Our sons have spent the week at a nature camp, and they’ve really enjoyed it. That might not surprise you, but I thought one would love it, and one might tolerate it. But they have hiked, made friends, explored a stream, made their own stomp rockets, soap, and clocks, and done service projects. They also made dozens of paper airplanes, a paper battleship, a paper aircraft carrier, and this set of nesting airplanes (with the smallest one on the right).
All of the children received awards at a special ceremony yesterday, and our 6-year-old was named “Social Butterfly.” So even in a few days he managed to make his mark.
When I was reading the newspaper—our paper one—I noticed that the Enoch Pratt Free Library
was holding a comic and video game event last Saturday. Our boys were excited to go, and we hadn’t signed up for summer reading yet, so we were due for a trip to the Pratt.
We drove to the Central Branch and signed up for summer reading, but we couldn’t figure out where the video game event was. When we found my sister, who is a librarian there, she confirmed that we were at the wrong branch. The event was happening about 25 minutes away at the Pratt’s Southeast Branch.
It was almost lunchtime, but…well…the idea of encountering video games in a library was more than we could bear to miss. So we climbed back in the car and drove to the Southeast Branch, where there was an incredibly patient man from Canton Games who was teaching people to play board games.
When we finally tore ourselves away from the board games, we went outside to trailers with video games inside. We played Minecraft and talked to the Clone Trooper who was wandering around.
Oh, and the Clone Trooper? He complimented our 8-year-old on his Star Wars shirt. That's about as good as it gets around here.
Nothing makes me grin like hearing our children say, “For Pete’s sake!”
Baseball season ended, and it was everything we hoped it would be. We have a brand-new trophy in the house, and we’re very proud of it, even if every child who played baseball anywhere in the world this year received a trophy regardless of how well the team did.
Everyone should get trophies. All the time. Or at least the chance to enjoy baseball season. Have I mentioned how much I preferred it to soccer? And yet, even at the last baseball game, I found myself thinking that I probably should sign our baseball player up for soccer. He really loves being part of a team.
It’s just a little easier to navigate a meal at Desantis' with our boys, so we went there instead. The Father of the Hour was able to get the Matthew’s pizza he loves, and everyone was happy.
Did you know you can submit your unusually-shaped Cheetos to a contest
? I can’t tell anyone in my family about this, or we might start obsessing over it. Of course, I would be the worst offender. Everyone else would just want to eat the Cheetos.
We really need to buy a new car. We got rid of our broken-down van, and I have been driving my father’s spare car around for weeks…or maybe months. We have to go car shopping. But who wants to go car shopping?
It’s expensive and intimidating and not half as much fun as buying a piece of furniture. And, as much as I don’t like spending large amounts of money, it’s more that I don’t want to have to make a decision and then another decision and sit in a chair and answer question after question and then sit and wait some more and then argue about gap insurance or whatever else.
The last time we went to buy a car, I remember thinking we were going to pass out because we were so hungry and the deal just…wouldn’t…close.
This time I think we will take the boys and say, “See these adorable, energetic children? We have about 45 minutes to pull this off. If you can sell us a car in that time, you’ve got a deal. If not, forget it.”
Wow, I ran out of takes, so I’ll have to tell you later about our trip to the Orioles game! Have a great weekend! And read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum.
June 23, 2016 11:15
By Rita Buettner
Planning is not my strength. Not too long ago my youngest sister, Treasa, mentioned that our parents’ 45th anniversary was today.
My parents aren’t the type of people who would want a large party—which is good because we didn’t have time to plan one.
Maybe we could take my parents to Mass and then go out to eat at Tio Pepe’s
, I suggested. I don’t know why Treasa wasn’t more enthusiastic about going to Mass and a fancy restaurant as a family. Have I mentioned that she and her husband have a newborn and a 20-month-old?
Anything we were going to do had to be low-key, fairly unscheduled, child-friendly, and flexible. So we decided to invite my parents to go on a picnic at Fort McHenry
Picnics are a big part of our family culture, especially because you can go on one with very little planning, which might also be part of our family culture, come to think of it.
This morning I invited my out-of-town siblings (except the one in New England, and let’s hope he either doesn’t read this or does and forgives me).
I decided to pick up sandwiches from a deli (extravagant and lazy). My parents announced they had bought a cake (I know! For their own celebration! I am not going for Daughter of the Year), and we headed down to Fort McHenry.
