Rita and her husband, John, adopted their two sons, ages 6 and 4, as toddlers from China.

She writes about adoption, parenting after infertility, and other topics relevant to Catholic families. Follow her on Twitter: OpenWindow_CR or email her at openwindowcr@gmail.com  Also check out her Facebook page

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Thank you, Allison! And thank you for the link-up! Looking forward to participating again.

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Oh, so true, Elizabeth! I am so thankful too! Thank goodness for children who show us the way to love.

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Open Window

When a much-loved teacher leaves


As I was dropping Daniel off at preschool this morning, I noticed a note hanging on his cubby.

One of his teachers had left. It was sudden and there was no explanation.

I was immediately upset. And my first thought was our son. Did he know?

So I asked the other teachers. Yes, they had told him yesterday. I wanted to know what exactly the children had been told, and how they had reacted to the news. I listened. Then I reached down and hugged Daniel.

"You didn't tell me Ms. Teacher wasn't going to be at school anymore," I said. He didn't say anything, just squirmed happily in my arms.


As I waved goodbye to head to work, I was worried. This teacher is so warm and sweet. She calls Daniel "my little shadow" and I know he confides in her and follows her around the room. He has an open, loving heart and he loves other teachers there, too, but I know he loves her.

And now she was gone. He hadn't had a chance to say goodbye. I know that can't always happen, but especially for our children, who have had to say some significant goodbyes, I always hope they have a chance to talk and process and understand.

So off I went to work, sad and concerned and confused. And as the day went on, I realized I wasn't just upset because of Daniel's loss. I was upset because of mine.

Before we enrolled Leo in preschool, I was terrified to consider a formal daycare setting. Then I went to look at schools, and I was even more unsure. They were academically rigorous, sleek and modern, and they felt high-pressure and unwelcoming.

I still remember how one director told me the children played on the playground so they would develop fine motor skills so they could learn to write their ABCs. Couldn't they just play to play?


Then I walked into what would become our sons' preschool. The facilities weren't the fanciest. They didn't have rubber mulch or high-tech everything.

It felt comfortable, homey, and warm. The teachers were smiling. The children were smiling. It was small and inviting. There was no marketing spiel or 10-page curriculum. It just felt right.

Very quickly, and to my surprise, I realized the teachers aren't strangers who are taking care of our children. They are our partners in helping our children grow into all they could be. They genuinely care for them. They tell us stories about the cute things our children do. They celebrate their victories. They marvel at their abilities--whatever they may be. They are like our extended family.

So when we lose a teacher, the loss isn't just Daniel's. It's ours, too.

When I picked Daniel up, I said, "So I guess Ms. Teacher wasn't here today."

"No, Mama," he said. "She's not coming anymore."

"I miss her," I said. And I do. This is a teacher who would often greet me with a hug, who laughed with me many times, who cried when I told her about the loss of our nephew, and who could probably write our family Christmas letter--if we had one.

"Mama," he said, "now Ms. Other Teacher is with us all day! And I really like her."

That's our boy. Living on his silver-lined cloud.

"Yes, you do like her a lot," I said.

"Mama, do you know what snacks we have at school?" he said. "We have chicken nuggets and apples and cheese and soup and...."

The world keeps turning for our little guy. And it will keep turning for me, of course. But I am really going to miss his teacher.


September 30, 2014 11:03
By Rita Buettner


When a much-loved teacher leaves


As I was dropping Daniel off at preschool this morning, I noticed a note hanging on his cubby.

One of his morning teachers had left, suddenly and there was no explanation.

I was immediately upset. And my first thought was our son. Did he know?

So I asked the other teachers. Yes, they had told him yesterday. I wanted to know what exactly the children had been told, and how they had reacted to the news. I listened. Then I reached down and hugged Daniel.

"You didn't tell me Ms. Teacher wasn't going to be at school anymore," I said. He didn't say anything, just squirmed happily in my arms.


As I waved goodbye to head to work, I was worried. This teacher is so warm and sweet. She calls Daniel "my little shadow" and I know he confides in her and follows her around the room. He has an open, loving heart and he loves other teachers there, too, but I know he loves her.

