Meet Rita Buettner:

“When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.” After struggling with infertility, my husband and I were blessed to adopt our two sons from China. I’m a working mother who writes about family fun and faith. Oh, and I own hundreds of flyswatters. Join me on Twitter, say hello at, or follow me on Facebook


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Thank you, Johanna! I'm so glad you stopped by. I hope you have a wonderful visit to the grotto!


And there is progress, Rosie! Love your comment--but I'd probably love Peter more, LOL. :)



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7 Quick Takes Friday: Apparently I'm a genius, spring has sprung, faith, vocations, favorite cousins, and discussing homelessness


Last week I let Daniel pick out some yogurt at the store. He chose the kind that comes with M&Ms. Naturally he gobbled it all down and wanted more. But there was none left.

So I took some plain yogurt and found a few M&Ms to drop into it. When he saw what I was doing, Daniel was so excited.

“Mama!” he said. “You are a GENIUS!”

Of course, a true genius wouldn’t buy M&M yogurt in the first place. I mean, it's yogurt. With M&Ms in it. What is that? But I’ll take praise however it comes.


Spring is here! The trees are beginning to bloom. Everywhere we go, we look for the blossoms.

We’ve even let the boys play barefoot outside.

We have forsythia in our yard, and it’s gorgeous this year. I think forsythia might be my favorite—probably because it’s one of the first to bloom and it’s so vibrant.

Look how beautiful it is framing the toilet on our deck.

Yes, we are very classy. The real reason the toilet was outside was because we had a toilet problem last week, and John pulled the toilet out to fix things. This photo is proof, though, that everything looks prettier when forsythia is in the background.

Oh, and the ice cream truck stopped by last night. So it must be spring.


Last weekend we traveled almost four hours away to my sister and brother-in-law’s house. They have four children, and we always go to celebrate their third child’s birthday. We third children expect to be celebrated.

We baked pretzels, and Leo made one in the shape of one of his cousins.

It was such a great weekend of celebrations (and maybe a little Sangria) that we came home exhausted. Or maybe that was because my mother and I slept in the living room. And when I say we “slept,” I mean we got a few hours of sleep before the elephants woke up around 6 a.m. and started tiptoeing and whispering loudly around us. It was all worth it, though, for the memories.

On the way home I asked the boys what the best part of the visit was.

“The best part is being with (Cousin Name),” Leo said. (I deleted the name so no cousin would be hurt.)

“Mine too,” Daniel said. “Actually, my favorite cousins are the rats.”

Well, no one can be offended by that.


This week I read this piece by a Jesuit priest, who shared his thoughts on essays his parents had written about his vocation. I enjoyed it especially because I often think about what our children might think as they look back on their mother’s writing.

I especially liked reading the essays by each of the priest’s parents, which are linked at the end of his post His parents were fallen-away Catholics who raised their children in the Episcopal Church.

I find vocation stories fascinating, so I was especially interested to read his parents’ reactions to their son’s vocation. His father was surprised and his mother was not. But they had trouble accepting their son’s calling to the priesthood.

It makes me wonder what our sons’ vocations will be and whether I will struggle with them at all.


Driving home last night, the boys and I saw a woman standing on the median with a cardboard sign. We had seen her the night before, but she was too far away for us to offer her anything. But we had had a long talk about why people hold signs explaining their needs.

Last night when we saw her again I had a dollar and an unopened bottled iced tea. I rolled down the window and offered them to her. She accepted both and thanked me profusely.

“Mama,” Leo said as we drove away, “I would have given her all of the money I had.”

We talked about how we help people who don’t have enough in other ways too. I tried to explain that we don’t know for sure what that woman’s needs are, though we want to help.

“But why can’t we just let her get in our car and take her home with us?” Daniel asked.

Why, indeed? The conversation was getting more difficult, and I was wishing we could change the subject—but that’s not my style when the children have questions. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t giving good answers because suddenly Daniel said, “Mama, when is God going to send you a baby in your tummy?”

Whew, I thought. Finally, there’s a question I can handle.