On the way through the city we saw a man giving a woman a piggyback ride, and our children were intrigued.
“I think they are out on a date, and he is trying to show her why she should marry him,” our older son said.
That sparked a conversation about people getting engaged, and I was surprised that our 8-year-old knows that a man usually asks a woman to marry her with a ring and on one knee. How does he know? Is that in a Transformers episode?
The boys wanted to hear how we knew we were going to marry each other, so we told them.
“You should ask Grandma and Grandpa how they got engaged,” I said, “because they have two different stories.”
As we were driving toward the Fort McHenry gate, I noticed that it was just past 4:30 p.m. “I hope it’s still open until 8 p.m.,” I said.
A moment later we saw the sign. The Fort now closes at 6 p.m.
Oof. Maybe that’s why people actually plan ahead.
We unloaded the car and found my father, who told us the park rangers were looking for people to help take the flag down at 5 p.m.
Even when you barely have enough time to eat your sandwich before the park closes, how can you say no to catching a 30-foot-by-40-foot garrison flag?
That’s right. You can’t. Especially when some of your guests are still on their way because they don’t realize the park closes at 6 p.m.—and also because one of their passengers got carsick and they are dealing with that.
So my father, my husband, my younger son, and I helped catch a flag that is the size of our house.
If I am remembering our instructions correctly, the story is that in 1948 the president of the United States decided a flag should always fly at Fort McHenry, but at the end of the day, the rangers remove the large flag with 15 stars and 15 stripes and put a much smaller (5-by-9, I believe) president's flag with 50 stars and 13 stripes in its place until the next day.
That's my father.
As the flag was lowered, we worked with complete strangers to make sure it didn’t touch the ground. Then we pushed it—no folding for this flag because that’s not practical or necessary—into a bag for use again tomorrow.
Then we went back to our picnic blanket and ate the fastest picnic dinner ever. We had packed plates and forks and fruit salad and smashed deviled eggs, but no one had thought to bring napkins. What can I say? We were roughing it.
We took a few pictures, watched the boats go by, packed up the leftovers and trash, and gave my parents a card and a whale cutting board as their gift, even though that is not the traditional present. But who wants a sapphire?
Then our 6-year-old looked around and said, “There’s no one else here.” And he was right. So we closed the Fort down at 5:57 p.m. and headed off to my sister’s front yard to eat cake and Italian ice we picked up from my namesake store on the way. And somehow my children ended up playing Angry Birds on Grandpa's phone. Their gift must have been to move him up a level or get a higher score or whatever the right lingo is for Angry Birds.
It was a lovely, memorable evening celebrating my parents' 45 years of marriage. Maybe we should have spent more than 45 seconds planning it. I mean, we could at least have gone earlier and enjoyed the Fort. But then we might not have been there to catch the flag.
Still, it might have been nice to have a few napkins. Maybe we should start planning for their 46th anniversary before June 18, 2017. Maybe.
June 19, 2016 11:22
By Rita Buettner
I have become a newspaper subscriber for the first time in my life. I love newspapers. I started my career as a newspaper reporter, so I would pick up a copy hot off the press—and free—at the office.
But then newspapers started moving online, and I didn’t really need to get a print newspaper. I’m also very cheap.
So it took our 6-year-old asking when we could start getting a daily newspaper for me to sign us up. When our first paper arrived yesterday, the boys were so excited. They dove into it to find the coupons and the crossword and word jumble. And, of course, there are comics, so that might be exciting.
I wonder how many people subscribe to a print newspaper for the first time in 2016. This might be fun, though. I’m calling it our summer reading program.
When we visited my in-laws last weekend, my father-in-law—a retired master plumber—put the boys to work doing a plumbing project for him in the yard.
Why aren’t summer plumbing programs for children a thing?
I got a haircut! It’s shorter than I had meant to have it cut, but I like it. When we got home, I showed the boys, and our 6-year-old said, “It looks exactly the same.”
That little boy and I have the same sense of humor.
We have a huge calendar showing our summer plans so the boys—and their parents—will know which weeks are weeks at home with the sitter and which are camp weeks.
After our first week with our sitter, I am wishing we had planned the whole summer, or as much as she could do for us, with her. She’s wonderful, which I knew, but also creative and fun and can pitch to both left-handers and right-handers. I come home and everyone is happy.
She does crafts with them using whatever we happen to have on hand, and she even made homemade ice cream with them yesterday.
