Rita and her husband, John, adopted their two sons, ages 6 and 4, as toddlers from China.

She writes about adoption, parenting after infertility, and other topics relevant to Catholic families. Follow her on Twitter: OpenWindow_CR or email her at openwindowcr@gmail.com  Also check out her Facebook page

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Yes, yes, yes, Elizabeth! And there are so many wonderful schools! But I do feel the Catholic schools offer a moral and ethical foundation that helps students become the people God wants them to be.

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Such a good point, Amanda! Not every school works for every child or every family, certainly.

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Open Window

Abracadabra, alakazam, say no to a bunny as fast as you can!


Daniel and I sat watching a magic show at a friend’s birthday party.

The magician made three ropes become a loop. He pulled golf balls out of nowhere. He filled a container with candy.

Daniel and I laughed and marveled and tried to figure the tricks out. I know the magician didn’t do what I think he did, but I have no idea how he made it all look so real.

Then suddenly he started pulling rabbits out of boxes. They were live. And they were adorable.



Daniel sat straight up. He is our animal lover. He knows we can’t have furry pets at home because of Mama and Baba’s allergies, but not too long ago he asked very sweetly, “Mama, when you and Baba go to heaven, can I get a dog?”

And, when we do, I have no doubt he will.

As the magician lifted out one bunny after another, Daniel sat very quietly and very still. I knew he wanted to pet a rabbit. 

The magician apparently noticed that, too.

When the show was over, he placed a rabbit into a felt hat and carried it over to us. He handed it to Daniel.



Our little boy was delighted.



He petted it gently and talked to it. When I wondered what the rabbit’s name was, he walked over to ask the magician. Then he came running back to me and the rabbit.

“His name is Snow!” he said. So we talked to Snow as we stroked him.

Our little boy, such a bundle of energy, is so sweet when he meets a little creature. And he just loved Snow.

You can probably guess where this is headed.



“Mama, can we take him home with us?”

“Well, um, he belongs to the magician. We can’t have him.”

But I should have known Daniel would be way ahead of me. Off ran our boy and seconds later he was back.



“I asked him if we could have him. He says I should ask my mother.”

Now wait a second, Mr. Magician. Those rabbits are adorable, but today is not the day to become a rabbit owner.

Don’t worry. I talked my way out of it. And we returned Snow happily to his or her family and friend rabbits before we left the party.



But as we were driving home I couldn’t help thinking, that magician pulled off quite a show. But turning me into a rabbit owner on the spot?

That, my friends, would be a trick.



January 26, 2015 10:25
By Rita Buettner


Why we choose Catholic schools: A letter to our son (and a blog linkup)


It’s Catholic Schools Week! Hooray for Catholic schools! This year I invited other bloggers to share their posts on why we love Catholic schools. You'll find their blogs below. I look forward to hearing from you about your thoughts on and experiences with Catholic schools.



A letter to our son as he gets ready for kindergarten

Dear Daniel,

Next year most of your friends will be going to public school. You wonder why you won't be at the same schools they are going to. Public schools are nice schools with good teachers, and your friends will probably be happy. Many of them will ride school buses—which I know you’d love. You’ll all learn how to read and write stories and do math and science.

But your school will be a little different. You’ll be going to a Catholic school. And so, along with everything else you learn, you’ll be learning something extra, and in a different kind of place.

In your Catholic school you’ll learn about God and how much He loves you. You’ll talk to Jesus throughout the day. You’ll dress as a saint for All Saints Day. You’ll go to Mass. When something bad happens in the world or someone dies, you’ll be able to talk about it and pray about it.

Your father and I hope our faith will always bring you comfort and strength.

You’ll also learn about serving others. You’ll make cheese sandwiches and bring in canned goods for people who are hungry. You’ll collect money for blankets to send to people in need. You’ll see that you can make a difference in our world through both prayer and action.

You’ll be a member of a community that works together and looks out for one another. When you’re in middle school, you’ll help set up chairs for assemblies, and you’ll be a buddy to a kindergartener yourself. But let’s not rush things here.