“I don’t know,” I said. “He probably won’t. The two babies he sent me are riding in the back of this car right now.”

Then they started laughing and the conversation shifted. But I was thinking that although we are set with talking about infertility, I probably need to have a better handle on talking about homelessness.


At Mass on Sunday our pastor mentioned that faith has to begin with a spark. Often that spark comes from our parents, he said. But sometimes it comes from someone else. We each have to be mindful of the fact that we might create that spark in another.

Isn’t that beautiful?

As he spoke, I was thinking that although John and I work to ignite our children’s faith, they also help our faith grow, too. Their questions, their conversations, and their spontaneous prayers have a way of nudging me closer to God and challenging me to grow in my faith.


I was hugging Daniel the other day, and I said, “I love you.”

“Hmm,” he said.

“What?” I said. “Do you love me?”

Normally I wouldn't ask, but normally I don't need to.

“Partly I do and partly I don’t,” he said.

"Why is it that you partly do?" I asked.

"I don't know," he said.

I know when to let a conversation drop. Maybe I am a genius after all.

Read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog!

April 16, 2015 11:48
By Rita Buettner

Our trip to the grotto: 8 tips on how to make a local pilgrimage with your children

I hadn't been to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Emmitsburg, Md., in at least five years. And our sons had never been.

So a few weeks ago I invited one of Leo’s friends and her mother to join the boys and me for a visit to the Grotto.

Our sons are a very active 5 and 7, so you might not believe going to a shrine would be a great way to spend the day. But all three children thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

So did their mothers. In fact, Daniel will talk your ear off about the wonders of the holy water there.

If you are near Emmitsburg or another beautiful church or shrine, maybe you’d like to try going yourself. Here are a few thoughts on how you can make your trip both enriching and enjoyable:

1. Prepare your child.

In the days leading up to our trip, I told our boys a little about what we would see. I explained it was a place where people pray. I told them it was on a mountain. I talked with them about St. Bernadette, though I know they didn’t absorb much of it. That never stops me from sharing a story.

2. Keep your expectations low.

We didn’t ask our children to pause and pray at each Station of the Cross or say a rosary on the path of the sorrowful mysteries. Your child may want to do those things, and that's wonderful.

Our sons generally want to see as much as they can as quickly as possible. For the most part, they want to run and climb. So we worked that into the visit.

We did struggle with keeping silence in the grotto, but we certainly tried.

And we saw many smiles from understanding adults who could see they were trying—but also bursting with enthusiasm over every new discovery. One kind man smiled as he thanked Daniel by name for moving out of the photo he was taking of his friend.

3. Let your child appreciate the experience—all of it.

It was tempting to encourage our boys to focus on the mosaics and statues and religious art.

They did look at those—but they wanted to take in everything.

They noticed the plants and trees. They spotted birds. They loved seeing the bubbling stream.

In my visits to the shrine before, I had never noticed as much natural beauty. It was magnificent.

4. Let them choose some of the activities.

One boy wanted to pet the lamb. The other wanted to be one. Fair enough. Facing the grotto was a steep hill of risers. The children wanted to climb the steps next to them and go all the way to the top. We let them go, watching them go all the way up and all the way down. It was their choice during a day that was not their pick, and they burned off some energy, too.

5. Carve out some moments for yourself, if you can.

I didn’t say a whole rosary—or even a decade of one. But I did get to pray, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, walking along the path, and kneeling before the crucifix at the last station of the cross.

Yes, there might have been two boys jockeying for the best position on the kneeler next to me, but I still had a chance to talk to Jesus. And I wasn’t just praying that no one would knock me off the kneeler—though I may have slipped in that request. It worked.

6. Seek out tangible experiences.

The children loved dipping their hands into the holy water. When we lit candles for friends and family, I let them choose the names—with a few reminders of people to include.

They couldn’t believe I was letting them hold the long wicks with flames on the ends. And they lit many more candles than I had intended, but that meant we prayed for more people than I had planned to, too.

