Everything I know about graduation I forgot in kindergarten
I owe my mother an apology.
A few weeks ago when we attended Leo’s Pre-K graduation ceremony, I mentioned that I hadn’t had a graduation until the end of my senior year in high school. I knew there was no ceremony for my eighth grade class, and I didn’t recall graduating from kindergarten.
Wearing my new double-buckle shoes on my first day of kindergarten
My mother went looking through her albums to try to find photos of my kindergarten graduation—which she couldn’t remember either—and she couldn’t find any. So she and I figured it hadn’t happened.
Then one of my St. Pius X friends corrected me. She remembered details from the ceremony, and she was sure her mother had photos.
I told my mother. Of course my friend’s mom had photos, I said. Why didn’t we? Was there a new baby born in our family that year? Did my oldest sister have a spelling bee to attend so my family skipped my graduation? Was I home sick? No, no, and no.
My mother scoured the house. Nothing.
Don’t bother looking anymore, I told her. I thought it was funny that she had photos of my five siblings’ kindergarten graduations but not mine.
My mother was not amused, especially when I jokingly told her I would just include it as a chapter in my I-was-the-overlooked-middle-child-of-six book, The Last Sprite. Then I forgot about the photos.
I forgot, that is, until the other day, when the phone rang. It was my mother.
“Guess what I just found!” she said. The kindergarten graduation pictures had shown up when my mother was looking for something else.
Just because we found the photos doesn't mean I remember my classmates' names.
And they are great photos, including one of me standing alone in front of our house.
Looking a bit smug in front of our house on Hopkins Road
I didn’t even think to take a photo of Leo standing on his own—though, in his case, he would have refused.
So I was wrong. Not only did my mother have the photos, but she found them within a few weeks. Considering all the photos a mother of six and grandmother of 11 has tucked away, that is impressive.
Receiving my diploma from Sister Raymond Marie, SSND, the principal
The only question left is, if a picture’s worth a thousand words, do I need to offer an apology of the same length?
God, please heal Teresa's heart and give her family the courage and strength to face each day. We also send prayers for the grieving family of the donor, who gave Teresa a chance at life.
June 18, 2013 10:33
By Rita Buettner
That in itself was a miracle since doctors had never thought her lungs would be strong enough for her to be on the transplant list. God helped her defeat those odds. (The Today Show did a story
on her on Christmas Eve, the day before Teresa celebrated her sixth birthday.)
Yesterday her family got the call
that a heart was available, and they headed to Philadelphia for the transplant surgery.
Teresa's mother, Ann Bartlinski, posted this status this morning on Facebook
Just spoke with Teresa's amazing surgeon. She is back in her room and she is PINK for the first time in her life! Her O2 is 95. Her broken heart was very beat up and had a lot of scar tissue. Her Hero's heart looks great. The right ventricle is REALLY struggling. This is what we feared because of her high pulmonary pressure. Please pray for her . She needs lots of prayers , she has a fever and is on nitric oxide to help the pulmonary pressure.
Here is a photo Ann posted last night as Teresa was waiting for surgery:
Please join me in praying for this sweet girl, her family, and the family that lost a beloved child yesterday. Teresa now has a new chance at life.
Urgent please ask everyone to pray now! They are doing chest compressions her right ventricle is failing they are putting her on life support. Please pray pray pray!!!! Please share!!!!
Thank you for joining me in prayer for dear Teresa and her family. She needs a miracle.
June 18, 2013 07:04
By Rita Buettner
— 1 —
When I came across this scrub in a store attached to a restaurant in Lancaster, Pa., last weekend, I had to have it.
Because I don’t use non-stick pans, I often resort to using steel wool, especially when I’ve been scrambling eggs for the boys. But this! I can use it again and again and run it through the dishwasher or microwave to clean it. And it's even attractive.
I still prefer cooking to washing dishes, but this does make it easier. My favorite kitchen item is still my scoop colander, which I can't find online so I had to photograph myself. If you look closely, you can see my reflection.
