Three’s Company: Spoken from the heart

This week’s PS-MAPP was a nice change of pace from previous week’s. We have been in class for 9 weeks now and the classes usually follow a similar format. This week, however, we had 3 outside speakers to listen to.

The first was a Matching Specialist for Iowa Kids Net. She is the person who gets the call when a child is ready to go into foster care/adoption and it is her job to place that child with a family that is a good fit. She said that she gets a variety of referrals for children; some that need to be placed within 2 hours all the way up to 30 days. It just depends on the situation.

The second speaker was a Post-adoption Support Specialist. This is the lady whom you call after an adoption takes place if you need help. She said that she gets calls for anything from just wanting to talk and vent to someone needing help finding their child a therapist to parents wanting to find an outlet for used clothes, carseats, etc.  Have to admit, this lady was kind of intimidating with her stories. We realize that most (if not all) children who are adopted may have some issues sometime in their life because of their losses, but this lady talked a lot about institutionalization, etc. Then in the next breath she would talk about how there are so many good kids out there that need a home.  Jeremiah wrote me a note while she was talking (yes we were passing notes!) and said ‘Are you scared yet?’ But we have to remember that this is what this lady does for a living and she sees a lot of ….everything.

The third speaker was by far the best. This was a mom who told her story of having her children taken away by DHS due to various reasons.  In her very emotional talk, she told us about what led up to her children being taken away, what she had to go through to get her children back, working with and learning a lot from the foster mom and eventually getting her children back into her home. It was a very griping speech of raw emotion that had us all on the edge of our seats, feeling her pain. This mom is now a Parent Partner and works as a mentor with parents who are going through exactly what she did.

The rest of the class consisted of some lecture and a few videos, one about teens in foster care that gave an interesting (sometimes forgotten) viewpoint from an older child’s perspective. We have one more class that will tie up all the lose ends and we have a potluck! We are hoping to keep in touch with a few of the different couples that we have met through class, hoping that they might be a good support system for us and just good people to know!

The rest of our week has consisted of, um, the new porch. Haha! But really, it has taken a great deal of our time. Tonight we are tamping and digging post holes and maybe getting a start on the railing, all weather permitting (fun fun). The mud pit has been contained, for now, and the stairs are now useable as the concrete has cured enough to walk down them (somewhat gingerly).

G started speech with his new therapist today, Stephanie. I think he still misses Robin, but Stephanie said he did very well today. She was impressed with the amount of complete sentences he was able to string together since she last saw him a few months ago when Robin was on maternity leave.  Last week Robin gave us the results of G’s latest language sample that revealed he had increased from 65% intelligibility with talking to 90%!!!! A huge improvement! He also improved his grammar and vocabulary. Hooray!!!!

Last day with Robin :(

Last day with Robin 😦

Today after speech we had a picnic in the park and fed the ducks and geese. G got a little too friendly with one and got his finger chomped on, but other than that it was a good day!

Feeding the ducks

Feeding the ducks

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L 🙂

Got my first picking of spinach and leaf lettuce today from our garden! Dinner tonight is homemade pizza with beer bread crust (amazing!), spinach from the garden, turkey pepperoni, red onion, pineapple and lotsa spice and cheese. Yummy!

Pizza and helpers (ie mess makers)!

Pizza and helpers (ie mess makers)!

Have a great week!

-The Costello’s

 

 

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Porch-tastic

Ever since we moved into our house, Jeremiah has hated our back porch. I remember the day that we wrote up our offer on the house and we sat on the back porch.  We had to clear the vines that were covering the one built-in seat and there were trees growing up through the concrete next to the porch. Nice.

House when we first bought it. Vines intact. Uck.

Fast forward 6 years. Jeremiah (and I) are sick of our back porch. The gutter was never properly finished and the underlying deck boards are rotting. I have repainted the side boards and supporting foundation several times only for it to chip away. The kids love to eat outside, but we do not have enough room for a table or chairs, or even more than a grill!

J is happy to see this porch go!

J is happy to see this porch go!

So this Memorial Day weekend, we decided to rebuild our back porch.  J and brother Kyle got the lumber on Saturday and since it had rained all day, we hoped to begin Sunday. Sunday morning the rain did not let up. It poured all day. J and Papa Dave and G tore into the porch and began demolition. And it rained and rained and rained.  Did I mention it rained?

