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 openwindowcr@gmail.com, or follow me on Facebook

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Wonderful post....thanks. May God protect you all and bless you.

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Hi Heidi! Thank you for stopping by! How did it not occur to me that the kids would think of snowboarding on their own? ;)

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7 Quick Takes Friday: Being called mom, snow days, Chinese New Year in the classroom, not quite 100 days of school, our little hedgehog, and Lent


~1~

Suddenly I am “Mom.” I have always been “Mama”—which is also the Chinese term—but suddenly I have become “Mom.” I am not sure how it happened, but here I am. And it’s our younger son who is calling me “Mom” instead of “Mama.”

I knew it would happen at some point. I just didn’t expect to have so much trouble learning to respond to a different name.

~2~

It snowed again this week—not much, but enough to cancel a couple days of school.

Did you hear my long, drawn-out sigh?

Our boys loved playing in the snow and finding some indoor fun. We hadn’t had time to introduce monkey bowling during our Year of the Monkey party, so I let them bowl in our living room with the monkey bottles we had saved.

When I realized it was becoming too competitive and no one was happy, I announced that it would be a team effort. For every 100 pins they knocked down together, they would win a treat. It worked well and they had a blast.



They may even have had more fun than they did the next day when I left them with a sitter and they decided to try to snowboard down the hill in our yard. No, we don’t own a snowboard. And no, it was not a success—though they go into gales of laughter describing how our kindergartener ended up falling face first into the snow.

New household rule: Bowling in the living room might be OK, but snowboarding while standing up on the snow saucers is not allowed.

~3~

Every year I ask our boys if they want me to offer to visit their classrooms to talk about Chinese New Year. This year they both wanted me to come, and their teachers did, too. So this week I visited second grade and kindergarten to discuss the Year of the Monkey.




The children decorated lanterns, and I gave them red envelopes and fresh Mandarin oranges. Then we played Chinese New Year bingo in second grade, and I created a graphing game for the kindergarteners, who can’t all read yet, but who can definitely recognize pictures and know how to graph.



Both classes were so much fun. And I learned that I will probably never be a teacher because I cannot handle crowd control or managing multiple questions and conversations.

I just can’t manage responding to “Do you remember when I made cupcakes with you at your house?” as I am also considering whether I even know the answer to “Do they celebrate Valentine’s Day in China?”

But my sons loved having me there, and I will do it all again if they—and their teachers next year—will have me.

~4~

How will you celebrate Valentine’s Day? John proposed to me on Valentine’s Day 12 years ago. Maybe we will slip out for dinner together sometime this weekend, though we haven’t made definite plans.

There won't need to be flowers, though, because one of our friends brought these roses to our party last weekend and they are still beautiful.



~5~

Our son’s kindergarten class will celebrate 100 days of school if they ever reach 100. But snow (or a belief that snow might fall) keeps pushing that milestone further back. In good news, though, the school closings have given us time to work on his 100th day assignment. He has to decorate a shirt with 100 items on it.

If you want to see what other more creative people do, go to Pinterest and search for 100 days T-shirt.

Our boy is really excited about fishing, so we decided to create 100 fish. And the easiest way was to draw them on using fabric markers.


So he created the boat and some cool fish, and I filled in the others.

I’m hoping there are 100, but it was really hard to keep track, and I get dizzy when I try to count.



But I figure we’ll be OK.

~6~

Daniel had the chance to be a hedgehog in a very brief performance at school, and I went to Grandparents Day just to see it. But somehow I was in his brother’s classroom when they performed, and I missed it. I was so disappointed.



Fortunately my father recorded the performance, so I did get to see it later. And I even got to see the part where, as our kindergartener says, “I got to shake my booty.”

Where does he learn to talk this way?

~7~

How is Lent going for you? I love this video on Ash Wednesday with Fr. Mike Schmitz. He does such amazing work.

Last night we were talking about receiving ashes, and the boys decided to take turns pretending to be the priest.

They were struggling to remember what the priest says when he puts the ashes on people’s foreheads.

