Friday, May 31, 2013

The Day at the Waterpark

May I share a secret? I really don't enjoy water parks or swimming or things of the like.  Especially when it's just you and a crowd of smallish children you are trying to keep an eye on. But when we lived in Florida I came to appreciate how tired swimming can make small children.  I would take the older boys swimming almost every single day for a bit over an hour before naptime. This promised me the chance to lay down and nap myself because those boys would just crash. Which is a pregnant mom's dream and I was pretty much always pregnant or toting around a newbie and in need of a nap.

We typically avoid the larger scale waterparks for many reasons.  They are way too expensive for one.  You can't easily keep an eye on all the kids for another.  Way too many people who seemed to have left half their swimming attire at home for a third. But ever since Grandpa and Grandma treated the family to a trip to Great Wolf Lodge a few years ago, the kids have had a love affair with the places. My compromise is a small local indoor waterpark that caters to the 12 and under crowd.  When I say small, it is possible to pick the right seat and be able to see just about all the action without moving.  It is truly small enough that I would be comfortable taking all of the kids just by myself without another adult. If you plan properly, you can get tickets as cheaply as $8 a day for 4 1/2 hours of swimming.  We missed those tickets by a week and paid just a tad more but I can't complain. The kids had a blast and slept well. In fact the house is still quiet this morning because half of them are still asleep.







I promise that Sean was with us but I apparently failed to get a picture of him that was both in focus and did not cut his head off. I'll have to do better next time.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Over the Weekend

For those of you not on Facebook, here's a recap of my weekend.  Alan took the older two boys on a bit of a madcap birthday weekend trip.  They got to rub elbows with a bunch of other sci-fi geeks, meet a few authors, sit in on a few panels (I hear Bryan even participated in one on NaNoRiMo), see the inner harbor in Baltimore, and visit with their cousins. Fun times had by all.

But the weekend really started on Thursday when we had to take Alan's car in to get the brakes fixed before their trip because he had been unable to replace them himself.  Turns out one of the parts was royally stuck and another part was broken so even the service technician said he has trouble with them. So this involved driving Alan back and forth to work because he forgot that it is often possible to work from home now that he works for nice people.

Shortly after 4:30, a friend came over to turn over her dog to us.  She has an awesome opportunity to go to school down south and unfortunately can't take her beloved pet with her so she was looking for a place to rehome him.  Guinness is a rather smart and family friendly sheepdog who seems to fit in here rather well. The kids love him and he seems to love all the animals.  The only issue is Wiley.  Wiley did not like a new dog on her turf so I got to spend the weekend sending the dogs to their own corners.  They have adapted quite well now it seems.  They just spend time in different rooms most of the time but are starting to get closer to each other and the barking has settled down when they are in proximity of each other.  So now we can move onto helping Guinness learn how to help guide the sheep and figure out if he understands the boundaries of our yard.  He's a very energetic dog which is a change from Wiley but the kids are loving having him around to play with.

The weekend went rather well for the most part. Alan expressed some concern over the van being so shaky so I did my best to avoid driving it until it went in this week so we hung out at home a lot.  The sheep got out many, many times.  I woke up on Saturday morning and heard bleating coming from the garage. I thought to myself that I must be just hearing things because there is no way a sheep would be in the garage. I was wrong.

Sunday afternoon the kids went out to check on the sheep again to discover the littlest one was dead.  Now, I am in general not a squeamish person but I do have my rules. One of them is that dealing with dead animals is the job of the husband and older boys.  Just because.  And seriously folks, a dead sheep is a lot harder to bury than a dead chicken.  But we had this dead sheep on our hands and needed to make sure it did not attract any predators to the other sheep to keep them safe.  So I enlisted Liam, the wagon, and a tarp. We moved the poor thing out to the very back of the property and wrapped it in the tarp for the day. Since the boys were returning late that night, they were able to give the animal a proper burial on Monday.