And now she was gone. He hadn't had a chance to say goodbye. I know that can't always happen, but especially for our children, who have had to say some significant goodbyes, I always hope they have a chance to talk and process and understand.

So off I went to work, sad and concerned and confused. And as the day went on, I realized I wasn't just upset because of Daniel's loss. I was upset because of mine.

Before we enrolled Leo in preschool, I was terrified to consider a formal daycare setting. Then I went to look at schools, and I was even more unsure. They were academically rigorous, sleek and modern, and they felt high-pressure and unwelcoming.

I still remember how one director told me the children played on the playground so they would develop fine motor skills so they could learn to write their ABCs. Couldn't they just play to play?


Then I walked into what would become our sons' preschool. The facilities weren't the fanciest. They didn't have rubber mulch or high-tech everything.

It felt comfortable, homey, and warm. The teachers were smiling. The children were smiling. It was small and inviting. There was no marketing spiel or 10-page curriculum. It just felt right.

Very quickly, and to my surprise, I realized the teachers weren't strangers who were taking care of our children. They were our partners in helping our children grow into all they could be. They genuinely care for them. They tell us stories about the cute things our children do. They celebrate their victories. They marvel at their abilities--whatever they may be. They are like our extended family.

So when we lose a teacher, the loss isn't just Daniel's. It's ours, too.

When I picked Daniel up, I said, "So I guess Ms. Teacher wasn't here today."

"No, Mama," he said. "She's not coming anymore."

"I miss her," I said. And I do. This is a teacher who would often greet me with a hug, who laughed with me many times, who cried when I told her about the loss of our nephew, and who could probably write our family Christmas letter--if we had one.

"Mama," he said, "now Ms. Other Teacher is with us all day! And I really like her."

That's our boy. Living on his silver-lined cloud.

"Yes, you do like her a lot," I said.

"Mama, do you know what snacks we have at school?" he said. "We have chicken nuggets and apples and cheese and soup and...."

The world keeps turning for our little guy. And it will keep turning for me. But I am really going to miss his teacher.


September 30, 2014 11:03
By Rita Buettner


Ms. Fulwiler goes to Washington (and so do I)


Every single time I drive into Washington, D.C., I get miserably lost or trapped in a huge traffic jam or both. It's a fabulous city, full of culture and history. But you have to get there. And then you have to find your way out.

No matter how many times my father says, "It's a grid," I still cannot figure out how to get around the city in a car.

So I would need an extraordinary reason to head down there on a weeknight during rush hour.

I found one.

Jennifer Fulwiler, author of Something Other Than God and blogger at Conversion Diary, was visiting D.C. And since she lives in Austin, Texas, and I live in Baltimore, this seemed like a fantastic opportunity to meet her. So I cleared my calendar, invited my mother to join me, and we drove into our nation's capital.



I had the opportunity to speak with Jen briefly before her talk, but other people were vying for her attention, and I wasn't going to stand in others' way. I had had the opportunity to interview her by phone, and this was their chance.

When Jen started speaking, I realized listening to her was like reading her book or her blog. I knew she was talking to me.

I already knew the story of her conversion from atheism to Catholicism, but her presentation was still captivating.

She spoke about atheism: "You can take a number that is the most beautiful number in the world, but if you multiply it by zero, it's still zero."

She spoke about the rules of the Catholic Church: "I came to see them as a prescription for a lifetime of love more than rules."

She spoke about her journey: "Not only is this a story of fulfillment and happiness," she said. "It was the fulfillment of my atheism."

She spoke about raising her children in a world where living out your Catholic faith is not easy: "I've done a lot of studying of missionaries. I just look at it as we are in a mission field."

At the end of the evening, I asked Jen to autograph a book for me and one for my sister, Treasa.



I left the Catholic Information Center flying high on the excitement of the evening, renewed in my faith, and encouraged by the reminder that people experience their faith journeys at different times and in different ways.

And I even managed to drive home without getting lost or stuck in traffic. It's just a grid, you know.

September 29, 2014 11:35
By Rita Buettner


7 Quick Takes Friday: Best dinner ever, celebrating our anniversary with food and furniture shopping, sight words in preschool, wildlife encounters, and hula hoop fun



~1~

Last night, and this is not unusual, I wasn't feeling inspired to cook dinner.

