7 Quick Takes Friday - February 28, 2014

--- 1 ---

Happy un-birthday to all the leap year babies out there! I think my aunt (who has been married for 20 years and has 3 kids) is turning 10 or so. :)

--- 2 ---

Violet turns 4 on Wednesday. Ack! Since her birthday falls on a penitential day of fasting and abstinence (poor kid - she was born on a Friday in Lent, too), we'll likely celebrate it the day before. I wish I could get her Frozen for her birthday but it doesn't come out for a few more weeks. (I could pre-order it, but she doesn't really understand the concept and would get upset that she couldn't watch it.) The Hunger Games: Catching Fire comes out on Friday, but I don't think she'd really appreciate that one, either. :P

--- 3 ---

Our parish apparently has a chapter of the Junior Catholic Daughters! They're hosting a mother-daughter tea this weekend, so the girls and I are going (Peter is also tagging along).

--- 4 ---

Chris Zajdzinski is speaking at our parish tonight, so we're going to go see his talk and then have pizza in the social hall afterwards (it's sponsored by the Religious Ed program). I love conversion stories so I'm really looking forward to it (and I don't have to cook, woohoo!).

--- 5 ---

Collin and I have a "date day" planned on Sunday. We're going to go hiking and then out to eat. Peter is coming with but the other kids will be with my brother-in-law. I'm not sure where we'll hike yet -- usually we go to the White Tank Regional Park, but we were considering going farther afield and perhaps exploring Cave Creek or Estrella Mountain.

--- 6 ---

Grandma Violet & Peter
My grandma flies back to North Dakota today. We already miss her so much!!

--- 7 ---

Peter had a great orthopedist appointment last week. His doctor said that his feet look perfect and that we can transition to nighttime wear only starting on March 12! I'm counting down the days!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

My Lenten practices

I've been putting a lot of thought into what I am going to do for Lenten practices this year.

I was toying with the idea of giving up Facebook, but I actually get a lot of spiritual edification from Facebook. A lot of my friends post inspirational quotes from saints or really good Catholic articles from around the blogosphere.

Plus it's my primary way of keeping in touch with my family in North Dakota, so I would be loathe to deprive them of cute kid pictures for 40 days.

While I was reading Heidi's excellent post (http://wheresmylist.blogspot.com/2014/02/its-beautiful-life.html), I had an idea. I've been thinking recently that I really need to step up my private devotions, because I've been really deficient in that area for quite a while. At the same time, I don't want to set myself up for failure by trying to fly too high and make a Lenten commitment that is unrealistic, given my current schedule constraints.

So, I have decided to make the commitment to attend daily mass, go to confession, or go to adoration/Stations of the Cross at least once per week for the duration of Lent. My parish has an evening daily mass once per week, on Wednesdays, and adoration on Fridays, plus confession times on Mondays and Saturdays, so I should be able to make one if those on a weekly basis without having to drive a long distance.

I also intend to do more spiritual reading. I've been meaning to finish Chesterton's The Everlasting Man for ages, and I want to re-read Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth (I haven't read the sequel so I should pick that one up, too).

Speaking of Chesterton, last year during Lent I listened to "The Ball and the Cross." It's excellent! Best of all, you can find it online for free in ebook or audiobook format.

Here is a brief excerpt from Chapter VIII - it is a conversation between MacIan, a faithful Catholic, and Turnbull, a proud atheist:
"I often fancy that your historical generalizations rest frequently on random instances; I should not be surprised if your vague notions of the Church as the persecutor of science was a generalization from Galileo. I should not be at all surprised if, when you counted the scientific investigations and discoveries since the fall of Rome, you found that a great mass of them had been made by monks. But the matter is irrelevant to my meaning. I say that if you want an example of anything which has progressed in the moral world by the same method as science in the material world, by continually adding to without unsettling what was there before, then I say that there is only one example of it. And that is Us."

"With this enormous difference," said Turnbull, "that however elaborate be the calculations of physical science, their net result can be tested. Granted that it took millions of books I never read and millions of men I never heard of to discover the electric light. Still I can see the electric light. But I cannot see the supreme virtue which is the result of all your theologies and sacraments."

