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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Rosie, that's what mothers are made of. Sounds like a poem, right? ;) I do think a monarch butterfly caterpillar would be wonderful. I started looking into it and got distracted.

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Cells! I love it :) And I say you have no moral responsibility toward the caterpillar, but I *would* try to find some milkweed and get a monarch butterfly caterpillar - aren't they endangered or something?

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7 Quick Takes Friday: The it's my feast day and I'll post late if I want to edition (minivan cousins, zoo field trip, field day, how to cook a turkey, and crazy breakfast fun)


~1~

Whenever our boys see a minivan that is the same make, model, and color as ours, they yell out, “Look! There’s our cousin!” I am totally on board with the idea that our minivan might have cousins on the road.

Somehow, though, even though they have been doing this for a while, about half the time I get excited thinking they are actually seeing one of our human relatives. But they never are.

~2~

Yesterday I went on a field trip to the zoo with Daniel’s Pre-K class. Many schools postponed or canceled their zoo trips when we were dealing with unrest in Baltimore a few weeks ago, so I was especially happy we were able to go.



It was rainy and cold and we didn’t actually see many animals. But it was still a fantastic trip. I loved spending that special time with Daniel and seeing him with his friends. I’ve also had the pleasure of getting to know many of the other parents—maybe I was less social when Leo was in preschool?—so I really enjoyed the day.


The only negative was that Daniel slipped on a wet metal cover on the ground and fell flat on his back. He is not a child who cries often, but—even though he is fine—it must have really hurt.

Back at home we told his father and brother about all the animals we had seen and the new penguin exhibit.


“We should go back to the zoo together,” I said. And I turned to Leo. “What would you want to see?”

Leo grinned and said, “I’d want to see (Daniel) fall on his fanny.”

Then they both went into gales of laughter. Hmm. I'm not sure I'll be rushing to make our next trip to the zoo.


~3~

It’s the Feast of St. Rita of Cascia! Do you think it’s coincidental that just yesterday I ran across a Coke bottle with my name on it? Or is this just The Week of Rita and I'm just learning it at the end of the week?


~4~

During our neighborhood yard sale our boys ran a lemonade and cookie stand. I was working at Loyola University Maryland’s Commencement during most of the sale, so when I came back, I asked how sales had gone. The boys shared their stories and told me how much money they had made.

“Wow,” I said. “That’s great!”


Don’t tell them, but I spent far more on cups and ingredients than they pulled in.

But they did have a wonderful time.

~5~

Back at Thanksgiving we earned a free turkey from our grocery store, so Daniel and I picked out one that was exactly the right weight to be free, and we brought it home and put it in the freezer.

For months I have talked about cooking it, but I always forgot to thaw it in time to cook it over the weekend. And, to be honest, I have never had much luck roasting chickens, so I wasn’t sure how I’d do with a turkey.

I mentioned it to my mother and she said my father would love to cook it.

So on Mother’s Day I delivered a frozen turkey to my parents’ house and the next Sunday we dined at my parents’ house. It was delicious.

That night when I called to thank my mother, she said, “You should have come over earlier so you could have learned how to cook a turkey.”

“Actually,” I said, “I know how to cook a turkey now. You drop it off at someone’s house to thaw and show up a week later for dinner.”

No basting required.

~6~

Today was field day at Leo’s school. I was excited to volunteer because even though last year I felt like a failure as a volunteer, I love how excited our first grader is to see me at his school. I wonder how long he will look forward to Mama's being there.

I helped with the snack. I chopped up watermelon and kept a close eye on the freezie pops—which Leo says were one of the best parts of the day. As someone who never liked field day as a student myself, I can appreciate that.


I was not the best watermelon chopper there—one of the volunteers produced these gorgeous perfectly shaped pieces—but I am fairly sure they’ll have me back again next year.

Afterward Leo and I went out to lunch at a bagel place. He ordered one of his favorites: a chocolate chip bagel with smoked salmon on it, a bag of crab chips, and an apple juice.


Salty, spicy, and sweet. That’s our boy.

