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


January 2017
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I still can't believe I managed to blog daily during October. I really feel I was guided through it. I could never have done that on my own! Thank you for your kind words. I never thought I would write so much about infertlity--or anything, really, but it's interesting to see how life goes.


Thanks, CM! It's hard to top a dated bag of slugs. I certainly can't try. Happy New Year to you!



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7 Quick Takes Friday: A mouse update, our lucky day, snow fun, pretzels for dinner, Cub Scout excitement, and more


Having a mouse in the house is cramping my blogging style. I usually sit up late at night writing, but I can’t seem to focus due to my inordinate fear of mice. I wrote the blog about the mouse—or, I should say the mouse wrote his blog—typing into my phone while I was waiting for a doctor’s appointment the other day.

We had a pest control company come, and when the man arrived, he said, “Do you have any big dogs? I’m terrified of big dogs.”

“No big dogs,” I said, “but I’m terrified of little mice, and we do have those.”

There are traps all over, but we must have a very clever or very friendly or very well-fed mouse. For now we wait. And my children have realized that their mother, who doesn’t fear dark basements or monsters under beds, is actually afraid of mice running through the house.

“Mama,” one of the boys asked me, “would you rather camp outside all night or spend the night in a house with mice?”

I’ll take the indoors. But I do like to keep my indoor and outdoor worlds separate.

When I went out last night with friends for a girls’ night out, I came home and found the mouse waiting for me at the door. Maybe I should just embrace my inner St. Francis of Assisi and give it a name and put down a plate of food.

Or maybe I need to go away for the weekend.


As unlucky we might be with the mouse, we had a very lucky start to the week when the boys were playing arcade games at a birthday party.

Daniel won 100 tickets on a big wheel he spun. I was so proud, even though it's all luck, of course.

He and his brother used the tickets they won to get candy (yay?) and a sticky hand (always fun and disposable) and a wallet (actually a great prize).


I see that our neighbors took their tree down. I feel no pressure to keep up with the neighbors, but we also need to start gearing up for Chinese New Year. This year it will be the Year of the Rooster, and it begins Jan. 28. Chinese New Year is one of my favorite holidays—and maybe my #1 favorite—so we need to get the tree down at some point and kick into gear.

My parents, of course, leave their tree up until at least my little brother’s birthday on Feb. 26. So if you’re looking for a reason to keep yours up, maybe that will work for you, too.


We had just a little snow on Saturday, and the boys had a blast sledding and making snow angels and throwing snowballs and doing all the things you can do better in a little bit of snow than you can do in heaps of snow.

They even went back out to play in it the next day when the temperatures were horribly low and I didn’t think they would last five minutes. They managed to stay outside about 45 minutes and played and played and played.

The early snows of winter are magical—even when it snows on a Saturday, and school isn’t canceled.


The other day we had eaten a very late lunch, so I thought we could skip dinner. But at about 5:00 Daniel came to ask me what we were having for dinner.

“Oh, I thought we wouldn’t be hungry tonight,” I said. “You know, we had that big lunch not long ago.”

“You have got to be kidding,” he said.

And I realized I must be kidding because these boys would eat every 15 minutes if they could. But I had no plan, so I opened the freezer and pieced together a few things for dinner.

Then I noticed a box of pretzel mix in the pantry, so Daniel and I went to work making pretzels—which never feels like work because it’s fun. You can’t find this mix everywhere, but our grocery stores tend to carry it in the winter, and I see it here.

It’s so easy and fun, and we don’t even worry if they don’t look like pretzels. They disappear so quickly that the shape really doesn’t matter.


Our boys are Cub Scouts this year, and they are gearing up for the Pinewood Derby. My husband competed in his Pinewood Derby back when he was a Cub Scout, and he is overseeing the work on the Pinewood Derby cars.

The other day he pulled out his own Cub Scouts hat to show it to his sons.

At Daniel’s Cub Scouts meeting this week, snack time arrived and I realized the boys were making grape caterpillars on wooden skewers and these marvelous snails.

