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
August 2014

Email Subscription

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Recent Comments

Amanda, it was fun! And I loved that the project was all their idea, as I suppose Brothers Day celebrations should be. :) Empanadas! We should try those. We basically did that with our "dumplings."


Wish we had celebrated Brother's day! So fun! Love that they made the dumplings! So great! Seeing your photos made me want to make empanadas! Yum! Glad your potpie was delicious!



Adoption catholic charities children chocolate world christmas family guangzhou papa john's perry hall high school pizza Recipes religion
Open Window

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

Q&A with Jennifer Fulwiler: Talking her book, faith, marriage, family, and what to do when it’s 5:30 and there’s nothing in the oven

Jennifer Fulwiler is one of those funny, brilliant people with an amazing story and the talent to tell it.

If you don’t know who she is, you could stop by her blog or pick up her recently released book, Something Other Than God, where she describes her spiritual and intellectual journey from atheism to Catholicism.

Or, if you are in the Baltimore/D.C. area, you can meet her in person…because she’s coming to Washington, D.C. at the end of September! I can hardly wait!

In fact, I can’t wait.

So I call her for an interview. I’m a little nervous, and right away Jen has a question for me: “Is this for print or are we on the air?”

“On the air? Oh, wow, no. Thank goodness, no.” And suddenly I don’t feel nervous at all because the idea of having to do an interview live is absolutely terrifying.

Then, because I can’t help myself, I start gushing about how much I loved her book.

“You probably get tired of hearing people say that,” I say.

“I worked on it so hard and so long that maybe in a hundred years I’ll get tired of hearing that,” she says. She tells me that she started writing the book in the summer of 2008. “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I need to be realistic. I don’t think there is any way this can be published before 2010.”

“Well, you’ve had a few things happen since 2008,” I say. Because she has. Her family has grown significantly--she’s the mother of six children 11 and younger.

So I actually call Jen Fulwiler twice

As I’m talking, I suddenly realize she isn't. The phone is dead. I dial Jen's number and we start again.

“What’s some of the best feedback you’ve received on the book?” I ask.

“You know, the greatest moments so far have been when I hear from people who were not solid in their faith,” she says. “Just yesterday I heard from a woman in England who had been raised Catholic and had fallen away. She said God used my book to reignite her faith and bring her back to the Church.”

On writing Something Other Than God

"If you had read this book yourself back when you were searching, would it have helped you find your way?" I ask.

“I think it would have, once I was at a point of openness. When I was staunchly opposed to faith and closed-minded, there was no book in the world that would have moved me. People who don’t want to hear the truth won’t hear it,” Jen says. “I do think this book would have helped me because everyone likes stories where people aren’t telling you what to believe. They’re just talking about how it happened to them.”

Jen talks about how she read her drafts through that lens, thinking of how she would have viewed it in 2004, considering whether it would have alienated her.

“I hadn’t thought of it," she says, "but it was almost like a letter to myself of 10 years ago.”

Two faith journeys or one?

I ask about her conversion--and her husband’s. Although Jen and her husband, Joe, converted to Catholicism at the same time, they seemed in many ways to be on individual, separate journeys, supporting each other, but not pushing each other either.

“You bring up a really interesting insight about the fact that we didn’t put pressure on one another,” she says. “I think initially the reason behind it wasn't really a great thing. It was, to be honest, we didn’t really care that much. We were speaking truths, we wanted to know the truth, but ultimately we just wanted to drive nice cars and make money. Now he and I are completely on the same page with regards to faith and if one of us were to lose faith now, that would be a very big deal.”

She pauses for a moment. “Isn't that amazing how God can bring good out of anything?”

“You’ll get over atheism…”

In her book there’s a scene where she and Joe are on a plane, and they start talking about belief in God. Jen reminds him that she doesn’t believe in God and asks whether it bothers him.

“You’re reasonable, so you’ll get over the atheism thing eventually,” he tells her in the book.

“I’m actually a little surprised you didn’t just walk away,” I tell Jen.

“It’s funny,” she says, “I think that when people see us interact in person, there’s a new color that’s added to that exchange. We speak very bluntly to one another. We’re constantly saying things that our friends are saying, ‘Whoa, I’m surprised that that works.’ I actually toned that conversation down.”

“So his comment didn't upset you,” I say.

“I knew that his number one thing in life, his real religion, was having a nice worldly lifestyle, and that was my religion, too,” she says. “If he had said something like, ‘I need to quit my job, we need to stop blowing all our money on vacations,’ that would have been different. I knew that he was just talking and didn't really care.”

