Rita and her husband, John, adopted their two sons, ages 6 and 4, as toddlers from China.

She writes about adoption, parenting after infertility, and other topics relevant to Catholic families. Follow her on Twitter: OpenWindow_CR or email her at openwindowcr@gmail.com  Also check out her Facebook page


September 2014
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Recent Comments

I'm so sorry to hear about your negative experience with Catholic schools, Mary. How terribly sad.


My experience in the Wichita Catholic School system (3 different schools) in the 1970's is the reason my husband and I will NEVER send our daughter to a Catholic school. My siblings and I endured years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of both religious and lay teachers. A typical day involved the class being shuffled out into the hallway to watch a boy getting his rear end beat with a board, all because he had not known the right answer to a question. Being forced to watch this, and many more, has left emotional scars on me that time will never heal. Years as a child being told "you're going to hell" and "your parents are going to hell too because you are BAD", benefitted me how ? What's worse, I've witnessed the actions of the so-called "Catholic" school girls from our local Catholic school at social events. They are masters of snobbery, refusing to acknowledge anyone not from "their" school. Uniforms are great? Did you know that the local Catholic school had to outlaw "Sperry" brand shoes, because the girls there were excluding non-Sperry wearing students from a private "club" at recess. Catholic school for my daughter? NEVER.



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Open Window

7 Quick Takes Friday: Homework counting, a favorite food, who needs toys, what are yellow pages, breaking the rules, and a hot air balloon festival


As far as I can tell, the best thing about being the mother of a first grader is that your child can do his homework during the afterschool program. By the time I pick Leo up from school, his homework is finished. Some nights I still have a job to do, so I try to look at the homework folder and read my emails from the teacher.

But I love that Leo wants to handle things himself, and that is fine with me.

Then last night I was flipping through his homework from the week, reading the teacher’s comments, and admiring his drawings, and I saw this.


At first I thought, wow, I need to look at his homework a little more closely. Then I decided he's doing just fine without me.If I had listened to him count, we would never have made it past 59.

The other day when I was picking Daniel up from preschool, I noticed he had been working on an “All About Me” booklet. I just had to peek inside. There was a drawing of our family, a page for his favorite color (red), his career choice (construction worker), and his favorite food.

And there I stopped.

“Cheese sandwiches?” I said to him. “Your favorite food is cheese sandwiches?”

I would have guessed lollipops, hard-boiled eggs, chicken noodle soup, smoked salmon, peaches, or anything chocolate. I would never have picked anything involving bread.

“Yes,” he said, looking at his drawing with me. “That’s my favorite. But I messed up the bread.”

And here I hadn't even thought he liked bread!

The next day when I was packing Daniel's lunch, I made him a cheese sandwich. How exciting, I thought. What an easy lunch to pack! And it's his favorite food!

That night when I picked Daniel up, I asked, “Did you like your lunch? How was your cheese sandwich?”

“Mama,” he said, “I only like cheese sandwiches at home.”

Ah well. That drawing should have been a little more precise. 


You can buy all the toys in the world for your children. You can fill their shelves with board games, offer bins of Legos, and invest in enough Matchbox cars to fill a space shuttle.

Then you’ll hear them laughing and realize they’re playing a mini soccer game with a crumpled-up piece of paper.

This could make Christmas shopping easy.

The other day we were talking about how God made us.

“We don’t know what God looks like,” I told Leo. “We know He made us to look like him, but everyone on earth looks different.”

“Mama,” Leo said, “then to know what God looks like, we need to look at all the different faces of everyone in the world.”

When the boys and I came home last night, the yellow pages were sitting in a plastic bag on our sidewalk. Leo picked it up, carried it inside, and dropped it on the floor. Suddenly it occurred to me that they had no idea what it was.

So I asked them to guess.

“Something Baba needs for work?”

“Some seeds?”

 “A puzzle?”

When I told them it was a book full of phone numbers, they were incredulous. They will never be able to understand why anyone would need one.

Seeds would be more interesting. 


Last week we took the boys to a pool, and Leo needed to use the bathroom. I found the women’s locker room, and as we were walking in, I saw a sign that said boys 5 and older needed to use the men’s locker room. When I mentioned that to Leo, he turned around.

“I can’t use this bathroom,” he said. And he headed for the door.