~7~

This past week was full of all kinds of culinary excitement as we made a trip to the St. Pius X Carnival and also to a hibachi grill, where the chef made an onion volcano and tossed shrimp into people’s mouths—though not ours since we aren’t that coordinated.


But the most exciting culinary moment of the week happened one morning at breakfast when I handed the boys ladles to eat their chicken noodle soup.


Who needs a flamethrower in the kitchen when you have ladles on hand?

Read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog!

 

May 22, 2015 03:53
By Rita Buettner


The night our first grader decided we should go to a concert

As Daniel and I walked into Leo’s after-school program to pick him up, I could hear a band warming up in the next room. I just wanted to find Leo and his backpack and get home.

“Mama,” he said, “there’s a concert tonight at school, and I want to go.”

What?

“We saw it today and it’s so funny. They say something about underwear and then this boy talks about fish. And the band plays Spider-Man and it sounds like the Spider-Man song!”

My son was asking to go to a concert? My son? And he really, really wanted to go? I spotted a mom I knew and asked her what time it started.

We had about 20 minutes.

John was working late, so the boys and I were on our own. I had planned on a fairly quiet evening at home, but we could just barely pull this concert off. Maybe.



“OK,” I said. “We can go. We will have to run and get dinner very fast and you will have to eat in the car. Then we will go to the concert. We will have to sit still and not make too much noise and then we will go home at the end.”

Leo agreed to everything. Daniel was a little less enthusiastic—he wanted to go home to see his caterpillars, which were coming in today’s mail—but the concert was a one-night feature. Besides, it was educational. And it’s good to be spontaneous once in a while.

Minutes later we had all downed dinner and were walking through the school door. We found seats and the performance began. It was everything Leo had said it would be. He and his little brother were riveted through the band performance. Then the spring musical started and Leo laughed and laughed and laughed at the funny lines.

Even with all the proud parents and grandparents who were there, the actors could not have had a more appreciative member of the audience.

Daniel started getting wriggly and impatient toward the end, and I may or may not have bribed him by promising him he could have a sugar cube at home.

“Fifty-five sugar cubes,” he whispered.

That might have been the funniest line of the night—well, except for that joke about the fish.

I'm so glad Leo wanted to change our plans.


May 20, 2015 11:44
By Rita Buettner


Q&A with Connie Rossini, author of A Spiritual Growth Plan for Your Choleric Child


I find conversations about personality so fascinating. Trying to understand people’s personalities—particularly our children’s—excites me. So when I found out that Connie Rossini, who blogs at Contemplative Homeschool, was publishing a book about raising a choleric child, I was very curious about it.

Although neither of our children falls into this category, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Connie’s book and considering some of the concrete suggestions she has for integrating faith into your family’s life.

Connie kindly agreed to answer some questions about her book, which was published May 15.



How would you briefly explain to someone how to identify whether their child is a choleric child?

Ask yourself two questions:

1) Does my child react quickly to stimuli, or does he take time to reflect before reacting?

2) Do his impressions last, or does he quickly put them behind him?

A choleric reacts quickly and holds onto his impressions.

What are a choleric child’s greatest challenges and strengths?

Spiritually speaking, his greatest challenge is pride, followed by quick anger. He struggles with being compassionate. The choleric needs to feel in control of his life and agenda. When he doesn't, he gets depressed, argumentative, or violent. He often manipulates others into doing what he wants by the force of his personality. Power struggles can be a constant challenge with a choleric child.

His greatest strength is his determination, followed by his noble ideals. If he chooses worthwhile goals, he can easily succeed in reaching them. He never gives up. He loves a challenge and always tries to outdo others—especially siblings.

How has recognizing your children’s different temperaments helped you in your parenting?

Homeschoolers often try to individualize their children's education. I am now able to individualize their character studies too. Understanding my kids' temperaments helps me see what underlies their behavior, good or bad, so I can help them grow up as God intended, rather than trying to make them a miniature copy of myself.  Now I am much less likely to ascribe bad motives to my children. I have more sympathy for their outlook. In some ways, learning about the temperaments is like visiting a foreign country. There are whole different ways of seeing the world that we may never have thought of before. It's really eye-opening. On a more practical level, I am finding parenting tactics that actually work!

