Advent New Year

Advent, or arrival, of the New Year has come! In the Christian tradition the first Sunday of Advent marks the New Year as individuals prepare for the coming of the Redeemer. Each Sunday of the Advent seasons prepares one with focus hope, peace, joy and love. Meditation on each of these values is a solid way to bring calm to one of the busiest times of the year but also sets the stage for the traditional New Year resolutions.

Now, looking back at the last 3 months of the holiday season I cannot help but see memories of hopeful children as they wrote and re-wrote and attempted to re-write their Christmas lists for a third time on Christmas eve… I hear the quiet and stillness of the household once they are all tucked in dreaming of tomorrow’s wishes… I see the joy written all over their faces as they embarked on new adventures trick-or-treating in October, trying new foods at Thanksgiving, and visiting family and friends over the Christmas celebrations… I feel and relish in the loving memories made at Christmas service as I watched each hold their own candle and sing silent night. All of these thoughts seem so fresh and I hope to keep them this way as we head into 2019.

Join me in refreshing the Advent New Year and refocusing on hope, peace, joy and love in 2019!

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Minnie (Kali), Anna (Bella), Cat woman (Ellie), Capn America (Theo) and our resident Wiggly Gal (Lily) ready for some serious trick or treating!

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Visit to the Sun Prairie Fire Department to see Trucks, Police vehicles and the Med Flight team.

Celebrated Kali’s first Winter Dance performance and Lily and Ellie’s first session of Gymnastics. Theo is very excited to start basketball in 1 week.

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Bella continues to enjoy her free time to be creative.

Thanksgiving Love, Joy, Snuggles and Sillies!

Family Christmas celebrations abounded! Great lessons of gratitude versus greed were learned. Lots of thank yous for the blessings that family and friends shared.

I even think they learned to like each other a bit more.

We capped off winter break with a surprise trip to the Dells!

The kiddos loved the waterpark, indoor amusement park and the arcade…

especially when Daddy won them each a ball from the claw machine!

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We welcomed 2019 in with thoughtful reflection and resolutions, as well as, a whole lot of noisemakers!

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The Vanderwall resolutions are to…

Love more and yell less (Frank),

Get better at building everything from Legos to planes to robots (Theo),

Playing nice with Lily (Bella),

Practice reading and gymnastics to get better each time (Lily),

Be more grateful (Kali),

Perfect her cartwheel and learn how to do a handstand (Ellie), and

To slow down enough in each moment to Selah, or to pause, reflect, look upwards, inwards and outwards before moving ahead in hope, peace, joy and love.

 

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A Season of Firsts

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We have finally reached the age that everyone has been telling us about. The age of wonder with the ability to articulate curiosities, joys and fears. The age where memories are made by the minute. The age of near-self-sufficiency and ability to help… truly help. The age where messes are made but also cleaned up in a fraction of the time. The age where feelings are felt and are now being able to be navigated, understood and managed. Four- going on -five is an amazing age. This is partially why this summer has been so much fun. The other part is the opportunities that we have been blessed with to explore. Here are a few of our most memorable firsts this summer…

First Parade. The V5 represented Kicks Unlimited’s Little Ninjas class in the Flags of Freedom Parade.

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First Time Riding a School Bus. The kiddos are enrolled in the Kick-off to Kindergarten program this summer which include a bus-ride to and from school. They have been doing great! No fear.

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First Firework Show. Talk about awe and wonder! It’s difficult to explain fireworks to a child. While not everyone was fond of the sound, they all loved the show. They also enjoyed the entertainment at WaunBoom!

First Tragedy. The Sun Prairie community was literally rocked this last week with the tragic explosion downtown leading to the sudden loss of a hometown hero. We couldn’t have hid this from our children, if we wanted to. Instead, we chose to embrace it and use it as an opportunity to explain what happened, how it happened and how to respond. Service and social responsibility are very important to me and being able to serve alongside my children was very memorable. The V5 willingly headed to the store to make care packages for displaced kids and brought them to the Red Cross shelter at the high school. 

Red Cross Efforts

First Trip to Michigan. This first was inclusive of the first 4+ hour car ride (7 hours one way) with only 2 bathroom break (total victory). During our time in Michigan, they experienced their first: trip to the beach, sandcastle, sand dunes, boat ride, and hike. On the way home, we had the opportunity to ride the Ferry- another first! Many, many thanks to Uncle Jeff and Aunt Sue for their hospitality and these memories!

 

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And Then There Were None

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Over the last week, the V5 kissed their last nap goodbye. While it was bittersweet, after 7 days of being nap-free, we believe we did the right thing. The transition went surprisingly well so, I had to share the success.

How did we know it was time?

Most sleep consultants and specialists agree that most preschool-aged children between the ages of 3-5 years need 10-13 hours of sleep every day. For us, this was from 8pm at night to 6am and a nap from 12:30-2:30. In the last few months, we had more and more mutinies during nap time and surprisingly the munchkins that didn’t nap made it past dinner better than those who did. We also noted that they were having trouble falling asleep and winding down at night when they did nap. This Mama turns into a pumpkin before 9pm so the staying up until 9:30-10p had to go. The V5 have always been early birds but even the worms were still sleeping at 4:30am. So, all of these signs pointed to the need to transition.

