Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Truth About Living with My Parents

Last July, I moved back home.  Before you start imagining idyllic situations of me buying a quaint house in my hometown, let me clarify: I moved back home with my parents and into the same bedroom I had in high school.  I hadn't lived with my parents since moving into the dorms at 18 and now I was back...and brought a husband and baby home with me.  

Here's a little of our history (in case you're new to the blog): David graduated with his Ph.D. in May 2012.  Our lease was over at the end of July and since David had not found a job yet, we decided to move back home to Colorado and in with my parents.  (We were living in North Carolina at the time.)  I (somewhat miraculously) found a job right away as a part-time Spanish teacher at a local Catholic school and David found a job at Starbucks in November.  He was finally offered a job last month, as a science teacher at a Catholic high school...back in Raleigh.  We're moving back this week after a year of living with my parents.

As you can imagine, living with my parents is difficult.  But there are so many blessings of living here as well.  When I moved "home", we imagined it would be temporary, only two or three months, until David found a job and we settled into our own place.  Having been here long after we expected, we've started to take the blessing for granted and the little annoyances have seemed to add up.  

For those of you who have or might someday live with your parents too (or if you're just curious what it's like), I'm going to give an honest account of what living with my parents looks like.

The struggles:

1. The stigma that comes with living with the parents.  When speaking with acquaintances and strangers, it often comes up that I live with my parents.  And when it does, I feel like I'm sharing more than just my residence, I'm sharing our financial situation.  Although I do share our difficult situation on my blog, I don't like to share it with people we meet, because I like to avoid the assumptions that come with it.  

Although many highly educated and hard working people are having trouble finding jobs right now because of the economy, unemployment and underemployment still carry the assumptions of laziness.  If you meet my husband, you'll know he's anything but lazy, but that stigma is still there.  Also, I know many people judge us for being married and having a child before we were fully financially stable, own a house, etc.  Most people are too polite to say something even if that's what they're thinking, but believe me, there are some really rude people out there that think it's their job to tell you exactly how they feel about your life decisions.  And then there is pity.  That's a hard thing to deal with as well.  I know that my parents get comments as well about how they should make us move out, they need to cute the apron springs so we can be independent, etc.  Believe me, we're trying!  Although I love my parents dearly, I would never choose to live with them, regardless of the financial savings, unless we had to! 

2. Having to depend on your parents for a economic support as an adult with your own family I've struggled with it, but it's been even harder on my husband who takes his role as head of household seriously.  I know my parents don't see us as taking advantage of them and love having us (Who am I kidding? Love having Lulu) here, but I still feel like a burden to them.  Not fun.

3. Not among our own possessions.  I've really underestimated how comfortable it is to be surrounded by possessions that I've chosen and arranged myself.  This sounds a bit materialistic, but it's not about owning fancy things or showing off what we own, just about the process of making a house (or apartment or whatever) a home.  Our first apartment together was great, and our second one (the one that was our daughter's first home *tear*) was small and kind of crappy and we didn't seem to have room for all our belongings so some stayed in boxes the entire time we lived there BUT it was OURS and what was there was OURS and we had picked them and put them where WE wanted and it felt like HOME.  My parents would have let us decorate our rooms (we have two - one for us and one for Lulu) however we wanted, but we didn't do much because we keep thinking, "David will get a job any day."  Much of our stuff (especially kitchen stuff) is in boxes in the basement and I'm not sure if it's because it's newer or just because it's familiar, but I swear that our stuff is much better than that of my parents.  If I had to do it over again, I would have settled in, painted, and made our areas feel as much our own as possible from the very beginning.

4. Privacy.  Do I need to elaborate on this one?  We've been married three years and parents for less than two, so it's so important that we have the space to develop our relationship and family in our own way.  Hard to do when you live with others.  My parents try to be hands off and let us make our own decisions, but that's hard for parents to do when they care so much and just want the best for their kids and grandkid.

