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

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Thank you for correcting me, Holly! I hadn't heard that story, but I should have recognized that he was St. Anthony and not St. Francis. We are looking forward to visiting the Grotto at Emmitsburg.

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The big statue is actually St. Anthony, when the Eucharist converted the townspeople as even a starving donkey bowed in worship of the Lord, rather than eat the Bread. Glad you enjoyed a visit to one of our favorite places. Any suggestions I have are better for slightly older kids. But I give a big thumbs up to the Grotto in Emmittsburg.

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Making a family visit to St. Anthony’s Shrine


Before Lent began, John and I talked about trying to make a few special day trips with our boys to visit different churches.

Suddenly it was Holy Week, and I noticed that the Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City had a Good Friday liturgy in the afternoon. There’s no time like Good Friday to start acting on your Lenten plans, right?

John has childhood memories of visiting the shrine, so he was enthusiastic about the idea. So Friday afternoon we drove to Howard County, passed fields of cows and charming barns, and pulled in at the shrine.



The liturgy itself was lovely, and Leo, in particular, was curious about the service. He loved walking to the altar to venerate the cross. His younger brother did not and, in his firm voice, made that clear to most of the chapel.

When we left the chapel, we walked the grounds.

We saw an enormous statue of St. Francis holding a monstrance while facing a large donkey.



There was an outdoor altar where the boys raised their arms and sang lines of the consecration as they pretended to be priests.

There was a grotto commemorating Our Lady of Lourdes.



Then we found the outdoor Stations of the Cross.



Now, if you had told me that one day we would have a 6-year-old who loved Star Wars and Transformers, I wouldn’t have been surprised.



But if you had told me that one day our 6-year-old would be jumping out of his skin to see an outdoor Stations of the Cross, I would have been a bit skeptical.



Yet there we were. And there he was, racing from station to station with his younger brother hot on his heels.



There wasn’t much meditation or contemplation involved.



In fact, it may have been the fastest Stations of the Cross ever as our kindergartener raced through the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross.



But, as he paused at each station to tell us what was happening, it was wonderful to see that he felt a personal connection to Jesus’ story.



I can’t take any credit for our son’s knowledge or interest, except that John and I send him to a Catholic school that teaches the kindergarteners the Stations of the Cross.



We are so grateful to his teacher.



Now we’re looking ahead to the summer and thinking of other day trips we could take and other faith encounters we could have as a family. We’re thinking of going to Emmitsburg, Md. I’d also love to visit the National Shrine to St. Rita in Philadelphia, but I don’t know how child-friendly it is. We would like to visit places where our sons can actually appreciate the visit in some way.



I’d love to hear your suggestions and your own experiences.

Happy Easter!

April 21, 2014 10:11
By Rita Buettner


Here comes a 14-inch chocolate bunny, hopping down the bunny trail


It was the perfect day for an egg hunt.

“Do you know what will be inside the eggs?” I asked Daniel before we got there.

“Yolks?” he said. It was a perfectly logical answer. I didn’t actually know what the eggs would have inside, but I was fairly sure they would be plastic.



What I didn’t know was that some of them held slips of paper offering extra prizes.



When our boys joined other children at the starting line, there was no sense of strategy.



The hunt went quickly.


At the end Daniel had six eggs in his basket and his big brother had four.



Here we are again, I thought.


But when the boys sat on the grass and started to go through their eggs, Leo opened one of his and found a slip of paper that said, “Second prize.”



He hurried to the table to find out what he had won. A man handed him an enormous box.



And there it was: a gorgeous, exquisitely made, 14-inch chocolate bunny.



Leo was beside himself with joy. And his little brother just smiled through the excitement. In that moment I realized how my parents must have felt when I won a 3-foot-long Sugar Daddy in elementary school.

The main difference, though, is that I knew that our 6-year-old wouldn't eat much of the bunny. As Leo admitted a few hours later, “Mama, I don’t actually like chocolate.”

But even though he knew it was entirely a matter of luck and that he had done nothing to earn the prize, he couldn’t have been prouder to be holding an enormous box full of chocolate.

I know you're asking yourself a few questions.

