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…
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
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
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
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.
King Solomon in chapter three of the Book of Ecclesiastes writes, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven…” The Byrds agreed and sang, “To everything, turn, turn, turn. There is a season, turn, turn, turn. And a time to every purpose under heaven.” Everyone is aware of change- young and old- life truly is a series of seasons. We can postpone, fear and protest change, but we cannot stop it. I have found that change is best experienced in small steps with a firm foundation.
How does this apply to toddlerhood? From my perspective, toddlers change every day and they are keenly aware of the changes within themselves and around them. The V5 have noted that the leaves are changing from Lily-Green to Theo-Orange, Mae-Yellow, Bella-Purple and Ellie-Pink. They also have noticed that it’s windy outside and “told,” too. Our little munchkins have prompted many changes in the last month and have led us through most of them gracefully.
Bowls to Plates
The V5 have been eating from a bowl for a very long time. We welcomed the idea of transitioning to plates for lunch and dinner because it would teach them to pace themselves. Lily was previously wolfing down her food; she is known to be quite the snake at the table and not chew one bite. But, now she has slowed down to keep pace with her sibs.
It also provides the opportunity to demonstrate what a healthy meal looks like and the food groups present. Chef Theo caught on right away and enjoys demonstrating is well-balanced meal (Meat, Toast and Matoes). The kids have also become very engaged in the meal planning and preparation process. At lunch and dinner, we ask what they would like and each get to choose 1 item; it helps that there are five food groups. Then my little sous chefs walk me through each step of the process. Their favorite meals are:
egg, toast, avocado, spinach and applesauce
meat, orange potatoes, zucchini and oranges
Diapers to Pull-ups
As you know we are Potty Training Boot Camp veterans. We have experienced two tours. Since the second tour, the V5 have been self-initiating 2-3 trips to the potty each day. Elliott, Mae and Bella are really good at anticipating pee-pee and poo-poo; Lily loves to try and is still learning the internal sensations; Theo enjoys sitting on the big-boy potty. Many potty-training gurus discourage Pull-ups because they are essentially diapers. But, we like them because it gives the kids the independence to try to go to the potty on their own and saves lots of messes.
Cribs to Toddler Beds
When is it time to transition to a toddler bed? I’m not sure there is a best time, but most recommend to introduce them when the crib becomes unsafe. For us, this was when at least two were able to climb out of their cribs and they were able to in the middle of the night. Our transition was quick- all at once. Bella was the first to escape. With great grace she leapt out like an Olympic pole vaulter. We bought ourselves time by lowering her mattress to the floor. Theo was next and launched himself out of the bed in the middle of the night while demanding snuggles. The next day, we chose to transition to toddler beds at nap time. Warning: this change requires consistency and strong boundaries. Prepare a safe room that they can explore in the middle of the night, expect a sleepless night full of tantrums, and do not go back. Once the door is closed, let them figure it out.
A New House The biggest transition on the horizon is our move to Sun Prairie, specifically the township of Bristol. The kids are really looking forward to the move and I think it is because they know that it is for the better. We talk about the “new house” with great positivity. They have visited and seen how much space they will have to learn and play. We look forward to closing on December 7th!
Tips to Ease Transition
As I noted earlier, change can be quite difficult but I believe there are many things we can do, specifically parents can do, to ease transition for their children.
Over-Communicate. We practice over-communication with anything new on a daily basis. We have found that the kids do very well when they know what is coming. Whether it is consequences or the day’s events, we see fewer tantrums when they know what’s next. I also say over-communicate, because to an adult it can sound silly to lay out basic steps, like, “when you are doing eating, we will scrape our plates once and then take them to the sink.” But, to a child these are important because otherwise they may not understand why they can’t sit at the table and lick their plates for 10 minutes after the meal (Cough- Ellie- Cough Cough).
Take it slow. Avoid turning a child’s world upside-down. I truly believe that children change a little bit every day, so they are already learning to experience the world a little different every time they wake. Be careful with self-imposed changes, such as those that we have described above. I have to remind myself that small steps also lead to big changes. One example is the transition from two naps to one. Most recommend making this change 10 minutes at a time versus all at once.