"Catholic virtue is often invisible because it is the normal," answered MacIan. "Christianity is always out of fashion because it is always sane; and all fashions are mild insanities. When Italy is mad on art the Church seems too Puritanical; when England is mad on Puritanism the Church seems too artistic. When you quarrel with us now you class us with kingship and despotism; but when you quarrelled with us first it was because we would not accept the divine despotism of Henry VIII. The Church always seems to be behind the times, when it is really beyond the times; it is waiting till the last fad shall have seen its last summer. It keeps the key of a permanent virtue."

"Oh, I have heard all that!" said Turnbull with genial contempt. "I have heard that Christianity keeps the key of virtue, and that if you read Tom Paine you will cut your throat at Monte Carlo. It is such rubbish that I am not even angry at it. You say that Christianity is the prop of morals; but what more do you do? When a doctor attends you and could poison you with a pinch of salt, do you ask whether he is a Christian? You ask whether he is a gentleman, whether he is an M.D.—anything but that. When a soldier enlists to die for his country or disgrace it, do you ask whether he is a Christian? You are more likely to ask whether he is Oxford or Cambridge at the boat race. If you think your creed essential to morals why do you not make it a test for these things?"

"We once did make it a test for these things," said MacIan smiling, "and then you told us that we were imposing by force a faith unsupported by argument. It seems rather hard that having first been told that our creed must be false because we did use tests, we should now be told that it must be false because we don't. But I notice that most anti-Christian arguments are in the same inconsistent style."

Our Baby Names

How did I miss the baby names link-up at Team Whitaker?? I adore discussing baby names! Plus, I need a topic for day 3 of the 7 posts in 7 days challenge. (It's a link-up within a link-up!)

 Elanor Mary 

It was important to us to choose a name that would fit our daughter as a child and as a woman. Also, we wanted something unique but not outlandish.

“Elanor” is a name from the Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien. (The books, not the movies!) The first reference is in The Fellowship of the Ring – an elanor is a golden, star-shaped flower that blooms in winter in the forest of Lothlorien. In Return of the King, Samwise Gamgee and Rosie Cotton name their firstborn daughter Elanor (the name is suggested to them by Frodo Baggins). Both Collin and I are huge Tolkien fans, and we both loved the name. Also, I liked the nickname “Elly” or "Ellie" for a little girl and thought that “Elanor” was an elegant name for a woman.

“Mary” is a reflection of our Catholic faith – it’s in honor of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus, and also after the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, MN, where Collin and I were both confirmed into Catholicism.

William Joseph

William is named after Collin's maternal grandfather, who is also William (but goes by Bill or Billy). Collin's middle name is William as well. 

 Joseph was a last-minute decision on our part -- we'd originally picked out William James as our boy name during my pregnancy with Elanor, but then my brother gave his second son, born about nine months before William, the middle name of James. It wouldn't have been a big deal to have two cousins with the same middle name, but I had started thinking seriously about Joseph as a way to honor both St. Joseph as well as Pope Benedict XVI (born Joseph Ratzinger). A few minutes after William was born, I asked my mother (who'd been present at his birth) if we should use James or Joseph as his middle name, and she promptly replied, "Joseph, after you." So he became William Joseph.

Violet Elizabeth

Violet is named after my paternal grandmother Violet, who is delighted to have a namesake. It's proven to be very appropriate, as she strongly resembles her great-grandmother! Her middle name is after St. Elizabeth (Collin also has a cousin named Elizabeth, so we liked that it was also a family name on his side). I have loved the name Elizabeth since I was a little girl, and lobbied hard to use it for Elanor, but Collin vetoed it because he had an ex-girlfriend named Elizabeth. During my pregnancy with Violet, I talked him into using it as a middle name. My great-grandmother's middle name also begins with E, and our last names both begin with W, so I love that Violet has the same name and the same initials as her great-grandmother.  

 Gabriel Keith

Gabriel Keith was the boy name we'd had picked out for Violet, had she been a boy, so it's one we'd been waiting to use for a while. 

Gabriel is Collin's confirmation name, and as an added bonus this baby was conceived on the Feast of the Annunciation, making it very appropriate. Plus, the name goes with the "Holy Family" theme we had going with our older kids' names (their middle names are Mary, Joseph, and Elizabeth). 