“Stop!” I told him. “I don't know where the men’s locker room is, and you need to use the bathroom. And there is no one in here.”

“Mama,” he said, “we are breaking the rule.”

He had me there.

“Yes, but you are allowed to break the rule when your mother says to,” I said, though I’m not sure that’s true. “Oh, and you can always break a rule when it’s a health or safety thing. And that’s what this is. Go in and use the bathroom.”

He was not happy, but he complied. And afterward he insisted on marching straight up to the desk to tell the pool employee what we had done. We weren’t banned from the premises, but Leo was very clear on the fact that we will not be breaking that rule again.

I never knew what a rebel I was until I became the mother of an oldest child.


Tomorrow we are headed to SARC’s Rising Above It Family Fun Day! I can’t remember why we missed this event last year, but we went two years ago and had a fantastic time, even without seeing a single hot air balloon in the air. This year the event is at Ripken Stadium. If you are in or near Harford County, Md., maybe we’ll see you there!

~ One more thing ~

If you are in the Baltimore area and are experiencing infertility, you might like to join me for a Mass for couples experiencing infertility at St. Michael’s in Overlea at 3 p.m. on Oct. 26. I will be speaking after the Mass, and I would love to meet you.

Read more quick takes at Jen’s blog. And who else is going to see her in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 29?

September 18, 2014 11:57
By Rita Buettner

Make new friends, but keep the old

On one of the first days of Pre-K, I asked Daniel about his day.

“It was not good,” he said. “Marco wasn’t at school again today.”

Uh-oh, I thought. Marco has graduated and gone to kindergarten. Daniel listened as I explained that Marco wouldn’t be coming back to school.

Then Daniel turned to his big brother.

“Do you see Marco at kindergarten?” he asked.

“No,” Leo said. “I’m in first grade. And he doesn’t go to my school.”

“I miss Marco,” Daniel said.

“Marco probably misses you, too,” Leo said.

I was touched by Leo’s comment, especially because I knew he was speaking from his heart. One of his very best friends transferred to a different school this year.

When we found out his friend was leaving, I promised we would still see him. But I tried not to brush off Leo’s feelings by telling him that he would make other friends. Of course he will. But a new friend isn’t the same--and I don’t want him to think there’s anything wrong with missing someone you care about.

People don’t replace people. They come into our lives at different moments, often just when we need them. Then they move on--or we do. But you can’t replace a friend, just as you can’t replace a parent or a spouse or a sibling.

You meet new people. You make new friends. Many of them are wonderful and help you grow and change and become the best version of yourself. But it’s not an equal trade.

Every person in the world is unique. Every friendship is different.

Maybe that’s why friendship is so beautiful.

Maybe that’s why loss is hard.

Children who have been adopted will deal with loss at different times in their lives. They have had to say goodbye to people before and say hello to new ones--including their forever families. When people walk out of our sons’ lives now, I wonder how the loss will affect them. But I can’t stop the world from turning, and I can’t promise them nothing will change. And I don’t really want to.

I want them to know that life goes on, sunshine follows a storm, and it’s all right to miss people we love.

Leo misses his friend. He can’t just find another first grader who likes Legos or Power Rangers and slip him into the hole his former friend left behind.

Still, a few days ago Leo told me he had made a new friend. “We play with pool noodles,” he told me, grinning and describing how the teacher had to step in when they started hitting a little too hard.

Getting in trouble while playing with pool noodles? Sounds like a lasting friendship to me.

Then over the weekend Leo went to play at his old friend’s house. They talked a little about their different schools, but mostly they played and played and played.

"Mama,” Leo said, as we were driving home, “that was my best play date ever.”

“That’s great,” I said. “We’ll have to do it again sometime soon.”

“Actually, Mama,” he said, “I think that was my best time out of our house ever.”

Wow. Well, that’s what friends are for.

September 16, 2014 10:01
By Rita Buettner

A sick day leads to an impromptu living room “Mass”

You know the school year is underway when your child comes down with the first cold of the season. This weekend both boys were under the weather, so John and I decided we would go to separate Masses and keep the boys home.

Watching Mass on TV with sick children has never worked for us, so I told our sons we could read the day’s readings in Leo’s Magnifikid.

Suddenly, before I knew it, our 6-year-old was setting up an “altar” in the living room, and he and his younger brother had assembled a congregation of stuffed animals.

