About Me, budgeting, design + style, motherhood, pregnancy, thrifting

Resting vs. nesting: what kind of third trimest-er are you?

July 2, 2015

This pregnancy has been hands down the toughest physically, but only as of about a month ago. If you’d have asked me in the springtime how I was handling quattro bing’s gestation I would have assured you it was no big deal, really. And I would have been telling the truth!

Aside from the endless rounds of sinus woes and bronchitis that seemed to plague much of the northern hemisphere this past winter, I had almost zero pregnancy complaints of the physical variety. I don’t get morning sickness, just a touch of meat aversion, and my 1st and 2nd trimesters were pretty much like “baby? what baby?

I think I even obnoxiously gloated/wondered aloud on FB over having gained only 4 lbs in 19 weeks.

Cackle.

Yeahhhhhhhh.

Suffice it to say things have sped up in both the weight gain department (oh em GGGGGGGGGEEEEE how they’ve sped) and the realm of physical taxation. I grunt when I rise and when I collapse to sleep. I leave things on the floor from time to time because it’s not worth it. I sit constantly, and then I get up because sitting all the time really hurts your back, it turns out. And the 2 miles or so I can limp along on the treadmill some nights actually make me feel so much worse, physically, that my gymtendence has dropped to 2-3 times per week. And that’s with PRIME new episodes all over HGTV, plus free babysitting.

In other words, I’ve arrived, prematurely, at the end of my procreative rope.

Yesterday I wept in a King Sooper’s parking lot, inside the store itself, and then copiously in my bed in a large pile of very, very hot mess which my very, very wonderful husband scooped up with soothing back pats and kleenex.

And there’s a good month and a half till d day. So, why all the complaining? Why am I not offering it all up like a good little soldier?

Well, I’m trying. But I’m also like, there have got to be other women who feel this way. And who are routinely sacrificing what could be precious rest + recharge time in favor of spray painting everything and rearranging the entire house.

So my question to you, gentle reader? Where does the last leg of preg leave you? Limping along armed with a can of Krylon and doing all the home decorating your hefty little heart can handle? Or passed out on the couch under a bag of ice, counting the minutes until bedtime. Or maybe a combo?

Oh, since you didn’t ask, here are some nursery pictures because I’ve been burning what little energy I have during the daylight hours mothering my existing exterior brood, writing, and rehabbing thrifted rejects into a not-quite-but-so-close-to-Pinterest-worthy nursery.

Ready?

Okay, now drop your expectations so they’re commensurate with a $150 budget and a fourth born child who will be arriving into a rental house.

Now are you ready?

K.

First up we have the Shermag glider I snagged from Craig, washed the h out of (even the interior cushions. Stupid. And yet…the stank of an entire bottle of Febreeze doused by the seller has just about abated. So maybe not so stupid?). I paid $100 for it and it’s the dreamiest rocking experience I’ve ever known. I love how high the arms are for maximum nursing support, though I’m strongly tempted to load up on Whole Food’s finest ($10!!) formula and call it a day. Strongly.

See that sweet little rabbit? A gift from my sister in law, newly repatriated from a 3 year stint in Cambodia. Doesn’t he look like a little asian velveteen rabbit?

And the boys surrendered their decoupaged (not by me. So not.) saint dresser which baby will be grateful for, since it’s the ultimate diaper changing station + linen closet + dresser.

Found the deflated Pottery Barn pad cover atop it at Saver’s this week for $1, now I’m just waiting for Amazon to drone me the changing pad itself and we’ll be solid.

furnitureNext up? The crib (given to us by another family in our parish small group – so generous and already assembled. Except, um, we had to pretty much dissemble it in the hallway because babe, it will totally fit down the hallway and around that 90 degree corner, let’s just try…at 9 pm on Father’s Day, no less. Wifey of the year up in here.

main view

Cute, huh? I’m telling myself the mismatched wood tones are super chic. And yes the evil drop side, such danger, much reckless. Got it.

The bedding is the same we’ve used for all three kids, purchased by my sweet MIL when Joey was still an unknown gender ? in my womb. And I stole the cute jute rug from Genevieve’s abode.

While this room looks fairly manly, I promise to throw some lavender in there if baby comes out with lady parts, but I’m strongly leaning towards XY right now, and I think it shows in the decor. And in my insatiable weight gain + related cravings for Salsa Verde Doritos dipped in hydrochloric acid.

Moooooving on.

This piano bench? Sewing table? Preschool altar? was $9.99, also at Saver’s, and I was quite taken with its svelte legs and hinged, opening top. I envisioned stashing my phone/kindle/granola bars/prayer materials in there for handy access during nursing sessions. $8 worth of spray paint and some light distressing and it turned out pretty cute, don’t you think?

nursery tableLast but not least, all your fine recommendations and hearty endorsements convinced me and my aching back that the Maxi Cosi was the way to go, so I’m now the proudest owner of this little black number, which is easily 5 pounds lighter than the Graco dinosaur in our garage.

IMG_7467

(On a related note, anyone in Denver want a 3 year old Graco red/grey model with 2 bases? Free to a mediocre home)

And that’s the nursery, in under a thousand words and 10 grainy pictures. I’d still love to put some flowing white drapes up to frame out the skinny window, but other than that I’m supremely satisfied with it and can’t wait to plop a fat baby directly into that crib on our first night home from hotel hospital.

IMG_7468

Next on my nesting agenda: attacking baseboards, steam cleaning all the carpets, and keeping a wary eye for anything that looks remotely in need of a fresh coat of spray paint. And maybe a bath.

Catholics Do What?, Culture of Death, Evangelization, Homosexuality

A useful primer for deciphering newspeak, 2015 edition

June 30, 2015

In light of recent current events leading to a massive explosion of highly effective and cordial debate across all channels of social media, I thought I’d take the time to instruct the confused or under-informed media consumer with this handy guide to understanding the new meanings of words.

(Note: All definitions are subject to change at will, depending upon personal emotional state, hormonal fluctuations, and whether or not the Bachelorette is airing in primetime.)

*Bigot: someone with whom you disagree
*Hate speech: bigot’s (see above) differing opinion
*Intolerance: the bigot’s refusal to concede to your point of view
*Civil debate: unfriending/blocking/reporting someone on social media
*Love: unconditional agreement/concession to your clearly superior point of view
*Science: appeal to invisible/ambiguous higher authority to extinguish further debate

Hope this helps!

