Meet Rita Buettner:

“When the Lord closes a door, somewhere he opens a window.” After struggling with infertility, my husband and I were blessed to adopt our two sons from China. I’m a working mother who writes about family fun and faith. Oh, and I own hundreds of flyswatters. Join me on Twitter, say hello at, or follow me on Facebook


November 2015
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Candy Corn seems to be making itself at least it looks perfectly content to play Fruit Ninja with spontaneous rules ;)


Yes, I'm so glad I went to the prayer service. It's so easy to say I'm too busy, but it really was a highlight of the whole day--and maybe the week. We will see what the rest of the week brings! Hoping we can rein in the snake!



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Construction paper turkeys and other reasons to be thankful

During our countdown to Thanksgiving, our children have been bringing home craft after craft.

A toilet paper roll turkey.

Construction paper pilgrims.

A turkey standing on clothespin legs.

A tall black pilgrim hat made out of paper.

When our kindergartener came home from his class’s Thanksgiving feast earlier this week, I asked whether they had gone around the table and shared what they were thankful for. They had, of course.

“What did you say?” I asked.

“The pilgrims who sailed across the sea,” he said.

Our boy does love ships.

Today I’m thankful for those pilgrims, too. And I’m thankful for a whole host of other things.

I’m thankful to live in a country where we have freedom of religion.

I’m thankful to be celebrating Thanksgiving with the people I love most in the world.

I’m thankful for beautiful weather so we can play outside today.

And I’m thankful that this day is going to end with a piece of homemade pumpkin pie.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. I hope your day ends with a slice of pie—or whatever you love most at your annual Thanksgiving feast.


November 26, 2015 01:43
By Rita Buettner

Week In My Life 2015: Sunday

I’ve been blogging every day this week as part of Week In My Life, a linkup hosted by Kathryn at Team Whitaker. Here are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. If you’ve missed them all, you can skim through seven days in one blow! Or just read today’s and come back later this week to see whether I have anything left to say.

When Daniel walks out of his bedroom, eyes half-open, arms wrapped around the stuffed candy corn, he announces, “Today is a special day.”

“Why?” I ask him—which I realize now is not the right reply because naturally every day is special.

“Because we are going to Grammy and Poppy’s house today.”

That would make it special. But Poppy, my father-in-law, calls a little while later to ask that John and the boys delay the trip because John’s mother isn’t feeling well. But we promise the boys there will be another trip to see their out-of-town grandparents soon.

It’s Sunday, which means that throughout the morning I field the question, “Is it a church day?” several times. We have a conversation about why we go to Mass and mortal sin, which—as I discover later—is likely to be on the 2nd grade religion test tomorrow. So let’s hope my explanation was solid.

At breakfast we learn that no one likes the Star Wars chicken noodle soup anymore, or at least they want a break from it for a while.

The boys seem to be in a musical mood, playing “Jingle Bells” on the piano and disappearing into their bedroom when they realize I’ve overheard them practicing their Christmas concert songs in the living room.

Daniel and I try to play a Fruit Ninja card game with the stuffed candy corn, but we can’t figure out the rules even though we are making them up ourselves.

We make it to Mass on time and even remember to bring a few items for the food pantry. Just to give you a better picture of how that donating happens, the boys argue about who gets to carry which item into the parish center to place them on the table. But in the end the donation happens and our right hand is not only aware of what our left hand is doing, but also of what our brother’s left hand is doing—and we still don’t understand why he can’t be the one to give the box of Minion mac and cheese.

No time to debate! We are off to Mass. The boys have elected to go to the children’s program during the Liturgy of the Word. So John and I sit alone in the pew and wait for them to come back.

When they return, they each have a piece of paper with a crossword puzzle on it. They are terrific pieces of paper, but somehow they are incredibly loud, echoing through the church. Maybe they should distribute something quiet—cotton balls, perhaps?—instead. Nonetheless, we make it to the end of a lovely Mass.

Back at home I start making ravioli for lunch when Daniel comes to ask me if he can clean windows for me. Why not? I’m not going to do it.

I hand him paper towels and some cleaning liquid. Minutes later John and both boys are hard at work cleaning the storm door and the sliding door to the backyard. I’ll take it.

I make ravioli for lunch because it is a chilly day and they are what's in the freezer.

Then I get ready to go out to a meeting about a possible freelance writing opportunity. On the way to the meeting I return a purse I bought two months ago and have been carting around in my car to return ever since. John will be thrilled (shocked?) that I finally made it to the store to return it and walked out without spending the money I earned back.

I meet my possible new clients in a restaurant, where the maître d’ tells me that no one is waiting for anyone in the restaurant, but they are here and I don't realize it for a while. So the people who are meeting me think I am 10 minutes late when I was 10 minutes early. Ugh. But it’s a delightful meeting and I leave feeling optimistic.

