Four years ago today John and I boarded a plane for China.
We had never flown together before—and never planned to. But our first child, our son, was waiting for us in China. And there was only one way to reach him. So to China we went.
I felt a whole bundle of emotions: anxiety, excitement, joy, and the enormous responsibility that comes with becoming parents for the first time. And, because it was the first week of Advent, I remember thinking of Mary and Joseph and wondering whether they experienced similar feelings as they traveled by donkey to Bethlehem.
They must have had many worries. Would they find a place to stay? Would the people be friendly? When would they meet their baby boy? How would life change as they became a family of three? Which would be more difficult, the trip to Bethlehem with an expectant mother or the trip home with an infant?
They also had tremendous faith. They knew God would provide, and that His angels were watching over them at every step. But they must also have known it wouldn't be an easy journey. And they must have had to rely on their faith as they welcomed their newborn baby in a stable full of animals, far from their home and families.
Because Advent 2009 was the one when John and I became parents, every Advent brings back those memories of waiting and our journey to China to become parents.
I never imagined that we would become parents on the other side of the world, that we would hear our son’s first English words in a hotel room in China, that there would be such a blending of sorrow and joy in my first moments holding my son. Yet that was our journey to becoming a family. And I wouldn't trade a moment.
So here we are in the first week of Advent once more. I am not preparing to board a plane to go to China. But I am trying to prepare myself to welcome another baby, the Christ Child, who is not just mine, but also yours and, really, the world’s.
This time of year is always full of challenges, balancing responsibilities, and adjusting expectations. This year I want to set as much as I can aside and focus on what matters. Spiritually I want to get on a plane, leave it all behind, and keep my eyes on the Child I will get to embrace at the end of the journey.
I don’t know whether that’s possible in the midst of all the pre-Christmas busyness, but that’s my goal this Advent season. What’s yours?
December 03, 2013 10:58
By Rita Buettner
— 1 —
If you think Thanksgiving gets shortchanged because it’s between Halloween and Christmas, you must not have a child in preschool or kindergarten. I can’t even keep track of who made which turkey craft or construction paper pilgrim hat.
Just when I thought Thanksgiving couldn’t be acknowledged in any other way, I discovered that we had to send in a rock so Leo could paint it to look like Plymouth Rock.
And that was before the school feasts that were held this week where Daniel got to eat what he called “big crumbs.” Maybe that was the Pilgrims’ term for stuffing.
Our Thanksgiving was quiet and small in comparison, and it was bliss. I realized years ago that holidays were designed to bring out the worst in children, so when we get to keep the stimulation to a minimum, I’m truly grateful.
Because my mother told me we didn’t need to bring anything for my parents’ Thanksgiving table, Daniel and I went to the store to pick up flowers. I don’t know how the Pilgrims felt when they saw land from the Mayflower, but I know our joy when we saw an enormous turkey balloon. We grabbed it and went to the cash register where they made up a price for it: $7.99—and worth every penny.
I knew my mother would love it. I also knew my father would be thinking about the national (or is it global?) helium shortage—which is part of the fun of buying a balloon for my parents. And our un-basted, inedible, inflated turkey was the hit of the party—well, except for my mother’s pumpkin pie.
How was your Thanksgiving?
— 2 —
I learned the other day that my niece is receiving a frog for Christmas.
In fact, I think her parents are giving her two frogs. This is not “Eileen,” the niece who had two rats who died over the summer
. This is her younger sister, “Elise,” who is 6 ½ and adores Kermit and all frogs.
Frogs are marvelous. But do you know what frogs eat? Bugs. Live ones. And someone has to feed the bugs to the frogs—and that someone is going to be my sister Maureen or her husband.
I told Maureen I don’t think she has any more Purgatory time to shave off, but if she did, being responsible for feeding frogs would surely eliminate it.
— 3 —
Last Friday Leo’s school had an out-of-uniform day. Students donated $1 to typhoon relief efforts in the Philippines and wore non-uniform clothes. Leo does not enjoy wearing his uniform. He changes out of it the moment he arrives home. And he refuses to wear it in public when he’s not at school.
So I was sure he’d be happy to wear an outfit of his choice. We sat at breakfast that morning talking about the Philippines and I mentioned we had sent some money to try to help.