Oh, and a few late entries:

*terrorist: your college roommate who attends a repressively orthodox church

*KKK cooperator: that guy you knew in grad school who had the audacity to marry a woman and then last Friday, changed his profile picture to a portrait from his wedding day

*hater: dismissive term meant to shut down further discussion and/or call out a dissenting bigot (see above) on Twitter, hopefully for the purpose of catching his immediate supervisor’s attention and jeopardizing his job

Finally, this video is just really, really good.

About Me, Catholics Do What?, Contraception, Culture of Death, Evangelization, Homosexuality, Marriage, Sex, Theology of the Body

Maybe it’s just love

June 29, 2015

I can list off at least 5 critically-essential relationships in my life, relationships that are soul-feeding, deeply connected, and will hopefully stand the test of time. I am blessed beyond all measure to call these four women and one man my friends: dear, beloved friends with whom I share hopes and fears, dreams and aspirations…but there is one thing that I cannot share with them, even if I wanted to.

I cannot share my very self with them, body and soul, because I have already given that essential gift of my “otherness” to my husband, irrevocably, and for the remainder of his natural life or mine (whoever goes first gets out first, I guess).

And I cannot, no matter how much I might desire to do so, create new life with them.

In the case of the male friend, because it would be a violation of my wedding vows and of the exclusivity of my sexual union with my husband. In the case of my female friends, because it is fundamentally incompatible with human nature. Because it doesn’t work. Egg + egg do not = zygote.

(This has nothing to do with adoption or fostering. That’s a separate conversation that I’m consciously choosing to set aside while we hash out the fundamentals of human nature and our sexual complementarity, so stand by.)

As much as I love these women, reality still stands between our bodies and souls – our similar sexual makeup and fundamental nature render our relationships fundamentally fruitless, from a reproductive perspective.

This isn’t bigotry or bias, it’s basic biology.

And my love for them isn’t cheapened by our inability to contract and consummate a sexual union, it’s simply differentiated.

“Love is love,” according to Twitter and every celebrity on the planet this past weekend…but not all love is marriage. Not all love is fundamentally, at it’s core, ordered to the creation of new human life.

And not all love is sexual.

But, but, they sputter on social media, God made us all and God made gays and lesbians and trans and everyone else, so that means He approves of gay “marriage” because love. And tolerance, you bigot, you.

Super coherent argument, right?

But let’s pick at it a little and see if it stands.

First off, does God have anything to say about marriage? Namely, is He invested in marriage functioning a certain way because He created it?

If you’re operating from a biblical perspective, then yes, from Genesis through Jesus, God has offered repeated input on the man and woman He created, ordering them to be fruitful and to multiply and to let no man divide what He had joined, to point out a few instances of His interest in the institution.

But let’s put aside creed or belief system and come at it from a biological and sociological perspective, since we are now assuredly living in a post-Christian epoch in human history. (By this I mean the law – human law – no longer has recourse to God’s law. We are operating entirely outside of the framework of natural law and divine influence as a society.)

So let’s be secularly frank in this discussion.

Marriage is essentially ordered to the good of … wait for it … the children who may result from it. 

Not just the spouses.

Sure, there are myriad benefits and bonuses that married people enjoy including better health, longer life, greater social support. But the primary purpose of marriage as a secular institution is to protect and guarantee the rights of the weakest and most helpless members of society: children.

And wouldn’t you know it? When we unhitched babies from bonding years ago with widespread acceptance and use of contraceptives, that was the first blow against marriage as a social institution. Married couples could now enjoy sterile, momentary physical pleasure and label it “sex.”

And guess what?

So could non-married people. And people who were married to other people but maybe wanting to experiment a bit with each other just the same.

Pretty soon people who experienced sexual attraction to members of the same sex looked around and realized, huh, marriage doesn’t seem to mean anything about babies anymore, but rather, about adult sexual satisfaction and companionship. And we want that too! 

And who can blame them?

When you trace the beginnings of the decline of the institution of marriage back throughout the past century of human history, you can see clearly the advent of contraceptive use, the rise in extramarital, premarital, anything-other-than-marital sex, and society’s gradual and then (recently) breakneck acceptance of “anything goes, so long as it’s between consenting (for now) adults.”

Because sex, unhinged from the fundamental purpose of bringing forth new life and bonding husband and wife in the sacred and irrevocable role of parenthood, has little consequence beyond the moment. It can still feel good, but then, so can masturbation. So can a one-night stand. So can an affair.

So why not?

Why not, indeed.

That’s why we’re here, today, brave new world in the summer of 2015, shattering the last (and admittedly, in this cultural climate, laughably ridiculous, to hear the reports on most major networks) sexual norm regarding marriage.

Because if divorce is possible, if contraception is a given, if abortion is permitted, if permanent fidelity and the begetting of new human life have nothing to do with marriage, then why the hell not call all bets off?

I think that’s the part we’re going to see a lot of in the next several years. The hell part. We’ll find out, as a culture, whether marriage was a dead and antiquated vestige of the past open to innovative interpretation, or if it really meant something, both to individual lives and to society as a whole.

But the real victims of our little social experiment are going to be the same as always: the weak, the helpless, and the vulnerable: the children.

SCOTUS may have violated jurisprudence, nature, and the Constitution in the laughable logic underpinning Friday’s decision, but we did this to ourselves, as a society, when we rendered sex sterile, profane, and mundane.

Is it any wonder that anyone would question the existence of a sacred institution of marriage when they’re not seeing holy, lasting marriages lived out as an example in real life?

It is particularly telling that the most supportive demographic in the movement for gay “marriage” has been the generation or two of children who’ve come of age in the era of no-fault divorce.

“The sanctity of marriage?” they rightly scoff, “I don’t know anything about that. But I know happiness when I see it, and those guys look happy, so power to them. I sure as hell didn’t see that in my house growing up.”

So that’s our job now, fellow Christians. Parents. People of good will. We must show them what love looks like, in action.

Not saccharine, 140-character professions of devotion or popular opinion. Real, soul-sharing, life-begetting sacrificial love. The cross-shaped kind.

Now the culture war shifts, from broad campaigns to hand-to-hand combat. One marriage, one family, one encounter with Christ at a time.