How has recognizing the different temperaments helped you in your own self-awareness—both as a parent and as a spouse, perhaps?

The more I talk to other parents, the more I see how different parents are too! Not every parent is bothered by the same things that bother me. I am constantly learning more about myself and why I act the way I do. Just yesterday I was able to help my husband understand his boss, who shares my temperament. I better understand my parents and why they parent the way they do. I don't expect unrealistic things of my husband. Every relationship can be enriched through knowledge of the temperaments.

How has that helped you in your faith journey?

After writing Trusting God with St. Therese, I began to see that many of my trust issues stemmed from my strong secondary temperament, which is melancholic. I thought, if God can help me overcome my melancholic challenges in such a powerful way, why not my phlegmatic challenges too, since I am primarily phlegmatic? That's what I'm working on now. I have a constant difficulty doing my duty--especially housework. But faithfulness to that duty should form the basis of my vocation as wife and mother. If I want to be holy, I must be obedient here. That's my focus this year. I've made a few small advances, but I have a long way to go.

I loved how you said, “St. Paul was probably a choleric-melancholic. He was determined, principled, and hard working.” And then you said, “St. Therese’s little way of spiritual childhood may seem too emotion-based to him, although Therese herself was probably melancholic.” It’s so wonderful to think how people of all different temperaments can achieve heaven. Did you find it helpful to think of the saints and their temperaments when approaching your children with their different temperaments?

I think the saints who share each child's temperament can be great role models for them. They show us how each temperament can glorify God. I find I can understand a saint's spirituality much better once I understand his or her temperament. And I know that holiness is possible for each of my children, but it will look different for each.

“We are a team working together. And there is nothing a choleric likes better than to know someone is on his team! Yes, it is his team, not mine. He benefits. He aims at becoming the best he can be. And though I am a coach, he is the star player. He is in control. Only he can make the decision to change. Sometimes I make suggestions, and he rejects them. I don’t insist. Instead, I ask if he can think of a better way to achieve the same end.” I love this parenting approach. Is that something you try only with your choleric child or with all your children?

I do ask for input from each of my children. We meet once a week one on one to discuss temperament issues and I try to give them as much control of this area as I can. But some temperaments like to have clearer direction from those in authority. Phlegmatics like to know the rules so that they don't disrupt things. Melancholics like to know the rules because they want to live out the ideal. So those temperaments won't be as concerned with setting their own standards.

I enjoyed your mantra for your choleric child: “If you don’t think before you speak, you’ll have to think after you speak.” I would think that would work well with children of all temperaments—and maybe some adults too.

It certainly would work well for sanguines too. Introverts naturally tend to think before speaking, but we all make mistakes in this area sometimes. Extroverts need to consciously work on being more reflective.

How did you come upon the Examen as an effective prayer to pray with children? How young were your children when you started praying it with them?

Actually, even though I include that in my book, it's one of the areas I haven't worked on with my own kids yet. I spent 17 years as a Discalced Carmelite, so I have naturally focused on more Carmelite prayer methods with them. We started doing guided meditations as part of our homeschool curriculum in kindergarten. My older two (11 and almost 13) are just beginning to do their own meditations on Sacred Scripture. I want to give them some more practice in that before I introduce the Examen Prayer as an alternative. I would like them to be able to choose from various forms of mental prayer, but I don't want to overwhelm them with too much. (That's probably my phlegmatic temperament working, because I get overwhelmed easily. My choleric child might be able to handle it just fine.)

You offer a number of lesson plans and concrete ideas for integrating spirituality into a child’s life. Are those pieces you have used in your own family and developed over time?

Yes, 90 percent of the suggestions in my book we have actually tried in our home. The rest I hope to do soon.

Why did you decide to write the book? Is this the book you were looking for years ago when you first started to recognize that you were raising a choleric child?

