30 July 2015

#UnplannedParenthood: Got anything to add?

In the wake of the videos being released by the Center for Medical Progress revealing a small measure of the depravity of Planned Parenthood, and the attendant absolutely deafening silence from the mainstream media, pro-life Twitter has unleashed a barrage of beautiful, life affirming tweets using the hashtag #UnplannedParenthood.

People are sharing their stories: either they were unplanned pregnancies themselves, or they experienced an unplanned pregnancy and chose life and (obviously) do not regret it. The troll quotient is pretty low, too (surprisingly enough).

So here's the thing...

I contributed one little tweet:

... but I can't do much. I myself was a planned birth for my parents, and thanks to my experiences with infertility my own babies have been planned and planned and hoped for and prayed for and planned some more.

But this community can offer so much insight here!

And who doesn't want to make Twitter explain why #UnplannedParenthood is trending? ;)


28 July 2015

Can open, worms everywhere.

I have a daughter and a son (so far).

I was already 100% sure that my daughter would never be a Girl Scout. That is because of the Girl Scouts' extremely troubling involvement with Planned Parenthood, and also their founding membership in WAGGGS (the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts), which has been known to send girls to petition the UN for sexual and reproductive rights. This from an organization intended for girls under 18.

Just today I saw the news that the Boy Scouts of America have decided to end the ban on gay scout leaders. There is a tiny silver lining in that there is an exemption in place for scout troupes that are sponsored by churches. (For now.)

I'll say it straight out: this is depraved.

This is obviously a touchy subject. The BSA has been fighting making this change for years in the face of enormous pressure and has evidently finally buckled under the strain. And let me be clear: I'm not suggesting that all gay men are pedophile predators, or that there's no reason other than sexual interest that a gay man might be interested in being a scout leader. But the reality of the situation is that some scouts are 18, or nearly so. Furthermore, unlike other jobs that men can hold which brings them into regular proximity to potential objects of desire (for instance, high school teachers), the boy scouts go camping. Overnight. And it's not as if high school teachers have a stellar track record of keeping themselves from temptation under circumstances that afford them far less privacy with the teens by whom they find themselves tempted.

I was recently discussing this with a priest friend. His pastor has put him in charge of deciding these issues in his parish and he's feeling paralyzed with indecision. On one hand, the church-sponsored troupes of both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts are faith-centered in a way the national charters can apparently no longer sustain. On the other hand, he's worried about the trend, and how long the church-sponsored troupes will be allowed to maintain their independence in these matters.

I told him about how my pastor denied the Girl Scouts meeting space in our parish a couple of years ago. It made national news. Obviously some of that coverage was extremely unfriendly. But it blew over, and fast. In my opinion, I told my priest friend, it's smarter to cut ties now and face the angry parents -- and there will be angry parents -- than to wait until he's looking at a lawsuit for refusing to allow a gay scout leader in his troupe. I don't know what he's going to do, but this decision makes the need to decide more acute.

My decision is made: my son will not be a Boy Scout, any more than my daughter will be a Girl Scout.

Such a shame.

27 July 2015

New Life's Goal:

I've been watching Death in Paradise on Netflix and now I want to move to the British West Indies and solve murders.

Because apparently everyone gets murdered in the British West Indies.

26 July 2015

AMT: Congratulations on the new baby, Kendra!

Earlier this week I wrote up my experience (so far!) with NFP for NFP Awareness Week. It's been my most-read post to date (except for a few here and there that were part of one link-up or another). It seems like it was mostly well-received -- at least no one complained! If you missed it, check it out!

Okay so we're here for this week's the summer's final installment of Answer Me This. Here we go:

The estimable Kendra at Catholic All Year has brought back her popular linkup, Answer Me This, for the summer, ending this week. Here's Kendra's answers!

P.S. Kendra just had a baby yesterday! At home by accident! And I was only off by about 12 hours in the baby pool, and I guessed Mary Anne instead of Mary Jane, but I'm thinkin' I was pretty darn close, even if I didn't win.

1. What's your favorite grocery store splurge?
Heavy cream. A splash in my coffee, a splash in the oatmeal I'm tired of eating every day to help keep my breastmilk supply up... Heavy cream makes everything better. 

{AND I just found Red Robin steak fries in the freezer case on Friday! I bought some -- on sale, so maybe not quite a splurge? -- but haven't tried them yet.}

2. How's your penmanship?
I actually have really good handwriting. I went to Catholic school, so that helps, but really I think it must be genetic because I have the same handwriting as my sister, my mom, and most of my mom's sisters. My sixth-grade religion teacher once told me that my handwriting was "almost perfect" except that it's "too flowery." Because of the loops in my o's or something. I left the loops alone because I like them. Also that's just how my hand moves.