I head home to find John and the boys relaxing with a little TV.

I ask Daniel to go with me to the grocery store to buy bags of apples for his kindergarten class. They are making applesauce tomorrow at school for their Thanksgiving feast, and I volunteered to bring the apples.

Daniel adores grocery shopping, especially since lately I let him choose the store. He picks Mars, which I believe is still locally owned. Today I let him push the cart some of the time, even though it’s more work than if I push the cart. He is an enthusiastic shopper, except in the frozen food aisles because they are cold.

He’s disappointed that there’s no one in the bakery to give him a free cookie, so I break one of my hard-and-fast rules and take a bag of cookies we will pay for later and let him eat one in the store before paying. I never like doing that because I want to pay for items before we eat them—and I like it even less when the cookie drops crumbs and powdered sugar everywhere and Daniel announces he doesn’t like it after all.

As we’re climbing into the car, I point to the sky and say, “Look at that beautiful sky God made for us!”

“It smells like French fries,” Daniel says.

He’s right, of course.

For dinner we have soup, sandwiches, pickles, and grapes. After dinner the boys have hot chocolate and Daniel fills his cup with marshmallows.

“Look, Mama!” he says. “A shamrock!”

In fact, he finds four. Our lucky day.

November 22, 2015 10:06
By Rita Buettner

Week In My Life 2015: Saturday

This week I am blogging every day as part of Week In My Life, a linkup hosted by Kathryn at Team Whitaker. If you missed the earlier posts, here are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

It’s Saturday and, because I have the best husband in the world, he lets me sleep in for a little while. He even gives Leo cereal and puts a can of chicken and stars soup in a pan and heats it up for Daniel.

When I get up, I serve the soup and Daniel says, “Baba’s recipe is better than yours, Mama.”

Maybe I should sleep in more often and let Baba handle breakfast preparation.

Daniel wants to wear his school uniform today, complete with belt, uniform shoes, and tucked-in shirt. He also wants to make cupcakes for Baba, so we do.

The morning goes well until the boys start tossing a football around the living room. The football is confiscated, rules reviewed, etc., and I start getting ready to go to the annual Christmas bazaar at the Motherhouse for the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

Because I love time one-on-one with our boys, I invite Daniel to come. He isn’t sure he wants to go because staying home means playtime with his brother, but I’m not really asking whether he wants to come. I’m telling him he’s coming. We stop by the ATM and head to the bazaar.

As we walk in, a woman working there greets us. I stop to tuck in Daniel’s shirt, and she says to him, “Isn’t it nice that she does that for you? She must really like you.”

“A little,” I tease him and he grins and squirms and says, “No! A lot.” He’s right, of course.

Then we shop. We find the most wonderful items you can imagine, but best of all are the interactions with the people there. Some of the older nuns are there and some of them and the other women there admire Daniel’s uniform and chat with him about his school.

“My mom went to the bank and she has $100,” he tells one nun as she bags our stuffed pink elephant.

I make most of the decisions on what we are buying, but our kindergartener handles the actual money.

On the way out we stop to buy hot dogs from the food table to enjoy at home for lunch. On the drive home Daniel proudly holds the stuffed candy corn—theoretically a purchase for Grammy, though chances of that happening are looking less likely by the minute.

We arrive home and show off our purchases. This is just some of the haul, but I don't want to give away all our Christmas surprises. The gingerbread men are ornaments and gift card holders. I know. The little creche was 25 cents. We splurged on the $6 candy corn, but he was too wonderful to pass up. And I don't even like candy corn.

After hot dogs at home, the boys and I head off for our soccer double-header, the first game against another boys’ team, and the second against the girls’ team from our school.  In the car my passengers are in a bickering mood. I pretend I don’t notice, especially when I realize at one point they are chanting, “Pepper spray!” “Baby diapers!” “Pepper spray!” “Baby diapers!” back and forth.

The soccer games are…soccer games. I think maybe I need to become more of a sports fan to do this soccer mom thing successfully. Maybe my problem is that I don’t really care whether my son does well on the field. I want him to have a good time and feel he is contributing, and I prefer that he not score against his own team, but beyond that, I have no expectations.

That’s probably good because Daniel keeps me busy. He has found what he thinks is a Native American drawing on the field.

And he wants to play football with me, so we do. Then we realize Leo’s water bottle is in the car, so I have to head back to the parking lot to get it.

I ask my friend to keep an eye on Daniel while I am getting the bottle, and I tell him not to move from the chair. So when I get back to our chair, I find him here.

We have a good time, but I am ready for it to end so we can go home and relax and warm up. We lose the first game and win the second against the girls. Everyone seems to have fun, and most people there clearly enjoy it more than I do.

