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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My boys love those sticky toys too! Sometimes it's the cheapest toys that are the most fun.

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Thank you for the comment! Yes, I was thinking of younger children when I wrote this. Older children might be better able to understand the challenges expectant parents can face. It's interesting to me that it's other adults who usually ask the "real parents" question, while the children in my life, at least, seem not to be asking that question, just as they don't ask whether our sons are "real brothers." But that might just be my limited experience.

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Open Window

Finding purpose in the wait of the Advent season


Here we are. Advent has begun. We've entered a time of preparation and prayer and waiting.

And there’s the challenge. I have no talent for waiting. I’m a deadline person, so knowing I have to have gifts wrapped and cards sent and decorations up before Dec. 25 is fine. I will get that done. I know how to scramble at the last minute to pull things together.

What is more challenging for me is leaning into this time, taking advantage of the opportunity to embrace these days and weeks to work on becoming the person I ought to be to greet the Christ Child.

That’s why Advent is just what I need.

Because the shopping and cards and mailing and decorating? I can do that in the last couple days before Christmas.

But the real reason for Advent? The hard work I have to do on myself before Christmas? That needs to start now. That undertaking requires a process, a growing, an evolving. And if I don’t start today, as we light that first candle on the wreath, I may not be ready to welcome the Infant Jesus into my heart on Christmas morning.




Oh, how I hate long processes. I respond much better to immediate urgency. Give me a fire to put out, not a garden to grow.

It’s one of the reasons the adoption process was so difficult for me. But I learned many valuable lessons through those waits on top of waits, as milestones came and went. Again and again I came to see that almost all of the process was outside my control—and that that was a good thing.

When we were adopting our first son, I knew we were ready. How could we not be ready? We had been waiting for years for a child. Why did it have to take so long? After we saw our son’s photo, I paced and struggled and even cried as the weeks dragged into months. I was so anxious to meet our son as soon as we could. In my mind, he was waiting for us in the same way that we were waiting for him.

Then we finally traveled to China, and our baby boy walked into our arms. And I realized how well-loved and well-cared-for he had been. I learned about the wonderful people who had been caring for him. I discovered that that time had been a positive one for him.

And I realized our little boy hadn’t been waiting for us. He had been growing and learning and becoming his sweet little self. That time had prepared him so that he would be more ready for us—and us so we would be more ready for him. Not that bonding was easy and without grief. That transition is always hard. But our little boy knew we were coming. He was old enough to understand that. And we met him at the right moment for him—and for our family.

There’s a value to the passage of time. Even in today’s world, not everything is instant. And sometimes time that feels like an obstacle is a gift.

So this Advent, I’m trying to take this journey one moment at a time. I’m trying to appreciate that time must pass, and that there’s a purpose and a joy to this journey of preparation.

The shopping I can start on Dec. 23. My successful Advent journey begins now. I hope you’ll join me.

How are you approaching Advent this year?

November 27, 2016 02:52
By Rita Buettner


7 Quick Takes Friday: Leftover thoughts on Thanksgiving, Christmas trains, visiting Santa, a November rose, and better-than-homemade meals

~1~

I think we were supposed to argue politics at Thanksgiving dinner, but the only dicey moment was when people disagreed on the benefits of butter.

I’m staying out of that one.

Earlier in the day, Daniel asked me, “How does Grandpa carve the turkey? Does he carve it out of a pumpkin?”

I brought my broccoli cheese dip and a tray of pepperoni, cheese, cucumbers, and olives.



The turkey, dressing, gravy, mashed potatoes, carrot-and-onion casserole, cranberry sauce, rutabaga, and sauerkraut were delicious. And the pumpkin pie was outstanding, as always.

After such an excellent Thanksgiving dinner, my 15-month-old niece walked into another room, found a plant, scooped out a handful of potting soil and ate it. Then after we had been home about 20 minutes, our boys started saying, “Mama, I’m hungry!”

But it was truly a fantastic dinner, the Thanksgiving dinner of my dreams. Except potting soil. I don’t think we’ll add that to the menu next year.

