7QT In Case You’re Wondering What I’ll Be Doing This Weekend…

Linking up with Conversion Diary.

It’s Labor Day! It’s pretty much the biggest weekend of the year for our family. Here is a repost from last year, just in case you were wondering what we’ll be up to this weekend:

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Here is Part 3 and Final in my series on the Labor Day Party. Sorry it’s a bit belated, but I got distracted by the girls’ baptisms over the weekend and my parents’ visit this week.

Here are some random observations about the weekend, the Farm, the family, and The Party.

1.

A perfect illustration of The Party in a Walmart shopping cart:

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I can’t think of any problem that could come up during the Labor Day Party Weekend that couldn’t be fixed with hand wipes, coffee, toilet paper, and/or a fire extinguisher. Probably should have some beer in there to truly complete the picture, but someone else was in charge of buying that.

2.

Families need to eat together.
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My husband’s family is huge. And they love to eat.

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My Mother- and Father-in-law are the absolute masters of feeding very large groups of people with maximum efficiency.

There are lots of good ways to do it. Weenie roast and lots of wings/fries are two that are employed every year during The Weekend.

My favorite though, is the shrimp boil.
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I don’t know exactly how it works, but it involves boiling lots of corn on the cob, potatoes, hot dogs, sausages, onions, garlic, and shrimp with spice packets in huge pots.

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Sometimes it includes lobster. Yum.

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The tables get covered with plastic and paper and when the food is done, well, it goes on the table. Literally.

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Food. On table.

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What could be more fun than grabbing food off the table, eating it with your hands, squirting ketchup and ranch dressing directly onto the paper…? No plates, no utensils, easy clean up. I love it.

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Talk about family togetherness.

3.

I love how much stuff there is to do at the Farm. The bigger kids and grown ups do lots of boating, knee-boarding, and playing volleyball. There’s tons of fun for the littles too.

When a family reunion lasts a whole weekend, there has to be plenty to do.

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Or not.

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4.

Costumes make a party more fun.

The theme of The Party this year was “Jobs.”

After much deliberation, my older girls both decided to be marine biologists. Lass was going to be a zookeeper, but when she saw the wetsuit outfit I was going to order for her sister, she had to have the same one.

DSC_0809 A cousin was also a marine biologist.

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Baby Sis was a mommy.

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The Band (L-R): Fast food worker, rogue accountant, blacksmith, Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs, trucker, and me, a tattoo artist.

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Some of my other favorites:

The clown, complete with balloon animals for the kids
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“Mechanic Man”

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And, yes, The Lunchlady (complete with the full Chris Farley dance performed during the party)

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One of my favorite lines of the night was overheard from my sister-in-law regarding a comment my niece had made about her dad (The Lunchlady), “This is my Daddy’s fake butt that he wears under his dress.” Nice.

5.

Families that rock together, stay together.

Father and son:

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Sisters:

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Mother and son:

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Brothers:

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Cousins:

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A special tribute sing-a-long for their Grandmother,

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Her favorite song, “Lord of the Dance.”

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6.

One of my favorite parts of the night was watching my girls have fun on the dance floor.

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And the dancing. Oh, the dancing.

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Blister in the Sun:

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The dance off:

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“I ripped my pants!!”

And one of my favorite dance-floor traditions, the “Wipe Out” dance:

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7.

An incredible weekend. An incredible party. An incredible family.

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For other quick takes, go here.

Here are links to other posts about the party, its history, and the band.

Have a great weekend!

Posted in 7 Quick Takes Friday, Family, The Farm, Traditions | Leave a comment

So Big, and Yet So Small – The First Day of Kindergarten

Yesterday morning, when I went in to wake Miss up for her first full day of kindergarten away from home, I stood and gazed at her for a second before rousing her. I brushed her hair back from her sleeping face, and as I looked at her in profile, I saw her, right then, as a two-year-old. In sleep, her big-girl face took on the baby-like qualities from when she was smaller, and it almost took my breath.

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^ In the upper left-hand corner of that photo is Miss at about 18 months.

I almost didn’t want to wake her. I wanted to just stand and look at her. She looked so little and so big, at the same time.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel about today. I knew it would be hard/weird to send her to somewhere else for a full day. I knew it would feel strange to know that my little girl is big enough for kindergarten, even though next week she’ll be back home with me, and we’ll be doing school at home most of the time. I knew I would be nervous and excited for her.

She was certainly excited.

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So, did I cry when I dropped her off?

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No. I didn’t. I felt the throat tightening, eyes burning feeling for just a moment when she first started to walk away with her class. But it passed pretty quickly.

However, it was certainly a strange, and in some ways difficult, day. I kept feeling like a part of me was missing. At lunch, sitting with just my two youngers, I noticed how odd it felt to not have Miss there. That was the hardest part. That’s when I almost cried.