Let’s talk motherhood

I ask about her children. “What do they know,” I ask, “about your conversion?”

“They know that we came into the faith,” she says. “We don’t dwell on our background a whole lot at this point, because our philosophy is to help them be really solid in our faith now. I do think--in our family culture--they know that we are very, very happy to be Catholic, and that we tried it another way and found it to be very lacking. I hope they sense our gratitude for our faith. We got a glimpse of what life could have been.”

“Many of the people who read my blog are looking for advice on how to raise their children to have a strong faith,” I ask. “What advice would you offer them?”

“Usually when that kind of thing comes up I say, ‘I have no idea. Please pray for me,’” she says. “When it comes to raising the next generation in the faith, neither my husband or I grew up in that culture. I wasn’t even friends with Catholics. I don’t have that life experience. I will say, it’s important to know your faith. It’s important not to shy away from the questions. But I need advice from Catholics who grew up in that culture. It’s a really scary feeling. We’re just winging it.”

“What is this craziness?”

“It must be interesting to be two only children raising a family of six children. What is that like?”

She laughs. “Every day we look at each other and we’re like ‘What is this craziness?’. It definitely is a challenge for us but we get through.”

I explain that I’m one of six and my husband is one of seven, and that when we became parents, I realized I had no idea how to raise an only child. Should I sit and play with him for hours on end? Did I have to arrange for play dates?

Jen laughs. “Any time you think you have it locked down, God switches it up on you,” she says.

Swords, Barbie castles, and a pub crawl

“Do your children know about your blog?” I ask. “What do they think of it?”

“Yes, they do, and in fact sometimes something will play out. The other day my son got a sword and knocked down his sister’s Barbie castle and he said, ‘You should write about that on the blog.’ I think they perceive that it’s a chronicle of their awesomeness.”

“Were there any parts of the book that the publisher cut that you had really hoped to include?” I ask.

“There were a lot of great stories that were really funny and that I thought would add color to the book. There was one story about how Joe and I were dressed up as clowns on a pub crawl and the police got involved,” she says. “But as I learned how to be a better writer, I realized you need to know your theme. If a story doesn’t speak to your theme, it has to go. Ignatius (Press) was amazing. They didn’t pressure me to cut anything.”

Let’s cut to the chase.

“OK, so it’s 5:30. You have nothing in the oven. What are you making for dinner?”

“Oh, I love this question,” she says. “I actually have a great fish recipe. Since fish freeze well, I keep fish in the freezer. I’ll email it to you.”

And she does. So here it is. Jen said she just puts all the toppings on when she places it in the oven.

So now you have a new recipe, a book recommendation (if you’ve already read it, go read it again), and plans for a fantastic evening in D.C. in September.

If I offered cappuccino and free babysitting, we could call this a full-service blog.

Info on Jennifer Fulwiler’s visit to Washington, D.C.:
Jennifer Fulwiler is speaking at St. John the Apostle in Leesburg, Va., on Sept. 26, at the Risk Jesus Conference in Woodbridge, Va., on Sept. 27, and at The Catholic Information Center on Sept. 29.

(Note: This is a slightly abbreviated version of our conversation.)

You might also be interested in the review I wrote of Jennifer Fulwiler's book, Something Other Than an Ordinary Read

August 27, 2014 10:59
By Rita Buettner

Embrace the Ordinary: An evening bike ride

A few weeks ago we saw a couple police officers riding bicycles. Almost every night now Daniel asks to take his bike for a ride through the neighborhood.

So we strap on his helmet and hit the sidewalks.

We never go far. These summer evenings are getting shorter, and Daniel doesn’t want to be out as it gets dim.

"Maybe we should go home and get a flashlight," he says.

But when he’s feeling confident and brave, he owns the neighborhood.

And yes, he is wearing his winter boots.

He greets everyone we pass, from the college student jogging with his buds firmly planted in his ears to the other children we pass.

The other night we were walking when a man and woman walked past. They smiled at Daniel and he waved back.

Then he fell silent.

As we reached the corner, and he started to turn, he said, “Mama, did you see that old man?”

“Yes, I saw him,” I said, even though the “old man” was maybe in his mid-50s.

“We should pray for him,” said Daniel.

“That’s a nice idea,” I said. “And maybe for the lady who was with him?”

“Yes,” he said. “She looked old, too.”