I reheated leftover originally-frozen Swedish meatballs from Ikea and served them over leftover noodles. Usually I don’t get much interest in leftovers, but this time our boys could not get enough.

“Mama,” Leo said--sincerely and without any exaggeration, “this is the best dinner ever.”

~2~

How do you celebrate 10 years of marriage? John and I took the afternoon off from work and went to lunch at one of our favorite special occasion restaurants, Petit Louis.

I mentioned it was our anniversary, and our waitress surprised us with an appetizer. I wondered whether John would mind that it was eggplant, which is not a favorite of his. But as he says, “I don’t always eat eggplant, but when I do, it’s eggplant Napoleon.”



Then he had his French onion soup...



...and then some charcuterie...



...while I had some mussels.



It could never compete with leftover frozen meatballs, of course, but it was very good.

Then we went and did the most romantic thing we could think of. We went shopping for furniture.



Our plan had been to shop just as a couple, but Leo’s after-school program was canceled, so we picked him up and took him with us.

I quickly remembered why we had planned to make this trip alone. When you are almost 7, the only thing harder than shopping for something interesting is shopping for the most boring thing on earth--furniture.

And as Leo walked around looking at the price tags, I could tell he was appalled.

“If you buy furniture, you are going to spend a thousand dollars!” he said.

“Well, maybe,” I said. “We’re just looking today.”

“You are going to spend all our money on furniture,” he said, exasperated. Clearly he envisioned his birthday and Christmas gift hopes disappearing into a couch. “Why don’t you just spend infinity dollars?”


Testing a chair, of course

Instead, we didn’t spend much more than 20 minutes, and we didn’t buy a thing.

~3~

At Parents’ Night at preschool, we were a few minutes into the meet-and-greet with Daniel’s pre-K teacher when I realized not all the parents were on the same page.

A father asked about the county curriculum standards for Pre-K. Then a mother requested a list of sight words kindergarteners are expected to know.

Sight words? For 4-year-olds?



Here’s what I want to know about my son’s preschool:

1.       Is my child safe?

2.       Is my child happy?

3.       Do the teachers care about my child?

And...um...that’s about it. At one point the teacher mentioned that her infant cousin occasionally visits the school. Apparently Daniel is very protective and gentle and loves holding the baby. Now that I care about.

And when the teacher posted sight word lists on every child’s cubby yesterday, I threw ours straight into the trash.

~4~

Daniel has been dreaming of holding a bird. And when we went to SARC’s 5th annual Rising Above It Family Fun Day on Saturday, the Baltimore Bird Fanciers club was represented with a table full of birds.

You could even touch them.

We went over and I encouraged Daniel to go touch a bird. All he wanted at that point was lemonade. So when he finally had the chance to stroke a beautiful bird, he was muttering not-quite-under his breath, “I am SO thirsty. I am SO thirsty.”



It was a little bit of a letdown for me. I'm not sure he was disappointed. He was so thirsty.

~5~

At the Family Fun Day we also stopped to look at a hedgehog, some snakes, a tarantula, and a bearded dragon. When we were looking at the snakes, I watched as he carefully poked his head around the back of the aquariums and looked at the wooden backs. He seemed to be investigating.



Then we watched as he touched the bearded dragon’s tail.



“What did I feel like?” John asked him later.

“Well, Baba,” Daniel said, “it was made of cardboard. I looked.”

~6~

Do you know the secret to hula hooping? Apparently larger hula hoops are easier to keep in the air.

When we found ourselves taking a mini-lesson in hula hooping at the Family Fun Day, John turned out to be an exceptional hula hooper. It all has to do with the size of the hoop. Or, at least, the size makes it easier.



Leo and Daniel also got to run the bases at Ripken Stadium, where the event was, and Leo even ran and touched the outfield wall.



~7~

The morning of the Family Fun Day, I mentioned that the festival would have pony rides.

"Yay!" Daniel said. "I love pony rides!"

"You do? I don't think you've ever been on a pony ride," I said.

"Yes, I have!" he said.

And suddenly I felt terrible that I couldn't remember, especially since he has become so brave with approaching animals. Immediately I started thinking that this was because he is our second child, and I am losing track of milestones.