Keith is my father-in-law's name, and we wanted to honor him as well. We also liked the initials G.K., in honor of G.K. Chesterton, one of my very favorite authors (Collin and I were confirmed into Catholicism on his birthday!).

Peter David

During my pregnancy, I liked Theodore James, after my great-grandfather and great-uncle, and Benedict Francis, after the current and former pope. Collin was iffy about Theodore and was unsure about Benedict Francis. He's a great admirer of the Pope Emeritus, but we'd already given William the middle name of Joseph as a way to honor him. As a compromise, he proposed the name Peter, which was a nod to the see of Peter and a way to honor both popes. I was iffy, though, because I had a former boss named Peter who had been a nightmare to work for, and told him I'd think about it. 

However, the strangest thing happened. I started seeing the name Peter EVERYWHERE -- in books, magazines, online, etc. It was like God was purposefully putting the name in front of me at every opportunity. We spent some time with Collin's aunt, whose hobby is genealogy, and found out that Peter is actually a family name -- I think Collin's paternal great-grandfather (or maybe great-great-grandfather) was named Peter. 

I was also mulling over using "David" as a first or middle name, as it's my father's name, but didn't think about using it in conjunction with Peter until Collin and I went to Phoenix Comic-Con and met one of my favorite sci-fi authors, Peter David:

When we were in our hotel room, I commented to Collin, "You know, Peter David is actually a really nice-sounding name." He agreed, and we talked it over a few more times before deciding on it definitively a few months later. (Regarding my hesitation with using the same name as Nightmare Boss -- ultimately, I decided that I wasn't going to let some jerk over a thousand miles away, whom I hadn't seen or talked to since 2007, spoil a great name.) It fit, quite nicely, all our naming criteria - saint's name, family connection, and a tangential connection to geekdom. Now that he's here, I'm told constantly that he "looks like a Peter," so I guess it fits!

Laura Rose

Laura is named in honor of her aunt and my younger sister, Laura Linnae Walsvik, who was born at 28 weeks gestation on December 3, 1981 and died December 4, 1981. I was only 13 months old when she was born and died, so I don’t remember her, but I have always thought about her (and later, after I became Catholic, I began asking her to pray for me). Before we officially decided to use Laura as our girl name, I did ask both of my parents how they felt about it first, as we were willing to choose a different name if having a granddaughter named Laura would cause too much pain or sorrow for them. But both of them said they would consider it an honor.

When I brought up Laura as a name possibility to my husband, he liked it immediately — we were both born and raised in North Dakota, and given the famous writer Laura Ingalls Wilder (one of my favorite authors), we felt it was a name that was a subtle tribute to our “prairie” roots.

I also liked it because it means “laurel,” which is a symbol of victory, and our Laura is a rainbow baby after two consecutive miscarriages at 12 weeks. Our other girls have flower names as well (Elanor – which is a flower in the Tolkien universe – and Violet) and we didn’t mind continuing the theme.

As icing on the cake, I realized that January 22 was the feast day of Blessed Laura Vicuña. Our baby was due January 23 and ended up coming on January 21!

Rose is a name that I have always loved, and for a long time I wanted to use it as a first name, but my husband preferred it in the middle name slot. My best friend and former college roommate is named Roselyn and goes by Rose, and I wanted to honor her as she has been a good friend to our family. I also liked the nod to St. Rose of Lima. Plus it’s another Laura Ingalls Wilder connection (her only daughter was named Rose).

Our Miscarried Babies

Edited to add: We also named the four children we lost to miscarriage.  The first baby we lost was conceived in October 2006 and died in December 2006. I had a D&C a few days before Christmas, and we named him/her Noel. We wanted a gender-neutral name, and it reflects the time of year when s/he is most often in our thoughts.

The second baby we lost was conceived in February 2009 and died in March 2009. We named him/her Chris, which can stand for either Christopher or Christina. We chose that name in honor of Collin's best friend (and Elanor's godfather) Christopher, who helped guide us in our journey towards Catholicism.

The third baby we lost was conceived in March 2015 and died June 1, 2015. We named him/her Francis, after Pope Francis.

The fourth baby we lost was conceived in August 2015 and died on October 28, 2015. Since it was the feast day of St. Jude on the day s/he was lost, we named him/her Jude. 