Sis: (to Lass) “You be Pincess Pesto, and I be Affa Pig, and Mama, you be Supa Why!”

Me: “Okay! Too bad your sister isn’t here. She could be Wonder Red.”

Sis: (looking sadly at Miss’s seat) “We need to go get her!!”

That moment, that little-sister-missing-big-sister moment, is when I started laugh-crying, as I said something like, “We can’t yet. She’s at school.” I almost spiraled into all-out bawling, feeling acutely the void left by Miss’s absence right then. But I pulled it together and rallied with more Super Why! pretending. It helps when you know all the words. . .

For most of the day, I kept looking at the clock and wondering where Miss was and what she was doing right then. “11:07, I wonder if she’s having lunch yet?”  Super Friend kindly texted me a photo of her grinning from ear to ear on the playground at recess and let me know that she seemed fine at lunch.

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By 1pm I was checking my watch every five minutes or so, to see if it was time to go get her yet. I missed her.

At pick up, I realized how much fun she had had, and how grown up it made her feel to have had a full day at school, away from Mom and sisters.

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She and her sisters played with other kids on the playground for a bit after dismissal. Miss kept following Sis around, helping her on the relatively large play structure. She came to me and told me that I didn’t have to watch Sis, because she would take care of it.

The whole day, I was struck over and over by the juxtaposition of so grown up with so teeny tiny. She was acting so responsibly, and so big with her little sister. Yet the older kids careening around her dwarfed her.

Her uniform clothes were so grown up.

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But in them, she looked so teeny tiny.

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I guess that’s one of the tough things about the start of kindergarten. Our little ones are so big and so small at the same time. This makes it hard to let go. At least for me.

I must say, I am quite relieved she will be back at home with me next week. I think I’ll be able to handle this for one and a half days per week.

Posted in Miss, Motherhood, School, Sisters, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Answer Me This – Mmmmm, Cheese!

This is the last time Kendra is hosting the Answer Me This link up (at least for now), so I couldn’t miss out this week.

1. What is your favorite picture book?

Oh my. No way could I answer with just one book. I wrote a guest post for the 101 Books blog last year about my favorite fictional picture books. That post included the top 15 books, but I linked it to a post on my blog that had 101 wonderful picture books.

Sooo, yeah. I really love picture books. If I had to choose one favorite favorite fictional picture book, it would probably be:

It is the book I enjoy reading the most, because I love doing the voices of the characters. And it makes me laugh. A close second:

And one more newish book that I love:

Because, obviously.

A couple of favorite nonfiction books include:

We have three copies of ^^ this one ^^. One has been read so much it’s falling apart. Lass used to sleep with it.

Also:

This book is huge, and it is filled with wonderful drawings of so many different animals, several of which I had never heard of before.

Ours has been taped and re-taped. Lass used to sleep with this one too.

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2. Are you a boycotter?

No, not really. I did switch to buying Blue Diamond almond milk after learning that Silk (the other main brand of almond milk) is owned by a company that supports Monsanto. But, if Blue Diamond isn’t available, I’ll buy Silk.

On the other side of it, the day after the SCOTUS ruling about Hobby Lobby came out and everyone on my FB feed was in an uproar about how awful HL is, I went there and bought a bunch of stuff. It was stuff I needed anyway (most of it, though I did decide to buy some 4th of July decor I hadn’t planned on), but I made a pointed decision to purchase it from Hobby Lobby rather than JoAnn fabrics a few doors down, because I wanted to show them a little love in the midst of all the haters.

3. How do you feel about cheese?

Oh, I LOVE cheese. I think cheese is just wonderful. Unfortunately, I’m boycotting cheese right now.

I am someone who tends to gain a zillion pounds when I’m pregnant. I start gaining weight practically the very minute the second line turns pink. So, I gained (relatively) a lot of weight in the brief time that I was pregnant recently, and it really sucks to have to try to lose pregnancy weight without the blessing of a baby to snuggle while you do it. So, I need to lose the extra pounds ASAP. The fastest way I know of to do it is to get back to strict paleo eating, including no dairy.

Yeah. I love cheese.

4. How many pairs of sunglasses do you own?

I think three or four. I have a pair that I always keep in my car, and a few more here and there. I think I have two pairs in the cabinet by my back door, and maybe another pair somewhere that is scratched. . .

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5. How long has it been since you went to the dentist?

About six months. I need to schedule appointments for myself and the girls, but I am being oppositional and putting it off. My dentist’s office always calls me an absurd amount of times to try to get me to schedule an appointment. I always tell them that I will call them when I am able to schedule it (usually they call me when I’m somewhere that I can’t look at my calendar or at a time when I’m in the middle of something else).

