We are going camping! I’m not sure how I feel about it, but the boys seem sort of nervous and sort of excited. I’m wondering how we ended up in this spot. I have been camping before, but not real camping—more sleeping in a tent on a school retreat way back a thousand years ago when I was in high school.
But our sons are Cub Scouts, and this is part of the deal.
“Will we find our meals in nature?” my younger son asks.
I hope not. But I don’t really know. I'm not exactly a camping expert. But I would, of course, do anything for our children.
I suspect this trip can only exceed my expectations. I also suspect there’s a blog in it somewhere—and maybe some live tweeting or Instagramming. I’ll let you know how it goes.
If we are hoping to find our meals in our backyard, we might have to look beyond the cabbage plant our third grader brought home from school. It’s not making much progress.
But let’s think positively. At least it’s still alive.
I bought a ham to cook after Easter, and it was delicious. Now the hambone is waiting to become soup. Our boys love soup, so I am hoping a ham and bean soup will be popular.
Do you have favorite recipes you use for leftover ham?
Daniel was practically headed out the door to school on Monday when we decided to make Easter bunny paper towel rolls for his teacher and teacher’s assistant.
We usually make them with kitchen-towel ears, but this time I just drew them on, and Daniel glued the cotton ball tails onto the back of the towel rolls.
It is still Easter, after all.
When the boys and I went to Chuck E Cheese last week, they were playing Harpoon Lagoon when the jellyfish came out of the treasure chest in the center of the game.
(If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should really try Harpoon Lagoon. It is one of the best arcade games ever.)
Anyway, I jumped into the game and caught the jellyfish—which means I instantly won 50 tickets.
And Leo yelled, “YOU ARE AMAZING!”
I really felt amazing. But it also made me think. As a mother, I do all kinds of things that are invisible to our children. Many of them are hard. Some of them are easy. Motherhood was never a given for me, and I’m grateful to be able to do anything I get to do for my children.
But I have to enjoy that moment when my sons think I am the most amazing person in the world, all because I caught a virtual jellyfish.
Infertility Awareness Week is ending, and somehow it got away from me this year! I didn’t write anything about it this week.
But I have written many times about infertility:
Finding hope through infertility
When infertility is a blessing
When it’s not your birthday
When are you going to have a baby?
You don’t have to go to that baby shower: Advice I wish I had received while struggling with infertility
You’d think I might be done with infertility as a topic, but I actually have another idea, thanks to a reader who asked me for advice on how to share pregnancy news with a friend who’s dealing with infertility. Tune in for that post sometime soon.
Last weekend the boys and I took a pinwheel to their cousin Georgie’s grave. I love taking them to the cemetery, but this was the first time we decided to pick up a little lunch on the way to the cemetery and sit by Georgie’s grave and eat.
We sat and ate and talked to and about Georgie. We discussed Heaven and why people die and how long it takes to get to Heaven and whether people eat food in Heaven.
Then we went to the cemetery pond and looked at the water and the geese.
We even saw the two swans.
We fed the ducks and geese with pellets that were waiting for us there.
We saw a few other people just sitting by graves, spending time in thought and maybe prayer. By the time we left, I felt renewed in a way. It wasn’t an entirely peaceful visit because the children are full of energy and life. But it was good.
I hope you can find some beautiful moments this weekend, too.
Read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum, and have a wonderful weekend!
April 28, 2017 10:40
By Rita Buettner
As we arrive at Mass, we slip into the pew to pray. When Daniel finds himself sandwiched in between his parents—his favorite spot—he reaches over for my hand. Then he reaches over for my husband’s.
Just as he has done many times before, he takes our hands and wraps them around his, gathering a cluster of hands in his lap. Then he looks up at me and smiles.
His simple action melts my heart.
Every time I look down at our hands intertwined on his lap, I am struck by how important our marriage is to our little boy. My love for his father and his father’s love for me don’t just matter to both of us, but also to our children. This child who brings so much joy to our lives sees that—and wants to be part of it.
