Celebrating St. Nicholas Day, accepting Advent as it comes, name tags, skating, and more (7 Quick Takes)


Happy St. Nicholas Day! Every year we leave our shoes by the door the night before his feast day, and we wake up the next morning to treats in our shoes. All week our sons have been asking which day St. Nicholas will come. This year, someone tried leaving an extra pair of shoes by the door, but we all know St. Nick doesn’t get fooled that easily.

I thought maybe St. Nicholas would leave a note on the extra pair that says, “Nice try,” but apparently he’s kinder than that. I guess that’s why he’s a saint. Clearly, I have some work to do.


How is your Advent going? I just love this season. I am trying to approach Advent this year with no expectations and just accept the Advent as it comes.

A friend came one evening this week, and we prayed the Rosary together. We talked about life and faith and whatever came to mind. It was just what I needed in that moment.

This Advent we celebrate the 10th anniversary of our first trip to China to meet our older son and become parents. I plan to write about that, but I have been searching for the right words during this season of searching and waiting. But every day I have been thinking of the journey Mary and Joseph made to Bethlehem, as well as the journey my husband and I made to Changsha.

I hope you are finding joy and peace and hope during this season of wonder.


Now that Advent is underway, our Elf on the Shelf has returned. This year the kids are campaigning hard to change his name—a name that was chosen when they were much younger and thought Skylander sounded cool. I say it’s between them and the Elf. I still think Skylander is a pretty great name myself.

Some parents seem to see having an Elf as a burden, but I enjoy having the Elf roaming around the house as we wait for Christmas. Our Elf doesn’t tattle-tale to Santa. He doesn’t need to, of course. So, our Elf is just fun. And you never know where he’ll show up next.


I went to a social event at work the other day, and they had name tags at the entrance. Providing name tags is a gift. I love, love, love knowing people’s names. I feel absolutely terrible when I can’t remember someone’s name, especially when that person clearly knows mine. And that happens more often than I would like to admit.

I don’t know that I would want to walk around everywhere with a name tag on all the time, but…maybe one day a week? One day a month? Actually, I just did some research, and National Name Tag Day is celebrated every March. I’m marking my calendar now.


We celebrated a second Thanksgiving with my parents and three of my siblings and their families on Sunday. We had lots of appetizers and turkey and all the things that go with it—including sauerkraut and rutabaga—and pumpkin pie.

And we had punch. My father has a recipe for punch he has made for years—cranberry juice, lemonade, limeade, and Sprite. It’s not exactly a secret recipe. We’ve served it at family weddings, including mine, and I just assumed we would have it at our Thanksgiving 2.0 Meal.

When I arrived and there was no punch, I did exactly what you’re not supposed to do: I asked whether we were having punch. My brother-in-law George offered to go out in the cold, drippy, miserable rain to get ingredients, and then my sister Treasa whipped up a batch of punch.

One of my friends is trying to bring punch back, and I’m with her. Punch adds so much to a celebration.


Our children were getting antsy during the long holiday break, so we took them skating. Both boys have their own roller skates now, so we took them to a rink and let them skate the wiggles out.

Holidays are so wonderful in so many ways, but I often find they derail children a bit. Getting enough activity in seems to be key. I hear that trying to stick to a schedule is also a great approach, but we really struggle with that.

Sometimes it’s easier to fit in skating than normal bedtimes.


My parents have 18 grandchildren (on earth). It’s wonderful in every way, but Christmas is a little bit of a frenzy with all the gift buying and opening.

For years, I have thought maybe we should have the cousins exchange names instead of having each family give to every child. But I was afraid people would say, “Oh, no! I love to give to everyone.” “I have the most fun giving to the children.” “How can I not give to my godchild?”

Still, this summer I sat down and banged out an email to my siblings who have children and suggested the idea.

I hit send, and seconds later I had replies from everyone—all completely on board. They were grateful, enthusiastic, thrilled. So, this year we are giving gifts to my 15-year-old nephew and my 4-year-old niece. It’s freeing in many ways. It also means that everywhere I turn, I see gifts for all of the children who aren’t on my list.

But it is good. And I am hoping it cuts down on the overwhelming number of gifts when we are together.

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

For more on Advent in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, click here.

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.