When I realized Leo’s Pre-K class was planning a field trip to the zoo and his younger brother's class wouldn’t be going, I wondered whether Daniel would be upset. But he didn’t seem to care.
I tried not to mention it too often, but when it came up, I made sure Daniel understood this was a school trip just for Leo’s class. Every time we mentioned it, Daniel acted totally indifferent.
Then during breakfast the other day Leo made his grand announcement.
“We got to pick our lunch for the zoo,” he said, “and I am going to get a hot dog.”
That’s when the tears started to flow.
“Can I go to the zoo?” his little brother asked between sobs. “I want a hot dog!”
I assured him we would take another family trip to the zoo sometime soon and have a fantastic time.
He kept crying.
“We can have hot dogs for dinner,” I said.
Moments later, the tears were gone.
Later at school, Daniel waved happily from the window as we boarded the bus to go to the zoo.
I took pictures to share with Daniel, just in case he wanted to see what his big brother was talking about.
But that evening Daniel didn’t care about the rhinos or the warthogs or the baby monkey or the sleeping lioness.
He didn’t join us as we talked about how God had made so many different kinds of animals. Who but God would give a zebra his stripes? Or an elephant her nose and tusks? Who else could create enormous, dozing polar bears?
If Daniel was curious about the animals we saw—and what else he missed during his big brother’s field trip—he didn’t say a word.
Our 3-year-old was too busy eating his hot dog.
It wasn’t our finest hour nutritionally. But if a package of hot dogs is all it takes to help a little brother not feel left out of a field trip, you’ll find me breaking my rule of only going to the grocery store once a week. As a third child of six, I know it won’t always be that easy. And life will be packed with disappointments that I can’t—or won’t—prevent. This was an easy one.
By the way, if you ask Leo what he enjoyed most at the zoo, he’ll tell you it was this baby colobus monkey
, though he calls it "the baby lemur."
But I was there.
And I can tell you the biggest smiles of the day came when he was sinking his teeth into his very own hot dog.
May 23, 2013 09:43
By Rita Buettner
— 1 —
On Mother’s Day morning Leo and I went to Mass together. When we got home, he asked for paper and scissors and cut out a heart for me. Then his little brother had to do it, too, though he needed a bit more help. Those cut-out hearts, along with the sweet hugs they gave me unprompted during the day, mean more to me than any gift I can imagine.
— 2 —
We missed my sister Treasa’s birthday party last weekend because our household was under quarantine (not literally, but close enough), so we’re making her a birthday cake this weekend. I’m trying to decide what kind of cake to make. Do you have a really delicious, not too complicated, non-chocolate cake recipe you’d be willing to share? It can be any flavor that isn’t chocolate. It just needs to be something I can frost because my sons and I have a vision for how we are going to decorate it. And they also don’t believe in unfrosted cake since all they're planning to eat is the frosting.
— 3 —
I’m almost absurdly excited for Saturday evening.
Treasa, a friend, and I are going to a Bingo to raise funds for Teresa
, who is awaiting a heart transplant. I had no idea how many extra costs are not covered by insurance, and her family is bracing itself for the financial impact when her transplant occurs—and they are hoping that will be soon. If you live near Catonsville, Md., and are free Saturday evening, maybe you’ll join us for what is sure to be a fun evening! You can learn more here
— 4 —
I enjoyed this piece trying to spark a revival of the name Mary.
Don’t you love talking about names? My name was my grandmother’s name, and our—and St. Rita’s—feast day is next week, on May 22. I have always loved sharing a name with my grandmother. Here is a photo of her holding me at my baptism in Loyola University Maryland’s Alumni Memorial Chapel. (That’s Rev. William M.J. Driscoll, S.J., baptizing me.)
— 5 —
I had decided to watch The Little Couple every Tuesday night to watch their journey to adopt their son from China, and I haven’t managed to remember to watch it since the premiere.
So I’ve missed at least two episodes. I have decided that maybe I’m just not good at fitting TV into my life. One of my friends tells me this is why I need to figure out how to work our DVR.
— 6 —
Our sons have become obsessed with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I was afraid to introduce it to them because of the child catcher. I remember being petrified of this man with a long crooked nose who went around snatching children. But when we watched the movie with the boys, he was such a minor character, and the boys seemed unimpressed.
Our boys love all the music of the movie, everything Chitty Chitty Bang Bang does, and especially all the dancing. Watching two mini-Dick Van Dykes dance around the room has been a highlight of our week, whether the boys are using light sabers or flyswatters or butterfly nets as they perform “Me Ole Bamboo.”