Have I mentioned that Alan works next weekend as well?  Yup, I'm looking forward to another crazy weekend because I'm sure something insane will happen again. It's just the way things work around here.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Happy Birthday Bryan

Today Bryan turns 16.  Such a huge milestone it seems.  We let him know last night that he will actually be allowed to get a permit this year. We weren't quite sure on that for this year because, well, we live in the wonderful nanny state of NY where everything is way more expensive and complicated than it needs to be. So Bryan was a bit thrilled with that news and has been studying the DMV guidebook today.
We have been incredibly blessed with our oldest son.  Even when we ask a lot of him, he always steps up and helps us all out.  His younger siblings look up to him quite a bit.  He's incredibly responsible, helpful, and usually even cheerful.  He's making parenting teens a delightful experience.  Love you Bryan. I hope your day has been a good one.

The Gap-Toothed Smile

Someone got kicked in the face which caused the first tooth to fall out. The second one was apparently just waiting for the first one to fall out before it left.  Now look at that grin.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Thought on the Day

I've been trying to come up with something to share for Memorial Day. Thing is that it is a bit hard to truly be respectful of this day in the proper way anymore.  It's not about those still with us, but those who are gone because they believed in leaving a better country behind for the rest of us.  Yes, I wonder what some of those brave souls would say now looking at the mess we are dealing with right now.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Meal Plan

This is the I feel like I am going a wee bit crazy edition of the meal plan. The children are cleaning out the last of the leftovers from the fridge for dinner tonight so at least we will start with a clean slate. I need to spend some time getting a ton of asparagus and some rhubarb into the freezer tonight (or maybe I'll be nice and turn the rhubarb into a dessert for tomorrow).  I am lacking inspiration of any kind which is not good when you need to actually plan something.

The only thing I can say for certain is I need more sleep and this week will be busy.  I just might have started plotting against the birds outside and the awful thing is when I told Alan I was debating finding a BB gun to use to chase off the birds at 5:00 every morning, he told me exactly where one was located. So just maybe he's getting annoyed with them as well. Yup, we need more sleep.

Don't you just love how I ramble all over the place and cover everything but the meal plan? Liam cracks me up. The sheep got out again and he went off after one yelling "Here Lamb Chop."  At least the boy is realistic about where the animals will end up.

M: muffins (and I should say fruit but I think the kids ate it all) (B), chicken satay (for real this time, I promise) (D)
T: Bryan's birthday so his choice
W: cereal (B), pork chops (D)
T: eggs (B), meatloaf (D)
F: oatmeal (B), soup (D)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Farm Tour

I don't think my kids were too terribly excited because they've been spending so much time there already, but our Frontier Girls troop took a field trip to our local family friendly family run farm type place.
It had been threatening to rain on and off all day so I wasn't sure if the trip was going to happen or not but in the end the rain held off on our end of town until right at the end of the meeting. So we got to see the hoop house and the fields and plant some veggies.

Everyone got a view of what small scale family run farming looks like and I think several of the moms left a wee bit inspired.  I know my trips out there last year usually left me feeling like we were just totally lazy and not doing enough with our own little plot of land because truthfully 5 acres really is enough for us to be fairly self sufficient if we planned and used the land properly.  I keep saying that next year we will do more and each next year rolls around and we aren't quite doing more. Yes, we suck.  Heck, we can't even figure out what is carrying off our chickens. WE started with 27 and seem to be down to 19. No bodies have been found but we think when the kids keep locking each other in the barn and the locked in kid crawls out through the chicken wire and "forgets" to fix it, something else gets in and steals a chicken or two.  Yes, it's annoying since we truly do need 24 birds if we want enough birds to sell the extra eggs to cover the cost of the feed. But the kids don't seem to understand that concept. Or understand that you don't climb fruit trees if you actually want fruit out of them. Or trample the asparagus patch or tromp in the garden killing the newly planted veggies. Or mess with the sheep pen so that the sheep can escape. Yup, it's been fun.