7. Make sure the journey itself is fun.

We drove with our friends in their car, which was a highlight of the day. I brought plenty of snacks and drinks because it was an outing. As we were leaving the shrine, we stopped at the gift shop and the children picked out small, inexpensive items. Then we went out to lunch and had chicken and rice soup and hot dogs. Any day that includes a hot dog is inherently fun. I don't know why.

8. Know when to call it a day.

I had hoped to take the children to the Seton Shrine, too, and time-wise we could have fit it into our day. But we also wanted to end on a high note, and not go home with tired, droopy children who felt they had been dragged around all day.

They were happy, tired, and well-fed. Besides, we had spent all our cash lighting candles at the Grotto. So home we went.

Have you made similar trips with your children? I’d love to hear where you've gone. I’m always looking for ideas.

As for us, we’re already looking forward to our next trip to Emmitsburg. Daniel says this time we’re bringing holy water home. And I’d better start saving my quarters for the candles.

April 15, 2015 11:17
By Rita Buettner

Shopping for mac and cheese and feeling grateful to be a mother

As I reached for a few boxes of macaroni and cheese, I noticed a woman standing there staring at the grocery store shelves. Ah, I knew that look. She was overwhelmed by the choices, not sure where to begin.

“What’s the difference?” she asked.

“Some of them it’s just the packaging, or the shape of the noodles, or the color,” I said. “My children like the cheese to be orange, but they will eat it if it’s white, too.”

“I have two very picky children,” she said.

We chatted briefly about the challenges in finding foods children like to eat and parted as friendly strangers.

It was a meaningless exchange. But as I finished my shopping, I found myself thinking of the years when I put no thought into macaroni and cheese.

There was a time when I wouldn’t squeal with delight over a sale in the macaroni and cheese aisle.

There was a time when I didn’t know anyone could care whether it was white or orange.

There was a time, you see, when I wasn’t a mother—and I wasn’t sure I ever would be.

I know, I know. It’s just a grocery store trip. These are boxes of noodles and powdered cheese. Being a mother has nothing to do with what’s in my grocery cart, and everything to do with the tremendous honor and joy—and challenge, too—of helping our sons grow into the men God wants them to be.

But when we were waiting and longing and yearning to become parents, there were moments just as insignificant that would fill my eyes with tears. Often it wasn’t the big life changes—the birth of a niece or nephew—that would upset me as much as the little encounters. Some nights it was just looking at the empty chairs at our dining room table.

Maybe that’s why even now, more than five years into motherhood, I still catch my breath sometimes when I realize I am a mother.

Sure, it’s just mac and cheese.

It’s just me being silly.

But it’s just one more opportunity to stop and pour out my heart in gratitude to God for giving John and me the wonderful privilege of being parents to our sons.

April 13, 2015 09:05
By Rita Buettner

7 Quick Takes Friday: Easter bunnies, eggs, candy, activities, and other fun memories

Happy Easter! And look! I am able to post photos again! I’ll try not to overwhelm you with them. Let's get to the takes!


Our parish egg hunt is rigged. At least, I’m afraid that’s what the other egg hunters must think. How else can you explain that for the second year in a row our family has gone home with a 14-inch chocolate bunny?

Last year it was Leo. This year it was his little brother, Daniel.

Now, full disclosure: When we arrived to start the hunt and realized that Daniel should technically be in a different age group, we promoted him. I didn't want our boys to have to hunt in separate groups.

Thank goodness no one asked for his birth certificate—or his latest dental records to see whether a 14-inch chocolate bunny was a good idea for our 5-year-old.

When we got home with the bunnies, we dragged out last year’s bunny, still untouched and nicely preserved (apparently) thanks to the wonders of refrigeration.

Both boys started nibbling away.

John and I had to taste them too to make sure they were OK. And they were more than OK.

Next year, though? I don’t know whether we’ll be banned from the hunt. But I refuse to store two large chocolate bunnies in our fridge for a year, especially since they have long since lost their heads.


This year instead of welcoming the Easter Bunny with a note, we greeted him with a science experiment.