Next week will be a camp week. I hope it’s also fun. It’s really important to me that our children have a good summer. Then the last week in August we can do 100 hours of math work and a pile of book reports.
Baseball season ends tomorrow. I have so enjoyed this season. And our son is getting a trophy, thank goodness. He can't wait. Trophies for everyone! Well, except for the parents, who would just complain about the clutter.
Baltimoreans are lamenting the fact that Haussner’s is gone
. The restaurant itself has been closed for years, but the building itself was just torn down. And Watson’s, a garden center that always had such a magical Christmas display, has closed recently, too, and looks so sad.
It made me think of the other businesses I miss—Hutzler’s, Hecht’s, McCrory’s, Caldor’s, Encore Books, Good Stuff Cheap, The Golden Arm, Olive and Sesame (the Chinese-Japanese restaurant where we had our rehearsal dinner), and Ming’s, a lovely Chinese restaurant in Timonium. I remember going as a child and watching the fish swim in the tanks there and how they brought you warm washcloths to wipe your hands at the table.
Somehow it’s not surprising that most of the places I miss are restaurants. I would really like one of those little chocolate chip muffins from Haussner’s. But mostly I wish I could take my children to see the huge ball of string there or the paintings of soldiers on the downstairs walls. I drove down from my job in Lebanon, Pa., just to eat there for one last time with my parents and sister Treasa, and there was a line of people around the block who wanted to have one final Haussner's meal. Sigh.
What businesses do you miss?
Are you ready for Father’s Day? The father in this household wants to mark the weekend with a yard sale, so we are going to have fun with that. I wouldn't be surprised if some brick-oven pizza slips into the partying and maybe the launch of a model rocket or two.
We will celebrate my father, too, but Sunday is also my parents’ 45th wedding anniversary. I checked, and we are supposed to give them a sapphire. How blah. I hope when John and I reach 45, someone at least gives us something good—maybe a blueberry pie?
Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers in your life. As always, I’ll be praying for those for whom Father’s Day is a difficult day.
June 17, 2016 08:15
By Rita Buettner
Our little boy has been asking to go fishing for months. He had never been fishing before, but he desperately wanted to go. When he received some money for Christmas, he went and bought a fishing rod, but we told him we couldn’t go fishing until the spring.
Since then he has asked many, many times when we can go fishing.
Finally spring came. But spring is such a busy season for us that we had trouble finding a day to go fishing. Then we finally hit a lazy Sunday. The sun was shining, the rod was ready, and the fish…well, we could only hope they would be biting.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to hope for, actually, but that’s what our children wanted.
My husband had been fishing a few times before, and I can spell fishing, so we were clearly the perfect parents to teach our children all about fishing. But just in case we lacked some know-how, John went online and found a place with ponds stocked with fish, where we could focus on catch-and-release, and where we could even rent extra rods for $5 each.
Since we have two children and only one rod, going to a place with extra rods seemed like a fantastic plan. So off we went to Fish-in Barrel
As soon as we pulled in, I knew we were in the right place. It’s a farm with a few beautiful ponds.
Other families were sitting and fishing with their children, but there were adults and teens fishing, too.
Our boys couldn’t wait to get started. Although I think I’m a glass-half-full kind of person, somehow I hadn’t thought we would actually catch a fish. So I was shocked when within the first 15 minutes or so, our older son had a huge catfish on the line.
My husband helped him bring the fish in and then they released it. I didn’t get a good photo, so you just have to believe me when I say it was at least 6 feet long.
OK, so it was probably closer to 18 inches. Or maybe 12. But it was so exciting. And it turned out to be the only fish we caught that day. I thought that might be upsetting to the boy who fell in love with fishing even before he tried it.
But there was nothing disappointing about the whole experience. Both boys quickly learned how to cast their lines, and they fished in almost every part of every pond, as we moved from place to place, looking for fish.
We were surrounded by nature. It was peaceful and relaxing—especially when we didn’t catch more fish—and the people there were friendly.
At one point I caught our 6-year-old fisherman walking along the edge of the pond, humming the Andy Griffith theme song
. He was in his element and completely content.
We came home without a fish, but with a fish story, which might be even better.
Now we can’t wait to go fishing again. I think we're going to need to buy a second rod and maybe a third. But I think I'll be OK just watching and cheering the fishermen on...at least for now.
