7 quick takes Friday (Vol. 17)

— 1 —
So much for the family that prays together stays together. Last weekend we tried a new approach for taking the children to Mass: Divide and conquer.
After less-than-stellar behavior the Sunday before, we decided to go to Mass as a family—but sit separately. I sat on one side of the church with Leo and John sat on the other side with Daniel. The boys couldn’t see each other, discuss whose turn it was to read Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, or compete for Mama and Baba’s attention. It went quite well.
I don’t know that it will work every week, and they do need to learn to sit together eventually—maybe by the time one of them is best man for the other’s wedding. But we would definitely try this again. There’s a lot to be said for hearing the same homily your spouse does…or hearing the homily at all, for that matter.
— 2 —

O say can you see our favorite place to picnic? We went to Fort McHenry on Saturday with my parents and other family members and we saw people dressed as soldiers, and all kinds of activities. They even fired the cannons, which I have never seen happen there before. Even on a slow day at the fort there’s plenty to see, and our boys enjoy watching all the ships and industry in the harbor.
If you’re in or near Baltimore, pack a picnic lunch and go find a shady tree there.
Just leave your UFO balloon at home. John has wanted to fly one of these ever since he was a child. He bought one years ago and pulled it out for our picnic. The idea is that the sun heats the air inside the balloon and makes it float into the air.

John and the boys were doing quite well getting it up in the air when a park ranger walked up and told us—quite cordially—that you can’t fly anything on that part of the grounds. We have seen kites there many times, so maybe the rules have changed, or maybe the ominous black tube was scaring people.
So we took it home and John and the boys flew it in our front yard. We tied it to our for sale sign and figured it would draw attention to our house—or at least to its owners.

— 3 —


Please continue to pray for Teresa, whose body is rejecting her recent heart transplant. We continue to pray for a miracle for this sweet little girl, and we pray especially for her parents and her brothers and sisters. Teresa has made many, many friends and touched even more lives so far during her 6 1/2 years of life, and her story continues to move people around the world.
You can find updates on Facebook or the Bartlinski family blog.
— 4 —


How do you celebrate the Fourth of July? This year we’re thinking of going to see fireworks. We have never taken our sons to see them for a few reasons:
A.       They are loud, and the boys don’t like loud noise unless they create it themselves.
B.       Fireworks happen late at night.
C.       If we postpone bedtime one night, it takes us weeks to recover.
D.       And it throws the children off a bit, too.
Still, fireworks were invented by the Chinese, and we could feel we were being both patriotic and celebrating a piece of Chinese heritage at the same time. So we’ll see what we decide. Maybe this is the year to start a new tradition. Or maybe we’ll wait for next year.
— 5 —
Leo has been enrolled in Bible Camp this week. When I realized they were learning about Moses, I decided that maybe I should be concerned about the adoption issues raised by the story of the baby sent down the river in a basket.
So I talked with Leo about the mother putting the baby in the basket and pushing it down the river, while his big sister watched the basket and made sure the baby landed in the arms of a mother who could care for him.
“So Moses was adopted, but that is a different kind of adoption story,” I said.
“Yes,” Leo said, “because then the big sister goes back and gets his mother and brings her to help take care of him with the other lady.”
Oh, right. That really is different. I guess I should have reread the story before we started the conversation. I had forgotten that key detail. Good thing Leo is paying attention.

— 6 —
Leo reminded me of a few other aspects of Bible stories this week, but what I’ll never forget is his passionate reaction to the treatment of the Israelites before they escaped Egypt. He’s right. It was terribly unfair. I just don’t recall ever caring as deeply about their plight as our 5-year-old does.
“And the king wanted them to work for him for nothing!” he said over and over. “I do not think so!” He was very concerned about it—and this is our child who has never earned money himself.
But seeing how these stories resonate with him makes me want to start reading the Bible more as a family. And it makes me think it’s been a long time since I sat down with some of these stories myself.
OK, how many of the 10 plagues can you name? Ready, set, go.
— 7 —
For the last day of Bible camp the children are singing together in some kind of performance.
And when I say, “the children,” I mean everyone except my son. Because here’s the thing. It’s a camp. And it may be fun for many of the children to perform, but my son will be miserable. He knows the songs and the hand motions, and he thinks they’re terrific. But he hates performing.
He hides behind his hands.
He won’t let me look at him.
He dreads it for days beforehand and we aren’t allowed to discuss it afterward.
As someone who didn’t speak in school until second grade, I sympathize. I do not see that making him go through with it makes him a better person. He doesn’t feel any better about himself for having done it. He wishes it had never happened when it’s over.
So at the beginning of the week, I made him a promise. “The teachers will tell you that you are going to sing in a performance,” I told Leo, “but you will not, not unless you want to. You are there to learn about the Bible, to make friends, and to enjoy yourself. You do not have to sing in front of people.”
And so he won’t. I will swoop into his classroom and snag him before he ends up in front of an audience. I know I can’t always save him from situations that make him unhappy, but I can save him from this one. And if he never lands a role on Broadway, I’ll happily take the blame. Most of us end up singing only in the car, the shower, and next to the crib, and he will be well-qualified for those roles.
Overall, though, I can’t be happier with his Bible camp experience. I almost wish it lasted all summer.
As we were walking out of Bible camp together one day, I was admiring the paper plate cow Leo had made.

“I love your cow,” I said.
“Mama,” he replied, “I love your love.”
That’s it. I’m signing him up for every Bible camp in town.
Read more quick takes on Jen’s blog.

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Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.