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


March 2015
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Yes, that makes sense, Ethel. I do worry about the people they could encounter in the restroom. Thank you for responding!


I would let them go in at 6 or 7 but stand at the door. When you actually let them go in alone without being close by depends on their size and awareness of how to react in situations. Sorry if I seem over-protective but there are a lot of pedophiles around.



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At what age do you let a child use a public restroom alone?

This afternoon Leo and I dropped Daniel and Baba off at the B&O Railroad Museum and went grocery shopping.

We weren't in a hurry because we wanted the other half of our family to enjoy their train time. And the store was unfamiliar, so we had to hunt for things we can usually find, like mushrooms.

When we finally got in line, we had been shopping for a while. And it was there, as we inched our way toward the registers, that Leo announced he had to visit the bathroom.

It made sense. We had been running around for hours without stopping. But we were in a grocery store line on a Sunday afternoon.

I glanced at the trail of people behind me and the loaded carts ahead of me.

Then I started scanning the store for the restrooms. And I realized they were just beyond the checkouts.

“The bathroom is right over there,” I told Leo. “Can you go by yourself?”

He nodded. I pointed him to the restroom. I watched him find the door and go through.

Then I started worrying. What if there was some issue? What if he encountered someone...problematic? What are men’s bathrooms even like? And one in a grocery store? Ack.

“Do you want to go with him?” the woman in front of me in line asked. “I’ll watch your cart.”

“Oh, thank you, but I think he’ll be OK,” I told her.

The truth is that we have done this before, but I usually stand right outside the door. I don’t like it even then, but I don’t know what else to do. I really think he’s too old to be going to the women’s bathroom with his mother. Sometimes I take him with me, but more often I have been encouraging him to go on his own. And he wants to use the men’s bathroom.

But grocery store bathrooms? Ick. And that’s even before I start thinking about the people he might encounter while he’s inside.

While I worried, my new friend and I talked. Her son is 4 ½, and she dreads the day when she will be in my shoes. I understand that. Daniel is 5, and I can’t imagine the day he will use the bathroom himself.

Besides, it’s hard to let our children take on more responsibility—and society seems to encourage us not to let our children do much on their own. I trust Leo absolutely. He goes to the bathroom alone at school, of course. My worry is not the situation itself, but the people he might encounter while he’s there—well out of my sight, and out of everyone else’s sight. That is my fear.

The minutes were ticking by, and Leo still hadn’t returned. My worry level was increasing.

“I think I’ll just go check on him,” I said. Of course, the last thing I wanted to do was stick my head in the men’s restroom, but—as we all know—a mother would walk across flaming Lego pieces to make sure her child is safe.

Fortunately, as I left my cart and started toward the restrooms, I saw Leo coming out.

He was perfectly fine. His experience had been much less eventful, and certainly less nerve-wracking, than mine.

Still, as John and I were talking about it later, I realized he was surprised I had started sending Leo into restrooms alone. He hadn’t thought about the fact that Leo might be too old to go into women’s restrooms. And he has legitimate concerns—as do I. Then I started thinking about the challenges fathers of daughters must face in similar situations.

So, I’m really curious. What do you do? At what age would you, or do you, let your children use public restrooms alone? And are you upset when parents bring older children of the opposite gender into the restroom?

March 29, 2015 11:02
By Rita Buettner

7 Quick Takes Friday: Lent is coming to an end, ordering soup for kids, a happy monster truck, how God connects the dots in our lives, grocery shopping with children, getting a haircut without them, and more


Has this been a long Lent? I think if the weather were warmer and sunnier, I would believe that Easter is coming, but I'm still not sure. So we have another meatless Friday today. What will you do for dinner tonight?

If we were eating at home, Daniel would want to make tuna melts again. He assembled this one last week and he was so proud.

He loves tuna as much as his mama does—maybe even more.

As it is, we are going to be at an event tonight eating cheese pizza. Last Friday we were at our parish’s Lenten soup night again, where we have the best time and the yummiest soup. I can’t believe I have another night off from cooking.