— 7 —
On our way out of Mass on Sunday Leo and I noticed this sign for the first time.
We have been attending separate Masses on Sundays because of behavior concerns for the youngest member of our family. But maybe I should take it as a sign that we should try attending Mass as a family again.
Read more quick takes at Jen's blog. Have a great weekend!
May 17, 2013 07:20
By Rita Buettner
— 1 —
When we enrolled the boys in preschool, I was surprised to discover just how much the teachers genuinely cared about our children. They share stories about our sons with me, celebrate their successes, offer advice, and don’t roll their eyes when I ask them not to tell my son to stop sucking his thumb.
So for Teacher Appreciation Week I was determined to celebrate them. On Wednesday I was ready to deliver baked goods when we discovered we were taking a sick day instead
. By Thursday morning the baked goods were no longer intact.
So I went to the dollar store, bought floral flyswatters for each of the teachers, wrote a poem to tie to the handles, and spent last night getting them ready.
Then Leo got sick, and we found ourselves missing yet another school day on Friday.
Fortunately the gifts won't get stale before next week. The boys are so excited to give them to their teachers, which was part of the appeal to me. I like it when our children are giving gifts they are excited to give
As you can probably tell, this gift idea didn’t come from Pinterest. This was the idea of a desperate mother who believes people can always use more flyswatters and poetry.
— 2 —
Ah, Mother’s Day, the one day of the year when John makes sure I don’t have to cook dinner. But it’s not all about me, or even my mother, grandmothers, and friends and family who are mothers.
You see, there are two mothers on the other side of the world who have been on my mind especially this week. There are also women who took care of our sons while they were in China, and they mothered our sons until we could hold them in our arms.
One of them was our older son’s foster mother, a truly amazing woman who loved him with a love as deep as any mother’s. She gave him the tremendous gift of knowing what it was to be loved, and to be part of a family. We send her photos of Leo from time to time, and the last time we received photos of her looking at his pictures. Look at this one of her waving to our son from thousands of miles away.
I'm honored to share Mother's Day with so many amazing women.
— 3 —
Leo's teacher asked him questions about me for Mother’s Day. He got everything just right except for my age, which he overshot by…well…not that much, actually:
— 4 —
Today is my sister Treasa’s birthday and also her half-anniversary.
It’s hard to believe the newlyweds have been married six months. While I work on baking and decorating the cake for her party tomorrow, with the help of two rather ambitious junior chefs, why don't you relax and watch their amazing first dance?
— 5 —
One of the many reasons we were excited about Treasa marrying George was that George’s brother is a Baltimore City firefighter. He generously invited the boys to come see his fire station last weekend, and they were almost as curious about everything as I was.
Did you know firefighters still slide down poles? And they use the same bell the station used in 1907 to wake them up for a fire? I had no idea. Daniel keeps asking to go back just to see “the man slide down the pole.”
We didn't let the boys use the pole. They had to take the stairs.
— 6 —
I had heard that the Walters Art Museum had placed reproductions of paintings around Baltimore, and we saw our first one when we stopped at a playground this week.
You can see it made quite an impression on Leo.
— 7 —
If you missed the touching guest post my friend Laura wrote for my blog earlier this week, 10 things a special-needs mom learned (the hard way), take a few minutes to read it.
It’s a powerful piece—and I’m not the only one who thinks so. I'm so excited to see all the visitors who have stopped by to read Laura's post!
Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers reading. If you're waiting to become a mother or you're not able to be with your mother this weekend, please know that I'll be keeping you in my prayers.
May 10, 2013 04:03
By Rita Buettner
If I had posted Facebook statuses throughout my day yesterday, it might have sounded rather miserable. But when I look at it with a half-full approach, I realize it was actually a perfectly fine day.
Bad: Our son got sick in the car on the way to school.
He told me ahead of time and managed to vomit into a bag. I am in no hurry for our 3-year-old to learn to read, but these are valuable life skills. (And, no, I don’t know where my cakesaver
Bad: The traffic on our morning commute was horrible.
Good: We hadn’t gone too far when we had to turn around to go home.
Bad: I couldn’t deliver the baked goods we had planned to take for Teacher Appreciation Week.
Good: I didn’t deliver my sons to school only for the teachers to have to clean up a mess—or be vomited on. The teachers may not feel appreciated, but I’m sure they will appreciate that the sickness was discovered before we arrived.