1. Is it solid? No.

2. What was the first prize? I believe it was an even larger chocolate bunny! Who knew they existed?

3. Is Daniel planning to win next year? Of course. He hugged the Easter Bunny today for good luck.



I hope your Easter celebration is full of unexpectedly pleasant moments, beautiful memories, and something even more wonderful, and longer lasting, than a 14-inch chocolate bunny.

Of course, that bunny may be with us for a while, so if you don’t find one in your basket, let me know, and maybe I’ll send you an ear.

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

April 19, 2014 11:39
By Rita Buettner


How is God asking us to say yes this Lent?


Today is Holy Thursday, the day we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist, as well as the priesthood. It’s a day when we think of all that will come on Good Friday, the journey Jesus will undertake.

It’s a moment to stop and wait and pray and trust that we will be celebrating the Risen Christ on Easter Sunday. And we feel confident that we will.

Today, though, I find myself thinking about Jesus’ mother. I’m not sure why, but this Lent my mind keeps coming back to Mary.

Perhaps it is because as a wife and mother, my Lenten experience is interwoven with my journey as a member of my family, so Mary and I have that in common.

But there is something deeper at work for me—the realization that Mary said yes not just to being the mother of a baby who would be born in a stable in Bethlehem, or a child who would grow up learning carpentry skills from her husband, but to being the mother of a child who would work miracles, create a new church, and suffer and die for all of humanity.

There is a tradition that, at the Annunciation, Mary was able to see a glimpse into the future to see just how much sorrow her life would hold. I’m not sure that’s based in scripture, but there is a belief that she realized just how much she was taking on in those moments with the Archangel Gabriel.


Annunciation, Shrine of the Sacred Heart, Baltimore

If that is true, think of how much more meaningful her yes is. She wasn’t simply accepting the role of Mother of Son of God, but all the many sorrows and trials that would come with it. She must have known that the pain might be almost unbearable to endure, yet she trusted God.

And she said yes.

How many of us would find the strength to say yes to being the mother of Jesus if we knew He would endure the Cross? How many would feel equipped to stand at the foot of the Cross as his mother, watching our child, on Good Friday?

As a mother, I can’t imagine it. I can’t bear even to think of losing a child, never mind seeing that extent of suffering.

Because we became parents through adoption, my husband and I had the opportunity to say yes—or no—to parenting specific children. Each time we were sent a child's files to review, and we had to decide. We couldn’t see into the future, though, and I am so glad we couldn’t. I prefer a leap of faith full of optimism to one where I can see all of life playing out before me.

Like Mary, we also realized that our children would be ours and yet also not entirely ours. Our sons have stories that precede us, and they will carry that with them always. Like Jesus and every child, they are also God the Father’s, and, in fact, the whole world’s. Mary knew she wasn’t saying yes to a child who would be hers and Joseph’s, but a child who would have a life beyond her. And she knew that would bring challenges and joy and sadness.


Tabernacle in side chapel, Shrine of the Sacred Heart, Baltimore

Even knowing all of that, she said yes.

No wonder she is the Mother of God.

But it makes me stop and think. What is God asking of me? How does He want me to say yes? And how much do I need to strengthen my faith and trust in Him that I can say yes even if the journey might be extraordinarily difficult?

I haven’t figured that out this Lent. Still, I have a feeling there is a reason my mind keeps coming back to the Blessed Mother. If God is preparing me to say yes somehow, I hope I will be open and willing and ready.

How about you? How has God been working on you this Lent? How is He asking you to say yes?



April 16, 2014 10:13
By Rita Buettner


Only God can make a tree


We moved into our new home last fall, so we are watching spring bloom with special excitement this year.

I have no green thumb, but I do love to watch the trees and flowers burst into color, and over the past few weeks I have been watching one tree in particular.



First fuzzy buds appeared. Then they started to open.

I could tell the blossoms would be pink or purple, but I couldn’t guess what kind of tree it was.

After I posted a photo here on Friday, two of my loyal blog readers suggested it might be a magnolia. One even sent me a link to pictures of a saucer magnolia. I’m fairly sure she’s right.