Absolutely! This is the book I would have loved to have 5 or 7 years ago. It would have saved me lots of frustration. I used to really worry about my choleric son. Now I'm very hopeful for his future.

What are you hoping your readers will take from the book?

I think the quote about being a team sums up my book. So often the choleric and his parents see each other as adversaries, when they should be partners. I want to relieve some of parents' fears and give them specific skills to overcome power struggles and to set their child on the road toward holiness.  I want their choleric children to be aware of their God-given strengths and weaknesses, so that when they reach adulthood they can be the person God designed them to be.

Is there anything else you would like to share with my readers about your book?

This is the first in what I hope to be a four-part series. So if your readers have children of different temperaments, they can expect to receive some help soon too.

How can my readers find the book?

Thanks for asking! Right now my book is available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback. The paperback should be more widely available soon.


May 17, 2015 10:25
By Rita Buettner


7 Quick Takes Friday: Lemonade stand plans, more about our caterpillar, baby bunnies, prayers, bicycle riding, games, and Mother's Day leftovers


It’s 5-15-15! As a special treat, today you can read these takes backwards or forwards and they will make just as much sense either way!

~1~

If the weather cooperates this weekend, we’re having a community yard sale. Our boys have decided to set up a lemonade stand and sell lemonade, orange juice, iced tea, and cookies. We don’t do anything halfway here. I think I’ve talked them into just selling lemonade and cookies, but I have a feeling I am responsible for the cookie baking.


When life gives you a cookie-baking assignment from your entrepreneurial sons, you’d better make cookies. Or...well...how terrible would it be to buy some from the store instead?

~2~

I thought it was so cute that Daniel had made a caterpillar his pet until John went online and identified it as a gypsy moth. Gypsy moths are the ones that make the bags on the tree branches and kill the trees. Now I don’t know what to root for. I don’t want to set this caterpillar free where it can wreak havoc on trees. My 5-year-old adores it. What are my moral responsibilities?

~3~

In better news, we have a family of baby bunnies living under our deck. I haven’t managed to get a decent photo of them, so I’m treating you to a picture of our boys looking at a bunny in my parents’ yard. If you look really closely, you can imagine that there’s a bunny there—and there is. But he's way back there.


The best part about having the baby bunnies is seeing them nibbling on our grass every morning.

The next best part is how the boys try to persuade the bunnies to come out.

“We’re going inside now,” one will say loudly. “We won’t be out here. So you can come out now, little bunnies!”

Somehow it never works. I think the bunnies know they aren’t being entirely honest. But it’s still cute.

~4~

How do bedtime prayers go at your house? Some days I think we should pray when everyone is less tired and more focused. But for now we pray together and we encourage the children to list a few intentions, either things they are thankful for or requests for blessings for people they know.

Every once in a while we get a long list going.

The other night Daniel said, “God, bless all the plants and trees and the animals, and all the people on earth, and all the people in heaven, and the aliens too, even the bad aliens because we hope they can be good.”

Not too shabby. He hit on redemption, the communion of saints, and extraterrestrial life—all in one prayer.

~5~

The boys grew out of their bicycles—yes, both at the same time—so we had to get new ones. They are determined to learn to ride them without training wheels. I am mostly hoping they learn not to steer into each other and to face forward when driving forward. I have a feeling they’ll lose the training wheels first.


Watching children learn to ride bikes can be nerve wracking, but our little bicycle riders are also so full of joy. I do love to watch them ride—especially when they aren’t falling off.

~6~

We’re on a Scrabble kick here, and I’m just fine with that. Scrabble is one of my favorite games, and I’m excited to share it with Leo now that he is learning to spell longer and longer words. We aren’t playing by any rules, though, because it is more fun just to see what we can spell.

Then Leo hit three triple word scores with one phrase.


I really don’t know what to do when someone lands 702 points in one turn. Let’s just say I am a very gracious loser.

One game we are playing by the rules is flashlight tag. Have you played? You play outside in the dark and the tagger has a flashlight. When you get hit by the light, you are the tagger. We played for a while last night, and it was terrific.

