Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Polygamy or Cloning?

My kids each need their own mother. I think each of them could keep a mother busy, meeting their needs and addressing their issues on a full-time basis.

I mean, Sean's 3, right? His energy level and curiosity are competing for high scores. He would like for me to read to him for hours on end. His attention span is such that setting up the paint and the playdough sometimes seems to take longer than he enjoys them. He loves games and wants a competent player to compete with. He would like to visit the park everyday, usually when his brothers would prefer to be doing something else. Same with toddler time. He wants juice, Xbox, to bake cookies and for me to sing him a song - now! He's all needs...all the time. 

How about Mikey whose favorite mantra is 'what should I do now?'. He needs a cruise director extrordinaire. He likes focused attention, workbooks, and games. He can't find what he's looking for. He needs help picking out 3 good books for him to choose from.  He wants set up with music to listen to, books he can read, and projects he can work on. He wants Sean to not mess up what he's tying to do. Mikey needs lots of reminders, directions, lists and more reminders and to know where his favorite Star Wars guy is - now!

Gavin wakes up with questions about whether animals have souls or not. Did I hear about 'that guy' on the news? He wants to know what I know about the Gold Standard and the Federal Reserve and where he can find more information. Who else is running for president besides the usually suspects, what's for lunch, and do I want to play a game without Mikey & Sean? He needs documentaries about WWII and the rise of The Third Reich, and to know how long will it take me to decide if he can read The Killing of Osama Bin Laden. He wants to know where he can he find more cardboard and tape. Gavin loves to narrate entire conversations to a willing audience - me!

Ethan needs full time surveillence. He also needs a manager for all the chargers of his electronics. He wants AutaBuy to publish as a daily magazine and for me to find it - even if it means we stop at two 7-11s and several Quik Checks to find the right edition. We wants more Hot Wheels cars - now! He needs to download several songs and apps on an emergent basis. He needs to go to the store for one more coloring book and a Coke - you guessed it - now!

My kids are interesting, challenging and unique. But all four of them together are a force to be reckoned with. If I had to deal with each of them to the exclusion of their brothers - it might not be so bad - but right now their demands overwhelm me and I think I need a sister wife or a clone or three. Help! I'm sinking.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Why Go Do Freaky Things?

I enjoy strange attractions like Ripley's Believe It Or Not and The Mutter Museum. Destinations and pit stops brought to my attention by Roadside America and Weird NJ and Geocaching thrill me. I am interested in the odd and off-beat. I also enjoy passing on my penchant for the weird to my kids.

I recently took Gavin and my niece to see David Blaine stand on a podium, covered in metal chainmaille, the target of 7 Tesla Coils producing 1 million volts of electricity. Gavin pointed out that people who went and saw Houdini perform his stunts, didn't know he would become an icon - or die doing one of his famed stunts! Good point - so we went.

Why go? Why spend the effort and energy and often $$ to see these things?

The Journey

Whether we are headed to a big city or the middle of the country, I just like the process of going somewhere. When we visit NYC, if we are not in a rush, I have enjoyed trying to master the subway system. I don't mind a long car ride and always manage to find other unintended spots of interest. I like finding a new spot to spread a picnic blanket. Getting there really is half the fun.

The Excitement

It's fun to have something to be excited about. Going in search of an obscure landmark or a freaky tombstone (yep!) has a way of breaking up the mundane. I find it interesting to read about something, see pictures of it and then actually get there.  The idea of hearing about something and then seeing the real thing can be really fun.

'Back here you can see her booty and the baby's booty!'

Bragging Rights 

Just being able to say 'Been there, done that!' is great. We are slowly ticking off statues in Central Park as we visit. Lots of people visit for the usual stuff, but I want to make sure we've seen Balto, Alice in Wonderland, The Tempest and Christopher Columbus. There are also lots of 'secret spots' in Central Park'. 

This is not a 'secret' spot - this is strawberry fields, a tribute to the late John Lennon
Of all the people who come in and out of Union Station in Washington DC every day, how many know that the roman soldiers that seem to stand guard had to be reconstructed to add the shields they hold today because the were deemed obscene due to their very conspicuous cod pieces (that you can still see if you can stand just at the right angle - which we did).

Will you be able to say that you've been in St. Joseph's Catacombs, Lucy the Elephant or the wax museum? How about participating in the crowd that stands outside the GMA show?