Yes, you can get a good education without going to a Catholic school. You can also learn to love God without going to a Catholic school. What your father and I want most for you, however, is for you to grow up to be a man with a good heart, a love for others and Jesus.

We are so blessed to have you as our son, and we want you to become all God wants you to be. And we believe your Catholic school will help us give you all that and more.

Love,

Mama


January 24, 2015 11:50
By Rita Buettner


7 Quick Takes Friday: Where are all the photos, snow delays, sweet birthday cards, funny things that happen at the doctor's office, cheap gas, and prayer


~1~

I had some photos I was excited to share with you this week, including one of the snowman we built during a fun-and-not-too-cold snowstorm. Unfortunately, my memory card reader is not communicating with my computer, so I’m afraid I will have to owe you those photos.

You’ll have to use your imagination a bit or content yourself with photos from my phone.

This is what our carryout Italian restaurant thinks is a single serving of Parmesan cheese. Daniel was appalled.


Plastic toothpick inserted to give you a sense of scale.

Here is the rainbow we saw in our sink.


And here are the red envelopes we are using for Chinese New Year this year—because it’s never too early to plan for a holiday that is still a month away.


Maybe these quick takes will be even quicker than usual. Even as I’m typing that, though, I’m thinking it’s not likely. But we all might be surprised.

~2~

We found ourselves with an unexpected snow delay yesterday morning. Who knew schools would be delayed? Daniel and I found ourselves sitting in his preschool parking lot with a full half-hour to wait.

What to do? Daniel decided that he wanted to explore the snowy grounds around the school. So I handed him our snow scraper from the car and he announced we were going hunting.


The boys as they shoveled the yard the day before

We followed some fox tracks. We knocked snow off of a picnic bench and railings. We—and here I have to admit I didn’t participate—even tasted some snow. When Daniel decided his hands were cold, we climbed back into our heated car to go buy donuts.

“We’ll have two munchkins, please,” I told the lady behind the counter.

“No,” Daniel told her. “Fifteen.”

She hesitated. “What?” I wanted to say. “Which one of us do you think is paying? The one who has the wallet or the one who can barely see over the counter?”

“We will have two,” I said firmly.

But I was wrong. The kind lady slipped three into Daniel’s little bag. He couldn’t believe his luck when he counted them in the car. 1 school delay + 3 munchkins = 1 happy little boy.

~3~

I really don’t like spending money on children’s birthday cards. We go to the store and look at them. Then I flip them over and see that they are $4 a piece, and they aren’t even that wonderful. I always feel we can do better ourselves.

Sometimes I put a coloring page on the front of a piece of construction paper and write, “Have a colorful day!” Once I taped lollipops on and made them look like balloons. I don’t know whether the children like the cards, but I have fun making them.

This week I had to make two 7-year-old birthday cards, and this is what I did.



I don’t know how anyone could not love a card covered in Twix.

What do you do for birthday cards? Do you have any ideas to share?

~4~

I took the boys to their annual well checkups this week. Before we went to the pediatrician’s office I discussed with them how well we were going to behave. Then we got there and a nurse led us into the examination room. In an instant she shattered my whole plan.

“Take everything off except the underwear,” she said.

That was it.

They started giggling. Then they started laughing. Then they were in hysterics, falling over each other.

“Mama, did you hear what she said? She said, ‘Underwear!’”

When the doctor came in to see them, they were still laughing uncontrollably. It was one of our most challenging pediatrician visits ever—and that includes the time we left vomit all over the lobby floor.

At one point, as I held one child, while his giggling brother writhed on the examination table, squirming away from the stethoscope, I said to the pediatrician, “I figure we should go back to China for two more. Four can’t be much more trouble than two.”

He whipped his head around and said, “Excuse me?”

Maybe he would have laughed harder if I had mentioned underwear.

~5~

We earn discounts on gas based on how much we spend at the grocery store, and we spend more than our share at the grocery store.