Finally they gave up and started saying in these fake-tough voices, “Bring it.” I lost it at that point, and suddenly we were all laughing together in the kitchen.

But then I started thinking about Lent. And maybe “Bring it” is what I need to hear.

My Lent started with a bit of a whimper, especially since we had no school that day, and it threw my day off so that I fit in a prayer service but didn’t make it to Mass.

But we still have most of Lent ahead of us. So maybe it’s time for me to say, “OK, it's Lent. Let's bring it.”

~By the way~

I’m on Instagram! I would love to connect with you there.

Read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum.

February 11, 2016 11:19
By Rita Buettner


7 tips on throwing a Chinese New Year party (or how we do it around here)



The first time we threw a Chinese New Year party, we just had some friends over for Chinese food. It was fairly sedate.

The next year I was chatting with our guests when we realized our children were racing through the house waving a plunger.

Once you’ve had plunger races as part of your Chinese New Year party, you realize you have entered a new arena. So although I’m all for leaving space for children to have creative fun (and we still do have the occasional spontaneous light saber duel in the yard mid-party), I also try to make sure we have some activities ready to go so we can channel that energy.



As we’re coming off a spirited celebration of the Year of the Monkey, I thought it would be fun to share a few thoughts on what makes a Chinese New Year party.



Build your guest list. We include families with connections to China, people who have visited China, people who like Chinese food, people who may have heard of China or...well, people who are just fun and love parties. Our guests invariably mix, exchange recipes, and (this year, at least) laugh about a Chinese New Year party where the hostess forgot the chopsticks. If during the party your husband looks around the room and says, “We’ve always wondered how many people this house holds. Here’s our answer,” you’ve probably succeeded. Right?


Plan your menu. I’m a fan of ordering take-out because even at my best I can’t top an egg roll from a Chinese restaurant. I also like to do at least a little cooking. Our guests helped with the food this year, and that made it especially fun. Their desserts were incredible. If you’re ordering food, don’t ask me for tips on how much to order. Last year I over-ordered and finished the last of the shrimp fried rice just before Christmas. This year I underestimated how hungry our guests would be, and we have just a little left. Bottom line? People love Chinese food. And banana pudding.

And monkey bread.

And, of course, cakes shaped like the animal of the year. I would be lying if I told you we hadn't already started discussing the Year of the Rooster cake.


Have fun with the decorations. Admittedly, I go a bit over board with this.


Or maybe I go way overboard.


We find dragons and everything Chinese in the house.

This year we threw in some monkeys, and my sister-in-law found this adorable hand-stitched Chinese monkey for us.

You don’t need to spend much money. We found Chinese fans at the dollar store and placed a basket of oranges near the door. But Amazon definitely saw me coming with their recommendations, which is why we own a Chinese lion marionette. No regrets here on any of the purchases. Of course, that might be why I'm giving up online shopping for Lent, but we'll discuss that later.

Plan some games. We include many children, but I might do this even if we were having an adult party. Who doesn’t love Chinese New Year bingo or a bit of trivia? We always have a craft table, and I am a big fan of Pass the Present, which involves children sitting in a circle and taking turns shredding the newspaper layers into piles on the floor.

The crafts don’t have to be anything extraordinary. I printed some coloring pages and offered a place where the children could make their own Chinese New Year cards.

I also ordered some amazing paper lanterns from Luna Bazaar, and the children decorated them. I found the bookmarks and little placemats to color on Oriental Trading. All fun, but not all necessary if you would rather go simpler. (And I get no credit or kickback for mentioning them here. That's just where I shop.)


Distribute red envelopes. We give ours just to the children inside goody bags because…well, because I have way too much fun finding toys that match the animal and the goody bags Oriental Trading makes are too cute. You could give them to the adults too. This is your call. This year we had flying rubber monkeys and little monkey puzzles and tiny monkey figures and monkey stickers—all from Oriental Trading or Amazon. The traditional red envelopes contain money and that would be popular, but it seems awkward to me—and expensive—so we put chocolate coins inside.