Even after I tell them that repeatedly, they still call me several times. I don’t like to be hounded, so now I’m just not scheduling it because I’m being ornery.

6. If you could visit any religious site in the world, where would you go?

The only religious site I have been to so far is the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help.

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There are so many places I want to go. Guadalupe. Lourdes. Fatima. Rome and the Vatican. Cascia (that’s where Saint Rita is from).

If I could choose one place to go right now though, I would choose Jerusalem and the surrounding area. The Holy Land, I guess is a better was to say it. Someday. . .

To see more answers, go to Kendra’s link up.

Tomorrow is Miss’s first day of school outside our homeschool. I’m not sure if I’m going to bawl, or think of it as no big deal, since she’ll be back with me at home next week. I’ll let you know which way it goes.

Posted in Answer Me This, Books | Leave a comment

7QT, Theme Thursday, All in One

Linking with Jen and Cari today.

1.

Cari’s Theme Thursday this week was “Google Image Search.” Easy – type your own name into Google Images and share the first image of you that comes up. Except that I am kind of crazy paranoid about keeping myself and my family somewhat anonymous on the internet. I don’t use my last name here on the blog, I don’t use my kids’ real names, etc. Add that to the fact that my last name is super generic (think Jones), and I end up with a Google image search in which not one of the photos that shows up is of me. Not. One. I would have done a screen shot of the images that did show up, but I have no idea how to do that, so here are a few samples.

^^ Not me (that’s Amy Grant in case you couldn’t tell)

^^ Also not me (that’s Amy Lee from Evanescence)

^^ Yeah, not me either (Amy Smart?)

Anyway, you get the idea. There were tons of photos that came up of people who actually do have the same name as me, but I didn’t want to put some random person’s pic on here without her permission, so these are a few of the celebs that came up.

Apparently, as far as the internet is concerned, I don’t really exist. I’m cool with that.

To see other people’s actual pictures of themselves from Google image searches, check out Cari’s Theme Thursday link here.

2.

We started homeschooling this past week. This is earlier than I wanted to, but Miss will be starting her part-time kindergarten next week, and for the first week she’s going to go for three full days so she can get into the classroom groove and get to know the other kids. I wanted her to get a foundation of school at home before doing that, so I began before I was entirely prepared.

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It’s been a little crazy. I’m not in a groove yet. I haven’t gotten things worked out so that I can work with Miss and keep the others occupied and still be able to do a little bit of one-on-one work with Lass. I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.

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^^ She doesn’t use a binkie, she just found that and decided it was nice to chew on ^^

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I will say that, though it has been a little crazy, I’m pleased overall with how the week went. Miss is begging for more of her reading lessons. The girls learned some fun stuff, like what onomatopoeia and personalization are (thanks, FIAR). They had fun coming up with examples of these. We did some cool art. We went on our first field trip.

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3.

The field trip was to a place called Bookworm Gardens. All of the different areas at these gardens are based on different children’s books. They even have little cubbies all around the gardens with the books in them, laminated, so you can read them while you explore.

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^^ Goldilocks and the Three Bears

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^^ Little House on the Prairie

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^^ Horton Hatches the Egg

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You get the idea.

I thought it wouldn’t be crowded, since school groups aren’t taking field trips yet. I failed to realize that, since most schools haven’t even started yet, the summer daycare programs are ending, and they’re taking field trips. The place was packed.

We had plenty of fun anyway.

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4.

In addition to having to prepare for doing my own schooling with the girls at home, I’ve had to get Miss’s stuff ready for her part-time Kindergarten too.

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Which means a lot of labeling. Her teacher wants everything labeled. Each crayon. Each marker. Each colored pencil. That’s a lot of labeling. Super Friend did this last year, and she recommended her handy dandy label maker machine.

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Which really is quite handy dandy. Except the labels aren’t quite as sticky as they’d need to be to stay on curved objects, like crayons and markers. I stayed up late Sunday night and got all of the items labeled. When I went to show Miss her stuff the next day, I found that on the 108 crayons, 20 skinny markers, and 10 colored pencils, the labels didn’t stay.

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I panicked for a moment, and then resorted to the obvious solution. Scotch tape.

DSC_0170I went back and taped over every one of those suckers.

When I took Miss to meet her teacher and drop off her supplies in her classroom she said to her teacher, “My Mom was really smart, because she put my name on all of my things.”

Worth it.

5.

Speaking of taking her to meet her teacher, the open house for her school was on Thursday. She got her school pictures taken.

IMG_3498She looks so grown up, and so tiny, at the same time. Look at her little feet dangling. I could cry.

6. 

We had a birthday party today.

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A little girl who really loves animals is turning four tomorrow.

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Naturally, we had her party at the zoo.