5. Parenting/grandparenting.  My parents want to be grandparents and spoil Lulu all the time but because we live here and they are around her every day, they just can't.  Usually kids have the structure and rules at home and then can break that structure for "fun mom and dad don't allow" with grandma and grandpa (in this case, Nana and Papa).  It would be too confusing for Lucia to not have that constant structure when she is as home from all the adults in the house, which means my parents have to act more like parents than grandparents with her.  I get frustrated sometimes when they spoil her too much or let her get her way more than they should, but I'm trying to be patient because I know it's hard for them.

6.  Little annoyances.  Did your parents do things when you were growing up that annoyed you/embarrassed you/you could not understand for the life of you?  Well, they still do.  My husband is so much better than me at dealing with the little things because he doesn't see them as a big deal (which they really aren't) but 18+ years of the same little things tends to snowball.  Like a variation of the same joke I've already heard my dad tell a million times?  David thinks it's hilarious and does not get why I'm not laughing.  Yeah, hun, it was funny the first 50 times I heard it too.  If I don't catch myself, these things can start to really grate on my nerves (and I know David and I have habits that annoy my parents too) so it's important to keep everything in perspective.  Sometimes, I just have to walk away, retreat to my room, and come back when I'm ready.  Yeah, kind of like I did when I was a teenager, but I don't slam the door anymore.

The blessings:

1. Watching my parents see their granddaughter grow up.  Seriously, the relationship between my parents and my daughter is so beautiful.  So much love!  I grew up in the same neighborhood as my grandparents and saw them everyday; I always wanted the same for my children.  You don't get much closer than living in the same house!

2. Live-in babysitters.  David and I could go on a date nearly every night if we wanted (if we could afford it!) and my parents would happily watch Lucia.  They love alone time with her and practically push us out the door sometimes.   And on the weekends when David is at work and I need to take a shower or nap?  My parents are happy to take care of her and often won't give her back to me when I'm done.  David and I also love to cook together, which didn't happen much after Lucia was born, but now my parents will watch her while we prepare dinner.  They get a delicious dinner and time with their granddaughter.  We get time together.  Totally win-win.

3. Financial relief.  This is obvious, because it's the reason we live with my parents.  The average month during school year when I was working, David and I could probably have afforded an apartment, but it wouldn't have left us with much extra for unexpected expenses.  During the summer and months when there are many days off school, like December and March, I don't make anything/didn''t make enough for us to be able to pay the rent.  Also, it just didn't make sense for us to sign a year lease when David could have found a job at any time in an area far away.  It turns out that we did end up living here a full year, but we had no way to predict that.  It's such a blessing to be able to live here and save money for those expenses that always pop up at the wrong time and for us to finally be able to get a place of our own.

4. Support.  When we lived in Indiana and North Carolina, the only support we were able to get from family was over the phone or in the form of a check.  Now, we have real support at all times.  Help with household chores and child raising, someone to pick up something at the store on the way home, as well as extra ears to listen and shoulders to cry on.  Obviously, we didn't need to live in the same house, just in the same area as family to get this, but it is nice that I never felt lonely or found myself in a difficult situation without help.

5. Living in a house.  Hopefully someday soon David and I will be able to buy a house, but so far in our marriage, that hasn't been a possibility.  There are some definite perks to living in a large house, especially with a little one, that we were about to take advantage of this past year.  Lucia has had a backyard to play in and her own "playroom" where she had her toys and her princess tent.  We enjoyed cooking in a roomy kitchen.  We had access to cable which we had previously cut out of our budget.  I could use all my dad's tools (and his know-how) and the big garage for craft projects. 

I know that I listed more struggles than blessings but when you look a the scale of each of those things, the positive far outweighs the negative.  Compare little annoyances to watching your parents see your child grow up and there is seriously no contest.  It's been a blessed year.  It's been a difficult year.  While I'm glad that circumstances have changed, I'm not happy about moving so far away.  I can't say I would love to live in my parents' house forever, but the house across the street would be just perfect.  Even a house in the next city or state.  With our move quickly approaching, I'm more grateful now than ever that Lucia  (and David and I) got to spend this year with my parents.  Unfortunately, she won't remember it, but we always will and we have pictures for proof!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Guest Post: Learning on the Other Side of the Desk (Part II)

Olivia is sharing the big lessons she's learned from her first year of teaching (and helping me out during our busy, busy move).  To read the first part, click here.  Thanks again, Olivia!