Apparently we were holding Mass in the living room. Fine with me.

The boys filled a bowl with little cookies for the hosts, and a cup of water became the wine.

Daniel, who’s 4, became the music minister, playing the piano and singing. The Cat in the Hat--voiced by Leo--was the priest. And Leo insisted on having a deacon--his stuffed chick.

Then we read our way through the Mass. I was a little nervous about what the Cat would include in his homily, so I skipped it. No one complained. I don't think the boys missed it.

When I proposed that we not bother with the creed, however, Leo was firm.

“Mama, we are doing this like a real Mass,” he said. So we continued on, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover how many of the words he knew.

John had left to go to church just before we started, and at one point Leo said, “I bet Baba is saying the same prayers we are!”

“He probably is,” I told him. “And there are people all around the world--in China and France and Africa--who are saying these same prayers--in different languages.”

The stuffed animals especially enjoyed the collection, dropping invisible coins into bathroom cups. And communion was rather elaborate. But it was all done respectfully. Our boys laugh through teeth brushing, eating, bedtime--you name it--but no one even giggled during our “Mass.”

Going to Mass for real myself later, I heard the readings for a second time and thought of the reenactment in our living room. The experience went so well because our sons had the idea and took the lead. It never would have worked if I had suggested it.

At one point during the real Mass I attended afterward, the priest forgot to start the Our Father, and the deacon gently touched his elbow to remind him. When I told Leo about it, he wanted to hear the exact exchange.

“Well, I don’t know what the deacon said because he was whispering,” I told him. “But the priest said something like, ‘How could I forget that?’”

Leo was fascinated. I wonder whether he'll incorporate that into our next in-home Mass.

How do you pray with your children at home? What activities do you find get them interested in their faith?

September 14, 2014 10:51
By Rita Buettner

7 Quick Takes Friday: A whale of a cake, costume shopping done, Power Ranger piano lessons, Back to School Night, yummy ice cream toppings, moon cakes, and a professional photo shoot

~ 1 ~

We don’t always have fish on Friday, but when we do, we have whale cake for dessert. At least, we have whale cake when we’re celebrating my mother’s birthday. Her mother, my grandmother, was from New Bedford, a whaling town, so she collected whales. And the affection and the collection were passed down to my mother.

So when our boys and I were trying to decide what cake to make for Grandma, we chose a whale. I made the orange cake that always turns out well. Then we trimmed off enough to make a whale.

As you can see, the eye is a raw wheel-shaped noodle, and my mother suggested using Cool Whip for the spout.

I just wish that when my mother had been blowing out the candles, we had thought to yell, “Thar she blows!”

~ 2 ~

The other day Leo announced he was going to be an alien brain from Lego’s Hero Factory series for Halloween.

You can’t buy one off the rack, so I knew I would be creating it. My Facebook followers had some great ideas, but then Leo started changing the plan.

Maybe he would be a different character from Hero Factory, he said, probably Scarox, and wear an alien brain on his head.

“You need to decide and tell me so we have enough time to make it,” I said.

“Why don’t I tell you two days before Halloween?” he said.

Then we went to the store for a different reason and happened to stop in the Halloween section. Both boys immediately fell in love with costumes on the rack. And, naturally, so did I.

Yes, we could have waited to see if the prices dropped.

Yes, I could have browsed Pinterest for the next 50 days.

Yes, it would have been fun to make an alien brain costume.

But it felt really good to walk out of the store with the costumes. And it was even more fun to see the boys running around the house dressed as characters I couldn't even identify six months ago. I don’t care whether they wear them every day from now until Halloween. We are getting our money’s worth out of them, and I have reclaimed hours--perhaps days--of my life that I would have spent designing a costume.

We could wait for the big reveal on Halloween, but what are the chances the costumes will ever look this good again?

We can always go for creativity next year.

~ 3 ~

The best thing about finding the costumes when we did was that we returned home just in time for our first piano lesson. So our piano teacher, who is also a good friend, found herself sharing the piano bench with Optimus Prime and then a Power Ranger.

They did surprisingly well on the piano, especially considering the fact that Optimus Prime kept his mask on for the lesson. I wonder whether we’ll insist on wearing the costumes for next week’s lesson, too.