I don’t know what I will do when it’s my turn for snack, but I’d better head over to Pinterest.


We are taking a day trip to one of our favorite places, the Air and Space Museum Annex in Dulles, which is actually called the Steven Udvar-Hazy Center.

If you haven’t been and you’re within driving distance, you should go! It’s huge and amazing and packed with cool airplanes and a space shuttle—and apparently some Pokestops. We are very excited to explore it, especially since we haven’t been for a couple years.

I just hope the mouse doesn’t expect to tag along….

You can read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum. But most important of all, would you please join me in praying for the Malone family in Baltimore who lost six of their children in this horrific fire yesterday? My heart just breaks for them.

January 12, 2017 11:57
By Rita Buettner

A Letter from the Mouse in our House to His Colony

Dear Family and Friends,

You've got to see this place! The smaller humans eat constantly, so there's plenty to pick from—noodles and rice and granola bars and everything you can imagine. I think I even spotted some leftover Halloween candy in the kitchen.

Most of the time I can get around without anyone spotting me, but last night I was enjoying a snack under a table when the smallest human noticed me. I've never heard a human scream so loud. He went running—I mean, maybe that's what humans call running. He's not nearly as fast as a mouse.

"Mama, I saw the mouse!" he yelled.

"Go tell your father!" came another voice.

I just crouched there, nibbling away, and enjoyed myself. These humans will never catch me.

But they sure did try.

All of a sudden there were four of them. The two smaller ones ran for what they called pop-guns, while the bigger ones argued about how to trap me.

We had a blast. I ran behind and under and through every piece of furniture in three rooms, dodging and creeping and sprinting. It was the most fun I'd had in ages.

They moved the couch twice and lifted a whole cabinet to try to reach me. And of course they couldn't. Because I was in the closet. Or under another table. Or crouched in a corner. Heh heh heh.

The smaller humans wanted to keep trying all night and skip bedtime, whatever that is, but eventually they all gave up—when I hid so well they just couldn't find me.

Later I heard one of the smaller people say, "You know what I loved? When Baba tipped over the recliner."

I have to admit, that was kind of a highlight. Then I listened as the small humans giggled under their blankets about how scared their mom was.

Anyway, it's a thrill a minute here. I'm hoping maybe we can do that again tonight.

Oh, and they even put some peanut butter down on these things under one of the cabinets. I might try those later today. But I might not, you know?

You all are going to love it here. Come as soon as you can. I'll save you some crumbs.

Say Cheese,

The Mouse under the Kitchen Cabinets

You might also enjoy An Open Letter to the Mouse in Our Kitchen

January 10, 2017 11:43
By Rita Buettner

7 Quick Takes: Snow superstitions, celebrating Epiphany and the New Year, long-distance Pokemon fun, couch shopping, and trying Blue Apron


With snow in the forecast last night, our first grader came home from school determined to ensure a decent snowstorm—and a day off of school. He insisted on putting ice cubes in the toilet, wearing his pajamas backwards, and sleeping with a spoon under his pillow.

It was all in good fun, and we also prayed for snow, but we woke up to just a little bit of snow and a full day of school.

Of course, that was the answer to my prayers. I’ll be ready for a snow day, but I didn’t want one yet.

I’ll have some ice cubes ready for another day.


Happy Epiphany! Technically we won’t celebrate until Sunday, but we moved our wise men to the manger, and it is starting to feel as if maybe the Christmas season is ending. One day maybe we’ll even take our decorations down. Maybe. I really love the lights.

I also love these wise men ornaments one of my colleagues gave me for Christmas.

And we’ll have to remember to do our Epiphany house blessing on Sunday.


When Daniel and I were grocery shopping last weekend, we saw this hat.

I immediately thought of my goddaughter, who is 9 months old.

“But she won’t be as little next Christmas, so maybe it won’t fit her then,” I said.

“Mama,” Daniel corrected me, “it’s still Christmas.”