Don’t forget the fortune cookies. Yes, they aren’t authentically Chinese, but they are Chinese-American, and they are fun. At our Year of the Monkey party, they all seemed to contain the same fortune. How can we top that next year?


Make your own fireworks. Some people let children jump on bubble wrap at the end—and we have done that. But mostly we just count on the group to be fun and loud to make a mess as big as you’d find after a real Chinese New Year parade. I’d say we succeeded.

Xin Nian Kuai Le! Happy New Year! Wishing you and your loved ones health and happiness in this Year of the Monkey!

February 08, 2016 09:59
By Rita Buettner


7 Quick Takes Friday: Preparing for Lent, excitement about Chinese New Year, signs your children are growing up, Catholic Schools Week, and more!

~1~

Suddenly Ash Wednesday is next week. How did that happen? Are you ready? I am still figuring out what I want to do for Lent. Right now my plan is to give up buying things online and to try to go to daily Mass at least once a week. I like the idea of adding something and taking something away.

Some of the people who are closest to me don’t think I can handle not buying things through Amazon. So I’ve either hit on a wonderful idea or a terrible one.

What are you planning to do for Lent?

~2~

Last year I created a coloring book for Lent, and you can still click through and print the pages for free. You can find it here.



When I made it for a Lenten crafts linkup that my friend Rosie was hosting, I just thought it would be fun. Now, of course coloring books are very complicated and trendy. So maybe keep your expectations low when you click through, and keep in mind that I created it for our children.

There are some other great ideas for children’s Lent activities here. I have no plan yet for what we might do with our children for Lent. I am trying not to add too much to our lives right now.

~3~

Signs our children are growing up: 1. Our son tells me he doesn’t think I should wear my cheetah-print pajama pants outside the house. 2. I find this on their bedroom door.



I’ll listen to him about the pajama pants. But it’s going to take more than a sign like that to keep this mother out of their room.

~4~

Happy Catholic Schools Week! John and I love our Catholic school and are so grateful to be able to give our children a Catholic education.

I have written about Catholic schools a few times, including in my latest column for The Catholic Review:

Reasons abound to love Catholic schools

I love talking about Catholic schools. Here are a few more posts I have written:




~5~

Chinese New Year begins on Monday, Feb. 8! Here’s what you might want to know:

1. It’s the Year of the Monkey. If you were born in 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, or 2004, you are a monkey and this is your year!

2. A list of things that are taboo on the first day of the Chinese New Year (I won't be following all of these, but just for fun).

3. You can celebrate by wearing red (a lucky color in China), give red envelopes with money inside to the children in your life, and eat Chinese food—particularly fish and dumplings. Yum.


~6~

We get so excited about Chinese New Year in our house. And by “we,” I am really referring to me But the rest of my family goes along with it. This week we have been busy getting ready to celebrate. We will have a group of friends and family over this weekend for a casual, food-filled party that has grown a little bit every year. It is such a fun mix of people and we always have a fantastic time.



This year I have had to cancel the banana hunt I had planned because our yard is still covered in snow. Even if the snow melts, our yard will be a swamp. And I don’t know where we might be able to do the piñata. But we will play pass the present, and we’ll have monkey bowling and pin the tail on the monkey.


And, of course, we will play the ever-popular (at least around here) Chinese New Year bingo.

Then next week I will go visit both boys’ classrooms. I’ll tell them about Chinese New Year, read a book or two, let each child decorate a lantern, give each of them a red envelope with a surprise inside, and maybe hand out fresh Mandarin oranges. If we have time for bingo, great!



I also have this secret wish that we will parade around the school with our lanterns, but I actually don’t think we’ll have time, though maybe the kindergarteners will work quickly and surprise me.

For now our sons have been busy helping me fill goody bags and red envelopes and making sure the crafts for our party work. If we’re lucky, we’ll still have some craft materials left when our guests arrive.

At least we have plenty of monkey bottles for the monkey bowling.