“Mama,” Leo said, “I’ll wear my uniform and save my money.”
I had to talk him into participating.
“Oh, fine,” he said with a big sigh. Then he went and put on his favorite Ninjago shirt.
Motherhood is full of moments you can’t possibly anticipate.
— 4 —
This is one of the questions: “What place does the idea of the natural law have in the cultural areas of society: in institutions, education, academic circles and among the people at large? What anthropological ideas underlie the discussion on the natural basis of the family?”
Maybe you have an answer, but I still can't come up with anything to say. I wonder who will have to read all the answers. Mine won’t take long since I answered most of the questions with “I don’t know” and “I’m not sure I know what this question is asking.”
— 5 —
Last Saturday we attended a memorial Mass for our nephew Georgie.
It was beautiful and so very comforting. We took both our boys, and Daniel couldn’t get over the fact that we knew so many people at church.
He wanted to know which of the priests on the altar was Pope Francis. Then as my sister began the readings, Daniel turned and whispered to me, “Is Aunt Shai a priest now?”
— 6 —
We love holiday train gardens, and we went to our first one of the season at the Kenilworth Mall this week. The boys pushed every button and compared the design to last year’s.
In another year maybe Leo can offer a ranking of his favorite train gardens in the Baltimore area. We certainly have our favorites. What’s yours? And if it's not in Baltimore, that's OK, too. One of our favorites is almost two hours from here by car.
— 7 —
Typically when we eat out with the boys I don’t actually read the menu. I ask for the soup-of-the-day because we have two soup lovers in our family, and then I scan quickly to find something for me. This week I was scanning a menu when this item caught my eye.
I wonder just how chic those peas are.
November 28, 2013 11:23
By Rita Buettner
The other day I was dropping Daniel off at preschool when his teacher stopped me.
“Do you have a minute?” she asked.
Nothing good ever follows that question. And it never comes on a day when you do, in fact, have a minute.
“What’s going on?” I asked. And she started talking about trouble listening, and I nodded and showed what I hope was appropriate concern.
Then she paused and I knew something big was coming—the real reason for this conversation. And then it came: “He even lost his position as a wise man in the Christmas concert!”
That got my attention. Because, I have to tell you, when I heard earlier that Daniel had been recruited to be a wise man, I was surprised.
Daniel is one of the sweetest, most compassionate children you will ever encounter. If you need someone to run, hug, or make you laugh, he’s your boy. But I’ve seen him in two performances, and neither time did he do anything he was expected to do. He loved being on stage and smiled and laughed his way through the show. But he didn’t sing a word of the songs.
And yet here he had been chosen to be a wise man. I hoped I had underestimated him, but I just couldn’t picture it going well.
“Oh, dear,” I said to the teacher. “What happened?”
“He was pretending the gift was a gun.”
Now there is nothing funny about that—nothing at all. And that is what I tried to tell myself as I struggled to keep from laughing. But the truth is that I could not get out of the school fast enough.
Our little boy loves everyone and everything. When he drops food on the floor, he tells us, “It’s for the mice.” He begs to set the table or mop the floor or wash the windows. But he adores guns. And there seems to be nothing we can do to change that.
The teacher would have been appalled, I’m sure, but I sat in the car laughing and thanking God for this child—and for letting our wise man show his true colors before the actual concert.
On the big day I don’t know whether there will be three wise men or only two—and we have no idea what Daniel’s new job is—or whether he’s been reassigned to the stage crew. But we’ll certainly be there to cheer him on.
November 26, 2013 09:24
By Rita Buettner
John and I did not take our boys to their cousin Georgie’s burial two weeks ago, but I have been wanting to show them where he is buried.
So one day last week Daniel and I went. We found two sticks and made a cross on Georgie’s grave, which isn’t marked yet. Then we gathered the prettiest leaves we could find to leave there.
We said a Hail Mary—Daniel’s choice—and talked to Georgie. Then Daniel leaned against me and said, “Mama, I’m sad that Georgie died.” And I was struck again by how much Georgie has touched—and is still touching—our sons’ lives.