He was right, of course, so we brought it home. 


How did you count down to New Year’s Eve? My sister Treasa invited us over for a party, so we counted down around 7:15 p.m. and paraded around her house shaking and banging on instruments. That’s what we always did when we were growing up, and it was fun to watch the eight cousins present participating.

There was much more interest in that New Year’s tradition than in eating the pickled herring my brother-in-law put on the table, a Polish tradition. Somewhat more popular were the “long-life noodles” I served. We always have long noodles for Chinese New Year and American New Year when I remember.

I do love the blend of traditions—and I love that there are so many options for how to celebrate New Year’s.


After my brother and his four children went back to New England, he suggested that maybe our boys could play Pokemon over Skype. I wasn’t sure how well it would go, but it was worth a shot. As it turned out, the boys loved it. Leo and his cousin who is the same age played and played and played. They both set up their lines of Pokemon cards and read off the points to each other and added points and decided who had won—competing against each other even though they were several states away.

You have to admit, technology is kind of cool.


After 12 years of marriage, John and I took the next big step and bought our first couch together. Here is our couch history:

  1. A beautiful red couch I brought to the marriage that John never seemed crazy about
  2. A handed-down and amazing couch a friend gave us that we reluctantly gave up when we didn’t have room to store it during our move a few years ago
  3. The plaid couch that the last owner of our house left behind
It was time to shop for a couch. We went to a few different places and found a couch we both liked. Before I show it to you, I need to tell you that it will not be red like the one in the picture. Because all you will see when I show it to you is a red couch, and you will say, “Oh, I love that it’s red!” But our version of it will be sort of a navy blue. So try to picture it as blue.

I would wait and show you the blue version, but that’s eight weeks away, and I am not sure I can wait eight weeks to blog about buying a couch. Won't it be Lent by then? We also bought a wingback chair with a lovely pattern that matches. And I really can’t believe I took pictures of 50 couches we didn’t buy, but none of the fabrics on the couch and chair we ordered.

But I was pretty busy not losing our children or letting them break any of the recliners in the store. We all enjoyed the escalator, though. Can you see both our boys in this photo?

Eight weeks sounded like a long time until my mother pointed out that I need to teach the children the new rules for the new couch. I hung up with her and turned around to see our couch looking like this.

Maybe we’ll just never sit on the new couch at all.


A few months ago I signed up for Blue Apron—just me, just for fun, not with any discount because I blog or anything like that. I wasn’t sure how I felt about using this kind of service where they send you everything you need to make two meals for four people. It seemed a little expensive, but I figured I would give it a try because we were in a rut of eating many of the same things over and over.

I have to say that I think my family likes it even more than I do. You can get it weekly, but I only order it if there are two meals—out of the four offered—that I know we will eat and enjoy. And so far we have liked everything Blue Apron has sent.

A highlight for me is that I can put the meals together fairly easily on a weeknight, and all the ingredients are ready for me to wash and chop and cook. I’ve learned a few cooking techniques I didn’t know (did you know you can saute broccoli in plain sesame oil and it’s delicious?), and the recipes give you detailed instructions so that you really have a good rhythm as you’re putting the meals together.

The best part is that you have the recipes, so you can make the meals again. This week I went to the store and bought the ingredients for their beef with broccoli and their cheesy baked pasta and spinach, and I cooked them all over again. And we ate them and enjoyed them.

Have you tried a new recipe lately? I’d love to hear about it!

Read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum, and have a wonderful weekend!

January 06, 2017 11:07
By Rita Buettner

A phone call that changed everything: the day we first looked into our son's eyes

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

So the Chinese proverb goes.

A single step or a single phone call.

Eight years ago today, John and I had been waiting to become parents for more than four years. We had started the adoption process a few months earlier. Just before Christmas, we finished our home study, but we knew we had a long wait ahead of us. We were just beginning to assemble the paperwork to send to China, and then our real wait would begin.