I can’t wait.

~7~

When our kindergartener brought home this picture this week, I knew he was the person. I just wasn’t sure what was happening until he explained.



"That's me feeling like God is everywhere...in the stars, in the trees, and all around."

Here’s hoping you feel God’s presence in your life today.

Read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum.

February 04, 2016 11:00
By Rita Buettner


Movie Review of Kung Fu Panda 3: Just as the first two were, the third time's a charm


As Kung Fu Panda 2 ended, we saw a panda sitting on a mountain saying, “My son is alive.”

Since then, my family and I—and maybe you too?—have been wondering how the main character Po would reconnect with his panda father and what that reunion would be like. I was especially curious how the film would delve further into the adoption theme. After all, the main character Po, a panda, has been raised by a goose, Mr. Ping, and we learned more about that in the second movie.

Then, finally, finally, Kung Fu Panda 3 opened on Jan. 29. And even though we had an otherwise full day of no school for children (thank you, blizzard) but work for both parents, at the end of the day we headed straight to the theater.

If I had been able to find a Kung Fu Panda marathon leading up to the movie premiere, we might have gone. And I hardly ever see movies in the theater. But this is Kung Fu Panda.

If you haven’t seen Kung Fu Panda or Kung Fu Panda 2, maybe you can’t appreciate our excitement. You should stop reading now and go get your hands on the first one—or just skip to the second.

These are fantastic movies. They have riveting story lines, engaging characters, catchy soundtracks, and they are visually a delight. Our sons laugh hysterically and I laugh right along with them. We quote them all the time, they involve kung fu, and they take place in China. How can you top that?

Oh, and they always leave me hungry for Chinese dumplings—but that may not be a plus.

Anyway, we went into Kung Fu Panda 3 with high expectations. I have to admit I also had a little trepidation. Adoption can be depicted in bizarre, confusing ways in children’s movies, and sometimes I am scrambling to re-frame and re-explain that poor betrayals of adoption do not reflect the actual experience.

I had no need to worry. We absolutely loved this movie.

It is an action-packed film and we were easily swept up into the storyline. We laughed and laughed. Even the villain made us laugh a few times. Yes, I cried a few times. There were some beautifully touching moments. It’s a movie full of heart—and I am a softie.

Overall, I felt the movie handled Po’s adoption and the reunification of Po and his birth father in a positive way, while leaving room for the relationship between his two fathers—birth and adoptive—to grow.

Setting the adoption theme aside, I love the lessons of the film. Po has to consider what is the right path to take. He has to show forgiveness. He and his friends and family make mistakes, but they find strength by trying to become the best versions of themselves.

Kung Fu Panda 3 is full of life and love and a story of family and friendship and the war of good versus evil—where the future is in the hands of a humble and somewhat muddled but always lovable dragon warrior. You’ll love it.

And, if you’re like me, you’ll walk out humming the theme song and longing for Chinese dumplings. If only they sold those in the theater.

January 30, 2016 11:07
By Rita Buettner


7 Quick Takes Friday: How to survive a blizzard, a lost tooth, fishy valentines, why I actually ironed, and how you know you have a fantastic sitter


~1~

Have I mentioned that it snowed last weekend? The snow is still here, although most of it has been shoved aside. Here are a few tips on how to survive a blizzard:

Bake cookies.



Live close to a teenager with a snow clearing business.



If it’s too cold for outdoor play or you're tired of seeing how many clothes you can throw in the hamper in a day, bring the snow inside.



Live in an area where the schools close and stay closed with no indication they will open again.

Well, maybe skip that last part. I'm not actually sure I understand why our school is still closed except that we follow the public schools' decisions. And I don't think I'll go any farther down this road right now because these are supposed to be quick takes.

Let’s just say that I even caught one of our children saying, “I can’t wait to go back to school next week…um…I mean, well, when we have to go back to school next week....”

I’m onto them. Even our children are ready to return.

~2~

I took many photos during and after the storm, but when I was looking through the shots from the week, I was thinking how much I like the ones I took through our windows.

