Way back a thousand lifetimes ago, before we had children, I decided to go to daily Mass during Lent. I missed one day—when we were traveling—but otherwise I made it to Mass every morning.
That was a really special Lent. That daily Mass, celebrated by a speedy priest on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, was just what I needed.
Fast forward to this year. Daily Mass isn’t even a goal. If it were, I would already be 0 for 1.
I work for a Catholic university, so I always think getting my ashes will be easy—and the opportunities are most definitely there. Yet somehow my work schedule didn’t leave room for that on Ash Wednesday. And my children’s school Mass was happening right when I had a meeting.
But I am always an optimist—or someone with no sense of how much time it takes to do anything—and our younger son had mentioned that he was singing with the choir at that Mass. So obviously I had to drive there to make it for the last 3 ½ minutes of the Mass, only to realize that my first grader was not singing with the choir after all. The ashes and Communion had already been distributed.
Ash Wednesday can happen without ashes, so I wasn’t in a panic. And then I remembered there was a noon prayer service. So I just stayed, chatted with a friend, stopped by the parish office to drop off our baby bottle with our pregnancy center donation in it, picked up a book for our parish Lenten journey, and then slid into a pew in our packed church.
Looking around the church, I realized I recognized a few faces from Sunday Masses, but I also saw many people who seemed to be like me—fitting this into a busy day, grateful to be able to receive ashes and begin this Lenten season. I felt right at home.
I received my ashes and a wonderful sense of peace—and the realization that God had put me right where He wanted me.
So that’s where I am this Lent. He’s in the driver seat, and I am along for the ride.
How is Lent going so far for you?
March 01, 2017 11:02
By Rita Buettner
Sometimes you cook Brussels sprouts for dinner.
You know no one else will eat them because…well…you don’t quite know why. Why don’t people like Brussels sprouts?
Anyway, you drizzle them with olive oil, sprinkle some salt and pepper on them, and roast them.
As they cook, they smell irresistible.
You think so, anyway.
You put them in a lovely bowl right near your plate and serve yourself a heaping portion.
“These Brussels sprouts are delicious!” you say. “Who wants some?”
No one does.
You eat a few more.
“They are just sooooo good,” you say. “Are you sure you don’t want any?”
No one does.
But you just know that if someone else tried a Brussels sprout, he would fall in love with this marvelous vegetable—or at least admit it had merit.
So you turn to your 7-year-old. He eats other vegetables with enthusiasm. He’s your best shot at a Brussels sprout fan, and you know it.
“Just try one,” you say.
He shakes his head.
“One little leaf?” you say.
“Let me smell it,” he says.
“Yuck!” he says. “It smells like raw rice!”
“But it tastes so good! Try just a little bite.”
He smells it again and shakes his head.
“I’ll give you a quarter to try it,” you say, picturing your Mother of the Year trophy vanishing even as you speak.
Now he's interested. “Two dollars,” he says.
“One dollar,” you say.
“One dollar and 100 cents,” he says. Someone has been paying attention in math class.
“One dollar—and that’s my last offer,” you say.
“One dollar,” he says.
He takes a tiny bite, grimaces as he nibbles. Then he opens his mouth wide and throws the whole rest of the sprout in.
“It tastes terrible,” he says smacking his lips.
Now you’re out a dollar, a Brussels sprout, and a Mother of the Year trophy.
But at least you enjoyed some delicious Brussels sprouts for dinner.
February 26, 2017 11:19
By Rita Buettner
We are enjoying the most beautiful weather. I know this isn’t how February is supposed to be in Baltimore, and I know our boys were rooting for some snow—and some snow days—but you won’t hear me complaining.
We’ve spent some marvelous time outside, all without gloves and hats and…dare I say, coats.
When I picked the boys up from school yesterday, I noticed we had forgotten coats the day before…or the day before that. That’s not unusual for us in the fall or the spring, but I can’t remember the last time that happened during what is usually the middle of the winter.
We lost Leo’s lunchbox for a few days. I couldn’t figure out how we managed to lose track of a lunchbox over the long Presidents’ Day Weekend. I am not exceptionally organized, but I can’t think of the last thing Leo lost—ever. So I was sure I was to blame. We looked everywhere, of course.
