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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Open Window

Advice for Kim Kardashian (and other new moms of two)




Kim Kardashian and her husband, Kanye West, are shown in a file photo. (CNS photo/EPA)


Hi, Kim.

Congratulations on your new baby boy!

I’m not going to do anything silly like ask how much sleep you’re getting or whether you’re cloth diapering or whether little Saint has his own fur coat—though I am a little curious about that. I won’t even bother to ask how breastfeeding is going and act shocked if you’re not nursing.

What I would like to do is offer a little advice on being a mom of two. Because, let’s be honest, that’s the real adjustment here.

You’ve done the mom thing. You know how to feed and bathe and clothe this little one. What you don’t know is how to do it for two at once.

Oh, how well I remember. I was in your shoes once…well, not really because mine are much cheaper, less fashionable ones that match and aren’t too scuffed up on a good day. But I have been in that New Mom of Two role. And I remember feeling blindsided. I wasn’t parenting one new child; I was parenting two new children—a new child and one who was acting in new ways because his world had been turned upside-down.

So here are a few tips as you navigate these new waters.

1.       When they both need you, help your older child first. Then ask North to help you help her baby brother.

2.       Spend one-on-one time with each of your children. Even if you can only promise North 10-15 minutes a day to count on for her very own, let her know it’s coming. And make sure she can count on that time with her dad, too. You don’t need to go out for ice cream or a pony ride. Just play a game or read a book. It’s important for her—and you’ll realize also for you—to know that time is coming every day.

3.       Remember that your older child’s entire world has changed. And yes, it has ultimately changed for the better. Having a baby brother is wonderful. But this is a huge transition for her, too. She doesn’t really understand what happened. She needs to know how loved and important she is.

4.       Help North see how grown-up she is. Notice every little kindness she shows the baby—even if some of them might be imaginary. “Look how you made your baby brother smile!” Let her do big important things like run to get you a fresh diaper or take a blurry picture of you and the baby or call Grandma to tell her that Saint just sneezed five times in a row. Give her big-girl jobs and let her shine.

5.       Be gentle and understanding when disciplining North. This is not a good time to use time-outs (unless you need them for your own peace of mind). It’s a better time for time-ins and making her feel included. This is also a time for reward over punishment. Try to set her up for success.

6.       Be easy on yourself. Being a parent of an infant is hard. Being a parent of a toddler is hard. Being a parent of both requires super-human abilities, which, thank goodness, every mother has. But she doesn’t always discover them right away—or ever. Even if you have help, I bet when your children need you, they both need YOU, not someone else. Try to enjoy that. But also take time for you now and then.

7.       Use paper plates. It’s the only way to survive new parenthood.

8.       Enjoy every minute. Or every other minute. Or the minutes you post to Instagram. Or the ones in between. Find something to enjoy and know that the memories will be almost all rosy and beautiful, even if there are some less-beautiful ones right now.

Being a mother of two can be so challenging, but it’s also such a wonderful gift and blessing. Congratulations again.

Signed,

Another Mom of Two
 

January 07, 2016 11:52
By Rita Buettner


The Force Awakens: Lessons our children can take from Star Wars


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away—or even as recently as a week ago—I was not planning to take our children to see The Force Awakens.

Our boys are 6 and 8 and the film sounded too intense. I mean, I can’t even mention werewolves at the kitchen table without someone bursting into tears.

But as the movie reviews kept coming in, John and I decided that our sons could probably handle it. And if we took them together, one of us (me) could duck out with any child who happened to be scared.




So off we went. And—no spoiler alert needed here—it was amazing. It was powerful and riveting and when the words started crawling up the screen at the beginning, I even got a little teary. I know, I know. It’s just a movie. But it’s so special to share these moments with our children.

One of the best parts has been talking about the movie afterward. We have had some interesting conversations, and I have really enjoyed hearing our sons’ take on the movie—and on what might happen next.

I’ve also been thinking that there are a few important lessons I’d like our children to take away from Star Wars—and that we’ll hope they’re also learning in other ways.

Choose good over evil. Sometimes evil looks cool and might be the easier path. We need to fight for good anyway.

We don’t always seek out our callings. Sometimes they find us—even though we might not want them.


Bad things happen. Good things happen. Most of the time there is a greater mission to complete and we just have to carry on.

Even people who choose evil can be redeemed. We have a responsibility to try to help them change.

Know yourself. You may have talents and abilities you still haven’t discovered.

Be a good friend. You can accomplish much on your own, but you also need to surround yourself with great people who value you and help you achieve and learn more than you imagined.

Nothing is impossible—especially when you are fighting against evil.

What did I learn? That even if you feed your children an enormous tub of popcorn and dozens of Swedish fish during a long movie, they are still hungry for dinner. And you'll have to cook it at hyperspeed and without the help of a droid.


