Thursday, January 31, 2013

7 Quick Takes - Spring Cleaning

1.  I beginning to wonder if we have a gremlin living in the house (or maybe St. Patty's day leprechauns visiting us a month early)?  We have been misplacing or losing an enormous amount of things this week.  It started with Doug's jeans and new belt going missing on Tuesday and it's been downhill from there.  Honestly, we were up to 8 or 9 items over the past three days.  I would set something down and go back to pick it up an hour later and it would be GONE, never to be seen again.  It got so bad that I spent all day Thursday decluttering and looking for missing items.  We still haven't found those jeans...

Now reconsidering storing all those
vases in the tornado shelter!

2.  Part of Thursday's declutting project was cleaning out the closet under the stairs.  I usually do this annual ritual around this time because I have to pull everything out to put the Christmas tree away (what, it's only Jan. 31st...I know I can't be the only one doing this)!  In my defense, we've had the decorations down and in the crates for a few weeks but I'm just now finding time to get them put back into storage for next year.  Observe the "after" picture (no, I did not take a "before" picture, you can thank me later).

3.  One of the reasons I am cleaning under the stairs now is because that area also serves as our "safe room" during tornado warnings.  The joys of living in the midwest United States!  I would not consider buying a house without a basement for this reason alone.  I have lived in southern Illinois my entire life but have yet to see an actual tornado, for which I am very grateful.  I don't know what I'd do if I saw one in my backyard like Anabelle posted last year at Written By the Finger of God (she managed to snap a quick picture too).  Probably gather the kids in the safe room and pray, pray, pray.

4.  Speaking of spring weather, one of my best investments has been our handy dandy weather radio.

I remember we got this right after Game Boy was born.  It has been a life saver because I am one of those people who stay awake and watch the weather on TV in the middle of the night when it gets bad.  Now I don't have to do that because the radio will sound an alarm to let us know if a warning has been issued for our county.  My family all sleep very peacefully because they know I will call and wake them up if anything gets too serious and they need to take cover.  I remember mentioning to my mother-in-law a couple years ago that they needed to invest in one because they live in the country (too far away to hear sirens in the nearest town) and they don't have a TV.  She commented "why, that's what we have you for".  Sigh.

5.  Yes, you read that last take correctly, my in-laws do not own a TV or a computer!  Now, if the TV and internet went out at our house the kids would be going crazy.  However, my boys love every minute they spend at grandma and grandpa's house.  They do activities there that don't involve technology, like fish, swim, ride horses and in general do something called "playing outside".  Grandma now has an archery area set up so her house is quickly becoming the boys' vision of heaven.  Bonus points for grandma, she also takes them shopping at their absolute favorite store Buchheit (which has free popcorn and sells live baby chicks and turkeys in season).  Not to mention all the farm equipment, fishing and hunting stuff (did I mention they carry live rabbits too).

6.  I'm not going to give any spoilers here but can you believe that last episode of Downton Abbey?!  If you're not watching it, you should be (I'm just sayin).  The drama!  I can't seem to get Doug to watch this one with me.  I know other people's husbands watch this (at least, their wives are posting that they are watching).  We've watched shows similar to Downton Abbey together so I'm not sure about the hang up.  Maybe after football season is over he'll be more up for it.  He asked if it was like "The Tudors", I replied "kind of, but without all the nudity and raunchiness".

7.  Super Bowl Sunday is this weekend!!  We used to always go out to Super Bowl parties when we were young (in other words, before babies).  Now we have enough kids to have our own little party at home!  We love eating our traditional cheeseball, nachoes and chicken wings and rooting for our favorite team.  Then we always vote on our favorite commercial of the game.  In fact, I think the commercials and half time show are some of the best parts of the entire broadcast.  February and football go hand in hand at our house.

Enjoy Super Bowl Sunday weekend and click over for more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Conversion Story - Part III (NFP)

In honor of pro-life week and in remembrance of all the children who have been legally murdered over the last 40 years here in the "land of the free"...