Our Names

JoAnna Renae - JoAnna was not the name my parents had picked out for me. I was originally going to be "Rhende" (pronounced like Wendy, only with an R) after a college friend of my mother's. However, after I was born my parents decided that I didn't look like a Rhende and starting thinking about a different name. My mother proposed Jo, after my uncle Joel, and my dad proposed Anna, after his grandmother. They compromised with JoAnna. Renae is after another college friend of my mother's (I think).

Collin William - My father-in-law's middle name is Colin, and his parents added an L because they liked that spelling better. William is after his maternal grandfather. 

Happy Birthday, William!

Dear William, 

I can't believe it's been six years since your birth. I remember holding you in my arms several hours after you were born. It was the middle of the night, the lights were off, and your dad was snoozing on the couch in the hospital room. I couldn't sleep; I was still on a post-birth adrenaline high, and so enchanted with my new son.

I had secretly wanted a boy throughout my pregnancy but had convinced myself I was having a girl so I wouldn't be disappointed. When your dad announced, "It's a boy!" I couldn't believe that I was lucky enough to have a gorgeous daughter and now a beautiful son. You were our rainbow baby, conceived six months after we lost your brother or sister, Noel, to miscarriage. Your birth helped me heal.

You remain our smallest baby and our earliest baby. You were so tiny, all 6lbs 4oz of you, and once I realized my labor was "real" I was so scared you'd have to stay in the NICU since I was only 36 weeks along. But when the pediatrician came in to see you, he said, "He thinks he's full-term!" You were a champ at feeding and regulating your own temperature, so you got to come home with us two days later.

Today, you're a spunky six-year-old who loves Star Wars, Angry Birds, superheroes, T-ball, hunting, and going to school. 

You can read, work math problems, and you love playing games on the iPad (which you can work better than some adults!). You have a great sense of humor and keep us in stitches with your jokes and stories.

You're sweet and kind, and you have a compliment for everyone you meet. You're an awesome big brother to your younger siblings, and a great brother to your older sister, too. I'm so blessed to be your mom!

I've Got the Laundry Room Blues

Linking up with Jen at Conversion Diary and posting each day for seven days. They may not be good posts, or profound posts, but by God there will be posts!

My laundry room, much cleaner than usual,
which is why I took a picture.
Let's talk about chores. Specifically, laundry. How do you do it? I've had success following Nony @ A Slob Comes Clean in terms of getting the dishes under control, but she suggests having a single day in which you do a week's worth of laundry and I don't think that will work for me. The only days I have available are Saturday or Sunday, and it's not always logistically possible to do laundry all day on either of those days. I have a work from home day once per week, but it's always inconsistent and I can't put the clothes away until I'm done with work for the day. Depending on when I start, I may not have that much time once I'm done and have to go pick up the kids. 

Trying to get laundry done on weekday evenings seems impossible. No matter how hard I try there just isn't enough time after I've gotten supper sorted out, and then the dishes done afterwards. 

Because I'm up at 4:30 in the morning, by 8:00pm I'm exhausted, so doing laundry after the kids are in bed is a daunting prospect. Plus, putting the laundry away means sneaking into their rooms while using a flashlight. 

Clothes management is difficult too. I have big plastic tubs to store outgrown clothes, but despite that I have outgrown stuff all over the place. I can't seem to keep up.

What works for you? Any tips or tricks to share? I'm all ears.

NFP Saved My Life and My Marriage

The following is a series of blog comments posted by Heidi at Little Catholic Bubble. They were so good that I asked her if I could consolidate them into a guest post on my blog, and she graciously agreed. Heidi blogs at Bringing Theo Home, which is about her family's journey to adopt a little boy with Down Syndrome from Hong Kong.

Graphic courtesy of http://www.iusenfp.com

I grew up in the deep South. Being Catholic was NOT the cool thing to do (I can go on and on about how we were treated, but let's just say you were the target of most of the Protestant religions. Masses were crashed and priests spit on, I was once the focus of an "intervention" by my friend's parents to "save" me, etc). My parents, who are very much "cafeteria Catholics", scrimped and saved to send me and my siblings to a Catholic high school. The only one in a 4 hour radius, to be exact. I am not at all exaggerating when I say that this decision on their part saved my life. I went through a DEEP depression in college, and it was the Truth that I was taught there that kept me from killing myself. The beacon of the Church was the ONLY thing I was able to cling to during that time period. (I actually haven't talked about this time period in my life with anyone other than my husband, so those of you who know me IRL....umm...surprise!).