Check out my friend Abigail's review of the film as a resource for Catholic families.

December 28, 2015 03:59
By Rita Buettner


An Elf on the Shelf for myself (and my family)


We’ve never had an Elf on the Shelf. I’m lucky if we remember to bring the right lunches and backpacks to school every day. So adding something else to our lives didn’t seem like a good idea.

Then our second grader ended up with an elf in his classroom at school. He came home talking about how wonderful “Holly” was and how great it would be to have an elf. He convinced his little brother that they should write to the North Pole to request an elf.

To be honest, I wasn’t fully on board. Then this weekend I was wandering around Valley View Farms. With stars in my eyes and overflowing with Christmas joy, I heard our kindergartener singing, “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”


I turned and there was a whole display of Elf on the Shelf—or, maybe I should say, Elves on the Shelves.

“Maybe we should just do it,” I thought. I looked at John. He looked at me. We looked down at our kindergartener, the one whose birthday was Friday, the one who has this charming way of saying, “Well, it IS my birthday,” or “Well, it IS the day after my birthday,” or “Well, it IS my birthday week.”

Let’s be honest. He may not get his persuasive smile and impish eyes from me, but his love for celebrating his birthday? Oh, that’s from Mama, through and through.

He wanted an elf. I couldn’t think of a good reason to say no. We picked out a boy elf, paid at the register, and carried him to the car.

He becomes your elf when you name him, so we had a sort of family meeting and named him “Skylander.” It fits him—or at least it fits this moment in our lives where we have a deep affection for Skylanders.




Skylander has quickly settled into the household.

What I didn’t know is that you can’t touch your elf. So wherever he is when you wake up is where he needs to stay for the day. I wonder how that works for other families. Remind me to ask Skylander not to sit on the kitchen table or next to the bathroom sink or anywhere else we actually use as living space.

Luckily we only have two weeks to Christmas. And it seems appropriate somehow that our elf arrived late in the season, because Santa would know that I would not be able to manage an elf through all of Advent.

It also seems appropriate that he is here for the third week of Advent, a week of rejoicing. Maybe he will bring a little extra joy to our already very full lives.

Even better, maybe he’ll remind us not to forget any backpacks this week. For now he's working on his Scrabble skills.


Do you have an Elf on the Shelf?

December 13, 2015 10:31
By Rita Buettner


Bless me, Father, for I have sinned…


The morning of our son’s first reconciliation arrived and he admitted he was nervous.

We had finished the religious education book, talked about the sacrament many times, and practiced what he would say.

But being ready didn’t mean he wouldn't be nervous. Looking around the chapel, I could tell his classmates were, too.

Of course you’re nervous, I said. It’s your first time. It’s natural to be nervous. Any time we are doing something that is important and that we care about, we get a little nervous. That’s OK.

Besides, I told him, I don’t know how many times I have been to confession, and I still get a little nervous every time I go. But the good news? I am always so happy afterward. I always feel relieved. I feel closer to God. And I always walk out wondering why I don’t go more often.

Before the children got in line outside the confessionals, the parish held a simple but beautiful prayer service. And, as I sat there in the pew, I suddenly realized I had spent so much time preparing him that I hadn’t thought to prepare myself for my own confession.

I found myself thinking of how on the airplane the flight attendants remind you to put your own oxygen mask on before you help your child with his. This second-grade year is an important reminder of that for me. To prepare our son for his first Reconciliation and first Eucharist, I need to make sure my own spiritual house is in order.

Fortunately I had time to do an examination of conscience before I went in to kneel at the screen myself. And my experience was everything I could have hoped for and then some. I left, as I do so often, renewed and at peace, with tears in my eyes. We are so blessed that Our Creator is so merciful and that we have this wonderful way to encounter His mercy through Reconciliation.

This week the Church begins the Year of Mercy. I don’t know yet what that will mean for me and my family. I do know, however, that now we have another member of the family who will be seeking grace through Reconciliation. And I hope he always finds the joy he found at his first Reconciliation, when he walked out with a big smile and a plan for how to complete his penance.

It’s such an amazing moment in our son’s life, a true moment of maturity and adulthood for our not-so-little boy. Making his First Communion in some ways will be simpler. From a very early age our children have understood that the bread and wine becomes Jesus’ body and blood. But learning about God’s mercy and grasping a deeper understanding of sin and forgiveness does not come as easily.

Yet here he is, taking this significant step in his faith journey. And we, his parents, will be at his side, trying to strengthen our own faith as we help him grow in his.

December 06, 2015 11:33
By Rita Buettner


7 Quick Takes Friday: We found the Advent wreath, class participation, lasagna chefs, home decor, doorway acrobatics, and more


~1~

Advent started! Luckily our kindergartener came home from school with a wreath he had made, reminding us to find our larger wreath.