When it's all finally over, we go home. The boys run around outside building a fort out of sticks and John and I sit inside and have a few minutes of adult conversation.

"What are you talking about?" comes the question as the boys tumble back inside. Who knows? Not Skylanders.

We watch a little TV, play a game of unorthodox Scrabble by our own rules, nap (well, some of us, and not on purpose), and eventually decide to go out to dinner.

I suggest a Greek restaurant I’ve been to once with friends, and when I mention that they serve “flaming Greek cheese,” there’s a buzz of excitement. So off we go, as Daniel and I make up a song to our stuffed candy corn on the way—definitely not worth repeating for you here. The main point is that the stuffed candy corn is amazing and he doesn't want to be eaten.

The cheese, which is called saganaki, is not on fire by the time it reaches our table—not like at Dimitri’s in Catonsville, Md.—but it’s delicious, as is the spanakopita, and everything else.

We drop a few utensils and many pens while drawing at the table before the food arrives, but the boys behave amazingly well. It helps, of course, that the food is so good.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being what I would have made for dinner and 10 being Dimitri's, how was that dinner?” I ask the boys.

“Twenty!” Leo says.

“Twenty and 140!” says Daniel.

That’s how I feel about our day, too. Or maybe that’s just how tired I feel—but a good kind of tired. Hooray for Saturday.

November 21, 2015 11:17
By Rita Buettner

7 Quick Takes Friday: Why I’m blogging every day, soccer, sheep, shoes, Saturdays, public restrooms, and more


This week I am blogging about our lives every day for the Week In My Life series Kathryn is hosting at Team Whitaker. I have no time to do this. Truly, I don’t. I have been spending the week doing writing for my full-time job in the evenings, and that takes time and creativity and thought.

But I had already decided that I wanted to participate and blog every day this week, and the Week In My Life link-up comes only once a year. If I decided not to do it because of work, I felt I would be conceding somehow—saying that when I am working really hard for work, I can’t possibly carve out time to do something for me. And…well…blogging is just so much fun!

What I have found is that the blogging this week actually gave me an outlet and re-energized me so that the other work was more manageable. Go figure.

If you want to see what I've been sharing every day, here are Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.


We have our last two soccer games tomorrow. If you think I sound sad about that, it’s because you can’t see me grinning ear to ear as I type. This season has been long.

Don’t get me wrong. Leo and Daniel have both loved playing soccer. And I love watching them play. But there are reasons I haven’t done this organized sport thing before:

  1. It eats away our family time. We can’t plan anything for Saturdays. Ever.
  2. Getting the boys to practice and games on time is stressful, and we already feel rushed enough during the week.
  3. I can’t believe how much fast food I have fed our children so they could participate in this healthy activity.
  4. The weather can be good or bad or dreadful. We went from sweating in the sunshine at the start of the season to being drenched in the rain—and now it’s just cold.
  5. Soccer means just another thing to forget—the uniform, the ball, the cleats, the shin guards. I can barely keep track of what we need to bring to school every day. Soccer just adds to the load.

This was a great year to try it, though. The boys both learned quite a bit—including knowing when they were legitimately too tired to go to practice—and I enjoyed watching them grow. And I suspect I will spend many more years on the sidelines of various athletic events.

But just for the record, the season ends tomorrow, and I am wildly ecstatic.


Every once in a while the children bring home something just so sweet that I have to share it. Daniel made this sheep this week, and I love its smile.

If that doesn't excite you, maybe you'd like to look at another craft on our table of What Came Home from School and Other Stuff.

Looks like that horizontal surface needs to be cleaned yet again.


If you’ve been wondering whether we found the missing pair of school shoes we lost last week, we did!

Over the weekend John went to do the laundry, and they were stuck inside someone’s pants. Some helpful person—Me? John? A child showing a marvelous stroke of initiative and helpfulness?—must have picked a pile of clothes up off the floor and dropped them in the hamper.

No one remembers doing it. The boys might, but they might not be sure whether they will be praised or punished.

But we have the shoes. Thank you, St. Anthony.


Before I became a mother, I never thought about where public restrooms were. I must have known they existed, although my parents never let us near them when we were children.

Then I became a mother. Now I know that almost every store has a restroom. I may not want to visit it, but often I don’t have a choice. So, as a result, I believe you could put me in any grocery store within 10 miles of our house, and I could tell you where the restroom is.

I thought of this when I saw this story on the best public restroom in America


Tomorrow is the Christmas sale at our local motherhouse for the School Sisters of Notre Dame, at the corner of Charles and Bellona for those who live in the Baltimore area. My mother and I always try to be there when the doors open at 10 a.m. Tomorrow I will try to meet her there, though I bet she’ll beat me inside.