...I recently completed my very first year of teaching.  I am blessed to teach Religion and Art to 7th and 8th graders at our local Catholic middle school.  Spending each day with preteens gifts me with loads of entertainment, a bore-less job, and plenty of opportunities to grow in virtue.  This year has taught me much more than I can fully fathom now, but I nevertheless present to you 10 simple, yet profound lessons I have learned about teaching and catechizing young people in our culture today.  I "knew" all about these before, but like we've concluded, experiencing and implementing them is a far different task.

Note: Even if you are not a teacher, this list is applicable to anyone who engages with teenagers, and can even be useful in parenting (although I humbly lay no claim on expertise in that arena)! 

6. Support them.  When I find out what my individual students are interested in and get excited about those things with them, I have their full attention.  I cannot tell you how many connections this has solidified between me and the kids.  Whether it's a common sport, love of coffee, chess, music, family, dancing, etc.- letting them know that I care about what they care about moves mountains.  If I support them in their endeavors and show interest in what they love, they, in turn, will be more interested in what I love and seek to hand on to them, namely: the Lawd.

7. Have mercy.  They're human, and they're oh-so-fragile.  Forgive, forgive, forgive.  And then forget.  Show them the love and mercy of the Father by being merciful with them when they screw up.  Because they will, and often.  But they are also quick to seek forgiveness.  Welcome them back into the fold with open arms.

8. Aim for greatness, but realize that greatness ≠ perfection.  Speaking of mercy, I have learned to have mercy on myself.  I will mess up, my lessons won't always knock it out of the park, and I will fail in areas of discipline and discipleship.  So I'll fake it 'til I make it, keep on keepin' on, and all that other stuff because if I give up on me, then they will give up on me.  They smell fear and they see straight through BS so I must acknowledge when I fail, dust myself off, and get back to trying my best.

9. Leave work at work.  As you know, Mandi has already intelligently advised this, but it's important enough to repeat and it is another lesson I have had to learn the hard way.  At the beginning of the year, I would carry all my students' problems, hopes, and sorrows home with me.  I would fret over the ones who were causing trouble and I would immerse myself in sorrow over the ones who were suffering.

The root of this, I realize, is noble.  I love them, simply put.  I want them to be happy and holy and when they are not I feel the lack in my own heart.  But bringing this frustration and sadness home truly did have an influence on how I interacted with my husband.  I would allow myself to remain in a state of frustration and sadness and let's be honest, nobody likes a crabby wife.

Before we got married, our marriage preparation sponsor couple advised us to 'leave work at work', and I ashamedly admit that I doubted that mantra.  I mean, my work is not just any work, it is a mission.  I'm not working solely for a paycheck, but for souls.  Oy, my pride is my downfall.  I have learned that leaving work at work is not a bad thing and it certainly does not mean that I am not putting my whole heart into this particular mission; it purely means that my vocation is THE mission to which I'm called first. If I am failing at that, then any success I gain elsewhere is worthless.