Then a few days into the week, after I ordered a new lunchbox, Leo found the missing one. Where was it? Inside another student’s backpack.
Old and new
How did it get there? I have no idea. But if you’re ever missing a lunchbox, just buy a new one, and the lost lunchbox is bound to show up.
Our children are on an Andy Griffith kick right now. Naturally, they didn’t find The Andy Griffith Show on their own. Their father introduced them to it. I didn’t grow up watching much TV, so I don’t really have any favorite shows to share with them. Fortunately my husband is able to make up for this gap in my expertise.
I am enjoying getting to know Andy Griffith myself, but my favorite part is listening to our children laugh and laugh. When we watched this scene
, they thought it was so funny we had to watch it again.
Eight years ago a few weeks after we were matched with Leo—but before we met him—my oldest sister and her husband gave birth to their fourth child, a baby boy. Now Origen is 8 and smack in the middle between our boys, who are 7 and 9.
Our children have a wealth of cousins who are their age. Our 9-year-old has three other cousins who were born the same year, and our 7-year-old has two who were born the same year he was.
I was thinking back to before we became parents, as we watched children being born into our extended family. We had no idea that our children would slide so easily into the mix. But they have, and their cousins are some of their favorite playmates.
And this is the birthday card we made for Origen, using chocolate coins. Because candy cards are the best—or, well, they’re what we’re able to make when we forget to buy cards.
When we went to take a balloon to our nephew Georgie’s grave
last week, I realized we had never gone to remove the Christmas wreath my sister had placed there. Our boys had decorated ornaments and hung them on it, but somehow we hadn’t been back before the cemetery took the wreaths away.
But as I was placing the balloon, I noticed that one of the ornaments had fallen off and was sitting there in the grass, just waiting for me.
So I picked it up, and I will give it to my sister for Georgie’s treasure box.
It’s such a little thing, but I’m so happy that we have one piece of this Christmas to hold onto.
We are still going gangbusters for Pokemon Go, especially with all the new Pokemon that are in the game now.
I don’t know when and how our excitement will die down. And the wonderful spring-like weather is making it even more fun to chase them down.
But we have a long way to go before we catch them all.
If you’re looking for something to do with your children for Lent, there are a million terrific ideas out there. And here’s a link to the coloring book
I made for our children a few years ago.
Just download and print for free!
February 23, 2017 10:04
By Rita Buettner
For weeks I have been reading blogs full of ideas of what to do for Lent. Almost every single one offers a new take on how to incorporate prayer and fasting and sacrifice into each day. Part of me wants to try every single idea.
By now I should almost certainly have decided to give up something (caffeine or Pokemon Go), or decided to take something on (a daily rosary or a weekly weekday Mass), or committed to some kind of a concrete, tangible plan for those 40 days.
But I think this is one of those years where I’m going to approach Lent without too many ideas. I’m not creating a road map or signing a contract in my mind. Instead, this year, I’m going to let Lent come to me.
I’m setting aside my own agenda and asking God to walk with me this Lent and guide me however He sees fit.
Yes, I will try to pray more, to be more, to give more, and to be without more of the distractions and noise that separates me from Him.
But I am not entering into Lent with a personal plan.
I am entering Lent with empty hands, an open heart, and with a longing to be closer to Jesus. I don’t want this Lent to be about me. I want it to be about me and Him. So I am placing the 40 days of Lent into His hands to see how he guides me, what he asks of me, and how fully I can respond.
It may sound as if I giving up on Lent even before it begins, and in some ways it feels that way to me. Am I set to fail even before I receive my ashes? But I think that's because I would prefer to have it all spelled out. Instead, I am truly trying to surrender myself to our Lord and His plan for my Lent, placing myself and my spiritual growth in His hands.
And maybe, just maybe, that will be enough.
Do you have a plan for your Lenten journey?
February 22, 2017 09:42
By Rita Buettner
We had seen the trailer for The Lego Batman Movie, and I knew we were going to have to see the film. We all loved The Lego Movie, and this one looked like more of the same.
When I happened to mention to a friend that we were going, though, she told me that adoption was a big part of the movie—and that I might want to be prepared.