As I look down at our hands, I remember back to a pre-Cana conversation where the married couple we were paired with told us that our marriage had to take priority over our other relationships—over raising children and all the rest. At the time, as we counted down to our wedding, that seemed so obvious. But, in the busyness of life, it can be easy to lose sight of that.
Seeing our 7-year-old drawing our hands together and then grinning up at us brings it front and center. And time and again, he provides a simple, sweet reminder that our marriage, our love, is a cornerstone for all the rest.
“Pure love ... knows that only one thing is needed to please God,” St. Faustina wrote, “to do even the smallest things out of great love—love, and always love.”
April 23, 2017 04:34
By Rita Buettner
Happy Easter! We ran out on Holy Saturday to get carrots to leave for the Easter Bunny that night. Somehow everyone was exhausted at bedtime, and no one had the energy to write a note. So we threw together a very quick snack for the Bunny that doubled as a note.
The next morning it occurred to me that the plates we use for the Bunny’s snack every year were our younger son’s Baptism gift from his godparents. How fitting that we bring them out once a year at Easter.
On Easter morning the boys ran to their baskets.
Then I made a few pancakes shaped like bunnies. They were surprisingly easy to do, and Daniel said they tasted better.
We hosted Easter again this year—does that make it an annual tradition?—and the boys helped me fill eggs with Baby Goldfish for their little cousins, who are 1 and 2 ½. We filled the boys' eggs with coins. Everyone searched for a golden egg, and the boys each won Pokemon cards, while the girls won straw hats I found for two for $3. Of course, our nieces would look good in anything, but the hats were cute.
I served lasagna because who doesn’t like lasagna? And maybe it’s the only thing I know how to make that everyone likes. We also served both animal-shaped butters I found at Wegman’s because butter tastes better when it’s a fun shape. I sort of want to invest in butter molds and make my own, but this is probably more cost-effective, and where do you get a plastic Alleluia flag?
Instead of using jarred sauce in the lasagna, I sautéed some onion and garlic in olive oil, added crushed tomatoes, a tiny bit of salt and a generous amount of pepper, and cooked it for about 10 minutes. I thought it was delicious and maybe a little juicier. I heard no complaints.
I made cupcakes and used card stock strips to try to make them look like Easter baskets, though I am sure there’s a better way.
How was your Easter? Or, to be more liturgically correct, how is your Easter going?
I’ve been off for the week with the boys since they are on spring break. When I say I’m off from work, I have to admit that I am not very good at being completely off. I have done a few things for work in between all the fun we are having.
But we have managed to fit in bowling, a trip to the zoo, bicycle riding, shopping, trips to two libraries, mini golf, laser tag, and more.
And we aren’t finished yet.
Meanwhile, we have 12 full weeks of summer to plan for. I am happy to see our summer is starting to fall into place. Summer is a wonderful time, of course, and we all look forward to it here. For those of us who have to hire sitters or pay for camps, it is also an expensive time, and I feel for families who have fewer resources available to them than we do.
It’s really important to me that our children get to relax and enjoy their summer, while also having some structure. So my husband and I will take some time to be at home, and I am making other arrangements to make sure it will be a good summer for our boys.
On our trip to the Maryland Zoo we had the chance to see the new baby giraffe, Willow. She is so cute, and she even posed for a few photos for us. I wonder what she thinks of all of us. I know what we thought of her.
We always enjoy our trips to the Zoo, even though we don’t go often. This time we also saw the new grizzly bears.
And we saw the cheetahs and the sign near their area that says, “Adopt Me!” I found myself explaining yet again that you can’t actually adopt a cheetah, and that the sign is using “adopt” to mean something very different from what we experience in our family. For us, adoption means a forever family. For the relationship with the cheetah, adoption means making a donation to the zoo to help care for the cheetah.
Sometimes I wish we could all agree just to use adoption to describe actual adoption. No one really adopts a highway. Few people adopt prairie dogs. But I am grateful that we had the chance to talk yet again about adoption in a spontaneous way. We look for those opportunities, and they come up all the time. When they don't, we create them.