Often when we eat out—not at church dinners, but in restaurants—we order soup for our boys. Our children love soup. And it’s often cheaper to get a cup of soup for a child than to pay $6-$8 for a kid’s meal.

When we went out to lunch last weekend, we ordered Maryland crab soup for Leo. It arrived with whole crab claws in it.

Some children might have balked. He was thrilled.

Just because we don’t always order a kid’s meal doesn’t mean we don’t love the kids’ menus. Lately we have been playing I Spy or Hangman while we wait for the food to arrive. What games do you play in restaurants?


Daniel drew this picture this week. Have you ever seen a monster truck who looked this happy?

That is how happy I looked when his teacher told me that when they asked for words that start with "O," Daniel said, "Old Bay." He may have been born on the other side of the world, but he is a Baltimore boy.


Last week we celebrated Maryland Day at Loyola University Maryland, where I work, and I went to the campus Mass. Going to Mass as part of my job is so wonderful for so many reasons.

During Mass it suddenly hit me that I was praying in the same chapel where I was baptized as an infant. Certainly when my parents chose Loyola’s chapel as the site of my baptism, they weren’t thinking that I would ever have any lasting connection with Loyola.

It struck me, as it does so often, how amazing it is to see how God connects the dots in our lives.


Last weekend both of our boys wanted to come grocery shopping with me, so the three of us went to Wegmans.

It’s an enormous, wonderful store, and the boys sampled blood orange juice—which made them giggle—and guacamole and some kind of turkey wrap and Clementines and who knows what else.

At one point, as we stopped to look at the train that runs just below part of the ceiling, Leo said to me, “Mama, we need more free samples to keep up our strength.”

We had a race car cart, and that made it all that much better. But by the time we were headed to the checkout line, I was ready to leave. We were having so much fun that the boys were getting a bit giddy.

When the cashier said to me, “Do you need help getting out to your car?” I said, “Do you mean with my children or my groceries?”

She smiled and offered to call to have someone help with the groceries. I accepted. And a man appeared out of nowhere and loaded all my groceries for me. Then he met me outside and put them in my car.

So it was a successful trip. But next time I might need more free samples to keep up my strength.


Baltimore friends: The Smith College Book Sale is happening this weekend at the Timonium Fairgrounds. I’m not sure I’ll get there this year—or where I would put the books I’d buy if I went. But you should go! 

Also, next Wednesday, April 1, is Lunch with the Elephants at Baltimore’s Lexington Market. I have always wanted to take our boys to this. I don’t think I’ll pull it off this year either, but maybe you will!


For months I have wanted to get my hair cut. It’s not the kind of thing I can do while I’m out with one or both of our boys, so somehow it never happens. But I went on Saturday and asked the stylist to chop a bunch off. And she did.

I took before and after photos, and you can tell how much I love taking selfies without a cute little boy next to me.

When I came home, I said to Daniel, “I got my hair cut.”

He looked at me carefully and said, “Mama, you do not look beautiful.”

“Oh,” I said, managing not to laugh. “OK.”

There’s nothing like an honest evaluation.

“Mama,” he said, “next time you go to get your hair cut, tell the people to put more hair on.”

It’s not every day you get personal beauty tips from a 5-year-old.

Read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog.

March 26, 2015 11:17
By Rita Buettner

Of the Mixed-up Lunches of the Buettner Family

This morning I got up, heated chicken noodle soup, and filled two thermoses.

I sliced and skinned apples. I filled lunch containers with blueberries (for Daniel) and turkey pepperoni (for Leo) and edamame. I added a pickle for Leo and some cold mac and cheese for Daniel.

Our boys never take the same lunch, and that’s fine. They are both great eaters, and their lunches are always a little different.

A different lunch from a different day

Leo takes a morning snack and two boxed drinks. Daniel doesn’t need those. And, of course, they have completely different tastes in desserts.

I put the food carefully into their lunchboxes—with a cold pack for Leo since his lunch is not refrigerated at school. Then I put the lunches in their backpacks.

I had just dropped Leo off at school when my phone rang.

It was my husband. While dropping Daniel off, he realized Daniel had Leo’s lunch in his backpack. Leo must have Daniel’s. It would take me more than an hour to sort it out, and I didn’t have an hour. My day had begun—and there was no changing anything now.

