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.

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Bouncing into Spring

Spring is an amazing time of new beginnings, shedding of winter’s layers and welcoming new life. The V5 are enjoying every minute of exploring our new backyard, the neighborhood and all of the flowers and plants starting to poke their heads from the ground.

We formally welcomed Spring at the Madison Area Mom’s of Multiples Spring Fling. The kids had a blast at the Open Gym with all of the trampolines, mats, parallel bars, obstacle courses and toys. We now adoringly call the open gym, the Bouncy House. We, however, picked up a nasty bug at the event and riding on the fun memories, giggles and smiles that we shared last weekend to carry us through. Here are a few of our faves…

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Isabella is Cruisin’

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Lily in her Bug

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Theo is in his Little Deuce Coop

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Pedal to the Metal Ellie Rose is gone in a Flash

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K-Mae was swerving with authority and a smile

Video Clips:

Bouncy House Fun…

Obstacle Course Run…

K-Mae’s Obstacle Course Run…

The V5’s Got Hops…

Theo escorting Ellie Rose…

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.

 

The V5’s Vows for 2016

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The holiday commotion has settled and now the only flurry is the typical day-to-day of having five two-year-olds. This Christmas season was very special because it was the first time we got to see the holiday through a child’s eyes.

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The wonder and amazement of gift giving, reindeer, snowflakes and Frosty, as well as, jolly Old St. Nick adds another element to Christmas.

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We enjoyed our first Christmas in our new home, travelled to Lake Villa to enjoy our traditional family dinner, and even had our first sleepover with Papa T and Holly.

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Christmas Eve Morning and a Very Vanderwall Family Christmas Video 

The holiday flew by, and the New Year is upon us. What’s on the docket for 2016? Well, the V5’s vows for 2016 are to…

Learn how to Count to 20

Our munchkins can easily recognize numbers 1-10, but counting (in order) is a skill to-be-mastered. Theo has got 1-11 and a few of the girls can get to 10. One goal is to be able to count to 20 by the end of the year, as well as, count items all the way up to 20. Their new puzzle from Aunt Debbie and the girls will be a key to their success.

Sing the ABC Song

Letter recognition has come easy for the quints, since they have been exposed to so many names since birth. The letters T, I, B, L, K, M and E are hands down the easiest to recognize. Everyone also can recognize all of the upper case letters in the alphabet and most know the lower case, too. Since the V5 are really into singing now, we are hoping to capitalize and teach them the ABC song. If they can sing Frosty the Snowman and Rockabye Baby verse-by-verse, I’m confident we will get the ABC’s before 2017.

Theo’s rendition of Rockabye Baby

 

Spell and Write Their Names

Our bunch love to practice writing their names. We enjoy teaching them how to spell along with fun stories. For example, Theo learned how to spell and write his name by first learning that his names starts with “T,” and Mr. T is a line who always wear a hat, “H” comes after “T” and doesn’t leave home without his belt. “E” is third in line and wears shoes, a belt and a hat. Finally, “O” who looks like a circle.

Use the Potty

Our potty training adventures have ebbed and flowed throughout 2015. However, since everyone asked Santa for underwear this Christmas, potty training is a must in 2016. I must note that this was an unassisted request which was publically declared to the mall Santa.

Mall Santa Pic

Everyone now has the motor skills to use the potty. We are now working through recognition. Bella has mastered number “1” and “2;” she will be the first in her new purple undies. Ellie has “1” down, but often finds she is too busy to take potty breaks. K-Mae also is a “potty-going” superstar for “1” but “2” continues to sneak up on her. Theo is interested but isn’t there just, yet. And Lily, Lily gets an “A” for attempts. She sits and sits and tries and tries, but the poor-thing is still trying to figure out the difference between “1,” “2” and her perpetual gas… toots, toots, toots.

Mind their P’s & Q’s

This is, honestly, the number one priority. Teaching our children manners and respect is a lifelong priority. For now, we’re working on “please,” “thank you,” and “no thank you.” When they are polite to us and one another, the tone of the day is entirely different; dare I say it is easy? However, the majority of the time (nearly all of the time) they are quite the demanding bunch. We’ll get there, one P&Q at a time.

Time continues to fly by and we continue to try our best to savor each moment and stage, as well as, plan and prepare for the next. Childhood is truly a phenomenon; the days can seem so long, but they grow up in the blink of an eye, but don’t dare to blink because you’ll miss them. Here’s to a healthy, happy and fruitful New Year!

 

The 1st Snow

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The first snow of the season is a sudden reminder that the Holidays are just around the corner. This year the Vanderwall Quints are more aware than ever of all the hustle and bustle. “New House,” gobbling turkeys, snow, “Kiss-mas” lights, and “Frosties” abound!