Bad: I couldn’t get an appointment to see the pediatrician until almost noon.
Good: Because the appointment was at mid-day, my husband was able to meet us and spend time with our older son so I didn’t have both boys running around the pediatrician’s office. We got to see him and spend time together on a playground before he went back to work.
Bad: We’re dealing with yet another ear infection. Ugh.
Good: They’re just ear infections. They get cured. We are blessed beyond measure to have two healthy children.
Bad: We ate lunch late and the boys were overtired.
Good: When they finally fell asleep for naps, they slept for more than two hours.
Bad: I had to take an unscheduled day off from work.
Good: If I had to miss a day, it was the best day for me to miss all week. And despite the illness, everyone was well enough to enjoy spending time together.
It’s all a matter of perspective. For some reason yesterday I kept noticing the bullets we had dodged, or how the situation could have been more difficult. It makes me realize how often God must be in the details, and yet I fail to notice Him there.
Some days maybe it’s not a question of whether the glass is half-empty or half-full, but just recognizing how great it is that no one dropped and shattered the glass on the floor during breakfast.
You have to admit, that is pretty fantastic. After all, that could easily happen tomorrow.
Is your glass half-full or half-empty today?
May 09, 2013 01:41
By Rita Buettner
Laura Hatcher and her husband, Brian, have two children, Olivia, 10, and Simon, 7, and are parishioners at Church of the Nativity in Timonium, Md. As we look ahead to Mother’s Day, I invited her to write a guest blog sharing how raising Simon, who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and hydrocephalus, has changed her perspective as a mother. Thank you, Laura, for sharing your family’s story with us.
A few weeks before our second child was due we learned that our baby had "something seriously wrong" with his brain. In that moment I went from being a mom to being a special needs mother.
For me, becoming a special needs mother was a metamorphosis. From that moment to today, I have turned into a completely different person, as the lucky parent of a superhero child with challenges—and his amazing big sister. My priorities changed, my perspective on the outside world changed, and my hopes for the future have changed.
This was not an easy transition, and I really don't wish it on anyone. However, although every special needs mom I know would give anything to heal her child, I don't know one that would choose to go back to the person she was before experiencing special needs motherhood.
Because it's true that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. It is also true that experience is the best teacher, and the experiences that come with parenting an extra-challenged kid can be intense, impactful, and inspiring. You learn fast because you have to. You filter out what is really important because you just don't have space for the other stuff. You find new ways to deal with stress and uncertainty and being overwhelmed, feelings certainly shared by all parents, because for you they are a constant. And, you learn how to see the rainbows on cloudy days, celebrate the small stuff, and find strength you did not know you had.
Here are 10 things I’ve learned as a special needs mom:
1. Give up the guilt.
Special needs parents elevate parental guilt to an art form. We cannot help but burn to know why our children suffer, and we constantly question if we are doing enough to help them. We interrogate the professionals, we yell at God (it's okay, God is big and can take it), and we wonder what we could have done to make bad things happen to our innocent babies. For many of us, it is a question that can never be answered. And for those of us that do know the reason (or think we do), knowing doesn't change the outcome one bit.
My son had a stroke in utero that led to myriad complications. But one of the most unnecessary complications was my deep-rooted fear that somehow what had happened to my baby during my healthy, uneventful pregnancy was my fault. Though many doctors have done many tests, and though I repeatedly asked what I could have done to cause the stroke, there have been no answers. Sometimes, said my OB, these things “just happen.”
That was an answer I found very hard to accept, and it took me years to realize what focusing on it was costing me. Spending so much time in that backwards-thinking headspace robbed me of the ability to be present or to truly move forward. It wasn’t until I stopped fixating on the "why" that I could finally fully focus on the amazing kid in front of me.
2. A little compassion goes a very, very long way.
When I am having a rough time, even a small kindness can give me the encouragement I need to keep going. A stranger sees my melting-down kid and lets me go in front of him in the check-out line (with an understanding smile). I'm anxiety ridden and vent on Facebook that I could use some cookies, and they appear (still warm) on my doorstep an hour later with a note that says my family is loved. A hospital tech doing a blood draw on my frightened young son takes her time with us and gives him a toy car from a stash she bought with her own money. A teacher has coffee with me on the weekend to brainstorm about how to make things better for my child. The school bus driver carries my son into the house because it is raining. A friend makes me dinner. A doctor discharges us quickly from the hospital because she has an autistic son and knows how important it is to get home soon....