“They’ll just have to eat each other’s food,” I said. At least they both have chicken noodle soup, I thought. And hey, it’s Lent.

I wondered what I would find when I went to pick them up. Would they be grumpy and complaining? Would they be upset?

Naturally, they were fine. Children are much more resilient than their parents are. They were both happy to point out and discuss my error, but no one was starving.

As it turned out, Leo had ended up with both thermoses of soup. He thought that was funny—and ate them both.

Daniel—guzzling his brother’s juice box in the back seat on the way home—seemed content.

“So I made a mistake,” I said. “Even mothers make mistakes sometimes.”

“This was a big mistake,” Leo said.

It was time to change the subject. “I wonder who we can think of in the Bible who made a mistake,” I said, mostly thinking aloud.

“Well, there was Judas,” Leo said.

“I’m not sure I would call what Judas did a mistake,” I said, “but that was a very bad decision.”

Daniel spoke up. “Did Judas go to heaven?”

“We don’t know,” I said. “We are pretty sure he was sorry, but we don’t know where he is now. I guess we’ll find out when we get to heaven.”

Ah, heaven. A place where there is only joy—and where you never get stuck with your brother’s bunny-shaped fruit snacks.

For now, at least I have another chance to get it right tomorrow.

March 25, 2015 09:47
By Rita Buettner

Embrace the Ordinary: A family walk to the playground (in fast shoes)

We bought new shoes for the boys last week. When the shoe salesman asked Daniel what kind of shoes he wanted, Daniel said he wanted fast shoes.

Today we decided to give those shoes a test run. After being snowed and iced in for so much of the winter, we were ready to get outside.

So we set out for a walk through the neighborhood. Our destination? A playground, of course.

But half the fun is getting there. You get to see so much along the way.

Sometimes you decide you just can’t go any farther.

Then you jump up and sprint off into the distance, pretending you can’t hear your parents calling for you.

We finally made it to the playground.

They ran and jumped and climbed.

They found sticks that looked like weapons.

Then they started acting out a scene from The Longest Day, a scene my husband tells me is the British commando raid on the Pegasus Bridge.

They found spiky balls that had fallen from a tree and decided they were grenades, the perfect thing to toss around the playground.

Daniel would yell, “Hold until believed!”—which John tells me should be “Hold until relieved.”

Leo, who is not as interested in military history as his 5-year-old brother is, happily played along, calling Daniel “Commander.”

Luckily no one else was playing on the playground equipment. It might have been hard to explain what was happening.

As the sun faded from the sky, we started for home. Our boys walked together, side by side, brothers through and through. And I found myself thinking about how four years ago John and I first saw Daniel’s photo and received the opportunity to say yes and become his forever family.

It’s almost impossible to remember a day when this little guy wasn’t in our family. And it’s even harder to imagine Leo without his little brother.

As we walked, we passed yards of brown grass—grass that will turn green soon enough. I looked at the buds on the trees, just waiting to bloom. Spring is coming, and there will be many more walks to the playground.

I can’t wait. But I think I’d better get a pair of those fast shoes.

Joining Amy at Motherhood and Miscellany as we Embrace the Ordinary. How are you embracing the ordinary in your life?

March 21, 2015 10:55
By Rita Buettner

7 Quick Takes Friday: Meatless dinner ideas, say it ain’t snow, a Pi Day pie competition, homemade Shamrock shakes, and other fun


Looking for dinner ideas for this Lenten Friday? Check out this post, which has nearly 50 recipes linked up to it!

If there isn’t something on there that sounds good, maybe you aren’t hungry enough to think about dinner. Give it an hour and come back. Or maybe it should be a pizza delivery night at your place.


Last night when we were talking about the snow that was expected today, Daniel told me he didn’t want snow. “Now we won’t be able to go to the beach!”

After I reassured him that snow will not stand in the way of our beach vacation, which is months away, he decided maybe he wanted it to snow. At bedtime he and his brother were bouncing around their bedroom. I went in to lay down the law. Time to sleep. Now.