~ 4 ~

John and I went to Back to School Night at Leo’s school yesterday. His first-grade teacher was talking on and on about these activities the children do, and they were all news to us.

“And I’m sure you heard about how we acted out our story today,” she’d say, as John and I sat there hanging on every word. We, of course, had not heard how they turned the lights on and off for lightning or how each student took a part.

I left feeling a bit overwhelmed. If I remember correctly, the math folder is green, the spelling book has a duck on the cover, and we're supposed to write something in the planner. I hope I can get through first grade somehow. But what I do know, and what I love, is how much the Catholic faith is integrated into the classroom. There are quotes and statues and prayers.

And, because it was Sept. 11, the evening began with the Prayer of St. Francis.

If we’re doing one thing right as parents--and I hope we’re doing a few more--it’s sending Leo to Catholic school. I know not everyone is able to do it. But we feel so blessed to be able to offer that to our children.

~ 5 ~

I made my first fruit toppings for ice cream last weekend. It was ridiculously easy and so delicious. I will definitely be making these again next summer.

Here’s the blueberry topping recipe, and here’s the strawberry topping recipe.

Those are crushed sugar cookies in the middle. Easy and amazing.

To be honest, I didn’t follow the directions well. I just put the berries in a pan with a little sugar and a little water, cooked them about 20 minutes until they were syrupy, and then I stirred in some vanilla. And I added cinnamon to the blueberries at the end, too.


~ 6 ~

Much as we love celebrating Chinese holidays, we failed to mark the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival last weekend.

I was just starting to think I should track down some moon cakes, a traditional treat for the holiday, when my father told me one of his friends had given him some for our family. I'm not even sure these are actually moon cakes since they look different from the ones we saw in China, but no one in our household knows the difference.

So we celebrated without much effort. This seems to be a recurring theme to today’s post: how to celebrate without trying very hard.

~ 7 ~

Last weekend we took the boys to have their photos taken by a real photographer.

I bribed them to wear clothes that were  step above a glow-in-the-dark Batman shirt, and then they had an absolute blast during the shoot. The photos turned out well, except that when they printed them, we realized the 8x10s were blurry. I was disappointed, but I got a discount, and the grandparents will get their photos. We take our small victories where we can get them.

But what our boys liked best, more than the little rides in the mall afterward, more than the trip to Ikea for lunch, and certainly more than the photos themselves, was spinning on the stools in the waiting area.

Next time maybe we'll just go spin on the stools.

~ A Few Bonus Takes ~

This is an honest and powerful post by a woman who has been struggling with infertility for eight years and is now expecting a baby.

And, although I’m not much for bucket lists, I actually love this couple’s way of celebrating the life of their baby boy. 

Read more quick takes at Jen’s blog.

I'd love to connect on Facebook and Twitter!

September 11, 2014 11:15
By Rita Buettner

Choosing to be open to life: How God led us to adopt

Our sons were born on the other side of the world.

By the time my husband and I met them they were toddlers. They were speaking words and phrases in another language. They had favorite foods and definite opinions and life stories of their own.

They are our sons, but not by birth. So what did our decision to be open to life have to do with how these two boys born in China became part of our family?


Ten years ago John and I were newly married and hoping to become parents. As we navigated the first years of marriage, we realized we were unlikely to conceive and give birth. Somehow, difficult as that was--and it was--that journey made us only appreciate the miracle of fertility and value the gift of life more.

After all, no one is entitled to a child.

Every child is a life, a soul, created by God, entrusted into parents’ care to raise for Him. But a man and a woman don’t make a baby. God does. And He doesn’t always bring children into parents’ lives in the traditional way.

Even before marriage, John and I had talked casually about adoption. But as we started exploring it more seriously, adoption seemed to be everywhere. Transracial adoptive families were in the pew in front of us at Mass and behind us in the checkout line. Adoption was on TV, in books, and coming up in conversations with people we hardly knew.

As we discerned and prayed about adopting, the decision we had made to practice natural family planning and always be open to life suddenly mattered more than ever.

Because of that choice, made years earlier, I felt confident that we had given God every opportunity to send us a child through birth. After all, if Our Father could make a virgin in Nazareth the mother of His Son, He could certainly handle our situation.

I worried briefly that choosing adoption meant we were giving up in some way. If we moved forward with adopting, did that mean we had less faith in God’s ability to help us conceive?