Leo and I made it to Confession at the Baltimore Basilica on Good Friday. I will remember for next year that the Basilica offers Confession through Holy Saturday. Not that I mean to procrastinate, but some years it happens.
I took Leo along for the Stations of the Cross, but I didn’t expect him to go to Confession again since he had just gone with his class three days earlier. But he decided to go again. Why not?
Afterward, he said, “I think the priest was surprised when I said I had been to Confession three days ago.”
I bet he was.
One of the boys fell off his bicycle yesterday. He’s fine, but he ended up with the first scrapes of the season. Somehow a scraped knee feels like one of the signs that summer is right around the corner.
This week has brought some beautiful spring weather. I love all the blossoms on the trees, but the dogwoods this year are so vibrant and delicate.
April 21, 2017 10:05
By Rita Buettner
Our boys have been sharing a bicycle. That worked well when one of them didn’t care about riding it, or even know how to. But last week the one who didn’t ride decided he was going to learn to ride a bicycle, so he did.
I don’t know exactly how it happened. I was no help at all. All I can say is that motivation is a powerful thing.
So we had one bicycle that fit two children and two children who wanted to ride it.
I don’t know whether you’ve priced bicycles lately, but they aren’t inexpensive. And our boys are growing so quickly! If we buy a new one this summer, we might still be buying two new bicycles next summer.
That’s a great problem to have. But I do love a bargain.
And we are on spring break from school this week, so we had a little time to shop.
So we set out to do some thrift store shopping. We hit Savers and two Goodwills. They had bicycles, but they didn’t have a boys’ bike in the right size.
Before the third stop, Daniel reminded me that we hadn’t told God what we were looking for.
We stopped and talked with Him for just a minute. “God, we know many people have many problems, and this is just a little thing—but it’s a big thing for us. Our boys would really love to be able to stop sharing a bicycle and go riding together. And if we can’t find a bicycle today, can you please help us not to be too disappointed.”
We didn’t find a bicycle at the third store, but the most amazing surprise was that we stayed on task. We bought one comic book and one board game—Apples to Apples!—because we were so focused on our mission.
Every time we came out of a store without a bicycle, I would say, “Well, there is another place we could try,” and the boys would say, “Let’s go!”
That might not sound like a miracle to you, but usually we wear out long before that. We ended up hitting five stores in a row, finally finding the bicycle at a children’s consignment shop in Cockeysville. It even has a kickstand.
Now we have two boys and two bicycles and two bicycle helmets and a new love for bargain shopping. Not bad for a beautiful spring afternoon.
April 19, 2017 07:52
By Rita Buettner
If I were getting graded on how I’ve done this Lent, I am not sure I would pass.
Maybe that’s why I am especially grateful for the prayer basket we filled with intentions before Lent even began.
Every morning we’ve pulled out a name for our intention of the day. We’ve prayed for people who are long deceased. We’ve prayed for people we see almost every day. We’ve prayed for teachers, friends, cousins, priests, and family members, some of whom our boys—and even we ourselves—have never met.
We’ve prayed for people we know are in heaven, people we hope are in heaven. We’ve prayed for people we don’t even know by name.
There was no logic to the people we chose. We just cut up 47 strips of paper and wrote on them. So every morning has brought a discovery. And every day we have talked together about our intention for that day—and we have prayed for every single intention we’ve found in the basket.
Miracles happen in all shapes and sizes, and I have loved making prayer a little more tangible for our children—and for all of us—on our Lenten journey. I have truly felt the Holy Spirit at work in our lives as we have kept our loved ones in our prayers each day.
On Good Friday morning when Daniel pulled the last name, we saw that it was the day to pray for his birthparents.
All day I kept thinking of how poignant that choice was for a day of such sadness, such darkness, such grief. That suffering, that loss, that pain, will always be there. But, as with Good Friday, there is also the joy that follows through adoption. In adoption, you can’t have the joy without the grief.
Easter, we know, can’t come without Good Friday.
Late in the day I walked with our boys to a local playground, and I watched as our younger son was recruited for a spontaneous baseball game. He stepped to the plate, swung at the first pitch, and hit the ball past the pitcher.