~2~

“Mama, guess what I’m thinking,” Daniel says to me one evening.

I guess wrong five times.

“I give up,” I say. “What are you thinking?”

“That I haven’t had dessert!”

“Hmm,” I said. “OK, guess what I’m thinking.”

“That you love me?”

This boy.

~3~

The day before Thanksgiving we went to the Shops at Kenilworth to see their train layout, which is impressive again this year.



There’s a beach scene and a football game and streets with so much to see. The boys especially like the fictional characters who are randomly inserted in the layout.



It’s a great test of my memory to be able to come up with names, and it’s interesting to me to see which characters we haven’t managed to introduce our children to—which is a large number.



Because of Netflix and DVDs, children don’t all watch Sesame Street anymore. It’s interesting to me that they seem to find a common vocabulary anyway.

~4~

While we were at Kenilworth, I announced we should go see Santa. There was no line, and each boy said he had one thing to ask Santa to bring. So we were set.

The boys went and sat next to Santa, and the photographer—the same fantastic man every year—told them to say, “Turkey.” My children decided to say it in their head. The photographer tried every possible way of getting them to say something aloud so they would smile, and these boys would not speak.

Luckily the situation was so funny it made all of us, including the children, laugh, and he got cute photos of them with Santa. I knew the pictures would be great because I had already ordered our Christmas cards.



When Leo and Daniel whispered their wishes into Santa’s ears, I am fairly sure I know what Daniel asked for, but I have no idea what Leo wanted, and he is not going to tell me. I can’t wait to see Santa come through!

~5~

Last Saturday morning Daniel woke me up to ask me to come see the shrine he had made in the corner of our dining room.



I was surprised and found myself wondering whether he was a secret reader of Rosie’s blog, where she had just offered tips on creating a prayer table for children

~6~

My parents’ rose bush is blooming. I’m not sure whether that usually happens at the end of November in Baltimore, but there it is, so I stopped to take a picture of a rose. Daniel decided to take a picture of the picture I was taking.



~7~

John’s parents came to visit us last weekend. John and I have been married 12 years (and two months today, if you are counting). During that time, I have often tried to create wonderful homemade meals for them.

But somewhere along the way I realized that not only do they enjoy meals that require much less effort, but that John’s mother really prefers it. She knows I work all week and that the children keep us busy. She really doesn’t like to feel that their visit requires extra work for me.

Sunday morning I said to Daniel, “What should we make for dinner for Grammy and Poppy?”

“Hot dogs,” he said.

Um, yeah, no. I went looking for Leo. “What should we make for dinner for Grammy and Poppy?” I asked.

He thought about it. “Well, Poppy likes hot dogs,” he said.

I mean…hot dogs?

After Mass, we drove to the store and split up to get groceries. And when I ran into John, he said, “Look! They have these great Pollock Johnny’s hot dogs here! My parents will love these! Can you find some rolls?”

I know when I am beaten. I made deviled eggs for an appetizer, hot dogs for dinner, and then we served a $6 store-made apple pie. Best dinner ever. Or close to it. Then we sent them home happy.



Read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum, and enjoy this wonderful holiday weekend!

November 25, 2016 09:09
By Rita Buettner


A Thanksgiving to Remember (and a Lesson in Gratitude)


It was just days before Thanksgiving. We had been waiting for months and months to find out when we would travel to bring our baby boy home from China.

We had been matched with him in early January, and he had turned 2 just weeks earlier—without us. I was starting to wonder whether we would even make it to China before Christmas.




At the office, I immersed myself in my work. But of course I checked my email from time to time, as I had for 11 months, to see if there were any updates from our adoption agency. And then suddenly there it was—an email with our travel itinerary for China.

We hadn’t even received our official travel approval from China. This was obviously a mistake.

Or was it? I called our agency.

Me: We received an email from you with travel dates, but we never received our travel approval.

Man at agency: Oh, no. I must have hit the wrong button. I'm sorry. That's my fault.

Me: So this e-mail is a mistake?

