One day last week John pointed out to me that there was a pile of leaves stuffed inside the stroller we have been keeping on our porch. I hadn’t noticed the leaves, most likely because when I am on the porch, our two boys are leaping off the porch to run toward the street.
“I think it’s a bird’s nest,” John said.
When he was sure the nest had been abandoned, he decided to clean out the stroller. And he brought the nest inside so the boys could see the tiny, perfect, speckled eggs. Then he set the nest back on the porch just in case the mother bird returned. Since she hadn’t been there in days, that seemed unlikely.
The boys were fascinated by the three little eggs, and Leo started asking questions.
Where is the mother bird? Why would she leave the babies? When would she come back? She would come back, wouldn’t she?
For a moment, I hesitated. We don’t talk about adoption all the time here. We’re too busy talking about rockets, Batman, lightning, Halloween, or whatever else is on Leo’s mind that day. But we do look for ways to work adoption naturally into conversation. And I wondered whether I should take this opportunity to speak about how a mother can’t always provide for her children, how sometimes circumstances prevent her from raising her children herself, how heartbreaking that can be.
As quickly as I considered it, I stopped myself. This, after all, was a bird. A bird doesn’t have free will, or a real understanding of challenges, or an opportunity to make an adoption plan for her children. And, if there were baby birds inside the eggs, they were faced with no wonderful—or even satisfactory—plan B. Even if we did everything within our power, they would never survive without their mother.
So I took a different tact—speaking honestly about nature. I explained to Leo that many creatures chase and eat birds. I talked about cats and foxes and raccoons. I mentioned that a bird could get hit by a car or a truck. Leo listened, and I wondered whether I was telling our 4 1/2-year-old a bit too much. He sat quietly until I stopped for breath.
“Mama,” he said. “I think the mother bird is probably out getting a worm so she can feed it to her babies when they hatch.”
Aha. Now why didn’t I think of that?
July 30, 2012 10:30
By Rita Buettner
Even before our wedding, John and I were curious to learn more about natural family planning. What surprised us was that—despite the skepticism I encountered when I casually mentioned it to a few friends—it turned out to be straightforward and effective.
There are sound, absolutely wonderful moral reasons for couples who want to have God at the center of their marriage to practice NFP rather than using artificial methods. But today I’m not talking about morality—even though that’s why we chose NFP. Instead, because it is Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, I thought I’d share 10 reasons John and I came to love NFP.
1. It’s scientific. This is not the rhythm method that assumes that every woman’s cycle is the same. Today’s NFP is the symptothermal method, in which couples monitor the woman’s signs to know when she is fertile and when she’s infertile. It’s absolutely fascinating! And all you need are a thermometer and a chart.
2. It’s 98 percent effective. The symptothermal method is as effective as most forms of artificial birth control—as long as couples read the woman’s signs (easy enough to learn) and abstain during her fertile times (more challenging, but definitely doable). Here is a terrific post by a Catholic author whose books I recently discovered and enjoyed.
3. It has no negative side effects. There is no packaging with a list of warnings. There’s no pill to take. Yesterday, I turned on the TV briefly and saw two commercials warning me of the frightening risks of using two different forms of artificial birth control. Blood clots? Stroke? And the jury’s still out on the breast cancer risks? Count me out.
4. It can be used either to prevent pregnancy or to help a couple conceive. When you do try to conceive, you will be confident that you know the best times to try because you know your own body better than any doctor does. Couples who have trouble conceiving sometimes start charting to figure out the woman’s fertility; couples already practicing NFP have a jumpstart—never mind that when you’re using contraception that plays with your hormones, you can throw your cycle off and make it harder to figure out your fertility signs later.
5. The responsibility of understanding a woman’s fertility is shared equally by the couple. Instead of the wife having to remember the pill or the husband needing a condom, the couple undertakes this joint endeavor together. The husband can even take an active role in charting his wife’s fertility. Then each of them has a voice in the conversation about whether to abstain until a less-fertile time or leave it to God.
