I don’t know much about parenting. What I do know is that I have been given two basic responsibilities.
First, I must help our sons get to heaven.
Second, I must keep them safe and healthy so that, if possible, they only go to heaven after leading full, wonderful lives of service to God and humanity. Ultimately their lives are in God’s hands, but I will do my best to help our sons live long, rich, selfless lives on Earth.
Yesterday’s shooting at Perry Hall High School made me stop and think.
It made me think of safety.
I can keep all the outlets covered and use safety gates at the top of the stairs. I can warn our sons not to jump off the couch or to open the stove. I can even insist that they drink only organic milk.
But I can’t protect them from every danger. I can’t assume they are safe if they go to see a movie with their friends. And I can’t trust that they will be safe when they go to school.
Other dangers are more abstract—and much scarier to me.
The danger of responding to the allure of evil.
The danger of falling into depression or despair.
The danger of whatever it is that could lead someone to direct violence against other people, people created by God.
And that is an even greater worry.
What can I do as a parent to help our sons choose the right path, even when another one might be more tempting—or might seem like the easier option?
How can I give them courage—so they will try to fight against evil—and humility—so they will realize others’ lives are valuable?
How do I ensure that they will always, always, always value life?
As a parent, I worry about our boys’ safety. But when I see the evil in the world around us, I worry just as much—maybe more—that they will make bad decisions that will hurt others deeply. It’s my job to help them make good ones, to live lives of truth, to grow ever closer to Jesus, and to love and serve him.
Don’t get me wrong. I know that there is also an abundance of good in the world, and that God is everywhere.
I see him in our sons’ smiles and in the late afternoon sunshine.
I hear him in the crickets chirping in the mornings and in my son’s voice singing “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”
And I felt God with me as I left my boys at preschool this morning, waving goodbye to the greatest treasures I’ve been given, and praying they would be safe and well.
Today I am praying for the student who was injured in the shooting and for his family. I am praying for the other students who witnessed the shooting and their families. And, hard as it is sometimes, I am also praying for the student who has been charged with the crime and for his family. It is not my job to defend or condemn. It is not my job to understand why or how this happens.
Instead, my job is to raise my sons to love and serve God—and to make sure they grow to be steadfast advocates for good, for life, and for love.
It’s an enormous challenge. I hope and pray that, with God’s grace, John and I are up to it.
August 28, 2012 05:45
By Rita Buettner
It was sort of a blind date.
I had met a man on a Catholic dating website, spoken with him several times on the phone, and we were meeting in person for the first time.
He suggested we meet at a midpoint between our homes. We settled on dining in downtown Ellicott City on a Saturday evening.
“Why don’t we go to Mass beforehand?” I asked. I couldn’t think of a safer—or more appropriate—place to meet a blind date than at a Catholic church. Besides, if he balked, I figured I’d know a little more about him. Without hesitation, he agreed and found a Saturday Mass for us at St. Mark’s in Catonsville.
We had talked easily during our phone conversations, so I was curious to see how we would connect in person. But I was relaxed as I pulled into the parking lot at St. Mark’s.
I was about 15 minutes early, so I parked and waited for him to arrive.
Then I started wondering.
What would he be like? What would he think of me? Was there anything I didn’t know about him already?
And it was then that I saw a white pick-up truck. I could only see the driver from behind. His left arm was resting on the window ledge. And he was holding a…what? A cigarette?
Could that be my date?
Did he smoke?
Had he posted that in his profile?
Was I so excited to see that our views matched on artificial contraception, the ordination of women, and weekly Mass attendance that I had overlooked the fact that he was a smoker?
And did it make me terribly shallow that I was thinking of fleeing a church parking lot because I couldn’t see past this one habit?
I was frozen. I was flustered. I didn’t know what to do.
So I slouched down in my car and waited.
A few minutes later the pick-up truck drove away, and I relaxed. I got out of the car and walked up to the front steps of the church.
And there, just minutes before Mass began, my date arrived.
He wasn’t smoking.
He was apologizing for being late.
He was smiling.
And he looked as happy to see me as I was to see him.
We went into the church and sat together—separated carefully by a first-date distance. One of the readings that day was the reading we heard yesterday from Ephesians 5.