When I told Leo we were going to go to the cemetery on our way to school one day this week, he told me we needed to buy flowers. He has gone several times to visit my grandparents’ grave with my mother, and he knows what to do. So we stopped at the store, where he picked out a flag and the prettiest bouquet of pink roses he could find.
As we drove through the cemetery, Leo started asking why we bury people when they die, and what is a soul, and why is a soul separate from a body. Then he asked about his baby cousin.
“Is Georgie in heaven?”
“Yes,” I said. “We know Georgie is in heaven.”
“Mama! He’s in heaven!” Leo asked. “Does that mean Georgie is a saint?”
And I explained that yes, we are sure he is a saint, and that the priest at Georgie’s burial said so, too. I told Leo that he will never be reading a book and come to a Saint Georgie who is his cousin, but that there are many, many saints who aren’t in books.
“Yes, and only bank robbers don’t go to heaven, right?” he asked.
“Um, yes, something like that,” I said. “We’re not really sure about that part because we don’t know whether the bank robbers are sorry when they die or how exactly God decides who goes to heaven.”
We found Georgie’s grave easily. I hammered the flag into the ground with a rock we found nearby, and Leo arranged the roses in an arc.
As we stood there, I said, “What prayer would you like to say?”
“Mama, we should say the Glory Be,” Leo said, “because that is the right size for a baby.”
And it was.
Then we said goodbye to Georgie, and we promised to come back to visit. And on the way out of the cemetery, Leo said, “And next time we will bring purple flowers—or pink and purple flowers.”
So we will.
November 20, 2013 11:12
By Rita Buettner
— 1 —
I have been overwhelmed with the love and support and promise of prayers from so many of you who read about the passing of our infant nephew and cousin Georgie.
To know that my sister and brother-in-law and our family are being wrapped in prayer brings more comfort than any words anyone could offer. Thank you.
— 2 —
Because we received such very sad news on Halloween afternoon, I felt as if I was just going through the motions that evening. I am trying to remember that part of grieving is picking up the pieces and celebrating life—both Georgie’s and his cousins’—so I will reassure you that we did not skip Halloween this year. That would have been my preference in the moment, but obviously not our boys’.
Darth Vader and a construction worker trick-or-treated through our new neighborhood, though the construction worker discarded pieces of his costume as we went. For part of our journey we joined some older boys, the grandsons of our next-door neighbors, and Leo and Daniel loved that they were part of a group.
At one house on our block we complimented the owner on her St. Joseph statue and introduced ourselves. “Oh, I didn’t know whether you had children, but I made something for you, just in case. I make something special for all the children on our block.”
She came back from her kitchen with this.
The boys were impressed. I hope we’re nice enough people to live in this neighborhood. Everyone is so wonderfully kind.
The jack-o-lantern baker also mentioned her grandson had played with Leo the other day. I wondered how she knew and then I realized—he probably came home and said, “I played with a boy who was wearing a Darth Vader costume.” We really have gotten our money’s worth out of that costume.
— 3 —
The Darth Vader costume may get another wearing this weekend since Leo is turning 6 and he pleaded with me to have a birthday party—and at our house, which is still not quite together after our move.
“Would it be a bad parenting move to tell him we’ll give him $100 if we don’t have to throw him a party?” I asked John. John, being the better and wiser parent, said we should have the party. And so we’re having it—even though Leo's parties the past two years have gone poorly because he hates the attention a birthday party creates. He also dislikes cake. So there will be no cake and no singing—but lots of fun, we hope.
If you have visited this blog sometime in the last six months, you can probably guess the theme: Star Wars.
Almost every night at dinner for the past month Leo has a new idea for something we can do at the party. And we sit and listen to him describe elaborate Jedi training courses he envisions offering in the yard, and I sit there thinking of how to convince him that’s a lot like sitting in a circle and playing “Hot Battle Droid.” Luckily he is excited about the Star Wars cookies we’re making.
The very last thing I want to do right now is throw a party, but I am trying to see it as a welcome distraction—both for the boys and for us.
— 4 —
We have a mouse in our house. And I am told that if we have one, we probably have several. I’m trying to keep everything in perspective, knowing that this is a minor inconvenience. But Daniel has picked up on my fear of mice, and now he won’t let me leave his side.