Agency: Yes, I'm sorry. I've been having trouble with the email system.

I was at a complete loss. For what felt like ages I couldn’t even speak.

Me: So. You'll let us know when our travel approval does arrive?

Agency: Of course. I'm sorry about that.

Me: Yes, for a minute there, I thought you had made my day.

Agency: And now I just destroyed it.

Me: Unfortunately, yes.

Agency: Wait a second. This is John and Rita?

Me (OK, he's just trying to show me he knows who we are): Yes.

Agency: Adopting from Hunan Province?

Me (thinking he's just torturing me now by reading from our file): Yes.

Agency: Born Nov. 10, 2007?

Me: Yes, yes, yes.

Agency: Then this is right. These are your travel dates. I must have sent the TA notification to the wrong address.

Me (stunned): So we are going to China?

Agency: Yes, you'll travel next week. I'm so sorry about...

Me: Stop apologizing. I need to go call my husband.

So after months and months of waiting for a child and after years and years of waiting to become parents, we spent our Thanksgiving packing for China.

That was seven years ago. And Thanksgiving has never been the same.

It isn’t because all my prayers were answered in time for that Thanksgiving—though many of them were. It is because I realized that I could feel tremendous gratitude even while still waiting, just embracing the hope and the promise of what lay ahead for us.

In a way, maybe that first Thanksgiving was like that. The pilgrims still had many questions and a long road ahead of them. They had also experienced losses and challenges along the way. But they knew this new land held great potential, and they were willing to embrace the difficulties and believe in all the future held.

It’s a reminder for me that gratitude doesn’t come just when your cup overflows. It comes when your cup is half-empty, or even empty but with the hope that one day it will be filled. Being thankful when the gifts are abundant is easy. Being thankful for the smaller gifts, or the ones you can’t quite see yet…well…that may be when we have to discover true gratitude, being grateful for what we have, what we don't have, and what we might have one day.

I don’t remember cooking that Thanksgiving. Maybe John and I opened a can of soup? It’s a blur. Instead, I remember filling suitcases, counting diapers, sorting little boy clothes for the 500th time, and imagining our son running through our living room.

And just a few weeks later, we were new parents holding our baby boy in our arms.


November 21, 2016 10:53
By Rita Buettner


7 Quick Takes: Perfect gifts for a 9-year-old boy, sticky hands on the ceiling, fun with toy trains, and holiday commercials

~1~

Christmas is coming, and unless you managed to find all your gifts on the 70-percent-off rack after Halloween, you might still have some shopping to do. I only found presents for two of my nieces in the Halloween clearance piles, so I will be shopping, too.

But we have just had a 9th birthday celebration here, and our son has been enjoying some of the best gifts! So I thought I’d let you know in case you have a 9-ish-year-old boy on your list this year.

Exploding Stix: These are like big popsicle sticks you intertwine together and then free so that they leap into the air. I found them at Five Below.
This Laser Maze: Leo can either play with this alone or with his brother. Parental involvement is optional. 



Sushi Go: We love sushi, and we love games. I have yet to win this, but the 9-year-old picked up the rules right away. 



Knex roller coaster: This looked impossible to build, but that’s why it was good I didn’t offer to help. I think this is the one we gave him. 



And, my general rule on gift giving is: When in doubt, give a stomp rocket.

~2~

Of course, with all these wonderful toys in the house, most of the time our boys have been playing with these stretchy, sticky, rubbery hands they throw all over the place.



We won them for buying wrapping paper in the school fundraiser, and we have had such a fantastic time with them. Maybe I can just give the boys a dozen for Christmas and call it a day.



It makes you wonder, who invented such a marvelous toy? Did that person make any money off of his invention? If I were willing to spend more time on Google, I might have an answer for you. But I am grateful to that person, whoever he is.

~3~

When we’re not throwing sticky hands at the ceiling, we’ve been working on books. The boys are drawing and writing and numbering pages. Then they staple or punch holes and put their pages in a binder. It’s quite a process, and I love it. Who doesn’t want to be an author?