“Do you think we should pray now or later?” I asked.

“Later,” he said. “When we say our prayers.”

And then he leaned over his handlebars and pedaled to the end of the block.

God, please bless that man and the lady with him. And bless our little bicyclist.

Linking up today with Gina at Someday They'll Be Saints.

August 27, 2014 09:53
By Rita Buettner

Close your eyes and hold out your hands

Every parent wants to be fair. And every child believes someone else is getting a larger portion or a better treat. In our house we even argue over who gets the stuck-together ice cubes in his chicken noodle soup.

So sometimes when I am handing out snacks, I say, "Hold out your hands and close your eyes, and I will give you a big surprise."

My theory is that the idea of a surprise keeps each child focused on his own food, so he pays less attention to his brother’s.

Sometimes it works.

Sometimes it doesn’t.

But I hear our children saying to each other, "Close your eyes and hold out your hands" as they play together. They do like the idea of fun surprises. Who doesn't?

The other day when our boys were worrying about who had more noodles in his bowl, I gave them one of those parent lectures children everywhere tune out.

Just eat your soup, I said. When your bowl is empty, if you are still hungry, I’ll give you something else to eat. Don't worry about whether your brother has more soup, but whether you have enough yourself.

I tried to explain that even God doesn't distribute gifts equally. We talked about how boring that would be if God gave everyone exactly the same abilities and talents. He loves us and he makes sure we each have what we need.

But that doesn’t mean we each get the same number of noodles.

By the end of the conversation, no one at my kitchen table wanted more noodles. They just wanted to escape so they could go play.

But since then I have been thinking about how child-like we all can be. How often do we worry that we aren’t getting our fair share, that others have more than we do, that so many people's lives seem easier than ours?

How often are we so busy looking to see whether others have more in their bowls that we don’t even notice that we have all we need in ours?

Today I am trying to trust that God knows what I need and what I can handle. And I am trying to accept all that he offers me with a willing and grateful heart--and without worrying about how it compares to what he could offer, or what he might give to others.

I'm imagining that God is whispering to me, “Close your eyes and hold out your hands.”

And I'll try to be ready to accept whatever he hands me.

August 24, 2014 11:21
By Rita Buettner

Three years as a family of four, produce fun, a whole-cane-o, keyless cars, our first lemonade stand, lunchbox ideas, and a book report challenge (7 Quick Takes Friday)


Three years ago today John and I met our younger son in China.

So last night I told Daniel he could pick whatever he wanted for dinner today.

“I want Ramen noodles and pasta and meatloaf,” said our 4-year-old. He also wants a cake shaped like China.

I think I talked him into ordering Chinese carry-out instead, but I’m not sure that gets me off the hook for the cake.

Can't get enough of Gotcha Day stories? This post is about meeting our little guy and how far he came during his first year home.

Happy Gotcha Day to our precious baby boy, who is so determined, so compassionate, and so deeply loved.


We were driving home one night this week when Daniel spotted something.

“Look, Mama!” he said. “I saw a police car!”

A minute later he called out, “Look! Look! Another police car! And it has its lights on!”

“Oh, wow,” I said. “I missed it.”

“This must be my lucky day,” he said.

If only we all could be so content.


Last week while our friends were away, they offered to let us pick up their CSA produce and egg share. I was only too happy to help.

I picked up the bag and found it was full of the most beautiful carton of differently colored eggs, mint, cherry tomatoes, a spring mix of greens, purple and white eggplant, a few different squashes, onions, peppers, green beans, and fingerling potatoes.

I was so excited. We ate the potatoes, tomatoes, and greens the first night. We scrambled the eggs the next morning. Unlike our sons, I’m not someone who seeks out eggs, but they were so good.

I wasn’t sure what to do with the squash, so I made vegetable lasagna.

And I sliced and roasted the white eggplant with a little olive oil and kosher salt. (Thank you to my cousin for that suggestion! And thank you to our friends for the produce!)

We feasted this week, and I had fun thinking of ways to cook our finds. It makes me think it might be fun to enroll in one next summer--or at least participate in an egg share.


Daniel goes to the chapel once a week at preschool, so the other night John and I asked him what he had learned that day.

“We talked about Jesus being on a boat,” he said.

“Was it the time he walked on the water?” I said.

“Yes, and I think there was a storm. I think it was a whole-cane-o.”

He kept talking and explaining things, and then a few minutes later he said, “Are you learning a lot about God? Am I teaching you a lot?”