This is my van. We started digging it out and gave up. The van is to the left in this picture.


This is a view of our yard after our children had claimed the mountain of snow with a shovel.


And here they are playing in the snow. Light sabers work for everything.


~3~

Leo lost a tooth! This is one of the big ones up top, a real milestone for him.

He wanted me to pull it out earlier in the evening, and I tried and couldn't do it. Dentistry is not my thing. So he wiggled it out while he and his brother watched Penguins of Madagascar for the 571st time. If you haven't seen it, you should. It's hilarious. I can't believe I still laugh at it after so many viewings.

Last night as our second grader was writing a note to the Tooth Fairy asking her to leave his tooth for him, his little brother was looking over his shoulder.

“The Tooth Fairy is a billionaire,” Daniel said. “She has all this money and she doesn’t have to do anything.”

That may be. Still, I couldn’t handle doing her job every night. Putting your hands on low bills can be hard even for a billionaire. Not that I would know.

~4~

While we were snowed in, we finally took down the Christmas tree. It’s always a little sad to me, especially since my parents raised me to believe the tree comes down in March—a family tradition that started the year their fifth child was born at the end of February.

But it is nice to have part of the living room back, and I do need that space in the house so we can celebrate the Chinese New Year appropriately. We really need the space for the dragon parade. I think I’m kidding about the parade.


We also put the final touches on Daniel’s Valentine’s Day cards. He wanted fishing valentines, and I couldn’t find any online. So we bought pencils, made paper fish, and attached each to a pencil with thread.



I thought we would write, “So glad we’re in the same school” or “You’re a great catch!” or “Hooked on you, Valentine!” But I am not the brains of this operation, and Daniel thought that a silly saying wasn’t needed. So they are blank.



They are cute. If you decide you want to do this—though I’m not sure what the demand is for fishing valentines—make them one at a time. Once you start making multiple fish on strings, they get caught on one another, and it’s a huge untangling job.



But I have a happy kindergartener, so I’d say my work here is done.

~5~

You know those toys you say you’ll never buy? One of those for me was fuse beads. We have had tiny, one-item kits, and I always think anything larger will make a mess. So I have avoided them.



But then the snow came. And thinking of fun and easy craft ideas for our boys isn’t always easy. And they love fuse beads. They play with them in their after-school program, and they get so creative with them. And when friends came over for a play date this week, they brought some and we had the best time with them.



So I bought a huge thing of them yesterday, brought it home, and managed to spill dozens of them on the floor right after I walked through the door. While I was picking them up, I noticed how badly I needed to vacuum. So I did.

Then you have to iron to get the beads to stick together, so I did that, too.



Vacuuming and ironing in the same day? Or ironing at all? Talk about things I thought I’d never do….

~6~

We have had an extra nail in our living room wall. I haven’t noticed it and haven’t been worried about it. But Daniel spotted it and knew it couldn't stand empty. So he hung this portrait he drew of our family.



Guess which one is Daniel. Nope. Our kindergartener is the tallest one. When you are the artist, you get to make yourself look however you want.

~7~

Yesterday my cousin’s daughter came over to babysit for our boys so John and I could go to work. They love her and always have a great time playing with her.

When I came home, I saw they had built a snowman in the front yard—their third of the day apparently, since they also built two next door with the neighbors’ grandchildren who came over to invite them to play.


Then I came inside and saw that our sitter had made more progress on our 750-piece Star Wars puzzle in one day than we have made during the entire snowstorm.

I may need to ask her to come back just to work on the puzzle.

~Bonus Take~

Is anyone else ridiculously excited to see Kung Fu Panda 3 this weekend? We can't wait!

Oh! And I am featured on this Catholic Mommy Blogs site! Stop by and discover other bloggers.

Read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum.


January 28, 2016 10:33
By Rita Buettner


This snowman is for the birds


I had suggested that we build a snowman several times over the past few days, but no one ever seemed interested.

So we have spent most of the time throwing snowballs. It’s hard to top snowball throwing.