6. Let’s talk organic. Tell people you eat only organic fruits and vegetables, and they nod and smile—and maybe even start trading tips on where to shop for the best cage-free chickens. But tell them you practice natural family planning, and eyebrows go up. Why are we more worried about hormones in our beef than in our bodies?
7. It’s free. We haven’t spent a penny since we bought a book and thermometer and paid for a Couple-to-Couple League class eight years ago. We don’t need a prescription. We don't even need an HHS mandate to make our insurers pay for it.
8. It adds romance to your marriage. Because there are times you may feel you need to abstain, NFP helps a husband and wife find other ways to express their love for each other. This is part of the joy we hadn’t anticipated, and it really has strengthened our marriage. Especially now that we are parents, it’s become even more important for us to find small ways to show our affection throughout the day—and we’ve already had some practice.
9. It helps a couple realize the beauty of God’s gift of sexuality and marital relations. Abstinence makes the heart grow fonder. NFP can help you appreciate your spouse’s strengths and needs in a new way. As Blessed Mother Teresa said, “In loving, the husband and wife must turn the attention to each other as happens in natural family planning, and not to self, as happens in contraception.” What a treasure God gives us in joining two people as one, and how beautiful when He is part of the most intimate moments of marriage—the moments in which new life can be created.
10. Because Blessed John Paul the Great loved it too: “…[Using] the natural methods requires and strengthens the harmony of the married couple, it helps and confirms the rediscovery of the marvelous gift of parenthood, it involves respect for nature and demands the responsibility of the individuals.” Oh, and he said so much more, but you can read it yourself.
The decision about whether to practice NFP is a decision a couple can only make together through prayer. Granted, for us, we realized fairly early on that we would be using it to try to conceive rather than to avoid conception. But the method, the philosophy, and our shared enthusiasm for it have been important to the foundation of our marriage.
When we were dealing with our infertility, one thing that made the emotional struggle easier was feeling certain that that we had never said “no” to God. We had never interfered with His plan through chemicals or other means. We had always left the door open for Him to entrust us with a child. And eventually He did—twice—though not in the way we thought He would.
Aren’t God’s plans amazing? How blessed we are to be able to embrace them as His—and ours.
July 25, 2012 10:18
By Rita Buettner
We rarely play the lottery. But a few months ago when we had two scratch-off tickets, John casually handed one to each of our sons.
Leo scratched his and won $2. He was thrilled.
Then Daniel scratched his and won $50. Leo’s bubble burst.
“It’s not fair!” he said. “Why did he win more?”
Why, indeed? I didn’t even know you could win that much on a scratch-off ticket. John and I quietly joked that maybe Daniel had a lucky streak, but we never mentioned it within the boys’ hearing, of course. We aren’t trying to create any extra sibling rivalry.
Then, on one of our trips to the Boardwalk last week, John handed each of the boys a quarter. Leo carefully dropped his into a machine and one ticket slid out. He happily tore it off. Then Daniel, who was paying little attention to the machine, pushed his quarter into the slot. We stood and stared as 150 tickets came pouring out.
Then we visited the claw machines. Leo dropped a coin in, and maneuvered the claw so that a stuffed dolphin fell right next to the chute—but didn’t fall out. He tried again. No luck. He and John walked away. I handed Daniel another coin while I scanned the area for something more age-appropriate for our 2-year-old. When I glanced back, I saw the claw dropping a stuffed bear on top of the dolphin. Both animals slid down the chute, straight into Daniel’s hands.
Maybe I should have been happy for Daniel. And I am. The truth is, though, that, at this age, Daniel doesn’t care as much about winning as he does about inserting the coins. Leo, on the other hand, cares a lot. When Daniel went running to give Leo the stuffed bear, Leo wouldn’t accept it. After all, Leo is 4, and he doesn’t want the bear as much as the victory. And he definitely doesn’t want the bear if his little brother won it.