Meanwhile, both boys have been asking about our old house now and then. The other night Daniel told John he missed our old house.
“What do you miss?” John asked.
“The good food,” Daniel said.
That’s a bit of a mystery to me because the kitchen may be different, but the cook is the same. He might be onto something, though. John offered to pick up take-out on his way home last night, and the boys were really excited.
— 5 —
Earlier this week I attended a luncheon for the Women’s Education Alliance (WEA), an organization that raises money to support Catholic education in Baltimore City.
They raise funds to help make it possible for students from lower-income families to attend Catholic schools, and they also help in very hands-on ways, volunteering in the schools. It is incredible the difference they have made for a young group. This was only the second time they held this annual luncheon.
It's a hat-turned-wishing-well. Isn't that clever?
The two things I took from that event were quotes that I think will resonate with me for a while. One was when one of the WEA leaders spoke of the desire for education to transform the students so they can be “everything God has designed.”
The other was when former Maryland Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick said, “Education is what makes every other profession possible.”
I’m sure others have said that before, but it was new to me. It made me realize that that is one of the reasons I love working in education—though I’m not a teacher. I love the limitless possibilities available to students as a result of their learning.
— 6 —
I found this video to be extremely moving, as it shows children in orphanages in China discussing their understanding of what adoption means.
This reminds me that I want to write more about National Adoption Month
. If you have any topics you'd like me to address related to adoption, please let me know.
— 7 —
A few months ago the boys were playing in our friends’ pool, and I mentioned that I wanted to sign the boys up for swimming lessons. One is nervous in the water and the other is a daredevil, so I think they are both equally in need of learning. But I don’t like pools, swimming, or really water.
My friend—whose house we were visiting—is Daniel’s godmother, and I jokingly said, “I think it’s the godmother’s job to teach a child how to swim.
About a month ago she asked if she could take him for lessons. We had laughed about it at the time, but when she thought about it, she realized it would be fun. So once a week she picks Daniel up from preschool and takes him for a swim lesson. He’s having a wonderful time, and they’re getting some quality time together. And this week he got orange ice cream after his lesson, and he talked about it all night.
I tell her she’ll get all the credit when he wins his Olympic gold medal. And when he does, I’ll try to make some good food.
November 08, 2013 12:14
By Rita Buettner
For the past few months, ever since my sister and her husband told us they were expecting a baby, my sons have been looking forward to meeting their new cousin.
Nothing is more exciting than a new baby, and for our sons, this would be their first cousin living in town, one they would grow up with. We’ve prayed for this little boy, showered him with presents, and called him by name for months. The summer night when my sister called to tell us his name, I handed the phone to Daniel, and he very sweetly said, “Hi, Georgie.”
Then last week, with just about six weeks to the baby’s due date, my sister and brother-in-law lost their son. I got the news and the world stopped. I could hardly breathe. I thought immediately of the unimaginable pain my sister and brother-in-law must be facing, and I was frozen. I can’t describe the pain and heartbreak at losing my nephew, my parents’ youngest grandchild, the baby—little Georgie—we have been so excited to welcome into the world.
I was sitting in the car about to go pick up Daniel when I received the news.
“Oh, no,” I said aloud, forgetting that Leo was sitting in his seat behind me.
“What’s wrong, Mama?” he asked. He had heard more than my words. He heard the shock and sadness.
At that moment I realized not only did I need to share devastating and incomprehensible news with my children—but I had no time in which to prepare. I didn’t know what to say.
I stalled for a few minutes and prayed—not for the words to share the news with my son, but for my sister and brother-in-law and their baby.
When I could speak, I turned to Leo. I started by gently telling him that Georgie had gotten sick and the doctors couldn’t make it better, so he had died. I said that we were happy because Georgie was in heaven, and we’re always happy when people are in heaven, because we all want to go there. But we’re also very sad because we were excited to meet Georgie and play with him and do so many things together.
He listened. And then he started asking the question anyone would ask: “Why?”
After we grappled with that for a while, he said indignantly, “But Mama, you said we would get to meet him!”
And I realized that summed it up perfectly—he felt cheated, and so did I, that we wouldn’t get to enjoy the sweet baby boy we love and have prayed for and gotten to know and marveled at in so many ways. We have watched him grow and we have counted the days until his arrival, imagining his first Christmas and then many more firsts for years to come. It is just so unfair.