It was a chilly Sunday afternoon, and we had the whole day to ourselves. We took a leisurely trip to the grocery store and headed home for a relaxing evening. As we unloaded the groceries, we noticed a voice mail on our home phone.

The message was from our social worker. She had a referral to share with us.

A little boy.

What? That couldn't be right. We weren't ready to be matched.

I called her back to tell her she was mistaken. But she wasn't.

She was emailing us the file of a baby boy in China. We had 24 hours to say yes. I scribbled down the details she shared over the phone: his age, where he lived, his Chinese name, how very cute he was.

I hung up, and John and I looked at each other in a daze. I had just started a new job, and John was about to begin a new job, too. Would we be able to take the time off to travel and to welcome a child into our lives? We had thought this call wouldn’t come for months—or maybe a year.

We were so overwhelmed and overcome, we didn't even open the email right away. We stumbled around the house, lost in thought, thinking of a child on the other side of the world. It sounds crazy to think about because we had waited for years to become parents, and suddenly it seemed so soon.

But, of course, we sat down together and opened the email. We only had dialup internet access, and it...took...well…forever to open the file. It could have been 10 minutes. It might have been 45. But then, at last, there he was. From his little black and white photo, his eyes met ours.

He was the most beautiful child I had ever seen.

John and I read every detail—his favorite foods, how big he was, his medical file, what he enjoyed most. I had never met this little boy, but I felt a connection to him even then.

We had never discussed boys' names—not once—but we looked at each other and immediately knew this little one's American name, the name we would give him in baptism, the name that fits him so perfectly, the name he has made his own.

"You'll fall in love with a picture," an adoptive mother had told me a few months earlier.

It was true. From those first moments, we started to fall in love with a child we had never met. And God gave us more than enough time to prepare to meet him, and to prepare him to meet us, 11 months later.

Last night, after our sons were in bed, I went to make sure they were sleeping soundly. I looked down on our baby boy's face. He's 9 now, and he's so grown-up in so many ways. But I still see in him the face of that child I first saw on that computer screen eight years ago. And when I look into his eyes today, I am in awe of how he came into our lives.

That day we were worried about whether we were ready. Of course we were nervous. Becoming parents is an extraordinary responsibility—and an extraordinary blessing.

We were also full of excitement and joy. God's timing is so often not ours. His plan doesn't always make sense to us. But it's always better than what we had in mind. And He has walked that journey with us—from that very first phone call eight years ago today.

January 04, 2017 06:51
By Rita Buettner

Instead of a New Year's Resolution, consider what God is asking of you in 2017

As the New Year begins, I’ve been thinking about Mary.

Mary was the mother of God. She fed Him and raised Him and loved Him and watched Him die on the cross.

She was faithful and strong and trusted in God in ways I can only hope to achieve.

She’s a saint, the queen of heaven and earth.

But when I think of her in her home in Nazareth, I picture her living a fairly quiet life. She worked and cooked and cleaned. She was a wife and mother and a woman of faith.

Painting by Phillippe de Champaigne

And I imagine she never made New Year’s resolutions. She didn’t need to, of course.

I, on the other hand, can’t begin to make New Year’s resolutions. The list of ways I need to improve as a person is too long. As soon as I think of one I should embrace, two or three more spring to mind.

But then I think of Mary and all she was and all she is. And I realize that she was able to fill her roles as mother and wife and disciple on earth because she had a single role, a single purpose.

When Gabriel told her God’s plan for her, she said, “May it be done to me according to your word.”

She said yes.

She didn’t say yes to everything. She said yes to God and what He was asking of her.

With her whole heart, soul, and mind, she said yes to being the Mother of God.

She said yes to being the mother of us all.

When I think of Mary, I realize that God doesn’t want me to be everything to everyone. He wants me to be the person He created me to be. He is asking me not to do it all, but to do something very specific, to fill the role on earth that is meant just for me. That’s both reassuring and challenging.

At the wedding feast of Cana, Mary tells the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.”