The post you've all been waiting for...NFP.  Don't worry, I'm keeping it rated PG because this is a family blog and I'm hoping my kids will be able to read this some day.  Contraception is not a modern concept.  Even the ancient Egyptians have records on it and it was a common practice in Roman times.  Historically, all christian denominations (Catholic and Protestant) rejected birth control.  This changed in 1930 when the Anglican church decided to permit contraception.  In response, the Catholic Church reiterated it's stance against it.  Other christian denominations soon followed the course of the Anglican church.  Then the Pill was invented in 1953, at that time the theological argument was that it prevented ovulation.  For those unaware, the Pill does not just prevent ovulation but it also blocks implantation of a fertilized egg.  If implantation does occur the baby usually does not survive because the lining of the uterus is too thin (that's why women on hormonal birth control have shorter, lighter cycles).  Also, in the 1950's they were unaware of the cancer danger to women on hormonal contraception.  There is a reason why we pulled hormone replacement therapy off the shelves for older drastically increases the rate of breast cancer.  Did you know that those same drugs are in hormonal birth control (only at much higher doses)?  In fact, the women's breast cancer risk is higher because many young women on hormonal birth control have never been pregnant.  Pregnancy matures the breast tissue and offers some protection from the cancer risk of the chemical drugs.  But society seems to think it is an acceptable risk to give these drugs to our teenage girls and young women for the sake of "consequence free" (baby free) relations.  What's worse, most doctors don't even tell women about the dangers so they can make an informed decision.

Me at my bridal shower, 1998
(my mom is in the background)
As newlyweds, Doug and I were not counseled on any of this.  We went through premarital counseling at our Presbyterian church but the question was not "are you going to use birth control"?  The question was "what kind of birth control are you going to use"?  You see, most Protestant denominations have no issues with that question.  To them, using birth control is considered the mature, wise, prudent christian thing to do.  You're married, and married couples aren't expected to practice self control in this area.  There are even bible verses quoted on it...
"Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer.  Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self control"  (I Cor. 7:5, NIV).
The following verse says "I say this as a concession, not as a command", but that part is rarely quoted.  The Apostle Paul himself states that he is not writing these words to be followed as law.  He acknowledges that marital chastity is a difficult discipline to master and concludes that if a person is struggling with it that it is certainly not wrong to have relations with your spouse.  I feel as though I got the wrong impression about marital relations growing up.  It was seen as something that was wrong to do before marriage, but it was wrong not to do it after marriage.  So the marriage certificate was the key.  Young people were expected to practice chastity in their lives up until the point of marriage and then after that all bets were off.  There was no discussion of marital chastity, except for the idea that affairs and pornography were probably off limits, because they involved other people besides your spouse. 
"Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure..." (Heb. 13:4, NIV).
6 month old Soccer Boy
The verse says "kept" pure, not "is" pure...there is a world of difference in the implications.  God does not section off your private life with your spouse and say "ok, I want you to work on being holy in all other areas of your life except this one, because I know it is just too much to ask".  No, that is not my God.  If anything, we have to rely on His strength and grace more in areas where we struggle.  His strength, not ours.  The struggle is in not treating your spouse like an object (whether in the bedroom or out).  They are your gift from God, but they are also a person and they have a dignity and a worth because they were created in the image of God.  He or she is a child of do you want your children to be treated by their spouses?  Is it difficult to think of your son or daughter being married?  Why is that?  God intended marriage to mirror the union of Christ with His Church.  It is intimate and real.  This is especially shown in the marriage act, of two physically becoming one (as Christ does with us in the Eucharist).  It is the most intimate and vulnerable act in marriage and it is meant to be holy.  It is also meant to bring forth life, and the two cannot be separated without damaging the act itself.  Unfortunately, in our "Fifty Shades of Grey" culture, we do not respect the act and give it the dignity it deserves.  I could do a whole post on that book alone, but Brianna at Just Showing Up already did a really great one title Not as grey as you think.

