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!

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Summer, wherefore art thou?

Every August, as Labor Day approaches, we ask ourselves where has summer gone? Time is now flying by at a rate that far exceeds any in the past. These last two months were filled with fun, adventure, milestones and memories. And… I’ll let our pictures tell the store of the summer of 2017!

The V5 were featured on Valley Perinatal Services’ Blog

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Our posts included a special thank you to our miracle-working, perinatologist Dr. John Elliott. In case you are wondering, this individual is who Ellie is named after and her inspiration for one day becoming an Astronaut Physician… who is also a “cat lady;” her words and her dreams.

Lily Said Tata to her Tonsils and Adenoids

This was an adventure, milestone and now a memory. We discovered that Lily had sleep apnea earlier this year and finally had her T&A in late July. She had a rough recovery and needed a second operation the first week in August but now has completely healed. She also finally has her voice back, too! The rest of the V5 were especially supportive to her and now we have a bunch of otolaryngologists running around our home removing tonsils and adenoids on a daily basis.

Enjoyed their 1st Amusement Park- Little Amerika

Nana B, Papa Brett, the quints and I took a little drive to our local amusement park and enjoyed the afternoon speeding in circles.

 

Swimming Lessons

Swimming this summer was very impressionable! The munchkins were divided for the first time during swimming lessons this year: Theo, Kali and Ellie were in one class and Bella and Lily had their own classes. Bella loved the space to explore independently, however Lily did not enjoy it. This was a lesson for Mom and Dad in planning for 4-k this fall that Lily benefits from a buddy. All in all, it was a solid experience and all advanced!

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The V5 took on Four

We are four weeks into year four and very excited for preschool which will be starting on the 11th of September. Theo and Lily will be sharing a class and Kali, Bella and Ellie will be in their own class. Thank you all for the birthday wishes and for helping us celebrate our miracles.

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Explored Pope Farm Conservancy’s Sunflowers

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.

 

A is for Astigmatism

It was only a matter of time before the children of Harry Caray (aka Frank) needed glasses, granted my poor vision didn’t probably help either. In fact, researchers have found that if both parents are near-sighted, the child has a 33% chance of also being near-sighted. This is the case for Theo, Bella and Elliott. We learned at their latest eye exam that all are near-sighted and have astigmatism.

What’s Astigmatism?

Astigmatism is caused by an abnormal curve of the cornea, or the outer region of the eye. Technically, it’s a refractive error because the shape does not bend light correctly. Their optician stated that their eyes look more like footballs versus the normal baseballs. In order to see clearly, light needs to be bent by the cornea and the lens of the eye before it reaches the retina.

How did we know?

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Since the V5 were premature, we have been seeing an eye doctor annually since birth. The early examinations were quite medieval and used an odd contraption to keep their eyes open during the exam. Now, the visits resemble an adult visit where they complete a variety of vision tests near to the eye and far from the eye. Then, the eyes are dilated (takes 30 minutes) and the back of the eye or retina is examined. The dilation is necessary to evaluate astigmatism.

In the end, you will receive a “score card” describing the prescription for the right eye (“OD”) and left eye (“OS”). It starts with the “spherical error,” or whether the child is nearsighted (can’t see faraway) or farsighted (can’t see close up). A positive sign indicates farsightedness whereas the negative sign indicates nearsightedness. The higher the prescription the worse the vision. The “Cyl,” or cylinder numbers describes the astigmatism and the “Axis” indicates which way the astigmatism is oriented. Finally, the “Add” section is used for bifocals.

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Getting Gear

There are several companies that make child-proof glasses. Our insurance company covered Miraflex and after 2 weeks, they’ve proven their worth in not only correcting vision but withstanding some trauma. You can choose from a variety of shapes and colors. Of course, our 3 chose their favorite colors: blue. purple and pink; they’re true to their brands.

First Impressions

When trying on the glasses in the optical shop, we observed different reactions.

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Theo was excited for his new gear, Bella appeared quite upset and slightly confused and Ellie was unsure. I believe its important to recognize these feelings as simply feelings and help children to understand that glasses are just like medicine and they can help to heal your eyes just like medicine does for the body.

The first few days required a lot of reinforcement.

image3For example, Theo thought it made sense to hide his glasses in a tree in the yard for almost a whole day. Many thanks to Nana for tracking them down. On the other side of the spectrum, Ellie’s words after putting them on were,”I can see you Mom!”