Leo selected two different kinds of carrots at the store, and we left both out for the Bunny.

In case you were wondering, the Easter Bunny prefers the carrots with the green stems.

I assure you, no animals were harmed in this experiment.


I think the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy must be in touch because this year our children each found very little candy in their baskets. Instead they found toys and chips and bubble guns that sometimes work and sometimes don’t.

They didn’t receive anything religious this year. And there were no books, which might be appalling and show a lack of preparation if the Easter Bunny weren't the one in charge of filling the baskets. But it was fun.

Then we went to Mass, and the boys wore their dress shirts and Angry Birds ties. And they even posed for a picture with us afterward.


Every year we have so much fun dying eggs that I wonder why we wait a year to dye eggs again.

Then I remember the moments where the dye is spilling or the eggs are cracking or we’re arguing over which color to use for whose egg.

But it really is a great activity. And then we have hard-boiled eggs to enjoy all week. I don’t enjoy them, of course, because I am not an egg person, but everyone else in the family likes eggs—especially Daniel. I can tell you that even without conducting a science experiment.


What we should do year-round, however, are egg hunts.

When the boys and I had the day off on Easter Monday, Daniel hid plastic eggs in the yard so I could go hunt for them.

Then Leo created a scavenger hunt for me to do in the house. I had so much fun checking items off the list, while he hovered nearby telling me what I had done right or wrong.

Meanwhile, I think we should make egg hunts a regular activity.


One of the moments I want to hold onto from Holy Week came on Good Friday when we took the boys for our second annual trip to St. Anthony’s Shrine. We went to the Good Friday service and made it to the end of the service.

But the best moment was when we walked up to the front of the chapel to venerate the cross. On his own Leo walked up to the cross, leaned in, kissed it three times, gave his smooth genuflect while making the Sign of the Cross, turned on his heel, and headed for his seat.

It was so beautiful and so genuine.


I used to wake up to a beeping alarm clock every morning. Then I married John, who always wakes up before I do. Then we became parents. Now I never know when or how I will wake up. The other day I woke up to Daniel’s voice saying, “I don’t know if this is real or not, but I think I might be blind in one eye.”

He’s not. But we did wake up. And I think we said something reassuring before he walked out and we woke up enough to start laughing into our pillows.

Happy Easter!

Find more quick takes at Kelly’s blog!

April 10, 2015 09:52
By Rita Buettner

Let us pray—with friends, family, and a few refreshments at a prayer gathering

Other people collect scarves or go rock climbing or take up bird watching.

My current passion? Hosting prayer gatherings.

So far they have all been for expectant mothers and their babies. I invite a few friends over to say the rosary.

We nibble on something, pray together, laugh and share stories, and everyone goes happily off, carrying a prayer card to keep nearby while waiting for the baby to be born.

There’s nothing extraordinary about it, really. In fact it’s quite ordinary. These gatherings are the most natural, easygoing events I've hosted. People immediately connect through prayer and conversation.

I think what astonishes me most is that I never thought to do this before.

Holy cards by my sister Treasa. Eggs filled with rosaries by my father. Paper monstrance made by our first grader.

I mean, of course I have been praying for expectant mothers and their babies. I pray for parents who are adopting. I pray for people who long to be parents. I pray for children who wait for parents. I pray for people who give birth but then aren’t able to parent. We do a lot of praying for families here.

So then why did it take me so long to realize that you could invite people over not for a shower of gifts—though that is perfectly lovely—but to surround someone in prayer?

I don’t have any idea.

But here we are.

During Lent I hosted two prayer gatherings, one for a friend whose baby boy arrived last week—hurrah! The other was for a baby girl we expect to meet later this summer. Technically, that gathering was hosted by my sister Treasa, who merely used my house for the event. I still haven’t learned how to say no to my baby sister.

Really, how can you say no to someone who creates a spiritual bouquet in the shape of a wreath where each prayer for the guest of honor is represented by a piece of fabric?

That's a rhetorical question, of course.