Today Daniel and I went out to see our tree. Even though I pointed at all the petals on the yard, he wanted to pick a flower off of the tree itself.



The tree seemed to have plenty to spare.

So I lifted him up. He stretched and stretched.


And then he stretched some more.



He just couldn’t reach it.

So I reached up and plucked one off for him.

He was so happy.



Our little guy loves the outdoors and all the flowers and trees and living things he encounters—well, except for bees. He is terrified of bees. And he thinks any insect that flies past that isn’t a butterfly is a bee. But he isn’t at all scared of a flowering tree (though as my spring allergies start to kick in, I'm not sure I can say the same).

And he is enjoying getting to know the flowers around our house with me. Today, after our visit to our magnolia tree, we learned how to arrange forsythia stems in a vase.



Tonight when Daniel and I were saying our bedtime prayers, we thanked God for birds and flowers and trees, and for our first spring in our new home.



April 13, 2014 10:28
By Rita Buettner


10 ways to help your young children enjoy Mass


A few weeks ago I received an email from a mother of two.

“Do you have any tips for helping kids to like church?” she asked. “I just can't tell if taking my son to church more frequently gets him more used to it, and therefore comfortable with the experience, or if it just gives him more reasons to hate it.”

I was intrigued by her question, especially because she wasn’t asking how to get her children to behave, but how to help them like going to Mass. And I realized I had very little to offer as an answer.

So I called Gina Magyar-Russell, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of pastoral counseling in the Loyola Clinical Centers.

Although she said she wouldn’t call herself an expert on the topic, she does take her three daughters—ages 2, 4, and 6—to Mass with her every Sunday. In fact, frequently she takes them without her husband, who is not Catholic.

I was immediately impressed. And I knew she would have plenty to offer. I hope you find her advice helpful, too:

1.     Help your children to feel the Mass is for them. Walk them up to receive a blessing during Communion. Take your child to talk to the priest after Mass. Find ways for them to participate.



2.     Find a parish where you feel comfortable parenting in a way that you can expose them to God and to your faith. If you don’t want to be in the cry room, and you don’t feel welcome to parent your child in the main church, it may be time to find another parish.

3.     Look for programs within the parish that work for your child. “When the kids are about 4, it does help to have a children’s liturgy of the word, where the kids are having a kid version of the readings and drawing a picture,” says Magyar-Russell. “That’s a really good strategy for that age when they enjoy drawing and can understand the main messages.”

4.     Choose a Mass time that works well for your child’s schedule. You don’t want your child to be hungry or tired during Mass.



5.     Sing church music outside of Mass to make it familiar and fun. “We do a lot of singing the Alleluia and the Gloria in the car, not necessarily even on the way to church,” she says. “My kids get a lot of joy out of participating and knowing the words.”

6.     Identify aspects of the Mass that interest your child and make the most of them during Mass. A child who is learning to read can make a game out of bookmarking the songs in the hymnal, or trying to follow along with the music on the page. Another child might love to watch the musicians, so you may want to choose a seat near the instruments.



7.     Include your children in the conversation. That might mean talking about the stained glass or the statues or even the readings. “If you sit near me in church, you are being distracted,” says Magyar-Russell. “Mass is not just for grownups, where they have to be quiet. They can be kids in that space.

8.     If you bring books, let your children choose the books themselves before Mass. “There might be one or two in the pile that have a religious meaning,” says Magyar-Russell. “I let them pick out books and put them in the bag before we go.”



9.     Try not to discipline your child during Mass. “I don’t discipline that much unless it’s really, really distracting,” says Magyar-Russell. “My kids sit on the floor and take their shoes off and go through the hymnal like they’re at the library. Where I draw the line is teaching that someone else is trying to hear or you’re in someone else’s way.”

10.     Try to see their behavior through Jesus’ eyes. “If you can see it how Jesus might see it, I think he might see it as these are kids,” she says. “I try not to let them have a negative experience with religion. You never want to say, ‘God wouldn’t like it if you did that.’”



What do you do to help your children enjoy going to Mass? Especially as Holy Week begins, I would love to hear your strategies, ideas, and experiences. 