Yet I felt better knowing we had always been open to life. We had always said yes to God. And we would continue to say yes--just in a different way.

I can hardly explain how, but it became clear that our path led us to a child in China. We were nervous and overwhelmed, as all expectant parents are, but we also felt tremendous peace and hope.

John and I had been married five years by the time we met our first son, a precious boy, so brave and vulnerable, so loved and so ready to love, in a dimly lit government office in China.

Two years later we returned to China to meet our younger son, and we cried again as we held this child, not ours from birth but forever our son.

Being open to life, for us, doesn’t mean that we are going to be the parents of seven or eight children who are biologically ours.

It doesn’t mean that every month we prayerfully consider whether we should try to conceive.

Being open to life, for us, means being open to God’s plan.

It means accepting that life is a wondrous gift, a treasure beyond value.

It means recognizing that God asks us to be parents to children whose lives didn’t begin with us.

Someone else chose life for each of our sons. Other people supported them, fed them, clothed them, and loved them--and still love them. Other people helped to bring us together. We are grateful to each and every person who has played a role in our children’s lives.

We are also thankful for this journey, which has helped us to view being pro-life as extending far beyond the womb, far beyond our family, far beyond our community. And what a journey it has been.

Who could imagine that saying yes to life would lead two non-travelers to the other side of the world?

Who could imagine that we would fall in love with another country, another culture, and the warm and affectionate people we encountered there?

Who could imagine how many times we would read stories of the children still waiting for families and cry?

Who could imagine that two people who had never been parents would shrug off the phrase “special needs” and take a leap into the unknown?

Who could imagine how deeply we could fall in love with these children whose lives, hearts, and souls are intertwined with ours?

Only God. He had a better plan than any we could have envisioned when we first decided to be open to life more than 10 years ago.

And we are so richly, richly blessed.

This post was written for the "Choosing to Be Open to Life" series at Do Small Things with Love.

September 09, 2014 09:57
By Rita Buettner

My motherhood T-shirt is better than your motherhood T-shirt...

I do my share of complaining. One thing you’ll never hear me complain about, however, is being a mother.

Just as I would never groan about being a wife or daughter or sister, I will never whine about having the chance to parent.

Even on the hardest days, I feel honored and blessed to be the mother of two extraordinary children. And I don’t want them ever to think I am unhappy to be their mother.

The other day a co-worker was telling me about a T-shirt he had seen. He wanted to get my reaction--though I’m sure he knew what I would say.

On the front: Motherhood: The Ultimate Endurance Sport.

On the back: Being a Mom is like running a marathon. Every. Single. Freaking. Day.


Just imagine if your spouse wore a shirt that said: “Marriage: The Ultimate Endurance Sport.” How would that make you feel?

Besides, when did motherhood become entirely focused on the mother, rather than on the children? And where are the fathers? Cheering from the sidelines? Handing off a water bottle at mile 24?

So setting that shirt aside, let’s consider instead what other shirts we might like to wear that would celebrate motherhood--and not make our children feel that they are a nuisance.

We could go with something simple:

Or something more inclusive:

We could go with inspiring:

Or a bit more spiritual:

Maybe we should just stick with straightforward:

Or take the focus off mom entirely:

Some mothers might like to answer the “My! Your hands are full!” comment proactively with:

And some of us might prefer to go with a bit of harmless humor:

We could always play to our competitive side:

Or just take a practical approach:

As for me, I think I need this one:

Now it's your turn. What would you put on your motherhood T-shirt? I'd love to know!

September 08, 2014 11:27
By Rita Buettner

What I learned from the homily, now that I can actually hear some of the homily

Our children have made tremendous strides with their Mass behavior, but that doesn’t mean I can always tell you much about the homily.

Still, a few of our pastor’s thoughts hit home for me today. One was a quote he shared. I didn’t hear the pastor’s explanation of who said it, but my online research indicates that it is attributed to Pope John XXIII.

“See everything. Overlook a great deal. Correct a little.”

That, I realized, has become my philosophy for responding to our children’s Mass behavior.

They can be squirmy.

Their “inside-church-whisper voices,” as I call them, often carry beyond our pew.

Sometimes, like today, I glance down and realize my child has become a puppy and he just licked my shirt.

