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.


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.


Quints 3.5

Quint 3.5 sounds like a new software program and is indeed a new reality. All in the Vanderwall-Turzy compound would agree that in the last few weeks the V5 have turned the corner. They have made great gains in not only their communication, personal insights, emotional intelligence but their physical aptitude.

Let’s take them one-by-one!


The V5 represent the spectrum when it comes to communication. When they are not imitating their favorite animals (A Roaring Dino, Hopping Bunny, Squeaking Mouse, Snorting Piggy, and Purring Kitty), they are conversing.


It is my understanding that there are several ways that families can do to promote solid communication skills and a vast vocabulary in their children. These include:

  • Have Grown-up Conversations with children
  • Giving them a chance to tell a story
  • Play Word Games
  • Listen to how they speak and correct with care. (This has caught on and now the kiddos correct each other with care; Namely Bella and Theo correcting Lily)
  • Imbed new words in an engaging story or activity

In our house, we celebrate a new letter each week and this provides a foundation for new poly-syllable words and new activities that start with that letter. For example, this week is “S” week so we…

  • Investigated the differences between sweet, sour and salty.
  • Allowed Theo to teach us all that he knows about the Solar System.
  • Explored the United States and who lives where.


Personal Insights

We caught the nasty bug that swept and is sweeping through the Midwest. It appears to nestle into the respiratory tract and morph from virus to the next. This bug altered the kids’ appetites and taste buds for the first time in their young lives. I was blessed to have never had to handle a “picky eating” situation in my home until a few weeks ago. I quickly went to what I share with my families in clinic and I now know that I preach effective strategies such as modeling comfort discarding uneaten food, embracing their feelings/dislike in the moment but also demonstrating surprise and inviting them to choose and prepare the meal or snack. For example, Bella and Ellie were barely finishing any meals so; we would allow them to save the food they didn’t want/like for another meal or snack. When they determined they didn’t like the food, I would say that’s okay but that’s surprising because you really liked it yesterday; half of the time they would remember and finish their green beans. We also have been inviting them to plan and prepare meals with Mom; this has gone over really well.

I am so proud of these new insights and how they are becoming more aware of hunger and satiety cues. Now that they are feeling better, they will stop when they are sensing they have had enough versus stuffing it down like they had in the past.

Emotional Intelligence

What is EI? Emotional intelligence, or Emotional Quotient (EQ), is described as the individualized ability to recognize your own and other’s emotions and to discriminate between the various feeling while using emotion- and managed emotions- to guide thinking and behavior. Now, don’t get me wrong the kiddos are by no means little Dalai Lamas walking around, nor are they gurus in mindfulness, but I have seen great gains in their self-awareness in the last few weeks. They are accurately identifying their feelings and the feelings of others. If they perceive sadness or anger, they respond… usually with a hug. We are still developing skills to work through feelings like anger and anxiety. I’m fairly certain that these will forever be works in progress, or at least they are for me. The instant surges of fear and nervousness or even anger are treacherous waters to navigate for an adult, let alone a three year old.


I have found that modeling healthy EI behaviors and providing a safe space for them to experiment and process their emotions are key. I have also witness the power of exercise and physical activity in emotional wellness. The V-sprouts are much more even-keel when they have moved. It reminds me of keeping a big dog- who loves to run- in a small apartment. If the owner doesn’t seek out opportunities for the dog to use its energy, it will start to cause trouble. It’s the same for my munchkins, if they have pent-up energy- or are bored- they will seek out trouble.

Physical Aptitude

When you are having multiples, especially high order multiples, the risks and warnings concerning physical disabilities and developmental delays are both numerous and alarming. Therefore, the way my children move will be forever a marker of God’s grace and their success in beating the odds. They all got their wheels (learned to walk) around 1 year of age and since then they have been off and running. I remember last summer being amazed at how they took on any and all playground equipment. Now, they’ve taken on water. We started swimming lessons at it is pure joy to watch them bob, swim and splash in the water.


Kali Mae, who OT thought may need therapy due to suspected sensory processing issues, is at home in the water. I love seeing her so happy to move versus struggling. I believe this new mode of transportation is also improving their land motions. I’m eager to see how these gains will play out at the park this summer!


So, what’s next? Well, believe it or not they will be four in a few short months and thus eligible for Sun Prairie’s Four Year Old Kindergarten program. We have been visiting programs, interviewing teachers and comparing and contrasting. They are very excited for this next milestone and we believe it will open a door to a whole new world for all of us!

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


Lily and Turtle


Ellie and Her Kitty


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


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.


Mom’s Everyday: Consider the 3 P’s

Mom’s Everyday- Madison asked me if I had any advice for parents. I encourage the three P’s for all parents:

  • Planning
  • Priorities
  • Perspective

Check out the interview at:


Cassie Vanderwall is a dietitian, personal trainer, diabetes educator, blogger, and most importantly, mother of quintuplets. Her five kiddos just happen to be two months shy of two years.

She offers her advice on how to stay sane with the three P’s: Planning, Priorities and Perspective.

Planning: We all know that kids benefit from schedules and routines, from short term to long term planning. Where are they gonna go to school? When’s the next meal? What’s for dinner? All of those questions are important to answer ahead of time so we can be present with our kids every moment.

Priorities: We often as parents pour into our children and end up running on empty. But Cassie believes we have a lot to learn from airline safety. Put that air mask on first. Keep your emotional and physical tanks full with monthly dates with your partner, a quick workout in the morning and healthy food throughout the day.