You might also enjoy:




April 12, 2014 10:59
By Rita Buettner


Christmas in April, a spring of surprises, Angry Birds saving the Earth, and doughnut dreams (7 Quick Takes Friday)


1

For weeks Daniel has been preparing for his spring concert at preschool. When I asked him what songs he would be singing, he said, “Christmas songs.”

“Really?” I said. “Like what?”

“Jingle Bells and stuff like that,” he said.

It seemed unlikely, but who am I to question? “Should I find a Santa hat for you to wear?” I asked.

“No, Mama,” he said. “Someone else will be Santa. I am just going to sing.”

I decided to ask his teacher.

“Oh, he’s confused because we’re singing ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen,” she said.

That sounded logical. But when I mentioned that to Daniel, he said, “No, we’re singing Christmas songs!” And he launched into an imitation of Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.”



I suspected some of the confusion might have been that he never got to perform in his Christmas program in December because he was sick that day. But I figured the worst-case scenario was that he would be singing one thing and his classmates would sing another. Actually that might be the best-case scenario. The Buettner boys often don’t even lip sync.

Yesterday on the way home—after the dress rehearsal—he said they weren’t singing Christmas music after all.

“What are you singing?” I asked.

“’Let It Go,’ ‘Baby Fishes,’ and ‘The World Is a Rainbow.’”

And here I was hoping for Jingle Bells.

2

Naturally, because of how life happens to work, Leo is also performing a song today with his class.

I will need the help of St. Christopher and the patron saint of getting to multiple school events happening just minutes apart to pull this off, but I am determined to make it happen. If it doesn’t work, I will be sadder than either of my sons, especially since their father will be trapped in a meeting he cannot escape. But I really do believe I can do it, and even without a helicopter.

This is, of course, the one and only time this spring that they are both performing. It is a good test. And I remind myself that I am truly blessed if this is my challenge of the day.

3
This is our first spring in our new house, so everything that blooms in a yard is a surprise.

I suspected that some of the bushes behind our house were forsythia, and they are! I love forsythia. There’s something so striking about the yellow, one of the first colors of spring.



There’s a lovely tree in our yard, and I am watching it with great interest. Because I have such little knowledge of trees, I will have to wait until it blossoms to figure out what it is. Do you happen to know? I can’t wait to see it in full bloom.



Of course, with my lack of gardening abilities, the bigger surprise may be if everything blooms again next spring.

4
Speaking of trees, our family project for Leo’s kindergarten class this month was creating an Earth Day poster.

I knew just what I wanted to do: a 3-D globe in the middle with three crosses on it. It was going to say, “God so loved the world, and so do we.” It would take 10 minutes, tops, and it would tie Earth Day and Lent together.

Leo had a different idea involving Angry Birds and Piggies and catapults. And he wanted everything to be flat.

Well, it was his project, so we went with his far more creative and slightly more time-intensive idea.



He took it proudly to school and he came home without volunteering any report on how it was received.

“Did your friends like it?” I asked him.

He gave a long dramatic sigh. “You know what I’m going to say, Mama.”

“Well, did they like it?”

“Yes.”

Whew. Another family project down. One (or maybe two?) to go. I think we can, I think we can, I think we can. And then I'll be saying how quickly kindergarten flew by.

5
Did everyone’s children grow like crazy during the winter?

The neighborhood children look so much taller than they did last fall before the endless snows. And our boys are doing things on the playground that they didn’t even consider doing back in October.



It’s fascinating to me how much they have grown in so many ways. And being on the playground seems to bring it out in them.

6

One night this week after we had tucked the boys in, I went in to check on them. Daniel was still awake.

“Do you want me to turn on your VeggieTales CD?” I asked him.

“No.”

“How about one of your stories?”

“No,” he said. “Do you think you could buy some of those chocolate chip cookies and those little round chocolate doughnuts?”

So that’s what my son is thinking about at night. No wonder he was having trouble falling sleep. Chocolate doughnuts could keep me up, too.

7

I finally did it. I broke down and started a Facebook page for Open Window. I have been trying to decide whether I need one. Then this past week the comments feature on the blog stopped working. And the email notification system hasn't been working consistently.