“But I can’t sleep, Mama,” Daniel said. “It’s Christmas Eve!”

One day I may win an argument with him, but it won't be any time soon.

Update: It snowed! I've been saying that I want spring to come, but somehow I thought it would look a little different. But Daniel tells me it's beautiful. And he's right.


We baked an apple pie for Pi Day! I even had some help rolling out the crust.

Even though the boys told me we should make an “air pie,” because Leo says the crust is better than the filling, I sliced up apples, threw them inside, and we filled the house with that irresistible apple pie scent.

I was excited because when the pie came out of the oven, the juice from the apples had made a shape almost like pi on the crust. I used a knife to spread one leg of the pi a bit, but it was mostly there.

I'm not calling it a Pi Day miracle, but that is still fun, right?


I felt so proud of myself for making a Pi Day pie. Then my sister Treasa sent me a photo of her pie.

She and her husband have a 5-month-old infant and still managed to create this pie, which they ate at the most mathematically appropriate moment of the evening.

Little sisters. They have this way of upstaging you. But you have to love them, of course. I mean, how can you resent someone who is so creative and bakes homemade pie?

Hers was also an apple pie. Both pies were delicious, but very different. I can’t write an objective comparison, so you’ll have to ask my mother or brother-in-law for their evaluations.

But if you’re paying attention, you can see that the one mathematical constant in all of this is that my sister Treasa rocks.


It's a well-known fact that while you might be able to lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas and Easter, you can’t over-celebrate Chinese New Year or St. Patrick’s Day. So we had two St. Patrick’s Day parties, one with corned beef and cabbage and one with lamb stew. Both, of course, featured Irish soda bread and Irish music.

I put together a shamrock-shaped veggie tray.

My sister, who may have upstaged me yet again, made homemade Shamrock shakes. They were a little different from the ones you find under the “yellow M” as Leo used to call it when he was a toddler. They weren’t green, and they were more refreshing. And I didn't feel as if I'd never be able to eat again afterward.

Here is the recipe Treasa used while I held my little niece.

Homemade Shamrock shakes

2 cups vanilla ice cream

1 cup milk

1/4 - 1/2 tsp peppermint extract

Throw all ingredients in blender. Make sure your 5-month-old daughter who hates loud noises is out of the room. Blend until milkshake-like consistency. Top with whipped cream if you want. Drink.



Yesterday morning I really wanted to go to Mass for St. Joseph's Day. I was worried, though, because there was some technical glitch, and my work emails weren't coming through. We had a pressing project at work, and I didn't know what to do. Could I afford to be a little late for work? I was leaning toward just missing Mass and going to the office when my colleague sent me this text.

Suddenly I found that my work emails had started coming through and everything was under control. A half-hour at Mass would make a world of difference in how I approached the day and my colleagues wouldn't miss me. I'm so very happy I went. And I'm happy to work where I do.


They say Transformers are more than meets the eye. That must explain why our Optimus Prime was wearing a few different hats this week.

Read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog. Have a wonderful weekend! Happy Spring! If we say it, maybe it will come true!

March 19, 2015 11:32
By Rita Buettner

Giving God a hug

Daniel was sitting at the kitchen table snacking while I cooked dinner.

“Mama,” he said, and I could tell a question was coming. “Any time I give you a hug am I giving God a hug too?"

I hesitated, but just for a moment. I glanced at our little boy, his bare feet dangling toward the floor as he placed his Goldfish in patterns on the table.

“Yes,” I said. “Any time you show love to anyone you are showing love to God.”

Daniel looked up at me and smiled. And, as I boiled water and chopped vegetables, I realized how touched I was by our son’s words.

What if more of us longed to hug God?

What if more of us realized that God was in each person we encounter?

What if more of us tried to connect with God by spreading joy and love to those around us?

How much richer could my Lenten journey be if I chose a simple road map to faith—and clung to these concepts that come so naturally to our 5-year-old?

Naturally this Lent I want to challenge myself in many ways—and I should. And I am having a good Lenten journey. But maybe, just maybe, I should simplify my approach. Maybe I should ask myself more often how I can live out God’s love—especially in my own home and family.