Now I don’t actually think Daniel has more luck than Leo. I can’t believe that God singles out people and makes sure they win more tickets in the arcade. And, lest you worry that Leo didn’t enjoy himself on vacation, he had a marvelous time, sharing a bedroom with his four cousins (and sometimes sleeping), playing nonstop from dawn to dusk, eating round-the-clock, and even winning his share of Boardwalk games. It’s just that he also learned a bit about the unfairness of life—and especially games of chance—as he watched his little brother winning without even trying.
If, however, I happened to believe that some kids have all the luck, I might have been convinced the night we all went for ice cream.
Leo picked a beautiful cone of chocolate ice cream with rainbow sprinkles, and sat on a Boardwalk bench to eat it.
Moments later, he accidentally dropped it on the ground and inherited his father’s cone.
Daniel was taking occasional, casual licks at his cone, but it was looking more like an exploding volcano. We were just starting to think about taking it away from him when he took off running at full-speed down the Boardwalk, cone firmly in hand.
As we watched that little boy sprinting down the boards, laughing heartily, his black hair bouncing, and his Crocs thumping the wood, I couldn’t help but be amazed at his confidence, spunk—and speed. He ran and ran, with John hot on his heels, and yet the tower of ice cream, glued inside Daniel’s ice-cream-covered hand, stayed intact.
Is he a lucky boy? Sure. So is his big brother.
But John and I know we are the ones who hit the jackpot.
July 23, 2012 11:42
By Rita Buettner
As we were preparing for Daniel’s first trip to the beach, John and I both suspected our younger son would enjoy himself, but we didn’t consider that a given. He often needs time to warm to new experiences.
He comes home from preschool with his sneakers full of sand, so we were fairly sure he would like building sand castles. And he is a huge fan of what John calls “Splashtown USA,” the sprinkler, water table, and wading pool John sets up in our yard. Still, it took Daniel a few weeks to find the courage to climb into the wading pool.
Walking onto the beach for the first time last week, Daniel’s eyes lit up. He laughed and laughed and repeated the phrase he had heard John use, “Big sandbox!” It took me back two years to when Leo first saw the beach—also at 2 1/2—and marveled in those first moments, his face aglow. But this experience was very much Daniel’s, not a re-run of Leo’s, but rather an entirely fresh and riveting sequel.
As Daniel strutted onto the beach with his brother and four of their cousins, it was obvious he loved the sand. And that first day he stood happily in the waves, smiling and watching them crash against his legs.
Then the next day came, and he wouldn’t go anywhere near the water.
As his brother and older cousins leapt and shouted and performed karate chops on what they call “King Kong waves,” Daniel insisted on keeping a good distance from the ocean. I’m not a water person, so I was fine with playing in the sand instead.
Still I knew that Daniel was missing out on something he would actually love. So as the week continued, and he enjoyed collecting shells, burying his father in the sand, and sending me and his aunts for bucket after bucket of water, I decided it was time to persuade him that the waves were also part of the fun.
So I carried him down to the water. He clung to me in fear, as he used to do whenever he saw his brother ride a carousel. Inching bit by bit toward the water, we watched the waves together. As they hit my ankles, and Daniel realized he was still dry, he started to relax and laugh. Then I held him down so he could dip his fingers into the water. Soon enough he had squirmed off my hip to stand in the waves, jumping with my hands under his arms, helping him leap.
That’s our boy. He has his fears. He still shivers when he sees the Penny Pony at Shoppers, and he can’t understand why terrifying swings are included on otherwise fantastic playgrounds. But he can also be brave. He showed unimaginable courage when we met him in China 11 months ago. And watching him overcome his fear of the waves was one of the highlights of a fun-filled, exhausting vacation.
The next day, of course, we had a new problem. Daniel didn’t want to be anywhere except at the water’s edge. Even when a larger wave caught us unawares and he ended up with a mouthful of saltwater, he just laughed and said, “Again! Again!”
Too bad the next “again” will have to wait for next summer for our family of four. For now, we'll be enjoying our very own “Splashtown USA.”
Most of these photos were taken by my talented younger sister Treasa Beyer, who also knit the lovely beach blanket Daniel is sitting on.