~7~

For Mother's Day John and the boys took me to pick out a hanging basket and a crab whirligig.

It was a lovely day.

I asked Leo whether I could share a picture of the Mother’s Day card he made for me. He said I could post the inside of the card if I shared the cover first. But the cover has a drawing of an Angry Birds Transformer who is vomiting, among other things. So I’ll spare you that. And that means I can’t show you the whole inside where he answers questions about why God made mothers. So I’ll just tell you one of my favorite parts.

One line says, “What ingredients are mothers made of?” and his answer is, “Cells.”

That’s our boy.

This sketch of Leo was created by one of his teachers. Isn’t she talented?




Read more quick takes at our wonderful hostess Kelly’s blog.

May 14, 2015 11:47
By Rita Buettner


Very hungry for a pet caterpillar (Embrace the Ordinary)


As I walked onto the preschool playground Friday afternoon, I could see that Daniel had something to show me.

He came running over with a red bucket.

“Mama!” he yelled. “Come see my baby caterpillar!”



I oohed and aahed over it, of course. I had to pet it, which I didn't really mind, but I also had to pet the worms his friend had found, which I did mind.

“He’s very excited about his caterpillar,” Daniel’s teacher said. “He wants to bring it home. Is that OK?”

I looked down at Daniel and the caterpillar in the bucket. How could I say no? Why would I?

His teacher found a cup to hold it and we were on our way.


I tried to look online to figure out what kind it is, but the photos of lots and lots of caterpillars were making my skin crawl, so I gave up.


As we drove home, Daniel talked about how the caterpillar would sleep by his bed and eat leaves and what else do you think he eats, Mama, because I don’t know, and I’m sure he’s hungry and oh he’s just so, so cute, and I can't wait to show him to Baba and don’t you think he’s so cute?



The caterpillar is very cute. That’s why his name is Cutie—or was last time I checked. None of Daniel’s animals keep the same name for long. And the photos really are not doing his new pet justice, though I do think the caterpillar is cutest when Daniel is telling you how cute he is.

He (she?) is living in a little bug cage on our back porch. The boys are feeding it leaves and talking to it and wondering what else they can do to make it comfortable.



I have been advocating for freedom, but Daniel desperately wants to see the caterpillar become a moth or a butterfly. I’m wondering how quickly that might happen. Probably not soon enough.

For now, though, Daniel is just so proud to be a pet owner.

And, considering that he had been hoping for a cheetah or an owl, I think Mama and Baba got off pretty easy this time.



Joining Gina for one of my favorite link-ups, Embrace the Ordinary.


May 09, 2015 11:33
By Rita Buettner


Mother’s Day celebrations can be like dandelion bouquets


This morning we were on a tight schedule.

I woke up extra early, helped our sons get dressed, and started throwing school lunches together.

While John helped the boys get their shoes on and backpacks ready, I showered, dressed, stuffed my laptop into a bag, grabbed my purse, and we ran out the door.

If we hurried, I thought, we would make it to the Mother’s Day breakfast at Leo’s school just in time.

We did. Whew.


Yes, my hair is still wet. No, he is not posing for the blog. He is just having fun.


At Mother’s Day Breakfast #1 we enjoyed seeing friends, the boys liked their donuts, and, as we opened the event with a prayer, I was reminded yet again how much I love our Catholic school.

As we were sitting there, though, I found myself wondering about Mother’s Day celebrations. I don’t want breakfast in bed, the idea of going to a spa makes me cringe, and I don’t need large, expensive gifts. And I do enjoy the school events. But they are clearly not designed to reduce the stress and busyness in a mother’s life.

I can barely get the children to school on time on an ordinary day, so getting there 45 minutes early is incredibly challenging. But you can’t skip the events. The guilt and angst and disappointment would be overwhelming. So you go and enjoy it—even when it’s hard.

I think I may have taken a sip of coffee when I wasn’t pleading with my sons to stay in their seats or informing them that coffee stirrers aren’t weapons. I did get to eat a muffin.