I even gave a few of these scrubs as part of a gift for the wedding we're attending tomorrow. John and I going to a wedding! And we're going without the boys, so it's like a date. As wonderful as it was to be there for my sister Treasa's wedding last fall
, it will be fun to be at a wedding simply as guests. And when one of my 7 quick takes is about dish washing, I think we're overdue for an outing.
— 2 —
Last week I invited you to vote on the appropriate age for introducing children to the original Star Wars films. Most of the responses—many written in extraordinary detail, which reminded me that I was barely qualified to ask the question—came not on the poll, but on Twitter and Facebook.
Not surprisingly, the most passionate readers felt Star Wars could not be introduced too soon—and that in utero might be the best time, though a few days after birth might be acceptable. I was leaning toward joining the 7- or 8-year-old camp, but I was willing to consider that a younger age might be OK.
Then I went to my college reunion
on Saturday. When I came home, John gave me the summary of his day with the boys. Almost as an afterthought, he said, “Oh, and we watched Star Wars.”
How did it go? Well, our 3-year-old didn’t really watch the movie. He just wandered around the room and played with toys. Our 5-year-old said he liked it.
“What was the best part?” I asked.
The guns and lasers, he said.
“What was the worst part?”
“The good guys,” he said.
“Because they didn’t have capes. Except Obi Wan Kenobi.”
So maybe 5 ½ isn’t the ideal age if you’re hoping your child will appreciate the good guys. Or maybe George Lucas should have given them capes.
— 3 —
Speaking of movies, the boys and I were watching Our Friend the Atom the other day when a scene featuring a genie started.
(It’s about 5 ½ minutes into the movie, which I don't have the attention span for, but you might.)
“The genius came out of the lamp,” Daniel said.
Suddenly I remembered a conversation we had with him recently.
“No, Mama,” he said. “I meant I am a real genius.”
Well, there’s nothing wrong with his self-confidence. I still don’t think our 3-year-old knows what genius means. I just know he doesn’t think he’s a genie. Oh, and he has been telling us that he’s big enough to go to college. And maybe he is. But we’ll have to teach him his letters first.
— 4 —
It was bound to happen.
You travel to the other side of the world to adopt these amazing children, bring them home, and teach them to use their words to express themselves.
Then one day you’re making dinner when you realize those sweet, adorable voices coming from the other room aren’t just speaking flawless English.
They are speaking with Baltimore accents.
If you have experienced the Baltimore accent, you know what I mean. I don’t think John and I have pronounced Baltimore accents, though I suppose I could be wrong. It doesn't matter, though, because our sons are at preschool most of the day, and they are going to talk the same way their peers do.
So the other day when Leo and Daniel were pretending to explode something in the other room, I could hear them yelling “Boom!” and it sounded like “BOE-ewm!”
It’s actually really cute. And it makes me think that when people say to them, “Where are you from?” they might not always mean “which Asian country,” but rather “Where in the world did you learn to talk like that?” And that, my friends, would be Baltimore.
— 5 —
I really enjoyed this post, “Six Words You Should Say Today."
It is not at all surprising to me that it was apparently published in April and I am just seeing it. Maybe it will be new to you, too.
— 6 —
For Father’s Day the boys couldn't wait to give John the fire hydrant sprinkler and Speedracer DVD we bought for him.
Then yesterday at their preschool’s Father’s Day Breakfast they gave him gifts they had made at school. So all we have left to give are cards
. We’ll probably take him to one of his favorite restaurants this weekend.
Now I just need to figure out what we will give my father. He likes new cars, old country music, Wonder Woman, and afternoon naps. If we do find a gift, it won’t be strawberry cobbler
What are you giving your dad for Father’s Day?
— 7 —
Even before we were married, as I watched John play with our nieces and nephews and friends’ children, I knew he would make a fantastic father.
