Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday recap

So it started with Christmas Eve. There was only one parental meltdown and one child meltdown - not bad Costello's!! We will leave names out.

"Just Dance" was performed with a friend early in the evening.

Ethan DeeJayed some awesome musical mayhem - if you consider John Denver to be awesome.

Cookies were set out for dinner. No seriously, I would never just give them that. I gave them a block of cheese and crackers in the car, too. Gavin and I visited a local church for a Christmas service, lots of classic songs and a good children's performance. We went home to pick up the rest of the clan to go in search of a stable we had heard about - hey! Where have I heard that before? This is a dromedary camel - very cool - you can read about him here.

Then we took this picture...

And sent them all to bed.

FYI: Dennis did not condone the skull and cross bones Santa on the PJs.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Even my cookies are boys.

Probably the fish and lizards too! My house is boy-infested and testosterone-infused. I recently cleaned out the 'activity' closet and realized just how much stuff I had that they never touched and never will - girly, crafty stuff. Sure they paint, use the craft sticks, cut and paste, and even break out the stencils - but to think they are going to complete some intricate craft that requires reading directions, following them and sitting in one spot for a prolonged period of time - just not going to happen. I am sure there are girls that share similar traits, but I feel like my clan take boy stereotypes to a whole new level. (I kept a few things for 'visiting' girls.)

Conversations around here start like this "Mom, do you want to know how a combustion engine works...", "How long until I can get a BB gun?", "So 'n so is 'naked dancing' upstairs!" No one has EVER asked for an article of clothing or a pair of shoes and they think hand-me-downs are "awesome" because of what bigger boy may have worn them before them! The only toys that have stood the test of time in this house are matchbox cars, wooden blocks, Star Wars action figures and matches. Plastic army guys take over the house, fighting and wrestling are curtailed by the referee (I mean me) every 2 hours and legos are used as decor for our house.

I guess it's a good thing that I was always boy-crazy! I was somewhat of a tomboy who did not want to be outdone by the bunch of boys I hung out with as a preteen. I had a boys dirt bike (a mongoose, no less) and followed them into swamps to hunt turtles. They were camping and fishing masters who could whistle through their fingers and climb 10 foot chain link fences in a single bound. Little did I know the life-preparation going on in those days.

But seriously, Gavin is learning to cook, and Mikey to bake and they really enjoyed Little House on the Prairie books. But Gavin told me they were all about homesteading, farming, building and hunting anyway.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Do I make you nervous?

I have a reccuring issue that really aggravates me. There are mothers that come up to me, unsolicited, and give me advice. I kid you not, when I say it is a weekly event for me. You are probably wondering what I could possibly be doing to garner this much attention. Exhibit 1

I am walking in some outdoor venue (beach, amusement park, park) with my boys. Ethan is totally bald and has been for many years. A mother or a grandma approaches and says, "You really need to be careful with his head, it is very sunny out here! Do you sunscreen him?" This has happened on *multiple* occassions.

Proposed Answers:

1. Yes, thank you. 2. No, maybe you could.

3. That's what the ER said last time.

Exhibit 2

I take my boys somewhere and they decide to *play with sticks*, *walk along a high brick wall*, *continue to climb up and roll down a steep embankment*, *you pick any number of 'dangerous' testosterone-enduced activities* and one or more mothers will inform me 'that it's very dangerous' or 'someone is going to get hurt'.

Purposed responses:

1. Yes, thank you 2. I sure hope so - brats!

3. Child Protective Services reminded me that the last visit.

Exhibit 3

My agile, super-coordinated 2 year-old is playing on the play-structure at the park. He navigates the stairs, walks over the bouncy little bridge, and makes his way down the slide. Some mother will inform me that he is too little to be doing that, he could fall at any moment, or the slide is tricky, etc.

Proposed responses:

1. Yes, thank you

2. That'll teach 'em. 3. The pediatrician said that too - but they also said he "HAD" to be in a carseat!

Recently, at the waterpark, a lifeguard informed a panicking mother that she had been watching my 2 year-old for 1/2 hour competantly complete a flight of stairs and navigate the waterslides perfectly fine. The other mom continued to be extremely nervous around him - she did have her own 2 year-old to worry about - but for some reason felt the need to continue to fret over mine.

