Looking Back at Bella (2018-2019)

On to big sister Isabella Marie! She is still our petite princess who consistently has an imaginary story line playing through her mind.  She continues to love to be artistic whether it is through drawing, coloring, singing or interpretive dance.  This sweet girl also loves America, country music and her big brother Theo!

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While she is 90% sweet, there is 10% spunky goof ball with a bit of sass; she has renamed this alter ego Izzy.  While we are trying to adapt to her new name, she will forever be our Bella Bean.

Now, a look back at Bella over the last year:

Bella at five years…

Bella at four years…

Bella at three years…

Bella at two years…

Bella’s First Year…

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Ode to Kindergarten

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First day of Kindergarten (September 2018)

 

It seems like only yesterday, was when I first arrived

A nervous face on the first day with wonder in my eyes

We learned about each other and how to be polite

Social studies, science, math and how to read and write.

I met so many friends this year

And every single day, we share and laugh and try to care in every single way

With all the things I’ve learned this year, A favorite’s hard to choose

But, will always remember this and pass it on to you

If I’m kind and do my best, there’s nothing I can’t do

I’ll work hard, reach for the stars with love and help from you

And if I believe that I can be brilliant as I grow

The happiest me is what you’ll see everywhere I go

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Ready to ZOOM to 1st grade!

 

 

 

 

Bye Bye Spring, Hello Summer

Like that. In a blink of an eye. School is out. Summer is on the horizon. It is hard to believe that my last entry here was 4 months ago. It has been a busy 4 months, but a good busy and a memorable busy.

This Spring we continued to grow physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. I have to consistently remind myself they are 5 (and a half). What I think they may be able to handle and navigate, may still be too much. Therefore, Mom is continuing to grow mentally, emotionally and socially, too.

Here’s a snapshot of our fun moments this last Spring…

Dance Parties and Performances

Outdoor Adventures, Parades and Trips to the Zoo

 

Impromptu Photo Shoots

 

Family Yard Work and Gardening

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New Goggles

 

Lots of Arts and Crafts

And a Target Run or Two

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Finding Calm Amidst Chaos

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Our house is loud. Our house is competitive. In our house, choices have consequences. Our has a schedule where there is a time to eat, play, sleep and head here and there. There is no doubt that this environment is stressful. I, the keeper of the schedule know that better than anyone. But, our home is also filled with love, laughter, prayer, gratitude, grace and mercy.

This home’s environment is much different than the one I grew up in but the values remain the same. Because of this I see my children evolving to be different than I was when I was younger. They are more confident, outspoken, expressive. They have to share everything from their bedroom to their time. None of this is bad. I just wonder at times what they are thinking and what this experience- this childhood- is really like for them.

There are moments when we find ourselves one-on-one where I catch a glimpse of them with their guard down. Whether it be their soft eyes, gentle smile or genuine laugh, it is then I know that they are doing okay, that they’re going to be okay. Rarely, are there uninterrupted conversations, but now that they can read and write, our conversations have become asynchronous. They can leave us a note, or a picture and we can do the same. It is in these stick figure drawings and scripted words that again I know that they’re going to be okay.

With each passing day they grow up a bit more. They become more independent and more united at the same time. They need others a bit more and us a bit less. While this is hard, I know it is good.

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Translation: “Nobody go in this room”

But, I have to consciously combat the worry and the fear that perhaps this environment may perpetuate invisible illness and may pay a toll on their young hearts and minds. Our children, like all others, are developing a sense of mastery of their environment and themselves with each passing day. They can understand reasons for why life is the way it is; these may be logical or magical. I believe it is vital that we, as caregivers, know when to step in and when to step back, in order to foster resilience and not dependency or injury.  The following 7 strategies were adapted from the American Psychological Association’s suggestions for fostering resilience across the lifespan.