"Um...do you remember when?" I asked.

"Mama," he said, "I've been on the merry-go-round!"

Oh, yes. Yes, of course. How could I forget?

Read more quick takes at Jen’s blog! And if you're in the D.C. area, come see her!

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September 26, 2014 12:02
By Rita Buettner


10 years ago today...


10 years ago today I woke up early.



I had to. There were at least 15 people staying in my parents’ house, and there were only two showers. And John and I were getting married at 10 a.m.



There may have been worries that morning over whether the flowers had been delivered or who had the sixpence for my shoe. All I remember is that the sky was blue and I was surrounded by family.

John would be waiting for me at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, and I couldn’t wait to become his wife.



Is anyone ever really ready for marriage? Can anyone be prepared for that blending of two people? As our priest, Fr. Lawrence Adamczyk, said, “Two become one, but which one?”

That we didn’t know. But we were calm, confident, and excited.



The professional pictures of that day are dreadful (and none of them are in this post). But it didn't matter. Friends and family shared their photos.

Best of all, though, I somehow remember many of the details of the day.



I remember joking around with my sisters in the back of the church.



I remember laughing with my father most of the way up a very long aisle.



I remember how John beamed at me the entire day.



I remember the music at the church--one of my friends sang for us--and being surrounded by the smiling faces of family and friends.

I remember a moment during the Consecration when I was filled with awe at the beauty, at the sacrifice, at the vocation God had given me. And I marveled that the man kneeling by my side was now my partner for life.


(My friend Marcy took this one.)

The reception is a blur. We had music and dancing and the most beautiful and delicious cake my friend made and brought from New York.


No real cake was harmed in the taking of this photo.

Our wedding day was all so personal and special. We didn’t want anything extravagant. We wanted it to be comfortable and lovely and welcoming.


With our friend Fr. Tom Pietrantonio

I cut hydrangeas from my parents’ front yard to decorate the reception site. My father’s homemade cookies were in the center of the tables. It was just what we wanted.



Since then John and I have lived in two apartments and two houses.



During the time we've known each other, we have had seven jobs.

We’ve laughed and cried, worried and trusted.



We've prayed and wondered, planned and dreamed.



Twice we've traveled to China to adopt two extraordinary little boys--our sons. And we've brought them home and tried to figure out this mysterious vocation of parenthood.



I've cooked who knows how many meals, while John has done mountains of laundry and miles of lawn mowing.

But there’s no way to quantify how we've grown in love and in our marriage.



How do two people become one? It would be impossible--if not for God.

And it all began 10 years ago today.



September 24, 2014 11:42
By Rita Buettner


What you miss out on by adopting instead of giving birth


You probably always imagined you’d give birth to your children. Now that you’re realizing that isn’t likely to happen, you’re thinking about adoption. But you worry and wonder: Aren’t you giving up some of the excitement that comes with giving birth to a baby?

I have to admit that I have never seen it that way. Quite a few years ago I realized I wanted to be a mother more than I wanted to be pregnant. And I have the honor and joy of being a mother to two magnificent children I would probably never have met if I had given birth.



But OK, since you are wondering, here are a few things you won’t experience if you adopt rather than give birth (and keep in mind that I have only done one of the two myself):

1.       A positive pregnancy test. Instead you’ll have the memory of a phone call. You’ll always know where you were, and how you laughed or cried or jumped into your husband’s arms. You’ll have a scribbled note where you wrote down all the details about your child.

2.       A sonogram photo. Instead if you're like us, you'll receive pictures of your children laughing while playing with a toy and rolling over on a bamboo mat. You'll look at the fuzz on their heads and marvel at their little feet and hands. Maybe you'll read about their favorite foods and practice saying their Chinese names. You'll show their pictures to everyone.



3.       Family and friends who are happy for you. Actually, they will be so excited you won’t know what to do with them. There’s something about sharing adoption news--at least in our world--that generates more excitement than anything else we have ever done or will do. I could win a Nobel Prize or fly to the Moon and far fewer people would congratulate me.