I'd like to tell you that the painting in the background is "The Sun Danced at Fatima," but I believe it's an Angry Birds painting.

And here’s the thing. Now I want to have these gatherings all the time. I’m thinking we should have one before the start of the school year and invite some of our sons’ friends and their families to come and pray for a great school year.

We have friends who are selling homes, waiting to adopt, and facing a variety of challenges and transitions. Other friends are marking key wedding anniversaries.

What would be more natural than gathering to pray?

It makes me stop to think. And it makes me wonder what intentions you might have in your heart right now. How can I pray for you today?

You might also enjoy reading:

Celebrating life: How to plan a prayer gathering for a mother-to-be

April 07, 2015 10:58
By Rita Buettner

To the person who took our seat at church on Easter Sunday

On Easter morning we arrived at church about 10 minutes before Mass and headed toward our usual seats.

That’s when we realized our pew was full. There you were.

I didn’t recognize you and your family. In fact, as we walked through the church, we saw many unfamiliar faces. And we realized that every seat was taken.

For a second, I’ll admit, I was disappointed. We would have to take our children to the Mass in the school gym. It’s harder to keep them still and focused there, and it’s not the church where we've been traveling on our Lenten journey.

But as we headed toward the church doors to leave, I glanced around at the sea of faces. And I thought about what a special moment this must be for people who don’t do this every week. You came extra early. You made sure everyone was meticulously dressed.

Maybe you hadn’t been in the church last week or the week before. Maybe you can’t remember the last time you came for Easter. Maybe you didn't make it to Christmas Mass either. But something made you want to be here to celebrate with us.

Welcome home. There’s plenty of room. Thank you for joining us! We’re happy you’re here.

I hope you felt welcome by the people around you. More than that, I hope you felt Jesus’ presence. I hope your heart leapt while singing “Alleluia.” I hope you felt the thrill of the new holy water, the glow of the Easter fire in the candles, and the magnificence of the miracle of the bread and wine becoming Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist—just as it did at the Last Supper.

Aren't we so, so blessed to be able to come together and celebrate the Mass? Our church can never be too crowded. And you are, of course, not at all a stranger. You are a member of the Body of Christ.

As my family and I walked to the gym and found a seat up near the front, surrounded by friends and familiar smiles, I kept thinking of you. We had a beautiful Mass and Jesus was with us, just as He was with you in the actual church.

I hope you didn’t just feel warmly welcomed and included and wanted by us and our fellow parishioners. I hope you felt Jesus inviting you to come home.

Easter Mass is beautiful. The music and the newness and the alleluias and the excitement of a church bursting at the seams. But you know what’s just as amazing?

Lent. Advent. Pentecost. Divine Mercy Sunday—which is next week. Ordinary Time.

In fact, we celebrate Mass every single day of the year—except Good Friday. And there is a beauty, a love, a joy you just can't find anywhere else.

So I hope we’ll see you next week. In fact, if you don’t mind a little squirming, some loud whispering, and a few rolling crayons, we’ll even save you a seat in our pew.

April 06, 2015 11:20
By Rita Buettner

7 Quick Takes Friday: It's Good Friday and this blog has no pictures in it, a trip to Emmitsburg, pretzel baking, egg boiling, and an Easter joke


I must warn you: This post has no pictures today. I am not doing this because it is Good Friday, a day of fasting and abstinence and the most solemn day of the year.

My camera is not broken, and I have not given up taking pictures.

No, I’m afraid The Catholic Review’s website was upgraded this week, and with the upgrade I temporarily lost the ability to upload photos to the blog. Eventually the upgrade will almost certainly bring about magnificent results, but today there are no pictures. Somehow it seems appropriate that this is happening on Good Friday.

Doing without meat is one thing. Doing without pictures? Now, that is painful.


Daniel and I were driving to preschool the other day, and I was waiting for cars and trucks to pass so I could pull out on the main road.

“Mama,” he said, “is this a movie for God?”

At moments like those, I wish I had a degree in theology, or at least philosophy. It sounded like a really deep question. I decided to answer it by agreeing that God can see everything, but that he does more in our lives than just sit back and watch.