Last weekend I was standing at the pump admiring my beautiful gas savings, which I would like you to admire, as well...



...and a smiling man the next pump over glanced over at the stickers on our minivan.

“F&M!” he said. “Do you have a child there?”

Gack! This man thought I had a child in college. That would make me...well...if I had had children immediately after graduating, I’d only be a few years older than I am right now. But he’s not supposed to think I’m that old. I have a first grader and a preschooler!

I very politely told him I had gone there myself. Then I drove away trying to focus on my tank full of cheap gas.

~6~

A couple we met on our China trip to adopt Daniel was waiting this week to adopt their little girl in China when they received word that she had passed away. Losing a child you haven't met is a different kind of loss, and a profound one.

I have no doubt this baby girl went straight to Jesus’ arms, but my heart aches for children who never know the love of a family on earth—and for the families who love them even before they meet them.

Perhaps you could join our family in praying for those children who wait for families, and those families who wait for children.

~7~

Oh, and if you read my post on how to teach your children to pray, you may have noticed that I missed a key way.


Jennifer very kindly left a comment on Facebook: “I don't want to make you feel bad or anything, but you left out our primary form of prayer: song. We sing good morning to God, we sing ‘This Little Light of Mine’ at bedtime, we sing songs from VBS as we drive around, and we sing 'Jesus is a Friend of Mine' when we are scared. For us, it's fun, light-hearted, meaningful, and easy. It's also a little like sneaking vegetables into other foods.”

Yes! Sing, sing, sing! There is nothing sweeter than overhearing a child singing, “Jesus Loves Me.” Thank you, Jennifer.

~Bonus Take~

I’ve written many times about my nephew Georgie, who died at 34 weeks in utero. He is so much a part of our lives, and our children especially feel a strong connection to him.



My brother-in-law, Georgie’s father, just wrote a piece about Georgie for The Catholic Review. It brings me to tears, but I hope you will read it and learn a little more of Georgie’s story.

Find more quick takes at Kelly's blog, This Ain't the Lyceum!

January 22, 2015 11:58
By Rita Buettner


8 ways to teach your child how to pray


At Sunday Mass our priest mentioned that when he asks children to say a prayer, they say they don’t know any. He reminded us that it is our job as parents to teach our children to pray.

We are no experts. If you ever visit our house during bedtime prayers, you’ll probably see one of the children turning somersaults in bed and the other sprinting to the living room for his stuffed friend. So we have some work to do.

But here are a few ways we are incorporating prayer into our children’s lives.



1.       Say grace as a family. If we have someone in our lives who especially needs our prayers, or if one of us has special gratitude or needs, we add that after grace.

2.       Pray when you hear a siren. When we see or hear an ambulance or fire engine, I try to remember to stop and say, “God, please take care of the person who needs help and all the people helping.” Lately when I forget Daniel reminds me.

3.       Let your children see you pray. As we drive, I try to remember to thank God for a beautiful sunset or ask him to protect us on slippery roads. When a driver cuts me off, the boys get excited. “Why didn’t you use the horn, Mama?” I try to take that moment and pray aloud for the other driver.

4.       Bring your children’s concerns to God. Children have so many very real worries: lost toys, stress about school, unanswerable questions. Parents can’t solve everything. God can—in His time. The other day Daniel bumped his leg and nothing I offered helped. “I don’t know what else we can do,” I said. He looked up at me and said, “We could pray.” Oh, right. That. There’s such a comfort in handing things over to God.



5.       Encourage them to say their own prayers. At bedtime John and I take turns leading prayers, but we let our children contribute. Some nights they say, “I don’t know,” then squirm and fall off the bed. Other nights Leo says, “God bless my family.” My favorite is when Daniel says in one long string without taking a breath, “I love you, God, I love you, Mary, I love you, Joseph, I love you, Jesus.”

6.       Help them memorize prayers. Teach them the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be. Say a decade of the Rosary. Children love repetition, and those prayers are so beautiful.