That’s how we change the world. And that’s how we win eternity.

I begrudge no one the right nor the reality to love who they love. And I will defend to the death your right to believe that.

The Cross is wide enough and the Church is big enough to accommodate all of us sinners, on whatever stage of the journey we find ourselves.

But I will defend to the death the reality of marriage as a different love, a fruitful love, a love bigger than my body or my sexual appetite alone. And I will labor until my last breath to show you that love, His love, made visible through the reality of the invisible grace which sustains our Sacrament.

I hope you’ll defend me too, even in our differing opinions. I hope your tolerance is wide enough for that.

just love

Catholics Do What?, Culture of Death, guest post, Homosexuality, Marriage

“Love wins,” they say

June 26, 2015

Today feels grim. So much hatred pouring out in my newsfeed. Ironically it’s all directed in the name of tolerance, progress, and love.

Love. I don’t think that word means what they think it means.

I wasn’t planning on writing anything at all today, and honestly, I feel too emotional to touch it just yet. Luckily I came across this beautiful, charitable, and deeply true piece by Mary, who blogs at Let Love Be Sincere and is also pregnant with her 4th sweet baby. Mary and her husband, Aaron, are raising their beautiful bi-racial family outside of Detroit, and will soon be adding a little estrogen to the mix. And, ah, they have a little firsthand experience with what actual intolerance looks like. Thanks for sharing your story today, Mary.

Wilkersons Spring 2014 38

This is what my husband wrote on Facebook a few moments ago…

“This decision does not affect me personally as an individual. The way that is does affect me is being a Catholic father raising 4 children in the 21st century. What does today’s decision mean in terms of the world my 4 children will be raised in, one different than the one I came up in?

One of the best things that God gave us is free will, a very powerful gift. However, that gift came with boundaries. To me, I think that the message to my children is that there is the Law of God and the Law of Man. Previously, the two intersected and there wasn’t much of a difference.

Now, they are farther and farther apart from each other and that gap appears to continually increase. One is static and won’t ever change for our benefit and the other is relative and changes with the culture. Today’s decision is a large victory for the Law of Man. It allows people to make their own choices as they see fit for them. I don’t have a problem with that.

My hope is that the Law of Man stays away from the Law of God. My hope is that people do not try to now go into churches and demand that churches marry same-sex couples. Much like churches respect the legal system, even though they may not agree we need to keep the legal system outside of churches whether they agree or not.” – Aaron Wilkerson

My husband is and will probably always be the smartest men I know … and his words perfectly articulate how I and so many others feel about the Supreme Court’s decision today. I didn’t have a strong opinion on what SCOTUS would do; if anything, I knew things would swing this way. But as so many people celebrate, I find myself terribly worried.

I am worried for my children. I hope that the many people who are celebrating today will remember to respect our family’s decision to define the Sacrament of Marriage as different from Legal Marriage. Truth be told, I am not confident that will be the case, and that scares me, for my children … more than I can articulate.

After I heard the Supreme Court decision, my eldest was having a meltdown (someone is always having a meltdown around here.)

So I held him in my arms and rocked him, it was a perfect moment. He was looking up at me and I was looking at him and we were quiet.

It lasted about five minutes, which, at his age, is a lot. As I held him, looking into his eyes, I found myself almost moved to tears with anxiety about how I will raise him in this world. Raise him to know his faith, and to live his faith.

Raise him to stick to his convictions and to our Faith’s understanding of marriage, and sexuality… raise him to always treat people with love and respect, even if they see things differently than we do.

But then I see my Facebook newsfeed flooded with words like bigot, others in an almost hysterical frenzy to describe people like me, people who don’t really care what the government decides to do, but who want to make sure my faith will always be permitted to hold to it’s convictions surrounding traditional sexuality and nature. And I worry, such very real worry, that even his very life could be at risk for holding to those views in a matter of time.

Reactionary? Maybe. But how I’m feeling? Certainly.

And I do think, in case you are wondering, of my gay friends, some of them with children, who are probably looking at their children today, gazing into their eyes and feeling a hope for them that they have never been able to feel before. I know that my worry to them seems silly, as they soak in the joy of what they see as an advancement of culture today.

So, I guess, like Aaron, I just have to hope that maybe this country of ours will at this point in history actually live the words of Christ correctly, the words to “Render unto to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”- Mark 12

The fear is that it never really works out that way, historically.

Maybe this time will be different.

And so, today, I will continue to pray for love to be more prevalent in the world: real love, good love, love based on sacrifice, the denial of self … the only love that has ever really brought about authentic happiness. His love.

coffee clicks, Uncategorized

Coffee Clicks {volume 5}

June 25, 2015

Taking an early weekend here to baby moon while a. I’m still at the not-quite-sleeping-in-the-recliner stage of pregnancy so hotel bed = bliss and b. my college-aged sisters are around to toss a baby or 3 to for the night. So we’re trotting out in high style for 24 hours of downtown Denver luxury and I’m giving you a web-wide roundup a whole day early. Party hats and fireworks.

Speaking of baby mooning and leaving kids behind in general, I tend (vvvvvery much to my surprise) to be somewhat of an anxious mother traveler. So every time we’ve left any arrangement of the children behind, I tend to vacillate between remote helicopter parenting via text message and actual panic attacks in the hotel room. So we’ve hit on the perfect and budget-friendly solution: the in-town stay cation. We get a full night’s sleep in pitch dark, climate controlled luxury, and my neurosis is inexplicably laid to rest by my immediate proximity (within 30 minutes or so) to the children.

Crazy doesn’t even begin to cover it. But hey! No airport security.

This week felt like it was all about con.tro.versy on the internet, but I found some super interesting related content for y’all’s clicking pleasure. And there was some uplifting stuff in there, too. Here’s what I’ve rounded up:

1. Dan Burke over at the Register does a bang up job explaining with humility and great charity why it is so essential to be docile to the Holy Spirit’s movement within the Church and to always, always “be more attached to the work of God Himself,” whether or not He has in fact worked through brokenness or outright evil to reach you. Because He’s God, and He can totally do that.

2. I’m loving everything Jen Fitz is writing lately, and wondering why I’ve not heard much of her until now. Clear, concise, and convicting. My favorite trifecta. (Fr. Robert Barron has a really excellent piece on Laudauto Si, too. Bonus click for you.)