Strategies to Foster Resilient Families

  1. Make connections. Relationships expose us to another person’s journey which provides us with perspective and increases the skill of empathy. A strong network of friends and family can also provide social support which can provide a non-judgmental safety net when we fall.
  2. Empower through Service. Age-appropriate volunteerism can help the helpless.
  3. Maintain Routine. Most thrive with consistency because it can provide comfort. In times of change, it can be helpful to find rest in celebrating the child’s routine.
  4. While routine and structure are beneficial if they lead to worry, they become counter-productive. Hit the pause button on life to explore with the child the source of worry. If it is the routine, celebrate spontaneity and re-construct the routine together.
  5. Practice and Preach Self-care. Finding and making time to care for one’s self through solid nutrition, exercise and rest is pivotal for keeping one’s tank full; this is a necessity to prevent burn-out especially when caring for a child with any illness- visible or invisible. Children will also bare witness to our self-care and establish their own methods.
  6. Nurture Positivity. Hardship can be handled with greater ease in the context of hope and trusting relationships. Helping a child trust the process, look for the positive and trust themselves to overcome life’s hurdles can build resilience and strengthen their self-efficacy towards present and future difficulties. While children may not be able to assess long-term consequences, we can help them see past the current situation and find hope while exploring optimism amidst fears.
  7. Accept Change. Change can be scary but learning to accept and roll with change at an early age can foster resilience. Navigating opportunities for self-discovery amidst change continues to build into the child and provides a reflective skill-set which can aid in changing with change.

Big picture

Resilient parents raise resilient children who have “the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change” and find calm amidst chaos. This ability to bounce back and grow is not just a process for self-development but a philosophy. We have the opportunity to plant “seeds of strength” and self-care so, our children can overcome the challenges of illness, a busy household, and/or hardships at home, work and school to courageously take on life with grace, generosity and gratitude.

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Additional Resources on Resilience

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!

Preschool Prom

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The V5 got to try out their Easter Best last night at their Preschool Prom!

The evening was spent enjoying dinner, dancing and a very long balloon animal line amidst lots of new friends.

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Dapper Mr. Theo
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Purple, Princess Bella
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Kali Mae Sunshine
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Anti-Tights, Laid Back Lily
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Always looking to gain an inch, Ellie Rose on her Tippy Toes
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Bustin’ a Move in her Kitty Shoes
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Photo Booth Sillies
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The only way we could capture a group photo… put them in a box

It Hurts.

Merriam Webster defines pain as, “physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury.” It is as subtle as the burning sensation in tired eyes felt with every blink and as agonizing post-operative healing without medication. It is also everything in between; gut-wrenching stomach pangs, dry sore throats, pounding headaches, throbbing sinuses, and internal distresses felt from your ears to your toes.

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But a parent and a caregiver knows it as so much more. We know it as the sting in our hearts when we see a child or loved one helpless, the anguish in our bellies because “we are sick again,” the shock and awe that that frail, emaciated young body is your poor daughter after months of recovering from virus after virus. It is the frustration when you just want to see your child giggle, run and play versus curled up in the fetal position with tear-stained cheeks.  It is the pain felt in the darkness when there has been no break in day.

The last six months in our household have been trying. The physical strain that has come with this last season is one for the books. After monthly trips to urgent care, two late night E.R. visits, two surgeries and two more on the calendar, countless ear infections, too many hours waiting for prescriptions to be filled and almost 10 weeks straight of being sick, we are tired of being sick. At times, I think my children have forgotten what it feels like to be well.

There’s no doubt that I’m a “glass half-full” kind of gal, but I’m starting to strain to see the rose color in my glasses. I know this too shall pass but I pray it will pass sooner rather than later. We are not interested in any Guinness Book of World Records for the number of viruses we can mutate and redistribute in one season.

I will end on a positive note. I still stand by the need to take one moment at a time and in each moment seek the joy. For each crack of a smile, unannounced giggle, bout of childish energy or sneaky hug around the legs is a ray of sunlight through the clouds, and they all must be cherished.

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A Few Questions for You…

We caught a glimpse of fun parent-child interviews this week on Facebook and thought we would record the kiddos’ answers to the questions as they related to themselves and their interests, as well as, their perspectives of our interests.

What is…

Theo

Bella

Lily

Kali

Ellie

Use Your Noggin’

Theo

Bella

Lily

Kali

Ellie

What is Mommy’s…

I loved these answers and truly provided their perspective. Some answers were accurate, some were goofy and others were very wrong.

Theo

Bella

Lily

Kali

Ellie

 

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!