I always find something unexpected and buy a few lovely craft items I can give to families with new babies in the New Year. And I’ll probably find something for John’s goddaughter, our niece, who is celebrating her first Christmas this year.

If you live locally, you should go...maybe at 10:15?


Our president at Loyola Maryland, where I work, has been blogging while visiting our students who are studying abroad in Paris and Leuven, and his posts are wonderful.

Please join me in continuing to pray for peace in our world.

Read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum, where she has a gift guide of items created by bloggers today.

November 20, 2015 11:36
By Rita Buettner

Week In My Life 2015: Friday

This week I'm joining Kathryn at Team Whitaker to blog every day for Week In My Life!

I’m not getting up this morning. I’m just not. So Leo and I lie in bed and talk.

“I know what Baba is going to say when he comes out of the shower,” I say.


“He’s going to say, ‘You’re still in bed! We’re going to be late!’”

But I’m wrong. When John comes out of the bathroom, he says, “Today’s Purple Friday! You can wear purple over your uniform!”

It’s true. Because Leo’s class brought in the most jars of peanut butter and jelly for Our Daily Bread, they earned the right to wear Ravens attire over their uniforms.

The day has begun, so I get up and head to the kitchen. A half-asleep Daniel follows me and climbs up into my arms.

On mornings when I haven’t put the boys to bed the night before, we seem to have so much to catch up on. Since I was working late and missed not just bedtime, but also their first experience with a new babysitter, our drowsy little boy has so much to tell me.

Yes, they had a great time with—let’s call her Caitlin.

Yes, they want her to come again.

Yes, of course they listened to her.

“Did you let her have a dumpling?” I ask Daniel.

“Mama, I let her have TWO dumplings,” he says. Such generosity.

We talk about Caitlin all morning, and I mention at least once to the boys—but not to John, as I will realize later—that because this is Friday, today is the day we are giving her a ride to school. We do that once a week, and it’s always a raucous ride since the boys kick their antics up several notches to entertain her.

The boys are happy because we have leftover lo mein for breakfast.

John gives them each a Maryland medallion he picked up for them yesterday at the installation of the new chancellor for the University System of Maryland, and Daniel wants to take his to show his class.

John says he’ll take the boys to school because again—this is a theme this week, this month, and likely this lifetime—Mama is running late.

I wave them off and go to take a shower. When I get out, I glance at my phone and notice that John has called. That’s odd.

I listen to his message. He drove to school and when they got there, Daniel looked around and said, “Where’s Caitlin?” It was only then that John remembered he was supposed to take her to school too, but I hadn’t reminded him. And I usually handle drop-off on Fridays.

I call Caitlin and apologize and say I’ll be there in a few minutes, dress at lightning speed, run out the door, drive to her house, and apologize profusely. She’s quite relaxed about it and seems to be fine—thank goodness for flexible, resilient eighth graders. I drop her at the door, text her mother to explain and apologize, and head to work, where I am late for my meeting—but not by much.

We have a student intern working with us this semester, and this is one of his days to be in our office—which he really seems to enjoy. I pull him into a meeting where we suddenly start having a Star Wars-related brainstorming session. He ends up with an assignment we’re all excited about that is partly his idea.

We’re so busy with projects that need immediate attention that I look at my watch and realize it is 1:25 and I haven’t eaten all day. So I run out to grab a quick lunch to bring back to my desk before my 2 p.m. meeting. The afternoon goes quickly too. I make a ridiculous spelling error in an email that fortunately only went to a colleague who is a friend. When I show it to my colleagues, we laugh so hard we are in tears.

By the end of the day, though, I am ready for the weekend. I pick up our boys at school and we head home.

We have leftover beef ragu for dinner, so I reheat it and it's phenomenal, even better than when we ate it on Wednesday, in case you're looking for the recipe.

When John comes home, we eat dinner together and then sit down to watch Penguins of Madagascar. It's funnier than I would expect, but not my favorite. The boys enjoy it, though.

Afterward, as we are brushing teeth, Daniel says, “Can I wear my uniform again tomorrow?” and I say he can—an easy yes. The boys have talked John into another night sleeping on our floor, so I tuck them in there. We say prayers and turn out the light.

Week In My Life: Thursday

Week In My Life: Wednesday

Week In My Life: Tuesday

Week In My Life: Monday

November 20, 2015 10:18
By Rita Buettner

Week In My Life 2015: Thursday

This week I'm blogging every day to give you a glimpse into our action-packed lives! I'm joining Kathryn at Team Whitaker for Week In My Life. 

Despite my late night, I wake up feeling better than the day before when I had more sleep. Somehow, though, we are all moving more slowly and we just can’t seem to get out the door to begin the day.

It’s definitely Thursday.