I keep these kindnesses (and many others) like pearls on a necklace that I can take out and hold when the going is tough. Remember that some disabilities are invisible, that heartache can't be bandaged, and that we are all fighting a hard battle. Be kind whenever you can, and know how much even the smallest act can glow for a person through the gloom.
3. You're going to worry (a lot). So learn to do it constructively.
Part of parenthood is worry, and it is fair to say that the worrying is compounded exponentially when you have a child who is chronically ill, or has a disability. You hold onto hope, you try to focus on the positive, you tell yourself to stop worrying so much, maybe you even get some professional help. But—let's be real here—not worrying is just not going to happen.
So, learn to focus all that negative worry-energy into positive action. I first try to do everything I can to learn about it. Then, I make lists (lots of them) full of things to DO—places to learn more, people to talk to, plans of action to create and implement.
For example, a little over a year ago I was terrified that my little guy would have a dangerous seizure in his sleep. I worried about this so much that I didn't sleep. So, I used some of this sleepless worry time to research and quickly found out that there aren't any FDA-approved seizure detection devices (shocking, I KNOW!). More research led to phone calls which led learning about seizure-response service dogs, and through continued conversations with doctors, nurses, and engineering students, I discovered that a pulse oximeter worn to bed would let us know if Simon was having a seizure or was in distress. This system—combined with a video monitor—works like a charm and now I can sleep (most) nights.
4. You can choose to not be alone.
When you feel small and frightened, do what you did when you were small and frightened. Reach out your hand for someone to hold.
Your spouse is called your partner for a reason. That friend who offered to help, she means it. Your family wants to be bothered. It is what families do for each other. The truth is that many good people would love to help you, they just don't know how because you haven't told them yet.
When I first decided to pursue getting a service dog for our son, I was simultaneously overwhelmed by the cost and excited at the prospect of what a dog could do for our son—and our family. As soon as I started telling people about it, they literally jumped at the chance to help us. Without my ever asking, the money for the dog was raised by people who knew and loved us, as well as people who had never met us but were inspired by our story. A year later I am still getting letters from people inspired to do good things (like hold fundraisers for children's hospitals, epilepsy research, and service dogs) in my son's name.
5. Recognize that sometimes it IS all about you.
In order to be a healthy parent you literally have to be a healthy parent. We special needs parents know we have to live forever in order to take care of our kids, and you can't do that if you don't take care of yourself. Find things that you can do to take care of yourself, just for yourself, to stay or get healthy and sane. I go to power yoga and I get my nails done. You figure out what works for you and then keep doing it because you need it, like oxygen.
6. Be present. Now. Didn't work? That's okay. You can try again. Now.
Now is what matters. It is what you can impact. It is what the past and the future are made of. To those of us that have spent time in the NICU and the PICU and have seen how fragile life is, this simple truth is profound. Stop regretting and fearing. Save the reminiscing and planning for when you are not holding your beautiful child, and try to just breathe life in. The best part is, if you have trouble doing this (in yoga we call it "monkey mind"), it's okay because now is a new moment and you can try again.
7. You are the expert on your child. End. Of. Story.
8. Being a part of a solution makes the problem more manageable.
Life is full of problems, for all of us. Some are small (like the irritating way my toilet won't stop running without jiggling the handle multiple times), and some are big (like an insanely low rate of funding for epilepsy and rare disease research and education). Problems get smaller when you choose to do something about them.
For example, I could choose to learn a little about plumbing and fix the toilet issue more effectively. Or, I could spend several months working with a team of neurologists from two different hospitals to create a system of patient-friendly epilepsy information materials to put a dent into the widespread lack of education provided to newly diagnosed epileptics and their families. (It's funny how that second one seemed easier at the time. I can always call a plumber.)
9. Forget winning. Celebrate progress, because it is progress.
We live in a culture that celebrates achievers. When your child has missed every milestone in the book, you have to find a new approach. You have to learn that your definition of achievement isn't reflective of anyone else's. That is something that can only be defined by the individual. And, just maybe, your definition is better. So work towards finding it—however slowly and however many steps forward (or backwards) it takes—and then celebrate it all along the way.
Because even slow progress is progress. Because the first word is that much sweeter when you have waited so many years to hear it. Because every game played by the special needs baseball league is as joyful and emotional as the world series.
10. Your strength does not have limits.
Nothing surprises me more than when another mom tells me that she couldn't do what I do. (And it is worth noting that not wanting to do something is different from not being able to do something). If it is your child who needs you, you can—and will—do whatever is necessary.