But today while I was brushing snowballs off my coat—our younger son has a decent arm and I am not good at hiding in the fort the boys built for me—I noticed that our kindergartener had finally decided it was time to build a snowman.



“Mama,” he said, kneeling in the snow, “do you have any seeds?”

“Seeds?” I said. “I’m not sure I do.”

“You do,” he told me—with the confidence and knowledge that only a 6-year-old who is building a snowman on his own can possess. “You have pumpkin seeds.”

So I went inside and looked. He was right. I had pumpkin seeds and a few cashews. I brought them—and a carrot—outside.

He was pleased with the carrot, which was obviously "Snowshoe’s" nose. Then he very carefully placed the cashews in a plastic container and balanced it on the snowman’s head.



Then he pressed the seeds into the snowman’s face.

“They’re for the birds,” he said. “And the nuts too.”

That's our boy, always thinking of the little creatures he encounters in the world.

“I love all little animals, Mama,” he said. “Why won’t you let me get a dog?”

Ah. That. So we talked for the 4,973rd time about allergies and why we aren’t getting a dog. We talked about allergies and cats and dogs and what fun pets are but how some people can’t have them. We covered a lot of ground, standing in 2 feet of melting snow in our yard, waiting for the birds to come and eat the food off our little boy’s snowman.

“OK,” he said, as I relaxed. I had obviously handled that well.



Then he smiled sweetly up at me. “But what about a baby bunny?”

Hmm. Well. Let’s start by waving at the birds who stop by to eat our seeds.


January 26, 2016 10:01
By Rita Buettner


When the snow days just keep coming


Before the blizzard started Friday, I ordered Chinese food for lunch—and for leftovers for our snowed-in weekend.

My fortune cookie should have said, “Your children will not return to school until February.”

OK, so that might be a bit of a stretch, but I think there’s a good chance they won’t go back this week.


Do you hear them complaining? I don’t. They really like their school, but they also love being home.

For the record, I’m not complaining either...yet. We’re enjoying having the whole family off together. We don’t often take the time just to be here, the four of us. That won’t last. Cabin fever will set in. Also, at some point John and I will need to return to work. Then you'll find me making child care arrangements and grumbling a bit about the lack of routine.

But for now? We’re playing in the snow.



There are mountains of snow out there. The snowballs are ready made, ripe for throwing. The children climb and try to run and fall and laugh and get up and keep trying. Then they come inside, totally exhausted, eat well, and collapse into bed at night.

Today, even though the ground is covered in all this snow, the weather was sunny and even warm. The children were dropping articles of clothing as they played and shoveled and built two forts for the snowball fights we are going to have.

We also did a science experiment, thanks to my friend Abigail who suggested it in a post she wrote about an emergency homeschooling day.


We stripped the paper off of some crayons, placed them gently on the snow, and watched to see which ones sank the lowest into the snow over time. Here's the link directly to the experiment.

Here they are at the beginning:

Here they are a few hours later (we moved the red crayon at the beginning, so that smudge to the left is due to human error):


I’m afraid I did a terrible job explaining about solar energy, but the good news is that when we do talk about it again later, I will say, “Remember the crayons?” And everyone will remember the crayons.



In case you are wondering, we are hoping the snow won’t melt for a long time. Our kindergartener is very anxious about it. He’s afraid it will all melt away right now. I keep reassuring him that it is going to be here for a while and that, much as I hate to admit it, we may get even more.

And we might. So...uh…yay?


Maybe it will be February when the children go back to school, or maybe it will be March.

As I say, no one under the age of 9 in our house is complaining.


At least they’re happy. They’re eating well, getting good exercise in the snow, and they are learning a few things along the way.

So maybe the fortune cookie should say, “One day you’ll give up and stop worrying about whether your children will ever go back to school.”

Or maybe it should just say, "You'll forget about those crayons until the lawn mower discovers them in the spring."