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Bella has also grown to love her glasses and has come to recognize how much they are helping her.  While it first it was disheartening to learn of their vision problems, it warms my heart to see how much better they can see and thus experience life now.

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V5 at their Dental Appt with Dr. Cece and her crew

Out of the Mouth…

ThunderstormbannerYesterday evening was a stormy night. The V5 are not keen on thunderstorms and thus I made another attempt to normalize nature with use of a fable. When I was a “small” girl, I also was rattled by thunder. My Dad’s dad was quite the bowler and passed away when my Dad was young and thus my Dad used to tell me that the thunder was my Grandpa Joe bowling with his fellow angels. I shared this story with my children last night.

After our evening snack, instead of wrestling them to bed, I gathered them beneath the skylights in Theo, Lily and Ellie’s room. We turned off all of the lights and just took in the thunder and hail storm. They loved the lightning but the crashing hail and thunder rattled them all. I let them know that I was not scared because I knew that we needed the rain to help the things we loved to grow. I also shared that the big booms were the angels bowling. I reminded them that I was there to keep them safe and the angels were also there to look out for them from heaven. Kali Mae then asked if God would also keep her safe, and I replied, “Always.” Then, Bella chimed in to share that God wasn’t in the sky but that He was in her heart. Kali quickly added that Jesus lived in her heart; Theo confirmed the same for himself. I was speechless and could only smile. Kali asked me if Jesus lived in my heart and I said, “Yes, yes He does.”

The conversation quickly turned to whether God is a boy or a girl and I tried my best to save that one for another day. This completely took me off guard because we had never talked about this before. We read the bible and go to church but this was a conclusion that they had come upon based on their experiences at Sunday school. In all honesty, I didn’t think they were absorbing much from Sunday school because I always ask what they learned or talked about and I get the same answer… “I don’t know.” Turns out the Spirit is working and now all I can think about is this precious moment and praise God for His grand purposes and plans that are carried out independent of our actions. I will continue to pray that this newfound knowledge for Theo, Kali and Bella will continue to grow and help shape their identities as God’s beautiful children. I will also pray that God’s Spirit will continue to whisper in the ears of Elliott and Lillian.

As I reminisce today, I recall their dedication and what that ceremony meant. For me, I dedicated them the moment I found out I was pregnant because I knew this was a God-thing and I was simply along for the ride. I was called to fight for their livelihood and ensure their delivery. In the NICU, I was an advocate for their care. Once home, it was and is my job to create and maintain a safe environment for growth; growth in mind, body and spirit. These, however, are earthly concerns. I feel my primary responsibility is to love them; to love them with play, instruction and discipline. To love them by modeling; modeling love for others, modeling respect for their father and honor for their elders, modeling forgiveness, gratitude and thanksgiving. To love them by knowing my role; knowing when to close my mouth and open my eyes and ears wide to watch. When it is my turn to talk, I will love them with my words.

I await the day to share these words with my children.  I want them to know…

Instead of “Mama,” call me” home” because you will always have a place to lay your head with me.

I want you to know knowledge, to learn skills but most of all to maintain the attitude of one who humbly acknowledges they are still learning.

You will experience hardship. Life will trip you and then hit you when you’re down but getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way you will ever learn to appreciate the sweet taste of air. Life can hurt and time can heal. Falling and failing are part of the journey and the only way you will fly, is if you jump.

You also won’t always get what you want. You’ll want what your neighbor has, your first love to last, your pain to go away, and to save the world. But, our hands are too small, our lives to short and no bucket big enough to catch all the tears that the earth cries. These are the days for running in the rain.

Running away the worry, the pain, and the anxiety. Emptying the body of its strength so that all you’re left with is who you are and who you were made to be.

I want you to look at the world as your oyster. Every moment is the zenith. Find your strength and power from above, know your time, and get out of your way.

There will be those days; the days to lift your eyes to lift your chin, and seek out the blessings.

Slow down to go fast. Close your mouth to open your ears. Shut your eyes to open them.

Always apologize and own your mistakes but never apologize for who you are.

The world will ask you to stop crying, quiet down and button up. Choose to embrace your emotions, plant your passion, water it and watch it grow.

 

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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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!