Then Daniel and I jumped in the car and drove to Mother’s Day Breakfast #2 at his school. He gave me a keychain and a jewelry box he had made, along with a card telling me that he loves me “to infinity” and that he wants to go to a waterpark and on a cruise with me.


He prepared a full plate of food for me. I looked down and realized he had picked some gorgeous pieces of mango. I am allergic to only one food, and that’s it. I felt like a terrible mother telling him I couldn’t eat it. Fortunately he bounced back quickly. Then he ran around the room, burning off the pink-frosted-with-sprinkles donut he had eaten at his brother’s school.

It was all marvelous. Truly, it was. Even when I was mopping up the spilled orange juice, I was thinking that today was my last preschool Mother’s Day event with Daniel, and I was a little misty-eyed.

But I also found myself realizing, as I do every year, that Mother’s Day really isn’t about the mother. It’s about the people who want to celebrate her. And just as when your toddler hands you a bouquet of crumpled dandelions on a hot summer day or a half-eaten soggy cookie, you accept it with a smile knowing all the love that’s behind it.

Besides, to be honest, do any of us mothers need to be celebrated? For me, at least, with or without pink donuts and mangoes, my life as a mother is one wild party.

Still, I would love to sleep in tomorrow.


May 08, 2015 11:31
By Rita Buettner


7 Quick Takes Friday: Mother's Day breakfasts, blooming azaleas, dreading team sports, my blogging conference, letting our sons pick dinner, and the questions children ask


~1~

I’m starting my day with not one but two Mother’s Day breakfasts at two different schools. Somehow it seems about right that to celebrate being a mother, I need to get up early, pack lunches, drive to one school and eat breakfast with both my boys, and then take our younger son to a second Mother’s Day celebration at his school.

By the time I get to work, I’ll be stuffed, exhausted, and probably be wearing something made with too much glue. And I’ll be happy all day. For many years I didn’t get to celebrate being a mother. I take nothing for granted.

As I look forward to Mother’s Day this weekend, I'm praying for the mothers who aren’t with us this weekend—my grandmothers, my children’s birthmothers, and others—but also with those mothers whose children are in heaven, and those who wait to become mothers. Mother’s Day is a difficult day for many.

~2~

Every spring I decide the bright yellow forsythias are my favorite until the azaleas bloom.


I’m not sure they are my favorite, but seeing azalea bushes always takes me back to my parents’ front yard.


We took many Easter photos in front of their red and pink bushes and the blossoms are part of my memories.


Now we have our own azaleas. I can take no credit for them, but God puts on an extraordinary display for us every spring.


~3~

I have been dragging my feet on signing our boys up for extracurricular activities—specifically sports. I think participating in sports is fantastic. It’s good for mind, body, and spirit. I get all of that. I also know it will cut into our family time. Our evenings and weekends seem so brief. How can we give that up?


Especially with Daniel, though, I know we will need to enroll him in team sports. Even though I joke with John that we have the boys in little league for the summer—via our Montessori home schooling method—I know we are on borrowed time. He even brought a note home from preschool the other day saying he had played soccer so well that he should be on a team.



So now we have to sign him up for something. It's there in black and white.

If your children are involved in sports, how do you balance everything? Do you feel sports consume your weekends? Is it worth it?


~4~

When I wrote my quick takes last week, I had decided I wasn’t going to be able to go to the Mid-Atlantic Conference of the Catholic Women Blogging Network on Saturday. I was terribly disappointed because I had been counting down to it and even helping in really small ways with the planning.

Then Friday afternoon I realized I would be able to go! Somehow because I had almost had to cancel, the whole experience was that much sweeter.

Julie’s Victorian home is magnificent.


The presentations were so insightful. We found time for prayer, reflection, refocusing, and conversation about many of the more practical challenges we encounter along the way.


Emily made fudge for all of us and Mary designed lovely floral arrangements. Leah and Meg and Cristina spoke. And I made so many new friends—or met friends I have known online for years.