But we don’t have to take them out of the pew much these days to walk quickly to the back of church, and that’s extraordinary. And I do believe that much of it has to do with taking them to Mass regularly, letting them mature a bit over time, and being more relaxed myself.

Looking back, I can see that the days with the worst behavior were the days I was most keyed up and worried about making it through Mass.

“See everything. Overlook a great deal. Correct a little.”

Today I was in a peaceful frame of mind. I had to correct our little boy a few times when things were getting a little out of hand, but overall I tried to focus on the good behavior.

During the Gloria, when our 4-year-old was swinging his clip-on tie my way and singing, “I am going to stab you with my tie” over and over, I pretended I couldn’t hear. And I didn’t worry about it. He was just trying to get my attention. At least he was singing.

Then during the “Holy, Holy, Holy,” when I heard him singing, “I love God, I love God,” I smiled and made a quiet fuss over him.

“See everything. Overlook a great deal. Correct a little.”

It makes me wonder whether I should carry that attitude into more in my life--and not just in my parenting.

Maybe it’s a good approach for me as a wife, a friend, and an employee.

It’s so easy to pay attention to every detail and have something to say about all of it. But maybe I need to let more things be and be critical only when it’s really necessary.

After all, I have enough to correct in my own behavior that I don’t need to be worried about others’.

“See everything. Overlook a great deal. Correct a little.”

How was your Sunday Mass experience? What inspiration are you drawing on this week?

You might also enjoy:

Thank you for reading! I hope you'll stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.

September 07, 2014 11:19
By Rita Buettner

7 Quick Takes Friday: Changing attitudes, saints' feast days, a visit to Strasburg, celebrating small victories, librarians rule, and the best thing about having a brother

~ 1 ~

Our 4-year-old decided he didn’t want to do yoga at preschool anymore. So he marched up to his yoga teacher and said, “You need to change your attitude.”

It’s awful. I know.

And parents should never find their children’s rude behavior amusing.

So we talked about it over and over, told him how disrespectful it was, and how his words must have made the teacher sad. We explained what “attitude” means. We also asked him to draw her a picture as an apology.

But is it terrible that the fact that he told a yoga teacher to change her attitude still makes me laugh?

~ 2 ~

Today is Mother Teresa’s feast day! I mentioned that to Leo last night, and he said, “Why?”

“I think it was the day she died,” I said.

“So why is that her feast day?” Leo asked.

“Because,” I said, “that is the day she went to heaven…”

“…and that’s the day she became a saint!” Leo finished for me.

With all the talk about the (temporary?) standstill in Fulton Sheen’s canonization efforts, and emotions running high among those who are passionate about the cause, I feel maybe we could all take a moment to set aside some of the anger, and remember that many, many people go to heaven and become saints, even if they aren't officially canonized by the Catholic Church.

If only we could all be as wise as a first grader.

~ 3 ~

Last weekend we hit the road and drove to the Strasburg Rail Road just outside Lancaster, Pa.

We try to visit once a year or so, not just because we have two boys, but because John loves trains. He and I used to go to Strasburg and many other train locations long before we had children.

The boys would have been upset if we had gone without them this time, though, especially Daniel, who has vehicles running through his veins.

At preschool this week, the teacher asked each child in his class what makes them happy and he said, “Riding the train.”

When I asked him which train, he said, “The one at Strasburg.”

Of course. It’s hard to beat riding behind a steam engine all the way to Paradise, Pa.

~ 4 ~

John and I will celebrate our 10th anniversary in a few weeks. Apparently the traditional gift is tin/aluminum and the modern gift is diamond jewelry. I’m pretty sure we’re skipping diamonds--I didn’t even want a diamond for my engagement ring--but I’m starting to think of what metal gift I could give John.

I could always go with a 12-pack of Coke, or I could just get him something fun and wrap it in aluminum foil. But there has to be something more creative or appropriate I’m not considering.

And he probably has his heart set on something more exciting than a 10th anniversary blog--although he probably knows he’ll get one of those, too.

What’s the best anniversary gift you’ve given or received?

~ 5 ~

I work in a creative, energetic office, and we are often too busy to stop and notice the small successes along the way. I’ve been talking about getting a bulletin board or a white board to post on, but that just seemed so…expected.

So we came up with the idea to get a small victory jar.