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We had just enough time to play on the playground for a bit and see all the animals before it started to pour. Between them running out from under the covered areas to get wet on purpose, jumping in puddles, and needing to make a mad dash through the rain to the car, we had some wet kids when it was all over.

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I suspect the rain and puddles were one of the highlights of the party for them.

7.

After much deliberation, prayer, and checking (and rechecking) with my husband to be sure he’s okay with it, I have decided to become a sponsor for the RCIA program at my parish this year. The first class is September 8th. I can’t wait.

For more quick takes (probably much quicker than these!), check out Conversion Diary.

Posted in 7 Quick Takes Friday, Friends, Homeschool, Lass, Other Great Blogs, Outings, School, Theme Thursday | Leave a comment

Answer Me This – Mass Confusion

I’m linking with Kendra for Answer Me This again.

For fun, you should give your answers in the combox :)

1. What is your favorite room in the house?

The office. Really just my chair, but since the chair is in the office, and very often my husband is too, I’ll say the office.

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2. Do you subscribe to any magazines or other periodicals?

No. But it’s funny you should ask. I have a story about this.

Once when I first started graduate school, I stupidly opened a credit card, or increased the credit line on my existing card, or did something like that in order to get some “prize package” that had grocery deals (not really) and a free five-year magazine subscription, and maybe some other free things (nothing really worthwhile). The only thing that was really true from that “deal” was the magazine subscription (I was so dumb). I selected “Mademoiselle” from amongst the available titles, and began receiving monthly installments right away.

Turns out I’m not really a magazine person. But they were free, so I didn’t think too much about it. Five years went by. I think they stopped publishing Mademoiselle, because at some point I started getting Glamour instead. It’s basically the same thing, and I wasn’t reading them anyway, so I didn’t care.

Somewhere along the line, I realized that five years was looong past and I was still receiving the magazines. I started to wonder if I was being charged for them somehow and checked through my records, with no indication that I was. I tried to find a way to contact the magazine publisher. I had a hard time finding a contact number. I forgot about it. The magazines kept coming.

At some point, I finally did get ahold of a contact number or website or something and I requested that they stop sending me the dumb magazines. I started graduate school in 1998. Those magazines had been coming for waaaay more than five years. And they had followed me through at least six changes in residence. It was kind of creepy.

But, as I said, a couple years ago (or maybe a year? I can’t remember), I finally got the magazines to stop coming.

Guess what showed up in my mailbox a few weeks ago.

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I see they’re still publishing the same article “5,000 Ways to Please your Man and Get Him to Commit For LIFE.” With a different title, of course.

I’m not paying for it. Why do they keep sending it to me?? I don’t know how to make it go away. For LIFE.

3. How do you feel about the sign of peace at Mass? Enriching? Awkward? Overdone? Just Right? Some combination of the above?

Well. Let me first admit that I was very confused by this question, and by Kendra’s answer until I got to the part where she said, “I think it’s nice to make some eye contact with the people around me.” That’s the first sentence of her very last paragraph in response to the question.

Up until I read that, I thought she was asking about the Sign of the Cross. I was very confused and concerned to think that there was any controversy over it.

Oooooh, the sign of peace. Yes, I think they might have mentioned something in RCIA about how some people don’t like it.

So. Now that I have the correct sign, I’ll proceed to give my answer.

When I first started going to Mass, I really didn’t like it. I got all uptight about it in the moments leading up to it, especially once I started learning the progression of the Mass a bit better. “Ugh, he’s saying ‘Peace I leave you, My peace be with you,’ it’s almost time.” I dreaded the sign of peace because I’m shy or introverted or whatever, and it felt so awkward!

I’m not sure exactly when my feeling about it changed, but eventually it did. Now I actually really like it. It helps me to feel connected to other people in the parish. I like a lot of the other people in our parish! There’s one man who sits near us almost every week who smiles and winks at me every time I shake his hand (in a kind way, not a creepy way). People have said very nice things to me during the sign of peace, like, “Your children are beautiful,” “You’re a wonderful mother,” and so on. We were traveling, so I went to a small parish on the Feast of the Assumption (on Friday), and everyone there seemed to know each other and they were hugging and waving across the church and seemed to really enjoy greeting each other and wishing each other peace. Yesterday I went to Mass at a local home for elderly nuns, and people hugged me and were so welcoming and kind. I loved seeing those nuns do the sign of peace.

So, bottom line is, I think it’s great. I think it gives people a true opportunity to express kindness and warmth towards each other. And it’s traditional. “Peace be with you”

5. What was your favorite TV show (or shows) growing up?

I had a few. The main ones were probably Dukes of Hazard and Little House on the Prairie (which my Dad and brother called “Little House on the Chicken Coop,” while groaning, every time my mom and I turned it on).