I’m not sure how much Daniel, who is going on 4, understands. But one morning he drew a picture for “baby Georgie in heaven.”
Later that day both boys wanted to talk about heaven and their little cousin. Leo was asking questions about how people’s souls go to heaven and their bodies are on earth, and I was floundering a bit. Then he said he wished we knew what the baby looked like.
“Well, actually, I got to see him,” I said. One of the most amazing gifts anyone has ever given me was that the evening after my sister delivered her son, she and her husband invited me to come to the hospital and see him.
My little nephew changed my life long before I held him, but getting to touch his perfect little hands and feet, see his sweet lips, feel the weight of him in my arms, and give him the kisses I told him were from his Uncle John and my two sons—his cousins—was extraordinary.
I had the chance to see him in his parents’ arms, and I will always, always be grateful for that. I sat there feeling so blessed that God had sent them—and their families—this beloved treasure, this sweet child, even though we so dearly wish we could have had him in our arms for much longer.
Leo wanted to hear every detail about what his little cousin looked like. And it was then that I decided I should show him the one photo I had taken of his aunt and uncle with their baby boy. They have many pictures of Georgie, but I asked if I could take just one for my sons. In the photo the proud, loving parents are smiling for the camera, and they are holding their beautiful, wonderfully made baby boy.
I don’t have a print of the picture yet, so I handed Leo my camera.
Our son has never seen a new baby, and I had no idea what he would say about this tiny little boy he has waited for so long. I was actually a little nervous. And then I watched as his face lit up with a huge smile.
“Oh!” he said, beaming with absolute joy as he turned the camera to show his brother the picture. “Look at him! He is SO cute!”
Yes, he is. And he will be forever. And we know when we see Georgie in heaven, he’ll come running to greet us.
We’ve been talking to him a lot over the past few days. I just wish we didn’t have to wait so long to see him again.
We all miss him so much.
November 07, 2013 03:49
By Rita Buettner
Even before John and I were married, we talked about adoption. I wouldn't say we felt called—just that we felt that adoption was a beautiful option.
We were looking ahead to a future that we assumed would include children. And if biology didn't cooperate, we would pursue adoption.
That was as far as the conversation went until we had been married a few years and it became clear that we weren’t likely to welcome children by birth. That's when we started talking more seriously about adoption.
November is National Adoption Month
, and I remember when we first started delving into the questions of how to adopt. John and I started our research by attending a Catholic Charities information session where we learned about attachment issues, special needs, how long we might have to wait to add a child to our family, and all the paperwork and laws and fees and extensive travel that could be involved.
It was overwhelming. But it was also clear that this was the path God had set before us. Suddenly we encountered adoptive families everywhere—at church, at the grocery store, at our favorite restaurant. Friends who had adopted or were planning to adopt were offering advice. And, even though we didn’t know anyone who had adopted from there, all the signs were pointing to one country—China.
Ask John, “Why China?” and you’ll get a well-considered, logical response. For me it was a gut feeling, a belief that China was where we would find our child. And the fact that we were both drawn to China made it even clearer that that was the path we should take.
It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t that difficult. It was like any journey—obstacles would pop up, and others would fade away. There were moments when doors slammed shut and others where windows opened. There was bureaucracy and fingerprinting and the challenge of waiting and waiting and waiting. But once we had a photo of our son, we realized this was no longer about us. It was about him.
We read and prepared ourselves as much as possible. We childproofed the house and then—when the U.S. and Chinese governments said we could—we boarded a plane and flew to China. It was our first flight together. Even today, after nine years of marriage, the only times John and I have flown together have been on our adoption trips.
So, why did we decide to adopt?
Some days I don’t even think it was a decision. It just happened.
One day we turned a page and there was a new chapter—one we hadn’t realized could be so wonderful—and our lives took this most amazing twist. We started down a path that had been set out for us and kept going. And here we are, the parents of two sons who were born on the other side of the world and who fit perfectly in our lives and our family.
It may not have been our first plan, but it’s our best. And we are so grateful.