7.       Introduce them to their friends in heaven. Ask St. Anthony to help find lost items. Ask St. Christopher to intercede for you as you travel. Help them see the Blessed Mother as a mother to all of us. We talk to the boys’ cousin Georgie in heaven. Somehow knowing he is there makes heaven seem closer.



8.       Remind your children that they have a friendship with Jesus. I love assuring our children that they are never alone, whether they are in a dark bedroom or beginning a scary first day of kindergarten. God is always with them, ready to listen to their concerns. And yours, too.

How are you teaching your children how to pray? I’d love to hear!

January 20, 2015 11:02
By Rita Buettner


7 Quick Takes Friday: How we spend our sick days, lunching in front of the TV, banned words, forgotten library books, counting down to Chinese New Year, and looking forward to Catholic Schools Week


~1~

Put on your latex-free medical gloves and your mask so you can read this blog at a safe distance. I’ll try to cover my mouth as I type. I don’t want you to catch whatever germs moved into our house this week.

It all started when John fell ill. The boys seemed to be fine, so I took them to Mass on Sunday. All of a sudden I realized Daniel was very quiet. And very snuggly. And very warm. Way too warm.

“Mama,” he whispered, “I think I’m going to vomit.”

It's a well-known fact that a child who cuddles up in your arms during Mass could be ready to be sick to his stomach. And there are never enough tissues in your purse to handle this appropriately.

So we tip-toed (or tripped over people in our pew) as we escaped during the Alleluia. I took the boys home, left them with their sick father, and went back for the next Mass.

And then we spiraled downward into sickness. We’ve had a week with a lot of fluids, plenty of soup—both chicken noodle and some of Santa's Chickarina—and much more TV than we like to allow.



So far I haven’t caught this mysterious illness, but I am assuming I am next in line.

~2~

Just to clarify, we didn’t spend the whole week watching TV. The boys had a lot of fun with their Christmas toys, including Daniel’s pin art.



Of course, many of the things they enjoyed were not even toys.

We played with an icicle I brought in from outside.



They packed a suitcase and pretended to go to China, although they either went as spies or as Flinx and Fluminox, who are apparently characters from a Lego Chima movie. I know much more about the boys’ favorite TV shows today than I did last week. Want to hear the Chima theme song? Yeah, me neither.

But you might enjoy watching this video. Leo and I think it's hilarious.



~3~

The zipper on Leo’s lunchbox broke, so I ordered new lunchboxes for the boys and they arrived last week. One of our activities of the week was packing lunches and eating them in the living room.



Somehow both boys kept their appetites, and they ate their way through the food I had bought to pack in their lunches.

Now Daniel wants to know when we can go on a picnic. So do I. Is it spring yet?

~4~

We have several banned words in this household, and one of them is “stupid.”

Because “stupid” is banned, of course, it is that much more fun to say. And even though I’m not sure anyone here is clear on what it means, everyone knows it’s an insult.

So our boys decided they would come up with an alternate word to use. Now instead of saying, “That is so stupid,” they say, “That is so soup.”

Every now and then a child comes running to tell me, "Mama, he called me soup!" And I am supposed to handle the incident with a straight face.

I don’t think I am going to win this battle. And I’m feeling a little soup.

~5~

After several sick days, we took the boys to school yesterday. And I know you won’t believe this, but even though it was Thursday, and Thursday is library day, no one packed Leo’s library book in his backpack.

Somehow this is my fault.

When Leo came home, rather than marveling that we had remembered to take his backpack to school this morning, he reminded me that Thursday was library day and he had forgotten his book. So he couldn’t get a new one.

Hey, at least last week we remembered to send Leo in his gym uniform. So what if we got our days mixed up and it wasn't gym day?

Thank goodness for understanding teachers.

~6~

Chinese New Year is coming! I can hardly wait.



The Lunar New Year begins on Feb. 19, and around here it ranks up there with St. Patrick’s Day. This is a big deal.