And I have to remind myself again and again that although we are teaching our children about our faith, they are also teaching us.

In the moment, as I worked on putting dinner on the table, I knew the simplest way to answer Daniel's question—and to show love to God.

I put down my spoon, stepped away from the stove, and leaned down and gave him a hug.

“Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
(Matthew 25:40)

March 18, 2015 11:07
By Rita Buettner

7 meatless meal ideas for Fridays during Lent—or any day (a linkup)

Cooking isn't nearly as difficult as deciding what to cook. Somehow, maybe because they come at the end of a long week, meatless Fridays often throw me for a loop. So when Beth Anne at Beth Anne’s Best invited me to share some meatless recipe ideas, I was excited to put together a few of our favorites—and find a few that I'd like to try.

So, in no particular order, here are seven recipes, some I have tried, some I created, and some that come highly recommended.

Old Bay-and-Panko-Encrusted Tilapia

Last Friday I cooked Old-Bay-and panko-encrusted tilapia. I used frozen tilapia, which I almost always have on hand, dipped it in egg and then an Old Bay and panko mixture, and baked it for 12 minutes at 375. Then I pulled it out and threw it in a pan on the stovetop with some olive oil and cooked it until it was crispy and cooked through. It was easy, quick, and delicious. Our boys also love salmon, which is wonderful since it is so easy to bake in the oven.

Sundried Tomato Mozzarella Quinoa Burgers

A friend recommended these, and they sound so good! She serves them as a sandwich with hummus or guacamole. Here is the recipe.

Pasta al Cavolfiore

My mother started exploring vegetarian cooking when we were growing up, and this quickly became a family favorite. Here is the recipe.

Shrimp (or Tuna) and Pasta Sauté

Cook pasta according to directions on the box. Set aside.
Over medium heat sauté in a generous amount of olive oil one chopped onion and whatever dried herbs you like—I love rosemary, but I have also made it with parsley and Old Bay.
Add garlic and ground black pepper and sauté briefly.
Add vegetables of your choice (frozen veggies are fine) and peeled shrimp. You can also use canned tuna or salmon in lieu of the shrimp.
When the shrimp is cooked through, add the cooked pasta and stir.
Remove from heat and stir in grated Parmesan cheese to taste. I tend to be overly generous with Parmesan cheese.

A friend recommended these, and I am really excited to try them with our boys. Our friend makes them with mushrooms instead of shrimp because her daughter is not a shrimp lover, and she says they are delicious. Here is the recipe.

Vegetable Lasagna

Sauce: 4 medium carrots diced and peeled
             2 medium onions chopped
             1/2 lb. broccoli chopped
             2 cloves garlic, minced
             4 tbsp. olive oil
             1 16 oz. can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
             1 tsp. oregano
             1 tsp. basil
             1/2 tsp. thyme
             1/2 tsp. pepper
             1 12 oz. can tomato paste
             20 fresh mushrooms, sliced and with stems removed
             Juice from tomatoes
Other layers:
             20 oz. frozen spinach
             4 cups cottage cheese, drained (or ricotta) 
             3 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
             One box lasagna noodles

1.  Cook lasagna noodles, rinse in cool water, and drain on towel.
2.  Saute carrots, onions, broccoli, and garlic in oil.
3.  Add tomatoes, tomato paste, and spices.
4.  Boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
5.  Add mushrooms and cook 15 minutes more.
6.  Put a little sauce on the bottom of the pan.
7.  Layer noodles, spinach, cottage cheese, sauce, and mozzarella.
8.  Repeat layering 2-3 times.
9.  Cover and bake at 375 for 40 minutes.
10.  Let sit for 10 minutes to cool.

(I wish I knew the person who created this recipe!)

Savory Shrimp Pasta

I pound shrimp peeled
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. parsley
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tsp minced onion
Ground black pepper to taste
½ cup apple juice
½ pound cooked spaghetti

Sauté the shrimp in the oil with the parsley until the shrimp curls up and turns pink. Add the garlic powder, minced garlic, minced onion, and pepper and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add the apple juice and cook for another 5 minutes.

