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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The Anti-Walnut Campaign

Food allergies- when food is the enemy. Allergic reactions range from the mild rash to the very scary anaphylaxis. We have known for some time that little Ellie Rose is allergic to walnuts but thought it was prudent to pursue testing to rule out any other allergies.

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What happens in the body to make your child puff up like a puffer fish?

The spectrum of allergic responses to food trigger is modulated by the immune system. It is important to note that not all allergens result in “Food anaphylaxis” or are IgE-mediated.  The difference in how the immune system responds results in the array of visual symptoms. The role of specific cells and mediators remains a hot topic for debate. Most people believe that more mild food allergy and intolerance symptoms are the result of increases in histamine without a change in basophils, however some have found that eosinophils increase. Basophils and eosinophils are both granulocytes, and white blood cells active in immune responses. The basophils are called to the front lines to interact with foreign bodies and are involved in inflammation by releasing histamine and heparin; histamine dilates blood vessels leading to warmth and swelling while the heparin prevents blood clotting. Eosinophils are phagocytes and consume, or “Eat” foreign bodies and can help to calm inflammation.

IgE, or immunoglobulin E, is an antibody that leads to a systemic inflammatory cascade which utilizes mast cells. Mast cells are another white blood cell rich in histamine and heparin. The IgE response causes reactions in the nose, lungs, throat or on the skin. Epinephrine is the antidote for anaphylaxis; at recommended doses epi can constrict the blood vessels and alleviate symptoms of swelling and itching via α-adrenergic pathways and can restore airways by β-adrenergic properties. In low concentrations, epinephrine can also block the antigen, or allergenic protein.

At Ellie’s first encounter with walnuts, she simply didn’t like them and told me they hurt her mouth. I, originally, thought it was a new texture that she needed to get used to. At second try a few weeks later, her face quickly swelled causing her eyes to swell shut and her breathing became labored. I quickly rushed to get Benadryl (anti-histamine) which calmed her body down and she recovered in a little less than an hour. Since that day, we have carried out a strong educational campaign among the quints and her caretakers to strongly reduce the risk of another exposure. The campaign has worked but knowing that she will be starting school in a few short months, we thought an epi pen may be a great tool in our tool box. This warranted a visit to Allergy Clinic.

Big Eight

Food allergens are water-soluble glycoproteins that are typically stable to heat and acid. The most common food allergens are called the big eight and include:

  1. Cow’s milk
  2. Chicken Eggs
  3. Peanuts and Legumes (almond, pecan, coconut, cashew)
  4. Tree Nuts (Brazil nut, chestnut, hazelnut, pine nut, walnut)
  5. Cereals (Wheat)
  6. Soy
  7. Fish
  8. Shellfish

In clinic, the team tested Elliott using the skin-prick test. Since Elliott consumes peanuts, almonds and coconut safely, they chose to only test those nuts, legumes and tree nuts that are unknown and most similar to walnuts: Black walnuts, English walnuts, Hazelnuts, Pine Nuts and Pecans.

The skin prick test is completed by scratching the surface of the back while applying a diluted allergen solution. Then, a labeled grid is drawn around the test area. The control is always included to demonstrate a sample “wheal,” or raised, red and itchy bump. After 15-20 minutes, the team can see which allergens cause a response. It is important to note that the size of the wheal does not necessarily correlate with the allergic response. So, as one can see in Ellie’s photo the A column demonstrates her response to the control solution and the two types of walnuts, as well as, pecans in column B. Despite, pecans larger than walnuts it may not produce anaphylactic reactions. Of course, we have added pecans to Ellie’s list and have restarted our walnut and pecan allergy campaign. We also left the office with school plans and a prescription for epinephrine.

Now, while Elliott won’t be eating any walnuts or pecans in the near future, the doctor said it is unlike wheat allergies/gluten allergies and we can keep them in the house. They shared that despite popular knowledge, nuts do not commonly produce allergic responses via airborne contact. Therefore, Theo can still enjoy his walnuts at snack time despite sitting right across from Ellie.

To lighten up this post, I’ve also provided some fun Snapchat photos which were taken while waiting for the Doc.