But it got me thinking...if my life is a movie for God to watch, how much is He enjoying the show?


To mark Holy Thursday I took the day off from work and the boys and I went to the National Shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes in Emmitsburg, Md. We joined my friend who created a Lenten bucket list with me. Her daughter—who is Leo’s age—came too.

It was a wonderful day. I am excited to share some photos with you from our trip, but we may have to wait until Easter for those. It was a beautiful day and the children were in an exploring mood. I hadn’t been to the Grotto since John and I became parents, and it was a very different experience today. But we found some time to snatch moments for prayer, and Leo and Daniel loved the trip.

Today we are planning another pilgrimage to a different location as a whole family, if the weather cooperates. I like the idea of going somewhere as part of Lent. Who knows? Maybe it will even become a family tradition?


We made pretzels! I had bought a pretzel mix at the store, but I wasn’t sure when we would actually get around to making them. But pretzels are a Catholic Lent tradition, and they’re delicious. The whole project took about an hour, and the children loved making them. And we all loved eating them.

Some of the pretzels looked like ordinary pretzels, but others were shaped like a slug, a paw print, a Bigfoot footprint, and one that was either a goat or a gun depending on when you asked.

We tried some with salt, one with Parmesan cheese, and a few with cinnamon sugar. I’m pretty sure that eating the cinnamon sugar ones doesn’t count as a Lenten sacrifice, but they were fun to make.

If you're fasting today, you're probably happy there isn't a photo of a yummy pretzel here.


Have you heard about this American man whose iPhone was stolen and ended up in the hands of a man in China? He ended up traveling to China and meeting the man and becoming an instant celebrity. It’s such a fun read and it made me really want to go back to China—not that I didn’t already want to go. 


So we have reached the weekend of the year when my egg boiling skills will be tested yet again. I think I finally have it down, but now that I have said that, I will probably botch the whole batch of eggs. It wouldn't be the first time.

At the grocery store earlier this week I learned that you can buy pre-dyed hard-boiled eggs. And I already knew that you could buy hard-boiled eggs that have the shells removed. But I couldn’t find any boiled eggs that were still in shells. I can’t be the only person who would buy those. Someone is missing the boat.


At bedtime last night Leo was brushing his teeth and he called for me.

When I arrived at the bathroom door, he said, “What did the Easter Bunny say to the nighttime?”


“I’m eggs-austed.”

So there’s our Easter treat from our family to yours. If you made it this far without pictures, you should probably win a hard-boiled egg. Or maybe a chocolate bunny.

May you and your loved ones have a blessed Easter!

See more quick takes at Kelly’s blog, where she is sharing conversion stories today!

April 02, 2015 11:11
By Rita Buettner

At what age do you let a child use a public restroom alone?

This afternoon Leo and I dropped Daniel and Baba off at the B&O Railroad Museum and went grocery shopping.

We weren't in a hurry because we wanted the other half of our family to enjoy their train time. And the store was unfamiliar, so we had to hunt for things we can usually find, like mushrooms.

When we finally got in line, we had been shopping for a while. And it was there, as we inched our way toward the registers, that Leo announced he had to visit the bathroom.

It made sense. We had been running around for hours without stopping. But we were in a grocery store line on a Sunday afternoon.

I glanced at the trail of people behind me and the loaded carts ahead of me.

Then I started scanning the store for the restrooms. And I realized they were just beyond the checkouts.

“The bathroom is right over there,” I told Leo. “Can you go by yourself?”

He nodded. I pointed him to the restroom. I watched him find the door and go through.

Then I started worrying. What if there was some issue? What if he encountered someone...problematic? What are men’s bathrooms even like? And one in a grocery store? Ack.

“Do you want to go with him?” the woman in front of me in line asked. “I’ll watch your cart.”

“Oh, thank you, but I think he’ll be OK,” I told her.