My wonderful friends here at The Catholic Review are working to fix these issues, and I know they will, but I realized that if the blog had a Facebook page, people could comment there and see when a blog was posted. So I decided the time was right, and I launched a page.

I hope you’ll join the conversation there, on Twitter, or write to me at openwindowcr@gmail.com. I always love to hear from you!

Read more quick takes at Jen’s Conversion Diary.

April 10, 2014 11:44
By Rita Buettner


Once upon a time we were blessed with infertility: My Messy Beautiful


Once upon a time there was a girl who fell in love with a boy. They got married, moved into a tiny apartment, and waited to become parents.

Months passed. Then years.

Still they waited.

Everyone they knew had babies. Everyone they saw had babies. Churches and supermarkets and sidewalks were crowded with families with children.

Still, this couple’s arms were empty.



It was a time of questions. Didn't God want them to be parents? They tried to accept that this might be God’s plan, while also not wanting to give up on their dream of raising a family. Somehow, it never felt that God was saying no. It always felt He was saying, “Wait.”

But waiting was hard. "God’s time is not our time," a kind priest friend said.

And so they lived and loved and waited.

Then one day the couple came across an idea.

It was an idea they had talked about even before they married, but then put on a shelf. It was something to protect and treasure, but not something to think about every day.

Suddenly it was front and center.

“Should we adopt?”

They took the idea down. They looked at it. They prayed some more. Then tentatively they started asking questions.



There was so much to consider. Domestic or international? If international, which country? What medical conditions did they feel able to parent? Did they want to parent an infant or a toddler? How long would their journey be?

At the end of that path, they believedthey had to believethere was a child. And they found they were both saying yes.

That child had different beginnings, a separate story beginning in a country they had never planned to visit. Yet together they flew to the other side of the world to hold hima stranger and yet unmistakably their son. All their grief, worry, confusion, and seemingly endless waiting melted away as they looked into their son’s eyes. His emotions were all that mattered.



As they became parents, they realized that their story hadn’t been about waiting at all. It was about growing, preparing, refining. It was about learning that grief is just part of the journey, and that sometimes you go through the dark to get to the light.

It was even later, when dancing around the living room with her son laughing in her arms, and watching him make faces at his father, that the new mother realized that she was grateful for her infertility, that it was a blessing. After all, it was only through that journey that she had met her child.

And then two years later, they flew again to China to meet their second son.



And again they found they were grateful not just for that child, or his older brother, but for all of itfor every moment on the journey that led them to their children.

Today they tell stories. Now and then they tell the story of Mama and Baba waiting and wanting to become parents.

But more often they tell their children’s stories. They tell them over and over, while giggling and splashing in the bathtub, squirming at the dinner table, snuggling at bedtime, and running errands in the car.

They are messy stories, stories with questions and sadness.

They are also beautiful stories, stories of hope, new beginnings, and a forever family.

As family stories go, they are stories without an end, to be continued and written mainly by the characters.

And every morning they turn a new page, together.



This is my contribution to the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project. To learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, now in paperback, CLICK HERE.



April 07, 2014 10:27
By Rita Buettner


What my children are teaching me this Lent


Watching our sons encounter the world and their faith is such a source of inspiration to me. Our older son is learning the Stations of the Cross for the first time this year, and it is amazing to see them through his eyes.



But although I could teach our sons the Stations of the Cross, what surprises me is what our sons are teaching me this Lent:

1. Forgive quickly and completely.

The other day Leo came running to give a report on his brother. “He says he doesn't like me anymore!”

As I was trying to decide how to mediate, I realized Leo was already running in the other direction, yelling to Daniel—the one who didn’t like him anymore—“Hey, wanna play bank robbers?”

And they were off, laughing together, any disagreement forgotten.

Why can’t I be like that, frustrated one moment and friendly the next?



2. Love as God does.

As Leo crawled into bed with us one morning, I said, “I love you more than anything in the world.”

“And my little brother,” he said.

“Yes, of course,” I said.

“Well, you love us more than anything in the world except God,” he said. “You love God the most.”