Of course adoption is everywhere in this movie, I thought, as I watched it with our boys. I mean, there are superheroes involved. But there’s a scene of an orphanage. Then there’s Robin as an orphan begging Batman to adopt him. Then there’s an adoption by Batman, who is at best a reluctant father figure who has his own challenges related to what family means. Then there's Batman's own loss of his parents and his confusing relationship with his own father figure. And on and on and on.
In our family, we love talking about adoption. But Lego Batman and I have very different perspectives on it. And sometimes I wish we could just go to the movies and go home.
Fortunately in this case, it was all so far-fetched it almost didn’t matter. The portrayal of adoption was so absurd that we ended up laughing about it together later over dinner, as we discussed other movies that also portray adoption in a ridiculous way. And I loved that our children could bring up other examples and point out how off-the-wall the representations were.
What troubles me is not what our boys take away from these movies, however, but what their friends and classmates take away. They won’t have the conversations later, where parents explain that that’s not what an orphanage is like, or that that’s not how adoptions occur.
Movies like this one perpetuate stereotypes about adoption from an early age—and without providing appropriate context or understanding. They are often hilarious, and we laugh and laugh our way through. The Kung Fu Panda movies tend to handle adoption with grace and thought. But some of the other movies we have seen leave me wincing.
Not every movie should have a trigger warning. But I would love for movies, especially children’s movies, to handle topics related to loss—whether death or adoption or divorce or another issue—with a little more sensitivity.
It’s no surprise that orphans and adoption find their way into stories. In fiction, there’s something mysterious and empowering about the path a child takes when his or her original parents aren’t in the picture. No wonder those children turn out to have unexpected super powers and abilities.
I just wish that maybe, more often than not, people making a movie in which adoption is discussed would stop and put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Why not pause to imagine what it might be like to be watching the movie while thinking of your own adoption story?
Sure, it’s just entertainment. Most people watch, have a few laughs, go home, and never think about it again. But couldn’t a movie be just as much fun if it were created with a little more thought and intention?
I bet it could—and it wouldn’t take any superhero powers, either.
February 20, 2017 09:54
By Rita Buettner
Imagine you’re having a really busy day, and you have no idea how you’ll get everything accomplished. And you decide to stop to get a bagel with scallion cream cheese because who knows when you will eat again—and scallion cream cheese is the best.
Then the cashier rings you up and hands you your order number, and it's your favorite number.
What are the chances? And you know the day is just going to be fantastic.
I personally don’t enjoy going to the doctor, so before I became a mother, I imagined our children would probably have similar feelings about the pediatrician. But they absolutely adore going. They look forward to all of it.
Add to that pulling them out of school early to go for an annual check-up this week, and I really don’t know whether Disney World can hold a candle to the excitement of our yearly well-child visit to the pediatrician.
They argued over who got to be weighed first, they giggled their way through the blood pressure checks so that the numbers had to be thrown out and done all over again, and they asked question after question about everything they saw.
Every time I take them to their check-ups on the same day, I wonder why I don’t make two separate appointments. Then I think of the time involved in going on two different days, and I make a joint appointment again. And I don’t even get a sticker at the end.
But I do get to take two happy, healthy, extremely energetic children home with me. I feel pretty lucky.
We found our missing library book! After renewing and renewing and renewing, I had come to grips with the fact that we were going to have to offer to replace Nate the Great Saves the King of Sweden. I had offered 50 cents to anyone who could find the book. But my husband came across it on the bookshelf—such an absurd place to find a book around here. So it really is our lucky day.
Don’t ask me for a review of the book. I have no memory of reading it. I’ve just been renewing it for weeks. But Nate the Great books are fun, so I imagine this one was up to the usual standards.
I dread homework. It is the worst. I imagine Purgatory as a place where you sit and try to teach first graders how to spell. “No, it’s not A…no, it’s not I…no, it’s not U…”
Then last weekend I suddenly had an idea.
“Why don’t you help your brother with his homework?” I asked our third grader.
And they started in on the work together. Our younger son was much more patient with his brother than he is with me, and our older son was much more patient with the whole process than I am.
It won’t work every time, but I was so excited to have a reprieve.
