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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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 Bella (2017-2018)

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Miss Bella is still the princess in the bunch and definitely is passionate about the arts. She loves to sing, dance, draw, color and create. She takes great enjoyment from building extravagant scenes with her toys and stuffed animals.

Isabella’s obsession with fuzzies and anything soft remains. Her collection of fuzzy items has nearly taken over her bookshelf. Unfortunately, a soft, sudden wind sends them flying like a dried dandelion.

The charm is also strong with this one. She has a way of negotiating with sweet subtlety. She’s a tricky one but oh, so sweet.

Looking Back at Bella this last year…

 

Bella at four years…

Bella at three years…

Bella at two years…

If you really want to turn back the clock, check out Bella’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…

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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Cabin Fever

There is a cabin fever epidemic in our household. We are quite thankful that Spring is upon us because we cannot wait to get outdoors!

We tried to make it outside throughout the winter, but the quints’ affinity for snow and cold varies on a wide spectrum. Ellie Rose took on Frosty and loves to galavant through the snow; she anchors the scale at the “love for snow” end point. Mr. Theo dislikes all that snow has to offer; thus anchoring the other end of the spectrum. Kali Mae is our mid-point; She enjoys sitting amidst the drifts catching snowflakes and munching on a snowball. Lily and Bella are a bit more free-spirited and can tolerate it for a bit, but then quickly want to go indoors. Needless to say, our snow experiences typically last about 20-25 minutes, or half of the amount of time it takes to prepare.

How we are treating cabin fever and getting our crazies out…


Everyone, however, loves to be outdoors when it’s warm. We trekked to the park in our neighborhood the other day for the first time. It was very cool to watch our 29-weekers climb the play structure with ease, run around the park, swing on the swings, and best of all get dirty! The V5 are not, typically, fond of getting messy. If they have a drop of water- fondly known as a Dibble-dop – on their clothes, they demand a new outfit. But, when we left the park, everyone had dirty hands and mud stains; it was a true milestone! We look forward to many more mud pies and grass stains in the future.

V5 in their Spring Gear

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Lily and Turtle

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Ellie and Her Kitty

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Bella, Nana Bear and Mr. Walrus, fondly known as WusRahl

 

The quints also made their first appearance at Sunday School last week and loved it. They learned a new song, made new friends and didn’t shed a tear. We are very excited to watch them grow in their social skills, as well as, learn about God’s love. They were also very excited to get dressed to go to church!

 

The V5 in their Sunday Best

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Ellie, K-Mae, Lily, Bella and Theo

 

We (Dad, Mom and Nana B) continue to try our best to stay a step ahead of our crew physically and mentally. It is evident that our bunch needs consistent challenges that stimulate them intellectually and outlets to get their crazies out physically. We welcome suggestions for challenging the V5. Right now, we are:

  • Reading like book worms
  • Practicing writing our names, numbers and shapes
  • Singing songs
  • Learning our ABC’s and 123’s
  • Building towers and puzzles

 

Theo reading the “Dot Book” to Lily

We plan to start:

  • Practicing with scissors and making more necklaces to improve fine motor skills,
  • Gardening to foster a love for getting dirty, and
  • Getting out and about to increase opportunities for social interaction.