Adoptive parents: Why did you choose adoption? I'd love to hear from parents who have grown their families through adoption.
November 05, 2013 12:28
By Rita Buettner
— 1 —
Before Leo started kindergarten, I figured he wouldn’t like homework. I thought he’d resent that his little brother didn’t have any, and that he had to do homework instead of playing with his parents.
His little brother begs for his own homework, and I have to create projects so he can sit at the table and work next to Leo—who is perfectly content to do his math and his letters and his cutting and pasting.
As it turns out, the person who likes the homework least—because it eats up our family time and because our little boy is so tired at the end of a long day—is Mama.
— 2 —
Some nights Daniel creeps into our room in the early-morning hours to ask, “Can I sleep in Mama-Baba’s bed?” The answer is always no.
The other night John and I woke up and Daniel was standing in our bedroom doorway.
“Sorry. I forgot to close the door,” he said. Then he slammed the door and trotted off to bed.
You have to love the dramatic exit of a 3-year-old.
— 3 —
We bought a carpet for the dining room. I won’t bore you with the story of how my mother and I tracked down this remnant at a great price and happily carted it home.
The truth is that the rug itself is nothing compared to what was inside it: a monster-sized, super-sturdy cardboard roll. I placed it on our back porch through the rains of last weekend, and then when the grass was dry again I introduced the roll to the boys.
They immediately saw the possibilities. It’s a tree. It’s a pipe. It’s something you can carry by sticking a light saber down either end. It’s a cannon at Fort McHenry.
Now I just wish I had saved it for Christmas morning.
— 4 —
Through her family journey this woman—Sandy Buck—realized how few resources were in place to help parents facing negative prenatal diagnoses, and so she and a friend started an organization, Be Not Afraid
, that offers that support. They celebrate life in amazing ways, helping parents find beauty and joy and hope in what could be a desolate, terribly sad time.
“One thing that we have seen over and over is that at the births, even when the baby dies, they are joyful. The families are prepared and they’ve done a lot of honoring of the life beforehand,” she told me. “It’s a sad event, but because they’re prepared, it’s not devastating.”
— 5 —
As we were driving home the other night Leo said, “We’re almost home!”
At that moment I realized that if we were still living in our old house, we would still have at least another 45 minutes to drive.
“Isn’t it great?” I said. “We had to sell our house and spend time living at Grandma and Grandpa’s house for a while, and then we had to move into our new house, but now we’re there, and we have more play time and more time as a family. So it was worth it, right?”
“Yeah,” Leo said enthusiastically. And I beamed, thinking of how hard John and I worked to improve our life as a family—and how blessed we are that everything fell into place so easily.
Then Leo spoke up again.
“Mama,” he said, “What does ‘worth it’ mean?”
— 6 —
Whenever Daniel sees someone jogging, he says, “Mama, is that a bank robber?” After all, why would anyone run down the street if he or she hadn’t just robbed a bank.
Sometimes I can understand why he asks this question, but a few weeks ago it was a 20-something girl with a blond ponytail and a pink halter top.
Maybe we don’t spend enough time with people who run even when they're not running from the law.
— 7 —
I’ve finally dug most of my pans out of the moving boxes, so I’m back to cooking. One night Leo and Daniel were going on and on about how great Mama’s spaghetti was, and I was just letting them shower me with praise.
“This meal is so good,” said Leo, “that it’s probably better than what my foster mother cooked for me in China!”
I was a little surprised, but also happy that he mentioned her.
It was then that I realized we didn’t know whether she was a good cook—though we are able to tell Leo some of his favorite foods from when he was a toddler in China.
The next day I emailed the only person I know who might be able to tell us about Leo’s foster mother’s cooking, and she confirmed that Leo’s foster mother likely is a good cook since the children in her care always thrived. So I reported back to Leo. But I didn’t tell him that I bet she’d never dream of using jarred sauce.
What a gift to have connections to people who love our little boys on the other side of the world.
By the way...
Did you see the fake spam comment one of my readers left on my blog about spam? I laugh every time I read it.
October 17, 2013 10:58
By Rita Buettner
— 1 —
Today is John’s birthday! Earlier in the week the boys and I discussed what to buy for Baba’s gifts.