You can stay awake in an intensive care unit for three days straight because you are waiting for your child to wake up from a coma and you want to be the first thing he sees. You can sell the business you put your whole life and passion into so you can be closer to the medical center your child needs to be treated at for his rare disease. You can yell sternly at your very sick child to take their medicine "or else," even though there is nothing more you want to do than scoop them up and take them away from everything that hurts them.
The things I have done myself, and the things I have seen other parents do because it was what their child needed can be impressive; but they are not at all astonishing.
You can endure almost anything physically, mentally, financially, or emotionally if it is the best thing for your child. You should just know that, and be confident in it. Because that is what unconditional love is.
That is being a mother.
How has raising a child with special needs changed your perspective as a parent?
May 07, 2013 10:13
By Rita Buettner
— 1 —
Ever seen a Johnny Jump Up? I don’t think I even knew it was a flower. I thought it was something you bought and attached to a doorway for babies to jump in. Anyway, I saw my first one—or the first one identified as such—on our trip to Williamsburg.
Isn’t it lovely? And don't you like it even more because of its name?
— 2 —
Yesterday I spontaneously decided to take today off from work.
When my sister was planning her wedding
, I promised that I would take off a day and we would spend time together. It was supposed to be sort of a bachelorette celebration, but I’m pretty sure we missed the window of opportunity on that since she and my brother-in-law have been married six months next week. So it will just be a day of fun. We’ll window shop, maybe get a cup of tea somewhere, perhaps speak in British accents, and quote randomly from The Princess Bride
and whatever Jane Austen film we wish we had time to watch.
My new year’s resolution was to take one day off each month, and I’ve failed. This will be my second day off this year and, as I just realized this week, it’s May. And I can’t be the only person who has had this song running through my head for the past three days.
— 3 —
If a person keeps a candy bowl in his or her office, is it appropriate for a visiting child to ask for a piece? My sons joined me for a work-related errand yesterday, and they were excited to see candy bowls in the offices we visited. Normally our rule—which is rarely followed—is not to ask for something that is not offered. However, is an open bowl of candy a sign that an offer has already been extended?
Not asking for an M&M was apparently too much for my 3-year-old candy enthusiast to grasp, and I was just happy he asked politely when he asked. So I didn’t make a big deal over it. But now I’m wondering, am I being too strict or not strict enough?
The bigger question is why am I worrying about candy bowls when the harder thing for a child to grasp is general office etiquette, such as don’t walk behind the person’s desk, don’t throw yourself toward the couch, etc. And, of course, their favorite part of running errands was the running part.
— 4 —
A friend in Baltimore County called 911 when his cat was stuck in a tree last week, and the fire department apparently threatened to call the police on him.
So now I’m wondering: Do fire departments not rescue cats anymore? If not, why not? And, if they don’t, who does? Just in the past few days I have seen this story about a Florida kitten rescued from a wall
and this one about the Harford County Fire Department rescuing a fox from a drain
. Maybe it varies by county? We don’t have a cat, but in the children’s books you can always call the fire department if a cat is stuck in a tree. I just assumed that was how it worked.
— 5 —
I borrowed my father’s beloved GPS from him for our trip to Williamsburg last weekend. As we were driving through tree-lined Nowhere, Va., with no idea where to go and no help from the GPS, John and I were grumbling about how worthless it was.
“If I were driving,” Leo said from the backseat, “I would turn around and go home.”
We didn’t, but I won’t say we didn’t think about it. Even our printed directions weren’t helping much, and it all seemed rather hopeless. We did eventually find our way, but it took longer than it should have.
Later I realized the battery in the GPS had died and I had plugged it into the wrong socket in the car. I think that’s called human error. Once I figured it out, it did start talking to us again. But I’m still not sure I am a GPS fan.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, Williamsburg is a very, very, very, very long drive for a day trip from Baltimore. John and I were glad we made it a day trip rather than an overnight because it worked better for us to sleep in our own beds and it was much less expensive. But I can’t honestly recommend it as a day trip without mentioning that the trip took 12 hours and 7 ½ of those hours we were in the car.
Here’s the thing. I was raised by parents who woke up one Easter morning and, after Mass and baskets, put us in the family van and drove 5 ½ hours to have a picnic lunch with my two sisters who were in college. Then we drove home—another 5 1/2 hours. And we thought it was fun. (Note, if you ask my father, he'll tell you he made it in under 5 hours each way.)