Even in the early days of parenting, when I often felt I was stumbling through, making it up as I went along, John was a natural father. He walked into fatherhood ready, confident, and full of love to shower on our boys. And they adore him.
By our second day with Leo and our first with Daniel John was “Baba,” the Chinese word for Daddy. And “Baba” fits him in a way that “Dad” or “Daddy” just doesn’t. Watching my husband become a father has been such a gift.
As Leo says, “I love you more than you love me.” Because that’s what love is about—not winning, which I think may be what our bigger boy has in mind—but learning to love infinitely, almost unimaginably as Our Father in Heaven does. We are so blessed to be on this journey together.
Happy Father’s Day, Baba.
June 14, 2013 10:24
By Rita Buettner
Greeting cards are pithy, uncreative, overly sappy, wordy, or full of humor I would never share with my children or parents.
And yet some of them are $3.99 a piece—or more.
I thought the Valentine’s Day cards were horrible, but today I decided that Father’s Day cards are worse.
Walking into the store, I thought, “How hard can it be to find a few cards?”
Well, it’s not hard at all—if you want a card featuring:
a. a fish
b. a duck
c. a boat
d. a beer can or
e. a golf club.
It’s even easier if you’re looking for one that discusses
a. your father’s laziness
b. your need for your father to give you cash
d. beer, beer, and more beer
e. a father’s interest in a scantily clad woman or
f. a father’s interest in a scantily clad woman cooking burgers on a grill.
But here’s the thing.
None of those will work for my father, my father-in-law, or my husband. Do they work for yours? Do they work for anyone’s?
And aren’t we celebrating fathers, rather than pointing out their weaknesses? Why are mothers glorified and fathers beaten down?
I finally found cards that would work, but it took some hunting. And I'm still not thrilled, especially knowing what they cost. My father and my sons' father would not approve of the expense.
Now I don’t like complaining without offering a solution. So, dear greeting card companies, here’s my suggestion for next year’s Father’s Day cards.
You can write:
Who needs a fishing pole or caddy?
You’re still the most fantastic daddy.
Or, if you’re more into prose:
To the Greatest Father in the World:
You taught me how to ride a bike, pick a crab, and change a tire.
Too bad you never showed me how to pick a decent Father’s Day card.
Next year maybe I can convince the boys we should just make our own.
I hope your Father’s Day card shopping went better than mine. Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers—and to all those waiting to become fathers!
June 12, 2013 10:25
By Rita Buettner
Fortunately my husband, father of our two sons, does like strawberries. And he was happy to help taste test this strawberry cobbler.
It’s a recipe my mother makes, though I don’t know where she originally found it.
It’s not really a cake, so I was hoping my boys—who don’t like cake—would enjoy it. But our older son wouldn’t try it. Our younger son sat down enthusiastically with a bowl of warm, sweet strawberry cobbler, tasted it a few times, and said, “I call this pie, Mama.”
That sounded like high praise until he declared he didn't like it.
He’d rather just have plain whipped cream. So he did.
But if you like your strawberries warm and tender with just a little cake nestled alongside them, you are in for a treat.
Fresh Strawberry Cobbler Cake
1 qt. strawberries
1 cup flour
1 ¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
3 Tbsp. butter
1 /2 cup skim milk
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup cold water
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse and hull berries. Place berries in a 9” square pan.
Combine flour, ½ cup sugar, baking powder in large bowl. Cut in butter until coarse crumbs form. Stir in milk. Spoon mixture over berries. Combine remaining ¾ cup sugar and cornstarch in large bowl. Stir in water until sugar mixture dissolves. Pour over berry mixture.
Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until lightly browned.
The cobbler is best fresh out of the oven, but it reheated just fine. And last night when we lost power right after I had taken some out of the refrigerator, I discovered that it tastes fine cold, too—especially when you’re sitting in a dim house with no electricity.