“Wives should be subordinate to their husbands as to the Lord.
For the husband is head of his wife
just as Christ is head of the church,
he himself the savior of the body.
As the church is subordinate to Christ,
so wives should be subordinate to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives,
even as Christ loved the church….”
I listened to God’s Word and wondered what this man sharing my pew was thinking. Did he see the beauty in those lines, or did he believe they were irrelevant in the 21st century? If nothing else, I figured it would give us good dinnertime conversation later, along with the story of the smoking truck driver. And it did.
I can’t recall every moment of that first evening together. But I remember the man I met. Thirteen months later our lives were joined forever as we said our vows before our family and friends.
Yesterday morning I walked up those same steps at St. Mark’s holding the hand of a different young man, our 4-year-old son. (John went to a later Mass.) Together Leo and I listened to the same lines from Ephesians 5 that his father and I heard nine years ago this weekend.
Well, we listened to some of the lines. The truth is that just as the lector started reading, Leo leaned over and whispered into my ear, “Mama, when it’s my birthday, can you and Baba give me a rocket? And can you make me a rocket cake?”
He got a whispered “yes.” Then he sat quietly—if not entirely still—for the rest of Mass.
Leo may have been thinking of his rocket cake.
Me? I was thanking God that my blind date nine years ago led me to a man who shares my faith and tremendous love for our two sons.
Only God knew that a journey that started at that Catonsville church would lead us along so many paths—including on two trips to the other side of the world to adopt our sons—and then bring us back, week after week, to the same church to worship together.
August 27, 2012 08:34
By Rita Buettner
We have a standard way of celebrating our boys’ “Gotcha Day” anniversaries. We carry in won ton soup, steamed dumplings, and chicken lo mein.
Last night, however, traffic on our commute home was terrible. And the boys were starving. So, instead, we gathered at a somewhat formal Chinese restaurant we have never tried as a family.
As a transracial family, we can be a bit conspicuous, so we get some second glances. Entering the Chinese restaurant last night with our two boys, however, we became instant celebrities.
Within moments we had five or six smiling restaurant staff members, all of Chinese descent, gathered around, murmuring about how beautiful our sons were. Then the questions started.
“Are they twins?” asked one woman.
“No, but they’re brothers,” said John with a big smile. It’s hard to believe anyone could look at our boys, designed so differently and so wonderfully by God, and think they are twins. But it’s not the first time we’ve fielded that one.
“You’re so lucky,” said another lady, beaming down at our boys, who were digging into the fried noodles and sauces on the table. “Two boys!”
"Yes,” I said, smiling back at her. “We are very lucky.”
Then the lady said to us, “They look like you!”
She pointed to Daniel and said, “He looks like you,” and pointed to my husband. Then she pointed to Leo and said, “and he looks just like you!” and pointed to me. And the waitress standing with her smiled and nodded in agreement.
Wow. That one threw me for a loop.
“Well…” I said, a bit taken aback.
I looked at Leo’s jet-black hair and my hair, light brown with more than a little gray. I glanced at Daniel’s deep brown eyes—magnetically drawn to the duck sauce—and John’s hazel eyes, watching to make sure Daniel didn’t knock a water glass off the table in his haste to get the sauce to his lips.
I glanced at the boys’ healthy summer tans and their parents’ pale Irish-German skin.
Then I noticed John’s smile and Daniel’s, and how they were leaning toward each other. And I decided the waiters were either finding a physical connection where I didn’t see one, or that they were trying to offer a compliment.
Saying thank you seemed silly because it doesn’t matter to us whether our boys look like us—or anyone else.
But I wanted to say the right thing to these kind-hearted people who had welcomed us so graciously into their restaurant—and who so obviously admired our boys. The truth is that when we were in China, we heard a similar comment about Daniel looking like us. So maybe I am just short-sighted, or maybe it’s a cultural difference and it’s meant as a compliment.
Or maybe, just maybe, they were trying to say that as they watched the four of us interact, it was obvious that we are a family.
Whatever they meant, I felt I had to respond.
“Well,” I said finally, “I guess that’s just how it happened to work out.”
Then Leo decided to dip a fried noodle into a bowl of hot mustard. Immediately, one of the ladies stopped him. “Oh, no!” she said. “That is too spicy! Very, very spicy!”