Educational Value

What?! How can wacky spots across our state and others be 'educational'. When my kids see new things they ask new questions. Because of some of the places we've visited, my kids have investigated interests like electricity and magnets, JFK's assassination, watched countless documentaries (most recently about owning exotic animals), compasses and sundials, art mediums, robotic surgery, the Mayans and Egyptians, anime, lighthouses and other topics. We've seen shruken heads, terracotta warriors, a collection of automata, The Dead Sea Scrolls, the country's first lifeboats, more than a few 9/11 memorials, spots that famous early Americans died in duels and plenty of other obscure items of intrigue.

Why view great works of art? Why watch sporting events? Why shop for clothes or listen to music or watch movies for that matter? Some of these I 'get', and some I don't - mostly don't.

So, do what it is that you like to do, because that's part of what makes life what it is. While you're doing that, I'll be looking for The World's Largest Frying Pan.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Columbus Day is Cousin's Day

After a particularly fantastic day at Belmar Beach on October 10 last year (yes, that's right!), I declared that each Columbus Day from then on to be "Cousin's Day" Although we spend lots of time together, I know that in the coming years the kids will get older, more busy and more independent. I hope that my sister and I can foster this habit now, and hope that the cousins will continue to meet up on this day every year in the future. I love making up a holiday!

The night before, there was an impromptu jaunt into NYC with these two. (More about that trip in a later post)

They made me laugh so hard on the train that people must of have thought I was drinking. They also informed me twice that I was embarrassing them by asking questions of an MTA employee about riding the subway and they were also texting each other in close proximity. They are truly practicing being teenagers.

We decided on The Philadelphia Zoo for our official 'Cousin's Trip'. This is the whole crew.

May I present a photo montage or our 2nd Annual Cousin's Day!

Orangutan Arms

Bald Eagle fascination

He actually did not expect to get pecked.

Draft horse ride.

Carousel in a Spinning Basket

Tiger fascination - 25 minutes worth

Waiting for the polar bear to dive in.

African birds in Philadelphia!

What's wrong with this picture?
If you have cousin's, think about making up your own cousin's day. 
I hope to bring you many more installments. 
I wonder if someday I won't be invited?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dear Ms. Over-Reaction,

That was some scene you made in the supermarket. 

After chasing me down by yelling in a panic-sticken voice, "excuse me, you can't leave your young children unattended in the car!" you still refused to listen to reason. Even when I explained that one of my children was nearly twelve and completely capable of caring for his brother (who is not 2 as his size indicates) for 10 minutes, you continued your rant, nice and loud so that bystanders could get involved. 

You were so confident and self-righteous as you yelled about how 'the law says you can't do that'. Even when I told you that you were incorrect, and although I truly appreciated your concern - you continued. Again, I explained that my child was nearly 12 years old and capable of being issued a 'Babysitting Certification' from the Red Cross, was currently CPR/First Aid Certified and was very experienced in caring for his brother. I explained that the children had, in fact, asked to wait instead of traipsing through the store.

Your response to two happy children safely left for 10 potential minutes in a cool, locked car - call 911?! Really?! Part of me wishes that I could have stood around and debated this with you and the soon-to-arrive police officers. I would have enjoyed them telling you that there is, in fact, no law against it. But my kids would not have liked it. Police involvement would have upset them and would have been pretty traumatic - unlike being allowed to quietly play their Nintendo DSs together in the car.

 I told Gavin why we were leaving the parking lot. He said that he thought it was ironic how many times I told him to just come in the store with me - not because I was less than completely confident in his abilities to remain carefully in the car  - but because someone might call the cops on them waiting in the car. He said he hardly believed it could happen.

So this week, as you recount how you saved two poor, neglected children from certain bodily harm and injury, I'll be around, making my kids confident and competent to handle the world around them. I'll be teaching them to cook on the hot stove and allowing them to cross the street. I'll be preparing them to spend some time home alone and cut with really sharp knives. I will teach them to think for themselves and to remain confident in their own abilities and how to deal with those who would have them believe that they can't. 


Ms. Still-Shaking-My-Head

P.S. I am not sorry for swearing.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Unhappy Traveller

Trip planning for us is new and fraught with stress and uncertainty.

There is so much to think about when traveling with the Costello Crew that it makes the thought of most trips daunting. The unpredictable is what I fear the most. We have already experienced it with our upcoming trip to Disneyworld. Our car is unavailable for an October 12 departure, as had originally been planned and paid for. It took lots of phone calls, fact finding, cost comparisons, negotiating, demanding and tireless mulling-over-of-the-situation to come to the decision to push the trip back an entire two weeks. We are very lucky that the rental house was available.

Yes, rental house. It is just not possible for the six of us to function happily or sanely in a hotel room. We will do best with just the right number of beds and bathrooms and the ability to make and/or take our own food. There is a certain routine to our function as a family, and that would be best supported by larger space - and a pool - so a house works great for us. We need space. 