Boards off!

Just a bit rotten….

Papa Dave and G braving the rain. G thought he was in heaven.

Papa Dave and G braving the rain. G thought he was in heaven.

The porch was even more rotten than we thought.  All of the joists and baseboards were basically crumbling into powder. J found a board on the porch where someone had inscribed that it was built September, 1961. Old stuff. And apparently they thought the porch was a good storage/junk area, because we found it as such:

Never know what you find under a porch.

Never know what you find under a porch.

Monday we hoped that the weather would cooperate some. At least a little. The forecast looked bleak, but we had hope! Helpers arrived around 9am and got to work. Side note: our ‘helpers’ are awesome. Our family is blessed with some very intelligible people in the way of home improvements, among other things. My brother and in-law, father and in-law, and my husband have done countless projects on each of their own houses. Just on ours alone, they have helped with roofing, installing new windows, demolition, hardwood floor installation, wiring, tiling, painting, wall building, tree removal, gravel and earth moving, and {my least favorite} plumbing. 😛

We had luck! It only sprinkled for about 20 minutes on Monday and we made a LOT of progress!

Making progress

Making progress

Lotsa help!

Lotsa help!

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Beginning of the floorboards

G seriously enjoyed the porch building. He demanded to be outside all day and ‘work hard with daddy and papa’.  He also completely mastered the drill and proceded to spend the majority of the day building an ‘ironman suit’ out of scrap boards and screws. Tonight he told J that he was a ‘really good builder’, and then asked if he would build him a treehouse for his happy birthday. What a sweet talker.

Master driller!

Master driller!

So the frame turned into a full blown flat porch and I was happy! I excitedly asked what was next. I got ‘the look’ from my husband, and then he stated that the stairs were next. I’m not sure what happened after that, but soon our sidewalk was being pulverized with a sludge hammer and carried away. We were left with a giant mud pit of a yard. Guess that adjacent concrete patio that we were contemplating will be becoming a reality fairly soon…;)

Bye bye sidewalk

Bye bye sidewalk

Semi-finished stairs

Semi-finished stairs

Obviously the porch is not finished. We still have a laundry list of finishing touches to complete. Railing and bottom covering is next, then flower planter boxes around the poles, an adjacent patio, a kid’s table/countertop….etc. The mud pit will also need addressed.  But my mom and I completed the mulching that I had been meaning to get done, so overall, even with the rain, it turned out to be a productive weekend!

-The Costello’s

Three’s Company: Family systems and……Ironman

No, we did not learn about Ironman in this week’s class. However, it has been the ONLY topic of conversation with G lately. For some reason, his focus in life has completely shifted to Ironman, away from all other superheroes (for the time being). He talks about Ironman. He sleeps with Ironman movie case. He makes boards and sticks into ‘Ironman suits’. He says he wants to grow up someday to be Ironman. He came home the other day and told me “Mom, I don’t want Batman cake anymore for my happy birthday. I changed my mind. I want IRONMAN cake!”.  I’m pretty new to this cake decorating business and not sure how I am going to pull that one off. The Batman symbol was going to be so much easier!!! As I’m writing this post, G is watching Ironman while eating his breakfast. He’s only been up since 5:45am requesting it….

This week in class we learned about family systems and the impact of fostering or adopting. We did some role playing with learning how help biological children with their feelings and questions about foster/adoptive children. We drew an Eco-map to show what takes and gives energy to our families. We also drew a Family map showing relationships between members of our families at this time and how we are related. We have 2 weeks left of class. Next week is several different speakers who will talk to our class about different aspects of foster/adoptive care.  Our last session, week 10, has something to do with a potluck, that’s all I know about that. 😉

Today is G’s last day to see his speech therapist, Robin.  Robin is moving and will no longer be with the clinic that G goes to. Robin has been seeing G since last September I believe, and he has made tremendous gains with her help.  He adores Robin and looks forward to seeing her each week. From his progress reports and my conversations with Robin, G works very hard for her and really enjoys his time with her. We are all sad to see her go. I have not really broke the news to G because I’m not sure how he will take it. Guess that will be the conversation on the way down to her clinic today. G will continue to see another therapist there while they are in the process of hiring an additional speech therapist to take Robin’s place. We sure will miss her!!