I just bought season one of LHOTP to watch with my girls soon, and I have a whole bunch of homeschool stuff to go along with it. I think they need to be a little older for most of it, but I couldn’t resist :)

6. What are your favorite TV shows now?

I don’t really watch TV. It’s just not my thing (like magazines). The only show I sometimes watch is Chopped. Though I will admit to occasionally turning on Golden Girls or Days of Our Lives (on SoapNet in the evening, not during the day) when my husband is away or working nights.

I used to watch “Days” before I was married. And Golden Girls was my favorite all through graduate school.

Now, how about you???

Posted in Answer Me This, Other Great Blogs, Religion | 2 Comments

Baby Catholic Answers All the Things, Volume 5 – Birth Control and NFP

First of all, let me note that this Natural Family Planning (NFP) post is NOT a how-to. I don’t really even know much about the practice of NFP. I’m just going to write about my understanding of why the teachings of the Catholic Church prohibit the use of artificial birth control, but encourage using NFP for child-spacing. Second, let me give a little heads up:

***Warning: Though this post will not be at all graphic, I suspect I may use the S-E-X word once or twice. I’m just saying because my Mother-in-law reads this. And my Grandma. And my Dad. Sooo, yeah. Here we go.

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I remember going to a Catholic wedding many years ago (even pre-atheism!), in which the priest actually had the bride and groom vow to use natural family planning. When I heard that, my eyes bugged out, and my jaw dropped, and I just could not believe that they were supposed to do that. And that he said that during their wedding ceremony!

In my understanding at the time, NFP was the same thing as the rhythm method. And I really couldn’t wrap my mind around why in the world the Catholic Church would prohibit birth control anyway. I was pro-choice back then, but I could still at least grasp why religious groups might argue against abortion. Saying that people shouldn’t use birth control seemed barbaric and archaic and kind of ridiculous.

Fast forward about 12-ish years. I now know that NFP is not the same as the rhythm method. I’m now firmly pro-life. I now understand why the Catholic Church does not support the use of artificial birth control. It’s actually pretty cool. Check it out:

It all started when Super Friend told me about this post by Jennifer Fulwiler. I think it was the first or second post of hers that I ever read. Jennifer has a blood-clotting disorder that is exacerbated by pregnancy. After her sixth baby was born, she had multiple blood clots in her lungs. In the post I linked, she talks about how she probably ought not have any more children. And yet, she is not willing to use artificial birth control or sterilization to prevent pregnancy. That was a pretty powerful story for me to read, and led me to want to learn more about NFP.

As I said, I never did really learn much more about how NFP is practiced. But I did learn about how effective it can be when done right. I did learn that it can be used both to help achieve pregnancy and to avoid it or to space pregnancies. And, most importantly, I learned why the Catholic Church endorses this method of child spacing or pregnancy prevention but not the use of artificial birth control.

As I see it, it all boils down to this one thing: Openness to Life.

The Catholic Church teaches that new life is a gift from God. That all life is precious. And that the main purpose of marriage and sex is bringing new life into the world. Now, before you get all freaked out and start saying, “Yup! I knew those Catholics were all a bunch of twisted puritans! Sex is only for creating babies?!?!” or something like that, let me add that the Church teaches that the primary purpose of sex is making babies. NOT that that is its only purpose. The Church does not teach that it is wrong to enjoy sex or that every single time you have sex you need to be trying to have a baby. The Church does teach that, by engaging in the act that creates life, you should be open to the possibility of creating life.

The Church does not approve of the use of artificial birth control or sterilization because these separate the act of creating babies from the possibility of creating babies. They sever the life-giving act from the opportunity to give life. According to the Church, if there is a reason that you should not have a baby right now, then instead of changing the way your body works so you most likely cannot get pregnant, you abstain from sex so you most definitely do not get pregnant. And yes, the Church does explicitly teach abstinence before marriage.

And though there are plenty of reasons for concern about the lack of absolute effectiveness of artificial birth control methods and the introduction of unnatural hormones into one’s body, I don’t think that actually has anything to do with the Church’s position on the issue. The Church says that if we should not get pregnant, we should not have sex, so NFP is a sacrifice-based system, involving both partners. And, as an aside, I’m pretty sure that most of the big Catholic families you see around are not big because NFP doesn’t work, but because the Catholic teaching leads them to be open to life such that they don’t often use NFP for preventing pregnancy.

The Church does not shame people about sex. It actually holds sex as sacred. It values the God-given function of the sexual act, to create life. And in doing so, it celebrates the other functions of sex, to give pleasure and bring two people closer together. The Church holds that, by separating sex from its main purpose of creating life, we change it and devalue it.