The Dog

Here's the new dog. Guinness seems to be adjusting for the most part. Wiley still has her nose out of joint and is barking at Guinness when their paths cross but we seem to have settled for the moment on Guinness hanging out in the playroom and living room while Wiley roams the kitchen areas. Mostly. It's not perfect but it means they aren't chasing each other so I'm calling it progress.  I'm hoping a few more days will mellow Wiley a bit more.
Liam and Guinness have already declared their undying loyalty to each other and share a bed at night.  Ellie wanders around called him "my dog, my dog" so it is safe to say he has been accepted into the fold.  Except for that stubborn other dog of ours who likes to proclaim that this is her yard and no one else is allowed.  But we're working on that one. So for those keeping count the menagerie now include 2 dogs, 6 sheep, and about 19 assorted chickens.  Any other animals added must either live in an aquarium under water or be raised to provide food in some way.  These are the rules I am putting in place.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Birds

I just have to say that the birds residing outside my bedroom window are beyond obnoxious round about 5:00 am every morning.  For some reason they become sensible and quiet near 7:30 am each morning, but at 5:00 they certifiably obnoxious.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Air Battles

I am declaring today a leftover day.  Why? Besides the amount of food in the fridge needing to be use, I am currently fighting the urge to turn on the air conditioner.  Yes, it is rather warn and muggy and uncomfortable.  Trust me. The air conditioner in the van is broken and I just drove into Henrietta and back.  Good gracious, that is not fun. Big dark green van gets very hot quickly.  But anyway, the weather should cool off tomorrow and then I'll be glad I did not give in.  Yes, I will admit that I am the one who told Alan when we first moved into this house that the guy who spends all day in an air conditioned office did not get a say in whether or not we installed air conditioning in the house and now I am the one doing my best not to turn it on. Yes, I see the irony in that one.  So who else is with me and fighting the urge to turn the air on at their house?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Happy Birthday Sean!

Today Sean turns 14. Quite an amazing thing.  Of course, being the wonderful mother than I am, I forgot it was his birthday when I made plans to be out of the house tonight. So I'm not exactly sure when we will have a family birthday celebration. Friends are coming over tonight for a while (because that is what you always do when you are leaving, make plans for 15 kids to be at the house with Dad because he is just that awesome) and both older boys are getting a special birthday trip to Baltimore with just Dad so I'm thinking we'll do something later next week.  So please forgive the lack of pictures.

Happy birthday kid! Love you lots.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Meal Plan

In some ways the meal plan is becoming a bit of a joke.  Sigh. But we'll just keep trying.  Even though we were supposed to have pot roast for dinner tonight, I'm pretty sure we are having pizza. And Cherry Almond Bars for dessert. Because you need something red to celebrate Pentecost.  And because we don't have enough ice cream in the house for Sundaes on Sunday this week but if we try to skip out on dessert altogether, the children rebel.  Seriously.

Last week Kieran jumped in and made dinner for us on Friday night. He did an awesome job of working entirely on his own, only getting occasional verbal prodding.  He made an awesome Italian Sausage Pasta Sauce.  An older brother suggested adding in some red pepper flakes and it gave it an awesome kick. There are some leftovers in the fridge and I'm really hoping I get to enjoy some of them this week (if Dad does not take them for lunch).  So this is my plug for teaching your kids life skills. Every person needs to learn how to cook if they are to survive on their own. Because microwavable foods just don't cut it long term.

We have a birthday this week. So that is one day that I don't have to plan. But I'm not sure what the child wants on his day either.  Suppose I should find out before Tuesday rolls around.