January 25, 2016 11:00
By Rita Buettner


Snowed in and surrounded by a winter playground


There’s something special about the first real snow of the season. I’m not sure we needed this storm to be so special—with something like 30 inches and biting winds—but my children would disagree. This storm is the answer to their prayers.

For them, it’s like having oceanfront property. They can walk outside and find endless amusement—in our very own backyard. Amazing.




In fact, the greatest challenge of Snow Day #1 was that their mother wouldn’t let them play in it after it got so deep and windy and bitterly cold out there.

They are so excited to build forts and have snowball fights. They can’t wait to sled (which I think they might be able to do when it’s less fluffy) and stomp around and shovel and do everything you do in the snow.

I would be content to stay inside in the warmth and sip hot chocolate, but I go outside because they are having so much fun. And we have so much snow.




I remember big snows as a child when the world was brand-new and different and exciting. So I go outside with my camera and play and trail them around the yard and yelp as the snow slips down into my boots and I realize that I really need better snow gear for myself.

But the experience is really magical. When we came in from one of our trips outside, I was helping Leo take off his clothes when we noticed that some snow had stuck to the door behind him.


And it looked just like a fish.



A few minutes later, it had melted in the warmth of the house, just as the snow outside will all melt eventually. But not anytime soon.

We are completely snowed in. If we can dig ourselves out—and I’m relying on a friendly entrepreneurial teen who came once today with his snow blower to help us—we will escape at some point. But right now that’s hard to imagine.



As we were working on a 750-piece Star Wars puzzle that may take us until next winter, I thought I should let the children know that this weekend would be different.

“We probably aren’t going to make it to Sunday Mass,” I said. “We can watch Mass on TV, and we can have our own Mass in the living room. Maybe we can say a Rosary or think of something else special we could do.”

From across the room, Daniel piped up, “Like not hitting each other.”

I hesitated just a moment and then said, “Yes, like that.”

So that’s how we’ll spend our Sunday—not hitting one another.

Hope yours is just as wonderful.


January 23, 2016 11:15
By Rita Buettner


7 Quick Takes Friday: Preparing for a blizzard, friendly procrastinators, cooking with kids, a monkey piñata, when your children want a dog, and more


~1~

A blizzard is coming.

This will be our first real snow this winter, and our children are so excited. And, of course, schools are closed even though the snow hasn’t started. About 39 flakes fell from the sky on Wednesday night and the schools were delayed two hours the next morning. So our boys went outside to “sled.” That seemed like a fine idea until I caught them sledding down a small flight of steps.

“You can’t sled down steps!” I told them.

“You always let us sled down the steps when it snows!” came the retort.

“But it didn’t really snow!” They didn't believe me. I mean, look at how much snow there was.



Just wait until they see real snow this weekend. I hope it won’t be too cold and windy to enjoy it. If not, we'll be spending even more time in the elaborate fort our couch became yesterday.



And yes, sharp-eyed reader, those are still stockings hanging in the background. Maybe if we get snowed in, we'll take the tree down this weekend.

~2~

All week I knew that this storm was coming, but somehow I didn’t make it to the store until last night at about 9 p.m. I had tried to go earlier and the parking lots were overflowing so I decided to wait.

By the time I got there last night, this is what I found in the egg section.



It was funny to see the flavors of items that were left behind. It also turns out that people really prefer French-cut string beans to regular green beans. And they don’t care much for okra.

I was getting a little anxious in the soup aisle until I saw that there were boxes of Italian wedding soup and one of our favorites, Chickarina, sitting in a cart waiting to be shelved...or purchased by me. Victory!



When we are getting ready for a storm, I always buy paper plates and cups because I worry about losing power and having a sink of dirty dishes. This time I also bought antibacterial hand wipes. We aren’t into antibacterial products here, but if we don’t have hot water, we will be very happy to have those wipes.

This was part of my cart as I was getting ready to check out.



We’re as ready as we’ll ever be.

~3~

Some of my Facebook friends had posted miserable stories of run-ins with rude grocery shoppers, but I didn’t find that to be the case at all.