We assured him we were. And we certainly are. And a bit of meteorology, too.


When my father borrowed our minivan yesterday to pick up a larger item at the store, he gave me the key to his car. But you don’t actually need the key. In fact, it's not a key at all. It’s a plastic rectangle that just needs to be in the car with you. Then you just press a button to start the engine.

A button.

I’m not sure what I think of this. It seems like a great opportunity for me to lock myself out of the car, but I can’t figure out how.

Still, I’m not complaining. After all, I got to listen to Madonna and Leann Rimes as I drove.


Our boys have been asking to have a lemonade stand all summer. So last weekend John set one up for them in our backyard. Their cousins were coming over, so he figured they would need some refreshment.

The boys and their visiting cousins bounced between the pool and the lemonade stand for the rest of the afternoon.

I’m not sure it was a great business model. It was more like a private country club since it was in the backyard and John and I were the only people paying for lemonade. But our lemonade sellers felt very important pouring their lemonade.

Next week is back to school week--at least around here! What will you be packing in your child’s lunchbox?

My philosophy is to pack a few things: some kind of protein, something crunchy, a fruit, and something sweet for dessert. I also love anything pre-packaged: yogurt tubes, apple crushers, and string cheese.

Here are a few of our favorite lunch items:


-          Deli ham
-          Hard-boiled eggs (they sell them cooked and peeled)
-          Nitrate-free, cooked hot dogs (served cold)
-          A mini bagel with cream cheese
-          Hummus and chips (or on a mini bagel)
-          Cold chicken nuggets
-          Cold mac and cheese


-          Salsa and chips
-          Cold peas
-          Pickles
-          Cucumbers
-          Apple slices
-          Strawberries/Blueberries

I have great thermoses I found in the camping section at Walmart, and I can send chicken noodle soup in those. But lately no one wants to take soup, so we have it every morning for breakfast instead.

What are your favorite lunchbox items? I am always looking for new ideas!

~Bonus Take~

Leo has two book reports to write before school starts. If I mention them often enough, maybe they’ll actually get written. All he has to do is write the book title, the author’s name, and give a two-sentence summary.

That sounds easy enough, right?

I was looking at the suggested books, and I saw that one is Hop on Pop. Now, I love Hop on Pop. It’s a rollicking read and a personal favorite. But I would challenge anyone to summarize that masterpiece in two sentences.

Read more quick takes at Jen's Conversion Diary.

August 22, 2014 12:09
By Rita Buettner

10 ways to help your child prepare for the first day of school


We still have two book reports to write and who knows what else to do before school starts. But my top priority is ensuring that our son is feeling ready to take on his first day of first grade.

So, with school beginning next week, I called La Keita Carter, Psy.D., director of the psychology division for the Loyola Clinical Centers, to ask for advice on how to help children gear up for starting a new school or a new grade.

She offered this advice for smoothing the transition:

1.      Have a natural, laidback conversation with your child. “Say, ‘Hey, let’s go for ice cream. Let’s play Scrabble. Then talk about what’s so exciting about starting school. You can use your own experiences--and obviously don't pick the experiences that were bad. Make it seem natural so it doesn’t feel like a big step. All of that gets scarier and scarier and scarier.”

2.      Choose your words carefully. “If you say, ‘You’ll get to use the big bathroom down the hall,’ some children will be frightened. Make sure you’re not using adjectives that are scary.”

3.      Reframe the experience when you talk about it. “You’re not necessarily looking at the brighter side of things, but looking at it in a different way,” she says. Remind children that they aren’t losing friends who were in class with them last year at preschool, or in a different school, or a different class. “Tell your child you aren’t losing friends from last year. We’ll be able to stay in touch and invite them over. You’re gaining more friends.”

4.      Talk about how the school year can give a new beginning. “You have the chance to start totally over.”

5.      Discuss what will change and what will stay the same. “Play up the things that won’t change to make them feel more comfortable, and talk about the things that will.”

6.      Think about things that don’t need to change. Consider reusing the same backpack and lunchbox. Point out that your child will have the same type of cubby or locker.

7.      Keep a video diary or scrapbook to record your child’s thoughts every year. Then you can share them with your child at the start of the next year: “See, you had those same feelings last year and you made it through the whole year.”

8.      If you are worrying about the school year, channel that energy into productivity. Write a series of notes that you put in your child’s lunchbox every day. Or, if you have a very anxious child, get the phone number of a parent so your child can meet another child before the school year--and you can meet another parent.