Last weekend we did what I wish we could do every weekend!  On Saturday L and I went garage saleing at Eldridge city-wide sales for the better half of the day and found some great deals!!! There seems to be an abundance of girl’s clothes size 5T and smaller, but NOTHING for boys over the age of 1. Guess boys are a *little* harder on stuff sometimes. We also snagged some Disney movies and other fun stuff. G played with his friend down the street all day and I only once had to stop their fun. Dragging all the toys (including the large slide and toybox) down the street to the neighbor’s house was just not a good idea for these 2 boys. We had pizza for dinner at a park and the kids played. We returned home to have s’mores over our fire pit, complete with G’s little preschool friend from down the street.  J and G slept in the tent in our yard that night and it only rained on them once. 😉

L thoroughly enjoys sand!

Sunday we went to church, visited family, and had lunch with family. Then we ventured over to Salsbury Bridge and did a little canoeing. The Muscatine Conservation Board had a ‘try-it’ day for kids and their families to try out canoes, kayaks, etc. G asked about it all day and we were sure to explain everything to him so he would not be scared. He’s the kind of kid that will completely clam up if pressured to do anything or if he’s not prepared. It seemed to work okay however, because we got there and he insisted on wanting to canoe alone. Uh-huh. You’re not that big, little man. He then put on a lifejacket, grabbed an oar, and climbed right into the canoe! J took him out for about 25 mins while L and I watched from the shores and bridge. Fun stuff! Now if you know of anyone selling a canoe, we might be interested….;)

 

 

Me and mini-me

Me and mini-me

G ready to go!

G ready to go!

Seriously. Could they BE any more alike?!

Seriously. Could they BE any more alike?!

Off they go!

Off they go!

 

 

 

 

Today’s day off to-do list includes ambitious ideas of making 4 lasagnas (2 for us and 2 to pass on), sorting through and packing away kid’s winter clothes, getting all laundry put away, attending speech therapy and the grocery store, and making chocolate chip cookies for work tomorrow. Since it’s also raining today, I’m hoping to throw a nap in the mix. We’ll see how much of that gets accomplished!

Have a great week!

-The Costello’s

Three’s Company: Transitions

This week’s class was a bit of a hiccup. Sometimes, things just don’t go as planned.

I actually had gotten off work early on Tuesday and had time to stop and get us both some dinner on my way. I arrived to class 20 mins early (unheard of!) and was able to sit and relax for a few moments.

I then get a call from J. He just realized that he forgot his bag at work, which contained his clothes, computer, and paperwork for school stuff. He had to turn around and get it, and would probably be late for class. He despises being late, so he was in a fantastic mood about that. {note sarcasm}

J arrives to class at 5:59pm, 1 minute before class starts. He comes in sunburnt (what’s new?), shoes untied and mad that he now has a flat tire. He must have picked up a nail while cruising 70mph on the gravel roads in his attempt to make class on time. Sweet. Guess we know what we will be doing during our break in the middle of class now: changing a tire.

We are sitting there and the teachers start talking about what we will learn about this week, what homework there is to turn in…….wait. Where’s our class binder? I look and J. He looks at me. The binder is at home on the counter where we left it at 6:20am this morning when we were all leaving for our day. Awesome. No binder = not having our homework to turn in, no taking notes, no nameplates (for participation stickers!), and no way to follow along. Luckily, J sweet talked our teacher into letting us borrow an extra copy they had on hand.  We couldn’t be upset any longer with each other when we realized the couple next to us was just about rolling off their chairs in laughter at our whole saga unfolding. They gave us a hard time, and we gave it right back. We all felt better!

Anyways, we talked a lot in week 7’s class about transitions for children to and from foster homes, and to adoptive homes. We looked at different scenarios of children who had good or bad experiences with their transitions. It was very sad to see how in some cases the children are the last one’s considered as far as saying goodbye’s to foster parents or communication from one home to the next. We also talked about transitioning children from a foster home back into their birth parent’s homes. After break the teachers talked about dissolutions and disruptions in adoptive families. Apparently sometimes the match between child and family just does not work and has to be dissolved. The teachers stressed that this is in no way commonplace but needs to be addressed in order to avoid situations that may lead to dissolutions. Disruptions may happen, but the point is to get help before the situation escalates into something further.