3. I sobbed – ugly tears – while I watched this kickstarter vid. I’m betting my next 3 visits to Starbucks you will, too.

4. My minivan, formerly a source of mild humiliation and unusual smells, can now boast an impressive curated collection on par with an Ivy League institution. Ahem. It was intentional, I’m sure.

5. I’m really thankful to Brianna for saying what she did about racism, about the reality of living a life of white privilege in a privileged and white part of the United States, and how perhaps the most troubling thing to come in the aftermath of the mass murders in Charleston has been the … silence. Just, silence. Because people don’t know what to say? Because it’s too politically charged? Because there’s too much else that’s evil in the world to distract us? I’m glad I got distracted by her piece earlier today.

coffeeclicks

Uncategorized

Donuts, Mass bags, and how to survive (and thrive) with kids in the pew

June 24, 2015

You know what ain’t easy like Sunday morning, Adam Levine?

Church with small children.

The struggle is real, whether or not the deep-fried carrot of K of C donuts can be dangled in front of your sugar-seeking angels, because if there is one thing little kids are not, it’s predisposed to prolonged periods of contemplative silence and focused attention.

Though, then again, neither are many adults…

We’ve taken our kids to Mass in 3 different countries and maybe a dozen other states, and the one constant has always been, there is no constant. From week to week, from kid to kid, on any given Sunday there’s bound to be somebody feeling bad, acting worse, and dumping and projecting the entirety of mommy’s purse. (Like that rhyme?)

Some of our best and worst masses were during our stint in bella Roma, because while the churches were peerlessly beautiful (and therefore highly sensorily engaging to kids) and the liturgies high and fine, sometimes the homily would be in Italian, sometimes the Pope would be there and therefore, 4 hours long, and sometimes there would just be no air conditioning. (Okay, that was all the time.)

Now that we’re comfortably ensconced in our beloved local parish, we’ve had about 2 years of hardcore practice in one particular building, and we’ve discovered some tricks of the trade to help – not guarantee, but help – the hour between 9:30 and 10:30 pass a little more peacefully.

(Keep in mind this is what works for us right now with kids ages 4.75, 3, and 1.5 (plus an 8 month bump). So it’s all subject to change. And I know other parents who swear by various and different practices, so, here’s the salt shaker. Take as many grains as you care to.)

1. We go to Mass at the same time and in the same place every Sunday, as long as we’re in town. This has the twofold effect of giving the kids some predictability and stability of routine because this is what we do and where we do it on this day, and it has also helped us to bond and connect to other families in our parish, along with our pastors. Also, we know we’re hitting the loudest, most, ahem, dynamically fruitful Mass of the weekend. So if we have a pterodactyl on board (which Genevieve has proven again and again to be the terrible avian reptile queen of), we know we aren’t going to be traumatizing a greying congregation used to serene silences and occasional organ music.

(And, duh, if our kids are being abnormally loud or are disrupting the liturgy, we take them out. Nursing babies occasionally need a few seconds longer than is comfortable to settle down in slurping silence, but when the toddler starts tantruming we bounce, for everybody’s sake, the misbehaver’s included.)

2. Be prepared. We take a little canvas bag filled with religious cards (you know the endless amounts you get in the mail/from work/from various ministry events? Now they have a purpose. You’re welcome.), medals, a rosary or two, and lots and lots of books. Ignatius Press sent along three beauties to review a few weeks back, Let’s Pray the Rosary, A Missal for Little Onesand Catholic Saints for Childrenand they’ve quickly become house favorites.

I love Ignatius’ children’s line because the content is rock solid and, almost as importantly, the illustrations are gorgeous, particularly their Magnificat series. Since none of my little snowflakes can read yet, that’s a big ‘un for us.

Of the three titles, I was most excited to get my hands on Catholic Saints for Children, because it was the very first book I’d ever seen that had something on St. Genevieve! (The boys are still scratching their heads as to how “Evie got her own saint!” so I guess we did a bang up job explaining her name to them. Ha.) It also has stories and prayers about St. Joseph, St. Maximilian Kolbe, St. Francis, St. John Paul II, and St. Therese. Boom. Entire family canon, right thur.

We tend to rotate 4-5 books every few weeks so they don’t get stale, and we try (try, being the operative) to have them religiously themed. I’m not going to pretend JP wasn’t reading Spot the Fire Dog last week though. But, these beauties from Ignatius make it a lot easier to fill the bag. I can heartily recommend them for ages 3 and up, with “Let’s Pray the Rosary” being applicable for much older kids, too.

Oh, and Evie gives her gummy, page-ripping approval of any and all dust jackets. Lovely girl.

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3. Bribery. I mean, whatever works, right? I know I’d sit still for an hour for donuts. (And I’d go 90 minutes, easy, for an order of Eggs Jennifer at Lucille’s.) We tell the kids up front what our terms are and what the targeted reward is: lighting a candle, stopping for donuts, a trip to the park across the street afterwards, etc. Choose your own diabetic adventure, but don’t be afraid to connect good behavior + a sweet reward in their pliable little brains. It’s good for their sacramental imaginations, too. Dave vividly remembers his dad taking them out for donuts or ice cream after Saturday afternoon confessions, because “the Father’s forgiveness is sweet.”

And how sweet is that?

4. If it works for your family, then it works for your family. And if it doesn’t? Don’t sweat it.

Some of my friends swear by the front row strategy. We’ve tried (and failed) again and again, and I’m ready to concede that at this point, the walk of shame is simply lengthened by our immediate proximity to the liturgical action. So we sit midway back, always on the aisle for maximum procession-viewing ease, and we are prepared and willing to pull the eject button if and when it becomes necessary. Some people like the crying room (though our parish doesn’t have one) and others rock the cheerios. No shame, parents. You’re already well ahead in the game of life simply for taking those precious little souls you’ve been entrusted with to God’s house every week. So do what works.

And if you’re looking at the last chocolate frosted glazed donut in the box? Look around for any pregnant women lurking in the line before you snap it up. It may just save your life.

ignatius book review

budgeting, Family Life, motherhood, thrifting

How to hack the KonMari Method with a houseful of kids

June 22, 2015

I’ve written once or twice here about my deep affection for the the slim, ecclectically-titled Japanese best seller, Marie Kondo’s “Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” and I’ve continued to get great questions about it since I first mentioned reading it back in the spring.