How to Transition

Like most childhood transitions, whether it be starting solids, potty training or decreasing daily naps, it is best to let the child lead the way. Therefore, be sure not to disregard naps too soon. Those brain breaks are essential for emotional and physical resets during the day.

When it is time to transition, consider a slow fade where you decrease the nap by 15-20 minutes each day. While we didn’t technically follow this suggestion, I believe the kiddos did. In retrospect, their 2-hour nap had dwindled over time.

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Practice quiet time. This is an invaluable practice that can follow them into adulthood. This gives our crew time alone to look at books, do puzzles, sing, color or draw. While it is tricky to keep them separated, it pays dividends in the afternoon.

It is important to note that quiet time isn’t equivalent to screen time. While a 30-minute episode of their favorite show may provide the adult with some quiet time, it is not going to provide rest that their mind is seeking but rather will stimulate the brain.

This last suggestion may be obvious, but one must also move bedtime earlier. Our home now becomes meltdown-city around 6:30p. Therefore, we moved the dinner hour 30-minutes earlier to have be able to head upstairs by 6:30p and those sleepy eyes are shut now by 7p.

Benefits of Being Nap-Free

If you would’ve asked me a month or two ago about the benefits of being nap-free, I may have struggled but now I am relishing in the freedom to schedule fun day-time activities without restrictions. It also has permitted more hours in the day to have fun family time as evidenced by the Springtime fun featured below. The best benefit of all may be that they are now sleeping through the night with greater consistency and the bed-time battles have also decreased. This means more time for Nana to recoup and more time for Dad and Mom to be husband and wife.

Park Time

Pool Time

Zoo Time

Abundant Love

On the doorstep of Mother’s Day, I am in my typical reflective state. Memories are overflowing in my mind; the laughter, the joy, the growth but also the tears, the tantrums, the opportunities for future learning and development. I have ruminating on the behavioral difficulties in the present stage of life and was having trouble pin-pointing a cause until yesterday. I attended a local strategic thinking summit related to poverty, hunger and health education and the leader mentioned that the root of the issues is the scarcity mentality. Something clicked in my brain and now I believe this is also at the root of the issues in our household.

What is the Scarcity Mentality?

Psychology Today published an article on the mental implications of scarcity; The author investigates what happens to our minds and how does this impact our behaviors when we feel we have too little and concludes that scarcity establishes a playground for envy. In a big household, where the sibs share everything- including the same birthday- it is easy to see why there may be an innate drive to be the “fittest” and a natural urgency to collect, store, indulge, and remain in the proverbial spotlight.

We made and make efforts to allow each of the V5 to be an individual; while this is good and was founded in good intention, I believe it may provide fodder for the rivalry. For example, each quint basically has their own brand… Lily loves green, is the biggest fan of the Paw Patrol by far and is known for her collection of horses whereas Ellie is the family’s “cat lady” and has not lived a day in her life in any color except for pink. Again, I believe this is good, it provides a source for identity but has it also promoted a sense of scarcity? Are there limited favorite colors, animals, favorite hobbies, etc? I’m uncertain on how they view this but am also curious if they perceive a scarcity of Daddy’s attention, special time with Mom and warm and fuzzy snuggles with Nana.

In my study on scarcity, I also learned that it can propel individuals to action. When there is abundant time then there is no urgency to learn, explore and achieve. So, how do we preserve the benefits of scarcity while encouraging an abundance mentality?

What is the Abundance Mentality?

Dr. Stephen Covey, author of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, shares that the scarcity mentality is a “zero-sum paradigm” and that individuals who are rutted in this mindset have a difficult time sharing both recognition and power whereas the “Abundance Mentality” is a product of personal security. This alternative mentality is the paradigm of plenty with enough to share. This security permits the sharing of self and resources to benefit the greater whole, the team, the family.

Every parent who knows love – agape love (Psalm 86:15; John 3:16) – knows that it can be given and received infinitely to a child; it is unconditional. Love is a universal language which surpasses our understanding. A mother’s love starts long before conception and truly never ends. I believe it originates when one is a little girl and she finds joy in taking care of another. I want my children to know this at the core of their beings. Mommy will always love them.

How can we foster Abundance?

Like other parents and caregivers, I want my children to know who they are, that they are loved and that there is enough of most things, whether it be what’s for dinner, toys, crayons, etc. to go around. How can we foster the abundance mentality in our homes so we can help our children to identify the appropriate time for competition and teach them to see win:win solutions? Leaders in this area suggest the following:

  • Model Appreciation. Say please and thank you and mean it. Demonstrate the value that we have in others for what they say and do.

 

  • Remind ourselves and others that there is more than enough. In the day and age of social media, comparing yourself to others is an epidemic but it can be stopped with a choice. We must stop the envy, the peeking at the “greener” grass next door, and embrace a culture of inclusion and attitude of gratitude.

 

  • Seek Opportunity with Optimism. Be the “glass is half full” person that people like to be around. Choose to see hardships as opportunities for progress, not unattainable perfection.

 

  • Be the Change. I love this quote made by Gandhi in years passed because of its truth. We need to give more of what we want. Our children are constantly watching and learning. We can foster gratitude and abundance by giving; giving our time, talents and treasures away.

 

In closing, I wish all of you mothers and blessed Mother’s Day filled with smiles, happy tears and memories that will last a lifetime.

 

 

 

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

 

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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