What are some of your favorite meatless meals? I hope you’ll join us and link up a favorite recipe—or click around and visit some of the other people sharing recipes below!

March 15, 2015 11:12
By Rita Buettner

7 Quick Takes Friday: Gearing up for St. Patrick's Day, how Lent is going, enjoying toy trains, the flashlight that might be at the end of a tunnel, meatless dinners, and reading fortunes


Now that our Chinese New Year festivities are complete, we are gearing up for all the Irish-American fun we can muster.

That will mean corned beef and cabbage, a viewing of The Quiet Man, and some homemade Irish soda bread. I’m not sure we’ll make it to Baltimore’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade this year. Still, the boys have helped me decorate our house with shamrocks, a flag, and some shamrock-shaped lights.

Are you ready for St. Patrick’s Day?


How is your Lent going? I am making some progress on my Lenten bucket list, but the winter weather meant I didn’t get to daily Mass at all last week. I am really hoping we’ll be able to make a family pilgrimage, probably to the St. Anthony Shrine in Ellicott City again this year. But I'm definitely seeing that many of my hopes for Lent will have to carry over into the Easter season.

The other day Daniel came to me and said, “I’m sorry, Mama.”

“What happened?” I said, thinking I had missed a puddle of spilled juice or something worse.

“I accidentally said, ‘Alleluia,’” he said.

Wow. I wish that were my only mistake this Lent.


A friend of ours is going through some of her husband’s belongings after he passed away in January, and she sent us two boxes full of his trains. She knew John and the boys would enjoy them, but I don’t know whether she realized just how excited they would be.

Our living room has become one enormous train layout.

It’s really wonderful. There are many things that are surprising about motherhood. One was discovering that there are almost always train tracks on your living room floor. So this feels just perfect.

We’ll think of our friend and her husband every time we play with them—which will apparently be frequently. Everyone loves the trains.


Daniel has been waiting for a little flashlight we ordered almost two weeks ago. We are all so accustomed to two-day shipping that this has been a good lesson for him.

As we waited, we tracked the package online. Then the day it was “out for delivery,” the postal service decided the address was wrong on the package and sent it back to the shipper.

I was peeved. I found the number for the postal service and sat on hold for a long time. I couldn’t report it online because I didn’t know the address it was coming from, and the sender wouldn’t report it as not having arrived until the package was delayed for much longer.

I started thinking about the cost of this little flashlight. And I thought about my time. I decided instead of fuming about it, I would just order a new flashlight with two-day shipping and move on. Maybe one day we’ll get our money back or get a second flashlight we don’t need. But I can’t let this silly thing interfere with my peace of mind.

Fortunately Daniel didn’t pay much attention to which flashlight he had ordered, and he doesn’t realize this one is different. But I do. This one doesn’t just light up. It sings the same song over and over. But at least it’s here!


What are you having for dinner tonight? I am gathering meatless Lenten Friday recipes to share in a post on Monday. If you have a family favorite, I’d love to hear about it.

Last night we just happened to eat a meatless dinner—grilled cheese and tomato soup. I knew our soup lovers wouldn’t be excited about the tomato soup, so I made some alphabet noodles and stirred them into the soup.

They still didn’t like it. So tonight we’ll have one of my favorites, fish sticks. It would be a much greater sacrifice for me to have to have beef every Friday than to have a fish or vegetarian meal.


I rarely go out with friends in the evenings. Because John and I both work full-time, we guard our family time closely. We don’t even go out often as a couple.

But earlier this week I went out to dinner with two friends and John stayed home with our boys. My friends and I talked and talked and talked and ate crab cakes.

Don’t send John too much sympathy, though. While I was having a girls’ night out, my boys were having a fantastic boys’ night in. I even brought an extra crab cake home.


It may not be a very Lenten thing to do, but I have been slipping Hershey Kisses into the boys’ lunches this week. Every night when I empty Daniel’s lunchbox, I find the little white slips of paper.

“I saved the fortunes,” he told me one night. For the past few years he has believed they are like the slips of paper in fortune cookies. “Will you read them to me?”

So I did, as he listened carefully and marveled that they all said the same thing.