As he ran to first base, I thought of the people on the other side of the world who love him, too. And I prayed for them. I pray that they know some of the joy we experience with this little boy we all love.
Before we headed home, our boys blew dandelion seeds by the baseball field.
What did they wish for? I’m not sure. But I find myself wishing the prayer basket didn’t have to end as we move on to the joy of Easter. And…well…why should it? Maybe we’ll just fill it with more intentions and continue this journey.
April 14, 2017 10:39
By Rita Buettner
For weeks our first grader has been reminding me that soon it would be our turn to bring the snack to Cub Scouts. I haven’t focused much on it, but he has been taking it very seriously.
Our turn came the Wednesday before Easter—Spy Wednesday—so I suggested we should bring pretzels. Pretzels are very Lenten, of course.
A certain Cub Scout I know wasn’t convinced that was adequate.
Pretzels and apple crushers, I suggested?
That wasn’t enough either.
He reeled off a list of foods I could make. It sounded like fun—and a fair amount of work.
Then one of my friends mentioned she was making peep kabobs for a school treat.
Peep kabobs? That sounded like something even I could handle without too much effort. There are elaborate ones online
that are far superior to what I designed, but I was fairly sure the Cub Scouts wouldn’t be Googling or Pinteresting to compare.
So I took grapes, watermelon chunks, skewers, and some peeps—the bunny kind—and assembled them. I used wax paper between the layers and refrigerated them all day. I didn’t deliver them myself to the children since my husband handled going to the actual Cub Scouts meeting, but he said the children loved them.
I did also include pretzels and string cheese because you certainly can’t send a snack without multiple food groups. And our little Cub Scout was so proud.
I think I’m off the hook now for the rest of the year. Well, except for the camping trip I'm going on in a few weeks. Anyone want to offer camping tips?
April 12, 2017 11:23
By Rita Buettner
This weekend we celebrated her first birthday. Throughout her party, she was laughing and crawling and bouncing and reaching over to give her big sister a kiss.
What a difference a year makes. And what a fast year that was.
I could say I wish time would slow down, and in a way I do. But to be completely honest, my favorite part is just ahead. Especially because I became a mother to two toddlers, I don’t know much about babies. I love, love, love welcoming them into our lives, and I thank God for creating our little nephews and nieces, but I am not always sure I know what to do best for babies.
But toddlers? Oh, I know toddlers. I’ve raised two toddlers. I know their games. I know their language. I know the way they encounter their world—how everything is new to them.
And, as I watched our little niece at her party, as she realized the cupcake she was holding came in a paper wrapper—yes, a paper wrapper!—I was struck by how the best is still to come.
Then she opened our gift, a fox chair—because I am the kind of aunt who gives chairs that look like stuffed animals. I could hardly believe this climbing, smiling little girl who wanted to hug the new chair was the same one I held in my arms a year ago. I found myself thinking of her big brother Georgie in heaven
, and feeling grateful that God has brought him and his sisters into our lives.
As I looked around the house, packed with smiling grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, I wondered what it would be like if Georgie were with us, too. Would he be photobombing and putting bunny ears behind people’s heads as my boys do? Would he be gobbling the pepperoni flame off the cheese tray? Would he be running outside to play and then running even faster into the house when he saw a bumblebee?
I can only guess. But I know he has a seat at the best party ever—and that he’s loving watching his sisters grow, just as we are down here on earth.
This adorable birthday girl is going to get more active and more mobile and more curious and more expressive and more everything. That little personality we can already see is only going to blossom. And, as her aunt and godmother, I get to be along for the ride.
April 12, 2017 10:01
By Rita Buettner
How did you celebrate April Fools Day? We don’t typically do much, but as I was getting breakfast ready, I had an idea. Our boys almost always eat chicken noodle soup for breakfast, but I decided to keep things interesting and serve it in muffin tins.
I wasn’t sure it would go over well with both boys because our children like their routines. But they both loved it and ate more than they usually do for breakfast—which is saying something since they are good eaters.