Perspective: We all have those days where we throw back our heads and say really, really did that just happen? Feel free to fill in the blank with your latest and greatest moment. And it’s at those times you should remind yourself that you’re blessed with a beautiful family.

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.


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.


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: Theodore Joseph

The V5’s second birthday is just around the corner. Join us in looking back at the many memories and how they’ve grown in the last year.

Mr. Theodore Joseph

Our firstborn. He truly is growing into his big brother role. While he can moan and groan with the best of them, he truly is a little gentleman. I think he takes role call as much as Mommy does; to be sure that all his sisters are present. He allows all of them to go outside, go inside, or up the stairs before him. Even when they get into little scrums, he rarely hits back.

This little guy is truly our boy genius. He is now able to carry on a conversation and is the most articulate member of our household. He can rattle off 3 and 4 syllable words with ease; his favorites being watermelon and helicopter.

His stuffed dog, brown bear, Nana and the color orange all hold a special place in this boy’s heart. He is looking more and more like his handsome Daddy everyday, especially with those striking blue eyes.

I am so proud of you, Mr. Theo! Happy Birthday!

Theo’s Second Year…

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

When Did They Grow Up?

I had a moment the other day, where I caught a glance of my son, and I thought when did he become a little boy? Theo was just sitting, calmly on the couch thumbing through one of his favorite books. I was speechless in both words and thoughts, honestly all I could think was… amazing. In pure amazement, I wondered when did my little 29-weeker NICU babes because little boys and girls? Then, I realized they have accomplished a lot in the last three months.


Bella Glamour



Ellie Rose

Potty Training Boot Camp

Ellie was enjoying camp way too much

The weekend of May 30th, 2015 will go down in history in the Vanderwall household. This was the week of potty basic training. Frank, Nana and I enlisted the V-5 and Elmo. We knew it was going to be intense, but did not know how exhausting it can be both physically and emotionally. We based the weekend off of Suzanne Riffel’s resource, entitled “The Potty Boot Camp: Basic Training for Toddlers.” We had to adapt it a bit, so one day I’ll released my own boot camp for multiples.

The schedule included four 4-hour boot camp sessions, where you spend 10-minutes off of the potty and 5-minutes on the potty. If there is an accident you have to perform drills, where you walk the child to the accident and then back to the potty 10 times. It is ideal if you can do it for 3 days straight, but we didn’t have the manpower to continue.

After Day 1 we had taken 130 trips to the potty, with 8 “Hits”, 17 “Misses” resulting in 170 “Drills” and 17 wet pairs of pants. Prior to day 2, we honorably discharged Theo and Kali. Day 2 resulted in 9 self-initiated hits, 13 hits and 10 accidents. Moving forward Bella was day-trained, Ellie was halfway there, and K, Lil and Theo were not ready physically. We were unable to sustain the schedule necessary to maintain the boot camp, so unfortunately Bella and Ellie relapsed. At this point, we are confident that they know how to use the potty and therefore when their bodies are mature enough we will all be ready. We are letting them take the lead from here.


First Trip to the Zoo


Our little munchkins love animals. They all have their favorites and are now able to call them by name versus the sound they make. Their favorites are:

  • Theo: Turtles, Rhinos and Dogs
  • Bella: Snow seals (unfortunately, this one still known as an “ar-ar”
  • Kali: Cats and Monkeys
  • Lily: Sheep and Dolphins
  • Elliott: Horses and Dragons

The zoo was an amazing experience for them. It was so cool to watch the expressions on their little faces when they saw how big, or heard, the animals in real life.

Ellie Dragon

Upgrade to a Toddler Table

We laid to rest the amazing 6-seat daycare table. We knew they were ready when they were trying to get in and out by themselves. That doesn’t workout too well when the table is 3-feet off of the ground. Now, they not only are able to sit and stand as they please but, they enjoy helping to set and clean off the table. Unfortunately, this does allow them to take others’ food and we consistently have to remind Kali and Lily that it’s not a buffet…poor Bella often retreats to hide her food in the bookshelf so her hungry sisters can’t find it.

Learning How to Use Their Words

Silly Lily ponies

At times it feels like we live in a household of parrots. Theo and Lily are truly the best parrots, or perhaps its because they can be the loudest. Kali, Bella and Ellie tend to be very quiet and only talk when they are in small groups or one-on-one. Theo, however, will hold on a conversation with everyone from himself to the mailman. The development of their language has also allowed us to offer them choices and explain consequences of their poor decisions. I love being able to offer them two choices for a variety of decisions. I am confident we avoid a large number of tantrums this way. Also, their understanding of language at this point allows us to sit with them in a quiet place and explain why certain behaviors are wrong and thus warrant consequences and others are awarded. We are trying to use this approach more so than time-out. Time-out is now reserved for little ones who need to be removed from a situation for their safety or the safety of others. I have to say that Frank is awesome at helping the kids understand why their behavior can help or hurt others.


What’s Next?

It’s hard to believe that the V-5 turn two next month. We continue to practice a military-like schedule with lots of active play. We have figured out how to incorporate learning into these active times and as a result the kids have mastered:

  • Animals,
  • Modes of Transportation,
  • Colors,
  • The first letters of their name,
  • Numbers 1-5 (Theo knows numbers 1-9),
  • How to go up and down the stairs,
  • Drawing and Coloring.

We are currently practicing:

  • How to use the potty,
  • Shapes,
  • ABC’s,
  • Counting 1 to 10,
  • Matching like objects,
  • Opposites, and
  • Learning to be safe in the water.

Theo loves his hat

Bella Pony

Lily Cheese 2

Kali Cheese

Ellie Cheese