Looking Back at Elliott Rose

Baby E, our Elliott Rose, is the “youngest” of the bunch. Many of you may recall that Ellie was tucked way at the top of Mommy’s tummy and has her own penthouse suite in the womb. She was a mover and shaker then and is certainly now. She is fondly called, “Ellie-nado” because she doesn’t sit. Her happy place is anywhere that she can bounce, run, dance without harm… aka a bouncy house.

When Ellie is happy, she is really happy and likewise when Ellie is angry, she is really angry. She is an independent woman who has been the first of V5 to take on crawling, walking, running, going up and down stairs, riding a tricycle, putting on her clothes and shoes, etc. I believe it is because of her determined attitude. If Ellie sets her mind to it, she won’t quit until it is accomplished all by her “own-self.”

It also wasn’t until recently that Ellie-Rosie found her words. She previously  talked incredibly fast and it was difficult to decipher what she was saying. She has learned to slow down her speech and is still practing her pronounciation. Many thanks to her Phonic instructor- Mr. Theo- who will often correct her.

Rose’s favorites are easy to guess, as you will see…

Her Favorite Animal: KITTIES!

Her Favorite Stuffed Animal: White Kitty (Marie from Aristocats), Black Kitty Pillow Pal (Whiskers), Little Jaguar Kitty (“Pink Kitty”)

Her Favorite Animated Character: Hello Kitty, known has Kitty-Catch-My-Fire due to the Theme Song

Her Favorite Show: Hello Kitty

Her Favorite Food: Anything without onions

Her Favorite Activity: Moving! Swinging, Dancing, Jumping, Running, Spinning… she doesn’t stop.

Now, let’s look back at Ellie’s second year…

Ellie at two years…

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

Looking Back at Lillian

Lillian Grace is as sweet as she is silly. She is consistently seeking to please both her parents and her siblings. She is our household helper and loves to lend a hand. Her favorite way to help is to find and retrieve “lost” items. She’s amazing at finding what other’s need, but somehow can’t find what she needs even if it is right under her nose.

Lily’s best friend remains her stuffed koala, Uti. He has been her companion for years now and will not close her eyes at night if he is not tucked right under her chin.

Lily can be silly, but she can also be a tease. She is the best at “pushing her sibs’ buttons.” Whether it be stealing their toy, calling them a goofy name or squishing them, she knows how to rile up the crowd. Her signature move is the Lily Lean; it is Theo’s “fave.” She’s been practicing that one since the womb.

Her other favorites include…

Her Favorite Animal: Koala and Turtle

Her Favorite Stuffed Animal: Uti (of course) but her Mousey (featured in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie) is a close second

Her Favorite Show: Blue Clues

Her Favorite Food: Meat, Lily is a true carnivore

Her Favorite Activity: Family Hugs

Now, here’s a look back at Lillians’ second year…

Lily at two years…

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

The 1st Snow

SnowBunnies

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

Lily YOLO

Theos Ready

Lily and Ellie

 

 

Baby Theo

Theo is quite possibly, in our unbiased opinion, the cutest little infant baby-boy in the history of the world. It’s amazing how at just 31 weeks of age he is already showing quite a personality. It’s also amazing how much of a prototypical boy he can be at times. Here is a snapshot of  sweet little Theodore Joseph who has more than stolen mommy and daddy’s hearts. (If you click on an image, it will give you a full-screen slideshow of all the pictures).

 

Not pictured above:

  • In an unprecedented incident, during the night, Theo escaped out of his little bed, pulled himself across his isolette, and positioned himself right in front of one of the entry portholes. Apparently, he thinks he’s ready to go home :-)
  • We were photographing Theo and he felt the session was running a bit long. We kid you not, he looked right into the camera, conjured up an epic scowl for his little face, and then flipped us the bird. The picture was too obscene for this blog, but it was all captured in high-definition. We’re quite positive it will resurface in the years to come, accompanied by much laughter.
  • When Dad finally decided to jump in for one of Theo’s diaper changings, Theo made sure it was an unforgettable experience – if you catch our drift, literally :-) Welcome to fatherhood!

We hope you have enjoyed the pics and stories of our precious little Theo.

Please pray for his continued health, well being, and many smiles and blessings to come.

Stay tuned for photo galleries of all Theo’s little sisters!