M: oatmeal (B), French dip sandwiches (D)
T: Happy Birthday to Sean! Since I know you are reading this, please come tell me what you want to eat.
W: cereal (B), oven fajitas (D)
T: muffins and fruit (B), fresh chicken and asparagus casserole (D)
F: eggs in toast (B), crock pot macaroni and cheese (D)

Crazy Busy Weekend

It's been a busy weekend.  We spent a good portion of yesterday out at the farm helping to get the fields ready for planting.  After about 2 and a half hours, I took the younger 4 home for naps since they were more getting in the way than helping. The rest of the crew stayed until 5:00.  A decent amount of work was done, a dead chicken was unearthed, and a few teens just might have snuck off for some computer time.  Maybe.
 The project for this afternoon was to put in our own small garden at home for the year.  The original plans called for using the raised bed planter already in the yard. But that just did not work. Seems the ground has sunk or something. So the guys had to start from scratch.

I'm realizing there are two kinds of fathers when it comes to projects and kids. There are the ones who do an awesome job at just about everything. Perfectionism is a character trait for them it seems. If a job is going to be done, it will be done perfectly.  Which means the children may not help or get involved because they will get in the way.  These guys often can't figure out why it is when their own children have grown that they have not absorbed any of the hands-on skills they possess.

Then there are the dads who have figured out how to work with their kids. That even though it does indeed take
twice as long at first to do any project with small hands involved, the dividends are something amazing.  I promise you their projects won't look perfect. Folks will perhaps point out where they went wrong or a line that's not straight. But those people are rude and failed to look behind the picture to see the joy in the kid's face who got to help Dad and learned something useful. Kids know the difference between busy work and useful work.  They want to be useful. They want to help.  And with some kids, you are much better off directing their use of the screw driver.  Trust me. (And maybe one day ask me about the time Liam met his Dad at the front door with his hands full of screws. Or why Liam is never allowed to watch the Enterprise episode where Tripp talks about taking all the screws out of his parents' dining room table. )

Yup, my kids are lucky.  They've got a Dad who figured out it's much better to do it the hard way and let everyone chip in.  The rewards are truly amazing.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Gabe's First Karate Class

Gabe had his first karate class today. He was very excited. Very wired. Very much bouncing off the walls. Literally.  Then a wave master landed on his foot and Sensei did not take his complaints seriously when he said he got hurt and, well, that kind of ruined the day. (Have I mentioned I have a few slight issues with this Sensei? Like his blatant favoritism and inability to relate to small children while also constantly complaining to his older classes about his younger students?)
Anyway, by the end of class Gabe seemed to be a bit happier and was again excited when we were home so I'm hoping next week will go better. Here's hoping. And for those counting, this makes 7 kids in karate class.  And, yes, that was my two-year-old doing karate in the middle of Mass last weekend.  Trust me, it's cuter at home when the venue is more appropriate.

Pink Lemonade Cake

Sadly, I have no pictures because I forgot to take one. But while trying to come up with something tea party appropriate for the Little Rosary group, I stumbled upon this recipe.  I decided to make that for the function but it required a trip to the store the night before. During Boy Scouts. On an evening where I also had to fit in a trip to the library and to Home Depot during the 90 minute scout meeting. And, of course, the grocery store did not have all the right ingredients so I had to make a last minute substitution. Instead of the called for lemon cake mix, I used one of Pillsbury's new pink lemonade cake mixes.  I also managed to grab the very last can of frozen lemonade mix in the store. Yes, Target was right next door but I was trying to limit the number of places I visited. Anyway, it was delicious and the girls have decided that they want to make it again for Father's Day.  We shall see if that happens.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Hobby Farm?

Just a random question today. At what point do we get to officially start saying that we are running a bit of a hobby farm? What are we missing right now to give us that designation? Just wondering because there is a part of me that would find that to be totally awesome.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Meal Plan

Today is the day I try to figure out the meal plan, cut the coupons, work on the grocery list, and the budget for the rest of the month.  Wish me luck. It's all sorts of fun.  I also need to find the time this week to organize the freezers and do a bit more work sorting/purging the hand-me-downs.   I'm hoping to find the space in the freezers so I can make some more broth and a larger batch of spaghetti sauce. At least that is the plan. We shall see what happens.