4.       The physical discomfort of pregnancy. You’ll probably feel great, in fact, and you’ll wonder why strangers can’t tell that you’re an expectant mother. But that’s because you’ll be drinking a glass of wine--or two or three. You won’t need extra help carrying the groceries, and no one will run up to you and rub your stomach. Oh, and you will miss out on buying maternity clothes.

5.       Feeling your child move inside you. You’ll fall asleep at night and wake in the morning wondering what your child is doing, whether she is well-fed and happy and whether he knows about his future family. You’ll talk to his guardian angel and pray for the people caring for your little one. You’ll feel so close to your child and yet so far away.



6.       Doctors’ appointments. Well, actually you’ll see the doctor a few times as you work your way through your home study and dossier. You’ll have bloodwork done and go through interviews and paperwork. But you won’t have that horrible glucose test.

7.       A baby shower to celebrate the baby growing inside you. You’ll have a shower to celebrate the child you are waiting to meet! You can set up a crib or a toddler bed, wash and fold clothes, decorate a room, and imagine what your child will be like.



8.       Labor and delivery. It’s true. You are going to skip that part. And your husband will be your equal partner in the process every step of the way through the paperwork and the packing.

9.       A birth story. Here you are in luck, though. The story you’ll have will be extraordinary, a story of how you learned you were about to meet your child--and then the story of all stories, the moment when you held your child in your arms.



10.    A hospital stay. Instead we stayed in fantastic hotels in China and ate our way through unbelievable breakfast buffets with steamed dumplings and crispy bacon and hot oatmeal and fruits galore. We used room service, let a hotel maid keep our room clean, and had people doing our laundry. Suddenly I want to go back. How many moms say they want to go back to the place where they first met their children?

So maybe you’ll miss out on a few things. But what will you experience?

You’ll become a mother.

You’ll fall head over heels in love with your child.



You’ll know your child’s story extends beyond you and your husband and yet see how the threads of the tapestry are woven together.

You’ll celebrate birthdays and the anniversaries of the day you met and the day you found out you’d be a mother and the day your adoption was final and everything in between.


Yes, it is supposed to be shaped like China.

Maybe you missed the first breath or the first bath or the first steps. But there will be other firsts--and there will be many more milestones. And you’ll be there for all of them, drinking them in, marveling that you get to parent this child.

Will it be different? Oh, yes. And it will be extraordinary.

September 21, 2014 11:41
By Rita Buettner


7 Quick Takes Friday: Homework counting, a favorite food, who needs toys, what are yellow pages, breaking the rules, and a hot air balloon festival


~1~

As far as I can tell, the best thing about being the mother of a first grader is that your child can do his homework during the afterschool program. By the time I pick Leo up from school, his homework is finished. Some nights I still have a job to do, so I try to look at the homework folder and read my emails from the teacher.

But I love that Leo wants to handle things himself, and that is fine with me.

Then last night I was flipping through his homework from the week, reading the teacher’s comments, and admiring his drawings, and I saw this.



Oops.

At first I thought, wow, I need to look at his homework a little more closely. Then I decided he's doing just fine without me.If I had listened to him count, we would never have made it past 59.

 ~2~
The other day when I was picking Daniel up from preschool, I noticed he had been working on an “All About Me” booklet. I just had to peek inside. There was a drawing of our family, a page for his favorite color (red), his career choice (construction worker), and his favorite food.

And there I stopped.

“Cheese sandwiches?” I said to him. “Your favorite food is cheese sandwiches?”

I would have guessed lollipops, hard-boiled eggs, chicken noodle soup, smoked salmon, peaches, or anything chocolate. I would never have picked anything involving bread.

“Yes,” he said, looking at his drawing with me. “That’s my favorite. But I messed up the bread.”

And here I hadn't even thought he liked bread!



The next day when I was packing Daniel's lunch, I made him a cheese sandwich. How exciting, I thought. What an easy lunch to pack! And it's his favorite food!

That night when I picked Daniel up, I asked, “Did you like your lunch? How was your cheese sandwich?”

“Mama,” he said, “I only like cheese sandwiches at home.”

Ah well. That drawing should have been a little more precise. 

~3~

You can buy all the toys in the world for your children. You can fill their shelves with board games, offer bins of Legos, and invest in enough Matchbox cars to fill a space shuttle.