And suddenly I was back in China—a country where complete strangers approach you to fuss over your children, pulling the boys’ pant legs down over their ankles or offering them candy or a Mandarin orange.
What an appropriate way to celebrate our anniversary of meeting Daniel in China, I thought.
We get stuck in terrible traffic—although it was still nothing like driving through Beijing.
We find ourselves dining in a white-tablecloth restaurant when it would be so much more convenient to feed our children at home.
And the kind members of the wait staff are making sure our boys don’t burn their tongues on spicy food.
Leo took a good look at the spicy mustard on his fried noodle. Then he looked at his audience and grinned. “It’s hotter than a Hunan pepper!” he announced—and the waitresses gasped in delight.
“Now, how does he know that?” one of them asked, watching Leo hand the food to his father to eat.
Well, that’s our boy who was born in Hunan Province.
And, you know, some days this world feels really small.
August 23, 2012 10:18
By Rita Buettner
One year ago, in a sunny government office in China, a reluctant—frightened, actually—20-month-old boy was placed in our arms.
Today he runs at us with so much energy and excitement he could knock us over.
One year ago we marveled at our little boy’s deep brown eyes, his wisps of hair, and sweet pink lips.
Today his hair bounces as he jumps around the yard, his eyes sparkle with mischief, and his lips are always moving—talking, talking, talking.
One year ago he was wearing a vibrant orange SpongeBob outfit we knew his big brother would envy.
Today he has an opinion about his wardrobe—if there’s not a vehicle or a character on the shirt, he wants it to go back in the drawer.
One year ago when we met him, he was clinging to a little plastic bag of cookies and crackers. We couldn’t interest him in a bowl of congee, Chinese rice porridge, which was supposed to be a favorite.
Today he wants to eat the whole bowl of tomato sauce, noodles, grapes, and a popsicle for dessert. And he’s always the last one to leave the table.
One year ago our baby boy cried in our arms, holding onto us as we—strangers from the other side of the world who loved him even before we met him—tried to reassure him in English and the bits of Mandarin we knew. (He knew only Cantonese.)
Today when he cries it’s because he needs a Bandaid, a hug, or a referee in a battle over a toy.
One year ago he couldn’t fall asleep unless he was pressed up against his Mama—the whole night.
Today he sings along with me as I sing “Toora Loora Loora” and then goes to sleep without a sound. Then as he’s getting dressed in the morning, he groggily says, “Back in my bed.”
One year ago we met our younger son, whose picture we had seen five months earlier. He was confused and sad and scared. He was leaving everything and everyone he had ever known to join our family—and he was unprepared. He was too young to understand, and too old not to have been told what was happening. But his nannies at the orphanage hadn’t wanted to upset him, and there we were.
In that government office, as other families were created around us, we all cried together. Later that night our little boy gave us his first smiles and, in his sweet scratchy voice, he called us “Mama” and “Baba” for the first time.
Today our boy is confident and opinionated. His third birthday is still months away, but he insists that he’s five. He loves helicopters, Mater, playgrounds, and—when he grows up—he wants to be a fire truck man.
One year ago a 20-month-old boy was placed in our arms, and he became our son forever.
That day, today, and every day in between, we thank God for giving us a son and for giving Leo a brother. We are truly blessed.
August 22, 2012 07:20
By Rita Buettner
As a family, we are fans of hand-me-down clothes, dollar stores, and frugal, fantastic fun. We don’t mind the occasional splurge, but we also realize how fortunate we are to live in an area where there’s so much affordable fun—especially for preschoolers.
Here are some of the tried-and-true spots we’ve found for local adventures ranging from free to $5.
1. The Maryland Light Rail
This is especially fun to do on a sunny day, just in case you have to wait for a bit to catch a train. When we ride on Saturday mornings, the train cars are mostly empty. We climb aboard in Hunt Valley—where it’s easy and free to park—and ride as far south as we’d like. Then we get off, do a little exploring, and wait for another train back.
Price: Children 6 and under ride for free. It costs $1.60 per adult each way.