Other than the excessive driving, our trip to Williamsburg was quite memorable
, and we got to spend time with our friends from South Dakota who happened to be on the East Coast. We hadn’t seen them since August 2011 when we met them on our adoption trip to Daniel in China. John and I thoroughly enjoy them and loved connecting with them. There’s something special about the friends you make on that journey to parenthood.
I don’t say it often enough, so thank you, thank you, thank you for reading my blog.
When I wrote about our experience with infertility
last week, I received such an amazing response, with so many thoughtful comments. I was so touched by the personal experiences so many of you shared. So I just want to say how thankful I am that you stopped by, whether for your first visit or second or 17th.
May 03, 2013 08:48
By Rita Buettner
When I was growing up, all I ever wanted to be was a mother.
Not a veterinarian.
Not an astronaut.
Not a writer.
I wanted to be a mother.
That never changed. I grew up and met the most wonderful, giving man. We fell in love, got married, and waited to become parents.
It didn't happen.
As we realized we were dealing with infertility, I felt so helpless. I couldn’t understand why two people who were so ready and eager to welcome a child couldn’t become parents. Yet there we were, perfectly happy in our marriage, but experiencing the sadness and disappointment that comes with not being able to bear children.
Being open to God’s plan seems easy until you realize it doesn’t match yours.
From the beginning, we trusted in Him completely. We never considered IVF. After all, I thought, if He could place a child in the womb of a virgin in Nazareth, He could certainly send us a child, no matter what miracle was needed.
Then our miracle came. It wasn’t a flash of light or a vision. It was more of a gentle, nudging whisper. It was one small sign after another. Tiny points of light popped up through the darkness, growing brighter as they lit the road to our becoming parents.
Even before marriage John and I had spoken about adoption casually as a “maybe someday” sort of thing. But in our fourth year of marriage we noticed that adoption just kept coming up. As we started paying more attention, it seemed to be everywhere.
One day I came across the question, “Do you want to be pregnant or do you want to be a mother?”
The answer was obvious.
I kept thinking of that line in Sound of Music
when Julie Andrews says, “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window
We climbed through that open window, and a new journey began. We found ourselves exploring questions about birth histories, medical needs, orphanage behavior, grieving and attachment, international travel, and piles and piles of paperwork. A little more than a year later we flew to China to meet our first son.
As I share this during National Infertility Awareness Week
, I know our story is nothing unusual. But as I look back on those days of disappointment today, I see them in a much different light.
our infertility seemed like such a heavy burden.
Today, I see infertility as a blessing. Having children by birth was just another door that God gently closed. He asked us to trust, hope, and pray. As we waited, I never imagined that His plan would be so magnificent—so perfect for John and me. Our Creator knew us far better than we knew ourselves.
Last night after dinner our 3-year-old was sitting at the table, his bare feet draped over the arm of the chair. He grinned as he pointed to each of us and said our names, his big brother first “…and Mama and Baba and me! My family!”
Yes, little one. We are your family. Your father and I have been blessed beyond our wildest dreams. And we are so tremendously grateful for the journey that brought us to your brother and to you.
April 24, 2013 09:39
By Rita Buettner
— 1 —
Who knew that 5-year-olds came with so many questions? During just one half-hour drive this week I found myself explaining why bicyclists always have the right of way, why people steal credit card numbers, and how we try not to spend more money than we make. Leo thinks the word “budget” is one of the funniest words. When I say it, he just laughs and laughs
I love how the boys discover new words and give me new perspective on others. When I picked them up from school the other day, they were playing in the sandbox.
“What are you making?” I asked.
“Mama,” said Leo. “We are making an interruption.”
“Um…an interruption?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, “a volcano interruption.”
Aha. My favorite kind.
— 2 —
Do you make three wishes when you visit a church for the first time? My mother always said we could, so I tell our sons the same thing. When we visited St. Louis Church in Clarksville on Sunday, it was our boys’ first time, so they each made three silent wishes—or prayers, really—once we were in our pew.
When we took the boys to Mass to a church during our summer vacation last year, I mentioned that it was Daniel’s first visit, but not Leo’s.
When we walked in, an usher greeted us, and Leo leaned toward him and whispered loudly, “I already got my three wishes.” Then, having reported in, he headed for a pew. I hope that usher made note of that in the official church records.
— 3 —
Speaking of wishes, the “porcupine" growing out of our sidewalk turned to seed.
Leo and Daniel were so excited. They ran to pluck it, and Leo got there first—and didn’t want to share. Luckily it was too hard for him to blow the seeds off. In the end, they both blew and blew and blew and handed it off to me to finish. I felt like the Big Bad Wolf huffing and puffing with nothing happening. I wonder who got the wishes. Let’s hope it was the person who wished for extra sleep.