July 22, 2012 10:38
By Rita Buettner
Our adoption of Daniel was finalized in China the day after we met him last August. He became a U.S. citizen the day we landed on American soil, and within a few months we had received his official Certificate of Citizenship in the mail.
Still, just because two national governments had acknowledged that Daniel was our son didn’t mean that we had jumped every paperwork hurdle. To get Daniel a Maryland birth certificate, we had to refinalize his adoption in the state of Maryland. And that meant our 2 ½-year-old son had his very own day in circuit court last week.
Daniel’s only concern was that I wanted him to wear a suit. His big brother, however, kept trying to figure out what the whole court ceremony meant. And, I have to admit, explaining the necessity of government paperwork is not my strength. I told him that Daniel was already a member of our family, and that this was basically a formality. Still, Leo couldn’t really grasp that—and who can blame him?
John and I accepted paperwork and red tape as a necessary—and doable—part of the whole adoption journey, and this was one of the easier steps. After all, at this point we weren’t waiting to be matched with our child, or wondering when we would be able to travel to him. We were just trying to get a final stamp of approval to make his life—and ours—simpler down the road.
I figured this was both an extra chance for the boys to wear the suits they’ll be sporting at their aunt’s wedding in the fall, and also another moment for us to celebrate becoming a family of four. In the end, that was the explanation that seemed to work for Leo, the idea that we were celebrating being a family—and that we’d go out for brunch afterward. So we all dressed up and headed to the courthouse.
The boys were curious about everything, from the metal detectors and revolving door to the fact that Daniel’s judge was a man (the judge at Leo’s refinalization was a woman).
When we went to the judge’s chambers for the ceremony, Leo and Daniel insisted on sitting in their own chairs.
“You’re really big,” the judge said to Leo.
Daniel wasn’t going to let that go. “No!” he said. “I big!” Luckily he wasn’t held in contempt of court.
At one point, the judge asked Leo how he liked being a big brother. I wondered how he would respond. The transition to big brotherhood has been understandably challenging, but our boys have come really far in the past 10 months. Sometimes they annoy each other, but they also seek each other out as playmates. They are pals and competitors. They can be hugging one minute and arguing the next. They are brothers, through and through. But Leo wasn’t going to get into that with the judge. He neatly dodged the question—twice—to ask the judge about the microphones on his desk.
The judge chatted with each of us, signed the paperwork, and posed for a few photos. Then he sent us on our way.
Minutes later, as we sat at brunch, I watched Leo working on his cinnamon pancakes and thought of how far he has come since becoming a big brother—and how smoothly Daniel has transitioned into our family. Then I heard a gasp and looked over to see John prying the syrup pitcher from Daniel’s hands.
“He just drank the syrup out of the pitcher,” John said.
Aha. That Certificate of Citizenship is a really classy document—and we had a great time in court last week. But it’s moments like those, when you see your son guzzling syrup out of a pitcher, that you realize, yet again, how easily this little—OK, big—boy, born on the other side of the world, fits into your family.
Because, after all, the only real surprise may be that, in this family, there was any syrup left to drink.
July 18, 2012 03:00
By Rita Buettner
Impossible as it is for me to believe, we are counting the days to my little sister’s wedding day.
A few months ago, when my big sister senses were tingling that an engagement was imminent, I decided to send her an email full of unsolicited advice. I wanted to let her know that, although marriage is not something to rush into, it’s also not something to postpone when you’ve found someone who can be your life partner in Polka, pie baking, and prayer.
So I sent her a list of my thoughts as she and her now-fiancé discerned whether they should be married (though I am pretty sure they already knew):
- Marriage is good.
- Marriage between a man and a woman who love each other and God is even better.
- Marriage in which the husband and wife can take sudden, mostly-expense-paid trips together to Rome is the best (not that I would know).
- Engagements should be short, fun, and not entirely focused on issues such as catering, floral arrangements, and other things no one will remember after the wedding day.