It is so much fun to take a fresh look at all of these events from the eyes of the V5. Their expressions and experiences are priceless and a stark reminder to appreciate the little things that otherwise would be overlooked. These include the winter wind on your cheeks, learning how to walk in big clunky snow boots, having snowflakes land on your eyelashes, and sliding down a slick snow hill. In addition to all the wonderful elements of winter and the holidays, the kiddos have also grown to enjoy:KMae Cheese Burger

  • Coloring
  • Forming animals with Play-doh
  • Cooking and tasting new fruits and vegetables
  • Playing matching games
  • Hide and Go Seek with their animals
  • Writing their names

The biggest challenge of the day is naptime. Since saying good-bye to our cribs and hello to toddler beds, their mid-day nap has been nearly non-existent. Bella is your typical, “Jack in the Box” child and thus almost always needs to be removed from the situation in order to allow the other munchkins time to sleep. Other obstacles that we have been navigating include the typical two-year-old-tantrums. We ride the emotional rollercoaster of being a toddler right along side of them. We hope that the additional space that our new home will bring will help to ease some of the tantrums that result from simply being too close to one another. In the mean time, we are rolling with the punches… hair pulling… biting… and “puddling” on the floor. One new tool in our tool box for combatting these days is exploring the winter wonderland!

Sledding Video:

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Ellie Sled

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Theos Ready

Lily and Ellie

 

 

Taking On Two

Team Vanderwall remains in the first quarter of the 2nd year of life. The V5 have come out of the gate with some creative tactics, but Mom, Dad and Nana have proved to be resilient early in the game. This tough trio has taken on potty training, spoon skills, outdoor walks and even social gatherings. The quints appear to be a force to be reckoned with, and we don’t deny the mutinies that have occurred in the last month, but we remain hopeful.

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Navigating the age of two takes creativity, patience and endurance. It is such a blessing that Frank, Nana and I have alternating schedules so we can stay “fresh” for the V5. They are so “hungry” for new scenes, new games, new words and new experiences. It is beautiful to watch them soak up life!

Along with all of these “news” have come an abundance of new words! I truly believe that communication is the key to surviving and is what transforms the terrible two’s into the terrific two’s. It is increasingly obvious that 50% of their frustrations come from lack of words to say what they want to say, 25% are from their inability to identify what they are feeling inside (emotions), and the final 25% is unpreventable provoking from their siblings, namely Lily.

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Our battle plan for the age of two includes…

Help them “use their words:” This includes teaching them new words everyday. Some times this happens by accident and other times it is very intentional. We also have to remind them to use the words they know versus collapsing on the floor like a giant puddle (Ellie) or screaming and running circles (Kali Mae), or even jolting around in your chair like your toes are in an electrical socket (Bella). You will note that Theo was note named. He honestly has very few tantrums, which I think is because his vocabulary and capacity to communicate are quite high for his age.

Navigating emotions: Anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, etc. all produce icky sensations inside and helping the V5 to identify these feelings, understand that they are all okay and deal with them in a productive manner is a huge undertaking. We have been trying to call it when we see it, or simply say “Mae’s scared, it’s okay to be scared.” We have noticed the more that we help them to process early on in the scene the quicker it resolves.

Once we have labeled the emotion, we move on to helping them deal with it. A few tips we have received and tried include:

  • Time out to chill out: We have designated certain areas on the couch called “nests.” These are the chill out zones. When someone needs to calm down they are relocated to the nest with a few of their favorite toys.
  • Shake it off: When we see that they are angry or sad, we try to wipe off the nasty feeling and then shake it off. You could even use a towel for a visual.
  • Time out for safety: If we are late to the scene and injuries have incurred, then we do often separate the quints to preserve their safety. They can be vicious and have been known to bite, hit, kick, pinch and nearly draw blood. Therefore, a quick 2-5 minute time out can help to restore peace in an effective manner.

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Staying Fresh: This tactic is two-fold: it requires that Mom, Dad and Nana are taking care of themselves so that they have lots of love and energy to pour out to the munchkins and consistently coming up with new activities to help the V5 explore all that life has to offer and continue to learn, grow and play.

Frank is the best at coming up with new games. Check out his obstacle course, The Quint 500, below.

The kids also love to go to the zoo, play outside, go on “big kid” walks, and read, read, read!

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Look who’s turning two: Elliott Rose

Ms. Elliott Rose

Number five. Sweet Ellie Rose. Despite being the “baby” of the bunch, she acts much like a first born. She is reliable; if you ask Ellie to do something, she does it. She is conscientious and likes things just right. She is a natural caregiver and loves preparing “meals” for her animals, feeding her babies, combing her sisters’ hair and rubbing their backs.

She appreciates structure and can be quite controlling… especially when she’s coloring. Coloring can be quite a stressful activity for little Ellie because she likes to be the bearer of all crayons and tends to be quite the perfectionist. Elliott is very independent, too. Her happy place is alone in a corner with her stuffed kitty and a tag (yes, a tag on her shirt or pants).

Ellie Rose is brilliant; she is our little mad scientist. When she is not organizing toys, enjoying her own home-cooked meal, running laps, or dancing to the music in her little head, you will find her building perfect towers and putting together puzzles. She is a master builder; a 30-piece puzzle is no match for Ellie Rose.

Ms. Elliott we love you bunches and bunches!

Ellie’s Second Year…

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