2. Air and Space Museum Annex
The National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is in Dulles, Va., so it’s a bit of a drive, but it has a huge airplane hangar full of fascinating airplanes—and even a space shuttle. We haven’t taken Daniel yet, but this is high on our list of places we’ll go when we have an unplanned day. There’s also an observation gallery where you can watch the planes take off and land at Dulles.
Cost: Free—including parking
3. A Trip to Fort McHenry
Going into the fort itself offers a history lesson—and it’s free for children 15 and younger. If you don’t feel like paying admission—which we rarely do—you can enjoy the sense of history and the view of the water for free. There are numerous shady spots where you can picnic, play catch, watch tugboats and barges slip under the Key Bridge, say “cheese” next to a cannon, or sing the Star-Spangled Banner at the top of your lungs.
Cost: Free to visit the grounds; admission to the fort itself for ages 16 and up is $7
4. The Trolley Trail
John and I have been doing this since we moved to the area—but the boys enjoy it too. Catonsville’s Trolley Trail, which starts at a few spots in Catonsville, is free and nicely paved, so you can bring a stroller and hike the former streetcar path into downtown Ellicott City. There you’ll find the owner of the Forget Me Not Factory—our boys call him “The Bubble Man”—pacing the sidewalk in front of his store blowing enormous bubbles. He’s often in costume and he invites children to help with the bubble-blowing.
Cost: Free unless your children talk you into ice cream cones
5. Clark’s Elioak Farm
Remember the Enchanted Forest? This is as close as we can get to the old amusement park in 2012. Don’t remember the Enchanted Forest? You’ll still enjoy wandering Clark’s Elioak Farm with your children. A lot of the rescued fairy tale structures are there, as well as a petting zoo, a pumpkin patch, and a pine tree maze. Our boys love sliding, climbing, running, and shivering in fear as they gaze up at the statue of the giant on top of Jack’s beanstalk.
Cost: $5 per person, infants 12 months and younger are free
6. A few favorite parks
Lots of area parks are free and some even have nature centers and trails to explore. Annie’s Playground in Fallston, Md., is phenomenal and free. Two of the low-cost-but-not-free parks we have enjoyed recently are the Watkins Regional Park, which offers a train and a carousel ($1.75 a ride, and parents ride free), and Patapsco State Park’s tire park, which costs $3 per-person-not-in-a-car-seat on weekends and holidays. The website says that the tire park is for ages 5 and up. Apparently I’m not the overprotective mother I thought I was since neither of our boys is 5 and we had a wonderful time.
7. Library visits
We’re partial to the Enoch Pratt because our boys have two Pratt librarian aunts, but your local library is bound to have something fun happening. The Pratt libraries offer special story times with music and rhymes for the 3-and-unders and 3-and-overs, sessions in Spanish, and Toddler Jumps programs designed for 2-year-olds. If you haven’t visited the children’s area at the Pratt’s Central Branch, it’s worth the trip. There are live fish, book cushions to collapse on, and artificial tree trunks that make one room feel like a forest. We’ve even attended a Fairy Tale Ball and made paper bag dragons. And everything is the right price—free.
8. The Penny Pony
On days when I can only find dimes or nickels in my purse, a Shoppers employee slips a penny into Leo’s hand so he can have a one-cent pony ride. Daniel lives in fear of the pony, but it’s a great incentive for Leo to sit nicely as we fill our grocery cart. We go to the Shoppers on Route 40 in Ellicott City, but other stores may have a Penny Pony.
These would have made the list, but…
One of our other favorite spots is the BWI Airport Observation Gallery, which is free except for parking ($4 an hour, and we rarely stay any longer than that), but it’s closed for renovations. And I wish I could include the Walters Art Museum or Baltimore Museum of Art—both of which are free—but we haven’t taken the boys to either one yet.
You can also find some ideas and discounts on the Economoms Baltimore site.
Of course, on the mornings when the garbage truck comes through our neighborhood, Daniel is the happiest boy in the world—and that doesn’t cost a thing.
So where should we take our boys next? What local, inexpensive fun are we missing?
August 20, 2012 09:21
By Rita Buettner
As we were taking the first steps on our adoption journey, I trusted that God would lead us to our child.