- When you know you have met a person who will pull with you in the harness, and not against you, who loves God and wants to serve Him and His Church, who is open to children and family, who doesn’t play too much golf or obsess about overpriced cars, and—as a bonus—who knows when St. Francis de Sales’ feast day is, don’t waste time. Pray alone, pray together, ask others to pray, and God will show you whether marriage is the right path.
- Engagement rings are lovely, but not necessary. Never go into debt over a piece of jewelry. One day you may find yourselves saving for a home or a car or an adoption, and you will be happy not to look at your ring and wonder whether you should sell it to make those dreams a reality. If, one day down the road, your husband says he wants to buy you a more expensive ring, you will just remind him that there are so many more fruitful ways to spend money, and he’ll go back to watching a Bigfoot special on TV.
- Weddings should include our father’s punch. Alcohol is superfluous.
- The more priests concelebrating a wedding, the better—unless, I suppose, there is no room on the altar for the bride and groom.
- Natural family planning is so good for a couple’s marriage. You will truly become one, more sensitive to each other’s needs, and more appreciative of God’s extraordinary gift of life.
- There are no perfect people in this world, but two imperfect people can make a perfect marriage. That’s where God comes in.
- Ephesians 5.
- Marriage is a blessing. There are dark times. There are joyous times. There are challenges. There are celebrations. Through it all, you have someone to share in it with you. Everything is easier to bear—and to rejoice in—when you have a partner for life.
John and I are by no means experts at marriage—though we’ve always been glad we had a brief romance and short engagement. When we met, we just knew. We’ve been married only seven-and-a-half years, and it’s definitely a journey. But it’s a wonderful one, and there’s no place I’d rather be than by his side—watching and helping our two boys grow.
As I was writing, I asked my husband what advice he would offer to his sister-in-law and her future husband. He offered two tips:
- Children are not an accessory, and couples who say that having children will not ‘change’ them are naïve or deluded. Rather, children teach you that your life is not your own—and you are better for it!
- Find the natural division of labor in your marriage (she likes to cook, he likes to clean, etc.).
Thank goodness I’m married to a man who not only gives good advice, but does all the laundry and spent his weekend dealing with a plumbing problem. That’s actually a good tip, too—either marry a man whose father is a master plumber, or who knows when it’s time to call for professional help.
So, rather than giving these lovebirds a cheeseboard, fondue set, or a donation through this astonishingly tacky wedding registry, why not help me add to this list of unsolicited advice?
What would you tell a couple preparing for their wedding day four months from today?
July 10, 2012 09:18
By Rita Buettner
I suppose we could have gone to a parade in the sweltering heat or kept our boys up late to see fireworks.
But two weeks ago when I went to the Mass at Baltimore’s Basilica to open the Fortnight for Freedom, I suggested to John that maybe we could make a family trip to the closing Mass yesterday in Washington, D.C. He thought it was a fantastic idea. Yesterday morning, though, he was feeling under the weather. So John stayed home while we joined my parents and my younger sister for a trip to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
We were hoping it would be well-attended, but it hadn’t occurred to me just how crowded it could be. People were everywhere, spilling into the narthex and the side chapels, leaning against pillars, sitting on the floor, and just enjoying being part of the celebration.
Our boys were excited to see the huge American flag hanging from the Basilica’s tower. Leo seemed curious about the monks’ and sisters’ different habits, and Daniel had to be lifted up for every holy water font so he could make his left-handed Sign of the Cross. They were both thrilled with the Basilica coins their grandfather bought for them before Mass.
We arrived early enough to get seats together, and then I took the boys to visit some of the statues at the side altars. I was hoping they would be as excited to visit the Our Lady of China mosaic as I was, but Leo told me all he really wanted to do was climb to the top of the tower. I couldn’t figure out how to do that—and I’m not sure it was even open. Still, we walked enough that we could have gone up the tower at least a dozen times before the final hymn.
It was a beautiful and inspiring Mass—at least the parts of it I could appreciate while working to keep our boys content. They sat quietly for a half hour before the Knights of Columbus started marching up the aisle. “They are knights, Mama?” Leo asked, craning his neck to see their hats. “Knights who fight things?” Then we watched what must have been 200 priests—it could easily have been more—processing in, followed by the bishops and archbishops, including our very own Archbishop Lori, and Cardinal Wuerl.
