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 Kali Mae

Kali Mae is the most compassionate quint. She has a sixth sense for the needs of others and truly enjoys caring for her brother and sisters. She also has a special place for animals in her heart. She loves Papa’s dog, Holly, and enjoys going to the local petting farm to see all of the “cute” animals.

K-Mae is our little firecracker and the queen of temper-tantrums. It doesn’t take much to lay Kali out on the floor and send out that shrill, monkey screech. Her cure is typically an outlet for her anguish (stomping her feet, talking it out, etc.) or simple reassurance that it is okay to be angry. She is also the human emoji and has a collection of facial expressions for every occasion.

Kali’s name has ebbed and flowed over the years, but has settled on the originally Kali Mae. She enjoys a variety of nick names, including K, K-Mae and Mae. But, when asked what her name is, she now replies Kali Mae.

Kali has many loves, but the following are her favorites…

Her Favorite Animal: Piggy

Her Favorite Stuffed Animal: Piggy Pancake (featured in If You Give a Pig a Pancake), but you will also find her Moose (If You Give a Moose a Muffin), Minnie Mouse and Yellow Bears tucked in her bed with her.

Her Favorite Animated Character: Peppa Pig

Her Favorite Show: Super Simple Turn and Learn ABC’s

Her Favorite Food: Anything sweet, but in all honesty she’s enjoys everything

Her Favorite Activity: Gardening

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

Kali at two years…

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

Looking Back at Isabella Marie

Isabella Marie is three! As we look back and ahead at our Bella-Bean, it is clear that Bella is the most creative, artistic and imaginative among the five. She can entertain herself for hours with intricate story lines. She is a social butterfly, but truly enjoys her alone time.

Bella also appreciates order; “A place for everything and everything in its place” truly describes Bella’s space. Her room may appear to be a mess, but it is perfectly imperfect in her eyes.

She also appears to be the “popular” girl among the V5 and tends to rule the roost. The only card that will trump Bella is Theo; He has a special place in her heart of hearts. Also, since Bella (Felix) and K-Mae (Oscar) have been rooming together they also have become besties. It warms our heart to see them playing hand-in-hand and caring for one another’s needs.

Bella is the opposite of “even keel” and often unpredictable in mood, opinion and action. It’s also difficult to pin her favorites but we’ll try!

Her Favorite Animal: Seal

Her Favorite Stuffed Animal: Truly her Fuzzy blanket or Her Ginormous Brown Bear

Her Favorite Animated Character: Lambie from Doc McStuffins

Her Favorite Show: Doc McStuffins

Her Favorite Food: Avocado

Her Favorite Activity: Snuggling on Daddy’s lap

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

Bella’s at two years…

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

Looking Back at Theodore Joseph

Another year has passed and it is time to take a look back at each one of the Vanderwall-5. Starting with big brother, Mr. Theodore Joseph!

Mr. Theo is the most well-spoken, genuine and loving three-year-old. His brilliance and considerate-nature often leave me speechless. If he catches you staring off into space, he will kindly ask you what you are thinking about with honest interest. The little guy is truly a sponge; you only have to tell him once and he will remember it. He also enjoys quizzing others to be sure they know, too. It is adorable to catch him teaching his sisters- not only- their abcs and phonics, but all manners.

He is an even keel little fellow, but when he gets excited watch out he will transform into a T-Rex (Theo Rex)! His favorites have also remained the same over the years.

His Favorite Animal: Dog

His Favorite Stuffed Animal: Brown Bear

His Favorite Animated Character: Thomas the Tank Engine

His Favorite Shows: Super Simple ABC’s and Blues Clues “Alphabet Train”

His Favorite Food: Anything and Everything, but don’t stand between Theo and his veggies with hummus

His Favorite Activity: Snuggling while reading a book

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

Theo at Two Years…

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

Summer Fun

The summer of 2016 has been a blast! It still amazes me how much children grow up between the ages of two and three; too many milestones to count. At two years… I was so fearful if I caught them climbing, running, and jumping and now at three years, I want them to climb, run and jump! This summer the V5 have had ample opportunity to do so, too! We have explored local dream parks, splash pads, played polar bear plunge in our mini pool and slip and slide, hit up the zoo, farms and bounce on every bouncy house in sight. Not to mention… turning three, moving to “big kid” beds and receiving their very own “park” (aka play house).  The kiddos even go to attend their first wedding!

They soak it all in just like the rays of sunshine. It is amazing what they recall from months ago… down to the color socks they wore when we went to the zoo the last time.

I had to capture these precious memories…here’s to many more!




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.


The 1st Snow


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:


Ellie Sled


Theos Ready

Lily and Ellie



To everything there is a season…

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

IMG_0239The 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

12190122_10105606212087850_3878022794533863438_nAs 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

IMG_0275When 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.

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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