M: cereal (B), various assorted leftovers (L), spicy chicken soup with cheddar muffins (D)
T: eggs in toast (B), sandwiches (L), cheesy chicken and asparagus casserole (D)
W: oatmeal (B), sandwiches and oranges (L), enchiladas (D)
T: eggs (B), macaroni and cheese (L), spaghetti and meat sauce (D)
F: cereal (B), leftovers (L), potato soup (D)
S: pancakes (B), FFY (L), pizza (D)
S: muffins (B), FFY (L), pot roast (D)

Friday, May 10, 2013

An Animal Update

The chickens are getting bigger. They seem to have adjusted to their home outside.  They are finally mostly too big to just go right through the holes in the fence so hopefully we will stop finding them wandering around the yard. Except for those occasions when a child leaves the gate open.  We won't get eggs for at least 2 more months I think but as long as we don't lose any of the birds, once they do start laying we should have more than we could use.
The sheep are rather cute.  Definitely animals who like to be in a herd. They get rather upset if a single animal is taken out of the pen alone.  This will be an interesting adventure.  I'm just looking forward to them getting a bit older so they will start eating a noticeable amount of grass.
No, not animals but the lilac bushes in front are beautiful.  Kind of makes you wish you had smell-o-vision, huh? They do smell heavenly.
And just a cute Ellie picture because, well, she's cute.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Last Night's Adventure

Because we just don't have enough going on in our life, we volunteered to provide a home for the sheep for our food co-op group. So we will be housing 6 sheep until it is time to slaughter them for food. Yes, some folks will find that sad but we must be realistic about where our food is coming from and if you want the better quality, better treated organic meat, you can either pay crazy grocery store prices, better farmer direct prices (like we do for our beef and pork), or you can raise it yourself.  This year we will tackle the sheep, then next year we will likely be able to handle meat birds.  (I'm honestly not quite ready to have two batches of chicks going at once. I'm rather afraid we would accidentally butcher our eggs layers instead.)
before adding the smelly animals
Last night Alan went to pick up the animals.  He was expecting young animals but we were not told that they had not been weaned yet and had not been outside yet.  This was just a small snag.  We had been planning on keeping the animals in an outside pen.  We did not have a pen ready for them for inside.  We also had been planning on them eating grass. We did not have the necessary food for them. We also did not have any nails left to build an inside pen.  And it was raining. And it was after 7:30 by the time the animals had been loaded into the van.  I was in charge of the Boy Scout run so I was wandering around Target waiting for the meeting to be over when Alan calls me to inform me of the latest snags.  So I wander the aisles in search of nails so that Alan can avoid taking a van loaded with sheep and children to the hardware store. Not really successful. So we decide that the animals can stay in the dog kennels overnight. Maybe.
after adding the poor smelly animals
I make a run to Home Depot with the 3 older boys after their meeting. Arrive home after 9:00 to discover that the other families have come over to help fix the situation since none of us were expecting animals quite this young.  So the pen is built. The sheep are happy.  Except the one who escaped. And ran all over creation. Almost up the neighbor's porch (the nice neighbor, thankfully, but then again our grumpy neighbor raised draft horses and chickens and assorted animals so he at least would understand).  The animal was enjoying it's freedom until it decided to cross the creek. In the deepest part (have I mentioned the rain).  Alan said the look on the animal's face was something along the lines of "Oh crud. What on earth have I done now." The poor animal has had a rough day.  And now does not know what to do. Alan jumps in the creek after it. Water up to his waist. Alan and the animal go under water and wrestle a bit. Animal is caught and brought out of the water and carried back across two yards and returned to the pen in the barn.  As if the rain were not enough, let's just say Alan is soaked and not happy.  But such is life.