As we finished the second reading, I realized the boys had been sitting still for more than an hour, and they weren’t just restless. They were tired. They both wanted to read the same book. They both wanted to sit on my lap—and they weren’t willing to share the space. I have been told not to worry so much about how disruptive we might be to those around us, but I was getting too frustrated to stay in our pew. We went for a walk.
Fortunately, the Basilica has plenty of alcoves and places to discover. We smiled at other children we met, Leo asked a few questions (“Mama, is that girl chewing bubble gum?”), we lit a candle, and we threw pennies in a fountain at the foot of a statue of Mary holding the Infant Jesus. Finally I took the boys downstairs to the café, bought lemonade, and let them sit and have a drink. It wasn’t exactly how I had pictured our Mass experience—I had hoped to hear some of the homily—but I could also appreciate that I was pushing the boys through their usual naptime. So we improvised, and my expectations for how they should behave steadily plummeted.
By the time we returned to the Mass, it was time for the Consecration. I knelt in the back. The boys? Well…they didn’t run away. They lay next to me on the cool church floor, overtired but happy. Their only complaints came when it was time to receive Communion. Then I found I had one son quietly whimpering because we had passed a holy water font without stopping and another asking softly, “Why didn’t the priest give me a blessing?”
At the end of Mass, as we watched the priests walk back down the aisle, a kind lady turned and smiled at me. She commented that she had seen me with the boys and said they had done well. As it turned out, she was a mother of two boys, now in their 20s, and she said she wished they had come with her.
I told her that I had thought about not coming—or not bringing our sons. But I wanted to be there, and I wanted my boys to experience not just going to Mass on the Fourth of July, but also the opportunity to see so many priests and religious gathered to pray.
What I didn’t say—but thought later—was that even though our preschoolers don’t understand what freedom means now, they will understand soon enough. Then the lady said something like “That was quite a scuffle back there,” and nodded toward the back of the Basilica. Oh, dear, I thought. We really were noisy. I need to do a better job with the children. Maybe I shouldn’t even have brought them. How did I think I could handle them both myself during a Mass lasting more than two hours? I almost started apologizing and then realized she was saying something about a sign.
It turned out a group of people—not protestors—had carried a huge banner into the church and were escorted out. Aha. That scuffle. I missed that. It must have happened while I was downstairs with my boys, maybe about the same time Daniel ran over to point to a statue outside the gift shop.
Sure, we could have celebrated our new U.S. citizen’s first Independence Day with a parade or fireworks. But it would be hard to top the moment when he grinned up at a statue of the Sacred Heart and shouted, “Big Jesus!”
The photos were taken by my sister, Treasa Beyer, who remembered to bring her camera.
July 05, 2012 09:05
By Rita Buettner
The other morning we were walking toward our car, carrying the dozen bags or so we always seem to pack for our day away from home, when Leo stopped suddenly.
“Look!” he said. “A flower!”
There, beside our sidewalk, just feet from our front door, was a bright yellow flower. Its long petals were stretched out, pointing toward the sunshine, and it seemed to have come from nowhere. I’m not a flower expert, so I don’t know whether this is a weed or some exotic blossom. All we knew was that we had not planted it ourselves, it was an unexpected surprise, and—in the sunshine of a summer morning—it seemed like a rare gift.
Daniel ran over to look and—as any 2 ½-year-old might do—he smiled, took a breath, and proclaimed, “Fow-er! Mine!”
“NO!” Leo said. I braced myself for what was sure to come next, an argument about how he had seen it first, how he was the big brother, how yellow is his favorite color, or whatever other explanation he had up the sleeve of his Star Wars T-shirt. But I underestimated him.
“No!” Leo said firmly—and he spoke with the authority of a boy who became a big brother 10 months ago. “You are wrong. That is not your flower! Not! At! All! That is GOD’s flower. He made it, and He put it there.”