When I went to the store to buy a jar, though, Leo and I saw this enormous champagne flute. It seemed so celebratory and offered the perfect blend of elegant and tacky. I enthusiastically installed it in my office this week, and it has sparked a lot of conversation. A few small victories have already found their way into our glass.

I have no idea what we’ll do when we reach the top, but for now it’s been fun to mark some of the smaller milestones that are typically forgotten.

And who wouldn’t want a large champagne flute on her desk?

~ 6 ~

The other day my sister Treasa asked me whether I was reading a book that is sitting on my nightstand with five or six other books, each of which I am “reading” in some capacity.

I told her I would be happy to lend it to her.

That’s nice, she said, considering that it’s my book and I let you borrow it.

Then she kindly pointed out that some of the other books on the nightstand are due at the library. In fact, she said, one of them might be overdue.

And I said, “My library book can’t be overdue. My sister is a librarian.”

Then she, my talented librarian sister, created this meme.

I think I’d better start reading. Fast.

~ 7 ~

Earlier in the week, because it was Brothers Day, I asked each of our sons, “What is the best thing about having a brother?”

Leo thought for a moment. “Always having someone to play with,” he said.

Then it was Daniel’s turn. “Always getting more Kitty Kat Bars!” he said.

That boy. I hope he never changes his attitude.

Read more quick takes at Jen’s blog.

And please keep this family in your prayers, as they celebrate their daughter’s life not knowing how much more time they have with her.

September 04, 2014 11:33
By Rita Buettner

Brothers Day: Let me bake with my brother in almost-perfect harmony

Making a wish at a fountain

When we returned home from China three years ago, our boys met each other for the first time.

We hadn’t seen Leo in two weeks, and we were very emotional as we introduced our two sons. Leo was already tucked into bed for the night, but we had a very jet-lagged toddler on our hands. We wouldn’t be sleeping for hours…or days…or months.

So we pulled Leo out of bed and took the boys downstairs to play.

We haven’t done much to celebrate the anniversary of that day in the past, but this year our boys latched onto the idea of marking Brothers Day.

Then Leo came to me with a question: “Can we make dumplings today?”

Making dumplings is so much fun. But you have to knead the dough for 20-25 minutes before assembling the dumplings. And I had none of the ingredients for the filling. Hmm.

I had also already committed to making chocolate chip cookies with Daniel, pepper and egg sandwiches for John, and chicken pot pie for dinner. I like to cook, but I wasn’t looking for extra labor on Labor Day.

So I told Leo and Daniel I would make extra crust for the pot pie and they could make “dumplings” out of the pie dough.

“OK,” said Leo, reaching for every child’s favorite kitchen utensil, the rolling pin. “What will we put inside?”

What, indeed?

We scoured the kitchen and found:

-          Chocolate chips
-          Nutella
-          Cheese
-          Ham
-          Pepperoni

The brothers set to work.

I was distracted as I focused on making my chicken pot pie, so I wasn’t supervising very closely. But I did notice they were surprisingly agreeable about sharing the dumpling maker I ordered a couple months ago.

Of course, part of the reason they were cooperating so well was because they were creating their own concoctions--blending cheese with chocolate chips, for example.

Then we baked the brothers’ dumplings, which, of course, aren’t dumplings at all.

Some of them tasted good, and others…well…not quite so good.

But the brothers, these two boys who are so different in so many ways and yet such a fantastic match as siblings and a perfect fit for our family, had a great time rolling out some memories.

And the chicken pot pie was delicious.

We may have a new Brothers Day tradition on our hands. But that will be up to the brothers to decide.

I can’t (and wouldn't) provide the brothers’ recipe, but I will say the chicken pot pie was delicious. I used this recipe but I substituted this homemade pie crust.

September 02, 2014 07:07
By Rita Buettner

7 Quick Takes Friday: I don't know the first thing about first grade, two cakes, an unfinished puzzle, resourceful second children, and a trip to the state fair


The school year has started! I don’t get detailed reports from my new first grader, so here are the highlights:

-          His teacher sent him home with a goody bag holding a pencil sharpener, a Jesus sticker, and a slip of paper with a quote from Mother Teresa.

-          His teacher quoted, “Let the children come to me” in her letter to parents.

-          There are two new boys in his class.

-          He hangs his backpack in a coatroom.

-          There was no homework the first week.