When you get that many duplicate fortunes, you know they are bound to come true.

And they do, every single time.

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

March 12, 2015 11:03
By Rita Buettner

Ten Things of Thankful: We lost an hour, but what did we gain

Where does that hour go? We always have questions about Daylight Savings Time here, and it's hard to explain. What happens to the time? And why do we throw our lives into this chaos twice a year?

Today, as everyone has been hungry and tired at the wrong times, I have been trying to look for the positives. So today seemed like a great day to come up with my own Ten Things of Thankful.

Ten Things of Thankful

1.       This morning at Mass one of the Eucharistic ministers fell as she was coming down the altar steps with a chalice. She was fine, but Jesus’ blood spilled all over the floor. It was so amazing to watch the priest rush to her side to check on her, while managing to gesture to keep everyone back from the spill. Then he bowed so reverently and made sure the right cloths were used to clean the area. I explained to Daniel what had happened, and he was mesmerized. I have been thinking about it all day and how distressing it was to see Jesus’ blood spilled.

2.       Lately Daniel has been encouraging me to receive the Eucharist under both species. I usually just receive the host, but it seems to be important to him. And why shouldn’t I do something different for Lent? “Mama, are you half-God now?” he whispered when we came back to the pew. We talked about Jesus being inside us, and how special receiving him in the bread and the wine is. We think we will teach our children our faith—and we do—but what a wonderful surprise it has been to see how they push me to grow in mine.

3.       We made pumpkin muffins today and we had so much fun! Sometimes family baking projects can be challenging, but today it went really well. Our boys took turns measuring and pouring, and Leo read the recipe for us.

I am realizing how much they are growing. And they even ate the muffins afterward, which was a surprise. Leo put Old Bay on one of his.

4.       Spring is coming! The birds are singing, the snow is melting, and we let some air into the house today. There is still plenty of snow around, but there is also grass! Real grass! In another few weeks it might actually be green.

5.       Daniel and I went for our first neighborhood walk in ages, and on mostly clear sidewalks. On the way home he jumped in every puddle he saw—cold, icy, slush puddles. I shivered at each one, but I let him jump. “This is my story, Mama,” he said. “I jump in puddles.”

He talked nonstop the whole walk, and I just listened. Then I put a very happy, wet little boy in the bathtub when we got home. I'll have to figure out how to dry out his shoes.

6.       I can take a shower and feel confident the house will still be standing afterward. I’m not sure why this is still so astonishing to me, but I still remember not knowing how to shower when we arrived home from China as the new mother of a 2-year-old. I get such a thrill out of knowing our children are mature enough to make this possible.

7.       I work for a family-friendly employer, something I can’t be grateful enough for after (during?) this winter. I want to believe that the ice and snow is finished for the year, but Leo is still praying for more snow.

8.       My mother, sister, and I held a prayer gathering for a friend who is expecting her first baby. There were just four of us (well, and my niece, who was born in October). We said the rosary and had muffins and fruit and tea.

I am so grateful to my sister-in-law who passed the idea along after she attended a blessing for a baby who was on the way. And I want to think of more reasons to gather and pray.

9.       My husband insisted on doing the shoveling last week—and there was quite a bit. He is also working on our taxes. Did I mention that he does all the laundry, too?

10.   This could be our first five-day school and work week in...well...forever. I don’t want to say it aloud, so let’s pretend I didn’t. But we haven’t started a week where that was even a possibility since...mid-December? I’m not even sure I remember how to pack a school lunch. But I’m delighted to try.

Read more Ten Things of Thankful posts, or share what you're thankful for today!

March 08, 2015 11:00
By Rita Buettner

7 Quick Takes Friday: Our cuckoo clock, changes in plans, thoughts on The Drop Box, my first live radio interview, a squirrel, more snow, and parenting fun


We moved into our house more than a year ago, but we are still decorating. So it was just a few weeks ago that John hung our cuckoo clock.

Daniel loves it. He has been begging me to let him help me pull the chains to keep it running.

The other day he came to me and said, “Can I charge up the cuckoo clock?”