The only hard part is cutting off the publishing process so we can actually complete the regular assigned homework. The freedom of the press is important, but it’s only free when the math worksheet is finished.

~4~

We stopped by my parents’ house the other day, and my father was tearing out some weeds and branches. He found a beautiful little nest and a plastic Easter egg with 40 cents in it. That could have been from as far back as Easter 2010.



He also had to remove his weeping cherry tree, the one we planted for my parents for their anniversary seven years ago. It had died, and the time had come to say goodbye. Back then we had named it George for George Washington, not imagining that my sister would marry a guy named George. Stranger things have happened.



We’re sorry to see George the Tree go. And I’ll be sorry to see this autumn end. It has been one of the loveliest I can remember.



~5~

Around here, trains aren’t just for Christmas. John set up a train in the basement for the boys, and they have enjoyed running it around the track.



Our boys no longer squeal with surprise over cement mixers on the highway, but I don’t think boys ever outgrow a love of vehicles—especially trains.

~6~

Every week our 6-year-old brings home a book from the school library. Last week it was the NBA Encyclopedia. I could not figure out why his backpack was so heavy until we opened it and I saw this huge book. He was so proud of himself.



I would love to tell you that I learned some interesting basketball facts, but I set the book aside and pointed him toward books I prefer to read at bedtime.

But it reminded me of my brother who used to sit and read the baseball encyclopedia.

~7~

Last night I made meatball subs. Sometimes the simplest dinners are the most popular, and this was definitely one of those nights.

But as I made my way to the end of my sub, Leo noticed that the end looked like it had a face.



I ate it anyway.

~Bonus Take~

I don't really watch TV, but this time of year I start enjoying seeing holiday commercials online.

This one for Amazon Prime is so beautifully put together, even without a single spoken word. 

This one from McCormick isn’t really an ad, but a story. And who doesn't love a story?

It made me think of family recipes that are important to me. I might share a few as we count down to Christmas. What families recipes do you have that you make around the holidays?

Have a wonderful weekend, and find more quick takes on Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum.

November 17, 2016 10:46
By Rita Buettner


How to teach your non-adopted child about adoption


One sunny afternoon I walked our boys to the playground. They started climbing a jungle gym with two children they didn’t know, and they fell easily into conversation.

“Are you Chinese?” the older child—a girl—asked them. The conversation jumped to adoption, how families are formed, and on and on and on. Our sons fielded the questions, but they left a few for me to handle when they were tired of the conversation and ran off to play elsewhere.

It occurred to me yet again how important it is for my husband and me to prepare our children to answer these questions themselves—especially when they are direct and come from a peer. I can brush off questions from strangers (though it's not my natural inclination, unless they make our children uncomfortable), but I still need to teach our children that it’s OK to decide whether they want to answer questions from their peers. The truth is, though, that the most difficult questions often come from people who are closest to us because you want to be honest, but not always open.



November is National Adoption Month, and I was thinking, how do parents of children who are not adopted explain adoption to their children? Here are a few pieces of information that might be helpful for those conversations.

  • Some children are raised by the parents who give birth to them, and some children are adopted into their families. Every family is different, but—no matter how they are created—all families are families.
  • Adoption lasts forever. When children are adopted, their parents are promising to love and raise them for the rest of their lives.
  • When parents give birth to a child, sometimes they are not able to raise that child, so they choose adoption. That would be a very big and difficult decision—and one made with love for the child.
  • Not everyone who has been adopted wants to talk about it—or maybe sometimes and not other times. Like with other personal topics, it might be best to wait for your friend to bring it up—and then understand if your friend doesn’t want to tell you everything.
  • A child who is adopted from another country as an infant or young child probably doesn’t speak the language of that country now.
  • The parents of an adopted child love that child so, so much—the same way you love your child.
What questions do you or your children have about adoption?


You might also enjoy:

Why did we decide to adopt?