The van now smells like a petting zoo. Not my favorite smell.  Hopefully we'll fix that situation soon.  Hopefully.  Because the air conditioning in the van is broken so heat plus smells are just not a good mix if you don't want folks getting sick. Which I don't.  So we now venture into this large animal thing.  And we just might have volunteered to provide a home for a friend's sheep dog because she is moving and can't take it with her. Fun times, I tell you.  Fun times.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sheep

We now have sheep. Pictures and a delightful tale of the evenings' adventures (that I mostly missed due to Boy Scouts) will be posted tomorrow. If you are local, you know it's been raining tonight so that added to the fun.  And lots of other fun hassles tonight.  I think Alan will be looking for a beer as soon as he sits down. Just saying.

Life, the Weekend, and Us

I've been wracking my brains for something inspirational or controversial or something of interest at all to post here. But I'm just not feeling it lately.  Maybe it's that we have a busy week going at the moment. Maybe it's a host of other things.  Who knows.

Alan will be picking up the sheep today.  I'm wondering truly exactly how he is going to put 6 sheep in the back of the van along with 6 kids and get everyone home in one piece. I guess I should ask him to take a few pictures. I have to take the older 3 boys to scouts which leaves him on his own.  Hopefully everything will work out ok and the van won't suffer for the experience.  I am thinking with the lack of air conditioning that the van will be slightly smelly tomorrow, though.

The homeschooling conference in Buffalo on Friday was frankly a bit of a bust.  I'm rather glad that they did not charge admission.  The location rather stunk.  Downtown Buffalo is not your friend if you aren't familiar with the streets. And only having one room meant the talks and vendors were all in one place which truly limited you.  If it is in the same location next year, I can't say it would be worth it to attend. We were able to get a discount on enrolling 3 kids in Seton next year (I need the help, they need the help, it will be a short term thing and hopefully help us move forward a bit) and I think Alan liked seeing some of what was available but I much preferred the conferences that were held at the seminary. Yes, you had to pay for admission but that also included lunch, snacks, water, and a bag full of information.  And I loved having Mass and other such things available. None of that was available at the new location. But this is what happens when a different organization takes over. Each one has a different vision.  Perhaps one day we'll just head to VA for one of the big conferences instead. Maybe call it a parental kid free vacation.  Given the number of folks we know in that area, I'd imagine we could even find a place to crash for free.  Hey, one good thing that happened at the conference is Alan sold a copy of his book. Or perhaps you could say I sold it for him.  Go me. Maybe I should start charging for all the promotional work I'm doing. . . or maybe I should kick it up a few notches so that maybe we'll have a few quarters to toss into the kids hands when they are old enough to head off to college.

And now to head back to cleaning and purging and sorting and trying to get the house back into a reasonable order.  I know, I'm dreaming.  And figuring out what we will do for our Frontier Girl meeting tomorrow. No, I don't put things off until the last minute or anything.  Nope, not at all. I call it self preservation and putting out the fires as they come my way.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Meal Plan

It is shaping up to be a busy busy week.  Hoping to be able to actually stick to the meal plan this week and make things easier on myself but my track record on such things lately has been laughable so we'll just hope for the best.

M: cereal (B), sandwiches (L), taco soup (D)
T: oatmeal (B), sandwiches (L), pot roast (D)
W: muffins and fruit (B), leftovers (L), pasta night (D)
T: eggs and toast (B), sandwiches (L), cream cheese chicken (D)
F: eggs and hashbrowns (B), sandwiches/leftovers (L), pulled pork (D)
S: no clue other than it being pizza night
S: I'm going to say that Mom does not have to meal plan for Mother's Day and just look forward to what the kids come up with instead.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Girls' Book Club

The first Thursday of the month means the American Girl book club is meeting at the local library.  I put off taking the girls to this event for quite some time. But they each received American Girl dolls as gifts fairly recently and have started reading the books so I succumbed and started taking them.

