A Valentine’s Day proposal, chicken soup with rice, sending valentines, and more (7 Quick Takes)


Happy Valentine’s Day! Sixteen years ago today, John asked me to be his wife during a beautiful dinner at the Candlelight Inn in Catonsville, Md. I knew in advance he was going to propose. We had gone together weeks before to pick out a Claddagh ring.

There are times in life when surprises are wonderful, but I don’t need to be surprised to enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime moment. I don’t recall John’s exact words, but I remember how he knew I wouldn’t want him to make a scene. Instead of going down on one knee, he sat at my side and told me how he loved me and wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. Then he gave me the ring.

Side by side. That’s how we sat the night we got engaged. It’s how we sat and knelt together on the altar at the Cathedral on our wedding day. And it’s how our marriage has worked in the best moments. I think, for example, of how we sat together for a thousand hours or so on our two trips to and from China to meet our baby boys.


If all goes well, this will be the first day in two solid weeks that both of our children have gone to school for the full day. If it doesn’t happen, I will blame this take for whatever occurs. But I will say that you should try to avoid the flu at all costs because it is a beast. Oh, and be careful with Tamiflu.


When all else fails, make a big pot of chicken and rice soup. Can anyone eat chicken soup with rice without reciting lines from the Maurice Sendak book?

In February, it is nice
While kids play on some cool device
To cook up chicken soup with rice.
Screentime once,
Screentime twice,
Screentime’s over. Pay the price.


I’m joining in this #FridayIntroductionsYourLoveStory feature on Instagram, and today’s theme is “A Dating Story.” I thought that would be easy until I went looking for photos of us from our dating days.

I could only find one, and it took me most of the week to find it. But by then I was on a tear! Hadn’t we dated? Did we just meet one day and get married the next? Did we never photograph ourselves?

I knew that couldn’t be the case, even though our courtship predated digital photography. I have always loved taking pictures, so they had to exist—even though most of our time together was just the two of us.

Finally, last night, I went looking one more time in a place I could have sworn I had checked, and there was an album that held photos of us way back in our dating phase. It didn’t have lots and lots, but it had some. So, we have proof that we dated after all. And I’ll share more about that on my Instagram account.


I may have written all my son’s valentines for him. I may have done a terrible job forging his signature, but they’re done—and that’s what matters.

Apparently, candy is banned this year in our fourth-grade classroom. But if that’s the rule, the teacher needs to announce it before I have already ordered the candy—especially during a week of sickness when all I can do is balance a full-time job, helping care for my children who are still recovering from illness, and making an occasional homemade meal. So, we’re giving allergy-friendly candy. Still, we’re giving it with love on the sweetest holiday of the year.


My friend Annie sent us a valentine with instructions not to open it until Feb. 14. It’s so exciting to have some anticipation around this lovely red envelope.

Meanwhile, my parents mailed us our valentines but sent them to the wrong address. I’m not even sure it’s an address that exists.

So, this is truly the Valentine’s Day of wonder and anticipation. And candy, of course.


Looking for a recipe to make this weekend? We ended up with lots of extra rice this week, so I made stuffed peppers, which I had forgotten are so good during the winter. I make ours with ground chicken.

Here’s the recipe if you’re looking for a good cold-weather meal.

If you read this far, I’m especially grateful for you.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


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

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner

Rita Buettner is a wife, working mother and author of the Catholic Review's Open Window blog. She and her husband adopted their two sons from China, and Rita often writes about topics concerning adoption, family and faith.

Rita also writes The Domestic Church, a featured column in the Catholic Review. Her writing has been honored by the Catholic Press Association, the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association and the Associated Church Press.