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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Off to School

Today we celebrate the Vanderwall Quintuplets first day of school. We had no worries about being late since all five have been giddy with excitement since they first received their 4k notice in the mail; all were up and had dressed themselves by 6:30 am. In all honesty, we did experience a few wardrobe snafus and fashion faux pas but all easily resolved.. They gobbled down their oats and were eager for their photo shoot.

At School

About 1,000 pictures later, we hopped in the van and headed to school. So many memories were captured within those 5 minutes while we dropped them off…

  • Kali, Ellie and Bella bee-lined it to their cubbies. Took off their back-packs, hung their coats and took their take-home folders to their teachers. Theo wished each sister farewell and Lily grabbed all three for a family hug.
  • In Theo and Lily’s classroom, Theo was amazed at all of the boys and Lily kept saying how much fun today was going to be.
  • We almost made it out tear-free but, on our way out Ellie caught a glimpse of Daddy and needed one more hug.

Looking back

On the way home, they were eager to learn what the others’ experienced. While they maintained the same daily schedule, the individual activities were different. Bella, Ellie and Kali decorated hats and Theo and Lily took a class picture. Bella was proud to share that she made a new friend who helped her put her coat on. Everyone’s favorite part of the morning was playing at recess. All are looking for another day tomorrow.

We are experiencing nothing but pure joy in the Vanderwall household today. We are so proud of our little miracles!

 

 

 

 

 

Bye Bye

Lined up

Lets go

Springtime Fun

Spring is by far my favorite season and certainly not because of the weather but rather because of the new life that abounds. February through April reminds me so much of pregnancy; Didn’t see that coming, did you? This late Winter/Early Spring is just like the 3rd trimester because new life is right on the brink but you are left trudging through uncomfortable, frigid rains for three more months. Then, finally the warm showers arrive and bring forth beauty from the vibrant green grass to the clear blue skies. The sun which previously only provided light now warms the air and brings the birds and critters out to play.

This spring has been especially fun because we have been able to get outdoors and experience all that this season has to offer… budding trees, mud, puddles and sunshine on our skin. Before summer arrives, I thought it be best to provide a snapshot of our spring time fun!

March

Late in March the kiddos got to travel to Chicago, stay up late and sleep over at Papa Ron’s to watch Uncle JD’s senior recital.

Uncle’s Concert

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NEIU recital

They were so inspired; we had to have our own performance that weekend. We present to you the Concerto de Quint!

April

April temps warmed up and we discovered a new park nearby in Deforest. They loved the racing slides!

Slide race

Seesaw

Easter weekend, we got to celebrate Papa Ron’s birthday and go on an epic Easter egg hunt! Our little Easter bunnies filled up on their bunny oats and then found 50 eggs filled with stickers, chalk and clues to discover their Easter baskets!

Easter Oats

Easter Lily

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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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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!

Communication

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

Taking on Three

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The V5 have fully embraced being three! They love being “big” kids who can pick out their own clothes and dress themselves, go potty on their own, take on any playground equipment mom will let them and enjoy new foods, which were previously no-go’s due to fears of choking. I believe my favorite part of them being three is watching their imaginations grow! They are finally learning how to engage with one another in thoughtful and dramatic play. Some days… okay most days… it is tug of war and a battle of wills, but there are moments when I catch them caring for one another, using nice words, and even complimenting each other.

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Their favorite play time activities include whipping up their favorite meals in their play kitchen, taking care of their dear stuffed animals, running pretend errands to the grocery store, heading to work or church, the doctor’s office and even tournaments (like Daddy). Outdoors they enjoy going to local parks, swinging on their play set, hunting for caterpillars, gardening (or picking unripened fruit) and playing in the sand.

They also are growing like never before. They love discovering which new ledges they can reach, how fast they can run from point A to point B and now which doors and windows they can open. It is a new challenge to stay one step ahead of this gang. Our best “red flag” that danger is impending is silence.

The girls’ hair also was growing so fast and so long that we took them for their first haircuts. They did so well that the stylist thought they were regulars. And, of course, Mr. Theo played “I spy” patiently throughout the salon as he waiting for his four sisters.

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Their knowledge of the world, emotions and others is also ever-increasing. I, now, have to agree with many parents when they say that threes are more difficult than two’s. The two-year-old is still learning to navigate the world before them and tantrums can often be the result of simple confusion; I have pity on the two-year-old. The three-year-old, while of course still learning, knows their world better, knows what they want, and knows each and every strategy to get it, or at least try to get it; I do not pity the three-year-old. I also am now a firm-believer in threenagers; they’re real and they’re nasty.

I can’t say it better than the Huffington Post’s Top 10 Signs You Are Living with a Threenager

  1. You live in constant fear of how to cut the shape of their toast. Do they want triangles today, rectangles, squares? And when they do tell you, they change their mind right after you cut it.
  2. They say things like (with hands firmly placed on hips), “I don’t want to. I want to do what I want to do!”
  3. You go through three or more wardrobe changes a day.
  4. Your child goes boneless the second you remind them that a transition is coming, especially when they are asked to stop playing. By the way, when was this ability given to children? You know, lay limp and double your body weight so mom can’t move you. It’s a talent reminiscent of a possum playing dead…
  5. They run away from you when it’s time to get dressed, or undressed, or do anything they deem unnecessary. In fact running away from you is their favorite activity. (Cardio workout?)
  6. To nap or not to nap, that is the question. A threenager’s answer will always be emphatically “NO!”
  7. They want three (or more) of everything because they are three.
  8. Threenagers do not possess patience.
  9. You have to leave a 10 minute buffer on any activity so they can it all on by their “OWN SELF!”
  10. You realize they’ll be a great trial lawyer one day when they’ve just negotiated their way out of a time-out.

I won’t miss the drama of the threenager years, but I know I will miss the sweet cuddles, sincere naivete, and their expressions when trying something for the first time.

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…