Then you’ll hear them laughing and realize they’re playing a mini soccer game with a crumpled-up piece of paper.



This could make Christmas shopping easy.

~4~
The other day we were talking about how God made us.

“We don’t know what God looks like,” I told Leo. “We know He made us to look like him, but everyone on earth looks different.”

“Mama,” Leo said, “then to know what God looks like, we need to look at all the different faces of everyone in the world.”



~5~
When the boys and I came home last night, the yellow pages were sitting in a plastic bag on our sidewalk. Leo picked it up, carried it inside, and dropped it on the floor. Suddenly it occurred to me that they had no idea what it was.

So I asked them to guess.



“Something Baba needs for work?”

“Some seeds?”

 “A puzzle?”

When I told them it was a book full of phone numbers, they were incredulous. They will never be able to understand why anyone would need one.

Seeds would be more interesting. 

~6~

Last week we took the boys to a pool, and Leo needed to use the bathroom. I found the women’s locker room, and as we were walking in, I saw a sign that said boys 5 and older needed to use the men’s locker room. When I mentioned that to Leo, he turned around.

“I can’t use this bathroom,” he said. And he headed for the door.

“Stop!” I told him. “I don't know where the men’s locker room is, and you need to use the bathroom. And there is no one in here.”

“Mama,” he said, “we are breaking the rule.”

He had me there.

“Yes, but you are allowed to break the rule when your mother says to,” I said, though I’m not sure that’s true. “Oh, and you can always break a rule when it’s a health or safety thing. And that’s what this is. Go in and use the bathroom.”

He was not happy, but he complied. And afterward he insisted on marching straight up to the desk to tell the pool employee what we had done. We weren’t banned from the premises, but Leo was very clear on the fact that we will not be breaking that rule again.

I never knew what a rebel I was until I became the mother of an oldest child.

~7~


Tomorrow we are headed to SARC’s Rising Above It Family Fun Day! I can’t remember why we missed this event last year, but we went two years ago and had a fantastic time, even without seeing a single hot air balloon in the air. This year the event is at Ripken Stadium. If you are in or near Harford County, Md., maybe we’ll see you there!

~ One more thing ~

If you are in the Baltimore area and are experiencing infertility, you might like to join me for a Mass for couples experiencing infertility at St. Michael’s in Overlea at 3 p.m. on Oct. 26. I will be speaking after the Mass, and I would love to meet you.



Read more quick takes at Jen’s blog. And who else is going to see her in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 29?

September 18, 2014 11:57
By Rita Buettner


Make new friends, but keep the old


On one of the first days of Pre-K, I asked Daniel about his day.

“It was not good,” he said. “Marco wasn’t at school again today.”

Uh-oh, I thought. Marco has graduated and gone to kindergarten. Daniel listened as I explained that Marco wouldn’t be coming back to school.

Then Daniel turned to his big brother.

“Do you see Marco at kindergarten?” he asked.

“No,” Leo said. “I’m in first grade. And he doesn’t go to my school.”

“I miss Marco,” Daniel said.

“Marco probably misses you, too,” Leo said.

I was touched by Leo’s comment, especially because I knew he was speaking from his heart. One of his very best friends transferred to a different school this year.



When we found out his friend was leaving, I promised we would still see him. But I tried not to brush off Leo’s feelings by telling him that he would make other friends. Of course he will. But a new friend isn’t the same--and I don’t want him to think there’s anything wrong with missing someone you care about.

People don’t replace people. They come into our lives at different moments, often just when we need them. Then they move on--or we do. But you can’t replace a friend, just as you can’t replace a parent or a spouse or a sibling.

You meet new people. You make new friends. Many of them are wonderful and help you grow and change and become the best version of yourself. But it’s not an equal trade.

Every person in the world is unique. Every friendship is different.

Maybe that’s why friendship is so beautiful.

Maybe that’s why loss is hard.



Children who have been adopted will deal with loss at different times in their lives. They have had to say goodbye to people before and say hello to new ones--including their forever families. When people walk out of our sons’ lives now, I wonder how the loss will affect them. But I can’t stop the world from turning, and I can’t promise them nothing will change. And I don’t really want to.