So if you don’t want to hear about homemade dumplings and reminisce about the year my sister made a delectable strawberry shortsnake for our celebration, you might want to come back toward the end of February.



But if you think a dragon improves every party and you love bubble wrap, you may want to check back. How will we celebrate the Year of the Sheep/Goat? We’re just beginning to plan.



But it’s going to be fun and it won’t be the same without ewe.

Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

~7~

Earlier this week when I emailed Leo’s teacher to say he would be home sick, she wrote back to let me know the class would pray for him in their morning petitions. I was so touched. It reminded me yet again why we are using Catholic schools for our children.

As you may know, Catholic Schools Week is the last week in January. And we just love our Catholic school. This year I’m inviting other bloggers to join me in sharing why they love their Catholic schools. I’ll post my blog and open the link-up on Sunday, Jan. 25.



If you’re a Catholic school parent, student, or teacher, I hope you’ll comment and share your experience, as well.

Read more quick takes at our entertaining hostess Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum.

January 15, 2015 11:10
By Rita Buettner


"There's a deer outside my window" and other reasons our children can't sleep (Embrace the Ordinary)


We never have any trouble getting our boys to get in bed. They share a room, and going to bed is sort of like joining the circus—only more interactive.

I ignore some of the noise, but when there’s a huge crash or one of those giddy laughs that means someone is likely balancing on a headboard, I head in to confiscate toys, remove flashlights, and decline drink requests.

It’s wonderful that our children have so much fun together. But John and I have this odd belief that at some point they should sleep.

Last night I was summoned several times. Then they started coming out to give me reports. When Daniel popped into our bedroom with yet another update, I stopped him.

“Back to bed,” I said firmly.

“But Mama,” he said, “there’s a deer eating Mr. Tomoleo’s bushes.”

Now that we had to see. So John and I went into their bedroom and looked out the window. There was a young deer standing in the snow and nibbling on the branches of the neighbor’s bushes.



We spotted another deer, the deer’s mother perhaps, nearby. And then we saw what we guessed was the deer’s father.



As we watched, whispering to one another, we realized there were six or seven deer walking through our yard.



The shadows on the snow were beautiful. The deer seemed close enough to touch. They were graceful and slow and peaceful.

It was magical.



After that, of course, going to sleep seemed to be out of the question. But sleep finally came.

And this morning Daniel and I went out to the yard to look at the deer prints in the snow.



I’m no expert in anything related to nature, but it was easy to see where our friends had walked the night before.



We followed the prints around the house. There were so many.



Daniel even found some other footprints.



“These,” he said, “are Bigfoot prints.”

Guess we’d better keep an eye on those windows tonight.

Joining Gina at Someday Saints for Embrace the Ordinary.


January 10, 2015 11:14
By Rita Buettner


7 Quick Takes Friday: First snow day of the year, our anniversary/Christmas gift, the writing on the wall, our bowling escapades, a nod to Ancient Rome, and a word for the year


~1~

What a great week to be a child!

We had the first snowstorm of the year on Tuesday and schools were closed.



Christmas morning was exciting, but this? A yard full of freshly fallen snow? A whole day to play in it? And hot chocolate with marshmallows awaiting you once you come back inside?



Wait? What? We're out of marshmallows?

Daniel—our marshmallow fan—was horrified. What kind of household heads into a snowstorm without a full supply on hand? Apparently this one.



Despite that oversight, we had a great time in the snow. Then the real cold weather arrived. I think even Santa would be shivering in this chill. Brrrr. And that's where the delayed openings came in. I heard some complaining about that, but not from the sledding team.

~2~


But John also gave me a significant gift I failed to mention. Back in September when we celebrated 10 years of marriage, we went together to order a bed from the Amish furniture makers at the Pennsylvania Dutch Market. And we agreed it would be our anniversary and Christmas gift to each other. (Then we broke that rule a bit, but this was still our main gift.)

We have never done anything like this before and probably never will again. We have bought very few pieces of furniture. Some have been handed down from our families. Some the former owner of our house left for us. A few we saved for and bought together.