I have had a mom untie a sweatshirt from around my sons waist, hand it to him and tell him it could get stuck in the chain of his bike. (I was at the park, just too far away to get her hands off my kid) My boys have been yelled at for playing in leaf piles on our street "because there are sticks in there that could poke you in the eye". I have been approached and informed that my boys were walking in a stream. When I told the mom that we came to the park so that they could do just that, she informed me that "we've all told our kids to stay out of it". My kids often come back to me at a park and say that some other mom has told them they can't *climb that tree*, *throw rocks in the river*, *play in that dirt pile* after I have sent them off to do it.

Can you give me any insight into this? If you've done this to someone - let me know why. I think the next time it happens, 10..9...8..., I will politely ask what makes someone do this - do you think that will go well?

Monday, December 13, 2010

My son has a sister

It's complicated. Mikey and his sister were split up while in foster care, and that's a story for another day. As it stands, my goal is to have The Girlie at our house at least once a month. We have gone long stretches without seeing her and it feels better for everyone when the relationship is more consistent. She refers to me as Auntie or Auntie Janet (and Uncle Dennis). She calls the woman who she has lived with since she was 4, Nana, which fits her perfectly. When she refers to her mother it means her biological mother with whom she still has contact - told you it's complicated.

Gavin wants to know what The Girlie's relationship is to him. I told him that he gets to pick how he would like to refer to her because it is so unique. The Girlie comes to visit and exhibits her maternal attachment to Mikey which can cause Gavin a little stress - he likes to be the boss of Mikey! But for the most part, it is a pleasant time for everyone.

It makes me feel good knowing that I can help Mikey and his sister maintain a relationship. I know that it is not optimal to be raised apart, but we can only work with what we have...

...and what we have is a good thing.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sunny & 84 Climate Controlled Degrees

We spent the last two days at the Great Wolf Lodge Pocono Resort. We have visited on several other occassions and it has never failed to deliver fun, water, warmth, and wrinkly fingers & toes.

It was Sean's first visit and he ran headlong into the experience, literally. He is "no-fear" Costello who comes up laughing a sputtering from having been bowled over in the wave pool (pronounced 'poo-wa').

Ethan had a really awesome time - he spent lots of time shooting hoops in the pool and we did not have to micro-supervise him! He joined in games with other kids (Yay to the other kids for being so kind!) He checked in with us and told us where he would be. He was really responsible and independant!!

Gavin & Mikey's favorite activity is to run across the pool on floating lilly pads. It is usually met with some oooh's and aaahhh's from onlookers which makes me secretly proud of their agility (it's not secret now, huh?)

I really feel like I am having "fun in the sun" even though the sun is filtered through some giant windows and skylights - but that's good enough for me. I hope we can make another trip this winter just to keep the "winter-blahs" at bay. Evening show in the lobby.


Watch for great rates and make sure you pull your kids out of school to avoid the crowds and score some awesome-mom points!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

3 lb. 13 oz.

That's how much Sean weighed the day we brought him home. People kept asking me if I was afraid that he was so tiny & fragile. I wasn't. He ate well, slept great, and did everything he was supposed to - just on teeny, tiny scale. He pretty much looked like this for the first two months. Then he became a 'newborn' and no longer seemed like a 'preemie'. That is the nice way to put it - I called it 'fetal monkey' stage - and I still thought he was cute. We went about the business of figuring out how to manage 4 boys and fit this infant into our lives. No problem - Sean fit perfectly into place and he has been a complete pleasure and joy to all of us.

He is the gift I didn't know we were waiting for.