That evening I made chicken lo mein, which might have been the best meal of the week. Everyone was eating it, and I commented how nice it was that we had found a meal the whole family liked.
"Actually," said Daniel, with a sad look on his face, "I don't really like it at all."
"Oh," I said, surprised and disappointed. "I'm sorry to hear that."
Then his face lit up. "Haha!" he said. "April Fools!"
So he tricked me.
We all love corn on the cob here, but it’s April, not July. Still, when we were at the store the other day, one of the boys spotted corn on the cob wrapped up and ready to be microwaved at home. So we brought it home.
I didn’t taste it, but the verdict was clear. No one had more than one bite. It was a big disappointment.
We will all be happy when corn is actually in season.
Daniel had been pleading with us to take him fishing, so on Saturday afternoon we packed up the rods and bait and headed to our favorite fishing spot. We caught nothing. It was very chilly. And Baba had to untangle and restring the rods so many times I lost count.
We finally came home. But while we were fishing, Daniel was grinning the whole time. He loved it. And his big brother did, too. So of course we all had a good time.
While we were out fishing, Leo and I looked up at the clouds and he spotted a dragon's head. Can you see it?
The boys and I were looking for a playground the other day, and we decided to go back to their old preschool for a visit. No one was there, but they ran onto the playground to greet it as if it were an old friend.
While they ran and played, I remembered all the afternoons I picked them up there, chatting with their teachers, who became so important to us, and watching them play with their friends.
“Take a picture of me on this swing,” Leo said. And I thought of how many pictures I have of him already on that swing—pictures that show a much smaller little boy who isn’t even imagining kindergarten, never mind the joys of third grade.
“Can we come back when people are here?” Daniel asked me. And we will, although I don’t know how many teachers we knew are still there. But it will always be a place full of memories—and good ones.
How much homework does your first grader have? Ours has lots. And on top of that he brought home a state project where he was assigned Ohio.
So we did what you do when you are assigned an Ohio project: We called my brother-in-law who is a native of Ohio.
He answered all our questions, gave us fantastic information, and then he said, “Don’t feel you need to footnote me as a source.”
So we won’t. But that’s because I am not footnoting anything. I just hope Daniel remembers to take it to school.
Baseball season is starting! Spring is finally here. Daniel was so excited for his first practice this week. He asked me over and over and over and over when he could go to practice.
The next night we went to the store to find him baseball pants and baseball socks and a bat and…well…let’s just hope this is a great season.
But I am looking forward to his games. Baseball is my kind of sport.
My goddaughter turns 1 this weekend! How is that possible? That might have been the fastest year ever. I wrote about her in this piece, which I actually go back to reread
when I am feeling I am not enough, which is fairly often. We have ordered her a gift, and I hope it comes in time for her birthday, even though she won’t care. I’m bursting to tell you what it is, but you’ll have to come back next week to find out. Happy birthday, baby girl! We love you!
April 06, 2017 10:34
By Rita Buettner
Every day during Lent we pull a slip of paper out of our prayer basket and read the name of the person or people listed there.
We’ve prayed for cousins and grandparents, deceased family members and living friends. We share stories about the people we’re praying for, and—when I think of it—I let people know they were in our prayers that day.
This morning when Daniel pulled the strip of paper out, we read the name on it: Father Brown.
“Father Brown!” I said. “I’m having lunch with him today, so I can tell him we are praying for him when I see him.”
We talked about Fr. Brown and prayed and went on about our busy morning, packing lunches, finding belts for school uniform pants, grabbing backpacks, and heading out the door.
At our lunch table, Fr. Brown blessed our food and prayed. As we sat down to eat, I told him about our prayer basket and mentioned that he was our intention that day.
He asked me what time we had prayed for him, and I said it was a little after 7 a.m.
As it turned out, he had lost a watch—and he thought it was his father’s watch he had lost. But at almost the same time we were praying at our house that morning, he found his father’s watch. The other watch was still missing, but he wasn’t concerned about that. It was the watch that had belonged to his late father that he had been sorry to have misplaced.