That’s what she is saying to me in 2017—and it’s what she is saying to each of us.

I’m not sure how easy or difficult that will be. What I do know is that 2017 will be a year to listen, to discern, and to be open to what God has in mind for me.

As we begin this New Year, what do you think God is asking of you?


January 02, 2017 11:13
By Rita Buettner

7 Quick Takes on the 6th day of Christmas: celebrating Christmas, our new/old dining table, slugs in a bag, couch shopping, and more


Happy sixth day of Christmas! One of my friends and fellow bloggers asked the other day how people celebrate the 12 days of Christmas in their homes. Since all four of us are off from work and school until the New Year, and since we invariably have cousins by the dozens (well, a dozen total, maybe) visiting, these days of Christmas rival Christmas itself for excitement.

In fact, instead of increasing the celebrations, we need to tone these days of Christmas down a bit and try to limit stimulation and activity. Yesterday our big outing was a trip to the library for Pokemon card trading with cousins—and other passersby.

The sprint to the library doors

Some days we remember to move the three wise men toward the manger. Some days we don’t. We are trying to count up on our Christmas countdown calendars as we move toward the 12th day.

I never could decide whether we were supposed to move the candy cane up or down during Advent.

It’s definitely still Christmas—especially if having toys and packaging strewn all over the house signifies Christmas.


This year on Christmas Eve I had a business idea. There should be a place you can take your children for the whole day on Christmas Eve to wear them out. It might just be a huge gym full of other children. They would run and jump and climb and play, and when you pick them up, they would be ready for an early bedtime and a long night of sleep.

We were so excited all day on Christmas Eve that I wasn’t sure how anyone would ever make it to Christmas. And it rained almost all day, so we couldn’t run around outside to wear people out—though somehow the parents ended up worn out anyway.

We made chocolate chip cookies for Santa, and we left a carrot out for each of his reindeer. Then at last, at last, everyone finally fall asleep. I managed to get the presents wrapped, but I ran out of wrapping paper for the first time. (We ask Santa not to wrap the boys’ gifts, but John and I wrap our gifts to them and to each other.)

Christmas morning was magical.

Running to see the gifts

After all the gift opening and breakfast, we went to Christmas Mass. Mass was beautiful.


We hosted Christmas dinner again this year. I’ve lost track of how many years we have hosted, but typically we serve a sit-down meal. Everyone sits down for maybe a total of six minutes because there are children who are up and about for various reasons—mostly “I’M DONE!” but some that are more legitimate.

This year I was trying to decide how to work around nap times and bedtimes and getting people fed and gifts unwrapped and all the other fun involved in our Christmas evening. So I decided we would just put a buffet of appetizers out and let everyone graze.

As we grazed, I had in my head that line from Handel's Messiah, “We like sheep have gone astra-ay-ay-ay-ay….” But it worked beautifully. Everyone had plenty to eat, and the children may actually have eaten more than they would have at a sit-down meal. And we had time for all the gift-opening and other excitement of the day.

Oh, and the veggie tray was a happy Christmas tree.

There’s always something lovely about a sit-down dinner, but I think this might be our new Christmas tradition—at least, as long as I am hosting.


My in-laws decided to get another dining room table, and they offered us theirs—the one they bought in 1961 from a department store in downtown Baltimore. Since then it has been refinished, and my father-in-law did some work to strengthen it so it should work for us for years to come.

So now we have a new/old dining room table. And new/old furniture is my favorite, especially furniture with a history we know.

Let's pretend this is how it looks all the time.

But this is what it looks like more than I want to admit.


The best thing about the new dining room table is that we moved the former dining room table into our kitchen. Now I have a little breakfast nook for the boys, even more counter space to work on—or yet another horizontal surface to cover with stuff.

As I was cleaning off the table for the thousandth time yesterday, I found a ball and a plastic bag full of plastic toy slug figures.

Ah, the joy of having an organized child. He definitely doesn’t get that from me.