I really believe that people who procrastinate and don’t plan ahead are some of the friendliest people you’ll meet. Shoppers were joking in the produce aisles, grinning as they waited in line at the deli, and when I went to take a picture of the egg-less egg section, a woman and her teen daughter started laughing and chatting with me.

Say what you will about my lack of planning, but maybe the procrastinators are the most relaxed and most willing to try the wasabi-flavored SPAM when it’s the last can left on the shelf. Not that I saw any, but if they make it, we procrastinators would give it a go. We'd have to.

~4~

Cooking with children is not always easy, but I have been trying to step back and let our boys do more on their own. This has resulted in losing a whole batch of cookie dough when the bowl fell to the floor, but it also yielded these Chinese dumplings.



Sure, they aren’t perfectly shaped and they fell apart. But they were absolutely delicious.

~5~

As I’ve mentioned a dozen or so times here, we are gearing up to celebrate the Year of the Monkey when the Chinese New Year begins on Feb. 8. I took the boys to a store with me last week. We weren’t there to shop for the Chinese New Year, but as we turned down the party aisle, our boys noticed the piñatas.

“Maybe they have a monkey piñata!” one of them said.

It seemed unlikely. But astoundingly one of the five piñatas in the store happened to be a monkey. So home he came with us. As I was pushing the cart out to the parking lot, I said to the boys, “Look! Monkey in the middle!”



We laughed and laughed and stopped to take a photo. Then they started playing “Monkey in the Middle” with an invisible ball.

Now I have to decide what to fill the monkey with. What can you put inside a piñata besides candy?

~6~

Our friend and neighbor just added two little dogs to her family and they are adorable. I took both boys over to meet them one night this week, and they loved the dogs.



They loved them so much that they came home talking about how much we need a dog, and it’s so unfair that they can’t have a dog, and why can’t they have a dog, and it’s so unfair, and on and on and on.

They have my empathy because I begged my parents for a dog for 13 years before they accidentally gave in. But John and I are both allergic to dogs, so they really can’t have a dog.

But we have dogs as friends, and that is almost as much fun, right?

~7~

Our second grader will be making his First Communion this spring. I can hardly believe it, and I am so excited for him. I went to an information session to learn a little about how we can prepare him to receive the sacrament, and they showed us this beautiful video about the Mass

I love some of the quotes that are included in this piece. I just hope we can make it to Mass this weekend!

Please join me in praying for the safety of all those who don’t have a safe, warm place to sleep and for all who will be working to help others during the storm.

Read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum.


January 21, 2016 11:42
By Rita Buettner


Do you want to build a Chinese snow lion?


The kindergarten homework assignment said our family should make a snowman or some other snow creature. We went through several ideas.

“How about a snow fisherman?” I said.

“No,” he said.

“A snow fish?”

“No.”

“A snow dog? A snow bunny? Just an ordinary snowman?”

Nothing I suggested was quite right.

Then the Chinese lion marionette I had ordered arrived in the mail. Our kindergartener walked it around the house like a puppy, talking to it, wearing it as a hat, cuddling with it in bed—until I slipped it out of his bed after he fell asleep.




The next day he knew exactly what he wanted to make: a Chinese snow lion.

Easy enough, right? I sketched the outline for him and we started to decorate. Our project just took off. We spotted some sparkly gem stickers in the clearance bin at the store. I found a package of feathers while looking for something much less interesting. We hunted down two Chinese coins for the eyes. And I pulled out some Chinese New Year stickers I was planning to save for closer to the New Year—but I hadn’t been planning to create a Chinese snow lion.

Our kindergartener was the one who thought of hanging a lantern sticker from a thread attached to a pencil in the lion’s mouth.


And he was the one who carried it carefully to school to stand in front of his class and show them his snow creature.

That night I asked him what his classmates thought.

“They loved it,” said our boy—never a child to understate emotion. “Everyone loved it.”

I bet they did. But they would love a real one even more. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.


January 20, 2016 10:37
By Rita Buettner

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