And now we have a custom-made bed with a bookcase headboard, which has always been a dream of ours.


One day I will take a better picture of the bed, but let's just go with this for now.

I mean, if you can have yet another place to store books, why wouldn’t you? And it has deep drawers underneath it for linens or whatever else. Don’t you just love storage?

~3~

Last week I was reading a blog, and it was about saving money. I don’t remember any of the advice on the blog—or which blog it was, sadly—except that the blogger mentioned you could take spring onions and put the roots in water and grow more in your kitchen.

We don’t eat a lot of spring onions, which are also called scallions or green onions, but we do use them in some of the Chinese-style cooking I do. (These chicken lettuce wraps and these dumplings, for example.) We also use them when we make fondue. So last weekend when we were cooking fondue, I put the roots of the onion bunches we used in a glass of water.



All the green you see is new growth! That happened in less than a week! I am quite excited to see how this experiment works.

It’s not really the frugality that appeals to me as much as the idea that I might be able to grow something. This will be my first success if it works.

Of course, as they say, don’t count your scallions before they grow. Or eat them, I suppose.

~4~

Last weekend Leo suddenly asked whether we could go bowling. So we took the boys bowling for the first time.



As we were signing in, the teenager behind the counter asked whether we wanted bumpers on the gutters. I wasn’t sure, but thank goodness I have a sensible husband who said we did.

Even then we found that bowling—especially duckpin bowling, which is what we were doing—was challenging. You never realize how many rules there are until you start doing something with your children.



No, you can’t kick it like a soccer ball.

No, you can’t throw it overhand.

No, you can’t chase after it down the lane.

No, you can’t just drop the ball onto the lane.



No, you can’t dance into that other group’s lane.

No, you don't want to smash your brother's fingers with a bowling ball.

We didn’t keep score because we were too busy trying to learn the ropes. What amazed me was how long it took some of the balls to roll down to the pins. I think one might still be inching slowly toward the end of the lane.



~5~

I was making dinner the other night when Daniel came to find me.

“I have something bad to tell you,” he said. “I wrote on the wall. It was an accident. But it could be a good thing. It could be like ... decoration!”

How does he already know how to deliver the good news with the bad news?

~6~

If I had seen this Julius Caesar knife block before Christmas, maybe I wouldn’t have given everyone paper towel snowmen.



Of course, then I wouldn’t have made this paper towel/toilet paper snowman family for my sister and her husband. And the world would be a sadder place.


Photo courtesy of Treasa Matysek

~7~

Have you ever picked a word for the year ahead? It’s not a new idea to me, but I’ve never felt there was a word I wanted to choose.

But this year I think I’d like to choose a word that could help me focus more exclusively on my family, re-center myself, try to separate out the noise of the outside world, and be present for my husband and children. I am choosing the word: Home.

I have mentioned that my goal this year is to say yes inside the home more and say no outside the home more. And I think this is going to be a year of setting firmer boundaries so I can treasure that time and space with my loved ones more. In fact, maybe I should choose the word "Boundaries," but that sounds a little more hostile and negative than I want to be. So we'll strive for positive.

How about you? Is there a word you have chosen for 2015?

See more quick takes at Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum.

January 08, 2015 11:46
By Rita Buettner


Dear Pope Francis, as you celebrate mothers, please don't forget those who long for motherhood


Dear Pope Francis,

I noticed that yesterday you thanked mothers for what they give to the Church and to the world. And I was touched by your words. But I have to admit that I also had mixed feelings.

Without mothers, you say, "not only there would be no new faithful, but faith itself would lose a good part of its simple and profound warmth.”



That is true. What is also true, at least for me, is that I don’t need to be thanked. I feel so incredibly grateful to be a mother. Every single day I am amazed that God gives me and my husband the honor, the privilege, the joy of raising our two children.

At the same time, I couldn't help thinking of all those women who don’t quite fit into the standard description of mothers.

There are the mothers of children who are in heaven.