On Thursdays (when we remember and have time) we send cheese sandwiches to school for Our Daily Bread, a soup kitchen in downtown Baltimore. We don’t really have time this morning, but we have the bread and cheese. I put together a few sandwiches and split them into two bags so each of our boys can take some along.

“We should put money with the sandwiches,” says one of our boys. It’s a thoughtful idea. I start explaining that instead we send money to Catholic Charities. Then they can use the money for things so that people who are in need of food or a place to stay can find help. But he has a point.

John offers to take the boys to school. I remind him of our plan for the day. We both have evening events, mine running later than his, and they mean we have different childcare arrangements for the afternoon. We're all set.

Then the three of them are out the door, wandering down the driveway in the drizzling rain.

I get myself ready and put on a new suit I got for $30 last weekend. Tonight is a big work event, our Business Leader of the Year dinner, and I’ll be there. And not just because I want to wear my new suit.

I apparently am not able to take pictures of myself in the mirror, so this is just an ordinary selfie.

But first it's another busy work day. Then partway through the morning I check on our childcare arrangements and find they are falling through.

I have other options, but not many, and I reach out to several people before I work out an arrangement with a sitter who can come to our house not as early as I had hoped, but she can come. I’ll get to the event later than I’d like, but I’ll be there, and the boys will be excited about this sitter. I order Chinese food online to be delivered for dinner, email the new plan to John, and head out to get the boys.

But there’s a bad car accident between my office and the boys’ school. The road is closed with no way to turn around. There are three ambulances, a fire engine, police cars, and eventually a tow truck. I’m grateful I didn’t get there sooner to be in the accident and anxious for the people involved and worried that I’ll never get through and won’t be able to get to our children.

It takes me 45 minutes to travel a seven-minute drive. We head home—a different way—and get home about 15 minutes before the sitter arrives. We have just enough time to start homework and for me to put the cushions back on the couch from whatever pillow structure the boys created this morning.

Then I say goodbye and I’m back in the car, driving downtown. I park, take the wrong elevator, take the right elevator, and finally end up where I am supposed to be.

It’s a fantastic evening. The highlight for me, and perhaps for everyone, is when one of our Loyola Maryland students shares his personal experience from the stage. He fought leukemia for 3 ½ years and is preparing to graduate in May. He’s phenomenal. People are wiping tears away by the end, and he receives a standing ovation.

When I go to congratulate him after the talk, he gives me a big smile and says, “Thank you, Miss Rita.” I’m so blessed to do what I do. Jamahn is going to do extraordinary things someday—and I bet it will be someday soon.

By the time the dinner is over, I know our sons are already asleep. So I decide I don't need to rush away. I stay and chat with colleagues for a little while before I leave.

Back at home, everyone is asleep in our bed. So I carry each of the boys to bed, wondering how much longer I can manage it. They are getting big! But I like being able to tuck them in.

I whisper, “Good night. Sleep well. I love you.” And Daniel, who looks like he is completely asleep, says clearly, “OK!”

Week In My Life: Wednesday

Week In My Life: Tuesday

Week In My Life: Monday

November 19, 2015 11:32
By Rita Buettner

Week In My Life 2015: Wednesday

This week I'm joining Kathryn at Team Whitaker to blog every day during Week In My Life. So happy you're here!

The boys are stirring in their blankets on our bedroom floor as I wake up, but they’re not actually bouncing around the room. So of course I start worrying that maybe they are getting sick. They clearly have colds, but could it be something else? I’m hoping that it’s just that I’m waking up earlier than usual.

I could take more time in bed because our sons agreed to order lunch today at school—Italian cold cut subs, which they are really hoping will have salami on them. So all I have to do is pack snacks, except I am also making a crockpot dinner for tonight.

So we get up. I tell them they can watch one TV show—cooking with helpers in the morning can be a recipe for disaster—and they want a snack to eat while they watch. I give each a cup of dry cereal. Everyone is happy, especially when no one spills cereal.

I look out the window and remember that the neighborhood boy we hired to clean our leaves came the day before. The lawn looks surprisingly leaf-free.

It’s a rare morning where everything comes together on time—probably because I have no lunches to pack—and the crockpot dinner is cooking as we leave on time for school.

As I drive the boys to school, we discuss the proper way to wipe your nose when it is running. My theory is that using your hand is not a good idea, and that using your sleeve is just slightly better. Tissues, I insist, are the way to go.

Not everyone in the car agrees with me, and I don’t have time to win the argument before we arrive at school. I watch as some of the other children stroll leisurely to school and one sweet little girl waves to her mom the whole time. That’s not the Buettner way. We have a mad dash to get out of the car and sprint to the door. No one looks back. Hey, they’re happy to get to school, and we got there in time. Victory.