June 11, 2013 10:29
By Rita Buettner
The moment I set foot on this campus as a high school senior, I knew I had found the place for me.
It wasn’t because it was beautiful. It was a freezing, gray February day. My father and I trudged through inches of slushy wetness on the tour. But, after seeing so many other campuses, there was something about Franklin & Marshall that felt right.
And it was—for all kinds of reasons I could never have discovered during a college tour. My professors stretched me in unimaginable ways, helping me discover new talents within myself. My friends supported and challenged me socially, emotionally, and spiritually.
I learned how to live on little sleep, a fair amount of caffeine, and a lot of adrenaline—the perfect preparation for parenthood.
This weekend I went back for my 15-year reunion. If you had asked me 15 years ago what I’d be doing today, I wonder whether I would have had any idea.
I would have guessed I’d be married to a wonderful man who supports and inspires me.
I wouldn’t have been surprised to know I’d be a mother of two, though how could I have known they would have been born in China?
I could have suspected I’d have a writing career—but who knew journalism would change so much in 15 years?
And I’m blogging. Blogging? Did that even exist in 1998?
Five years ago when John and I went for my 10th reunion, we weren’t parents yet. Our older son had been born on the other side of the world, but we hadn’t even started the adoption process.
When I returned to F&M on Saturday, I went alone. It’s an easy drive from Baltimore—not even 1 ½ hours—and the best choice for our children seemed to be to leave them at home with John. It kept our sons on schedule and it meant I actually got to hold conversations with friends and classmates, some of whom I hadn’t seen in five years—or longer.
As I walked onto campus, I was filled again with that feeling I had back in 1994—a sense of coming home.
But I was also aware of how that home has changed.
It used to be that every little difference bothered me. On this visit, though, I found myself admiring the changes. Maybe it’s because I work in higher education or because I’m a little more removed from my alma mater every year, but on this visit I could legitimately see that many of the changes are improvements.
My college has evolved, and my life has changed, too. And that’s perfectly fine, especially since the additions blend so well with the parts of the campus I remember so well.
Now let’s see what the next five years bring for F&M—and for me and my family.
Do you go to your school reunions? How do they meet—or fail to meet—your expectations?
June 10, 2013 02:00
By Rita Buettner
— 1 —
You know summer has started when it’s time for your library’s summer reading program.
Because our boys have two aunts who are librarians, we start tracking our books on the first day of the program. We hit the magic number—eight books—to earn our prizes this week, so we stopped by Aunt Treasa’s library
one evening on our way home.
You might think reading the books would be the hard part, but the real challenge is deciding which of the fantastic prizes to take home. The plastic fish clapper? The heart-shaped slinky? The set of Go Fish cards? Be still my heart.
Daniel quickly settled on a flashing necklace.
Leo, however, had to consider his options carefully. He finally found some plastic dinosaur digging claws—obviously not the technical term—and decided they would be perfect for the beach. We thanked Aunt Treasa, collected our summer reading T-shirts, and headed for the door.
But as Leo started toward the turnstile, he was hit with regret.
He didn’t want a plastic dinosaur claw. What he desperately needed was the dinosaur excavation kit. So we went back and traded for the kit.
I didn’t fully appreciate how amazing the kit was until the dust from the dinosaur dig had covered our dining room and the project had just begun. It is quite a prize. We have a long way to go before we release the dinosaur skeleton, and I think we’ll need to get a new vacuum and have the vents cleaned when the excavation is complete.
When we put our house on the market, maybe we can mention that it’s also the site of a paleontological dig.
— 2 —
Leo brought a pinwheel home from school this week.
“It’s beautiful!” I said. “How did you make it?”
“I can’t tell you,” Leo said.
“The teacher used something I can’t tell you about.”
That didn’t sound good.
“You can tell me,” I said. “What did the teacher do?”
“She used a hot glue—and here’s the word you won’t like, Mama—gun.”
I didn’t know what to say.
— 3 —
Looking for a Father’s Day gift?