Lead by Example. If change is scary for the parent, I believe the child will sense that fear, too. I will openly admit that I am not good at change. But, I am open to trying to become better at it. I like order, sequence and schedules and transitions do not always allow for this. Therefore, as I learn to accept change and ease transition I hope to role model a healthy way to handle change for my children. Because change is new, sometimes spontaneous and can be open-ended, I have found a firm foundation of what is known is important to me. Therefore, I try to provide a firm foundation for my children when we are transitioning, such as my great love for them and the simple reminder that everything is going to be okay.
Fun Finish… Sneak peek into Minion Mansion: Halloween 2015
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.
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!
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…
Number four of five. The best word I can think of to define Kali Mae is goofy. You may recall her shenanigans of standing on her head, as well as, crab crawling backwards on her head. Today, she can stand upright and walk, but still runs around like a waddling goofball. She has the most precious smile and the sweetest blue eyes. These two attributes help to get her out of a whole lot of trouble.
She is definitely the little stinker of the bunch. If you ask, “Who did it?” Nine times out of ten the answer will be Mae. Which brings us to her name. We debated the name change as a family and publicly and believe-it-or-not, Theo closed the case. He started calling her Mae and it has caught on. Now, the only ones who call her Kali are Bella and her Mama when she’s in trouble. She also still goes by Monkey, too because that shrill cry is still her signature.
Ms. Mae does have a sweet side. Although she is rough and tumble- and at times looks like she just crawled out of a pig’s pen- she loves to take care of her stuffed animals and her sisters. I have a feeling that her in Theo are going to be the protectors of the V5. Theo is more of the intellect and Mae is the muscle.
I love you just the way you are, Ms. Mae!
Kali’s Second Year…
If you really want to turn back the clock, check out Kali’s First Year…
The “middle” child, Ms. Lillian Grace. She is a silly Lily. She is a long-time resident of “goofball island.” With the blink of an eye, she will start gator-chomping and chasing after her siblings. She is also known to be a sloppy smoocher; watch out for her Lily Make-outs.
Lily is a sweet heart and consistently looks out for the needs of her siblings. She is the best at finding whatever they need or are searching for. However, if it’s meal or snack time, Lily looks out for number one. She is constantly on the prowl for leftovers. She eats much faster than everyone; eating by the fistful. She is going to be a tricky one to convert to mindful eating practices. After dinner, you’ll find Lily under the table seeking out scraps, as well as, a “maybe” or two. She is our family dog.
Lily is the most photogenic quint and is always ready with the perfect “cheeseburger” smile. Her crystal blue eyes can melt anyone’s heart, especially her mama’s. I love you, Lil!
Lily’s Second Year…
If you really want to turn back the clock, check out Lily’s First Year…
Our little Bella jumping bean is turning two! The second born of the V5. She is the pretty, pretty princess of the bunch and certainly believes that she is the “fairest of them all.” A true Daddy’s girl. She has more than just her Dada wrapped around her delicate fingers. All of her siblings are at her beck and call. Whether she needs her blanket (be-be), her snow seal (ar-ar), or anything else out of reach, they are at her service.
Bella has the best rhythm of the bunch and loves to dance, sing and play the egg shakers. When the dinner bell rings, she is usually the last one to the table and the last one to leave. Her slow dining pace, often leaves her victim to the hungry hyenas- aka Lily and Kali- awaiting her leftovers.
She is also our little socialite. She loves a crowd flutters about the room like a true social butterfly. She is our little bossy beauty and we love every ounce of you, Isabella!
Bella’s Second Year…
If you really want to turn back the clock, check out Bella’s First Year…
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…
A common question I receive is, what are the V5 up to?