I wasn’t sure which country we would find our child in, whether that child would be a girl or a boy, whether she would like pickles or polka or he would like baseball or bugs, but I felt sure there was a child God had chosen for our family.
However—and this is a really big however—I never believed that child would be conceived and born just to become our child. The story is not that simple.
When I saw the title of this blog posted on The New York Times site, I knew I had to read it. As a Catholic, as a Christian, I don’t believe in destiny or magical thinking. I believe that God is the creator of heaven and earth, but I also believe that we humans have free will. The last quote in the piece, however, resonated with me, as a mother recognized how troubling it is to think that the children you adopted were always destined to be yours.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I absolutely saw God’s hand throughout our journeys to both of our sons. I believe he held these boys in the palm of his hand from their first moments of life, that he placed them in the care of loving, kind people, and that he ultimately guided them to our family. And I feel that God brought our boys into our family because he has specific missions for them that he feels we can help them accomplish as their parents. And we are so very, very blessed to have that role.
But to suggest that these children were created to be ours makes them sound like possessions we were entitled to, rather than gifts from God. It’s dismissive of their special, personal stories. It’s also disrespectful to the women who gave birth to them and had to make heartbreaking sacrifices. I cannot believe that God would merely use women in China as surrogates to carry and deliver children for adoptive parents in the United States.
And I feel sure that our loving God, whose compassion knows no limits, would never want one of his own beloved children to have to experience the tragic loss of a first family on the way to a forever family.
But tragedy happens.
Life is not perfect.
Exercising free will got human beings evicted from the Garden of Eden long ago.
And so, when Plan A for our sons failed, God was there to create a Plan B.
John and I are not our sons’ Plan A. But—and this is humbling to admit—adopting was not ours. Had God sent us children by birth, we would probably never have met Leo and Daniel. That is so troubling, but I can’t and don’t think about what might have been. After John and I were married, God blessed us with infertility and then opened our hearts to adoption—leading us to these children, our extraordinary sons, who match our family so perfectly and enrich our lives in countless ways.
I don’t call that destiny.
And I don’t really know what magical thinking is.
But was God at work in our sons’ lives from their earliest moments of life? And was he at work in ours as he prepared us for parenthood and guided us to China—twice?
Oh, yes. That I believe. His fingerprints are everywhere.
August 16, 2012 09:31
By Rita Buettner
As I was thinking of the Feast of the Assumption today, I found myself remembering a small chapel in Guangzhou, China, which John and I have visited on both of our adoption trips to China. The chapel is dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, and there is a small grotto with a statue of the Blessed Mother.
I attended an early morning Mass there when we were in Guangzhou in 2009, listening to the Rosary and then the Mass in Chinese—Cantonese, I suspect, though I do not know. I remember that as I was receiving communion, the priest recognized me as an American and said, “Body of Christ" in English.
John and I tried to attend a Mass there with Daniel last year, but the correct Mass time was lost in translation and we were too late for the service. Still, we were able to pray there, and as we knelt in a pew on that humid August Sunday, a kind, older man turned on the fan closest to us. We were so touched by his kindness.
As we were leaving the church, we saw this sign outside. I can’t tell you what it says, but I recognize the picture.
Hail Mary, full of grace.
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God,
pray for us sinners now
and at the hour of our death.
August 15, 2012 05:20
By Rita Buettner
When John and I started our adoption journey, our social workers at Catholic Charities told us we should try to connect with other adoptive parents. It would be important, they said, to form relationships with families whose children shared our child’s heritage. It would also be beneficial for our child to know other children who had entered their families through the miracle of adoption.
John and I nodded obediently. We weren’t looking to expand our social circle, but we could see why it would be positive for our child. What we didn’t realize was that we would make some amazing friendships of our own.
Some families we have met in person. Others we met online through blogs and online adoption forums. And then others we encountered while in China, watching our children grieve and then smile in the arms of their new and forever parents for the first time. The bonds we have with those families are so very special.
A few of our adoption friends are local, but many live around the country. So it isn’t always easy to connect in person.
Yesterday I took the day off and drove two hours each way with the boys to visit a friend and her son, also adopted from China in 2009, and just about a year older than our Leo. We met online—through the adoption blogging world—when we were waiting together to meet our sons. Yesterday the boys played and the moms talked. Then we all went to Chocolate World in Hershey, Pa., just minutes from our friends’ home.