The boys and I have a sure-fire solution: stomp rockets
. They cost about $15, a father is never too old or too young to enjoy them, and the children will like them, too. We gave John a stomp rocket last Father’s Day and it was by far the best gift we've ever given him.
We’ve used it at parks, Fort McHenry, and even at the beach, always with great success. In fact, whenever we are driving, Daniel will point out the window—often at vast well-manicured lawns by multi-million-dollar homes in Baltimore’s Greenspring Valley—and say, “That looks like a good place for stomp rockets.” And he’s right.
Now if we could just think of what to give Baba for this Father’s Day. Any suggestions? Leo says we should give him a real Saturn V
— 4 —
Last week after I mentioned that Leo would be graduating from Pre-K, I told a friend that my first graduation had been from high school.
I was wrong. Although I have no memory of it, I apparently did have a kindergarten graduation at St. Pius X. There are photos—just not any that my mother can find. And she has spent most of the past week looking.
You’d think the lost (or never taken) photos might upset me—as the allegedly overlooked third of six children—but I’m actually amused. It will just be another chapter in my long-awaited memoir of my childhood, The Last Sprite.
I’d like to explain the title someday, but it would require more space than a quick take allows.
— 5 —
Catholic Charities, our home study agency, held its annual picnic on Sunday at Kinder Farm Park.
We love connecting with families we only see once or twice a year, meeting new families, and wearing ourselves out climbing and running and trying to catch butterflies
and visiting the farm animals.
As our boys get older, I don’t know that they will enjoy the outing as much, but at this age it is perfect.
On the playground, a father told me he remembered me from a panel I served on for Catholic Charities
about the challenges of raising siblings. I was a little surprised since that was at least 18 months ago. The stories of what we went through as a family when Daniel was newly home must have been memorable. It reminded me yet again of how far our boys have come on their journey together.
— 6 —
This week I thought we would try something new. How about a question of the week?
This week’s question is a big one in our household because we haven’t let our boys—who are 3 and 5—watch the original Star Wars movies yet. But Star Wars is apparently quite popular with his age group, and Leo has started asking when he will be able to watch it. I think we have a few years to go.
But I am curious. What do you feel is an appropriate age for a child to watch Star Wars
? And I mean the original ones, beginning with Episode IV. You can vote here.
— 7 —
My boys don't usually like Mama’s country music, but this one makes Daniel dance around the kitchen.
June 07, 2013 12:06
By Rita Buettner
As we were driving to school, I noticed that Leo had his thumb in his mouth. He was worried and I could guess what was on his mind: his Pre-K graduation.
“Are you thinking about graduation?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said. “Mama, what does graduation mean?”
What does Pre-K graduation mean? Not much in the grand scheme of things. Leo’s certificate will never be anything more than a memento. It’s mainly a reason to see how cute your child is in a cap, for the parents to sit there with lumps in their throats (and tears in their eyes), and for the students to realize that a big change is coming.
I was trying to figure out how to explain graduation to our 5-year-old. I offered a few different explanations, but I could tell he didn’t understand.
Then I had an idea.
“What happens when you win a level in Angry Birds?” I asked.
Leo responded immediately. “You get three stars and then you move to the next level.”
That is what graduation is like, I told him. You get a certificate and they tell you that you can move on to the next level.
“But Mama,” he said, “in Angry Birds, the next level is harder.”
“It’s the same in kindergarten,” I said. “It will be harder, but it will still be fun.”
And he got it. I could see him relax a little. It made just a little more sense. And his mother had just compared kindergarten to an iPad game.
Leo survived his graduation. So did his parents. Afterward, we celebrated with a picnic—complete with stomp rockets and our first snowballs of the season.
Now that the certificate has been signed and the cap has been tossed aside, it’s official. Time is flying faster than a catapulted Angry Bird, and our little boy is rocketing up to the next level.