One of the things that this school did well was teach the Faith as a tapestry - it permeated every aspect of our education, like Catholicism does in real life. This included the sciences - I was taught an incredible amount of anatomy and physiology....concurrently being taught Catholic moral theology (which includes these sexual issues) in my religion classes. We were taught a basic form of mucus-only NFP, WHILE being taught about the dignity of both male and female and life. Basically, it wasn't "Don't do this, don't do that," it was "you are made in the image and likeness of God and your worth and dignity is found in that truth...and you should NEVER be exploited." As I came through the early part of my 20s (the deep depression), I started to realize just how much that foundation was the saving grace for me. If I had NOT been taught about this innate dignity - as well as the intricacy of human reproduction - but instead, relied on what I was being told by my OB/GYNs and the culture, at large, I'm pretty sure I'd either be dead or at least divorced at this point. Even though the culture and the medical world was telling me that contraception and casual sex was the way to "empowerment".....it lead me into a deep, dark place full of bitterness and hurt (every time I think of CS's comment about the "constant sobbing", I flash back to college life and my contraceptive years).

My husband and I met early and started dating young (18 - he was the first person I met at college, after my roommate). We were married at 22, after finishing college in 3 years each. We were not at all chaste during this period. (We gave in to the culture). In some ways, I guess we were "better" than we could have been, in that we were in a committed relationship and not sleeping around, but this period of time involves some of my greatest regrets. I degraded myself, and I degraded him. We both used each other, not empowered each other. I had been put on BC as a "solution" to my PCOS, and honestly, the fact that I was already taking it for "medical reasons" led me to give into the rest of the culture. I wish I hadn't.

We were married young, on purpose. He was entering medical school, and we didn't want to delay our marriage for at least 8 more years (med school + residency, which could have extended if he'd decided to do a fellowship as well). One of my clearest memories was after he proposed, when we *finally* discussed plans for children during our marriage. Thank God I'd had that foundation in high school - I flat out told him that I was not going to be on birth control during our marriage. It wasn't really "fixing" my symptoms, even after shopping around for doctors and prescriptions, and the side effects were horrible (little did I know how much they were effecting the other things I was dealing with at the time - relationship issues due to a low libido, weight gain, hormonal swings that were CRAZY, high blood pressure, etc), and I firmly believed that marriages needed to be built on an openness to children. (It's funny to me now, how I was able to "divorce" the sexual act from marriage - I had no moral problems with birth control and sleeping with my husband BEFORE marriage....but once that wedding happened, it was "wrong" in my thoughts...).

We were married at 22, like I said, and got pregnant right away. Unfortunately, that pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. I was devastated. I started researching the birth control options that I'd been on and learned things about birth control and miscarriage rates, breast cancer, infertility. I was livid that I hadn't been told these things by ANY of the doctors I'd seen, even though they're well-documented in medical literature. Part of this blame I accept as my fault - I should have done the research BEFORE taking it. We did successfully get pregnant and maintain that pregnancy full-term, having our first little boy a year later, at 23.

Having children young was the BEST decision we EVER made. I cannot say that enough. Was it hard? You betcha. My family lived 9 hours away, his lived 4 hours away, and all of our friends from college had graduated and moved on by the time we had kids (we stayed at the same college for med school as we were at for undergrad - most of our friends graduated and left the state for jobs). Our parish "community outreach" was a joke - we had no support there. Parts of the country are like that, I've lived both in parishes like that and in Leila's diocese. Night and day difference. We had NO money. I was working, but it was an entry-level job that I'd gotten in college to pay for school and only kept because the health benefits were fantastic (it was a union job) and we needed that as a young family. He waited tables when he wasn't in class or studying. The only financial support we had from family was $100/month on my parent's credit card for groceries. We had no physical support - we had to make our own.

