Offering Thanks on World Prematurity Day

23559582_10108916033354500_4915363894907305397_n

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.

IMG_3316

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!

IMG_3305IMG_3310

Advertisements

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

img_3144.jpg

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.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2F1942380%2Fvideos%2F10106992902439270%2F&show_text=0&width=560

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!

Off to School

Today we celebrate the Vanderwall Quintuplets first day of school. We had no worries about being late since all five have been giddy with excitement since they first received their 4k notice in the mail; all were up and had dressed themselves by 6:30 am. In all honesty, we did experience a few wardrobe snafus and fashion faux pas but all easily resolved.. They gobbled down their oats and were eager for their photo shoot.

At School

About 1,000 pictures later, we hopped in the van and headed to school. So many memories were captured within those 5 minutes while we dropped them off…

  • Kali, Ellie and Bella bee-lined it to their cubbies. Took off their back-packs, hung their coats and took their take-home folders to their teachers. Theo wished each sister farewell and Lily grabbed all three for a family hug.
  • In Theo and Lily’s classroom, Theo was amazed at all of the boys and Lily kept saying how much fun today was going to be.
  • We almost made it out tear-free but, on our way out Ellie caught a glimpse of Daddy and needed one more hug.

Looking back

On the way home, they were eager to learn what the others’ experienced. While they maintained the same daily schedule, the individual activities were different. Bella, Ellie and Kali decorated hats and Theo and Lily took a class picture. Bella was proud to share that she made a new friend who helped her put her coat on. Everyone’s favorite part of the morning was playing at recess. All are looking for another day tomorrow.

We are experiencing nothing but pure joy in the Vanderwall household today. We are so proud of our little miracles!

 

 

 

 

 

Bye Bye

Lined up

Lets go

Looking Back at Ellie Rosie

This year we’re going backwards, giving baby girl Ellie Rosie the chance to be first. She is small but mighty, we knew this from the moment we “met” her in the womb. She is our little firework.

ellie-e

Elliott continues to love her kitties and all things pink. She also is quite the chicken whisperer and overall animal lover. Her all-time favorite cat continues to be Marie, from the Aristocats, and Bootsy (grey cat) is a close second.

She also has the biggest sweet tooth of the bunch; she loves Daddy’s milk and almonds (aka Original Soy Milk and Cocoa-dusted almonds).

She also truly has the most fun. I love watching her love life, it is an inspiration to me to slow down and play with my Rosie.

Here’s a look at Elliott Rose’s third year…

Ellie at three years…

Ellie at two years…

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

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.

IMG_2355 (1)

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.

IMG_2184

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?

image5

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.

rx

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.

image4

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!”

image2

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.

image6

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

Springtime Fun

Spring is by far my favorite season and certainly not because of the weather but rather because of the new life that abounds. February through April reminds me so much of pregnancy; Didn’t see that coming, did you? This late Winter/Early Spring is just like the 3rd trimester because new life is right on the brink but you are left trudging through uncomfortable, frigid rains for three more months. Then, finally the warm showers arrive and bring forth beauty from the vibrant green grass to the clear blue skies. The sun which previously only provided light now warms the air and brings the birds and critters out to play.

This spring has been especially fun because we have been able to get outdoors and experience all that this season has to offer… budding trees, mud, puddles and sunshine on our skin. Before summer arrives, I thought it be best to provide a snapshot of our spring time fun!

March

Late in March the kiddos got to travel to Chicago, stay up late and sleep over at Papa Ron’s to watch Uncle JD’s senior recital.

Uncle’s Concert

Click Picture to start video
NEIU recital

They were so inspired; we had to have our own performance that weekend. We present to you the Concerto de Quint!

April

April temps warmed up and we discovered a new park nearby in Deforest. They loved the racing slides!

Slide race

Seesaw

Easter weekend, we got to celebrate Papa Ron’s birthday and go on an epic Easter egg hunt! Our little Easter bunnies filled up on their bunny oats and then found 50 eggs filled with stickers, chalk and clues to discover their Easter baskets!

Easter Oats

Easter Lily

17883668_10107844097966610_7049886655035536945_n