June 14, 2016 10:57
By Rita Buettner
The other evening a friend needed prayer. So I slipped out of the house to walk and pray for her and her family. Maybe it’s a little thing, but it’s what I can do—and I’m happy to be able to do it.
When I came home, our 6-year-old confronted me.
“Mama,” he said. “You went for a walk without me.”
So we headed out into the dusk together.
“Let’s go a way we never go,” he said, and we turned down a different road. Our little boy stopped to look at leaves on the sidewalk, to peek at rabbits hiding in the bushes. He spotted cars from far away and children playing in their yards. We caught our first firefly of the season. He was full of questions and answers and conversation.
On a walk on a breezy summer evening, it’s easy to feel that there is all the time in the world. But the little hand that slips into yours reminds you that time is also going incredibly quickly.
“What if we are walking and we see a bear?” asked our little guy—his fears growing with the darkness. We don’t have any bears around here, I told him.
“But what if we see one?” he said. I stopped arguing and answered his question.
“If we see a bear,” I said, “we will run to a house where a light is on inside. We’ll knock and say, ‘Please let us come in,’ and we will go inside and be safe.”
He was satisfied. As we turned the corner, he saw his first star of the evening, hanging not far from the moon.
“You saw it, so you get to make a wish,” I told him.
He squished his eyes closed for a minute, as he quietly made a wish.
“I won’t tell you what it is, but I think it will come true,” he said. He still hasn’t told me.
I found myself thinking back to that serenity, that peace, that simple and ordinary joy we found that evening as I tried to make sense of the horrible news coming from Orlando. I feel helpless. I just want the violence, the hatred, the anger to stop. We need action. We need peace. And, although I see some people saying prayer is not the answer, I disagree.
Prayer is the answer. Prayer has to be at least part of the answer.
People have died. Their loved ones need consolation and strength to live without them.
People are injured and trying to recover.
People who can help prevent these events from happening again need wisdom and courage and support.
Prayer matters. We do not pray instead of acting. We pray as we act. We pray as we struggle to know what to do. But we also pray because this is so much bigger than ourselves. Prayer moves mountains. It changes hearts. It unites people for love and against hate. It brings us closer to God and to one another. It makes the world a better place.
Prayer is a little thing that is also a big thing. And sometimes it is the only thing we can do, especially when we are seeking God in the wake of a tragedy.
“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness,” Mother Teresa said. “God is the friend of silence. See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.”
May we each find silence today to be with God, and may we recognize that with God, we can each have a hand in building a better tomorrow.
June 12, 2016 11:41
By Rita Buettner
For the first time in forever—or in three weeks, I suppose—I am able to participate in 7 Quick Takes Friday! Due to technical problems, I wasn’t able to blog for what felt like such a long time, but was really just a couple weeks.
Living without a blog may not be nearly as difficult as living without electricity or running water or a functional kitchen, but I realized how much I welcome this outlet and this connection with you, my wonderful readers.
So I’ll do my best to catch up on some of what I was dying to tell you over the past few weeks.
We said goodbye to our minivan.
We had decided to give it another chance and try to get through the summer before buying another car. But as I was driving the kids to school two Fridays ago, smoke started pouring out of the hood and into the car through the vents. So we decided to give up. We donated it to an organization that will try to fix it and donate it to a family. And we are in the process of buying another car.
Our biggest recent purchase has been a pink flamingo for our yard. I opened one of those ladies’ magazines full of recipes and tips on how to save $500 in a month, and there was a whole spread on the pink flamingo trend, so maybe we are trendy for the first time ever.
One trend we are not trying to start is one of using laundry detergent in your dishwasher. I didn’t mean to, but I didn’t realize they sell tabs for dishwasher detergent. And, no matter how many times you run the dishwasher, those tabs just don’t get the dishes clean. I don’t dare Google to see if we could have poisoned ourselves, so please don’t tell me.
How do you know whether a tire swing is safe? Our neighbor friend has a tire swing she would happily let our children use, but we have no way of knowing whether it is safe. I keep telling them we will have it inspected, but…by whom? A swing inspector? A tree inspector? Or do I just keep saying this until they stop asking to swing on it?
I am near-sighted and I have been wearing glasses since first grade, dealing with a steady decline since then.
After realizing that reading had become more difficult for me, I went to the eye doctor. He said, “Are you sitting down? The reason you are having trouble reading is that your eyes are getting better and your prescription is too strong.”
Of course then he said, “This happens sometimes as people get older,” but let’s focus on the fact that my eyesight is getting better.