The ladies who run this group usually do a great job of coming up with activities and even dressing up as the title characters in the books.  Sometimes they get more girls than expected and it's hard to keep everyone involved but the girls have enjoyed attending for the most part.  I think they look forward to a little girl time away from all of their brothers.
This month the book covered was Happy Birthday Felicity and each of the girls received a hand knit gift from the Chili Senior Center Chain Gang club for their dolls.  Katie and Abby each ended up with pink blankets, just the right size for their dolls.  I have to say I saw quite a few happy girls leaving the book club this month.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Beauty that is my Yard

Driving away to take the middle kids to karate this afternoon, all I could think was goodness, that is a beautiful tree. What I tend to think every year about this time.  Seriously beautiful.
 Half of the front row of choke cherry trees lining the yard.
And the crazy chickens who are refusing to stay in their run and are hanging out in the garage for some reason today.

Why I Don't Like Modern NFP Advertising

I recently read the book Natural Family Planning: Trojan Horse in the Catholic Bedroom? and it truly resonated with me.  This book clearly stated so much of what I have come to believe about NFP. And, yes, I believe everyone who supports and promotes NFP as the cure all for everything that ails the Catholic marriage should read this book.  (Yes, it has been pointed out that there are theological flaws in the above book. I don't disagree. I simply believe it presents a different side of things than is often discussed or even acknowledged in NFP circles. I hope that makes sense. No, never take all your information from a single source. Always do further research and reading and questioning because when you stop doing that, you stop growing in your own faith and life.)

Yet another magazine arrived on our doorstep this week proclaiming the wonders of NFP.  And I found myself being led to read a few more blog post proclaiming the NFP is wonderful, amazing, awesome and I found myself once again wanting to scream.  Alan and I recently attended a talk on NaPro technology and I heard the NaPro practitioners once again spouting off the party lines of all the wonderful things NFP will add to your marriage and I was annoyed.  Yes, I've spouted those same lines before but now, after 13 years of fielding phone calls from couples in the trenches, I no longer agree with the way we've been taught to promote Natural Family Planning.

First of all, let me state that I do believe that if at any time a couple feels they have a need to space the births of their children, the only licit way to do so is with NFP.  No, I do not believe it is ever ok for a couple to rely on artificial birth control or sterilization to space their children.  To do so is a sin plain and simple and I will not change my stance on this ever.  The teachings of the Catholic Church do not change on this one and neither do my beliefs.  I don't even believe that every couple should be required to take an NFP class as part of their marriage preparation. To do so assumes that every couple will have a reason to use NFP in their marriage. Such an assumption truly shows a lack of understanding about what the Church teaches regarding the use of NFP and child spacing. No couple is ever required to use NFP. They are just required to never use artificial birth control. There is a difference.

However, I do find many issues with the package we are selling newly married couples.  We are encouraged to say that NFP provides insurance against divorce.  That 2% of couples using NFP get divorced compared with 50% of the folks who do not. I've seen the basic studies such numbers are based on and to call them flawed and biased would be the nicest thing possible to say.  First you start with a small sample of folks who have chosen to use NFP for religious reasons.  Folks who are likely to have said to be religiously committed to things such as lifelong marriage as well. Then you take an even smaller sample of these folks and track them for a short amount of time.  Surprise, surprise. You find a small sample of folks deeply committed to marriage as a forever institution are still married a few years later.  Marriage insurance my arse.  If I may use a popular phrase from my old logic class  correlation does not imply causation.

Another common thing told about NFP is that it leads couple to greater communication because "if you can talk about this, you can talk about anything." May I admit that I have even gone so far as to tell Alan to please stop saying that because in most couples I have spoken to, there is not much real communication going on about the ins and outs of NFP anyway.  The conversations instead revolve around "what does the chart look like" and "when are we going to be out of phase 2" and typically only one person in the couple is responsible for all the work involved.  Let's be honest, NFP involves a woman's body.  She must make all the observations and interpretations.  If you use a sympto-thermal method, it is often encouraged to have the husband write down all the temperatures every day but in our experience, even that step rarely happens. At one point in our marriage when we felt we needed to space our kids, Alan was leaving for work around 5:30 every morning. I promise you that if he woke me up at that point so I could take my temperature so he could write it down, there would have been trouble.  Big trouble.  After 13 years of using and teaching NFP, Alan will still often look at a chart and interpret it completely wrong.  I've learned this is rather common amoung guys so I'm thinking in most cases that the it leads to greater communication thing is completely false in most couples as well.