I have been feeling so proud of myself for making arrangements so that John and I could go see The Drop Box, a movie that was only in theaters for three days this past week. I bought our tickets online, lined up a sitter, and checked to make sure John and I both had an evening free of work obligations.

Then Monday evening, about an hour before the sitter was due to arrive, I got an email from a friend who mentioned that the movie was Tuesday night.

That’s funny, I thought. I know our tickets are for Monday.

But they weren’t. They were definitely for Tuesday. I couldn’t switch everything to Tuesday because it was too late and I knew it was going to be icy or snowy on Tuesday.

So I called John and told him I had botched our plans.

“Would you like to go to dinner instead?” I said.

“Just the two of us?” he said.

It was fantastic. We went and used a gift card we had been saving and then hit the grocery store. A real, live date. Imagine!

Then we managed to see The Drop Box on Wednesday night, thanks to my parents, who hung out with our boys, and thanks to the weather, which was pouring and foggy and yucky, but not icy. Whew.


I have been waiting to see The Drop Box ever since I first heard about it. It’s a documentary about a Korean pastor and his wife who created a box where parents could place babies they aren’t able to care for themselves.

Pastor Lee and his wife have 12 children themselves, two by birth and 10 by adoption, and the glimpse into their lives and home was inspiring—except that inspiring seems like an inadequate word for how their story touches you.

For me...well...I have seen the children’s faces. I’ve visited the orphanage where one of our sons was living before we met him. At least on some level, I know the need. I also recognize the complexities behind creating a box where parents can leave their babies and that it is not ideal for a child to have no known history and medical information.

Still, I have to believe that anything that offers birthparents an option at finding someone who can care for their children—and most important of all—giving children a chance at life is worthwhile. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a drop box weren’t necessary? Sure. But the problems that create the need run deep. This box means one man is offering a bandaid solution to a gaping wound. But what a difference it is making for those children.

What struck me as I watched the film, though, was that I was thinking it would be about adoption. And it was. But it was also extraordinarily pro-life. Many of Pastor Lee’s children have severe needs, and yet their lives are so valuable. The joy, the tenderness, the love, the compassion—all are lived out so beautifully there, every day.

The director who traveled to Korea to make the film went through his own faith conversion while there. I don’t think you can see the film without experiencing a change of your own.

I don’t know when The Drop Box will be available to view again, but I hope you’ll have the chance to see it, too, if you haven't already.


John Harper interviewed me on Relevant Radio about my Lenten coloring book! I am afraid to listen to it myself, but here’s the archived link if you want to listen

What I learned from being on the radio is:

              -  All of a sudden you’re on the air, so you have to be ready.

              - The hardest part is keeping your children quiet in the other room. Thank goodness John was home, too.

I'd love to see photos of your children's colored pages! You can send them by email to openwindowcr@gmail.com or post them on the blog page on Facebook!


A squirrel came to visit our back porch this week. He was just outside our door. Daniel was enthralled.


This winter is endless. We have had every form of icy, snowy precipitation I can think of, and this week alone would have been enough to make me long for spring. And we aren't even in New England. I have such sympathy for people who have had even harsher winters.

And it is so cold.

But you have to admit that snow is so beautiful.

And fun, too.

But I am ready for spring.


A few weeks ago I met with Daniel’s Pre-K teacher and she told me he knew all his letters and shapes and whatever else. Then she shared with me his answers to her questions.

Where do you live? “Somewhere around here.”

How old are you? “I might be able to tell you tomorrow.”

Yes, that’s our boy. I have no idea what he will do in life, but he’ll get there with a smile.

Yesterday I was cooking dinner and heard someone singing in the next room. I glanced in and Daniel was dancing around singing, “I’m shaking my B-U-T-T-N-E-R! I’m shaking my B-U-T-T-N-E-R!”

He’s not allowed to say part of that word out loud. But in this case he’s spelling it...and maybe thinks he’s spelling our last name. He’s coming pretty close.

What do you do in that situation? I don’t know. I might be able to tell you tomorrow.

Think I’ll go charge up the cuckoo clock.

Read other quick takes at Kelly’s blog.

March 06, 2015 06:11
By Rita Buettner

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