After that success, and because I am trying to fit in lots of appointments before our health insurance rolls into a new year, I took both boys to the eye doctor.
The highlight of the appointment was when the doctor asked our 6-year-old, “Do you ever have trouble seeing far away,” and he said, “Well, sometimes. I mean, like, I can’t see 50 miles.”
The low point was when I decided I could take a call from a work colleague while I was sitting in the waiting room, and during the call, the boys decided to juggle a set of aluminum pans they were playing with in a toy kitchen there. And no, they do not know how to juggle.
If you ever find yourself trying to entertain two young boys who have dilated eyes and loads of energy, and it’s too painful for them to play outside on a sunny day, just give them a guitar and a balloon and let them play baseball in the living room.
I do not have a green thumb, but we do have a green bean! In fact, we have three.
Our little guy, who started this plant as a seed at school, is thrilled. I hope he gets to eat it before one of the rabbits gets it.
How beautiful is this flower? I don’t know what it is, and it’s in our neighbor’s yard, not mine.
On our way out, each of our boys picked out a little toy in the gift shop. Then we walked to our car, checked our directions, discussed where to stop for dinner, and started driving.
Ten minutes later, a voice came from the backseat.
“Remember when we were in the gift shop and I said I had to go to the bathroom?”
“No,” I said, wondering how I had been so distracted. Usually I can hear those comments a mile away.
“Oh,” he said. “That’s because I forgot to say it.”
Whenever I take the boys for a walk, they have to bring something—a bicycle, a ball and glove, a football, or a couple swords.
The other night we brought light sabers.
I don’t get much exercise on these walks, but they are entertaining.
The end of school means that piles of workbooks and projects and papers and artwork that have come home. I love looking through them. But then I want to throw 98 percent of what came home away.
What I don’t want to throw away are pictures like this one, of a dance party. Please note the disco ball and that the party goers are dancing to “YMCA.”
But you knew that.
Memorial Day was forever ago, but maybe you’re thinking ahead to the Fourth of July. And this dessert we made would work for either one. All we did was take a rectangular pan, make lines of strawberries and a square of blueberries and then fill in the stars and white stripes with whipped cream.
It’s a grand old flag.
I met Wes Moore
! He was our Commencement speaker at Loyola
, where I work, and he gave such an inspiring speech. I watched beforehand as he connected immediately with everyone he met. Not many people can do that.
I had the chance to talk with him, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting him. We had this great conversation about how you can get away with not throwing huge family parties for younger children, one of my favorite topics, as it turns out.
And, speaking of birthday parties, our 6-year-old said yesterday, “I don’t want to have friends for my birthday party. I just want it to be our family.”
“That’s fine,” I said, thinking how surprising it was that our super-extroverted child recognizes the value or an intimate family party.
“Yes,” he said. “Then we won’t have to buy fishing rods for everyone to go fishing because my party will be a fishing party.”
“That sounds like fun,” I said, “but if we are having a fishing party, we might need to have your party a little early. Your birthday is in December, and there isn’t much fishing then.”
That’s OK, he tells me. We can go ice fishing. Maybe the party favors will be saws to cut through the ice?
It is going to be quite a party. Meanwhile, I owe you a whole blog on our first family fishing trip.
At a picnic last week our second grader (ack, I need to start saying rising third grader) had won a prize, so he was choosing one from the prize table. He picked up a plastic puzzle ball, and the man in charge of the games said, "I spent an hour trying to figure out that puzzle ball. If you can figure it out, I'll give you six prizes."
Well. Don’t ever offer a child—especially one of mine—six cheap, plastic prizes that are probably worth about 3 cents each. And this child knows his puzzles.
So our boy came home with six prizes--and the puzzle ball.
Did you know the average person has an attention span of eight seconds? The average goldfish has an attention span of 12 seconds. If you are still reading, you are way above average.
My colleagues and I took a personality test at work
. I could talk about personality tests forever. I’m “sunshine yellow” on the Insights wheel, and my personal description begins by saying I am alert and often “uncannily correct.” It also says I need to stick to my to-do lists more often, but let’s focus on the positive and not get lost in the details.
When the huge packet of summer assignments came home from school, I found myself thinking of this interview
I did for Loyola
magazine a few years ago. One of our education professors speaks about how to keep your children learning during the summer, but in a fun way.
I really want this summer to be fun. Or at least not…un-fun.