“What do you think Baba likes best in all the world?” I asked, thinking maybe I’d get him a photo of his sons.
“I know!” Leo said. “He likes Bigfoot best.”
“Oh,” I said. “I was thinking of his family.”
“Well, Mama,” Leo said, “I don’t think Bigfoot has a family.”
Last year's cake, which can never be surpassed
The boys can’t wait to give him—Baba, I mean, not Bigfoot—his gifts, but I can’t tell you what they are in case Baba reads this blog before he tears the paper off. In fact, Daniel has already shown him at least one of the gifts, and Leo was appalled. It can be hard to be the younger brother.
— 2 —
Today is also the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi!
My favorite St. Francis quote is: “Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
— 3 —
Our children don’t seem to believe we’ll ever move into our new house. The other day Leo said, “Mama, will we move into the house before I turn 6?”
Since his birthday is more than a month from now, I do believe we will. In fact, I suspect we’ll move ourselves in this weekend. Our furniture is all there. We just aren’t living there yet. Last weekend, just as we were preparing to start setting up the beds, John realized the professional painters had painted latex paint over oil-based paint without properly preparing the surfaces, and the paint was coming off the trim. Since we had had quite a bit of painting done, thinking this was saving us time and trouble, it made most of the house unlivable. The painters had to return to sand and clean and prime and repaint.
Still, we have to keep everything in perspective. We sold our old house and bought the new one much more quickly than we expected. We’ll make our way into the house eventually—and maybe even before Leo turns 6.
The boys' room, which we didn't paint black or pink
— 4 —
The other night we were reading Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. We stopped on the last page to look at all the colors in the butterfly’s wings.
“Mama,” said Leo “How does the caterpillar do that? How does he become a butterfly?”
“I don’t know how it works,” I said. “But isn’t it amazing? It’s magical, really. He builds that hard shell around himself, and then he waits, and then one day he breaks out and he’s a butterfly. I actually don’t know how it happens. I wish I could tell you.”
Leo thought for a minute.
“Well, Mama,” he said. “We will have to wait and ask God when we get up to heaven.”
It’s a good thing we’ll have eternity to ask questions. I’m pretty sure Leo will have a few more.
— 5 —
This is a long piece about a father writing a letter to his daughter who has Down Syndrome, but it’s really worth watching.
— 6 —
Leo has never particularly liked to color. And yet last weekend he told me to stay out of the room and surprised me with this amazing drawing. Maybe we just weren’t offering the right inspiration.
I’m sure you don’t need me to explain that the green blob is Jabba the Hut and which of the fighters is Darth Vader’s. I still can’t believe he made this drawing entirely on his own. I’m starting to think kindergarten is some kind of magical place.
— 7 —
Leo’s school asks us to make sandwiches for a Baltimore soup kitchen and bring them once a week. The first week we brought sandwiches, but we have forgotten every week since then.
This week I was determined to remember. I bought bread and cheese on Monday and yesterday morning we made our sandwiches. But, as we pulled into the school parking lot, I discovered we had left the bag on the kitchen table.
I was so disappointed.
Just as I was explaining to Leo that we didn’t have time to go home and get them, my phone rang. It was my father. He had found the sandwiches and was willing to drive them to the school. But when I talked to one of the teachers, I realized he couldn’t possibly make it to the school in time to deliver the food.
I called my father. And we sat there trying to think of where we could take the sandwiches—but running out of ideas. Then I went to work and got pulled into a busy day. But my father wasn’t giving up.
On his way to the office he stopped at a barber shop and asked where people who are homeless congregate nearby. The barber directed him to a park. And my father found a polite, grateful man who was more than happy to take the bag. He promised to distribute the sandwiches to people who needed them.
Last night at dinner Daniel asked Grandpa about the man and the sandwiches, and it occurred to me how much more meaningful it was for the boys to hear about a person who enjoyed one of our sandwiches on the other end of this transaction.
Maybe it’s just as well we left those sandwiches on the table.
October 03, 2013 11:03
By Rita Buettner
— 1 —
Wondering how we spent our anniversary?
Well, I had a work event to attend that evening, so John went alone to Daniel’s preschool back-to-school night. I know, I know. You probably imagined us waltzing barefoot on the beach as the sun set.