9.      Remember that your child is taking his cues from you. Relax. “Your child works off of your energy. One of the things you can see at a very young age, when a child falls, the first thing they do is look at mom and dad, and if they have a look of horror, the child is going to start crying,” she says.

10.  Trust that your child will make a smooth transition. “This is what children do. They start at the bottom and they work their way up,” Carter says. “That is normal, and children will do that naturally. If you give people a supportive nurturing environment, they will naturally do what they are supposed to do, which is grow.”

 How are you helping your child prepare for the start of a new school year?


August 19, 2014 11:16
By Rita Buettner

Day of Hope: A book to remember Baby Georgie

This time last year we were looking forward to meeting our new nephew, our sons' baby cousin, Georgie. But last fall, about six weeks before we thought we would meet him, he passed away in utero.

Georgie is very much loved and remembered, and we talk about him often in our family and in our home. We talk a lot about heaven, and our sons know Georgie is there.

To help make the abstract a little more concrete and to give us one more way to talk about Georgie, I wrote a brief poem about him and created a Shutterfly book.

When I discovered that August 19 is a Day of Hope celebrating the lives of babies who had short lives on earth, I thought I'd post a link to the book in case it might be helpful to someone else.

Here it is.

I invite you to join me today as I pray for all those who are trying to find ways to celebrate the lives of beloved children they miss.

You might also be interested in reading:

Missing Baby Georgie

A Visit to the Cemetery

20 ways to support loved ones as they grieve the loss of a baby

August 18, 2014 10:52
By Rita Buettner

It's my fault our son is sick, the advantage to train delays, celebrating the Assumption, naming sodas, pretzels, skeletons, and more (7 Quick Takes Friday)


Our younger son is sick, and it’s all my fault.

Earlier this week I pointed out to one of my colleagues--and then also mentioned at a large family dinner--that our children have both been on a healthy streak.

“I shouldn’t say anything, but I haven’t been to the pediatrician’s office in months,” I said.

I was right. I shouldn’t have said anything. The very next day the phone rang. It was Daniel’s preschool. His eye was pink and puffy. Could I come pick him up?

As I loaded him in the car, he asked, “Mama, why do you love me so much when my eye is red?” Oh, this boy. We went to the doctor, got some eye drops, and went home. That’s when I started reading the instructions on how to get the drops into his eyes.

I just noticed a typo in these instructions, but that wasn't why I was inserting this image.

What it didn't say would be needed, but what we resorted to using were: 

1.       Fruit snacks.

2.       The promise of TV time.

3.       The only wrestling moves I know.

4.       Pleading.

5.       Cajoling from his big brother who wanted to enjoy TV time too.

6.       The threat that he couldn’t play with his cousins this weekend if he didn’t get the drops in his eyes.

7.       A story that might not be as true as I think it is of how easy it used to be to put drops in my dog’s eyes.

In the end I got some drops in, but there has to be a better way.


On Monday evening I was late picking Leo up from Grandma’s house. He was playing with Aunt Shai, his partner--or, perhaps, opponent--in what he calls "The Game," a scenario featuring characters from Transformers, Star Wars, Angry Birds, Pokemon, and more, which results in fantastic verbal clashes from either end of Grandma’s couch.

Before The Game begins

“Hey, meatball head!” calls out one character.

 “I’m going to slice you like an egg salad sandwich!” yells another.

I'm not doing it justice, and they'll tell me that I'm not describing it well. I don't play The Game, so I don't actually know what's involved. I think that's part of the fun.

Anyway, as Leo and I were leaving the house Monday evening, I apologized for being late.

“I was stuck on the train because our engine stopped working, and they said the technician was fixing it, but it took so long,” I said.

“Mama,” Leo said, “I wish the engine had been broken until tomorrow morning so I could play and play with Aunt Shai.”

Then I could have sat and admired this view for even longer.


It’s the Feast of the Assumption! I'd like to say we will be celebrating in all kinds of wonderful ways, but I am not sure what we will do beyond parental Mass attendance.

Still, my talented sister Treasa created this beautiful image to mark this holy day.

And then she created this one.

I think I know which one is my favorite. Which one is yours?


Have you found your name on a Coke bottle yet? I’ll admit I looked briefly for mine before I went online (http://www.shareacoke.com/#find) and realized there were no “Rita” Cokes. I did find John’s, and he drank it and then recycled the bottle. He didn’t seem that excited.