Having that experience (we had our second child 17 months later, on purpose - I knew enough NFP from high school that we were able to use what I knew about my body to "better" our chances of conceiving, haha) is what strengthened our marriage. It's what pulled me out of my depression. Was it easy? Not at all. I cried myself to sleep quite often, out of sheer exhaustion. But the joy that those two little boys brought to my husband and I - the PURPOSE they gave our lives - made every dinner of ramen noodles or the driving to the post office on a particular day instead of another, in hopes that we could have a bill payment cashed on one day instead of another, worth it. We were no longer two people living side-by-side, as we had been pre-kids, but a team that *had* to rely on each other. I won't idealize it - there were days when I just got in the car and had to drive away because i was so stressed and angry at my husband that I couldn't look at his face. We were very, very strapped, not at all "flourishing" by the world's standards (or even my own at that point), but our *souls* were flourishing. We were growing in virtue - especially growing in charity. We have to remember that the Church deals in matters of souls.....

After baby boy #2, I had a severe recurrence of symptoms from my PCOS. I went to my OB/GYN and she prescribed yet another form of birth control, citing it as my only option. Not knowing any better, and again, not doing my research yet, I started using it. (apparently, I'm a slow learner). At this point, my husband had started his training in OB/GYN. Let me tell you, there is pretty much NO discussion of anything other than birth control during this kind of residency. He only received ONE lecture on NFP....and it was one that he gave after receiving training at the Pope Paul VI Institute. Birth control is presented as the only option/treatment for quite a few reproductive issues, and definitely as the only "reliable" option when it comes to avoiding pregnancy (which makes me giggle, honestly, considering the high user-failure rate of birth control).

The year that followed was the worst of our marriage. My libido was gone. We were not attracted to each other AT ALL and my emotions were all over the place. I know now that there is science behind a lot of what we experienced, but at the time, I didn't. We went back to living like roommates, and our parenting suffered. There was one instance that chills me to the bone now....that almost resulted in me packing my bags and taking the two boys and leaving him. I was determined to do so. To this day, I thank God that my husband is as strong as he is. He was the first one to - on his own - start researching alternatives to birth control and mainstream OB/GYN care. He was the first one to find NaProTechnology and research it - he knew, after those years without birth control (even though we were both working full time and he was attending med school full time AND we had two kids under age 3...so stress level was pretty much the same, if not less in residency since I was no longer working as many hours), that the Heidi he was seeing at home was not the real Heidi. (Mind you, this was birth control option #4....it was not a simple "wrong dose" experience - I'd had this same experience on ALL of the forms). He found NaPro, explained it to me, and we found a way to get the help that I actually needed to get control of my PCOS symptoms...without the birth control.

When I stopped taking it, my life turned around completely. I finally felt "normal" again. My libido was back. I still had symptoms that I was dealing with, but I *finally* had someone who told me that they weren't actually normal and that they were tied to something else going on in my body that we COULD fix. Before this point, I was told by multiple doctors that these were just "common complaints" and that birth control would fix things. Looking back, I see now the beauty and truth found in Humanae Vitae. NFP literally saved my life and my marriage.

We did go on to have a third little boy, during residency. A lot of people told us that we were being irresponsible. After all, my husband was working 80-100 hours a week, we were going into our third year of residency (the worst one, schedule wise), and he was only making $3/hour. However, I firmly believe with every ounce of my body that the irresponsible move on our part would have been to avoid conceiving our third son. Everyone around us (remember, we were submerged in a dead parish and the mainstream OB/GYN world) told us we needed to be "done" at two. Most of their reasons had to do with finances and lifestyle choices - we'd need a bigger car, we needed to pay off med school debt, we wouldn't be able to take vacations, we didn't have family nearby, my husband wasn't home very much, etc. Responsible parenting, in their eyes, would be securing these things FIRST.

They were wrong. Responsible parenting meant being the best parents we could be to our children. Being open to life was responsible parenting for us. Our third child is integral to our family. I cannot imagine the void that would be there if we had done what was "responsible" in the culture's eyes and stopped after our second son. In fact, before Leila even posted this thread, I posted a status on FB that said just that - I am grateful to God every.single.day that He changed our hearts, that He allowed for my high school foundation and knowledge, and that we have our children that came after #2 (#3 who is here already, #4 who we are in-process of adopting, and #5 that I'm currently pregnant with).