When I ask our younger son how he likes Pre-K, he says, “Mama, I’ve been in kindergarten for a year!”

So that's our update from here. How is the school year going for you?


I thought I was so clever and resourceful not buying new lunchboxes and backpacks for our sons this year. Their old ones are in good shape and new ones cost money. Especially after I interviewed a psychologist about preparing your children for school, I was patting myself on the back for sticking to my plan.

Then, 12 hours before drop-off for the first day of school, I couldn’t find Leo’s lunchbox anywhere.

“That’s OK, Mama,” Leo said reassuringly. “You can just get me a new lunchbox.”

That, of course, made me only more determined to find it.

And, after talking to St. Anthony a few times and then my mother--who reminded me that we took our school lunches in brown paper bags and survived--I decided to look once more in a closet I had already checked, opened a suitcase we haven’t used since traveling to China three years ago, and there it was.

St. Anthony really knows his way around our house. Of course, we call on him often enough.


Last Friday we celebrated the third anniversary of the day we met Daniel. He had requested a cake shaped like China, so I did my best.

Geography is not my strength, but our boys were satisfied. I put candles in the spots where I thought our sons’ provinces were located, but Daniel didn’t like the lack of symmetry and changed them.

That was fine. It was his cake, after all. And I had bigger things to worry about.

“Mama,” Leo said, “for my Gotcha Day I want a cake shaped like the Hero Factory.”

Thank goodness I have until December to figure that out--or receive a new request.


Because we also had to celebrate ripe peaches, this week Daniel helped me make a peach cake.

It was simply shaped like a rectangle--or a jelly roll pan.

If you have time this weekend and you like peaches, you should make peach cake. And you should invite me to come help you eat it because ours is long gone. It really is best warm.


When John’s parents came to visit us last weekend, they brought a 1,000-piece puzzle. Leo immediately dumped it on the table and we started working on it.

After about an hour, I think I had found five pieces that went together. And, to be honest, two of those might have been stuck together when we opened the box.

We weren’t getting anywhere, and it was taking up one of our key horizontal surfaces. Where would we do homework? Where would we do crafts? Where would we do anything?

We had worked all day and still not finished the outer edge. I kept remembering the conversation we had with our priest friend, Fr. Lawrence Adamczyk, who--when John and I were worrying about picking a wedding date when we had jobs and lives in two separate places--told us that God doesn’t need to fit things together in our lives the way we do. He doesn’t need to start with the outer edge and then connect the pieces from there. He can see the whole picture, so he puts the pieces into the picture however he wants.

And Fr. Larry was right. I continue to be amazed how he places the pieces into the picture that we couldn't see when we met 11 years ago.

On our real-life puzzle, though, we couldn’t even finish the frame. And the pieces were falling off the table. So John put the incomplete puzzle back in the box. He's much braver than I am. I figured we had committed to it and had to complete it. But he's right. We put it away and I feel relieved and free.

Want a puzzle?


We always draw pictures to put in the boys’ lunchboxes. The other day I must have been running behind. Daniel found a marker, sat at the table, and started drawing his own picture.

It reminded me of the conversation I had with the Loyola psychology professor who told me that every child has a different parent, that parents handle every child in a different way because of their experience and confidence.

I figure by October our 4-year-old will be packing the lunches for me, too.


We drive past the Timonium Fairgrounds frequently during the year, and Daniel always asks to go to the Maryland State Fair. The fair is this week, and I knew our boys would both want to go. I always try to think of the least-crowded time. I am not crazy about crowds. Is anyone?

This year friends of ours generously gave us passes, so we went last night to enjoy the rides, the food, the animals, and the atmosphere.

It wasn’t overly crowded, and the weather was perfect.

Instead of letting the boys pick one game to play, we played none. So we didn’t win any stuffed animals, but we didn’t lose any money trying to win. We didn’t worry about whether one child would win while one child lost. And we came home without a 5-foot-tall stuffed Transformers-like creature.

Hold on a second. I just looked, and the world is still turning. Our children didn’t even seem to care that much.

Oh, and Daniel thinks he might be a farmer one day.

Read more quick takes at Jen’s blog! And, if you missed it, I had the chance to interview her! Now I’m even more excited to meet her when she comes to Washington, D.C., in a few weeks! Will I see you there?

August 29, 2014 07:51
By Rita Buettner

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