Today I have a headache, which could be for many reasons. I have several urgent projects on my plate, can’t remember the last time I slept enough, and my morning coffee may have been weak. That's OK. I plow through the morning in my super-organized office.

I have a lunch meeting off campus, so I head out to pick up a colleague from another university who is taking the train in to meet. He climbs in at the train station, and we chat about creating university magazines, which is a really fun part of my job—and his. Our meeting is fun, a fantastic exchange of ideas about how to make a magazine. It’s amazing and reinvigorating.

Then I’m back to the train station to return my friend to his train, and off to pick up coffee for myself and a few colleagues who accept my offer.

The afternoon flies by, and soon enough I get to go pick up our boys—the best part of every day! They are happy to see me, but not overjoyed, of course, because they would always rather play a little longer. They have made paper plate spiders with pipe cleaner legs and we carry them proudly to the car, only losing one leg (a spider's, that is) on the way.

I always ask about lunch, especially when I didn’t make it. One child loved it. One child said it was OK. No one mentions salami, and I decide not to pose the question. I’d rather not owe anyone salami.

At home our crockpot dinner smells like a success, and it is!

Everyone eats it, and John and Leo say it may be their favorite crockpot recipe ever, though Leo admits he can’t remember any others. Clearly I don’t use the crockpot enough. (Here’s the recipe for the beef ragu we had.) Oh, and definitely serve it with Parmesan cheese. Yum.

But even more exciting than dinner, which is hard to top, is an enormous package that is addressed to me. It's not my birthday or my anything day. But my wonderful friend Cherie has made me a Christmas wreath bedazzled by flyswatters. It's amazing, truly one-of-a-kind, and designed specifically for a flyswatter collector.

I love it. Of course, what's not to love about it? It's fantastic!

We hang it on the door right away and marvel at its beauty.

How will we ever put it away after Christmas? It is stunning.

After dinner, I hurry to load the dishwasher and make the boys’ beds—no floor camp-out for them tonight—and make sure Daniel finishes his kindergarten homework. Then he asks me to read him The Bear Scouts, so we sit and read it together. It makes us laugh every time.

I’m part of a prayer group that meets every month and tonight is the night. So I give everyone a see-you-later kiss and I drive to the host’s lovely home.

We chat about everything, families, life, worries, highlights, favorite grocery stores. We add intentions to our prayer book, thinking of family and friends, people we know, people we’ve never met. We pray for peace and people who are homeless and people for whom the holidays are a difficult time. There are only four of us, and that makes it a really beautiful, intimate time to share and pray. 

Driving home after 11 p.m., I think of how the day started with worries and stress and fear. I was so concerned I wouldn’t be able to do all I had on my plate. But people stepped in to help me. Somehow projects that seemed enormous and daunting came together smoothly. And there were moments of joy and fun and creativity and family and friends. And, I mean, I am now the owner of a flyswatter Christmas wreath.

This day will be hard to top. But I hope you'll check back tomorrow anyway!

See Week In My Life: Tuesday

And Week In My Life: Monday

November 19, 2015 12:21
By Rita Buettner

Week In My Life 2015: Tuesday

I am trying to blog every day this week, giving an exclusive look into our fascinating lives through Week In My Life, hosted by Kathryn at Team Whitaker. I'm not sure I'll pull it off, but we're off and running!

The boys slept on the floor of our room last night, so they bound out of bed in the morning, while I do not. Our kindergartener climbs in bed next to me with a box of index cards. He wants to practice addition and subtraction.

The next thing I know, he has opened his bank and is counting his money.

“Money leads to the path of darkness,” he tells me, and all I can think about is how great sleep is, and how much greater more sleep would be.

But the day has begun. So we head to the kitchen for breakfast, which today is the ever-popular chicken soup with rice. I heat the soup while I boil water for our instant coffee, but I can’t find the teakettle. I look in the dishwasher, the sink, the drying rack, everywhere. Eventually I spot it, sitting right where it should be.

This is not a good sign of what the day will bring. I pack lunches as usual, but today I have two critics keeping a sharp eye on me.

“You didn't send dessert in my lunch yesterday so I need double today,” one of my customers says and dives into his Halloween candy bucket.

For some reason, while the boys are playing soldiers they are debating whether you are allowed to attack a hospital for soldiers during war. I answer question after question, touching on the role of the United Nations, hoping I am right, and rooting for John to come through the room sooner rather than later. He does, and he answers the questions with actual knowledge, and everyone seems satisfied.

I am out of the shower in time to take our boys to school, so they climb into the van, as I notice yet again that my key needs a new battery if I want it to open the doors the first or fifth or ninth time I click it. I just can’t figure out when I can go get a new battery or how much time is involved.