Happy Birthday, 2 year-old!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

E's Wii Mii

Every time I see it, it cracks me up! I think it looks like Ethan all shrunk up and popped into the Wii. Ethan lost his hair when he was six years old due to Alopecia Universalis. It was a very difficult time, for me, not for him. He has always thought it was funny, cool and convenient. This is the kid who needed held down for haircuts and I always felt like his hair never looked quite right. It was a constant battle - then, he became bald - go figure! It's mostly a forgotten issue - that is, until some little kid loudly asks his mother "Why does that kid have no hair?" or a group of teenagers point, laugh and make jokes. Only once or twice have I heard a mom answer her kid with an appropriate answer. Mostly they sternly tell them to be quiet and to quit pointing. One time I heard a mom say, "Sometimes there are medicines that can make you lose your hair, but I am not sure." Seems reasonable, informative and non-chalant - a good approach in my book. One of the funniest incidents was a little boy in a supermarket who was way too far away from his mother for her to do anything about his outburst started yelling, "mom, check out this kid, hurry up, he's totally bald, no hair!!" He was standing right next to Ethan. His mother shot him a look to kill and through clenched teeth told him to "get over here, RIGHT NOW!" Ethan then piped up - "No, mom, look!! No hair - see!" He wasn't going to let it go until she acknowledged it! Way to turn it around, E! I have confronted my share of teenagers. Last summer it was at a fair and it went on so long, I eventually walked over and said to them, "Seriously, you really think it's that funny! You are all old enough to know better and should be incredibly ashamed of yourselves! Imagine if it were your family, or you - you all need to think long and hard after I'm gone about what kind of person you intend on being in this world." I don't know if I will ever have any impact in a situation like that, but there's a part of me that won't just walk away embarassed. We are not the ones who should feel embarassed. We have also had situations in public venues where people, assuming he has cancer (I think), have been very kind. Once, at a basketball game someone gave us jerseys for our kids for "all we have been through", free balloons, or free rides on rides. Although it used to make me very uncomfortable, I feel like it would put such a kibosh on a Random Act of Kindness on the part of those people, to decline their niceness and explain everything. I generally just smile and genuinely say thank you VERY much. I really just meant to write about E's cute Mii.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Setting fires

So what do you do when you have a kid who is really interested in fire (no, I'm not going to use the "P" word)? That topic came up for Dennis and I this summer when Gavin was really insistent on using matches. After a few pointers and ground rules like when and where and what to do in an emergency, he was on his own. It led to some discussions about what can go wrong when kids decided to play with matches and/or fires in other settings. Dennis and I feel like giving him the ability to do something he really wants to do in a planned setting was a good choice for him. We also felt like putting a big, red X on it would have promoted clandestine activities. We've seen that happen in our house before (ahem, Ethan!) and the results were not pretty. He seems to have gotten past his interest in fire. Two down...two to go.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ethan Bowls

Ethan bowls with the NJ Hawks bowling league. It's on Saturday mornings and a really nice time. He is usually grouped with a bunch of guys his age and I enjoy watching them interact.

Ethan bowls because the weather is always good, he never gets a sunburn on his bald head, and there's no killer downtime that invites all kinds of naughtiness or the desire to just go home. As long as there's a Pepsi offered after game two, we can get three games in.

The season ends with the possibility of competing with Special Olympics in a regional bowling tournament - I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

3 boys, 3 forks....

one cake.

Mom: Boys, can you can help me with something?

Boys: Sure, mom!

Mom: Wow, that was a nice response. I just wanted to know if you could finish this chocolate cake for me?

*All is well*

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Math for fun

I told Mikey he needed to find something to do for a for a little while. He asked, "Can I play with math?" I asked him what he would need and we picked some things out. I believe mathematics is one of easiest subjects to allow kids to learn at their own pace and at their own level. When it has not been forced on them by high pressure or boring or repetitive methods they can come to appreciate solving the puzzle. My kids ask lots of good questions about the price of gas, mpgs, time, cost, banks, taxes, bills, paychecks, allowances, etc. There is never a lack of interest. That leads us to alot of activities that you might consider "educational"! Speaking of boring and repetitive, Gavin decided that knowing the multiplication tables by heart would be of great use to him with his interest in math, building, chemistry and lego. After two different computer games geared to committ those to memory - he decided he likes doing flashcards! I think if I would have suggested memorizing multiplication tables from flashcards....well, let's not think about it.

p.s. After I published this post, a friend linked these two articles to my FB page. I wanted to include them because the information is amazing.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Forever Families

I was excited to attend the adoption festivities surrounding the adoption of our friends' little girl from the foster care system. It was in the same courthouse, with the same attorney and case worker as Mikey's adoption. It was interesting to see it from the outside this time.