I recognize that not every story will sound like mine. But the statistics support the fact that the vast majority of those who do use NFP find joy through the suffering that they may experience. I think NFP changes your HEART more than it changes anything else. Contraception doesn't force you to examine your priorities every month, or examine your world views, or grow your communication skills and get creative in how you show your love quite like NFP does. The biggest thing that I noticed between my NFP life and my contraceptive life (other than the side effects) was a very noticeable change in my worldview and my heart. I was *forced* to grow in virtue. I was forced to acknowledge the truth about sex and marriage (biological truths), and order my life accordingly. Living in denial of truth does not lead to empowerment....it leads to bitterness and pain. Living in accordance with the truth is what leads to joy. And no matter how much we want to deny it, the biological truth written on our bodies is that sex leads to babies.

I've already written a huge novel, but I wanted to speak to a few other comments. I know that we would have had a different set of struggles and different aspects to discern through if *I* had been the med student/resident, as opposed to my husband. [This is] why I think the Church is so wise in not giving us a "list" of what is and is not a grave reason to avoid pregnancy, or even a bulleted list as to what defines responsible parenting. I think our culture, specifically, has forgotten what discernment is, and how to do it. (I'd never even HEARD the word discern until after college!). We're so used to our little boxes of bulleted information, that it throws us for a huge loop when there ISN'T a direct answer. The best advice I can give anyone is that when you are following God's will for you....there will be peace. There will be joy. The existence of peace and joy does NOT mean that there will not be suffering. That's not what being at peace and being joyful means. But...when you discover God's plan for you, peace and joy will be there. The reality is that even with contraception, sex still leads toward babies. Every act of sex - even when we fight it with contraception - is ordered toward procreation. If God's plan for you involves only 2 children and working full-time....who am I to say you are wrong? You will know by His gift of peace.

7 Quick Takes Friday - February 14, 2014

--- 1 ---

Best Valentine's Day gift ever, courtesy of my husband -- a ticket to The Edel Gathering in Austin, TX this July! I've already booked airfare (found a great deal - less than $300!) and hotel. My good friend Luisa is going too, and we're going to share a room! (Not at the venue - we're being frugal and going with a cheaper hotel.) I'm so excited! Peter will be tagging along, and it will be his first airplane ride plus my first time in TX!

I plan to bring my copy of Pope Awesome so I can get an autograph from Cari, and I need to buy a copy of Sex, Style, and Substance so I can get an autograph from Hallie, and I'm hoping Jen and I can bond over our harrowing tales of scorpion encounters (I want to get her book and autograph, too).

--- 2 ---

Kara and I went to Laugh4Hope last week and it was side-splittingly funny. Fabulous turnout, as well. Next year's event will be April 11, 2015 - save the date!

--- 3 ---

My grandma Violet is here for her annual visit! She arrived late last Saturday evening and goes back to the frozen wasteland of North Dakota on February 28. We love having her here! Peter loves to sit on her lap, and he gurgles and giggles in the most adorable way.

--- 4 ---

Peter finally has his follow-up orthopedic appointment on Thursday. He hasn't seen the orthopedist since he got his brace in December so I'm praying like mad that we'll get a good report. (We were supposed to see him last month, but ended up losing insurance coverage for two weeks due to Collin's job switch and had to reschedule.)

--- 5 ---

Four months old! He has hair, it's just so blond that it doesn't show up on camera very well.

--- 6 ---

Katniss has a new ID tag! We bought it from this site. It was amazingly inexpensive and is very appropriate.

--- 7 ---

Three day weekend, woohoo! I'm very much looking forward to sleeping in an extra day.

For some non-fluffy quick takes, please see Kara's blog -- she's got a list of orphans that need help!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Link-Up - Meatless Recipes for Lent!

Lent starts one month from today, people! That's right - this year, Ash Wednesday falls on March 5th (also Violet's 4th birthday). To help us all prepare, I thought I'd have a link up of meatless recipes to help get a head start on meal planning for meatless Fridays and days of fasting and abstinence (and to help some of us get out of our "mac 'n' cheese on Friday" routine). Happy linking!

Welcome to The Catholic Working Mother

Click here to order The Catholic Working Mom’s Guide to Life , released May 28, 2019 by Our Sunday Visitor Press. My blog,  The Catholic ...