The truth is that we have done this before, but I usually stand right outside the door. I don’t like it even then, but I don’t know what else to do. I really think he’s too old to be going to the women’s bathroom with his mother. Sometimes I take him with me, but more often I have been encouraging him to go on his own. And he wants to use the men’s bathroom.

But grocery store bathrooms? Ick. And that’s even before I start thinking about the people he might encounter while he’s inside.

While I worried, my new friend and I talked. Her son is 4 ½, and she dreads the day when she will be in my shoes. I understand that. Daniel is 5, and I can’t imagine the day he will use the bathroom himself.

Besides, it’s hard to let our children take on more responsibility—and society seems to encourage us not to let our children do much on their own. I trust Leo absolutely. He goes to the bathroom alone at school, of course. My worry is not the situation itself, but the people he might encounter while he’s there—well out of my sight, and out of everyone else’s sight. That is my fear.

The minutes were ticking by, and Leo still hadn’t returned. My worry level was increasing.

“I think I’ll just go check on him,” I said. Of course, the last thing I wanted to do was stick my head in the men’s restroom, but—as we all know—a mother would walk across flaming Lego pieces to make sure her child is safe.

Fortunately, as I left my cart and started toward the restrooms, I saw Leo coming out.

He was perfectly fine. His experience had been much less eventful, and certainly less nerve-wracking, than mine.

Still, as John and I were talking about it later, I realized he was surprised I had started sending Leo into restrooms alone. He hadn’t thought about the fact that Leo might be too old to go into women’s restrooms. And he has legitimate concerns—as do I. Then I started thinking about the challenges fathers of daughters must face in similar situations.

So, I’m really curious. What do you do? At what age would you, or do you, let your children use public restrooms alone? And are you upset when parents bring older children of the opposite gender into the restroom?

March 29, 2015 11:02
By Rita Buettner

7 Quick Takes Friday: Lent is coming to an end, ordering soup for kids, a happy monster truck, how God connects the dots in our lives, grocery shopping with children, getting a haircut without them, and more


Has this been a long Lent? I think if the weather were warmer and sunnier, I would believe that Easter is coming, but I'm still not sure. So we have another meatless Friday today. What will you do for dinner tonight?

If we were eating at home, Daniel would want to make tuna melts again. He assembled this one last week and he was so proud.

He loves tuna as much as his mama does—maybe even more.

As it is, we are going to be at an event tonight eating cheese pizza. Last Friday we were at our parish’s Lenten soup night again, where we have the best time and the yummiest soup. I can’t believe I have another night off from cooking.


Often when we eat out—not at church dinners, but in restaurants—we order soup for our boys. Our children love soup. And it’s often cheaper to get a cup of soup for a child than to pay $6-$8 for a kid’s meal.

When we went out to lunch last weekend, we ordered Maryland crab soup for Leo. It arrived with whole crab claws in it.

Some children might have balked. He was thrilled.

Just because we don’t always order a kid’s meal doesn’t mean we don’t love the kids’ menus. Lately we have been playing I Spy or Hangman while we wait for the food to arrive. What games do you play in restaurants?


Daniel drew this picture this week. Have you ever seen a monster truck who looked this happy?

That is how happy I looked when his teacher told me that when they asked for words that start with "O," Daniel said, "Old Bay." He may have been born on the other side of the world, but he is a Baltimore boy.


Last week we celebrated Maryland Day at Loyola University Maryland, where I work, and I went to the campus Mass. Going to Mass as part of my job is so wonderful for so many reasons.

During Mass it suddenly hit me that I was praying in the same chapel where I was baptized as an infant. Certainly when my parents chose Loyola’s chapel as the site of my baptism, they weren’t thinking that I would ever have any lasting connection with Loyola.

It struck me, as it does so often, how amazing it is to see how God connects the dots in our lives.


Last weekend both of our boys wanted to come grocery shopping with me, so the three of us went to Wegmans.

It’s an enormous, wonderful store, and the boys sampled blood orange juice—which made them giggle—and guacamole and some kind of turkey wrap and Clementines and who knows what else.