Me and 11 month old Firstborn
Six month into our marriage we were surprised and delighted to be expecting our first child.  Nine weeks into the pregnancy I ended up in the E.R. with a barely missed miscarriage.  The next morning I was praying to God, begging Him to spare Firstborn's life, when I very clearly heard God say to me "Why him, why this baby and not the others?"  Others, what others, this was my first pregnancy?!  Then God opened my eyes, He lifted the veil and revealed to me my error.  You see, I had always considered myself to be pro-life, I would never consider getting an abortion if I became pregnant.  But, I wasn't really pro-life as much as I was anti-abortion.  I was ok with life as long as it was on my terms.  I realized the only difference between the baby I carried now and the children I would have had while I was contracepting was the timing, that was it.  That was why Firstborn would live and they died.  My heart broke at the realization that God may have sent Doug and I more children that I had unknowingly aborted because of choices I had made.  I couldn't claim ignorance because I knew how the hormonal contraception worked but I was ok with that because my heart was hardened.

9 months pregnant with Soccer Boy
God was gracious and I carried Firstborn to term.  After he was born we started looking for ways to space our children that didn't involve hormones.  That was how we came across Natural Family Planning (NFP).  When I refused the pill prescription my OB/GYN wrote me at my six week postpartum check-up my doctor acted like I was nuts...and he worked for a Catholic hospital!  He told me "NFP doesn't work...I'll write the script out for you because I'm sure you'll change your mind."  The hospital did offer NFP classes but they were too expensive (something like $200).  Too much investment for a young married couple who just had their first baby and weren't sure this method would even work.  I did some researching and came across the Couple to Couple League (CCL) online.  They had a home study course that was just $75 and you could opt to take the classes later for free if you wanted.  I ordered the books but the breastfeeding postpartum period is the absolute worse time to learn this method (it's much easier to learn it before you get married, which is why it is usually a required pre-cana course at many Catholic churches).  We ended up taking the classes when Firstborn was 8 months old.  He would occasionally accompany us to the class!  I think we were the only married couple there (besides our instructors), everyone else was engaged.  Our teaching couple was outstanding, I kept in contact with them long after the classes ended.  They became a sort of "mentor couple" for us (we overlooked the fact that they were Catholic).  The CCL classes also have some religious information in them, Doug didn't care for it but I was fascinated to hear about why Catholics believed birth control was immoral.

Me and 1 year old Soccer Boy
The CCL classes were held at the Catholic church that I would be confirmed in 10 years later.  The classroom was actually right off the sanctuary   I remember occasionally standing in the dark doorway of the sanctuary and staring inside at the altar before class started.  I could feel a presence there, a solemn peacefulness that drew me in and radiated from the empty church.  I would later realize the church wasn't empty after all, what I felt was the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.  Although the whole "Catholic" theology concerning birth control kind of freaked me out, I couldn't argue with the logic behind it.  I went back to my Presbyterian church and asked one of the elders about our denomination's stance on contraception.  He wasn't sure but promised to research it for me, which he did.  The conclusion was, we didn't have a stance.  It was sort of a non-issue for Presbyterians at that point in time.  I was disappointed, I thought surely something as important as having babies would have an official guideline.  Didn't we care what God thought about the subject?  The matter was left to the personal convictions of the individual couple.  The problem was, I knew Doug and I were essentially selfish, imperfect people.  How could I trust our judgement on a matter as important as this?  It would be very easy for us to just plan to have our 2.5 children, have a surgery and be done.  But something was missing, something just didn't feel right about leaving God out of the decision making process (unless He miraculously intervened).  In the end, I had to admit the Catholic Church got it right on this one.  I wasn't ready to concede defeat on all the other issues I thought they had but I could agree with their stance on contraception.