I want them to know that life goes on, sunshine follows a storm, and it’s all right to miss people we love.

Leo misses his friend. He can’t just find another first grader who likes Legos or Power Rangers and slip him into the hole his former friend left behind.

Still, a few days ago Leo told me he had made a new friend. “We play with pool noodles,” he told me, grinning and describing how the teacher had to step in when they started hitting a little too hard.

Getting in trouble while playing with pool noodles? Sounds like a lasting friendship to me.

Then over the weekend Leo went to play at his old friend’s house. They talked a little about their different schools, but mostly they played and played and played.



"Mama,” Leo said, as we were driving home, “that was my best play date ever.”

“That’s great,” I said. “We’ll have to do it again sometime soon.”

“Actually, Mama,” he said, “I think that was my best time out of our house ever.”

Wow. Well, that’s what friends are for.

September 16, 2014 10:01
By Rita Buettner


A sick day leads to an impromptu living room “Mass”


You know the school year is underway when your child comes down with the first cold of the season. This weekend both boys were under the weather, so John and I decided we would go to separate Masses and keep the boys home.

Watching Mass on TV with sick children has never worked for us, so I told our sons we could read the day’s readings in Leo’s Magnifikid.

Suddenly, before I knew it, our 6-year-old was setting up an “altar” in the living room, and he and his younger brother had assembled a congregation of stuffed animals.



Apparently we were holding Mass in the living room. Fine with me.

The boys filled a bowl with little cookies for the hosts, and a cup of water became the wine.



Daniel, who’s 4, became the music minister, playing the piano and singing. The Cat in the Hat--voiced by Leo--was the priest. And Leo insisted on having a deacon--his stuffed chick.

Then we read our way through the Mass. I was a little nervous about what the Cat would include in his homily, so I skipped it. No one complained. I don't think the boys missed it.

When I proposed that we not bother with the creed, however, Leo was firm.

“Mama, we are doing this like a real Mass,” he said. So we continued on, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover how many of the words he knew.



John had left to go to church just before we started, and at one point Leo said, “I bet Baba is saying the same prayers we are!”

“He probably is,” I told him. “And there are people all around the world--in China and France and Africa--who are saying these same prayers--in different languages.”



The stuffed animals especially enjoyed the collection, dropping invisible coins into bathroom cups. And communion was rather elaborate. But it was all done respectfully. Our boys laugh through teeth brushing, eating, bedtime--you name it--but no one even giggled during our “Mass.”

Going to Mass for real myself later, I heard the readings for a second time and thought of the reenactment in our living room. The experience went so well because our sons had the idea and took the lead. It never would have worked if I had suggested it.



At one point during the real Mass I attended afterward, the priest forgot to start the Our Father, and the deacon gently touched his elbow to remind him. When I told Leo about it, he wanted to hear the exact exchange.

“Well, I don’t know what the deacon said because he was whispering,” I told him. “But the priest said something like, ‘How could I forget that?’”

Leo was fascinated. I wonder whether he'll incorporate that into our next in-home Mass.

How do you pray with your children at home? What activities do you find get them interested in their faith?

September 14, 2014 10:51
By Rita Buettner


7 Quick Takes Friday: A whale of a cake, costume shopping done, Power Ranger piano lessons, Back to School Night, yummy ice cream toppings, moon cakes, and a professional photo shoot


~ 1 ~

We don’t always have fish on Friday, but when we do, we have whale cake for dessert. At least, we have whale cake when we’re celebrating my mother’s birthday. Her mother, my grandmother, was from New Bedford, a whaling town, so she collected whales. And the affection and the collection were passed down to my mother.

So when our boys and I were trying to decide what cake to make for Grandma, we chose a whale. I made the orange cake that always turns out well. Then we trimmed off enough to make a whale.



As you can see, the eye is a raw wheel-shaped noodle, and my mother suggested using Cool Whip for the spout.

I just wish that when my mother had been blowing out the candles, we had thought to yell, “Thar she blows!”

~ 2 ~

The other day Leo announced he was going to be an alien brain from Lego’s Hero Factory series for Halloween.



You can’t buy one off the rack, so I knew I would be creating it. My Facebook followers had some great ideas, but then Leo started changing the plan.