I couldn’t wait to tell my boys about the discovery of a watch we hadn’t even known was missing. And I loved that when I did, they also accepted it with the simple belief that, of course, their prayers had been heard. They were happy, and they loved the picture I had taken of the watch, but they were not surprised.
But I love thinking about the power of prayer, and how often we will never know the impact of our prayers.
Who is in your prayers today?
April 03, 2017 10:11
By Rita Buettner
I started my work day at Loyola University Maryland at 4:30 a.m. on Thursday as we prepared to welcome Al Roker and The Today Show to campus. Even typing that, I almost can't believe the day actually happened, but the night before I was more worried I would sleep in and miss my first shift. I stopped for coffee on my way to campus, and there was a line at 4 a.m. I realized how many people work all hours of the day.
When I arrived on campus, I stopped to chat with a student and she told me she had started working in catering at 2 a.m. that day, and it occurred to me that my start time was late.
The campus early in the morning
As for me, when I started my shift, I found a conference room full of smiling, excited colleagues who couldn’t wait to get the day started. I am so fortunate to have my job.
So our Loyola students—and some of my colleagues—came together to break a Guinness World Record for crab walking live on The Today Show
while Al Roker visited and delivered his weather reports from campus. I can’t even capture all the excitement of that morning.
Students were cheering in the line to check in to crab walk before 5 a.m. Everyone I encountered was smiling. It was a cold morning—cold enough the ink in my pens froze and I had to stop taking notes—but the energy was magnificent.
During the two-minute crab walk, as 500 people attempted to break the record, we were all yelling and cheering. And everywhere I looked, I saw people interacting and connecting. What a day!
I got to spend time with some of my favorite colleagues, including Fr. Tim Brown, S.J.
I even got to go to the airport the day before with a group of students to welcome Al Roker to Baltimore. I had originally thought I would bring some apples and breakfast bars for the students, but then I decided we should make it a little more interesting and add the logo one of my colleagues designed for the event. So everyone got a Rokerthon snack sack.
I am just so proud to be a part of such a fantastic team of people, and I am tremendously proud of our students for representing Loyola so well—and for breaking a world record!
I could go on and on and on about this experience, but these are supposed to be quick takes. But trust me...it was a once-in-a-lifetime event, and I still can't believe I was lucky enough to be a part of it.
Yes, that's Al Roker in a Loyola sweatshirt.
We bought a new couch back in January, but we haven’t managed to get rid of the old couch yet. Our children are very attached to it. It’s also really nice to have the one couch we use and the other one that we admire from a distance.
One day, though, we may get rid of the couch. Maybe.
Our 7-year-old can be rough and tumble and a whirlwind of energy. He can also be the gentlest creature you can imagine. I loved watching him stand quietly and focus on a ladybug the other day.
All week Daniel has been asking to go fishing. Waiting for the weekend has been torture.
“Why can’t we take a day off of school and go fishing?”
Why, indeed? Some questions have no answers. Some have too many.
The weekend is here, and we are going fishing—as long as it’s not freezing cold or raining hard.
Dreams do come true. When I woke up yesterday morning, Leo had packed his own lunch and filled the water bottles for school. The only catch was that he had packed some pepperoni in his lunch, and I had to swap it out for smoked salmon. But I was impressed. He is definitely a morning person, and he knows what he likes, so I might have to get out of bed early if I want to beat him to the kitchen.
~You Thought There Were Only 7, But April Fools!~
While we were visiting my in-laws on the Eastern Shore last week, we took a walk down to the Corsica River.
I have never explored that area much—though we lived in Centreville, Md., for a few years as newlyweds. We walked between these rows of pine trees that were tall and breathtaking.
We walked down to the river and explored.
I have to admit that I have never been much of a fan of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. We lived there for a couple years when we were first married, and it was a good place to start our marriage. We had a sweet little apartment, and the one pizza place in town made some amazing garlic knots. But the beauty of the area just doesn’t usually speak to me.
Maybe it’s because I’m a city girl at heart? I’m not sure. But on this walk I felt I got a glimpse into why so many people seem to feel drawn to that area.
April 01, 2017 07:46
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By Rita Buettner