And why would he be? After all, we have an enormous stuffed Sprite can in our house, and our children gave it the most beautiful name they could think of: Diarrhea.

Sometimes it’s not worth saying no, and this is one of those times. Last night after the boys were in bed I listened to them saying, “Do you have Diarrhea on your bed?” and “I have my head on Diarrhea,” I didn’t even flinch.

I bet you’ll never find that name on a Coke bottle, though.


The pretzel dogs at the Pennsylvania Dutch Market in Cockeysville were calling to someone in our household last weekend, so off we went.

We had never been, but we had heard about the soft pretzels. In fact, I had had them before when the market was in Westminster, but that was a decade ago.

Our boys loved watching as the pretzels were made. But what they really loved was eating them. I have a feeling we’ll be going back.


If you’re looking for a children’s book about Saint John Paul II, written for children who are reading chapter books and who don’t need pictures on every page, you should try Karol: The Boy Who Became Pope. I liked reading it because it was very much a story, just giving a slice of the saint’s life as a child, and sharing some of the ordinary details that make characters accessible to children.

Our 4-year-old got bored with the story after awhile, but our 6-year-old insisted on finishing it in one sitting. So we did. And, although I stumbled over some of the Polish town names, I had fun reading it with him.

At the end I asked him what he thought and he said, “I liked it. Some parts were scary.”

“Which parts?” I said, a bit surprised.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“The part where they were camping and they heard the wild animals?” I guessed.

“No,” he said. “I guess it wasn’t scary.”

I think we’re at least a year away from a real review from Leo. So for now you’ll just have to trust me. I thought it was a fun read, giving a glimpse into John Paul's family life. And the illustrations are great.


It’s August. Do you have your Halloween decorations up yet? Or are our children the only ones who think it’s time to hang a skeleton on your mailbox?

I just can't believe no one's clamoring for Halloween costumes here yet. But there's always next week.

Read more quick takes at Jen's blog.

August 15, 2014 12:26
By Rita Buettner

5 Favorites: Art, cuisine, drink, literature, and...let's call it travel

Today I’m sharing a few of my current favorite things and linking up with Heather at Mama Knows, Honey Child. My actual picks don't necessarily live up to the promise of the title, but here we go!

1. Art

Our boys bring home piles and piles of artwork. Construction paper Santa Clauses, ghosts, and windsocks made of gluey streamers decorate our home. Every piece is special and wonderful, but when the mountain of school crafts grows too high, we have to throw some of the masterpieces away.

Every once in a while, though, a piece comes home and we know it’s a keeper. This week Daniel, who’s 4, created a painting at preschool. It’s apparently based on Henri Rousseau’s style, but I only know that because it says so on the back.

I love it so much I hung it in my office at work, not far from my Ravens flyswatter.

2. Cuisine

Despite my best efforts, the school year is starting again. When I’m packing lunches, I don’t like to use a lot of plastic, and I try to offer variety. If I fill a stainless steel Lunchbot and add a dessert, I feel pretty good about what they will find at lunchtime.

There are other stainless steel containers on the market. These just happen to be the ones we use. And the newest ones I ordered have four compartments in each. Those work especially well for us since our boys are not sandwich eaters, so I’m never packing anything larger than one of these slots.

What do you do to keep school lunches interesting?

3. Drink

Have you tried Snapple Straight Up iced tea? It’s so simple, lightly sweetened but not sugary, and so refreshing. John loves it too, especially if I add a little lemonade to make an Arnold Palmer.

4. Literature

I’ve written about Jennifer Fulwiler’s amazing book, Something Other Than God, but what I haven’t told you is that I’m interviewing the author next week! If you’ve read the book, do you have a question you'd like me to ask? I am so excited. And I’m even more excited that she’s coming to Washington, D.C., at the end of September.

5. Travel

Earlier this week I had to take a train to Washington, D.C. One of my colleagues, who was traveling with me, stopped to point out her favorite feature of Baltimore’s Penn Station.

It’s a suggestion box. It's not easy to find because it hangs on the back of a neglected pillar in the station. I have been through there many times and never noticed it. And somehow I imagine that’s the point. Do they think anyone will find it? Does anyone even remember that it was installed? Has anyone ever inserted a suggestion? And why didn't I?

P.S. None of these products was provided to me, and I don't get any credit for saying anything good (or otherwise) about them.

August 13, 2014 11:03
By Rita Buettner

« Older Entries