I gotta tell you, when I first read about this stuff, I was stunned. I was completely taken aback by how beautiful this concept was. I could not believe that what I had always assumed to be misogynistic and sententious was really based in openness and reverence. It rang so true to me, as has almost every element of the Catholic teaching that I once thought was so backwards.

So, there you have it. The reason for using NFP and not using artificial birth control, according to the Catholic Church, as best I understand it, in a reeeeally overly-simplified nutshell. Blythe wrote more (better) about it here.

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This post was based on a question from my friend Liz (again). I love that she asks me such  great questions about Catholicism, and that she answers my questions about being Mormon. You should check out her blog.

So, what do you want to ask about?

Posted in Baby Catholic Answers All the Things, Other Great Blogs, Religion | 3 Comments

7 Quick Takes – Evidence of Summer Fun and a Couple of Other Random Thoughts

Linking up with Jen.

1. I have been a little off the past few weeks. I’ve wanted to write more, but nothing I’ve come up with has been right. I’m starting to feel like getting back in the swing, so I thought I’d start by sharing that, though I have had some rough days, we’ve still been having a fun summer. Presenting, five Quick Takes with photographic evidence of summer fun:

2. Last week we went raspberry picking.

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Miss was all about getting as many raspberries as possible so we could make fresh raspberry smoothies for breakfast the following morning (which were awful, by the way). The other two were not super motivated, but I think they still had fun. Either way, they got a special treat afterwards.

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I let them have just ice cream for lunch. They were thrilled and thought I was the best mom ever. I didn’t have to make them anything to eat. Win, win.

3. We went shopping for soccer shoes over the weekend. I realized how infrequently (i.e. never) I take the girls to a mall. They were ooh-ing and aah-ing over everything they saw, from kiosks with funky paper light fixtures to the mannequin displays in all of the store front windows. They even had a lot of fun with some president statues outside the mall entrance.

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It might have been a tad over the top, how proud I was that they could identify George Washington and Abraham Lincoln by themselves.

4. We’ve had a few cookouts with friends. I already mentioned our first one on the 4th of July. We had another with homemade grilled pizza, s’mores, and movie night (and some trampolining in pajamas):

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^^ The chef with his delicious pizzas ^^

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and another time with my husband’s grilled ribs, baked beans, and fritters (all homemade), an airshow overhead, homemade ice cream (my sole contribution), and a movie night:

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^^ We set the kids’ tables in the yard so they could see the Thunderbirds overhead ^^

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My husband loves to grill, especially for company. I love to let him. Win, win.

5. We had a picnic in the downtown square. We listened to live music and danced in the grass.

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We played in the fountain.

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Summer fun, right there ^^

6. This week we are at the Farm. Always a lot of summer fun to be had here. Yesterday my husband caught a bunch of shad and let the girls play with some on the beach. They were entertained for hours. It was sort of odd and quite fun to watch.

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7. And in news not related to summer shenanigans, I finally updated my “About Me” page. I am not entirely sure that it’s finished, but it has been changed quite a bit and I like it so far. What do you think?

For more Quick Takes, see Conversion Diary.

Posted in 7 Quick Takes Friday, Adventure, Outings, Summer, The Farm | 1 Comment

I’m in a Blogging Slump, BUT – Iowa State Fair!

Oh, the Iowa State Fair. I have such a love for something that is only mine through marriage. I grew up in Michigan and never once went to the state fair. The only thing I even knew about the Michigan State Fair was that there was a Hog-Calling Contest there, and only that because my cousin won it at least once.

And as much as I love living in Wisconsin, I wasn’t terribly impressed by our fair, which I went to only once, the first year we lived there (I say “there,” because I’m currently typing in Missouri). I had no real understanding of the wonders of the state fair until the summer of 2009, when I went to the Iowa State Fair for the first time when Miss was about six months old.

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Even then, I didn’t quite grasp the Fair fabulousness until taking my kids when they got a little older. We’ve gone for the past three years now, and I so love walking the streets of the fairgrounds, taking in all the sights and smells, and hearing all the stories from my husband and in-laws of fairs gone by. It makes me feel like I have a bit of claim to such a wonderful tradition, even though I’m a true city girl who has always been quite in awe of the fact that people grow vegetables and animals in order to show them and be judged on them at the Fair. It’s bizarre. And I love it.

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So, this year was much the same as always. We have a few Fair things that are must-sees and must-dos and must-eats. By the time we get done with those, we’re about ready to be done for the day. This year was no exception. As usual, we started in the baby animals barn.

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^^ No, we weren’t at the Creepy Perv Fair. The sign on the cage got cut off when I snapped this pic. The top line said, “For My Health, Don’t”

The girls got to see newborn piglets nursing from their momma, and some cute baby ostriches, and a calf being born on the overhead screens. This is always one of our favorite parts of the Fair.