Maybe he would be a different character from Hero Factory, he said, probably Scarox, and wear an alien brain on his head.

“You need to decide and tell me so we have enough time to make it,” I said.

“Why don’t I tell you two days before Halloween?” he said.

Then we went to the store for a different reason and happened to stop in the Halloween section. Both boys immediately fell in love with costumes on the rack. And, naturally, so did I.

Yes, we could have waited to see if the prices dropped.

Yes, I could have browsed Pinterest for the next 50 days.

Yes, it would have been fun to make an alien brain costume.

But it felt really good to walk out of the store with the costumes. And it was even more fun to see the boys running around the house dressed as characters I couldn't even identify six months ago. I don’t care whether they wear them every day from now until Halloween. We are getting our money’s worth out of them, and I have reclaimed hours--perhaps days--of my life that I would have spent designing a costume.


We could wait for the big reveal on Halloween, but what are the chances the costumes will ever look this good again?

We can always go for creativity next year.

~ 3 ~

The best thing about finding the costumes when we did was that we returned home just in time for our first piano lesson. So our piano teacher, who is also a good friend, found herself sharing the piano bench with Optimus Prime and then a Power Ranger.



They did surprisingly well on the piano, especially considering the fact that Optimus Prime kept his mask on for the lesson. I wonder whether we’ll insist on wearing the costumes for next week’s lesson, too.



~ 4 ~

John and I went to Back to School Night at Leo’s school yesterday. His first-grade teacher was talking on and on about these activities the children do, and they were all news to us.

“And I’m sure you heard about how we acted out our story today,” she’d say, as John and I sat there hanging on every word. We, of course, had not heard how they turned the lights on and off for lightning or how each student took a part.

I left feeling a bit overwhelmed. If I remember correctly, the math folder is green, the spelling book has a duck on the cover, and we're supposed to write something in the planner. I hope I can get through first grade somehow. But what I do know, and what I love, is how much the Catholic faith is integrated into the classroom. There are quotes and statues and prayers.



And, because it was Sept. 11, the evening began with the Prayer of St. Francis.

If we’re doing one thing right as parents--and I hope we’re doing a few more--it’s sending Leo to Catholic school. I know not everyone is able to do it. But we feel so blessed to be able to offer that to our children.

~ 5 ~

I made my first fruit toppings for ice cream last weekend. It was ridiculously easy and so delicious. I will definitely be making these again next summer.



Here’s the blueberry topping recipe, and here’s the strawberry topping recipe.


Those are crushed sugar cookies in the middle. Easy and amazing.

To be honest, I didn’t follow the directions well. I just put the berries in a pan with a little sugar and a little water, cooked them about 20 minutes until they were syrupy, and then I stirred in some vanilla. And I added cinnamon to the blueberries at the end, too.



Yum.

~ 6 ~

Much as we love celebrating Chinese holidays, we failed to mark the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival last weekend.


I was just starting to think I should track down some moon cakes, a traditional treat for the holiday, when my father told me one of his friends had given him some for our family. I'm not even sure these are actually moon cakes since they look different from the ones we saw in China, but no one in our household knows the difference.



So we celebrated without much effort. This seems to be a recurring theme to today’s post: how to celebrate without trying very hard.



~ 7 ~

Last weekend we took the boys to have their photos taken by a real photographer.

I bribed them to wear clothes that were  step above a glow-in-the-dark Batman shirt, and then they had an absolute blast during the shoot. The photos turned out well, except that when they printed them, we realized the 8x10s were blurry. I was disappointed, but I got a discount, and the grandparents will get their photos. We take our small victories where we can get them.

But what our boys liked best, more than the little rides in the mall afterward, more than the trip to Ikea for lunch, and certainly more than the photos themselves, was spinning on the stools in the waiting area.



Next time maybe we'll just go spin on the stools.

~ A Few Bonus Takes ~


This is an honest and powerful post by a woman who has been struggling with infertility for eight years and is now expecting a baby.

And, although I’m not much for bucket lists, I actually love this couple’s way of celebrating the life of their baby boy. 

Read more quick takes at Jen’s blog.

I'd love to connect on Facebook and Twitter!


September 11, 2014 11:15
By Rita Buettner

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