Now we only have 3 classes left!

We’ve had a pretty good week so far. Over the weekend we got to help run a water station for the West Branch Bear Stampede 5k and 10k races. My work was sponsoring it and I knew G and L would love it, and rarely are we on the side of race routes. L loved handing out water to the runners and G thoroughly enjoyed gathering all the used cups after runners had thrown them along the race route. 🙂 It was a bit chilly that morning but a lot of fun!

G: the extraordinary cup picker-upper!

Workin’ it

So proud!

So proud!

L, everyone’s favorite cup-hander-outer

I feel like I am behind in life lately; not getting as much done at home as I need to be. At the time I have completed 6 loads of laundry just today, but still have 8 freezer meals to make before Saturday and groceries to buy before I can start them. *sigh* But I guess we did get the remainder of our garden planted over the weekend. It now includes spinach, lettuce mix, green beans, sugar snap peas, carrots (although I have not seen any of their green head poking up yet…), zucchini, peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower and of course marigolds to keep away the pests. Everything is looking great except those darn carrots!

We are really liking the warm weather. Windows open, dirty bare feet, and popsicles!!!

Easy living

Easy living

Have a great week!

-The Costello’s

Goodbye to our Cloth Diapers

When I was pregnant with Gabriel, Jeremiah and I made a decision to cloth diaper. We got a lot of feedback from people when we told them our diapering plan, most of it being negative; “What are you thinking?”, “Why would you do that when there are disposables?”, “Who’s going to wash them?”, and my favorite “That won’t last long…”

4 years and 2 children later, we are still using the SAME cloth diapers we bought for Gabriel. We did a lot of research and ended up buying a few different brands to try out. I spent a LOT of time putting together, rearranging, pre-washing, learning about and pretty much just ‘ooo-ing’ over the diapers before G was born. Pretty pathetic, right?  If you are a modern day cloth diapering mama, you know just what I’m talking about. It almost becomes an obsession. 😉

Fast forward 4 years. My kids have been in cloth diapers since 2 wks old each.  G has been potty trained for some time, but L is still wearing the heck out of them. The diapers we have are WORE OUT. It is time to retire them. There is no more ‘ooo-ing’ over the diapers, just washing them. A lot.

For some reason this has become kind of emotional for me. Why?! They are diapers for goodness sake! But to me, it just signifies that our 2 kids are growing up {and subsequently wearing things out}!  Plus, we have used those things daily for 4 years, it’s kinda hard to just get rid of them!

So we bought a new ‘stash’.

New 'fluff'. Get excited! ;)

Part of the new ‘fluff’. Get excited! 😉

Cloth diapering has been awesome for us. We have saved thousands of dollars and a lot of waste. We use disposables on trips and at night. That’s about it. But it leaves our house looking like this:

Drying time

Drying time

The line

The line

L models a new style

L models a new style

If you have young kids and have not looked into cloth diapering, take a look. You will save a lot of money and the environment. I have no complaints!!

I have become known in Bennett as ‘the lady with the cloth diapers on the line.’ Why do I know this? Because one of my patients called me just that one day, and informed me that the morning coffee club at the gas station also refers to me as that. Sweet. Never thought cloth diapering would bring on such fame 😉

 

Have a great week!

-The Costello’s

Three’s Company: Birth families

Week 6 of PS-MAPP means we are over half done with our classes – yayyy! As much as we are learning in the classes and enjoying ourselves, it is a lot. A lot of information, a lot of work, a lot of time away from the kids and home. But it will be worth it! This week we talked a lot about the importance of birth families. Depending on the family, once you adopt a child you may still stay in contact with their birth parents, siblings, or other relatives. This led into a discussion of how to manage visits  with birth families during the fostering time, as most children who are in foster care still have visits with their birth parents. We read through different scenarios of how children may react to visits with their parents; not always good. We got to look through several different Life Books which were made by adoptive families for their adopted children to look at and get a better idea of their birth family. They were great to look through and I hope to do something very similar for our adopted child someday. They are like a baby book mixed with a storybook of that child’s specific adoption journey.  It was moving to look through the pictures and read about how the child described their birth families and prior experiences. And the pictures of them at the courthouse officiating the adoption about put me in tears! For next week we have to write 2 letters: 1 to our adoptive child’s birth family and 1 to our adoptive child.