Naturally, the next thing we did was to eat something yummy on a stick.

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And then find something homegrown and absurdly large to pose with for a photo

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^^ That’s an 1,131 pound pumpkin.

We went to the Avenue of Breeds barn and saw the Big Boar, along with lots of other types of animals.

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^^ NOT the Big Boar, but for some reason I only have photos of medium-sized pigs from that barn.

The city girl in me was so tickled to see this guy:

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It’s not every day you turn around to see a big pink pig sauntering toward you like he hasn’t a care in the world. There is something funny to me about the way pigs walk too. I kind of wanted to take him home.

After the Avenue of Breeds we walked over to the cattle barn to see the the Big Bull.

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His name is “Big Daddy” and he weighs over 3000 pounds.

After an unmemorable-but-belly-filling-without-long-lines lunch, we finally made it to the Big Yellow Slide, which Miss in particular had been begging to go on all morning. The older girls went down the slide with their aunt, and Sis went down with my husband. They loved it, and each went twice.

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At least they said they loved it after they got to the bottom. Their faces during the sliding sort of suggested otherwise:

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^^ That last picture makes me laugh every time I look at it.

Somehow, I have yet to see the famous butter cow sculpture in person (not sure how I always miss this), but this year I did see, um, extra large American Gothic:

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One of the coolest parts of the day came after the slide. We walked over to the antique tractors, where my Father-in-law located a model just like the one he had driven as a boy on the farm where he grew up. He was not much older than Miss when he started working in the fields driving that tractor.

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I’ve heard about him driving a tractor as a little boy, but somehow seeing that tractor close up, the same kind that he rode on back then, and seeing my small-but-not-much-smaller-than-he-was-then daughters standing next to it made it so much more amazing to me.

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My favorite part of the day, as it has been every year, was taking the girls to the Department of Natural Resources building. They run around and look at the fish in the tanks, guess at which animals the various pelts belong to, and check out many other cool (and educational) exhibits.

DSC_0343 DSC_0344^^ I asked Lass (my animal lover) about the birds in that display case ^^ She said, in a bored voice, “It’s a peregrine falcon. I already know that.” I had to check the card on the glass to make sure, but she was right!

Behind the DNR building, there is a pond with turtles and ducks and geese and swans. We always spend a lot of time there, searching under the surface of the water to spot the turtles, laughing at the antics of the ducks, and admiring the swans.

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This year, we got startled by one of the swans who climbed out of the pond, stretched her wings up and flapped around frantically for a few seconds, right in front of us.

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Perhaps I’m a big dork, bit this shady little pond, and the excitement my girls displayed over seeing turtles trying to climb onto rocks and swans flapping their wings, was the highlight of my day.

It was also fun that afterwards we enjoyed another dessert on a stick, deep-fried this time, as the perfect ending to a lovely day.

Posted in Adventure, Family, Outings, Summer, Traditions | 4 Comments

Theme Thursday – Panic, New Homeschool Mom Style

Kindergarten. Very soon, our first real year of homeschooling will begin. I’m terrified. And disorganized. And terrified.

Cari’s theme for Theme Thursday this week is “Panic” and her post yesterday showed that even veteran homeschooling moms can be in a state of disarray and panic at this time of the year, leading to hands thrown up and spontaneous avoidance-baking. I don’t like to bake, so I haven’t gotten to that point yet. But I did nearly decide that I would rather my daughters be illiterate than to spend absurd amounts of time peeling and sticking magnetic squares to letter tiles and tearing apart perforated cards (pages and pages of cards!!!) for our reading and spelling curricula. All About Reading didn’t include that part in the description of their product!

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^^ Look at all those tiles! That’s only half of them. Peel and stick. Peel and stick.

I am nearly ready, as far as my product preparation goes. 1000-ish Cards have been torn apart. I just have about 700 more to do for the spelling curriculum, and I’ll be done with that. I’ve mostly finished figuring out what we are going to do each day. Sort of. I’ve tallied the total number of hours we have to do school (the only state requirement of homeschooling here) and the number of days we’re doing school and used my math skills to determine the number of hours we need to work each day. I’m already exhausted. Math is hard.

Miss is going to the local Catholic school for 1.5 days per week. She’ll go to Mass, get religious education, music class, gym class, and a few other things. I’m going to send her for the first three full days of school, so she can get to know her teacher and classmates and the routine. Then we’ll start our part-time deal. They start school on August 26th. I am starting our at-home schedule the week before that, with the idea being that I’ll sort of cement “we-mostly-do-school-at-home” in her mind before she goes off to the big world of Catholic school kindergarten for three whole days.

So that means (gulp) we’re starting on August 18th. And we’re going out of town on Friday (tomorrow!) for a week. WHAT?

Panic, you see.