Somehow we make it to school before the first bell, and I’m congratulating myself on how smoothly the morning is going as the boys start to climb out of the car. Then someone takes an elbow to the eye, so the other one gets kicked. Naturally, there’s no time for apologies (forced or real) or anything except to make sure the eye is intact because we are at Drop Off and You Never Ever Keep People Waiting at Drop Off. So the boys head into school and I drive away. 

I stop at the grocery store to get something to eat for lunch later and as the cashier is checking me out, I notice she has a beautiful tattoo of “Love is patient” on her arm. I have no tattoos—my ears aren’t even pierced—but I think it's a great choice, if you are going to get one. I compliment her on how lovely it is and she lights up with a big smile.

Then I’m off to work where I write and meet and talk and listen and research and write more and laugh a few times with colleagues. We add a victory to our Small Victory Glass, which we use to celebrate our successes as a team. 

It’s a good day and a busy one, so it flies by. I accomplish some of what I meant to, some of what I didn't know I'd have to, and, as one of my newspaper reporter colleagues used to say, leave some for the night shift. When I arrive at our afterschool program, Leo is playing chess against the teacher. She takes out her phone to get a photo of the chessboard so they can start from the same place tomorrow.

Then we’re on our way home! John is working late tonight, so it’s just the three of us. Usually on a night like that I bake a piece of salmon, which John doesn’t like but the rest of the family does. But they have had salmon and tuna a few times already this week, so I figure we’d better skip it. And I’m so tired from the day and I just want to spend time with our boys.

So we go through a drive-thru, which is awful nutritionally but fun. We go home and they eat it and I cook something quick for me. The evening feels short and suddenly I realize we never did homework. Leo always does his on his own after school, but Daniel hasn’t found that rhythm yet. So I have him stand at the table—so much better than sitting down—and he does his math.

After a frantic search through the house for the stuffed Cat in the Hat, who manages to find the most unlikely hiding places (tonight he's in the dry sink) we read books and pray. Our boys are sniffling and coughing and fall asleep almost immediately, nestled again in blankets on our bedroom floor. I look at them and wonder why we thought we needed three bedrooms when we all fit in one room.

And I wonder how much longer I can stay awake before falling asleep myself. But I write this blog first because I have promises to keep. And because after a long day of lots of writing, this feels easy and fun and like a treat to myself and my family...and hopefully to you!

See what happened Monday.

November 17, 2015 11:19
By Rita Buettner

Week In My Life: Monday

This is my third year participating in the Week In My Life link-up. Somehow this year it is landing during an extremely busy week, but aren't they all? Let’s not assume I will blog every day, and then if I happen to come through, we’ll all be surprised. No one will be more surprised than I am. Let’s get started!

The day begins the same way it always does, as a child with ice cold feet crawls into bed next to me and immediately starts chatting while I "mmmph" back at him. I am not a morning person, and I’m even less of one when I haven’t slept enough, which…well…let’s face it, is most days.

As I lie there, wondering what day it is, I remember that during the night I heard the boys chattering away in their room.

“Hey," I say, "what were you two talking about in the middle of the night?”

“We were talking about a shadow on the wall,” he says. That makes sense.

We get up and I pack lunches as our boys eat breakfast—ramen noodles and smoked salmon and yogurt smoothies and cereal and a few apple slices and strawberries. Not everyone eats everything Just another breakfast around here.

John has offered to take our boys to school, and because of my poor morning planning, they run out the door as I am showering. So we yell “Goodbye, I love you!” through the bathroom wall.

Then I’m off to work for a busy day.

I worked quite a bit of the weekend writing and responding to emails from home, yet somehow that doesn’t mean I have a jump on the week. But I love my work. It’s a day full of good conversations and writing and phone calls and even more emailing.

Then, even though I’m too busy to make time for anything in the day, I decide to go to the interfaith prayer for peace at Loyola University Maryland (where I work) in the afternoon.

Somehow it’s just what I need, as we listen to prayers in multiple faiths and different languages.

We light candles and pray for peace.

I tear up a little as we sing, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” But mostly I feel grateful to be alive, to know my family will be waiting for me when I get home, to be part of this community, to be joining students and colleagues in this time of prayer for a community that extends around the globe.

Then I’m off to the store for cucumbers for our dinner salad and home to my family. John picked up the boys from school, and I can’t wait to get home. Dinner is leftover meatloaf and chicken nuggets for the people who don’t want leftover meatloaf—who are those people?—and I make my secret nugget sauce recipe, which I suppose is no longer a secret.

Then the boys pick from their bottomless buckets of Halloween candy for dessert.

After dinner, people are pretending to remove their thumbs and Daniel keeps blocking my path.

“Say the password, Mama,” he says. “It's 'Loyola.'”