Our class started out with 20-something students, and we have lost several people/couples. We sit in a big ‘U’ shape each week and this week when we walked in, the ‘U’ had significantly shrunk. Another couple had left. They say these classes are meant for you to examine your family and situation and really think about how adoption will affect your lives. It has been fun to meet and get to know everyone in the class and I hope everyone else sticks around!

We are looking forward to a busy weekend! Saturday we are helping out with the Bear Stampede race in West Branch by assisting with the water station, we have a graduation party to attend, and I am hoping to get some mulch laid in the unruly flower beds that surround our house these days. Sunday, Gabriel has his last pre-K Sunday school class for this year and we will be getting together for lunch with family for Mother’s Day. Sounds like a good one to me!

The kids and I have been out in the sunshine all day playing, running errands, and picnicking at the park and {success!} they are now both napping. 🙂

G took this pic. Not bad for a little guy!

G took this pic. Not bad for a little guy!

Have a great week!

-The Costello’s

Three’s Company: Discipline

I’m a little behind in my blog posting this week. This is secondary to the fact that Jeremiah has been hogging our home computer alllll week. He has been in non-stop prep mode for his final presentation at St Ambrose and {drumroll, please} completed it today and PASSED! HOORAY! HE IS DONE! Diploma coming soon 🙂  Job hunt underway 🙂

Anyways, this week’s PS-MAPP class (a few days ago) was all about how to help children manage their behaviors.  We learned and talked a lot about the difference between punishment and discipline.  We also talked about how feelings and emotions are okay, but sometimes what is not okay is how children choose to express those emotions.  We discussed forms of discipline that we have seen used and whether or not they were effective.  We then had to write down 3 of our most ‘button-pushing’ behaviors and decide in what way that behavior would be best dealt with.  Our choices were: 1. Be a role model. 2. Time out. 3. Positive reinforcements and privileges. 4. Take away privileges. 5. Natural/logical consequences. 6. Ignore behavior. 7. Ensure restitution occurs. 8. Family meetings. 9. Behavioral charts. 10. This for that rule. 11. Help child understand feelings. 12. Replace negative time with positive time. 13. Provide alternative for destructive behavior. 14. Make a plan for change. 15. Enlist the help of a professional. Jeremiah and I are not in favor of all these techniques, but recognize that they may be helpful for children who come from a different background than our biological children. We did an activity to show the power of positive reinforcement involving us helping a classmate find a giant chocolate candy bar hidden in the classroom (why did I not volunteer for this activity?!)  We then filled out examples of discipline involving children’s cases.  This was our 5th class meaning we are halfway done with PS-MAPP classes! Yay!

As you may know, Lucy turned 2 on April 26 and her birthday rocked! We had a party for her with immediate family and she loved it. She received several dresses, new underwear, and shoes, and she had to try on each and every one of them. Repeatedly.

Aunt Mel and L :)

Aunt Mel and L 🙂

I made her a ‘checkerboard cake’ that grew into something of 4 tiers.  I have little experience in the area cake decorating, and failed to realize that I needed to make something called ‘decorator’s frosting’ instead of my usual homemade buttercream frosting. (Apparently decorator’s frosting is much stiffer than regular frosting). So I made the cakes, put them together, frosted, and completed it with polka dots.  I was proud of my accomplishment. I realized it was too big  tall to fit in the fridge, so I set it out on the table.

Lucy is 2!

Lucy is 2!

Smile!

Smile!

How L prefers to dress

How L prefers to dress, ladybug rainboots and all

It didn’t take long for the cake to begin leaning. And melting. I was afraid it would fall. We sang, blew out candles and cut the cake right after eating. Jeremiah was doing such a good job until the leaning tower of cake got the best of him….

Leaning cake...

Leaning, drooping cake…

Whoops! But check out the checkerboard pattern!

Whoops! But check out the checkerboard pattern!

It didn’t matter because the cake was good and Lucy loved it all. If you want to see Aunt Mel’s video version of Lucy’s bday, complete with G on the harmonica (again, courtesy of Aunt Mel), just click below. 🙂

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YD7ynPShe78&feature=em-uploademail-ctrl

How we roll!

How we roll!

Have a great week!!

-The Costello’s