When I told Leo and Daniel that it was time to leave, they were both disappointed to see the day end. So was I.
Then this evening we entertained friends who live in Texas. John and I met this couple—and their second son—almost a year ago in China. Tonight our younger sons were taller and speaking more English, but the rapport among their parents was the same. Our four boys became friends and superheroes—or maybe they were racecar drivers—and sped through our house and yard waving swords and flyswatters.
The boys didn’t talk about China or adoption, and we wouldn’t expect them to. They just argued about whose turn it was to hold the sword and tried to figure out which way to steer the Lightning McQueen tent.
When they are older, maybe they will talk about something deeper. Or maybe they won’t. But the hope is that they will feel less alone, just because they know other children who were adopted. Our sons actually have many friends who were adopted not just from China but from other countries. If anything, I worry that they don’t understand that children can be born into families who raise them.
Still, I believe those social workers were right. These relationships are important for our children. But what they didn’t tell us was how much fun it would be for us to make these new friends, to connect with people from around the country who would share this adoption journey with us.
We had planned to carry in Chinese food for dinner tonight, but John suggested that pizza would be simpler. And somehow it seemed appropriate. After all, we ate pizza with these friends nearly a year ago when we ordered Papa John’s for an evening dragon boat ride in Guangzhou.
I remember gliding along the river admiring the vibrant light display of Guangzhou, holding Daniel close and whispering a promise to bring him back to China again someday. And we hope we can.
Maybe some of our boys’—and our—friends will want to join us.
August 15, 2012 12:07
By Rita Buettner
We haven’t always had great success attending Mass as a family. Lately John and I go to separate Masses, and Leo goes with one of us. We let him pick which one. Two weeks ago his stuffed friend became a priest and celebrated Mass quietly in the pew.
At 4 1/2, Leo is definitely old enough that he is taking something away from the experience and understands why we’re there. It’s harder for Daniel, who is two years younger.
Yesterday, though, John and I decided we would all go together. Some recent Sundays when we have tried this, we have regretted it—such as the Sunday a few weeks ago during the Consecration when Daniel started fake coughing and announced loudly that he was choking. “Kheh, kheh! I doking, Mama! Doking!”
Yesterday we wouldn’t have earned a 10.0—John put us closer to an 8.0—but for the first time all four of us managed to stay in the pew for the entire Mass. No one needed to be taken out to calm or quiet down. We brought some books and some coloring pages, and we sat near the front so the boys could see. And the boys had been well-rested and fed. It wasn’t easy, but it was easier than a few months ago.
To remind myself what a great experience we had, I decided to jot down the reasons I’m happy we went to Mass as a family of four:
- Ears were opened. During the first reading, Leo turned to me and whispered a phrase he had just heard. “Be kind to one another,” he said. It was worth repeating—and it reminded me that we weren’t just trying to get through Mass quietly, but actually take something away from it.
- Hi, Jesus! At one point when Daniel was squirming and really wanting to stretch his legs, I whispered, “Hey, look at what the priest is doing,” and he stopped and looked. Then his gaze went up to the large crucifix hanging over the altar. “Hi, Jesus,” he said.
- Gather us in. Our priest, Fr. Gene Nickol, was greeting families as they walked into the church this morning. I love that they got to see him before, during, and after Mass. Most Sundays Leo—who is not a huggy child with strangers—gives the priest a hug after Mass. Our boys seem to have a healthy affection and respect for these men shepherding the congregation.
- We weathered the storm together. As we were singing “How Can I Keep from Singing?” during the offertory, I couldn’t help but glance over at John on the refrain, “No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock I’m clinging,” and he grinned back at me. Maybe I shouldn’t feel as if we’re clinging to a precipice while attending Mass with our children, but I still find it stressful. But we made it through—together.
- How can we keep from singing? Daniel is a very vocal child. My parents and I took both boys to a holy hour during the Fortnight for Freedom, and my father was trying to hush him at one point—before I gently pointed out that Daniel was actually saying the last line of the Hail Mary. He was just saying it more loudly and less clearly than anyone else in the chapel. Yesterday Daniel sang even when he didn’t know the words. At the end of Mass a woman came up and complimented the boys on their singing, gestured toward the far back of the church, and said, “I could hear you from way back there!” Yes. Yes, I bet you could. Even if you’re reading this blog in China, you could probably hear Daniel singing yesterday. And I was proud of him for singing and wanting to participate.