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Yes, I have been sitting at the tiny kids’ table to do all the prep work on the materials.

I still need to figure out my first lessons and get some stuff on the schedule of what we’re actually going to do.

I have to figure out a way to organize all this stuff.

I have to clean out our craft and supply cabinets.

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I have to figure out what I’m going to do with Sis, to keep her from running off with the fruits of my magnet-sticking labor every time I turn my back, and perhaps help her to learn a little something as well.

I have to actually read our first Five In a Row book and decide what activities I’m going to do to go along with it.

And because I’m crazy and my child is also attending a non-home-school part time, I have to get all of the required supplies for that school, and label each item individually (yes, each crayon, each marker, etc.), and make an appointment for her to have a physical (oops!), and get all of her uniform clothing de-wrinkled. . .

Yikes. Writing this post is only making me more panicked. I gotta go do some stuff. Wish me luck!

Posted in Homeschool, Other Great Blogs | 4 Comments

Sharing Crosses

Many years ago, I took a girlfriend to a psychic as a birthday present. It was a goofy thing to do, and we both took our “readings” with several grains of salt. I don’t remember much of anything that the psychic told me, except that at one point she gravely looked at me and told me that I am extremely fertile and should use caution (at the time I was not in a position of wanting to have kids) to avoid having a huge number of children. I chuckled, a little nervously at that, and thought, “Well, I don’t want kids now, but someday that will be awesome to have lots and lots, since I’m so fertile!” (lots and lots back then would have meant about four). And then I laughed and went back to real life.

The psychic’s words kind of stuck with me, though. I don’t think I ever really took her predictions to be true, but I remember thinking about that fertility comment a few times in the early years of my marriage, when my husband and I were getting pregnant almost as easily as we were breathing. We had our three girls closely together, by design, and I was feeling pretty smug in my hyper-fertility.

At one point I even offered to give all of my winter maternity clothes to Super Friend when she was pregnant with her fourth baby, thinking that, if I followed my typical pattern of having babies on an 18-months-apart schedule (and I had no reason to believe that I wouldn’t!) then I would not need winter maternity clothes again.

I would laugh at the absurdity of my over-confidence if it wasn’t so painful to look back on my stupidity.

Saturday I nervously clicked “publish” on a post that shared some of my no-longer-hyper-fertile struggles and attempted to shed some light on the “taboo-ness” of infertility. I have never liked to talk about infertility or miscarriage for two reasons. One is that I don’t want to make people feel bad or awkward. The other is that I feel bad to complain about infertility when I am blessed to have three beautiful children.

But the idea behind the post was to put forth some support for others who are quietly suffering from infertility or secondary infertility or sub fertility and similarly feel unable to talk about it. To give a virtual hug to other moms who have experienced miscarriages.

In the process of doing so, I mentioned that sometimes it is hard to be around pregnant women or those who have wonderful, big Catholic families. I mentioned that some might think me a jerk if I said, “It can be hard to be around pregnant ladies” to someone who has not experienced infertility or miscarriage.

It didn’t occur to me when writing that other post that some things might be hard for the pregnant ladies too. Or that other moms there, even if they haven’t directly experienced infertility or miscarriage may be very familiar with loss or other motherly struggles (as Bonnie kindly pointed out to me in the combox). I didn’t really think about the fact that it would be highly unlikely for anyone to think I was a jerk for feeling the way I felt, because every mother has her own crosses to bear, and in that place at least, for that time, I don’t think most of them were focused on judging the crosses of others.

And then Jenny commented about being on the opposite side of the fertility continuum. She mentioned having a bit of a hard time identifying with the pain of infertility, because for her (and others I’ve since seen comments from), what I would see as the blessing of strong fertility can at times feel like its own cross.

While I am sitting here wishing for what Jenny and so many other Catholic families have – lots and lots of kids – some of those families are at times feeling overwhelmed with their very blessings. I can think of women who struggle with health problems exacerbated by pregnancy, repeatedly getting pregnant. Or just those mamas in the trenches with lots of babies, in quick succession, struggling to keep it all together, and likewise feeling unable to speak of it for fear of seeming ungrateful.

We all have crosses to bear. And we all seem to be, at least sometimes, afraid to share our crosses with other moms because we don’t want to seem like ungrateful jerks. But as Jen said in her speech at Edel (I’m paraphrasing), “Can’t we all just admit that what we do is hard?” Because it is sometimes. And instead of pretending that it’s not, or trying to not ever mention a hardship because it could be worse, I think we ought to just all do our best to listen and help other moms with whatever in whatever way we are able.

IMG_3333Sharing our crosses with each other doesn’t mean we are ungrateful for our blessings. It just means we can have more hands to help us carry them.

Posted in Motherhood, Other Great Blogs | 2 Comments