- in her class. Lily continues to grow into the most considerate and compassionate little girl, as well as, a true socialite, I believe she will be in a service field, too.

Kali Mae has taken great pride in being the sole quint that has not had surgery and has truly been quite well through the onslaught of seasonal illnesses. Therefore, she has been called upon to be a caregiver in the last several months. While she is a natural caregiver, instinctively seeing needs, she also greatly enjoys being a little boska and instructing her patients on the best way to care for themselves.

Ms. Elliott Rose continues to have her sights set on becoming a “cat lady.” She recently added that she wants to own a salon where she can take care of all of her kitties and put bows on their tails. She remarks that you will always know when she’s coming because you will hear her kitties. I’m holding out for greater professional goals. Ellie has an affinity for movement, rhythm and puzzles so, we will see where this takes her.

At the age of 4 ½ years, I share all of this tongue-in-cheek while loving to capture their life perspectives at every age and stage.

Other fascinations include reading, writing, money and the inter-workings of everything from time to sunburns (most of these questions immerge right before bed-time). Now, that all five have mastered the sounds of individual letters, we have observed them “sounding out” words, “letter by letter.” Teaching and observing this process is amazing to me. Reading and writing are huge milestones in my mind because they are gateways for communication. They unlock a whole world for understanding. I am so excited to watch my children continue to grow into book worms and budding authors.

The V5 also received banks last year, they were previously used for storing their most precious tinier than tiny toys (i.e. Hatchimals, Shopkins, etc.) but now they have started to understand money as currency and have loaded their banks with pretend cash and coin. I’ve also caught them exchanging these funds for goods. They also have come to understand that another reason why we work is to make money. This learning has helped them to better understand why Mommy, Daddy and Nana have to go to work.

Finally, my favorite fascination at present is their inquisitive nature about how things work. While Theo is by far the most curious about inter-workings, the girls are growing in their curiosity. The best is when Theo stumps us all with his questions and we have to look it up. I believe this demonstrates that 1. It’s okay to say I don’t know, 2. The practice of looking answers up, and 3. We are all still learning. I just prefer to learn during daylight hours and not the minutes before bed-time.