13 years ago on Valentine’s Day my husband asked me to marry him
, and I said yes. This year we had a quieter Valentine’s Day. Neither of us was hungry, so we tried to think of something our children would like, and we thought of seafood—specifically large, creepy-looking crab legs.
They were thrilled.
I wonder whether this will become our new Valentine’s Day tradition.
Our boys both wanted to hand out valentines at school this year. Leo bought Pokemon valentines with temporary tattoos for his friends and wrote them all out himself. Daniel and I decided slap bracelets would be fun to distribute, so we just had to figure out how to hand them out.
In the end, we bought index cards, cut slits for the bracelets, glued a heart onto the index card, and wrote names on them. I ended up doing all the work because it just takes so long for a child to write all those names.
“Did your friends like your slap bracelets?” I asked on the way home Valentine's night.
“No, they didn’t like them,” Daniel said. “They LOVED them.”
I would say that our weekend would be full of our own sports games—and it might.
But Pokemon Go also just added 80 new Pokemon, so I have a feeling I know what the boys will be clamoring to do this weekend, if I don’t catch them all myself first, of course.
February 16, 2017 10:35
By Rita Buettner
The night before Valentine’s Day I looked at the Halloween buckets full of Christmas candy sitting on the kitchen table. Then I threw all the candy away. That’s not a household policy, but we had just been to the dentist, and I was feeling especially motivated.
Besides, I knew the Valentine’s candy would be coming through the door—and it did. I started by looking through Daniel’s candy to remove the candy he isn’t allowed to have—dentist’s rules. He was a little sad that I was taking some of his prized candy.
So we made a deal.
“I’ll buy these from you,” I told him. Our little boy who usually isn’t motivated much by money considered his options. He wasn’t going to get that gummy, chewy candy, so he might as well give in.
“OK,” he said finally.
We bargained prices back and forth, and in the end I paid much more than I wanted to for three packages of candy I will never eat. But it was a dollar well spent if it saves us from additional dental work.
Even with his dollar in hand, our resident first grader still didn’t seem completely sold on the idea. Candy is candy, you know. And Valentine’s candy is extra special.
“Aren’t you lucky!” I said, acting as if our little boy had won the lottery. “Now you have a whole dollar for your bank!”
He gave me a look only a child with the wisdom of a 7-year-old can pull off.
“Mama,” he said, “money isn’t everything, you know. God is everything.”
So I may be short a dollar, but I have three packages of candy and a lesson in faith. I’d say I got my money’s worth. And money isn’t everything.
February 15, 2017 08:14
By Rita Buettner
The other day a friend shared his daughter’s wedding video with me. It was extraordinary. Every detail was exquisitely captured, every frame was packed with emotion, and each image showed a couple who were loved and in love.
Watching it made me smile—and tear up a little, as weddings always do. Weddings often present marriage as a fairy tale. And I’m a fairy tale kind of person. Marrying my husband was the best decision I ever made, and saying yes to his proposal on Valentine’s Day 13 years ago is one of my most treasured memories. We have enjoyed 12 beautiful years of marriage, and I look forward to all the future brings for us together.
But watching that couple vow to love each other also left me thinking about marriage and that leap of faith couples take.
For better or for worse.
For richer, for poorer.
In sickness and in health.
What optimists we are to believe that with this one person by our side, we will be strong enough to navigate whatever life might bring, no matter the challenge, no matter the trial.
After all, not every day is Valentine’s Day. Life isn’t all boxes of chocolates and beautiful cards and bouquets of roses. Most of the days are ordinary. Some are tense or difficult. Some are heartbreaking. The unexpected twists and turns can be difficult to navigate, even with the best partner pulling for and with you.
That’s where the sacrament comes in. That’s where that third person in marriage lends a hand—or holds you in His hands. That’s when you discover you—or your spouse—have an even deeper capacity for courage or talents or strength than you realized because you are not alone.
That’s when you see God’s hand in your lives in a remarkable way. That’s when you realize the depth and breadth of the love within a marriage.
God is love.
Love is a baby born in a stable. Love is also death on a cross.