— 4 —
If you had been there when the bombs went off, which way would you have run—away from the bombs or toward the people who needed help?
I keep asking myself this question, and I'm not proud of what I think would be my response. Maybe in that moment the Holy Spirit gives people unexpected courage. (And, if you are new to the blog, here's my post
from earlier this week about a conversation in the Beijing airport from three years ago that I can't get off my mind.)
— 5 —
Looking for a good read? I enjoy Grace Lin’s writing, and her latest is an uplifting young adult’s book with Chinese culture woven through it, Starry River of the Sky.
I don’t think I love it quite as much as Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, but that’s sort of like trying to decide whether you like macaroons plain or dipped in chocolate. You’ll eat them regardless because they’re absolutely decadent either way. Lin is a marvelous storyteller. I also like that the main character is a boy, which may make the book more appealing to our sons one day.
— 6 —
My latest book idea is a guide titled Holy Big Boy Underpants, Batman! How to Toilet Train Your Son by Convincing Him He’s Robin. Of course, that won’t work for everyone. It just happens to be working for our son, whose diapers didn't go with his superhero attire. It may not be a bestseller, but it's more helpful than the mother on the playground who tells you, “Our 13-month-old woke up one morning and said, ‘Mommy, I don’t want to wear diapers anymore,’ and that was it! She was trained!” I’m just happy we made it through without having to buy an expensive prize.
— 7 —
Speaking of prizes, you may find this hard to believe, but only one person submitted a papal limerick in honor of National Poetry Month.
And, believe it or not, she's related to me.
Here is my sister Treasa's outstanding contribution:
When Benedict the sixteenth resigned
We wondered, "Will they ever find
Another one who
Can fill up his shoe
And lead our Church with heart and with mind?"
But from hot Argentina there came
A cardinal, Jorge by name,
Much loved by his flock,
And with faith like a rock
And a love for the sick, poor, and lame.
Though Pope Francis was unknown at the start
In no time he has won the world's heart.
We just can't get enough
Of this pope who can stuff
Calamari and spreads joy by the quart.
CNS Photo/Paul Haring
Read more quick takes on Grace's blog as she fills in for Jen, whose newborn son is home from the hospital.
April 19, 2013 07:19
By Rita Buettner
It was December 2009. John and I were sitting in the Beijing airport with our newly adopted son, waiting for our flight home.
We fell into conversation with a few people waiting with us. They were American college students, all studying abroad in China and flying home for Christmas.
I also noticed an older Chinese couple. The woman was rocking slowly as she read aloud from what I think was a Buddhist prayer book. Now and then she and her husband smiled at Leo, even when our 2-year-old spilled a bottle of juice onto the floor.
At one point, the Chinese woman came over to Leo and offered him an orange. She carefully took a white napkin and tucked it gently under Leo’s chin to catch the drips.
We thanked her in our feeble Mandarin and she nodded, but we couldn’t say much else. So we asked one of the college students if he would help us translate. We talked about our trip and our new son, and then John had a question.
“Ask her why they are traveling to the United States,” he said.
The student asked. And suddenly the woman started to cry.
Her husband explained the tears, as the student translated. Their daughter, who lived in Virginia, had been murdered by her American husband. They were traveling to Chicago on our plane and then flying to Dulles, Va., to handle funeral arrangements.
We were stunned. We spoke with them for a while, as John answered their questions about the justice system in the United States and we offered our sympathy—all through the translating student.
Last night when I saw that the third person killed in the Boston Marathon bombings had been identified as a Boston University student visiting from China, I thought of that couple. I remembered the sadness in their eyes as they spoke of their daughter. And I thought of the Chinese family that will fly to the United States after learning the worst possible news about their daughter this week.
What a terribly long, unimaginably emotional journey.
After we finished that conversation three years ago in Beijing, we boarded the plane. And we flew to Chicago, where we learned that everyone headed to the East Coast was stranded due to the snowstorms in the Mid-Atlantic.
It was only after John and I had checked into our hotel that night, and we were scrambling to figure out how we were going to get home
that I thought of that grieving couple. They also must have been stranded in Chicago.
By the time I thought of them, of course, we had no idea where they were. John and I could only hope that they had been met by representatives of the Chinese Consulate or another agency who could help them make their way to their daughter’s town.