I feel like an adoption from foster care is very different from an adoption that happens shortly after birth or one that happens in a foreign country. In one way, I felt like Mikey's adoption was so much more of a formality at the point it happened. I felt like Mikey was "ours" long before signing a set of papers. For us, we had been parenting him since he was 20 months old and his adoption was not formalized until he was 4 1/2. I just wanted to get in there, do what we had to do and get out! I did not feel the 'festivity' factor that was so evident at this adoption.

But later, as we hosted his adoption party, and case workers stopped coming by checking if we had clothes in his dresser or food in the fridge, I felt the full impact of the legal renderings. It was like being able to finally exhale. So what I thought was so initially so anticlimactic, turned out to provide the security that had been missing for so long.

The Costello Boyz on Mikey's Adoption Day - June 7, 2007

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Trains Galore

We visited Northlandz in Flemington, NJ. I had no idea what was in store for us. I asked the gentleman who was chatting us up at the start of the tour how long he had been at Northlandz and he said only since he deisgned and built it! He told us not to rush through it and if you get to a section and there are no trains - just wait - they're coming.

I can't do it justice with pictures, so just go see it. At the end of the tour he asked the boys how closely they had paid attention. Gavin said he had and Mikey said not so much. Mr. Zaccagnino asked Gavin if he had found the 4 little ghosts - Gavin had and told him right where they were. We were told most people don't find them. He also asked what year was the height of the railroad - 1919 - replied Gavin. Phew! Glad he didn't ask me.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Regatta in a raingutter

Mikey's boat stayed afloat, which is a good quality in a boat. Gavin's was apparently unbeatable! Go Boyz!

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Apprentice

Gavin has been interested for some time in understanding what a landscape architect does. Dennis knew that one of the dad's we are acquainted with through the hockey league ran his own landscape architecture/landscape construction firm and asked this dad if there would be a job that Gavin could come see sometime. I though the best I could hope for him was that Mr. Dad might tell us we could swing by a local job he had. Dennis recieved an early morning phone call from Mr. Dad on Monday asking if Gavin would like to spend the day with him. Gavin could not get dressed fast enough and left with an apple in his pocket and a wallet full of lunch money. I was very surprised that this man would choose to spend the entire day chatting it up with my 9 year-old. He knew Gavin from around the hockey rink and playing a season of hockey with his daughter - but still, I think it's a far cry to decide to take your time out and spend it with a kid you hardly know. I thought it was incredibly nice. Mr. Dad mentioned something about South Jersey and some nurseries on the way down the front steps! All I know is that my boy came home all beaming face and tired body in a dump truck around 4 p.m. Mr. Dad did not seem too worn out by what I know can be Gavin's unending flurry of questions. He said Gavin "was great". They both seemed truly happy. As far as I know, they spent hours in the truck, looked at some $1,000 evergreens, visited nurseries, and "scoped out" some other work. I have been getting little drips and drabs of info over the past couple days. Here is what I know so far: ~ There is John Deere Green and Catepillar Yellow. ~ Catepillar makes Peterbuilt engines. ~ Mr. Dad's mom encouraged him to continue in college when he wanted to drop out and he discovered architecture. ~ Gavin has been sketching things on grid paper using rulers, protractors and french curves since Monday evening. ~ Gavin has explained to me *exactly* how a combustion engine works and what is meant by a "4 stroke engine". I don't think I get it entirely. ~ Bulldogs mean Mack. ~ The dump truck he rode home is was 13 tons - a ton is 2,000 lbs. (thanks) ~ Mr. Dad has a small engine plane pilots license. People often ask me if I am worried about my kid's social skills since we are homeschooling. I am not. I watched Gavin leave today with a dad he had never had a full conversation with, and somehow come home with stories that are taking days to recount. You would have thought he had just returned from a great play-date they way he has carried on. I guess he did.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Stone Soup

Stone Soup is a story that is told in many cultures. It tells of people who each brought a little of something to a pot and the whole community ended up with abundance!! It's literally what we do at our Stone Soup event. The day was so sunny, warm and full of good vibes.

Children ran free, mom's encouraged each other, teenagers chopped veggies & kids challenged moms to a kickball ball game - truly magical!!