June 05, 2013 11:23
By Rita Buettner
Over the past few weeks Daniel has seen a lot of butterflies. And he has set his heart on catching one.
He runs and runs after them and never comes close. They dance away into the sky, far out of his reach. But that doesn’t stop him from trying.
Then this morning as we were climbing into the car, a brown moth landed on Daniel’s Star Wars shirt. Because I was busy trying to convince Daniel to be gentle, I didn’t take a photo, but the moth looked sort of like this
Daniel didn’t care that it wasn’t a pretty color or spotted or striped or even particularly large. It was the butterfly he had been waiting for and finally, finally it had come within his reach.
He could not have been more excited.
“A butterfly!” he shouted.
He took it gently—well, gently for a 3-year-old boy—off his shirt and held it in his hand.
Then he sprinted off down the sidewalk with his new friend inside his fingers.
“I got a butterfly!” he yelled. When he came running back, he climbed into the car and placed the moth on the comic book on his big brother’s lap. They watched the moth flap its wings and flutter around for a few minutes before they were persuaded to take it carefully out of the car and set it down on the grass.
I’d like to tell you that the moth flew away, but he was still fluttering when we left. I’m hoping it recovered from our son’s exuberant greeting, but I’m not sure anything that small could survive such enthusiasm.
As we drove to school, Daniel talked about catching his butterfly.
“I made my wish,” he told me. It makes sense, I suppose, that if you get a wish when you blow a dandelion that you’d also get one when—in a much more extraordinary moment—you catch a butterfly.
His big brother wanted to know why the butterfly landed on Daniel and not on him. Why, indeed? I can’t explain that, except that someone seems to have a lucky streak
. I hope the moth is lucky, too, since I wasn’t able to protect him from our little boy’s excitement.
As we drove, I thought about how wonderful it is that our children can find such joy in these interactions with nature. What a blessing that God sent this moth just when Daniel has been yearning to see a butterfly up close. I am also grateful that I was there to witness the fulfillment of Daniel’s wish.
Then I heard Daniel’s voice coming from the back seat.
“Mama,” he said, “now I want to catch a bird.”
Oh, my. I hope he never gets that wish.
June 04, 2013 10:09
By Rita Buettner
It’s strawberry time! At last the strawberries are red and
I can still hear the voice of the Arabber who used to bring
his horse and cart through our Rodgers Forge neighborhood during the summer. He’d
yell, “STRAW-berries! STRAW-berries!” He may have called out other words, but
that’s the only one I remember. He had a distinctive way of saying it, and it
was so magical to have a horse walking down our alley.
Today when Daniel and I saw containers of juicy strawberries
on sale—not on a cart but at the store—I thought of a strawberry muffin recipe
my mother gave me a while ago. I bought the berries and tonight, after our boys
were in bed, I made the muffins.
The muffins were even better than I remember. In fact, I
almost expected the aroma coming from the kitchen to awaken our sleeping sons,
but they are apparently asleep for the night. And they’re not really baked
goods fans—though they do love their strawberries. I’ll be curious to see
whether they are interested in trying the muffins tomorrow.
2 ¼ cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ cup sugar
½ cup milk
½ cup sour cream
1/3 cup oil
1 cup fresh strawberries, thinly sliced (1/8”) and patted
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large bowl, stir and toss together flour, baking
powder, and baking soda. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, milk, sour cream,
oil, and egg until mixed. Stir in strawberries.
Add to the combined dry ingredients and stir just until
Place batter in lined muffin tins, filling to the top.
Sprinkle sugar on top (optional).
Bake 15-18 minutes until toothpick inserted in the center
comes out clean.
Cool in tins for 5 minutes.
My favorite strawberry recipe, though, is the strawberry
cobbler my mother makes. I may have to try that one next. That one is best warm
out of the oven, though, so I need to make sure I have willing tasters on hand.
Do you have a favorite strawberry recipe?
June 02, 2013 10:21
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By Rita Buettner