I think of that couple from time to time and still remember the sorrow and kindness I saw in their eyes. I wonder how they endured that journey and that new chapter in their lives without their daughter. I hope somehow they were able to find peace. And I pray for that same peace for all of the families grieving the loss of loved ones this week.
April 17, 2013 12:30
By Rita Buettner
— 1 —
Last week I asked for recommendations for a new camera to replace my broken one, and I heard from so many people! Thank you. One friend who wrote rated her camera high and it happened to be available for $45 on woot.com. I figured it was meant to be. I ordered it and cannot wait for it to arrive. I hope it comes before our sons grow too quickly. They have been looking especially tall.
— 2 —
Speaking of cameras, I was upset mine was broken on Tuesday. Former prime minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair visited Loyola University Maryland, where I work.
As it turned out, though, I have a wonderful memory from that evening. I wrote about the benefits of not having a working camera that evening on my magazine editor’s blog. (And this photo was taken by my friend Theresa Wiseman.)
It was one of those days when I wasn’t sure how gracefully I was balancing motherhood and my career.
At 3:30 p.m. I was chasing our 3-year-old son through a sandbox at his preschool, trying to persuade him it was time to get in the car. Two hours later I was waiting with the press for Tony Blair to arrive to deliver a statement to the media. And shortly after that I was shaking his hand and he was smiling and saying he remembered me.
I wish I had thought of something witty to say or a good question to ask. (And I wish I had realized I would be having my picture taken that day. Somehow you can tell that Mr. Blair wasn't running through a sandbox shortly before this photo was taken.)
— 3 —
I also wish I hadn’t panicked when my husband called me last night. I was on a work assignment in Chevy Chase, Md., just outside Washington, D.C. John was on his way to pick up our sons.
“What time does the school close?” he asked—and I could tell he was upset.
I looked at my watch. The answer was “now.”
A road was closed and John had to create his own detour on unfamiliar back roads. I was 90 minutes away from our sons in good traffic—and this was at the peak of rush hour.
Add this to the list of times I could have used a helicopter.
I managed to reach one of the teachers on the phone and she assured me that the boys were with her, and it was fine. But I didn’t calm down until I knew John had the boys in the car and they were on their way home.
I almost always handle dropping off and picking up Leo and Daniel, and those can be some of the best—and also some of the craziest—moments of the day. But last night as I worried about where John was and when he would reach the boys, and whether he was as panicked as I was, I was especially happy to think that our sons have each other. They weren't alone.
Meanwhile, I’ll need to be extra generous during Teacher Appreciation Week.
— 4 —
I haven’t purchased groceries in 10 days. We are trying to cut down on our grocery spending, so I am trying to limit myself to one weekly trip, instead of going two or three times for smaller trips each week. As we limp along to the weekend, I was thinking we might be able to last until Sunday. I have a feeling, though, that I’ll give in and hit the store on the way home tonight. How often do you shop for groceries?
— 5 —
Ever thought of creating parishmatch.com? After offering advice to a new-to-town friend who was hunting for the right parish for Holy Thursday and Easter Mass, I'm thinking there might be a need for a website to help people figure out which parish fits them best.
You would answer questions about what you are looking for in a Catholic church—décor, atmosphere, community, child-friendliness, homilies—and you’d receive a list of a few parishes in your area that best fit your wish list. It would be sort of like ratemyprofessors.com, but for parishes. Then when Catholics return to the fold, they might be more enthusiastic about the experience and be more likely to stay connected.
— 6 —
Are you on Twitter? I have almost as many followers as my brother-in-law does, and I am trying to catch up with him. You can find me @openwindow_cr. Of course, it’s only fair that I tell you that George—my brother-in-law, that is, not my parents' tree—is @ReviewMatysek.
— 7 —
During his homily on Divine Mercy Sunday Fr. Gene Nickol told us that the Divine Mercy Chaplet had saved his life. “Yes,” he repeated, “I said, ‘It saved my life.’”
Father described being abducted at knifepoint back in 1994 and saying, “For the sake of His sorrowful Passion, have mercy on us and on the whole world,” over and over while he huddled in the trunk of his car, as his abductor drove. And he described how he managed to escape.
It was quite a story. And I have to admit that I've only said the Divine Mercy Chaplet once. But now I'm thinking it's probably time for me to give it a try.
Jen isn't hosting the quick takes today since her baby boy was born on Monday and he is in the NICU. Please keep him and her family in your prayers. You can read other quick takes on our guest host Grace's blog.
April 12, 2013 11:06
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By Rita Buettner