Now John and I are looking for a new couch. The one we have came with our house when we bought it, and it is very tired. I like having a couch we don’t have to worry about damaging, but our children are 7 and 9, and maybe they are finally old enough to learn how to treat furniture well.

So a few days ago we took our boys furniture shopping to try out couches. They were fairly well-behaved, and it was fascinating to see how the stores greeted us—or didn’t.

We probably won't buy this one, but I like it. Does this come in muddy footprint fabric?

One store brought out sugar cookies for our children. Another didn’t approach us at all, even though we walked around for at least a half hour.

John and I found a couch we like, but we are still half-looking. Because…well…how do you know it’s The One? Why does buying a couch feel like a bigger commitment than buying a house?


Christmas was full of gifts, and I received the Dustbuster I have been wanting. John got some wooden hangers. The boys found Spam in their stockings. We are people of exquisite and extravagant taste.

One unexpected surprise was discovering that the artificial flowers Leo had found for Grammy on the discount table at his school’s Jingle Bell Shop had LED lights in them. She noticed right away when she opened them, so we plugged them in and…wow.

Leo was more surprised than anyone. “I only paid 25 cents for them!” he said.

Maybe next year we will let him do all the family shopping.

Read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum. Merry, merry Christmas and happy New Year!

December 30, 2016 11:31
By Rita Buettner

Most Popular Posts of 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, I looked back to see which blog posts were most read. It’s always interesting to me to see which posts appeal to the most readers. It’s particularly fascinating—and really not surprising—to me that they are often the posts on the most serious and difficult topics.

And here I thought you just came by to complain about elementary school homework and find out what happens when St. Nicholas and the Tooth Fairy bump into each other in the hallway.

Here are the top Open Window posts from the year, counting down to Number 1…

The only thing that is more fun than going on an extended family vacation is reading about one. Or going on it more fun? I don't know. You tell me.

Even though I don’t often think of infertility as a cross I still bear, I can’t seem to stop writing about it. It is such a difficult and isolating journey.

Failing at homework is sort of a talent for me, but somehow I was able to complete this assignment.

During the month of October, I blogged every day. Until the evening of Sept. 30, I wasn’t sure what my theme would be for the month, but St. Therese nudged me toward this one, and I am so grateful that she did.

What an extraordinary day. Every time I watch our older son receive Communion, I am in awe of the young man he is becoming.

We are still going strong with Pokemon Go, but it’s fun to remember our first days exploring it together.


Although Kim Kardashian probably didn’t use any of my advice, a few other people stopped by to see what I had to say about adding a second child to your family.

Photo from eCatholic stock photos

This post had been a long time coming, and I’m still not sure I found the right words for it.

I certainly can’t speak for everyone who is struggling with infertility, but I tried to think of some of the ways to offer support to those who are.

Ah, Al Trautwig. I had forgotten about you enitrely, but you did do us a favor.

The people affected by the flooding in Ellicott City continue to try to recover from that terrible night.

 (CNS photo/Marc elo del Pozo, Reuters)

The Queen of Heaven and Earth is at the top, as she should be. It reminds me of how at the blogging conference I attended earlier this year one of the speakers told us to talk with Mary before we write.

Thank you for visiting Open Window during 2016! I hope you’ll join me in 2017 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and, of course, here on the blog. 

Linking up with Bobbi at Revolution of Love, where other bloggers are sharing their top posts from the year.

December 29, 2016 10:31
By Rita Buettner

That time we broke a plunger ornament on Christmas Eve

We were enjoying spending Christmas Eve at home when I heard someone at the door. A friend decided to surprise us by stopping by with a gift. She and her daughter had been shopping when they spotted something for us.

It would celebrate the most important event of the year, she said.

“When Jesus was born?” said Daniel, listening at my side.

“Well, no, that was important, but that’s not it,” she said.

“When the three wise men came?” our first-grader asked.

“No, not that either,” she said. “It was something around Halloween.”