Have you ever visited St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore? I was there just before Memorial Day and took a few photos. Here is one. I hope to go back for a longer visit.
So glad (and amazed) that you stuck around to the end. Have a wonderful weekend!
For more quick takes—and from people who aren’t playing catch-up, go to Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum.
June 10, 2016 07:35
By Rita Buettner
When I asked our children whether they wanted to play soccer again this fall, I was relieved when they both said no. Last year I felt like a failure as a soccer mom
, forgetting to sign up for snack, losing shin guards, and dreading Saturdays full of games, games, and more games.
But baseball? It’s a whole different story. I have not complained once about baseball this spring.
Maybe it’s because most of the season has been rained out, and our son missed three weeks with an injury.
Maybe it helps that these balmy spring evenings are so much more pleasant than the cold, damp days I spent on the sidelines of the soccer field.
Maybe it’s because our little guy is just so cute in his baseball uniform.
But I think what I love is that even though baseball is hard, the children throw themselves into it—and they are so happy to keep trying again and again.
These little boys are 4-6. They have so much to learn. And that’s the best part. Most of the time they swing and miss. Then when they do hit the ball, the whole team just stands there, marveling at how the ball is moving through the air.
Then the ball drops out of the sky, and the players who are paying attention look around to see who might go get it. When someone finally does, he’ll probably throw it the right way, but it will still fall short or sail over the first baseman’s head. That’s fine, of course, because the batter hasn’t started running anyway.
Don’t even get me started on the little boys who are building dirt castles on the diamond or kicking clouds of dust just to see how far the wind will carry it.
No wonder this is America’s pastime. As I sit on a bench and cheer these little boys on, I marvel at how often they fail—and yet how they keep coming back for more, trying over again to do better. Baseball requires such optimism. And these kids are full of that.
Soccer was a free-for-all. The children could feel they were contributing even if they never actually kicked the ball.
But baseball? In baseball it’s clear that they aren’t hitting or fielding or running or scoring, and yet they show up again and again.
They fail, fail, fail, yet try again with a smile. How can you not love that?
If only we could take a young baseball player’s approach to life. We could swing and miss dozens of pitches. Then when we get a hit, we might run the wrong way. But we could run back onto the field with a smile and faith that the next time we’ll do better.
June 08, 2016 11:32
By Rita Buettner
The backpacks are looking worn and tired.
No matter how many times I clean the lunchboxes, they still seem dirty.
The school shoes still fit...I think.
And those whines about the last days of kindergarten homework? Those were most definitely mine.
At long last, the school year is coming to an end.
It has been a good year—a great year. I can’t believe how much our children have learned and grown. Our kindergartener and second grader have hit some significant milestones. And I’m so grateful to their extraordinary teachers and everyone who has helped them this year
But wow, this year needs to end. We all need a break from schedules. Of course, for our family, we will just enter into a new sort of routine.
Because even though summer is here, John and I still have our jobs. And as much as I wish I could offer our children the unstructured summer of my childhood, running free through the neighborhood, coming home just for lunch and dinner, that isn’t how life works. So we’ll give them the next best thing. My husband and I have very carefully crafted a schedule of camps and sitters and days off with one or both of us.
Our kindergartener is a little sad to have the school year ending. But mostly he and his brother are excited. They can taste the freedom. They imagine a summer without homework and with fun and games and a trip to the beach. That’s mostly how summer is going to look—especially because I refuse to believe their summer math and reading assignments will be as onerous as they look. They can’t be, right? (Don't answer that. I don't believe in academic anything over the summer, so I am in denial over this.)
We kicked summer off a little prematurely yesterday with a trip to one of our local snowball stands. I don’t love snowballs—am I allowed to say that as someone who loves Baltimore?—but I love taking our children for snowballs. They dove into their tiger’s blood-flavored snowballs—hold the marshmallow because how much messier can you get than a bright red snowball? And we sat and enjoyed a breezy summer evening together.
Hooray for snowballs. Hooray for summer. Let’s get this vacation started.
June 07, 2016 10:44
By Rita Buettner
When I pick up our boys from school, we have just enough time to get home, change clothes, eat a very quick snack, perform a magic trick our second grader just learned, find our kindergartener’s baseball glove and cleats, grab a few light sabers just in case we need them, get back in the car, and make it to baseball practice.
Just an ordinary evening.