But, when I realized I would be finished before 8:30 p.m. and that John would probably be released from the preschool meeting then too, I called him.
Within minutes we found ourselves sitting at a table at our local French restaurant, having adult conversation, reading a chicken-finger-less menu, and asking the waitress to describe the charcuterie du jour.
Life doesn’t get much better than a late-night bowl of French Onion soup and a pile of garlicky mussels and conversation with your husband.
Then dessert comes. And you discover that it’s on the house with a candle because your husband may have just happened to mention that it’s your anniversary.
Meanwhile, my husband, who thinks I take a few too many photos, is lamenting that I didn’t photograph the charcuterie du jour. So we’ll have to go back. Maybe even before our next anniversary.
— 2 —
Last week I told you how I packed Leo’s apple for his school assignment in his outside pocket of his backpack and he thought I’d forgotten to send one, so he was apple-less all day.
He got to do all kinds of fun things with his apple this week, so he seems to have survived the ordeal.
Then yesterday when I picked him up, he told me he was starving “because there was no lunch for me.” Um, what? The school participates in a program that brings lunch to the students once a week, but the parents have to pay in advance. And I had paid—and have the email confirmation to prove it—but apparently there was some error.
His kind teacher found one for him—so I’m not sure why he was starving—but my reputation is really going down the tubes.
— 3 —
John and I are still sitting separately at Mass on Sunday, each with one son, and last week it was my turn to sit with Daniel, who is not quite 4. He was restless, but generally quiet except when he yells during the songs since he doesn’t know the words. Hey, our child of God is participating.
So we’re sitting there, and it’s almost the end of Mass, and Daniel places his firm little hands on my head, turns my face so he can talk right into my ear, and whispers, “Mama. I have diarrhea in my pants.”
Ugh. Why does this have to happen right now? Do I have a change of clothes for him in the car? My mind is spinning as I try to think of a solution. I do not like to leave Mass unless it’s an emergency—which this might be.
Then he leans in to whisper again.
“Mama, what’s diarrhea?”
Aha. That’s when I realize he is just making conversation.
“I’ll tell you later,” I whispered.
And we made it through to the end of Mass—no change of clothes needed.
As Daniel said at the end of Mass, shouting it out after everyone else had already said it, “Thanks be to God!”
— 4 —
Because we were at Mass at a new church—well, new to the boys, at least—I had reminded Leo and Daniel that they each could make three wishes.
— 5 —
The night before our wedding John and I had our rehearsal dinner at a Chinese-Japanese restaurant that we loved.
Taken at our rehearsal dinner: you have to look closely to see my dragon necklace.
There was a waiter there who always gave us lots of attention when we came in to eat after we were married, but the restaurant closed and we never had a chance to say goodbye to him.
Last week John and I walked into a different Chinese-Japanese restaurant, sat down, and a waiter came for our drink order.
John—who never forgets a face—looked up and said, “Jimmy!” And there he was—our friend the waiter.
It had been almost five years, but he remembered us and that we had been about to go to China to adopt a little boy—Leo, who has been part of our family since December 2009.
Now we are looking forward to taking our sons in to meet this man who was also born in China and talked to us about his home country even before we traveled there ourselves.
I love how small the world is.
— 6 —
We celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival by meeting friends at a Chinese-Japanese restaurant and sitting in one of those special little rooms where you have to remove your shoes. Our fellow diners can tell you how soundproof those rice-paper walls are—or aren’t—but it was a nice way to keep the children contained and occupied.
While we were there, the boys tasted their first sushi—all fully cooked. Daniel was too busy eating the steamed dumplings to pay much attention to the sushi, but Leo loved it. Maybe I should start making sushi for his lunches. How hard can it be?
— 7 —
My brother-in-law George has been going on and on about how we absolutely had to try Pizza John’s in Essex, Md., so John and I took the boys over there for a slice—and, well, let’s admit it, some Maryland crab soup, because our boys are more excited about soup.
The pizza was fantastic! I’m not sure it’s the best pizza I’ve ever had, but it was outstanding.
The soup smelled good, too, though I didn’t try it myself.
What’s your favorite pizza place?
September 27, 2013 09:56
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By Rita Buettner