I realized yet again how rich our faith is and how wonderful it is to connect with people who love being Catholic, writing, and connecting with others. I knew all of that. But I had the opportunity to experience it in person.



It also reminded me that I do this not just for me but for something much larger than me. I truly do believe writing enriches my faith journey.

And it made me think about how wonderful it is to connect in person. It made me want to write a post about why I blog, so I think I’ll do that sometime soon. Today I’m just grateful that I was able to go.

~5~

We took our boys to a diner last week and they had a jukebox at the table. Is there anything more magical than putting 50 cents into a jukebox and picking a Christmas song?

I'm not sure the next table enjoyed it as much as we did, but it was fun.


~6~

John had to work late last night, so the boys and I went to the grocery store and I let them pick out dinner. The only rule was that they had to pick a fruit or a vegetable and a protein. Oh, and no gummy worms.


So, on a beautiful spring evening we sat in the backyard and ate smoked salmon, macaroni and cheese, and sliced apples. That evening will be hard to top.

~7~

I don’t remember going through the “Why?” stage with either of our children, but I love all the questions they ask. Sometimes I know the answer or I can deflect to Baba or Grandpa—or the encyclopedia—but sometimes I don’t know where to begin.

This week Daniel asked two questions that stopped me cold.

“What if no was yes and yes was no?” and “When is it going to be yesterday?”

If you have any good answers to those, please let me know.

Read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog.


May 07, 2015 11:35
By Rita Buettner


A pretzel for the teacher: Teacher Appreciation Week gifts with a twist


All of a sudden it is Teacher Appreciation Week, and I have been feeling a bit tapped out on ideas.

Two years ago we gave flyswatters with a poem I wrote.

Last year we gave pinwheels—also with a poem.

You can probably see a trend here. This year, though, I was not feeling inspired. Daniel and I picked daffodils from our yard and took them to the teachers on Monday, but that didn't seem like enough.



Most teachers would probably be happy with gift cards or a thoughtful letter from me or my child. The reality is that gift cards are no fun for a 5-year-old to give. And the letters I want to write are going to take more time than I have this week, so those will have to wait.

As I was walking through the grocery store, I thought of the pretzels we have been making lately. We first tried them during Lent, and we all loved them. So I bought boxes of pretzel mix, snagged oven mitts to go with them, and found some ribbon to tie them together.


Then I wrote a poem because, let's be honest, this was mainly an excuse for me to write a poem:

Pretzels are twisty

and yummy and fun,

And I hope you love eating

these up when they’re done.

Sometimes they’re salty,

and sometimes they’re sweet.

But days with you, Teacher,

are always a treat!

I figure pretzels are universally fun and that the teachers can choose to bake them with their students—because they do love to bake—or take them home and make them for themselves.



Best of all, Daniel is thrilled to give these out at school. And that’s really the point. Oh, and thanking his teachers. That’s important, too. Because they are amazing, and we love them so very much.

How are you celebrating the teachers in your life this year?

May 06, 2015 10:38
By Rita Buettner


Keeping our children’s stories safe until the day they are ready to share


Even before we adopted our children, we knew we would protect the stories of the first part of their lives—long before they met us.

In our pre-adoptive parent training the social workers told us that you never want your child to learn about his or her origins from someone other than you. The story of their birth and how they came into their orphanage or foster home should be theirs to hear, to make their own, and to share when they want to.



John and I have protected our sons’ stories and kept them close. We share and re-share them within our own family of four. Each of the boys has a photo book I made with pictures that predate their lives with us, explaining details of their lives before meeting our family.


But we don’t share that information outside our family. Even our closest relatives don’t know about our sons’ first days. They don’t need to. Those stories belong to our sons.

Then one recent afternoon Leo came home and told us he had been selected as “God’s Special Child.” He was allowed to bring items to school to share—and he knew what he would bring.

“I’m going to take my book to school,” he said.

I knew immediately which book he meant. I was surprised—and pleased.