“The Boo Bash?” he guessed. And, of course, he was right, because our friend and her family were on the team with us that claimed the honorable mention for our table decorations that night. We had created a “poo bash” table, complete with a Halloween potty. The idea for the table had started when Daniel plucked a plunger from a shelf at the dollar store.

My friend held out a gift bag, and Daniel reached for it, but she stopped him and said it was fragile. Still, somehow as she and I fell further into conversation, he reached into the gift bag, pulled out the tissue paper, and the gift inside plummeted to the floor.

Shards of red and gold glass—the remains of what had been a beautiful hand-blown glass plunger ornament—went everywhere. All that was left was one big piece, which we had to throw away while John went for the shop-vac.

I felt terrible. Everything I have ever learned about being a grateful recipient of a gift came to mind and then flew out of my head. How do you show appropriate gratitude as a recipient when you break the gift in front of your friend as you open it on Christmas Eve? And yet it was also…hilarious.

At that moment, all we could do was stand there, looking at the shards of glass all over the floor, and laugh. So that’s what we did. We laughed and laughed. She told us how excited they had been to find a plunger ornament, and I thanked her and apologized and told her how perfect the gift was. And yet it was all just absurd that this ornament had not even made it from the gift bag to the tree.

Once you know a plunger ornament exists and that your thoughtful friend wanted you to have one, though, you have to have one. So the day after Christmas we went to Valley View Farms, where our friend and her daughter had found it, and we searched the whole store. We found some fantastic ornaments and bought a few, but we could not find a plunger.

So I went online and was thrilled to find a duplicate. I ordered two—one for us and one for my father in-law, a retired master plumber who will enjoy having his very own. When we give him his, we will have to wrap it in bubble wrap, inside tissue paper, in a very soft box.

And whenever I look at ours, I’ll think of memories of Halloween and Christmas Eve, and I will laugh. What else can you do when you have a plunger hanging on your tree?

December 28, 2016 09:23
By Rita Buettner

7 Quick Takes Friday: Christmas is coming, gift-giving, peace apples for Christmas Eve, a dip party, two missing front teeth, and a little bit of snow


Our Christmas tree is up! I can’t believe it. I thought this might be the year for a Christmas Eve tree-decorating event, but the tree is in place, the stockings are hung, and we are done. I’m not sure whether I have all the gifts I need, but some of our extended family is trickling into town for the second and third days of Christmas, so I have a little more time to prepare.

I put our sons to work wrapping gifts this year.

They use much more tape and wrapping paper than I would, but they take much less time—especially since it seems to be a race. I’m not sure how I feel about the racing aspect, but I haven’t done much of my own wrapping, and that’s just fine with me.

One of my favorite gifts to give this year is cinnamon bread. If you bake two loaves, you have to eat one to make sure the one you're giving away is good, right?


We had a paltry amount of snow last weekend, and the boys could not wait to get outside and sled in it. There was so little snow that I’m not sure it made the sledding faster. But they had so much fun.

I watched them help each other up the muddy hillside and then count down together so they could sled down side by side. They are such brothers.

Seeing their joy over this tiny bit of snow made me smile. I would have understood if they had gone outside and come in disappointed, but they made the most of this scant amount of snow and played and played and played.

These boys constantly challenge me to find wonder in the ordinary little moments God gives us.


Somehow we never wrote letters to Santa this year, but that’s fine because our sons have both whispered their Christmas wishes in the ear of our Elf on the Shelf. So we are set. You’d think Daniel would be asking for his two front teeth since he lost his second one very suddenly while eating a mandarin orange last weekend. But he tells me he’s asking for a bunch of Pokemon cards—and he has some very specific requests.

History shows that Christmas is a success even if Santa branches out a bit. I wonder whether he’ll leave two front teeth in Daniel’s stocking. I hope not. I love that toothless smile.


One child had a stomach bug this week, and I am now waiting for the rest of the family to get it. I’m a little on edge about it. It’s beyond our control, of course, but if we are going to all have it, I’d rather get it over with and done before Christmas.