Starting the adoption journey

Just a moment

Celebrating adoption: the day you meet your child for the first time

November 13, 2016 09:59
By Rita Buettner


7 Quick Takes Friday: Someone turned 9, that elusive extra hour, enjoying autumn, dirty dishes, and more

~1~

We have a brand-new 9-year-old in the house! I can’t believe Leo is 9. It really is astounding. And yet when I look at him, I can see how mature he is in so many ways. I wonder whether I will love 9 as much as I have loved 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. I suspect I will.



We celebrated with laser tag and dinner out at P.F. Chang’s and donuts for school and a pile of gifts and a decorate-your-own ice cream cake.


The night before his birthday, Leo said, “I can’t wait to open my gifts in the morning so I can see which Pokemon cards you got me.”

“Oh,” I said. “Well, we didn’t get you any Pokemon cards, so maybe we will pick some up after school tomorrow.”

“That’s all right,” he said. “I know you’re giving me Rush Hour.”

And yet somehow I had failed there, too. I knew he wanted this game called Rush Hour, but we found other things that seemed like so much fun that I thought we would wait and give Rush Hour for Christmas.

It turned out to be fine—and more than fine. Leo loved all the gifts, and we did go pick up some Pokemon cards after school. And the celebrations will continue through the weekend.


One day when our children are grown up, someone might ask, “What was important to your mother?” And my boys will say, “She didn’t seem to know we owned a vacuum, and she was never on time for anything, but she made sure we always celebrated birthdays.”

~2~

The time change happened almost a week ago, and I am still struggling to stay awake at night. Nighttime is my write-time, and I cannot keep my eyes open after our children are in bed.

Every morning as we are getting ready, Daniel, who is 6, says, “Is this the extra hour?”

And at night when I start getting insistent that we must go to bed, he says, “But there’s an extra hour!”

This elusive extra hour—where did it go, and why do I never seem to be able to find it? And why doesn’t it happen every day?

~3~

I didn’t realize I loved fall as much as I am loving it this year.


The trees have been gorgeous, and we have enjoyed some lovely days. Last weekend I took Daniel to a park to ride his bicycle, and we wandered around, just enjoying the weather…and catching a few Pokemon.



I’ll be sorry to see fall end and have winter begin. But I have a feeling our children are already looking forward to their first snow day.



~4~

Last weekend I noticed an unusual bump on my leg, so I went to the dermatologist, who sent me for an ultrasound. As I was walking into the office to have it done, I couldn’t help thinking that here I was going to my first ultrasound and it was of my leg. Sometimes life is weird. And I was a little worried I would walk into a sea of glowing, expectant mothers. I wasn’t sure I was in the right frame of mind, especially when I glanced at the form and saw the phrase “…or possible malignancy.” Wait, what?

Then I got into the waiting room and saw the other people waiting. There were no expectant mothers. But there were many worried faces and a man using an oxygen tank. They seemed to have far bigger questions and more serious concerns than mine. I was reminded how fortunate I am.

Oh, and the bump is something simple and not worrisome, and everything will be fine. But if you haven’t been to your dermatologist lately, I encourage you to go.



~5~

On Monday morning I put on a suit with an actual skirt, so our children asked why I was dressed up. I told them I was working late that night to go to the Business Leader of the Year event that our university holds every year.

“Mama,” Leo said—and I could tell he was excited, “could you win?”

I looked into his eyes and thought how amazing it was that with one question he could manage to make me feel so, so important—my son thinks I could win that type of prize?—and yet also manage to make me feel so humble. Because of course I could not win. The winner had already been selected, and I was just going as an employee.



But it turned out to be a terrific evening, as it always is. I had the chance to meet some fascinating people and connect with colleagues I don’t see often enough. When I came home later that night, after an amazing event, I crept into the boys’ bedroom to make sure they were sleeping soundly. And, as I watched them sleeping, I couldn’t help but feel that I had won.

~6~

The other night I made dinner. When it was time to put it on the table, I pulled some dishes out of the dishwasher, filled them with the food, and called people to the table. But just as they were arriving, something made me stop. I realized the dishes looked a little dirty. No, wait. They looked more than a little dirty.