7 months pregnant with Game Boy
I don't want to give the impression that NFP is easy, because it's not.  It keeps the door open to the possibility of more children.  Every month we get the opportunity as a couple to re-evaluate where we stand on that issue.  It's great for our communication skills...if you can talk to your spouse about NFP you can talk to them about almost anything else!  Periodic abstinence is a discipline and a sacrifice and those two things are not always easy.  However, it is good and it does work to make us holy.  Just like the idea that marriage was not necessarily designed by God to make us happy, but to make us holy.  Practicing marital chastity makes Doug and I more holy, it makes us better spouses to each other.  It helps me identify with those who are called to a different type of chastity in their lives, like my soon to be teenage sons, or singles, or consecrated religious.  How could I teach my sons and daughter to be chaste if I wasn't practicing chastity in my marriage?  Chastity isn't even about abstinence, it is about placing those God given desires under control for something better.  It is not choosing to avoid something "bad" (which is what I thought when I was growing up).  Instead, it is choosing to wait for something better.

Next installment...Game Boy's church dedication and my aha moment about how little I knew about the Catholic faith...

Conversion Story - Part 4

Read Part 2 here

Thursday, January 24, 2013

7 Quick Takes

1.  Toddler Boy has a new favorite chore...that of youngest resident dishwasher.  Anytime we are doing dishes he is ready and willing to push up a chair and help.  He'll stand there playing in the water for quite awhile so it's been a somewhat convenient way for me to keep him occupied while I'm doing supper prep or finishing a lesson.   Playtime always ends when he starts dumping cups of water on the floor (although my kitchen floor right in front of the sink has never been cleaner since it has soapy water dumped on it at least three times a day).

2.  Today his favorite hobby was not as convenient...since he flooded our kitchen! Toddler Boy managed to sneak downstairs to the kitchen and came back up without anyone knowing where he had been.  Game Boy saved the day by hearing the running water and going down to investigate.  Toddler Boy had plugged the sink and turned on the water!  Luckily we caught it early enough and it was only a minor flood, it could have been much worse.  Clean up didn't take too long, a couple of drawers (thankfully, empty) below the sink were also filled with water.  Now I just need to teach Toddler Boy how to use a mop...

3.  Our cable TV / internet / home phone went out earlier this week for about four hours.  When I called it in to the cable company they reported other outages in our area and I chalked it up to the weather.  It went out again this morning and once again I called it in.  It came back on about three hours later.  I had a knock at the door this afternoon, lo and behold it was the cable repairman.  I told him the service was back but he still wanted to check it out so while he was outside working on the lines I had the kids do a really quick pick-up so the house was somewhat (and I use that term loosely) presentable for the repairman.

4.  At times like this I wonder what kind of homeschool representation we are giving to:
a)  cable repairmen (who drop by without an appointment)
b)  roofing contractors (who just want to give me a "quick" quote for that hail damage from last summer)
c)  financial investment people (who seem to be canvasing our neighborhood)
d)  people who want to invite me to go to their church (instead of the one I currently attend)
e)  anyone else I don't personally know who want to drop by our house in the middle of our homeschooling day to sell me something.

I can imagine what goes through their minds as they see my kids playing video games instead of doing schoolwork.  In fact, I would love for one of them to ask me "why aren't your kids doing their homework" and then I could reply "well, they would be, in fact we're supposed to be in the middle of a history lesson right now but their teacher is busy dealing with you".  Sigh.

5.  Toddler Boy had a doctor's appointment scheduled this week (I made this appointment months ago).  I got a message on my phone the day before the appointment from the doctor's office.  They tell me they had cancelled his appointment and rescheduled it with the nurse practitioner for March.  If I had any questions I could call the office.  When I tried to call the office I could not get through to an actual person, I couldn't even get to a machine to leave a message.  It just kept looping me through the phone menu.  Frustrating!  Why not just leave a message saying "if you have any questions, need test results, or need to reschedule because the day and/or time we assigned you does not work...well then you're just sorry out of luck.  Goodbye."  At least that would have been more honest of them.