Most of those questions center on practical application techniques, namely, how on earth can this idealistic, vaguely buddhist style system of whole-life overhaul be implemented by a suburban American housewife chasing mewling toddlers and a variety of select larger children with their own personal Lego and superhero underwear entourages?

Well, it can’t be.

Not precisely, anyway.

But even though I’ve gone ahead and disregarded Miss Kondo’s principal tenant, which is to employ her method in an unyielding order and with exacting precision, I’ve still seen truly life-changing and magical results.

And the house is usually tidy, too.

I respect a lot of what she brings to the table in her little book, and I’ll share what I interpreted the basic tenants to be, and how I’ve employed them in our home:

1. Things can and do have a tremendous amount of power over your life, and those which you decide to host in your home should be items that are genuinely useful and beautiful, even if the beauty is only in their functionality. 

This concept seems to trip a lot of people up because Kondo speaks frequently of an item “sparking joy” in it’s owner’s heart and I can honestly say that my steam mop does this for me. Is it as beautiful as a fresh cut bouquet of lilies or a starched white pillowcase? Well, in a way, yes. Perhaps not in an objective sense, but it does posses beauty for what it does for me and for the way it enhances my standard of living. So the steam mop stays, even if its beauty is of a more interior sort.

Turning the tables, if an item is ugly/useless/broken…why are you hanging onto it? Because it’s “better than nothing?” Are you absolutely sure? Is it really better to have those curtains that you hate and are stained or smell funky than to have bright, open windows in a (non-sleeping, of course) room, filling the space with more natural light?

There are plenty of things in all our houses that aren’t really all that useful or beautiful. So don’t keep them around as placeholders. Make do with less and see how much lighter (and easier to clean) your home feels.

2. Are you holding on to this because it was a gift? Because you fear the future and not having what you may need “someday?” Because you’d feel guilty discarding it? Time to let go.

That’s right. Toss it/gift it/donate it. A wise friend of mine, pregnant with her sixth child, a baby boy due in just about a month now, sagely observed as she packed up all her baby girl clothes to bless other families with: “if God sends the girl, he’ll send the clothes.”

I.love.that.

Isn’t it so Christian, too? To allow ourselves to let go of the fear of not being provided for, the need to grasp and to control and to hoard because something might be useful, one day?

Now obviously I’m not saying you should trash all your baby gear between babies, or box up your never-used wedding china and flatware for Goodwill (unless you want to!), but for those of us who hang on to anything and everything “just in case,” allowing stacks of rubbermaid containers to accumulate in our already overstuffed closets for years and years, there’s a beautiful lesson in detachment and surrender here. Plus, you have no idea how much easier it is to keep a house clean if you’ve filled that house with fewer items. Truly.

Now, we don’t know what we’re having this time around, and so I have a small container of gender neutral newborn clothes and then some that are geared towards either sex. But for all our kid’s clothing, if something is worn out/beyond repair/just plain ugly…I toss it. I don’t hang onto clothes in between kiddos unless I love them so much I’d buy them again (and this is huge) in their current condition.

That leaves very few candidates worthy of retention. And I have no qualms about spending $2.49 at my favorite local thrift shop on a newer/better version of that sleeper or onesie, should the need arise. Clothing is consumable by nature, remember. Especially kid’s clothing.

3. Thank your possessions for the work they’ve done/the time they’ve served you.

So close, but not quite on target.

I have found, however, that being more intentional with what I bring into the house and with what is allowed to stay has connected me in a deeper and more grateful way to God’s providence for our family. So when I haul 5 trash bags filled with generously gifted hand-me-downs from our sweet neighbors to Saver’s? I thank God for the thoughtfulness of the mom friend who brought them by, and for the fact that out of 98 items of clothing, only 2 or 3 were truly useful to us and worth keeping, because He has provided (and I know He will continue to.)

So gratitude, not to the things themselves, but to the Giver of all good things.

4. If it does not spark joy…kick it to the curb.

Okay, this is the toughest one for anyone living with kids or, heck, other human beings period. One man’s trash is another man’s beloved broken Lightening McQueen watch.

But kid’s stuff is notoriously ugly and joyless, at least a lot of the toys and superhero themed clothing, am I right?

So what’s the solution?

Scalability.

Now, my kids are young, and I rule the house and control (most of) the inflow and outgo, so I have the freedom to choose whether or not that stupid Dollar Store tchotchke goes in the cart. And I’m the only one who can avoid the (hypothetical, at least for 6 more months!) Target Dollar Spot.

Are my kids still going to ask for stupid stuff when we shop? Of course. But I’m going to explain to them that we aren’t put on this earth to mindlessly consume, and that we don’t buy things we don’t need just because we feel like it. Plus, hey guys, we’re on a budget. Insert teachable economic moment here.

And that goes for mommy, too. (Gulp.)

I do allow each boy to keep their own freely-chosen and seemingly random “treasures” in a single dresser drawer, filled with such wondrous content as Chicfila kid’s meal toys, broken matchbox cars, anything that glows in the dark, disgusting tubes of chapstick, “crystal power rocks” (looks like a rock from the neighbor’s yard to me) and various and sundry religious artifacts. And you know what? Whatever. As long as it ends up back it the drawer, I’m not losing sleep over their Howard Huges-esque collection of broken paper airplanes.

But as for the rest of the toys – and their entire wardrobes – that’s mommy and daddy’s realm.

If the toy annoys us/makes them fight/breaks/is inherently evil, we toss it. We also have a pretty strict one in one out policy for birthdays and Christmas, so they know that they have to clean house in order to make room for new items.

To top it all off, we don’t really buy that many toys to begin with. Because they play with sticks and cardboard boxes and live bugs and 2X4’s all day long, honestly, and I’m not keeping an endless inventory of plastic in my basement in case they change their minds and want to dump a couple bins of crap on the floor before wandering back outside to spray each other with the hose.

So we have a few tried and true toys, their stuffed animals, and some Legos, but that’s pretty much it.

In the textile department, I’m a big fan of self-dressing preschoolers, so I figure if it’s in their drawers, it’s fair game. And if I hate what they come out in, well, that’s my fault (color blindness aside.) Because I’m the one who put it there.

Whew, this ended up being a real novella, but once I get started talking organizing and – more to the point – purging, I sort of can’t help myself.