I had forgotten to run the dishwasher, and I had just put freshly made food into dirty dishes.

Sigh.

So I threw everything away and started all over again.

Somehow the second dinner turned out really well, and because it was so late that night, the boys ate and ate and ate. And I’m grateful I noticed that the dishes were dirty before anyone started eating. So there’s a half-full glass here, I’m sure.

~7~

So today I was sitting in a Subway in Baltimore, watching my son inhale a BMT. A young man walked past on his cell phone saying, "And we're going to Uber to D.C. because there is so much more to see there." What is the appropriate response? Because I am pretty sure I failed my city by not interrupting him and directing him to all the best spots in Baltimore.

~Bonus Take~


Read more quick takes on Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum, and have a great weekend!

November 11, 2016 07:40
By Rita Buettner


A few lessons to take away from this election season


This presidential election season hasn’t been much fun. It’s a tense time for our country, with many significant issues at stake, and some of the ones that matter the most aren’t even being discussed.

As I follow many conversations about the candidates happening online, and even in person, I find myself wondering what it says to our children that many of the grown-ups who are voting in this election can’t engage in more civil, constructive, positive discourse.

It’s healthy for us to have different perspectives and opinions. It's also healthy to share them. But as I watch the hostile exchanges among people I assume are well-intentioned, passionate, and proud to be Americans, I realize there are other lessons we could learn. They are lessons I have been trying to share with our children—and lessons I am trying to keep in mind myself.




First, a presidential election is important, but it’s not so important that we need to be afraid of the outcome. God is bigger than any problem or situation we encounter. This is a perfect time for us to pray, as we ask God to help us select good leaders for our nation who will make the right decisions, lead with compassion and honesty, and protect those who have no voice. When we get anxious about the election, our fear often leads to anger, and anger divides us. Division does not make us a stronger, more peaceful country, and it does not help draw us closer to Christ.

Second, the next president might not be the person we are hoping will win. So although we can absolutely explain to people why we are choosing one candidate over the other, we should speak with respect and realize that there is a chance our candidate will lose. There is an art to winning and losing gracefully, and it’s an art many of us—myself included—are still learning.

Third, if we find ourselves discussing the election with friends or even strangers, we should try to listen—and keep in mind the person we are talking to is as likely to change opinions as we are. Maybe we’ll find we have more in common with one another than we think. But we might also both realize that the conversation was a mistake and change the subject or walk away.

In a worst-case scenario, smile, move on, and think of what St. Augustine said: “The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself.”

As I have been speaking with our children, trying to prepare them for the conversations I imagine they are having on the school playground this election season, I have tried to remind them that no person is perfect—not the people discussing politics or the people running for president or the mother who is trying to give them tools and advice to understand the presidential election. We just can’t expect people to be perfect.

We know, they say. Only God is perfect.

And they’re right, of course.

This election season, I’m especially grateful that He’s got the whole world in His hands.


Also: My friend and fellow Catholic Review blogger Julie Walsh is offering a prayer for our country.

November 07, 2016 11:03
By Rita Buettner


7 Quick Takes Friday: Now that the blogging challenge is over, Halloween, our little saint on All Saints Day, and looking ahead to Thanksgiving


~1~

After blogging every day during October, you might think I would have loads of free time. I should at least have taken up crocheting or screen painting—or caught up on some sleep. Sadly, no.

I really enjoyed the daily blogging challenge, and I would definitely do it again. I loved that I started every day without a concrete topic, and then I had to discover it during the day. I don’t think I was blogging alone. I really felt that St. Therese was prodding me from time to time, and I started seeing God’s hand in ways I don’t always.



So it was a wonderful experience for me—and I hope for you. But I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t blog every day in November.

~2~

Halloween was the loveliest fall evening, not so chilly that we had to insist on jackets over the costumes—an appalling idea that only unimaginative grownups who worry about pneumonia would ever insist on.

Our boys were Endermen from Minecraft, which meant they dressed like this.