There are the mothers of children who give birth to their children, but don’t have the opportunity to raise them. I think of those mothers all the time.

There are foster mothers and stepmothers and fathers who are both father and mother to their children.

And then there are the women who yearn to become mothers. They, I have to admit, were the ones I thought of first when I read your words. I know you are aware of them. And certainly celebrating family is marvelous and important and valuable. We celebrate family a lot in our home, as well.

But I find myself thinking of those women. The truth is, Holy Father, that they often feel the Catholic Church doesn’t see them. They feel overlooked and undervalued. They feel empty and forgotten.

"Mothers are witnesses of tenderness, dedication, and moral strength," you said.

They certainly are.



Still, imagine how difficult it is to feel called to a vocation you are unable to live out. Imagine waiting and hoping and praying and wondering why your Mother Church, which celebrates motherhood and large families, has little room for supporting you as a woman who is childless despite her hopes, dreams, and prayers.

So as you celebrate families, please also remember those families who are still childless. Those couples sacrifice and pray and truly value life. And those women long to contribute to the Church and to the world as mothers.

I hope one day they will.

“To be a mother does not only mean to give life to a child, it is a choice of life, the choice of giving life. This is beautiful,” he said.

It is beautiful. And for so many it would be—and, I hope, will be—the answer to thousands upon thousands of prayers.

Sincerely,

A Very Grateful Mother

January 07, 2015 11:34
By Rita Buettner


10 reasons we're choosing Catholic schools for our children (Worth Revisiting Wednesday)


I wrote this post two years ago, and it's just as true now. I'm resharing it today, Jan. 7, 2015, for Worth Revisiting Wednesday with Theology Is a Verb and Reconciled to You. I would love to hear your reasons for choosing Catholic schools!

Leo will start kindergarten in the fall. You might think the easy decision would be to send him to the good public school in our area, but John and I never considered it—partly because of its distance from where we work, and partly because we have always wanted to send our children to Catholic school.

Because it’s Catholic Schools Week, I thought I’d share 10 reasons why we are choosing Catholic schools (and a few photos my mother found from my own Catholic school experience):

10. We love uniforms. Never again will we worry about whether the Angry Birds shirt is clean. Uniforms are a timesaver, they make it clear that it’s time to focus on learning, and everyone's clothes are equally cool. Besides, is anything cuter than a child in a school uniform?

9. Let us pray. We pray with our children at the usual times—bedtime and mealtime. But we also try to remember to pray throughout the day, when we see an ambulance, when one of the boys notices something special in nature, or when we avoid a close call on the beltway. In Catholic school, they’ll say morning prayers, Grace, maybe even the Angelus. I remember well how when the Challenger exploded, our principal, Sr. Rita, came onto the loudspeaker at St. Pius X to lead us in prayer. When tragedy occurs, I hope my children will turn to God.

8. Put a value on education. We want our sons to have a sense of right and wrong. We don’t want them to bully or be bullied. We want them to love and love deeply. We want them to understand sacrifice—and making difficult choices because they’re right. Take a quick look at children’s TV today, and you’re hard-pressed to find a value beyond caring for a tree. I have nothing against trees. But let’s go beyond that. I was so inspired to see photos of the young people who went to the March for Life last week. That’s what we want for our sons—to understand that much of what we see around us is not acceptable and to stand up for what we believe.

7. We want our boys to want to serve. Maybe they’ll make sandwiches for Our Daily Bread, or collect nickels and dimes for people locally and overseas who have less. Whatever they do, I hope they’ll know that we serve not because of some vague notion of giving back and gratitude to some nameless entity, but because we follow the One who showed us how to give and serve by giving His life for His friends and enemies—and called us to do the same.

6. When the saints come marching in, they’ll recognize them. We hope they’ll find beauty in the Rosary, grow to love the Blessed Mother, sing as they walk in a May procession, feel connected to generations of saints, fast and abstain and know why it matters, and realize the universal nature of our Church. Maybe their hearts will leap at the smell of incense, and they’ll instinctively genuflect when they enter a church. I can’t wait to see them discover the richness of our faith tradition.