Practice is fun, especially when my husband joins us at the field before taking our older son home. Thanks to rain, rain, and more rain, this team hasn’t played much baseball this season. But the players have learned a few things along the way, and I really enjoy watching them play.
When practice is over, our 6-year-old comes running over to me. We gather his glove and his water bottle, and we head for the car. He chatters on about baseball and a prickly plant we see and a dog nearby and a little strawberry he finds in the grass. But what he’s most interested in is a little stream of some water run-off sliding past us on the concrete.
“Are there fish in there?” he asks, and I explain that there aren’t because it is rain water that has run through people’s yards and streets and sidewalks and now is running down to the bay.
He wants to get in the water.
“Just my shoes, Mama?”
I don’t think it’s a great idea, but I don’t express that clearly. Instead, I get pulled into a conversation with a friend who waves hello, and the next thing I know, our little guy is stepping carefully into the water. Then he’s running…and stomping…and jumping.
And I don’t stop him. You wouldn’t either because he’s having the time of his life.
He’s smiling and laughing. His pants are wet to his knees and his shoes and socks are soaked through, but he’s giggling and dancing in the water with complete joy.
“You are so wet!” I say, but he can see that I’m smiling. Nothing I can say will spoil this experience. And I just relax and let him be himself.
Because after our hectic day, a day of schedules and running behind, this is finally our time. No one is telling us we need to be somewhere. And my little boy is happy as can be to have a few minutes of messy play, doing just what he does best.
So he plays in the water. He ends up soaked. I have to remove half his clothes to get him in the car to go home. And, even as I’m struggling to pull his wet socks off his feet, he’s still laughing.
Baseball practice? That was fun. But getting wet in the coolest puddle he has found? That will be hard to top.
And some days, especially when you’re busy and your time doesn’t seem to be your own, you need a puddle to splash in. I hope you can find one to enjoy today.
May 24, 2016 11:03
By Rita Buettner
Our big excitement of the week may have been our flat tire. My parents had let us borrow their extra car, and the other day one of my colleagues pointed out that one of the tires was going flat. I filled it up with 50 cents’ worth of air at the gas station, but it went flat again a day later.
If it goes flat, my father tells me, it is just going to keep going flat. There has to be a reason.
He was right, of course. Here’s the reason.
Or maybe it’s a coincidence.
My father drove the car with the spare tire to a tire store and Daniel and I followed along behind. The windows were open and the evening was beautiful—after many, many evenings of rain and rain and rain and gray.
“Ah,” I heard a little voice from the back seat. “This is the life.”
And so it is.
For our older son’s First Communion party last weekend, I decided I wasn’t going to cook anything. But then he made one request: cocktail meatballs. So I bought bags of frozen turkey meatballs from the store, threw them into a crockpot with chili sauce and grape jelly, and cooked them on high for four or five hours.
They were so good. It gave the impression I had actually done some work for the party. I could easily have skipped the deli tray. And the house smelled so good when people arrived.
So there’s my party planning tip for the day, thanks to our astute 8-year-old. Serve cocktail meatballs.
I am not sure I’ve made enough of our younger son’s return to the baseball diamond after eons of rain and his weeks on the DL for his broken thumb. He’s back now and he loves, loves, loves playing baseball.
I was worried that maybe he’d be a bit behind the other players, but they’re all so little it really doesn’t matter. It’s just a pleasant surprise when they run the right way or field the ball without too much advice from the grown-ups. Sports for 5- and 6-year-olds are so much fun. Maybe we could just freeze time.
He also received rosaries, a 3-D puzzle of St. Peter’s Basilica, and some other wonderful gifts I am forgetting right now.
Let’s just say I’d better start beating the thank you note drum this weekend.
For the past few weeks whenever Daniel and I go for a walk—which isn’t that often because Baltimore has become Seattle or Ireland and all it does is rain—he talks about how much he wishes he had a basketball net. But we don’t have a good place to put one.
Then a few days ago he noticed that our next door neighbor has one. He wanted to go start playing right away, but I said we needed to ask for permission. So as soon as he saw his chance, he asked, and he received a very kind and generous yes.
He is so happy and wants to play basketball there every day.
The other evening we couldn’t agree on how we wanted to spend our evening, so I decided to create a scavenger hunt.
It was successful in that it got us outside on a beautiful night, and we did some exploring.
It was not a success in that no one actually completed the task, which was apparently too arduous.
But this is the kind of thing I am going to keep in mind for this summer.
May 19, 2016 11:31
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By Rita Buettner