So trick-or-treating was a breeze except for those clunky boxes on their heads. So they had no peripheral vision and maybe not much regular vision. Daniel ditched it after posing on our front porch, so I came back and left it in the trunk of our car after the first few houses.



Leo wore his longer, but I finally insisted that he let us carry it because of all the steps and crooked sidewalks. Candy is important, but avoiding an ER visit on Halloween night is also nice.

Our Endermen decided they were ninjas instead, running around in their black suits. They were almost impossible to see in the dark.



At one house, the woman who answered the door said, “What are you dressed as?” and Daniel said, “We’re Endermen, but we lost our heads.”

“Well,” she said, “you look like you have heads to me!”

Which they do. They also have lots of candy—enough to last at least until St. Nicholas Day.

~3~

Do you let your children play with their food? Our boys love to make up imaginary games where the vegetables are the bad guys and the noodles are fences or weapons and sometimes the pieces of meat are the good guys.

If we are having a family dinner, we don’t let them play games, but when they are eating breakfast and John and I are rushing around getting things ready for the day, anything goes. And their games get quite creative.

Last night the boys beat us to the dinner table, and when I walked over, I realized they had built a lasagna bridge.



~4~

Daniel and his classmates dressed as saints for the All Saints Day Mass at school, and he wanted to be St. Michael.

We borrowed a tunic, a cape, and some armor from a friend, and I ordered a pair of wings. They were out of stock, so I ordered another pair, which came. I packed everything up and sent it to school for him to change into just before Mass.

When I spotted him before Mass, he looked so handsome, but he was not wearing the wings.



See? Here's the back.

I didn’t want to say, “Where are your wings?” because I didn’t want him to decide he couldn’t go marching in with the other saints without wings. So I just smiled, took his picture, and sent him on his way. But at the end of the day, I asked casually what happened to his wings.

“I didn’t want to wear them,” he said.

Huh. Well, who am I to argue with an archangel? Especially an archangel who gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai.

~5~



Do you have your Thanksgiving turkey yet? I spotted this one at Dunkin Donuts, and I was really tempted—but I’m more in the mood for pumpkin pie.

~6~

I did, however, pick up these placemats for the children—and grownups—to color at Thanksgiving. I cannot figure out why we didn’t have things like that when I was a child, groaning inside as the adults talked about boring things like 401Ks.



Oh, and I still prefer Thanksgiving word searches to conversations about 401Ks.

~7~

November is National Adoption Month, so I may write about adoption over the next few weeks. If you have a topic or a question you’d like me to explore, please send it along. 

Here's one to tide you over, "Why did we decide to adopt?"

As it turns out, my mother's favorite blog post ever was also written in November, and it's about the bridesmaid dress I wore for my sister Treasa's wedding.

Read more quick takes on Kelly's blog, This Ain't the Lyceum.

November 03, 2016 11:07
By Rita Buettner


Remembering Georgie on All Souls Day


All Souls Day used to be about all souls—not anyone in particular.

Then three years ago our nephew’s heart stopped beating on Halloween, just a few weeks before he was due to be born. We spent All Saints Day waiting, praying, grieving. Then on All Souls Day Georgie was born, and I drove to the hospital to hold him.

I wasn’t really holding Georgie himself, of course. His soul was in heaven, but his body was here on earth. And, as difficult as it was, I was so honored to be with my sister and brother-in-law, to have the chance to spend time with them, to celebrate Georgie and marvel at his perfectly beautiful little face, the gift of having him in our lives, even though we wanted it to be different.



That was three years ago. Today All Souls Day is still about Georgie. We love him. We miss him. We talk to him. He really feels like our very personal, special friend in heaven.

I watch our children together and imagine Georgie chasing them and being chased, laughing at their silliness, looking up to his boy cousins who can do so many amazing things. I have no doubt that Georgie watches them play, laughing and looking forward to meeting them one day. And I know he loves them, just as we love him.

As we were reading a few saint stories together, our boys started asking about miracles. How could we ask someone we think is in heaven for a miracle? How does the Pope decide who is an official saint? Does a miracle have to be a miracle-miracle, where there was no hope at all, or could there be a tiny, tiny bit of hope? Would it still be a miracle?