If you guys haven’t read the book, I wholeheartedly recommend it. Just read it through the lens of Christianity (as we ought to be doing with everything in our lives) and see how life changing it turns out to be.

konmari

Catholics Do What?, Family Life, Marriage, NFP, Parenting, Sex

Contraception and the Catholic Church: {part 5} NFP vs. contraception: common objections and FAQs

June 19, 2015

Limping across the finish line to finish up this week-long love fest for the Church’s teachings on sex and babies. (Parts 1, 2, 3 and 4 here.)

Let’s take a couple bites out of the elephant in the room today: the idea of NFP as “Catholic birth control,” and why some people continue to simultaneously tout the 98% effective statistic while ably captaining our small herds of humanity.

Here’s the thing that gets a lot of people confused, Catholic and non alike. NFP, at first glance, looks a whole lot like primitive, “natural” (aka less effective) birth control that the Church reluctantly throws out as a bone of concession to ensure we don’t all end up with a veritable baker’s dozen of children and driving a cargo van.

Except that I personally know like, at least 20 families who fit that exact description. So what gives?

If NFP is so wonderful and effective, why are lots of us who sing its praises sized out of the entire efficiency auto market?

First off, NFP does not equal contraception. It is not, in fact, “Catholic birth control,” however doggedly our sexually-illiterate culture persists in this misnomer.

Contraception necessitates a step taken, a physical or chemical interference in the life-giving process of human sexuality.

Delaying or avoiding conception, on the other hand, or to use Bl. Pope Paul VI’s phrase, “the intentional spacing of children,” via periodic abstinence, does not tamper with the life-giving potential of sex.

On the contrary, using knowledge of one’s cycle to avoid a pregnancy virtually bows down in the face of Divinely created human fertility and says “I defer to your awesome power” — there’s no shutting down or circumventing or cutting off or wrapping up and proceeding as if nothing has changed.

So in this way, fertility awareness aka NFP aka “birth control” in the fullest sense of the phrase is about the furthest thing from contraception. A better term for it might simply be self control.

Instead of enabling sterilized, life-denying sex, it summons temperance. Prudence. Delayed gratification.

NFP says “I recognize the gift, I am in no position to receive the gift at this time, I offer the gift back to the Giver in gratitude…even when it’s a difficult offering to make.”

And it’s sometimes a very difficult offering — both the abstaining part and the “maybe we really are ready to welcome another child” part.

In practice it looks like this: a married couple, determining that now would be an imprudent/dangerous/unwise time to have a baby, practices abstinence during the fertile phase of the woman’s cycle, ranging anywhere from 5-18 days depending upon the individual woman, the particular season they find themselves in (postpartum NFP can be a real b, can I get an amen?) and a series of other possible factors based on the unique biological makeup of each human person.

For some couples, the grave reason can be a lifelong condition, a debilitating illness, a permanent state of “we can’t accept another child right now.” I know several couples who fit that description, and their practice of NFP is heroic, but talking with each of them they’ve found that even in their particular and very, very difficult circumstances, it has continued to be a gift in their marriage.

Are they more “careful” than the average couple, weighing the gravity of what a pregnancy could mean each time they come together? Yes, for sure. But NFP has given them a confidence in their sexual love that God will not give them more than they can handle, and that through diligent and very conservative observance of the method they’ve chosen, they can confidently avoid pregnancy.

(And as an aside, no method of contraception is completely failsafe. So when a couple who really ought not to conceive for grave medical reasons does so due to a failure or flaw, what becomes of the baby? Abstinence remains the only 100% effective method of avoiding pregnancy. )

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to human reproductive system. We’re all designed similarly, but we each work a little differently. (And that’s one major score for NFP over mainstream western gynecological care. Many physicians are unwilling or ill-equipped to examine an individual woman’s unique cycles and physiological makeup, opting instead for an automatic prescription for hormones, a temporary bandaid instead of a more in depth analysis of the difficulties or idiosyncrasies of her particular body.)

Remember too, the Church isn’t anti contraception because She is anti science or anti technology, but rather, because contraception is fundamentally anti-woman and anti-life.

The Church’s promulgation of NFP is not a matter of finding a “natural” way to avoid getting pregnant; it’s about coming to terms emotionally, intellectually, physically, and spiritually to the reality that sex and procreation are intentionally, inextricably linked. For a reason.

NFP isn’t the Catholic solution to the problem of ‘too many children;’ rather, it is the Church’s response to the gaping void of too little love.

Yeah, but if it works so well, why do you have so many kids?

Nobody has kids as close together as some of us practicing Catholics tend to (well, maybe Mormons and Muslims), and so while to some people it’s repulsive, for most it’s simply … surprising. And I don’t mind being surprising.

I actually fairly frequently encounter friendly, non-hostile and curious strangers who are genuinely surprised and happy – if a little confused – to see a youngish mom with so many little kids in her charge. Especially kids who look like they could maybe be twins but aren’t.

And often the topic turns to matters of a reproductive nature. Especially, it seems, with strangers. And so explaining to a fellow mom on the playground that we use NFP to space our kids and then watching her eyes fill with horror as she does the mental math to discover the age gap between them (19 months for us, but intentionally so, for the most part) is probably not the most compelling case for the method’s “effectiveness.”

But here’s the thing. We haven’t yet had a grave reason to avoid another pregnancy indefinitely. We’ve for sure had seasons of hardship where NFP was successful in allowing us to buy a couple more months of breathing room as I clawed my way out of PPD, but after each baby we’ve always come out of the woods (thankfully, so far) by about month 10, feeling sane and stable and ready to welcome another little life into ours.

That’s not the case for every couple, and the beauty of it is, it doesn’t have to be! But the fact that many couples who practice NFP may tend to have larger families, on average, is not necessarily proof of the methods “ineffectiveness” at spacing or avoiding pregnancy.

It’s just that when your default setting isn’t “sterilized” but “periodically fertile,” there comes a time each month where spouses are compelled to discuss the nitty gritty of where they’re both at, physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and whether or not now would be a good time to tap the procreative brakes. Some months that answer is an unequivocal YES. And other months, it’s a more tentative “maybe?” … and then some months there is real, authentic readiness to welcome another child.

And into each of those scenarios we invite the Holy Spirit into our consultation, asking His wisdom and guidance and giving Him a warm welcome into our marital relationship.