6.  We've been playing a lot of chess around here lately, thanks to Soccer Boy's birthday gift (and the cold weather outside).  Doug is still the undefeated reigning chess champ of the house, followed by me (I've only lost to him).  The two oldest boys are pretty evenly matched.  The younger kids like to watch and play with the pieces that are off the board.  Game Boy understands how the pieces move but has yet to venture a game himself.  We all like challenging Doug, we figure one of us will eventually win and knock him off his high horse, so to speak.  Only a matter of time, dear...

7.  Down to my last take and it's time to head to bed!  Have a great weekend!!

Head over to Jen at Conversion Diary for more Quick Takes for this week!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Happy 11th Birthday Soccer Boy!

We celebrated Soccer Boy's birthday last week so I thought I'd post some pics...

Batman birthday cake

All the kids together

Goofing around!!

Totem pole pic
Soccer Boy's birthday fell in the middle of the week this year so we had the cake and candles the weekend before with the grandparents.  Our family celebrated on his actual birthday at home, he asked if he could get out of homeschooling for the day (nice try, but no).  It was great to see his brothers give him birthday gifts on their own that they had bought for him or made themselves.  Game Boy gave him one of the halo guy toys he had received for Christmas (it made my heart melt)!  They wrapped them too, so I was really impressed.  His other set of grandparents stopped by and brought Game Boy some homemade cupcakes.

Then the following Sunday our family went to church and then went to have pizza and play laser tag ( was sleeting outside the day we were there).  There were arcade games too...

Princess & Toddler Boy riding motorcycles!!
I wish I could have gotten some pics in our laser tag attire, but it's hard to hold a camera and play the game too.  Doug watched the littles while I played laser tag with the three oldest boys.

Last but not least we headed over to our Cub Scout Troop's Pinewood Derby that evening...

Soccer Boy, Firstborn & Princess

Award for best paint and decals
Toddler Boy enjoying cheetos
with Dad
The chess set we got him for a birthday gift just arrived in the mail yesterday so we spent the afternoon and evening learning to play chess.  It was a very busy week overall and then a crazy Sunday but we managed to get it all done.  Happy 11th Birthday Soccer Boy!!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

12 Days of Christmas

One aspect of my faith I've been enjoying since my conversion is the idea of the liturgical calendar and in particular feast days.  This time of year the difference is highlighted more than other times because Catholics are still celebrating Christmas.  In fact, when I attended Mass this morning we were still singing Christmas carols.  I noticed even the christian radio station has stopped playing them but we are still singing carols in church.  That's because Catholics celebrate Advent during the month of December.  When Christmas arrives it is a major holiday that is celebrated for days on end!

Today is the Feast of the Epiphany, which is when the Church celebrates the visit of the wise men to Jesus as a young boy.  Our family has traditionally left our Christmas tree up until Epiphany for years now. I got the idea from a family friend, as a Protestant I had never heard of Epiphany.  I like how my Catholic church celebrates Christmas for days on end.  I like how the liturgical calendar gives a rhythm and flow to the year, a logical order to follow.  Many Protestants think the bible isn't preached in Catholic churches, but that isn't true.  There are multiple bible passages read during Mass, and in fact the entire bible is read every three years.  The same bible passages are read at every Catholic church, in every language, worldwide.  On any given day I can attend a Catholic Mass anywhere in the world and hear the same bible verses being read.  Catholics actually have a "bible reading plan".

The benefits of belonging to God's large Catholic family are endless.  I enjoy participating in and ordering my days around the liturgical feast and solemn days.  It is in doing so that I find a peaceful rhythm and flow to my spiritual life too.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

7 Quick Takes

Thanks to Hallie at Moxie Wife for hosting 7 Quick Takes while Jen is recovering (see take #7)

1.  Welcome to the New Year...which also means getting back into the swing of things at our house.  Even though we are still in the Christmas season I went ahead and kick started our homeschool schedule (because I am just that mean, according to my kids).  They obviously pointed out that all of their cousins and friends are still not back at which I obviously did not care.  Don't worry, my kids will get to take some days off during the school year to make up for it.