Marriage doesn’t always come with lovely background music, and there aren’t always chocolates or flowers. But with God walking with you through your marriage, you will have all that you need.
Even when it’s not Valentine’s Day.
February 15, 2017 11:14
By Rita Buettner
Weeks and weeks ago we ordered a new couch and chair. I never thought they would actually arrive, but last week the store called to say they were ready. We thought about it for maybe half a second and then decided to wait and have them delivered this week instead.
We were having people over on Sunday to celebrate the Year of the Rooster, and I didn’t want to spend the whole party worrying about whether something had been spilled on the couch. And it seemed a bit unfriendly not to let our guests sit on new furniture just because it was new. So we waited, and now no one will ever spill anything on the furniture, of course.
Let me believe that for another 10 minutes. Please.
The day before our party, Daniel and I went to the party store to buy something I needed for work, and we took a look at the Chinese New Year items while we were there.
We didn't need anything, really, since we had already invested in other Chinese New Year merchandise online.
When I saw the 50 percent off sign, I gave Daniel freedom to pick a few things. And he selected the most complicated wonderful piece of Chinese New Year décor.
I can’t walk under it without hitting my head. The boys can’t walk under it without trying to hit every part with their heads or hands. What more could you hope for in a party decoration?
While we were shopping, we also ran across one rooster item after another. Are rooster items always available, or are there more because it’s the Year of the Rooster?
We didn’t buy any of them, not even the $100 glass rooster I could have filled with iced tea. Sometimes my self-control amazes me.
Well, except when it’s time to figure out how much food to have on hand for guests. Every year my husband reminds me not to over-order the Chinese food. But I remember how one year I did not order enough food, and we ran out. The only other person who remembers this is my sister-in-law, and I am 97 percent sure she is not just humoring me.
How much food did I order? Well, I ordered half as many egg rolls as I thought we needed, and we had five left over. In fact, we ordered so much food that it arrived in a huge fortune cookie carton.
I had to force containers of pork fried rice on people as they were leaving. You do the math—since I apparently can’t.
Let’s just say that no one left hungry, and there was enough chicken lo mein to eat while we watched the Super Bowl and for the next few lunches and dinners. And I, for one, call that a win.
Worth noting is that we served a few things that were not Chinese food. One friend brought a buffalo chicken dip, and I made deviled eggs because when your mother offers to bring this deviled egg platter, you make deviled eggs.
I had plans to make a veggie tray in the shape of a rooster, but the guests arrived at the time it said on the evite, while in my mind the party was starting a half-hour later. So they all helped me get the party started.
Daniel’s amazingly talented godmother offered to make the cake.
Isn’t it magnificent? I’m pretty sure she’s already dreaming of the dog cake she’ll make next year.
One of the fun things about having children who are old enough to help is that sometimes they really pitch in. As I was telling the boys we were having a photo booth for the party, I said, “It’s too bad we don’t have a picture of the Great Wall for people to stand in front of.
So they got to work making a Great Wall drawing. It ended up being full of action, or some might say, destruction.
But it is a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, and I may just leave it up until next year. And I believe our Chinese New Year celebrations are officially over until 2018.
February 10, 2017 10:49
By Rita Buettner
You were fast and lean and sleek and smart.
No other mouse could play the part.
You scurried with the speed of light,
Zipping past, both left and right.
Sometimes you crept without a care
And sniffed around ’most everywhere.
Your paws were white. Your back was gray.
We thought you’d never go away.
What did you eat? We couldn’t say
Until you stole Slim Jims away.
You liked TV and felt at home;
When it was on, you’d deftly roam.
But traps of all kinds you abhorred,
Or rather, they just made you bored.
The traps? We’d tossed them in the trash
Except for one out of the stash.
We left it with its stale Slim Jim,
And one bite brought an end so grim.
(Well, grim for you, I must confess,
But not for me, as you might guess.)
O little mouse, our long-time guest,
We have to tell you, we’re impressed.
You had a run so grand and long
It might inspire a country song.
With stealth and speed and cunning, too,
You made our home a home for you.
Still, we could not all coexist,
And I cannot say you will be missed.
Rest well, dear mouse, our furry friend,
At last this tale has found its end.
February 08, 2017 10:51
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