I was also a little nervous. No one outside our immediate family had seen that book—or heard the information inside. Would the children ask difficult questions? Would our son feel comfortable talking about himself and his origins? Had we prepared him well enough to share his story in public?

I couldn’t answer those questions. But they weren’t my questions to answer.



So I found a bag and asked him what else he wanted to take. He packed his baptismal outfit, a Chinese silk outfit he wore as a toddler, a blanket his aunt knitted for him even before we met him, pictures of him with his brother and us, and the photo album we sent to him months before we met him in China. And he took his book, the book that had never left our house.

As he left for school the morning of his big day, I was nervous for him, but I was also so very proud.

Throughout the day, I kept thinking about our baby boy, marching so bravely into his classroom, ready to talk about his life. What an amazing thing for a first grader to be able to do. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this was what we were preparing for all this time.



This is why we haven’t shared his information, why we have kept it close, why we made sure it was his and his alone.

We kept it safe so that if and when he decided to share it, he could. I didn’t know whether he was ready—but he knew, and he was.

And this is, after all, his story.


May 04, 2015 11:07
By Rita Buettner


7 Quick Takes Friday: Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, the quickest takes in the west, love for Baltimore, a pseudo snowball, pets, canceled plans, and clouds


~1~

Welcome to what I do believe will be the quickest takes I’ve ever written!

This week has been unlike any I have ever experienced. I don’t even remember what work-life balance is supposed to mean, but I’m pretty sure I’m not living it this week. Because I work in communications, the unrest in the city means I have even more work to do—and at a time that is already our busiest time of the year at the office. I am learning so much and truly feeling good about my work. But I will be happy to come out on the other side, too.

~2~

After I wrote an initial response on what was happening in the city I love so much, I asked each of our sons what they liked best about Baltimore.



“Because Grandma and Grandpa live there,” Leo said. “No, because Aunt Shai lives there.”

Daniel said, “Basically the Orioles.”

I’ve thought of many answers, but the true answer is: “Because it’s my home.” Please continue to pray for this city that so many people call home.

~3~

Daniel wanted to take a selfie with me the other day. He let me press the button while he posed.


He is very proud of his work. I’m sure you’re impressed.


~4~


What is your favorite summer treat? Our boys had their first snowballs the other day, and they were so excited. I’m not actually sure these were authentic Baltimore snowballs. These were more shaved ice than snowball, which is a chunkier experience.



Shh. Please don’t tell the boys. They were happy. And, much as I love Baltimore, I am actually not a snowball fan. But let's keep that quiet, too, OK?

~5~

Because of the events of the week and my work, I have to cancel some of my plans for the weekend. I am most disappointed to miss a conference for Catholic women bloggers I have been planning to attend for months—and have even helped plan.


There’s a slim chance I can still go, but it is not looking good. Either way, I am hoping it goes wonderfully well so we have a second one and I can attend!

~6~

Daniel wants a pet. I knew this was coming. He has talked about it for a while. But now he’s ready to go to the pet store. He just has to decide which animal he wants. The list is down to:

                 1. An owl
                 2. A bunny
                 3. A cheetah


I don’t think we’ll be getting any of those anytime soon, but if you’d like to help me argue the case that we might not be able to house any of these in particular, I welcome your thoughts.

I have a feeling that part of what is inspiring this sudden need for a pet is that his teacher at school just got a puppy.

“I think the puppy's going to grow up to be something,” he said. “I remember. A leopard!”

He meant shepherd. But a leopard would be fun, too. Either way, having a puppy is extremely exciting. But he's not actually getting one. We have a household of pet allergies.

~7~

Speaking of pets, last weekend I glanced outside and saw this cloud floating by our house. I thought it looked like Flurry, the husky-shepherd mix my family had when I was growing up.

 



I sent the picture to my whole family and my favorite brother was the one who humored me enough to say it looked like our much-loved pet. (Now let’s see which of my brothers reads this blog first.)

Have a wonderful weekend! Please join me in praying for peace and also for the people of Nepal.

Find more quick takes at Kelly’s blog.


April 30, 2015 11:47
By Rita Buettner

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