Eating is always an issue. I dislike sitting in restaraunts, Ethan eats 4 foods, Gavin is a picky eater and Sean and Mikey are distractable. I can't just hope that all our needs will be met each time we need to eat and hope for the best. Budget is always an issue with so many of us, and most being growing boys. Even for food, I need to know the options and the alternatives.

Then there is the prospect of accidents, illnesses and injuries. I am not a cynic, I swear. It's just that they happen, and when you multiply it by the possibility of 4 kids (these kids) and pre-existing conditions, the odds are often not in my favor. Mikey's asthma is already acting up - I suspect it will be better in Florida - but we're not there yet. Ethan takes certain medications that are hard to manage. I need to know when we will run low, how many days it will take to get the prescription and if the medication will be in stock (because sometimes it's not). I can only refill them when I have a certain number of pills left. If this timing does not work out with the timing of our vacation, we will have to submit a special 'vacation' request with the insurance company and the pharmacy. Nothing like needing 'permission' to go on vacation.

Pools = ear infections and that has to be planned for. Gavin gets horribly car sick and that has to be planned for.

There is the wheelchair that we will need. Since Disney cannot promise us one at the gate, we are having one delivered to our rental house. Although Ethan is a big, strong boy, Down syndrome greatly affects muscle tone. With low muscle tone, everything is harder, like walking with weights on you. He will tire easily at a place with so much walking and that will cause him to behave really badly. I'd rather deal with the wheelchair than the alternative. 

I believe all these things are managable, and we do have it under control. We did great in Washington, DC in the Spring, and that was encouraging. But if I don't seem excited for this much anticipated (and saved for) trip, it's because right now it's all work and no play. 

Yes, I understand, that might not change much once we get there either.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Proselytizing Preschoolers in the Park

I forget that the world is devoid of most children between the hours of 8 and 3, because my world is full of them 24/7. I forget how obvious we are in public and there is no escaping it. In the post office, the supermarket, craft store and the park people ask why my kids are not in school. The park is the most conducive to longer conversations and this week alone I had three such experiences.

All the moms I spoke with asked me if it's o.k. to ask me a few questions. I am *always* open to conversations about homeschooling - I blog about it, talk about it, and hope to open up the idea of homeschooling to other families.

The first question I am asked is 'who tells me what to do' and 'what the school district helps me with'. New Jersey does not have any homeschooling requirements or guidelines which means several things. One is that you are free to home school as your philosophical beliefs and your children's educational needs lead you. In NJ, we have the freedom to use an entire continuum of methods. Those range from prepackage, ready-made, highly structured curriculum (there are probably hundreds of options for those) through a method termed Radical Unschooling. There is also every combination of options in between those and different choices for multiple kids in families and different methods at different times during many years of homeschooling.  The possibilities are limitless.

When your children are learning at home, in NJ, the local school district is not obligated to assist with anything. Home schooled children are not enrolled and therefore are not considered pupils. There is no requirement of reporting homeschooling intentions to a school district unless you are pulling them out of school. My kids have never been enrolled and the district would have no knowledge of them. There are also no testing requirements - so my kids are not required to take the NJASK or any other standardized tests.

People often ask how I know if my kids are on grade level and how do I know that they are. They are usually shocked to find out that I am not really interested in that. I usually give them this spiel. Some people are interested in that and there are ways to make sure you are in step with State Core Curriculum Standards, if you so desire - told you, there are unlimited ways of doing this!

Believe it or not, people ask me what I do about Phys. Ed. It is a crazy thought to me. The boys play roller hockey and attend Circus Arts School, they play outside, swing, climb, run, jump, hang, slide, and roll - everyday. They play basketball and kickball. They swim all summer and ski, snowboard and ice skate weekly in the winter. They wrestle just about every day ;) We hike together. I recently purchase them a FitDeck Jr. at their request - they are still asking for a chin up bar. I think Gym is covered!

Another question is how I can stand to be with my kids all day. I have to admit that this question confounds me. It's not that I don't get how kids can 'get' to you. It happens to me. I have always had my kids with me so I have always had chores to do, phones calls to make, books to read, paperwork to handle and errands to run. We have worked out a rhythm that works for all of us. They are used to it - I'm used to it. I am not 'with' them every second or the day. I tell them when I need some time to do things. Sometimes I just notice that we are in as many different rooms on as many different floors that this little house can provide. Quite frankly - I like these kids.

They always ask me if I like it. I really like it. I like how homeschooling has enhanced our life - it's a really good way to live, if you ask me, and someone did. I'm a 'homeschooling missionary' sharing my 'faith' in the park.