I have to admit it's less neat than it used to be. I was going to try harder for my sample but in the end I decided to keep it real. Which is why I also didn't try to hard to find a piece of paper that didn't have that weird bump where the Post-It sticks to its pad. (Laaaaay-zeeeeeeee!)

3. Do you have a "Summer Bucket List?"
I do not. We just got back from vacation last Sunday and I feel like it's all a downhill skid to snow on the ground from here, but a million years until Christmas, which is the only good thing about winter. Working full time really puts a damper on "summer" as a concept. Sometimes I feel like the only benefit is not having to wrestle the kids into coats to take them to daycare (which is actually a huge benefit!). 

I did not realize how deep in the summer doldrums I am until I answered that question! Sorry for being such a downer! Yeesh.

We have been making a real effort to take the kids to parks regularly on weekends. Keira thinks it's the greatest thing that ever happened to her to be at a playground, even if it's 10 million degrees and humid and no kids will play with her (what is wrong with kids these days?!). Declan tolerates it. He's just mad he can't run around yet.

4. What's the best thing on the radio right now?
I almost never listen to the radio. I don't spend much time in the car, I don't think I even have a radio except for internet streaming in the house, and I keep the car well-stocked with CDs. If I am listening to the radio, it's usually talk -- TheBlaze radio, mostly.

5. Ice cream or frozen yogurt?
Ice cream. With chunks of something crunchy. Plus extra chunks. Crunchy crunch!

21 July 2015

Natural Family Planning Awareness Week

When I was 23 or 24 years old and single, I went to a new gynecologist for an annual exam. She asked me the standard questions to get my history, and when she asked about my sexual activity I told her I was abstinent. She said, "Good for you. There is too much out there to catch."

Cleanliness was only the secondary reason for my abstinence.

The hierarchy was:
1) My deeply-held belief in the sacred nature of sexual union, and the fact that I did not yet have a husband;
2) My unwillingness to catch something that might stick around forever and/or compromise my future fertility; and
3) My unwillingness to bring a baby into the world without the proven benefit of a married mother and father.

We went on with the appointment and discussed some issues I had, specifically that my cycles were irregular and extremely painful. She didn't seem to be overly concerned, but she ordered some blood work and sent me to a radiology center to have a pelvic ultrasound. My results, it was reported, were normal.

In the following year or so, I met my now-husband and we got engaged. At my next appointment with the same gynecologist, again for an annual exam, I answered the sexual activity question in the same manner, and then later she noticed my engagement ring. She congratulated me and then said, "When you're married, what do you intend to do about birth control?" I said, "We're not using birth control, but instead we're going to learn NFP. We're practicing Catholics."

And she laughed.

She laughed in my face and said, "With your irregular cycles, that is not going to work for you."

Then she saw my stony face. She shrugged and told me she'd see me six weeks or so after the wedding to confirm my pregnancy. As if it were a threat.

I went home and Googled "pro-life ob/gyn Northern Virginia" and found out that Tepeyac Family Center, one of the largest pro-life practices in the country, was less than five miles from my fiancĂ©'s condo, which we would be sharing after our wedding. Even though I had just had an annual exam, I made an appointment.

The receptionist told me, "We are a pro-life practice and do not prescribe birth control, nor do we perform sterilizations." I said, "That's why I called."

I had lost all confidence in my old gynecologist. When she laughed in the face of my deeply-held religious convictions, I realized she wasn't to be trusted about anything else, either. I had my doubts about the results of my tests the previous year and wanted them to be run again.

Lo and behold, when the blood tests were run again, this time by a doctor who cared about the actual mechanisms by which fertility functions, the results were clear: I had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). As I had suspected, my irregularity and pain were not normal, but were symptoms of an underlying pathology. The original gynecologist, in her astounding ignorance about the actual mechanisms at work in her chosen specialty, had seen the same severely out-of-whack hormone numbers and decided they were irrelevant.

The non-birth-control-pill medication protocol for PCOS turned out to be effective enough at sloooooowly bringing my hormones back in line without flipping the switch on my fertility to OFF; unfortunately I couldn't tolerate the medicine and had to stop taking it.

Soon enough I was married. My new husband and I learned the Creighton Method of NFP with the help of a retired OB/Gyn (the simpler Sympto-Thermal method is less effective when pathology exists). I took waaaaay too many negative pregnancy tests when my charts were unclear -- or more likely: my charts were clear but I didn't want to believe it. I endured all the delightful side-effects from fertility medications, especially as the doses were slowly increased to levels that made the pharmacist do a double-take. Between the Creighton lessons, the wasted pregnancy tests and the fertility medication my insurance refused to cover, it cost us a small fortune, all told.