And sometimes He shows up in a particularly tangible way. The 2 pink lines on a stick way. But we’re never surprised about it, even when we perhaps have felt less than prepared for it. Because we’ve never intentionally tried to shut Him out of the equation.

So that’s the gift of NFP, in a nutshell.

Customized fertility awareness, increased spousal communication and discernment, openness and (hopefully) receptivity to the workings of the Holy Spirit, and yes, some of the time, a bigger than average family. And that can be really hard. And we shouldn’t be afraid to say so.

But we’re never surprised when sex = babies, even if we were perhaps hoping for a little more time. Because sex does, in fact, lead to babies, does it not? Unless something is broken, has been intentionally disabled or damaged via medical intervention, or a couple have arrived beyond the physically fertile years of their relationship.

That’s the real difference between contraception and NFP. We’re never surprised when sex leads to babies, because that’s what sex does.

And when we encounter the reality of how the human person was designed head on, acknowledging the nature of of make up, body and soul, our relationships with each other and with our Creator are always deepened and enriched, in good times and in bad, for better and for worse.

contraception and the catholic church
Catholics Do What?, Contraception, infertility, Marriage, Sex

Contraception and the Catholic Church: {part 4} hard cases and an invitation to love

June 18, 2015

We’ve talked historical context, the problematic nature inherent to contraception, and how human fertility actually works. Let’s spend some time today talking about why sex is so good, and why the Church has so much to say about it.

Sex is good, but just like too much of any good thing, it’s best enjoyed outside of the all-you-can-eat Golden Corral mentality

And contraception, far from being the thing that frees us from the natural consequences, the burdens, if you will, associated with sex, well, contraception is actually the enemy of love.

Contraception kills love, it deadens the conscience to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and it drives a wedge bewteen the two people who are using it, ironically, to do the thing which should be most capable of bringing two human beings together.

And the Church is not in the business of destroying love.

She’s pro life, in the fullest sense of the phrase, and She has our best interests at heart,

Especially when Her voice seems to be speaking in total contradiction to the culture at large.

When that happens you can rest assured that the Church is actually most right, because it’s here that she most closely images Her spouse, Jesus.

His words were challenging, His teachings were impossible, but then He tied it all together by His blood on the cross, uniting the impossible standards with our lowly humanity through the divine perfection of forgiveness and redemption.

So we don’t have to say, with the bewildered disciples in Matthew chapter 19, “why then should anyone marry? How can anyone live this teaching?” Becuase we know, because He promised us, “For human beings it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.”

Hard cases

Some couples struggle with real, serious, life-threatening conditions surrounding pregnancy. The common argument is that for these couples, the Church must, as an act of mercy, extend to them an exemption, look the other way while quietly condoning their contraceptive use.

But for these couples, perhaps more than for anyone others, if another pregnancy would truly threaten the life of the mother and would truly burden their union beyond the breaking point… the only sane, rational, and truly compassionate option is abstinence.

Does that sound hard?

It is hard. But it’s also the only 100% guarantee against pregnancy. Because, again, healthy sex often leads to babies. And sex, even with a condom or an IUD or a vasectomy, can still lead to babies.

And then what? What if the couple conceives while contracepting, and the pregnancy would truly end the mother’s life? What choice are the parents then faced with?

That’s the reason the Church speaks as she does, standing firm in the face of overwhelming pressure to extend a false mercy, a sort of watered down charity for those who cannot embrace this – by the world’s estimation – impossible teaching.

A gentle invitation to love

Sex is a rather touchy subject, for all the false bravado and media saturation that surrounds it.

Even the most avowed bachelor or most modern, liberated woman wants, in their heart of hearts, to experience the beauty and the satisfying depth of real, permanent, indissoluable love

And while yes, contraception is the enemy of love – many, many couples are using it in a misguided attempt to find love, to practice love, and to facilitate love

There are sincere, faithful married couples who truly believe that contraception enables and safeguards their love – they’re honestly afraid of having another child, or maybe a single child to begin with, and they feel God is calling them to contracept in order to protect themeselves from that possibility.

There are women – I know, I’ve talked to plenty of them – who contracept because their husbands insist on it, because the sexual appetite within their marriage is such that they sincerely believe they might be resented, cheated on, or, worst of all, abandoned and divorced if they are not available for sex on demand, without the fear of conception.

To these women and men struggling to balance desire with prudence and generosity, we must offer a gentle, sincere invitation to reexamine the very meaning and nature of sexual love between married couples.

Not condemning or alienating, but inviting them to take a deeper look at what the Church teaches about sex, and why, and what the seemingly innocent use of contraception within their marriage means for the longevity of their union and the quality of their love.

Just because a couple believes they are contracepting out of love or responsibility doesn’t make their actions loving or responsible.

Drinking poison – even poison disguised as mineral water, will still damage the drinker

Using contraception – even out of a place of misguided good intention – will still harm a marriage.

So we must approach the issue with love, especially when we’re broaching the topic with a friend or family member who sincerely believes their motives to be pure.

Love, and an invitation made in love to dig deeper and to examine the methods they’re employing to safeguard and nurture their love – are they honestly achieving their desired end?

Somebody may not be ready to hear this message, and that’s okay. It takes repeated exposure to truth sometimes, to let it seep in through a crack, a small opening, and start putting down roots.

I know for me, personally, there have been so many moments in my spiritual life where I’ve wrestled with God over particular aspects of the Church’s teachings.

But wrestling is good! Really, it is – it’s in the Bible. Remember Jacob?

Don’t be afraid to wrestle with this. It is challenging. It is countercultural. And it is, in many cases, contrary to perhaps everything that we’ve been taught about sex, love, and marriage.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Finally, I want to point out 4 predictions that our late holy father, Bl. Pope Paul VI (beatified last fall by Pope Francis at the start of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family – perhaps a message the media failed to get?) made in the encyclical I mentioned at the beginning of this series, Humane Vitae, which, if you haven’t read, I’m assigning to you for your homework. It’s like 6 pages long.

The Pope said this about what the widespread availability of contraception would do for society:

  1. A general lowering of moral standards, in all areas, not only in the sexual realm
  2. An increase in marital infidelity
  3. The lowering of respect for women, and the perception of women as instraments to serve the desires of men
  4. The use of contraception as a dangerous tool in the hands of corrupt governments or public authorities who will wield it as a form of population control.