I've often heard that a man who chooses to use NFP is sexy. May I laugh? You want your wife to see you as sexy then change a diaper, mop the floor, wash the dishes, make dinner, and put the kids to bed.  That is sexy. That is giving. That says you care about more than sex.  A man who uses NFP is an adult who places his wife's health above society's beliefs that sex should be always available.  A real mature man realizes that encouraging or asking his wife to pump artificial hormones into her body puts her at risk.  There is a reason the World Health Organization calls artificial birth control a class one carcinogen.  And sterilization leads to many long term health risks as well. Tubal ligation syndrom is a very real thing.  A real man would take a bullet for his wife so a real man would also not ask her to do something so dangerous with her health.  Just saying.

This is a rambling post that likely makes little sense at times.  Bottom line is I believe we are selling a lie.  We need to be realistic and honest with people.  We need to say that yes, it will be hard at times to go against everything you have been taught for years. Everything society tells you about sex. Yes, abstaining when necessary might be a challenge.  But it's not impossible.  I won't insult you by saying it's always an easy choice and others have it harder.  But I will say I understand that at times it will be a challenge.  It will be hard to stand against doctors who have been trained to say that NFP is a farce and doesn't work. It will be hard to stand against your family when they lecture you about your choices. When they show a lack of respect for you and your spouse and try to undermine your commitment as a couple and tell you how irresponsible your choices and beliefs are.

I guess I'm wishing the NFP powers that be would be a bit more realistic and honest with folks.  And I apologize to anyone I helped sell that lie to in the past.  NFP is a gift and a blessing and the only legitimate way of spacing your children. But it is also a challenge and at times a cross to bear.  I won't lie to you and say it's easy and a cure for all that ails the modern marriage. But I will say that I will be here to answer the phone the next time you call with a question or complaint or just need someone to remind you that it is the right choice to make.


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Umbert the Unborn - A Womb With a View

If you read many of the popular Catholic newspapers and magazines, you have probably stumbled upon a little comic strip by Gary Cangemi.  This comic showcases the life of Umbert, an adorable little babe still residing in the best digs ever: his mother's womb.  I've enjoyed reading the comic when I've seen it so I was happy to see that a collection was available in book form.

Inside this book, you find not only a wonderful selection of comics but also on every page you'll find little snippets of random pregnancy related facts.  Some explain fetal development, others are concerning abortion facts, and some are just interesting pregnancy related quotes from various sources (I saw one from Mel Gibson and one relating to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey"). Although certainly politically relevant, the overall tone of these comics is light-hearted and enjoyable.

What is the best thing I can say about this book? Shortly after it arrived, it went missing in the house.  After days of looking, I still could not find it. It eventually surfaced in the basement bedroom where the teen boys had taken it to read.  I don't know about your kids, but finding anything in the basement bedroom often requires an excavation team so I'm not surprised I couldn't find it.  And I was thrilled that the boys liked the book enough to claim it as their own.

Umbert the Unborn passes muster as a family friendly delightful book for some light hearted enjoyment and occasional fact pondering.  Just maybe we should start a campaign to leave these books behind in places where folks congregate who need to rethink their stance on all things in the realm of the unborn child.  I truly believe a book of this nature has the power to change at least a few hearts.

This review was written as part of the Catholic book reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on Umbert the Unborn - A Womb with a View. The Catholic Company is the best resource for all your seasonal needs such as First Communion gifts as well as ideas and gifts for the special papal Year of Faith.