And then it’s something else, and something else, but he always tells me, so that works for me.

I load the dishwasher—perhaps my top achievement of the day, unless you count emptying it this morning.

Then the boys and I play a game they love where they run a pet store with all their stuffed pets and I am their only customer. By the end of the game, most of the stuffed animals have been eaten by the stuffed snake, and the store owner (Daniel) has married me. So my name is Mrs. Pet Shop Owner, and I’m just delighted to have him helping me raise my dozens of stuffed pets.

It's fun and a nice break from the video games we work hard to limit.

By the end of the evening, it’s clear both boys have colds. We decide to let them sleep on the floor of our room, where they will be nearby and where, presumably, they won’t wake up in the middle of the night to discuss shadows on the wall. John offers to read them Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz as they fall asleep.

Check back tomorrow to see whether I manage to blog two days in a row!

November 16, 2015 10:02
By Rita Buettner

Home to Me...and to Our Children

“Home is where the heart is,” goes the phrase. And it’s true. But for children who are adopted as toddlers, it isn’t as if you can easily explain that a strange, unfamiliar place is home.

When we met our sons as toddlers in China, everything was new and different. We were strangers to them. We spoke a language they had never heard, fed them unusual foods, and expected them to eat and play and sleep in a different place.

For the first two weeks—for each of our adoptions—we lived out of suitcases in hotel rooms.

If home is where the heart is, a hotel room for a newly formed adoptive family is home. But if home is where you can make a meal with an instrument other than a hot pot and not worry about having to lock your passports in a safe, then a hotel room is not exactly home. Not even when there's a fantastic playroom down the hall.

Our older son stayed in two different hotel rooms in China and a hotel room in Chicago before we finally arrived home together at our house in Baltimore.

He had just turned 2 and, even after only two weeks of hearing English, he understood almost everything we said to him. But there was no way for us to explain to him that this had been our goal the whole time. This place, yet another unfamiliar building full of toys and food and beds, was our final destination.

This house, I wanted to tell him, was not just another set of rooms along the way.

This was special.

This was home.

Of course, after our long trip home—and it took days—he was just happy not to be in an airplane or a car. He played contentedly, ate as I had never seen a child eat before, and he even slept well from the beginning. But I could tell he didn’t know whether we were there to stay.

When we left to run errands during those first few days, he wasn’t sure we were coming back. And who could blame him? We weren’t exactly reliable for recognizing a good thing when we found it. We had given up on a fantastic breakfast buffet in our Chinese hotels to travel for days just to a place where the food wasn’t ready made. Who would pick bottled yogurt smoothies over crisp strips of bacon and soft steamed dumplings every morning?

Yet he loved our house.

As the days and weeks went by, our little boy started to trust that this was our special place. And one night after our long daily commute together, I turned our car into the neighborhood and he called out with joy, “Home!”

My eyes filled with tears. Yes, we were home. Home to stay.

But it wasn’t until we returned from a weekend overnight road-trip that I realized he was just a little uncertain. We went away to see my sister and brother-in-law and their four children. All weekend he and his cousins played with abandon and joy. It was wild and fun and everything you would hope for in a weekend road trip.

Then we climbed into our car and came home.

When we walked through the door, I put our son down and watched him celebrate being home. He went from toy to toy, climbed onto the couch, pulled out some books, and beamed the whole time.

I realized then, after that first trip away, that he finally believed this was home. And we watched it happen again with his younger brother after his first weekend away.

So maybe that’s how you know you’ve found your home. When you come back to it again after leaving it behind.

This post is part of the “Home to Me” blog hop, hosted by Julie at These Walls. During the two weeks from Friday, November 13 through Thanksgiving Day, more than a dozen bloggers will share about what the concept of “home” means to them. “Home” can been elusive or steady. It can be found in unexpected places. It is sought and cherished and mourned. It is wrapped up in the people we love. As we turn our minds and hearts toward home at the beginning of this holiday season, please visit the following blogs to explore where/what/who is “Home to Me.”

November 13 – Julie @ These Walls
November 14 – Leslie @ Life in Every Limb
November 15 – Ashley @ Narrative Heiress
November 16 – Rita @ Open Window
November 17 – Svenja, guest posting @ These Walls
November 18 – Anna @ The Heart’s Overflow
November 19 – Debbie @ Saints 365
November 20 – Melissa @ Stories My Children Are Tired of Hearing
November 21 – Amanda @ In Earthen Vessels
November 22 – Daja and Kristina @ The Provision Room
November 23 – Emily @ Raising Barnes
November 24 – Annie @ Catholic Wife, Catholic Life
November 25 – Nell @ Whole Parenting Family
November 26 – Geena @ Love the Harringtons

November 15, 2015 10:31
By Rita Buettner

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