If any of those scenarios sound familiar to you, perhaps it’s a good time to take a long look at what the Church has to say about contracption, and why we should all – not just Catholics – but all of us – be paying attention.

Our current Holy Father, Pope Francis, very helpfully picks up and runs with several of these points in the newly released (as of this morning!) encyclical, Laudato Si. So read it with an open heart, receive the Church’s wisdom with an open mind, and don’t allow your conscience to be shaped solely by personal preference and media consumption. Even (and maybe especially) when it feels so right. There’s a reason we’re in the place we are, sexually, as a culture.

This isn’t working out.

Not for any of us, and not for society on a larger scale.

So let’s have honest conversations about why that might be, and let’s not be afraid to ask hard, painful questions about what we’ve been taught, about what has been modeled for us, and about what our parents and our pastors have perhaps failed to communicate to us.

He’s big enough to handle even our biggest fears, and He definitely doesn’t mind hearing about them.

contraception and the catholic church

{Part 1}

{Part 2}

{Part 3}

 

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Contraception and the Catholic Church: {part 3} Babies, bonding, and how women work

June 17, 2015

We’ve spent the past couple days talking about the historical background of contraception and the Church’s response to the increasing availability of new technologies and the moral nuances surrounding its use, so I thought it would be good to back up today and take kind of a 20,000 ft. view of sex itself, asking the obvious question, what’s the point? In other words, what is sex for, and, when engaged in it, what are the natural outcomes?

(Btw, I’m loving the great discussion in the comments too, and I’m especially loving the interaction between commenters which is super encouraging when this preggo is too tired or too toddler’d to get to them all in timely fashion. Yay for sane, civil discourse even in the internet age!)

So, let us begin. First I want to ask the obvious question:

What are the natural consequences of sex?

The Church says – in a nod to natural law – the the consequences are both procreative and unitive. In other words: babies and bonding.

We’ll focus today on the first “B”, if you will: babies.

Not every sexual act is capable of producing new life, as we discussed yesterday, and not every couple enjoys healthy fertility. And then there are those 40+ years of life after cycles, which renders the marital relationship naturally physically sterile, through no fault or flaw of the couple themselves.

Because really, unless something has been damaged either by intention – as in the case of sterilization or contraception, or by disesase – sex is fundamentally life-giving.

Even when no new life is created.

Just to be super, super clear: God did not design us to pump out baby after baby, endlessly procreating until the day we die.

So wait, sex is life-giving even when no new life is conceived?

Yep, you read that right.

A common argument against the Church’s teaching on sex is that She only wants more butts in the seats, so to speak. Full pews and full coffers. Women continually pregnant and producing an army of faithful Catholics to pledge allegience to Rome.

Now, look away from my very pregnant belly for a moment while I assure you that this is not the case. Sex, as anyone practicing NFP, well-versed in the science of basic human biology, or experiencing the heartache of infertility can attest to, does not always lead to babies.

And it wasn’t designed to.

Women, contrary to Planned Parenthood’s popular talking points, are not walking fertilty time bombs.

Our fertility, far from being a sure thing, is actually cyclical in nature, sometimes beyond our best and most desperate efforts to control. And ultimately it’s transient.

Women, unlike men, have a finite capacity to reproduce, during any given month and over the course of a reproductive lifetime. So rest assured, the Church isn’t condemning us to a life sentence of pro-creation by banning birth control.

Women’s bodies, in particular, just do not work that way. It’s sad to say that in a culture as technologically advanced as our own, many, many women (and men) don’t have a basic grasp of the nuts and bolts of human fertility, but that’s one inevitable consequence of the widespread usage and availability of the thing that shuts down and reroutes fertility (I’m speaking here of contraception), isn’t it? A lack of understanding of who and what we were designed to do in the first place, and how all the moving pieces work together.

So we understand how to lobby for and demand and subsidize pills and prescriptions that shut down the female reproductive system, and yet most of us have a vague understanding (at best!) of how a woman’s body is designed to function in the first place.

Kind of anti-feminist, if you ask me.

The NFP alternative 

Blessed Mother Teresa was able to teach poor, uneducated Indian women living in homeless shelters the truth that the female body was created with intelligence and is capable of being understood, teaching them to chart their monthly cycle using the most rudimentary tools and very basic scientific knowledge. This was critical to many of them maintaining or achieving better maternal health, spacing their pregnancies further apart or avoiding future pregnancies.

Contraceptives tend to not work well when they’re not used rigorously, and for women in poverty struggling to provide the very basic necessities for their families, there is a hierarchy of needs that all trump remembering to refill a prescription or take a pill each day. NFP is the more humane, more holistic, and, ulitmaltey, more effective method of family planning to instruct them in.

And! Added bonus: it keeps their health and dignity first and foremost, unlike any form of contraption.

So there you have NFP, or Natural Family Planning, in a nutshell. It’s cheap to practice, relatively easy to learn, and not to be confused with some kind of baptized, backwards, papal-approved form of contracption.

(For more informtion on NFP you can visit your local parish’s website, google “Creighton, Marquette, or Sympto Thermal” or search through the archives of this blog. There’s also a handy tab up top labelled “NFP.”)

The beauty of the female body

What does all this tell us about a woman’s body, and about the inherent genius to our design?

For one, you don’t need to proscribe 3 decades worth of birth control pills to “protect” a women from her fertility. She isn’t broken.

We aren’t broken.

You don’t need medicine to correct the part of you that is capable of producing new life, of participating in motherhood.

You don’t need to be chemically or hormonaly transformed into something other than what – and who – you are.

You are already fearfully and wonderfully made.

And as women, we shouldn’t be so obliging as to put our spiritual, physical, and emotional health on the line in order to be perpetually available for sex.

The cost is much, much too high.

I’m going to wrap it up here because hello 1,000 word count and also, thank you Jesus, they’re all napping. Off to the patio I go with a sparkly La Croix in hand. Tune in tomorrow when we’ll chat up that other “B:” bonding. And maybe some pertinent details re: the general un-greenness, if you will, of hormonal contraceptives in particular. You know, since it’s encyclical day and all.

Ciao adesso!

contraception and the catholic church

{Part 1: The historical precedent}

{Part 2: What’s wrong with contraception}