I cried to my mother about the injustice of growing up in a large, endlessly and effortlessly fertile family and not being able to conceive, when I had been so careful to avoid compromising myself. I cried whenever I so much as thought about abortion -- what a personal insult it was to know women were throwing away something I wanted so badly! I tried to smile and make jokes when everyone I had ever known in high school and college, who knew about my commitment to my virginity, asked me constantly whether I was pregnant yet.

After three years or so, still not pregnant, I insisted on laparoscopic surgery to investigate the possibility that I also had endometriosis. On December 1, 2011, I had the surgery, which did indeed reveal (and remediate) endometriosis. I kept using Clomid. And in February 2012, I discovered I was at long last pregnant.

It never would have happened without NFP.

Without NFP, I would probably have wasted years on the Pill, convinced that I didn't want to be pregnant yet anyway. Without all that meticulous, excruciating charting, I never would have discovered that I was borderline anovulatory. I would not have been able to point to charted proof that the Clomid was working and I was now regularly ovulating but still not conceiving, thus sending me on the search for a further answer. I would not have been able to get pregnant almost immediately once the barrier of endometriosis was removed because my charts told me exactly what to do.

Most people writing about NFP awareness are writing about how it helped them space their pregnancies, or how they don't use it to space pregnancies but like knowing that they could, or how they support it but hate it personally. Everyone writing about NFP awareness mentions how good it was for their marriage.

Those aren't my experiences.

Infertility is a huge burden and it can be extremely hard on a marriage. The senses of inadequacy and helplessness, the depression that accompanies the arrival of every period, the feeling that sex has lost all fun and spontaneity: these things are real and they are heavy. Because our marriage was basically born into the crucible of infertility, we never had the chance to consider the benefit of using natural methods to space pregnancies.

This is the cross that God gave my husband and I to bear. We struggled to remind ourselves that faith in God includes having faith in His timing. We got a baby when He said it was time; we had to learn patience and forbearance and selflessness. I'm still learning to have patience and forbearance and be selfless.

But here's the reality of the situation: whether you feel burdened by your fertility because you have eight kids under the age of 11, or whether you are suffering because you just want a baby, natural family planning is a gift. Doctors who care about how your body is actually working or not working are a gift. My children are a gift. 

And thanks be to God for those gifts.

20 July 2015

AMT: Vacation Debrief!

I fell back into bloggy silence again by accident. (Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!)

We got back yesterday afternoon from a family vacation. We are very fortunate that my parents own a house at the Jersey shore -- and let me just get this out of the way: it is NOT like you may have seen on that horrible "reality" show! -- and so we were able to have ten days of family time on the relatively-cheap. My parents provide the accommodations and we provided the food (which, given that we eat like kings on vacation, is a non-trivial expense, but it's absolutely worth it).

So now that we're home I have 80 million* non-bloggy things to do, but FIRST I have to photo dump our good time on you -- don't be mad -- and also tack an Answer Me This to the end because I accidentally haven't been attending the virtual cocktail party. 

Heeeeeeeeeeeere we go!

Riding in cars with dinosaurs.

"I'm ready for the beach, Mama!"

So bagel. Much happy.

And a beer-ita for Mom -- not at the same time of day. {Seriously, check out the recipe at that link. Amaze.}


This is her first solo ice cream experience {I have no idea how I pulled THAT off}, and her life will never be the same.

Evening grace.

That beach life.

Anna, Olaf, Elsa, and a hat that makes her look like a hobo.

Daddy swapped out a toilet for Mimi and Grandad. This photo opportunity was not to be missed. {This toilet was brand new out of the box! Relax!}

Aunt Kenzie had a bright idea. This took quite a bit of toddler wrangling, but we told her it would look like Up and she cooperated and I think the trouble was worth it!

After all that time together, I'm going to seriously miss my babies today, as they're back to daycare. (We magically got them and Daddy out the door early this morning, and that left me just enough time to blog before getting to ALL THE WORK.) As they all trundled off to their days this morning, I felt really sad.

But dat silence, doe. {Heart-eyes emoji.}

Ooooooookay: Quick AMT, and then I'm off and running!

The estimable Kendra at Catholic All Year has brought back her popular linkup, Answer Me This, for the summer. Here's how it goes: she posts the questions one week; you take your leisurely time answering. The next week, she posts her answers and next week's questions. Join us, won't you?

1. What's currently on your To Do list?
All. The. Things. We have mountains of vacation laundry, and I have to get back to work, and we have no food in the house, and I have to pick up a couple of packages at the UPS store thanks to poor we're-going-to-be-out-of-town-so-don't-order-anything-to-be-delivered-dummy planning on my part. Plus other stuff. Eek.