5. They’ll be able to talk about their faith with their friends. I have friends with a variety of beliefs and ways of practicing those beliefs. And I’m grateful for, and enriched by, each of those friendships. But to grow in your faith, it’s especially important that you have friends who share that journey with you.

4. Keep God in the conversation. Leo loves to talk about God. If we are discussing something, and there’s a way for him to bring God into the conversation, he does. I love that he makes those connections. If he went to a school where that wasn't acceptable, he would be so confused.

3. Academics are good, but that’s not my top priority. I’m all for learning, and I believe all the Catholic schools we’ve been considering are excellent. But I don’t care whether they offer six languages, a robotics club, or tap dance lessons. I’m less concerned with whether our children become rocket scientists than I am with their becoming good, kind, selfless people. My job as their mother is not to make sure they earn six-figure salaries. My job is to help them get to heaven.

2. Christmas will be about Christ’s birth. Easter will be about His Resurrection. Lent will be a time of penance. Advent will be a time of preparation. Holy days of obligation will involve going to Mass.

1. We know we can’t do it alone. I’d like to believe that John and I can ensure that our children want to have a personal relationship with their Lord and Savior, that they’ll grow to value the Catholic faith, and that they’ll learn to treasure our Church. But I don’t consider that a given. Of course, John and I will do all we can, but I also know how children learn from others who are not their parents. Especially in today’s world, we can use all the help we can get. And we are so grateful to be able to turn to Catholic schools.

Why did you choose Catholic schools for your child?

You might also enjoy: A few of the many reasons we love our Catholic school


January 07, 2015 09:02
By Rita Buettner


We might not be rocket scientists, or how high our baking-soda-and-vinegar rocket didn't go (with video footage)


When I saw a rocket-building kit on a Christmas shopping trip, I knew we had to put it under our tree. It was only $10, and the box said it could go up to 100 feet! So John and Leo built it, and on a chilly day we walked to a field to set it off.



The fuel: Baking soda and white vinegar.

The scientists: Our 7-year-old and his father.



The goal: The moon, of course. We could even see it in the sky.



OK, so we knew we wouldn’t reach the moon. But this was a rocket. Surely it would go really high.

Leo helped John put the baking soda and vinegar inside.



Then John set it out in the field as the boys and I stayed far away.

We waited. And waited. And waited.

“How long will it take?”

“It says to wait 30 seconds.”

“Oh, OK.”

“But it’s been much more than 30 seconds.”

“Let’s just wait a little longer.”



Finally John went over and shook it a little and stepped away. It shot about six inches up—maybe a foot—and fell over.

We emptied everything out, rinsed the whole rocket with a bottle of water, and started again.

This time—now please don't be shockednothing happened. John went over to look at the rocket. He picked it up, and as he lifted it, the plug on the bottom flew out of the base and sailed through the air.

It didn’t go 100 feet, but it was still entertaining. The boys laughed and ran off to climb on the playground equipment nearby—as John grumbled about how well Estes rockets work.



Any day with a playground visit is a success, right?



As we were walking home, I said to the boys, “So what did we learn today?”

“To trust your parents,” said Daniel, our 5-year-old. I’m not sure how he learned that, but it sounds like a good lesson. “And not to let a rocket blow up in your face.”



We may have also learned that experiments don’t always work, that sometimes you spend hours on something and then it fails, and that expectations don’t always match reality.

As in this case, for example.


We also learned that you have to keep trying.

So we set the rocket up again yesterday—this time in our yard, since we no longer believed it would go far. And, along with several other failures, we saw one regal rocket flight of about 15 feet.

But if you want to see science in action, you should really watch this. (Turn your sound down so you don't hear my scream.)


So we’re starting small in this New Year. But that’s OK. NASA didn't make it to the Moon on the first try either.

January 04, 2015 11:01
By Rita Buettner

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