Maybe I should whisper that into the Elf’s ear. But I don’t think he would care. Easy for him, you know. Since no one in the house can touch him without stealing his magical qualities, he’s not likely to come down with this illness. But the rest of us are not as lucky.


Some of my colleagues invited me to participate in a dip party that was also a contest. So I made my dip, of course, because who wouldn’t want to be involved in a dip party?

I got pulled into a meeting at the same time as the party, but I did manage to taste some of the dips afterward, including the winning guacamole, and everything was delicious. There were hot and cold dips, sweet and savory dips, and I loved every one.

What I learned was that I need to get the recipe for the Greek feta dip I tried and that dip parties should be much more common than they are. I am already looking for an opportunity to have a dip party myself.


Sometimes I see discussions on social media where parents talk about how they limit what they give their children to one gift or three. I understand where they are coming from. I don’t want to raise children who are materialistic or who don’t appreciate all they have.

But I also want to see my children’s faces light up on Christmas morning. And I love that I can think of what might do that and track it down and put it under the tree and create memories for them—and for us.

Gifts are so special. This week I have received several gifts from colleagues, and they have been so personal and thoughtful—a homemade gingerbread house, sushi erasers, a snowflake pin, books that were carefully selected for me, a Chinese tea set we could not wait to use, a set of day-of-the-week pencils that had me swooning, and many other treats.

I don’t need a thing. I can hardly think of anything I want. But I love the tradition of gift giving, and I enjoy watching my children embracing that tradition, too.


This past week for school Leo had to pick a country and tell about one of its Christmas traditions. I suggested a few different countries, and he let me chatter on and on before he said, “I want to do China.”

I love how proud he is of his Chinese heritage. We know China celebrates Christmas since we saw all the Christmas decorations when we traveled to adopt Leo in December 2009, but I wasn’t sure what tradition he could find.

But right away stories popped up online about how on Christmas Eve in China people give one another decorated apples. They give apples because the Mandarin word for “apple” sounds a little like the Mandarin word for “Christmas Eve.” They call them peace apples.

I had a few apples in our fridge, so Daniel pulled them out for us, and we started decorating them. We painted some, cut others, and just had fun with the perfect activity on an icy day.

As we worked, I thought of our friend Dong, a shopkeeper we met in Guangzhou, who told us his favorite fruit was a good apple. Who doesn’t want an apple? Christmas shopping gets easier all the time.

Read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum. And have a merry Christmas!

December 22, 2016 11:18
By Rita Buettner

Impatient for Christmas to come

I made the mistake of mentioning that our wonderful friends in Chicago were sending us a package. Now the children simply cannot wait for it to arrive.

“How long does it take to get from Chicago to here?”

“When do you think they sent it?”

“What do you think is inside?”

“If it comes today, do we have to wait until Baba is home to open it?”

Daniel runs to the door every few minutes—just to check.

He finally spots the mailman and opens the door to call out, “Mailman!”

Now I wish I had cookies—or something—to put in the mailman’s hands. But I have nothing.

When the mail comes, our 7-year-old is the first to the door. Of course he is. He has been six inches away from the door all afternoon. He pulls a pile of cards into the house and drops to the floor to open them, one by one.

As I watch him, relieved that the wait is on hold for a minute, I think of the wait for Christmas, for the day we celebrate the birth of the Son of God, our Savior, Jesus, Emmanuel.

If only we were all as impatient for His arrival as my son is for a package.

I remember back to the first Sunday of Advent when our pastor said that impatience can be an appropriate response during this time of waiting. We should await Christmas with a certain expectation, anxiousness, and excitement. And, if we are truly eager for Jesus’ birth into our hearts this Christmas, we should be at least a little impatient.

In these final days of wrapping and baking and stocking hanging, there is something wonderful about filling our hearts with that excitement and eagerness of a child. And so we wait with faith, hope, joy—and maybe a little bit of impatience, too.

December 22, 2016 04:32
By Rita Buettner

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