Again too many week have passed without posting… our days continue to be filled to the brim with work, learning and play. It’s quite difficult to believe that in four short months we will have 5 two-year olds running around and attempting to run the place. It is clearly evident that they are bound and determined to learn and explore all that is in their world. This may go without saying, but this exploration certainly includes investigation includes Mommy’s and Daddy’s boundaries. They have become quite the experts at pushing Mommy and Daddy just far enough to see what will “get our goat.” Yes, the “terrible twos” are upon us. These days are characterized by the stereotypical symptoms of this dreaded stage of toddler development:
Mood swings (See Exhibit A: “Lily Light switch”)
Temper Tantrums (Exhibit B: “Kali go boom” in the local Target when the cashier needed to ring up our bananas)
Conscious defiance (Too many exhibits to mention)
It would be easy to stay “here” in this perspective, and honestly dread what each day may bring. But, I prefer to challenge my thinking and explore how this stage can become the “Terrific Two’s.” When I remember that I do not have five malicious monkeys roaming about my home, but instead curious children who are learning how to navigate emotions, social situations, and new passions it is easier to remain engaged in the process. I welcome tips on how strategies to help my kiddos through this stage.
As we ride this theme of exploration, the Vanderwall 5 have started to explore potty training. Isabella and Elliott have shown clear signs of readiness:
Physical coordination to be able to remove pants
Can sit down on the potty for at least two minutes
Mental recognition of when they need to urinate
Great disdain for wearing a wet and dirty diaper
Intrigue and interest in others’ bathroom habits
Demonstrates a strong desire for independence
Understands simple instructions related to potty training
Theo, Lily and Kali are still in the “Exposure stage,” where they are interested but not ready. As those who have potty trained before know, this process is not for the faint-of-heart. We have thought about trying potty training “boot camp” for a weekend (read more here), but can’t wrap our heads around how that would be realistic for 1) kids at different stages of readiness and 2) from a public health safety and sanitation perspective. We will mostly have to increase the intensity of our training with Bella because it is nearly impossible to keep that cute little butt of hers in a dirty diaper.
In other fun news, we are working our way towards the majority of two-year milestones.
All of the munchkins have similar physical capabilities. All can walk, run, stand on their tip toes, carry several large objects while walking (toys, siblings and laundry!), kick and throw a ball, crawl up and down the stairs, and climb on and off of furniture. Yes, the five little monkeys jumping on the bed story is a reality in our home. We are still working on going up and down the stairs while walking with assistance.
Fine Motor Skills-
All are able to scribble spontaneously when they want to. Most prefer to explore the variety of flavors that come with each color crayon. We are still working on drawing a straight-line.
They are great at picking their toys up and building towers. They are also progressing in feeding themselves with spoons and forks (we are moving on from the feeding trough days and now are using bowls and silverware… oh, sophistication). We are practicing fine motor skills with a fantastic pinterest activity where you practice inserting pipe cleaners into a colander. The kids love it and it keeps their attention for 20-30 minutes. They are experts at building block towers, too.
If you spend any length of time in our home, you may mistake it for a zoo. The V5 do not cease to amaze us in their acquisition of new words, especially animal sounds. They are able to recognize and impersonate over 30 animals. My personal faves are horse (ney ney) and fish (Kali has the cutest fish face you’ll find). They are able to recognize and point out a variety of objects and people by name. We aren’t able to say phrases, yet, but they can rattle off a variety of 2 syllable words and are quite the parrots and thus attempt longer words that they hear. When they can’t find the word, or the sign to communicate what they want or need they quickly resort to pointing and screaming… this staged-approach appears to be quite effective.
The children are able to seek out and find hidden objects; this is a game they love to play with Nana B! They are great at sorting like objects and pairing shapes. We are still working on sorting by color. We even have a few who have begun make-believe play. Kali and Ellie love to sneak away into their fantasy worlds.
Social and Emotional-
As noted before, all of the kiddos are demonstrating an increased desire for independence and when they do not get it tantrums ensue. They don’t tend to show any signs of separation anxiety, but this is often because they always are with a primary caregiver, or each other. They love being with each other and recognize each other as separate from themselves.
All in all, we are so very proud of how our five little miracles continue to grow, learn and develop before our eyes!