Then we added Advent calendars to the mix because nothing says, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” like the Avengers and little pieces of chocolate.

We haven’t even started filling our manger with hay for Baby Jesus. But I think it might be a good activity to start for week two.

In other news, Daniel still can't believe I showed up as mystery reader in his classroom this week without an Advent-related book. I was just so happy to be there that I wasn't worried about the books. It reminded me of how much I worried about which books to take for my first mystery reader stint. So I'm not sure whether I'm handling kindergarten motherhood better the second time. But at least we have an Advent wreath.

~2~

Six years ago today John and I boarded a plane and flew to China to adopt our first child, a beautiful 2-year-old boy who has changed our lives in so many wonderful ways.

This weekend we will celebrate six years together with laser tag and maybe even some Chinese food.

I’ve written a few times about the day we met.




~3~

Report cards came home this week. I was reading the teachers’ comments and came to one that said our son should participate more in class.

Now, I am not a teacher. But I happen to think there are multiple ways to participate in life. I don’t think that raising your hand and speaking is the best way for everyone to participate. Some people participate by listening. Some people participate only when they have thoughts to contribute. The more time I spend in meetings, the more I value people who participate by listening.

The world needs all kinds of people. We need people who can talk, of course. But we also need people who know how to listen, to process, to think, and to contribute in other ways. Everyone has different strengths and different talents. Let’s let our children grow into the best versions of who they are meant to be.

~4~

Last weekend when we had company coming, I asked our boys to help me make dinner. 

They like their lasagna with just tomato sauce and noodles, so I let them put it together on their own.

They had so much fun that I let them make the two other lasagnas I had planned. I had never considered how child-friendly lasagna making could be.



Daniel and one of his cousins even made reindeer cookies for dessert.



Now that I know they are such chefs, I may take the weekend off from cooking.

~5~

When we moved into our house more than two years ago, there were shutters on a hole in the dining room. They weren’t our style, so John took them down. Last weekend he finished painting inside what we affectionately call “the hole in the wall” and installed the new shutters.



It is going to take some getting used to, but don't they look lovely?



~6~

Lately our sons have been trying to climb up the kitchen doorway. I assume this is a normal activity for children, even though I grew up in homes with doorways and don’t ever recall attempting anything like this.



They’re quite skilled at it—and I suppose I should be proud. I think I must be or I wouldn't be telling you about it.

Meanwhile, the candy corn can’t figure out why it’s not working for him.



~7~

The Catholic Review is publishing a new monthly magazine, and I was honored to be asked to write a column. If you’ve made it through all these quick takes and aren’t tired of hearing from me, maybe you’d like to pop over and see what Santa keeps bringing me.

P.S. It's St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6, so don't forget to leave your shoes out the night before!

Read more quick takes at Kelly’s blog, This Ain’t the Lyceum!

December 03, 2015 11:25
By Rita Buettner


Last night I dreamed I was pregnant


Last night I dreamed I was pregnant. I was 23 weeks along and I was having a girl.

Naturally because I am so good at overthinking, I woke up worrying about how we would need to help our older sons adjust to this news.

Of course when I woke up I wasn’t pregnant. And all I had to worry about was how we were going to get everyone out the door on time for school.

Now before you get excited, I should confirm for you that this was definitely a dream, and that I’m not entirely sure why my subconscious mind decided to explore this as a possibility.

What’s funny to me is that when I woke up, I thought, “I should write this down! What if we happen to adopt another child at some point and this date really matters?” That’s the kind of meaningful idea I have in the morning before I have my coffee.

It was a funny kind of a dream to have, except that I had visited with a friend who is expecting and is more than halfway along and having a girl. So even if you’re not a professional dream analyst, you can probably connect the dots there.

The best part about having the dream was that when I woke up, I wasn’t disappointed. Don’t get me wrong. Having a baby would be absolutely wonderful news. But for some time now I have recognized that that just isn’t the way God is going to grow our family. And I have accepted that.

The other day when one of our sons said matter-of-factly—and out of nowhere—“Mama, I don’t think you will ever have a baby,” I agreed that that was probably true. I realized that I responded without any pain or sadness.

“I have two baby boys,” I told him. Then we laughed as he reminded me that they are very big boys—8 and almost 6. And they are.

I don’t know what the future holds. At this point I don’t expect our family to grow, but I also never assume anything. I am always surprised by people who know their family has finished growing. I hear people say, “We are done,” and I wonder, how do they know? How can you possibly know when God is finished working in your life? How do you know He won't find a way to send another child to you?

For me, all I know is that right now John and I feel so blessed to have our two sons, two boys who are brothers through and through.

And that's a dream come true.




November 30, 2015 11:56
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


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


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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