- God bless the kind people who sat near us. At the kiss of peace, both boys were in handshaking mode—a rarity—and Daniel didn’t get to shake the hand of a woman who was more than a few steps away from our pew. The Mass moved forward and he started to get upset. This woman realized why Daniel was grumbling—and trying to sneak out of the pew—and extended a hand. That was most gracious of her, and it made Daniel’s day.
- John and I didn’t miss Mass. One of my main concerns with taking the children is not whether we distract the rest of the congregation—which is a big enough worry—but whether John and I get to participate fully in Mass. Yesterday John and I not only got to hear the homily—but the same homily. When we go to separate Masses, we enjoy comparing notes on the different homilies we hear, but we liked being there to hear Fr. Gene’s message, which spoke specifically to families. He told us the Eucharist gives us the strength to be the kind of people God calls us to be. And that reminded me that we have to be patient and help our children get through Mass and see it as a beautiful time, and not a time when they are constantly corrected.
- Attending Mass is sweet. We had promised the boys a trip to the playground if they were quiet during Mass, and they earned the trip. Then on the way out the new youth ministry table was offering lollipops. The idea of a lollipop before noon makes me feel a little queasy, but the boys were happy. I do want them to see going to Mass as a positive experience, and to want to go.
What will we do next week? I’m not sure. But this week we celebrated a small success.
How was your Mass experience this week? And if the most stressful moments I experience each week are while I'm trying to keep my boys still and quiet during Mass, how can we keep from singing?
August 13, 2012 10:17
By Rita Buettner
Most days I wouldn’t even get a bronze. In fact, maybe I wouldn’t even make it through the Olympic Trials. But there are days when I feel I should get at least a nod for successfully getting our boys to the car.
The morning trip to the car could be one event. When we finish our not-so-synchronized breakfast-eating, we have time for a few minutes of play, shoes go on, and we head out the door.
On a good day, Leo and Daniel sprint to the car, jump in, climb into their seats, and wait for me to buckle them in.
Sometimes we pause on our way to point out a plane flying out of BWI.
Some days we stop to see rocks or flowers or bees.
On the more common days—the days that would make for better primetime viewing—one son races down our hill toward the back of the house, while his brother discovers a broom on the porch and tries to use it to pole vault over the railing.
Sometimes we drop a stuffed animal or two, realize we forgot the lunchboxes, or someone falls and scrapes a knee. Then we stop, regroup, and start the whole event over again. We rarely set records, but we always get there in the end.
Where the boys truly shine, though, is in the afternoon event.
They enjoy their time at preschool, but they are positively delighted when I arrive to pick them up. We have a joyous reunion as the hugs turn into a chaotic celebration and then an intense race to see which one can reach the water fountain first.
We athletes have to stay hydrated, you know.
Some days just getting out the school door is as complicated and mysterious as figuring out water polo. I collect lunchboxes, stuffed sleeping friends, artwork, wet bathing suits, and look around to realize one son is in the bathroom and the other is playing with a plastic pig. When we finally get Team Buettner back into a huddle, we still have to make it out the door, up the sidewalk, and to the car.
And this is where the real weakness in our Olympic team is revealed, because our youngest teammate wants so badly to win the race that he often leaves us in his dust. This is a new experience for me. I used to assume children stopped when you yelled “Stop.” I also thought maybe there was an innate fear of roads and parking lots. That is, in fact, not true. And it scares me.
The other day in frustration I said to Daniel, “If you can’t stay with us when we are walking toward the car, maybe I need to get a leash.”
“Oh, Mama!” said Leo. “Can I have a leash too? Then I could be like a bear in the circus.”
Hmm. Maybe he’s onto something—and I don’t mean the leash idea. But perhaps it’s time for me to give up on our Olympic dreams.
Maybe we have a better shot at a venue with different kinds of rings: the circus.
August 10, 2012 05:13
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By Rita Buettner