So, I began a small practice that has brought me much peace and joy.  At the end of the school day, right before I leave, I pray my 'surrender prayer'.  It's super informal and changes every day according to various needs, but it usually goes something like this:
Jesus, thank you for calling me to teach these students who I am so unworthy of.  Thank you for the grace You've given me to get through another day, and for the blessing of participating in Your mission of salvation.  I apologize for the ways I've failed today (mention specifics), and I ask for Your mercy on me and any of those I may have harmed.  Lord, I now offer these, Your students, to Your Heart.  You know what they need (mention specifics), and I beg You to deliver them from sin and a spirit of selfishness and depression.  I leave them in Your Hands, Father, now and always.  I will gladly return tomorrow with a renewed heart and a willingness to sacrifice on their behalf.  Until then, I ask You to protect them, to give them great joy in You, and to ensure their health, happiness, and holiness.
Praying this short prayer has enabled me to go home at the end of each day happy and undivided.  I've noticed that the more time and energy I put into my vocation as wife, the better teacher I become.  Funny how that works, huh?
Game night with Dave's brothers. Relaxing and spending time with those you love makes a world of difference in the other areas of your life.
10. Pray, pray, pray.  All the time.  For them and for your ministry.  This is the easiest thing to do, but the hardest to actually implement.  The goal is to love them with His Heart, not your own.  Read John 3:30 over and over again and realize that nothing you do is possible without grace.

Olivia is a new wife to David and a teacher to tweens who lives to pursue the heights of happiness and holiness.  She loves light beer, cooking, old books, and all things Southern.  Olivia blogs at and would love to have you along for the adventure!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Moving Update: 11 Quick Takes Saturday (7QT #98)

I didn't think I'd have much chance to blog this week or the next few until I get moved, unpacked and settled into our new home, but since David left this morning with our stuff and Lucia and I don't fly out until Thursday, I have a bit of down time, so here's a little update of what's going on with us.  I have many friends and family members I'm going to attempt to see one last time before we go, but I'm also going to lounge about a bit after the past few crazy weeks and the ridiculous amount of work it will be to settle in.  Have I ever told you that I can barely leave the house with Lucia?  It's just so difficult (or I'm just so inept) and I know it's only one child, but I just can't seem to handle it.  After the move, I'm going to be running to the store A LOT to get trash cans and hangers and a broom and pantry staples and other things that we no longer have or couldn't fit (packed to the brim and we still had to leave a bunch behind).  And I just don't know how I'll be able to do it.  David will be starting work a week from Monday and I'll be ON MY OWN.  With tantrum toddler.  Trying to set up a house.  Eeek.

Oh, and did I mention that we're moving into a town house that could possibly be a hell hole?  I'm thinking it won't be, but we only saw pictures online and there were absolutely none of the upstairs (bedrooms) or bathrooms and no layout or dimensions for the rooms.  The downstairs does look habitable and possible even nice, so I have hope.  Unless it's downright dangerous or unsanitary, we'll be living there for the next year, so let's just pray it's ok... (Um, that was supposed to be a short intro, but turned out to be worthy of a few quick takes of it's own.  Just pretend this is 11 Quick Takes Saturday.)

--- 1 --- 

David and his dad left this morning with our vehicles and the Uhaul trailer.  His departure, of course, did not go as planned.  There was a problem with his truck door not closing properly that my dad had to fix.  Then, he called my dad within the first 30 minutes after leaving to say that the trailer was acting up.  He took it in to be checked, but essentially was told he just has to stay under 55 mph.  Which makes a 25 hour drive into a MUCH longer drive (not that he would be going 75, but he definitely was comfortable with 60/65 mph speed on the way moving back with the same truck and trailer).  I am continuously at awe of the selflessness of my husband caring for our family, as well as the men in our family who have helped us with multiple moves (this is #4 in three years).  Will you say a prayer that they arrive in NC in a safe and timely manner? 
--- 2 ---

Oh wait, I almost forgot our BIG news!  (Um, other than moving cross country, but that's old news by now.)  We bought a new car!  (A new-to-us car.)  My grandparents recently stopped driving and we offered to buy their car.  It's about five years old, they kept it in pristine shape, it doesn't have many miles, and best of all, it's a Subaru!  My car is a Subaru and we love it, so I knew when the time came, we would want to swap it for another Subaru.  It's a Forester, so it has a little more room than my Legacy and will be a great family car!  Of course, it's not exactly what I would choose - the beige interior isn't exactly family-friendly, I don't really like white vehicles (probably because every single vehicle owned by my parents/grandparents is white!), and I would have preferred a stick shift - however, the benefits way outweigh these little preferences.  We're thrilled!  I would post a picture, but it's currently on it's way to North Carolina.
--- 3 ---

