Author Archives: costelloland_188moq

25 Years of Down Syndrome – October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month

In the days, weeks and months following Ethan’s birth, my first thought each time I opened my eyes was “I have a baby with Down syndrome.” It was profound and all-consuming. His diagnosis loomed large in my mind. He was a tiny, fragile, bird-like porcelain doll. He was absolutely adorable.

But his diagnosis was a large, wet wool blanket that covered everything we did and each experience we had.

Those same days, weeks, months and eventually years were consumed by therapies, doctors, tests, books, lectures, conferences. Life was intense and exhausting. Down syndrome was a giant. When he was young, I wondered if I would ever see the day when Down Syndrome would become a facet of our life instead of the over-arching theme that drove our daily tasks and worries.

Fast forward 25 years. I am now the mother of a grown son who has Down syndrome. The words do not hold the crushing impact that they once did. They are a part of a description of who Ethan is along with funny, loud, witty, determined, resourceful, and fresh.

And it has become something that I do not think about often. I don’t know what day that switch was thrown, or if it was just a gentle re-routing of a flowing current. It has become a part of what makes Ethan who he is, but it moved over and made room for all the other things that make up who he is.

When each of his brothers reached a certain age, they each asked, in turn, “What would Ethan be like if he didn’t have Down Syndrome?” My answer has always been, “A different brother. A whole other person. Not Ethan.” All three have agreed.

It was hard to imagine that I would get to a day that I would be forever grateful that Ethan is EXACTLY who he is. It is a path that few people will have the privilege of walking. It has been and continues to be an extraordinary gift.

Longtime Sesame Street writer Emily Perl Kingsley still said it best….

Welcome to Holland

Best Hikes With Children in New Jersey #41

I’m usually a BIG fan of the fact that we live in NJ. But right now, we are still in COVID lockdown, and I am NOT happy about that. We promised at the beginning of this shitshow that our family would make our own fun. We reverted to simple things that we’ve always depended on for family fun – outdoor outings, movie nights (outdoors as well), walking, hiking, the beach, archery and even fishing.

I need and want to log a certain amount of miles of walking per week and I encourage all of my cast members to get out in nature as well. I will drag as many of them out as I can as I pursue the entries in this book, which I have owned for about 25 years.

Best Hikes with Children in New Jersey Best Hikes With Children Series: Zatz, Arline: Books

There are some notes in the margins about completed hikes and which kids I had in tow when I did them. I’d love to have this book really marked up as a souvenir of good times!

This week, Dennis, Sean and I drove to Loantaka Brook Reservation and it was a new spot for us. It was also new for us that we were a lowly threesome. Sean chatted incessantly enjoying both the neatly paved path and his only-child-ness.

This 3.5 mile trip was really enjoyable, flat and paved. You could do it with a stroller and older folks. We do not recommend the route in the book that included Loantaka Way – it was a much busier road than we anticipated. You could simply go out and back.

Soon we will be shuffling through leaves and maybe even trudging through snow.

We will put one foot in front of the other both literally and figuratively.

Why I Began The Autoimmune Protocol and Became Paleo

A little over a year ago, I was very much at the end of my rope with my health.

4 years ago, I had a life-altering reaction to Levaquin. The drug had a ‘black-box’ warning and I was prescribed it for a simple sinus infection. It was a truly unfortunate event. It had profound impact on my joints and tendons, nervous system, mental health as well as a bunch of other tragic effects.

2 years ago, I developed a devastating case of shingles. It cropped up IN my sciatic nerve which confused most doctors, delayed treatment, caused extraordinary pain and wreaked complete havoc. At one point I did not eat or sleep for two weeks and struggled with severe pain and smaller outbreaks for about a year.

Last year, I was bitten by two ticks on the same day. I developed STARI and opted for traditional antibiotics alongside herbal treatment from the acupuncture doctor who helped me through my bout with Shingles. 30 days of antibiotics left my digestive track in bad condition and my immune system in a pit.

I found myself in a body that was definitely in significant trouble. I felt generally unwell and insomnia was my constant companion. I was overweight, my blood pressure was way up and I was severely anemic. I had a myriad of stomach problems, was experiencing histamine food reactions to foods that hadn’t bothered me in the past. I was achy and tired.

I knew “eating better” would do me a world of good. But ‘eating better’ has many definitions and depending on who you ask, can look radically different. I mindfully investigated what would be right for me & my body – I do not think it looks the same for everyone.

Several friends who have had amazing success with their health pointed me in the direction of the Autoimmune Wellness community. I began with the Autoimmune Protocol because of my deep desire to put my immune system in the right and tackle some difficult healing issues. I do not have a diagnosed autoimmune disorder, but I did score high on the quiz at the beginning of this book. I was very interested in nutrient-dense foods that would help me achieve vibrant health. I read the blog and listened to the podcast and started immediately. I read Sarah Ballantyne’s webpage, and subsequently her books and took all of the tenants of the Paleo Lifestyle VERY seriously.

You will never hear me refer to my experiences so far as ‘a diet’. Although a change in diet was involved, the connotation of eating less for weight loss does not resonate with me. I did, in fact, experience a huge reduction in body fat, but there were metrics that were way more important to me than the numbers on the scale. There is more to Paleo than diet – stress management, improved sleep quality/quantity, meditation, exercise and experiences with Nature and a myriad of considerations that can promote excellent health are all part of the ‘lifestyle’.

At a little over a year into this endeavor, I still consider myself a newbie. Things like meditation, Qigong, acupuncture, earthing, sun & light therapies, theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine, as well as employing a heathy & healing diet for me have made an immense difference. I’ve been an avid walker for as long as I can remember – sometimes I just need a kick in the proverbial ass to remember.

I never thought I could be where I am now and would love to share what all these changes have done for me, how I incorporate them into a crazy-busy life and more important, how I reboot, reset and recommit whenever I get the tiniest bit of the path.

Walk with me.


Often, during the course of a day, I find myself shaking my head and repeating a common phrase.

Only here.

I am sure that many of the things that go on in our house do not happen in other families. Maybe some things do. Probably the isolated incident or two, but certainly not with the intensity or frequency that I feel like they happen here. It might have to do with the sheer number of family members and certainly has to do with the unique set of perspectives, challenges, and personalities that collide and clash on a daily basis to form what I often refer to as The Vortex.

Easy to get sucked in. Hard to break out.

I guess by today’s standards we are a largish family. We are newly multi-generational. There are always ‘extras’. We have lots of things that make us different. We have a super open door policy and at any given time we can have a dozen or more people in the house. We are loud. So loud. And as much as I like to clean, organize and find a system for everything – chaos still abounds.

If you’ve ever wanted to be a fly on the wall of someone else’s experience. Find a perch. I’ll try to do it justice.