2. Better type of superhero: magic/radioactive powers? Or trauma/gadgets/hard work?

Hmmmm. I'm going to go with a combination platter. I like Daredevil, who lost his parents and had plenty of trauma, and is also blind. He lost his sight by accidentally coming in contact with some radioactive something-or-other that took his vision but enhanced his other senses to superhero levels. So now he can hear an eyelash hit the ground and fight like nothing else, and he goes out and dispenses vigilante justice (which is a bad, bad idea in The Real World but satisfies me to no end in the Marvel universe). By day he practices law and fights for the underdog. AND he's Catholic.

3. Finding out if baby is a boy or a girl before birth: Good idea? Bad idea?
Our first baby was a surprise. I wanted to find out but my husband really wanted to wait, so we struck a deal that if it was one baby, we'd be surprised. If it had been multiples, we would have found out. It was one baby and I was unsurprised to be told she was a girl at her birth -- we were armed with unisex everything, but I just knew. With the second baby, Daddy's practical side won out and he decided he'd like to know this time whether all of our girl stuff was going to need to be dug out of our impractical storage. So we found out at our 20 week ultrasound.

Having done both, I prefer finding out. I torture myself over baby naming, and I found it to be a huge relief to not have to decide on names for both sexes when I was only going to have one baby. And I just like to know stuff.

EDIT: I also realized that a big motivator for me is that I loathe calling my baby "It." 

4. Have you ever appeared on a stadium jumbotron?
Yes! When I was in college at the University of Delaware, we used to caravan down to Camden Yards for an Orioles game at least once a year. (I'm a Phillies fan, insofar as I follow baseball, but O's tickets are substantially cheaper!) Then we made it our mission to have enough fun -- clean, sober fun, since we could absolutely not afford stadium booze -- to be worth broadcasting on the Jumbotron. 

5. Are you more book smart or more street smart?
I'd say, just like I'm equally right- and left-brained, I'm probably pretty well equal in this sense too. I was good at school and I'm capable in life. 

(I've always thought that "capable" was a word that sounded way less impressive than it actually is; it kind of connotes "able to get by" but I always mean it as "able to figure out stuff and then do it reasonably well." And if you're able to figure out stuff and then do it reasonably well, you're doing fine.)

6. Have you had that baby yet? (Feel free to skip this one if it's not applicable to you.)
Almost seven months ago! Jeez! ;) He still sleeps like a newborn though, God help me.

* Slightest of exaggerations. {It's probably more like 76 million.}

05 July 2015

Answer Me This: God Bless America!

The estimable Kendra at Catholic All Year has brought back her popular linkup, Answer Me This, for the summer. Here's how it goes: she posts the questions one week; you take your leisurely time answering. The next week, she posts her answers and next week's questions. Join us, won't you?

1. How did you celebrate the 4th of July? (Or, for you international types . . . Do anything fun this weekend?)
My brother-in-law was in town from San Diego with his wife and their new baby, so we spent the observed holiday, July 3, getting to meet our niece for the first time! 

And then for the actual 4th, we went down to my husband's aunt's house in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and enjoyed a lovely barbecue on the farm. I'm still dealing with the after-effects of cat dander torture, but nonetheless we had a lovely day. 

And Keira blew about 7,000,000 bubbles with her godmother.

And Declan continued to be cute with Uncle Todd.

2. Do you sunburn easily?
Not especially, thank goodness, because I am shamefully lax on personal skincare (although I usually have SPF on my face, thanks to my moisturizer). If I blast myself with sun right out of the gate after a long winter, I will burn, but it's going to turn to tan. If I take it easy at first and sloooowly get a base tan, the rest of the summer is easy going. My husband, on the other hand, is as pale as pale gets, and his burns turn right back to white, so I'm a crazy person about sunblock on my children, since I don't know which of us they're going to take after yet. So far my daughter is slowly turning a golden color through the sunblock, so hopefully she's going to have the tan skin and not the white burn-y skin.

3. Hot dogs. Yay or nay?
Yaaaaaaaaaay! I used to almost never eat them -- maybe one a year. But then I had babies and after babies I realized I love them, but only on the grill, and only cooked until they burst. And mostly without a bun. But: a blackened, burst, grilled hot dog with yellow mustard and dill pickle relish? My mouth actually just watered.

4. Have you ever personally set off fireworks?
Yeesh. One of my very reasonable fears is blowing myself up. I have had fireworks set off in my honor, though! My high school boyfriend (may he rest in peace) threw me a surprise Sweet 16, complete with illegal back yard fireworks. He was a sweetheart. 

5. Have you ever jumped off the high dive?
One time. I did not like it. Because if blowing myself up is one my fears, my very tip-top principle fear is falling. And jumping off the high dive, you're falling for SO LONG.

6. Do you do anything weird in your sleep?
I am capable of a whole conversation without actually waking. I make sense and everything! I will not, however, remember a thing about it. Also, I snore when I'm congested, but that's not that weird, probably.