“Yes, but it’s not really that we love God more than we love you,” I said, still half-asleep. “We just have a lot of love for all of you.”

“Yes,” he said, “because when you love us you are loving God. Because any love you give to us you’re giving to God.”

How does a 6-year-old manage to make what feels so complicated so simple?

3. Care for all of God’s creation.

Daniel’s goal is to catch a bird. He wants so badly to hold one in his hands and see how beautiful it is.



Today he sat in the yard talking to the birds up in the trees.

Then he took one of our birdhouses off a hook and carried it around our yard saying sweetly, “Oh, little birds! I have a pretty little nest for you here! It is just for you!” For a half-hour he walked and called to the birds.

They flew away, of course, but he was not discouraged. He wanted to make sure they knew he had a home for them.

How much do I worry about whether others have food and a safe and comfortable place to sleep?

4. Trust that God is all good and all powerful.

To try to capture Daniel's attention during Sunday’s Gospel, I leaned down and whispered, “Listen to the story. Jesus is going to bring someone who died back to life!”

“Right here? In the church?”

“Well, no. In the story.”

“Who?”

“His name is Lazarus. He was one of Jesus’ friends, and he died, but Jesus is bringing him back to life.”

He thought for a minute. “Will the priest do it? And will it be a big man, and his head will touch the ceiling?”

“No, it will just happen in the story.”

“What about Baby George?”

“Well, God did give Baby Georgie life forever in heaven, but this story is about giving this man life on earth again. So it’s different.”

I sat there marveling at our little boy’s faith. He’s right. God can do anything. Do I think of that often enough? And do I try to relate the Gospel to my life and to the people I know? Do I look for miracles to happen every day? Do I believe they can happen? Do I really think anything special could happen during Mass? And do I recognize that a miracle does happen, each and every time?

I do, but I don’t know that I have the faith of our 4-year-old. I may think I’m teaching him our faith, and I am, but he and his brother are teaching me so much more about faith and life than I can discover on my own.

“Amen, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children,
you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

What are you learning this Lenten season?

April 06, 2014 10:55
By Rita Buettner


How long was your road trip, sleeping in reverse, a new flag, and authentication questions (7 Quick Takes Friday)


—1—

We hit hardly any traffic on last weekend’s road trip. Although I could complain that it was snowing for a good part of our trip, we really made fantastic time.

After four hours on the road, we pulled into our driveway, and I turned to look at the boys. Daniel was asleep and Leo was unbuckling his seat belt.

“That wasn’t bad, was it?” I said.

“Mama,” said our 6-year-old, “it felt as long as it takes a seed to grow into a tree.”

It’s all a matter of perspective. Thanks to that last snow of March, we lost power Monday morning. On the way home that evening I said, “If we don’t have electricity, we might have to go somewhere to get dinner.”

Daniel saw the perfect solution.

“Mama, will we go back to the cousins’ house?”

That would be some power outage to force us to make an eight-hour round-trip just to enjoy dinner with the cousins. We did have some memorable meals with them, but mainly because we celebrated their cousin’s 7th birthday with a Muppet party.

I even made a "Rainbow Connection" fruit tray.



But I wouldn’t drive four hours just for that.

—2—

Have you ever heard that you can survive just on potatoes and milk? My younger brother, who may not be an authority on anything outside teaching Latin, discussing the virtues of Spam, and raising three active and adorable boys, tells me you’d need to eat about 10 pounds of potatoes a day.

It sounds unappealing. I’d rather survive on a diet of salmon, crab cakes, avocado, pasta, and Parmesan cheese. But I couldn't manage that on $15 a week.

—3—

Last week Leo came to me and said, “Mama, can I sleep in reverse?”

I wasn’t sure how to answer. Did he want to go to bed rested and wake up tired?

It turned out that he just wanted to move his pillow to the other end of his bed. And so did his brother.

Now they sleep in reverse every night. For the first few nights they went to bed giggling as if it were so crazy and wonderful. And it is.

—4—

We are so, so happy that it’s spring! Here’s my favorite bloggable photo of our sons from the week.



Aren't they just so cute together?