Then we started talking about Georgie. We know he’s a saint because we know he’s in heaven. But we know he’s not a saint we’ll find in a book. And I explained, as I have many times, that we can ask him to talk to Jesus for us—just as we ask Jesus to give Georgie a hug and a kiss from us.

Jesus and Georgie are together there, and we are together here.

Somehow, although Georgie feels far away, he also helps make heaven feel closer and more real. Maybe that’s what all souls do—make you aspire to join them in heaven one day, and help you feel that heaven isn’t quite that far away.

Today I imagine at least one person in particular is on your mind and heart. I hope All Souls Day brings you comfort, peace, and hope.



More about Georgie:

Missing Baby Georgie

A Visit to the Cemetery

Why We Visit the Cemetery

"You Owe Me a Soda"

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

A Book to Remember Baby Georgie

November 01, 2016 11:10
By Rita Buettner


31 Days of the Little Way: Double the Birthday Party Fun


Our first grader had two birthday parties to attend in the same day. We could have said no to either or both, but our little guy loves spending time with his friends.

I was fairly sure we could make it happen, but I was a little anxious about the time that would be involved. So I planned our day carefully. If all went well, I could take him to one party, then go to Mass, and take him home to change into costume in time for the second party. Then we would get home with about 20 minutes to spare before I had to leave for another obligation in the evening.

That was all doable, but I couldn’t figure out how I would fit in the weekly grocery run. But sometimes you just jump into the day and hope for the best.

Well, that’s most days, really.

Then, as the birthday girl’s mom greeted me at the first party, she said, “You’re welcome to drop off and come back at the end.” What's that? Leave and come back?

I hadn’t even considered running an errand during the party. But as I looked at the children sitting happily and calmly at a table, coloring Halloween ornaments and waiting to decorate pumpkins and make pizza, I realized this might be my only chance.

I had two hours to run to the store, take the groceries home, and come back. If I didn’t waste time, I should be able to pull that off.

So I told Daniel I was leaving, promised not to have fun without him, and headed out. And the stars were aligned perfectly. I sailed through the store. For the first time ever I found the chocolate soy milk boxes I needed on the shelves, and I almost gave the cashier a hug to thank her.



“If you ever want something and don’t see it, tell customer service,” she said. “We can’t read your mind!” It’s true. But somehow they had read my mind, and there were the cases of the coveted soy milk boxes we cannot live without, saving me another trip.

I made it home, filled the fridge, and headed back to the party to pick up Daniel.

He was happy, well-fed, and eager to tell me how much fun he had had.

Then, the mother hosting the second party also encouraged me to drop off, which meant I enjoyed a spur-of-the-moment afternoon chicken-noodle-soup-at-Panera date with my older son.

So the parties I thought were going to require four or five hours of our day ended up giving me that time back, a beautiful gift in a busy weekend. At bedtime our little boy fell asleep, happy and exhausted, his extroverted self completely satisfied from all the time with his friends.



When I look back, I realize I did over-schedule myself. I did not leave enough time to accomplish everything I thought I might. But God offered these windows where I could choose to take the time and focus on other things—like making sure we will have food to eat this week and giving me some one-on-one time with Leo.

There’s holiness to the busy days, even when you feel stretched thin. But I have to admit, as I skipped happily into the grocery store without a child or two to help me, I felt a little bit giddy. There really is nothing like the gift of time.



~About This Series~

“The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm,” said St. Therese of Lisieux. “If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.”

During the month of October, I am blogging every day and inviting you to look for the little violets along the way. Together, let’s marvel at their beauty, small but significant, and yet one more sign of God’s love for us, for all of creation. Let’s see ourselves in that violet, knowing that not everyone can be a rose or a lily—but everyone can bring some beauty, some kindness, some good to the world. Read other posts in my 31 Days of the Little Way here.

If you'd like to see what I'm posting every day during October, please join me on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram!

October 30, 2016 11:40
By Rita Buettner

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