What else was there to say? Daniel didn’t try to argue—and he didn’t seem to care. Certainly I wasn’t going to get in the way of this conversation. The boys gave the flower one more fleeting moment of attention and then raced off to the car to see who was the fastest.
As it turned out, I thought I had no idea where the flower came from, but I was wrong—and Leo remembered. Just when we think we’re teaching our sons a little bit about life, we realize how much we have left to learn from these minds and hearts that are blossoming more every day.
July 03, 2012 04:46
By Rita Buettner
The lights flickered once, then twice, and stayed on. Just when we were thinking we might not lose electricity, the neighborhood went dark. We had just enough time to find the flashlights and go to bed.
When we woke up Saturday morning, you could feel the heat creeping into the house. Our boys were fascinated, trying the light switches again and again. Yes, the lights in the dining room don’t work either, I said. You’re right! Not even the ones in the basement.
We explained that nothing electric would work, not the phones, not the computer, and not the TV. “But what if we’re really, really good and we get a movie as a treat?” Leo asked. Sorry, I said. Not even then.
Then we climbed into our car and went shopping. We spent money on marvelous things—Spiderman hand towels, a cupcake carrier, an 85-cent DVD of Superman cartoons—we would never have found if we hadn’t been enjoying the store’s free air conditioning.
Then we hit the road for Clarksville.
My husband grew up in Holy Trinity parish in Glen Burnie, where his parents met Msgr. Anthony Sauerwein. When Fr. Sauerwein moved to St. Louis in Clarksville, John’s family became involved in both parishes, and every year they went to the Clarksville Picnic. John hadn’t gone for 20 years or so, but suddenly our day was wide open. Reaching Clarksville would require driving a decent distance, but time in the car was time in air conditioning. Off we went.
When we got there, it was obvious that Clarksville had been hit by the storm. The traffic light at the church’s entrance was out. Still, we had nothing else to do—and the picnic was on! We picked out a few used books, played on the playground, and shopped the yard sale—where I found a 50-cent stainless steel gravy boat just like my mother’s.
As we walked around the campus, John reminisced about how Fr. Sauerwein—wearing a straw Bing Crosby-style hat—used to hand him and his siblings a bag of change to spend at the picnic. Because of the outage, there was no fried chicken—which meant none of the long lines of hungry people he remembers. John was delighted to see the same little ride there, though it wasn’t running either.
Unfortunately, the church and chapel were locked, so we couldn’t pay a visit. That meant the boys missed out on the three wishes I tell them they can have every time they visit a new Catholic church. But they were hot, and I’m pretty sure their wishes would have been for water, apple juice, and maybe a milkshake.
The next day, once our power had returned—and we know how lucky we were because so many are still in the heat and the dark—I thought about what a blessing Saturday was.
We had a day all to ourselves, unreachable by phone or email. We couldn’t cook with our electric stove or do laundry, so we just played and read and, when it got dark, we slept. Our boys loved pretending we were camping and using flashlights to climb the stairs at bedtime. At one point that afternoon, Leo fell asleep sitting next to me as we read together, and I got to hold him while he slept. He is growing so very quickly, but he is still content to sleep in his mother’s arms.
I couldn’t help but think back to our first days with each of the boys in China. Becoming a new parent in another country isn’t easy, but part of the pleasure is that you have no household chores or other responsibilities. The phone never rings, and no one knocks on the door. You just focus on your child. Of course, in the hotels in China we had electricity, hot showers, access to boiling water, and magnificent breakfast buffets.
The next morning our power was back, and I heard Leo calling urgently for me. “Mama,” he said, as I walked into his room, “can I be a bee for Halloween?”
“Of course,” I said—though I’m not starting on any bee costume since this is at least the 15th idea he has had since last October.
“Mama, are the wires fixed?”
“Yes,” I said. “The lights are all working now.”
I left him for a few minutes, and when I came back, he had his ceiling light, his lamp, and even his nightlight on—and his ceiling fan was set on the highest speed. He was giddy with excitement. So were we all.
July 02, 2012 10:40
By Rita Buettner