2.  The hardest thing about getting back on schedule was getting everyone up EARLY again.  I did take the opportunity to point out to the boys that they were getting up around the time the school bus drove by, so if they weren't being homeschooled they'd be getting up much, much earlier.  To which they rolled their eyes at me and pulled the covers over their heads.  I will admit that watching the school bus drive by our house still gives me so much satisfaction.  I remember my first year of homeschooling all the kids.  I was sitting in my robe and drinking my coffee when I heard the bus drive by and I remembered how hectic our mornings had been...ah, it's the good life.
St. Rose of Lima, pray
for our family

3.  I tried out the patron saint name generator and I got St. Rose of Lima.  She's the patron saint of people misunderstood for their piety and the resolutions of family quarrels, among other things.  Not sure about the "misunderstood for piety" part, but the resolution of family quarrels sounds good.  I'm looking forward to learning more about her this coming year.

4.  The hubby and I rented a movie the other night to watch after the kiddos were in bed.  It was one of those action ones with big name actors in it that looked good in the previews, and it was rated R (hence, watching it after kids were in bed).  In the interest of full disclosure, I was the one who actually picked it out.  I guess I haven't been watching very many rated R movies lately because the thing freaked me out with all the torture and violence.  Seriously, had trouble going to sleep that night.  Maybe I've become a real wuss in my old age but I don't recall rated R movies being that violent in the past (or maybe I was just watching it too late at night).  I'd better stick with PG-13 from now on because I still can't get some of the images out of my head.  Uhgg...

5.  I'm still enjoying playing Christmas songs around the house, only now I have to use my CD player because the radio is no longer playing them.  My favorite this year is "Breath of Heaven" by Amy Grant.  As a mom, it just speaks to me.  Only a few more days until Epiphany and then it will be time to pack up the tree until next year.  I'm loving every minute of it!

6.  Toddler Boy has been last man standing and fighting me on getting to bed at a decent hour.  He's been cutting out his nap times altogether too.  I have never had a 22 month old cut out naps and not go to bed until 11:00 p.m.  He doesn't sleep in super late either.  I continue to put him down for naps and bedtime and he continues to refuse to go to sleep.  Sigh.

7.  Praying for Jen over at Conversion Diary who is in the hospital right now.  Hope you'll be back home soon!

That's all for me, head over to Hallie at Moxie Wife this week for more 7 Quick Takes!!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year!!

Welcome to the year 2013, aren't you excited?!  Jen Fulwiler at Conversion Diary had a great post here that talked about new year resolutions.  I liked her post because I feel that is exactly where I am at right prayer life is off, due to sleeping in, due to our bedtime routines being MIA because of the holiday season.  In her post she talked about breaking down areas in her life.  Reading her words rang a bell with me and I had to go look up an old entry in my prayer journal.  In it I wrote about watching the "5 Hs" in my life (nice acronym).  The Hs stand for (in no particular order):

1.  Husband
2.  Heaven
3.  Home
4.  Homeschooling
5.  Health

When I start to feel overwhelmed or like my life has been replaced by a circus act and I'm just running around juggling all the spinning plates...that is when I remind myself to check the five Hs.  That feeling is like a warning light that says one of my Hs has gotten out of whack and needs an adjustment.  In Jen's post she speaks of finding an underlying cause (her example...lack of sleep due to bedtime routines being off) that might be causing multiple "red lights" in different areas.  That by fixing one issue you can solve more than one problem.  Multi-tasking at it's finest!

I really liked this little piece of New Year's advice.  It's not like making resolutions is going to solve every struggle and make life a cake walk.  But, focusing my energy on changing small things that may affect many areas of my life...that I can accomplish.  Minor adjustments can sometimes equal the biggest benefits.