—5—

Have you seen Frozen? We haven’t actually watched it as a family, though we’ve all seen parts of it. Last night at dinner Daniel told us he had been watching it at school.

“What is it about?” John asked.

“It’s about men cutting the ice,” he said, “and men and men and men, and girls and girls and girls, and men and men and men.”

So there you have our 4-year-old son’s movie review. I’m not sure he’s the target audience for this film, but one scene has clearly left an impression on him.

—6—

Last fall when I took Leo to visit his cousin Georgie’s grave for the first time, he picked out flowers and an American flag to place there.

Over the past five months, that flag has waved through snowstorm after snowstorm, marking an otherwise unmarked grave, as we wait for the marker to be installed. Every time we visit I am so glad to see that flag. We wouldn’t know where Georgie’s grave is without it.



Then two weeks ago I accidentally broke the flag. I was able to fix it temporarily, but I knew we had to get a new flag. So when the ground was soft again Daniel and I went this week to install the new flag.



He slid it into the ground himself.


If you look closely, you can see that his stuffed raven is helping.

Then we went to look at the swans at the cemetery lake.



It was a good visit, and we talked, as we always do, about how Georgie is in heaven.

Last night we were driving to get Leo, and Daniel said, “After that, can we go visit Georgie’s grave? We can say a little prayer there.”

“Well,” I said, really touched, “that would be nice, but it is raining.”

“Just drizzling!” he said.

“That’s true,” I said. “But maybe we could go tomorrow when it’s not so wet? And we could take some flowers?”

“Fine,” he said. “I will go and you can just wait in the car.”

Never try to win an argument with a 4-year-old.

—7—
John and I don’t exchange very deep emails during the day. Usually it’s “Can you stop by the store for milk?” or “Did you pay for soccer yet?”

So I was surprised when an email from John popped up this week and the subject heading was “What’s your dream job?”

Then I read further and realized he was trying to crack into a password-protected site and I had apparently set up the answers to the authentication questions. One was “What is your dream job?”

I tried everything I could think of and got locked out of the system. So although I thought my dream job answer would be “mother” or “writer” or “the one I have,” I must have had a different dream when I set up the answers a few months ago.

I ended up on hold with customer service trying to crack into my own account. Then I couldn't even answer "What was the first musical instrument you learned to play?" Apparently I picked something much less mundane than "piano."

How long did it take to get it straightened out? Oh, just about as long as it takes a seed to grow into a tree.



Read more quick takes at Jen’s Conversion Diary.

April 03, 2014 11:02
By Rita Buettner


I smell a rat enthusiast


At 4 years old, Daniel is as rough-and-tumble as children come. He’s also so, so sweet and affectionate. And he loves animals.



Up until recently that love was mostly from afar, though last year he decided he wanted to catch a butterfly—a goal he accomplished. A few months ago he touched a dog for the first time.



On our visit to some of our out-of-town cousins, Daniel was excited when he realized that they have three rats—successors to my niece’s two pet rats who died last summer.



“Can we open up the mouses?” he asked his 10-year-old cousin, the one who loves rats enough to persuade her parents to become rat owners.

I wasn’t sure our little boy would be able to sit still enough to be near the rats.

But soon he was reaching out one finger.



And then he was asking for a chance to hold them.



He was so quiet and calm with them, stroking them sweetly and talking to them.



“What do you like about the rats?” I asked him.

“Because dem have so much hair and dem are so gentle,” he said.



His cousin assured him that the rats liked him, too. Salt and Cinnamon may have been a little uncertain of this stranger holding them, but Sugar was his new best friend.



When I told my rat-loving niece that I might write a blog about her beloved pets, she said to me, “I hope you’re going to change the rats’ names to protect their identities.” Then she laughed, so we’re assuming she was joking.



You won’t be surprised to hear that Daniel called his father at home last night and told him he wants a pet rat.

“No, he said. “I want 10.”

Let’s hope he’ll settle for 10 more visits to his cousins’ house instead.


Dear readers, you can probably guess which one is Cinnamon. Bonus points to anyone who's not my niece who can guess which is Salt and which is Sugar.

March 29, 2014 08:15
By Rita Buettner

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