At one point, as we stopped to look at the train that runs just below part of the ceiling, Leo said to me, “Mama, we need more free samples to keep up our strength.”

We had a race car cart, and that made it all that much better. But by the time we were headed to the checkout line, I was ready to leave. We were having so much fun that the boys were getting a bit giddy.

When the cashier said to me, “Do you need help getting out to your car?” I said, “Do you mean with my children or my groceries?”

She smiled and offered to call to have someone help with the groceries. I accepted. And a man appeared out of nowhere and loaded all my groceries for me. Then he met me outside and put them in my car.

So it was a successful trip. But next time I might need more free samples to keep up my strength.


Baltimore friends: The Smith College Book Sale is happening this weekend at the Timonium Fairgrounds. I’m not sure I’ll get there this year—or where I would put the books I’d buy if I went. But you should go! 

Also, next Wednesday, April 1, is Lunch with the Elephants at Baltimore’s Lexington Market. I have always wanted to take our boys to this. I don’t think I’ll pull it off this year either, but maybe you will!


For months I have wanted to get my hair cut. It’s not the kind of thing I can do while I’m out with one or both of our boys, so somehow it never happens. But I went on Saturday and asked the stylist to chop a bunch off. And she did.

I took before and after photos, and you can tell how much I love taking selfies without a cute little boy next to me.

When I came home, I said to Daniel, “I got my hair cut.”

He looked at me carefully and said, “Mama, you do not look beautiful.”

“Oh,” I said, managing not to laugh. “OK.”

There’s nothing like an honest evaluation.

“Mama,” he said, “next time you go to get your hair cut, tell the people to put more hair on.”

It’s not every day you get personal beauty tips from a 5-year-old.

Read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog.

March 26, 2015 11:17
By Rita Buettner

Of the Mixed-up Lunches of the Buettner Family

This morning I got up, heated chicken noodle soup, and filled two thermoses.

I sliced and skinned apples. I filled lunch containers with blueberries (for Daniel) and turkey pepperoni (for Leo) and edamame. I added a pickle for Leo and some cold mac and cheese for Daniel.

Our boys never take the same lunch, and that’s fine. They are both great eaters, and their lunches are always a little different.

A different lunch from a different day

Leo takes a morning snack and two boxed drinks. Daniel doesn’t need those. And, of course, they have completely different tastes in desserts.

I put the food carefully into their lunchboxes—with a cold pack for Leo since his lunch is not refrigerated at school. Then I put the lunches in their backpacks.

I had just dropped Leo off at school when my phone rang.

It was my husband. While dropping Daniel off, he realized Daniel had Leo’s lunch in his backpack. Leo must have Daniel’s. It would take me more than an hour to sort it out, and I didn’t have an hour. My day had begun—and there was no changing anything now.

“They’ll just have to eat each other’s food,” I said. At least they both have chicken noodle soup, I thought. And hey, it’s Lent.

I wondered what I would find when I went to pick them up. Would they be grumpy and complaining? Would they be upset?

Naturally, they were fine. Children are much more resilient than their parents are. They were both happy to point out and discuss my error, but no one was starving.

As it turned out, Leo had ended up with both thermoses of soup. He thought that was funny—and ate them both.

Daniel—guzzling his brother’s juice box in the back seat on the way home—seemed content.

“So I made a mistake,” I said. “Even mothers make mistakes sometimes.”

“This was a big mistake,” Leo said.

It was time to change the subject. “I wonder who we can think of in the Bible who made a mistake,” I said, mostly thinking aloud.

“Well, there was Judas,” Leo said.

“I’m not sure I would call what Judas did a mistake,” I said, “but that was a very bad decision.”

Daniel spoke up. “Did Judas go to heaven?”

“We don’t know,” I said. “We are pretty sure he was sorry, but we don’t know where he is now. I guess we’ll find out when we get to heaven.”

Ah, heaven. A place where there is only joy—and where you never get stuck with your brother’s bunny-shaped fruit snacks.

For now, at least I have another chance to get it right tomorrow.

March 25, 2015 09:47
By Rita Buettner

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