Let's talk stress + parenting.  I'm going to be very honest right now.  I've been in a huge parenting rut.  Motherhood is wonderful and so worth it, but recently it has felt so impossible.  Lucia has had terrible tantrums (including one in which she stabbed my little toe with a shovel in a fit of rage and I thought I would die from the pain) and I've been relying on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse (and various Mickey Mouse programs on Netflix) to get me by.  I haven't been playing with her or engaging with her, simply trying to get her to watch TV or play with toys so she will leave me alone to do other things.  As soon as anyone else comes home, I've thrown Lucia at them and ran away to have some private time.  It's not that I haven't wanted to be a mother or wish I hadn't had Lucia, I just wanted a vacation.  A few weeks without her at all.  Do I sound like I'm going to get the parent of the year award?  I was starting to get really scared for that not-far-off day when David starts work and will be gone 8+ hours a day five days a week and I'd be alone with Lucia.  I can't imagine how moms of two do it, much less moms of three or four or five.  (And yes, we still do want a large family, because I know I CAN do it, just can't imagine HOW.)

Anyway, after David left with the Uhaul today (and we took 3 hour naps), Lucia and I had an amazing afternoon together.  We played with stamps for hours.  Took a walk.  Played "b-ball" (yes, she calls it that!).  Played.  We just played together.  I enjoyed her company.  It was amazing.  And I realized that I hadn't really been in a parenting rut, I simply was beyond stressed by this move and trying to get everything done.  As soon as the stress was gone, I could focus on her and our relationship.  The tantrums were still there.  There were a few memorable doozies today.  But I could handle them, focus and love my daughter through them because I didn't have something else sapping my attention. 

So my question to you then is how do you deal with stressful situations (because we can't always avoid them) in a way that minimizes their effect on your family life?
--- 4 ---

Last Saturday was my sister-in-law's baby shower and it was just lovely!  It's the first shower I've ever planned (baby or otherwise) and while I can't say it went exactly as planned, it was very fun, cute, and honored my SIL and her baby in a very loving way!  I just love showers.  And babies.  So sad we won't be here when our sweet niece arrives.

(And to tie this to the previous quick take, may I suggest NOT planning a baby shower the weekend before you move out of state.  Everything ended up fine, but there was a lot of compounded stress and busyness this week!)
--- 5 ---

Instead of getting down in the dumps as we move, I've been focusing on the things we'll look forward to.  Here's a little list I've been working on to keep my spirits up:
  • reuniting with old friends (and meeting some new online ones)
  • having our own place again
  • David's new career
  • nights and weekends together as a family
  • free museums
  • amazing weather
  • farmer's market
  • life without lotion (humidity)
  • Super Double coupon week at Harris Teeter
  • exploring more of the US East and South
Any of you who know NC/Raleigh, what am I missing?
--- 6 ---
Another thing to be grateful for: the amazing guest bloggers who have contributed posts for this crazy busy moving time.  I am so beyond grateful that I can take a blogging break (except for tonight, of course) which was much needed, even without the move!  If you missed them, Sarah wrote a post about the care and keeping of single ladies with advice for single women who struggle with engagement/baby announcements, and their married/mom friends who want to be kind about these announcements.  On Monday, Olivia wrote a heartwarming post about what she learned about preteens in her first year as a middle school teacher.  It's a two part post, so be sure to check back to read part 2 on Monday.  To round out the week, I shared 12 reasons we don't use contraception (in three days already the 3rd most viewed post in my nearly three years of blogging!) and a sponsor spotlight on my friend's etsy shop, The Hydrangea Hut.  There are so many more amazing guest posts coming up in the next few weeks too, so stay tuned! 
--- 7 ---
I finally bit the bullet and signed up as a Lilla Rose independent consultant.    I've done a couple reviews of Lilla Rose hair accessories provided by my sweet consultant Anjanette and LOVED them.  (I lost the hair band in that picture and am not proud to say that I may have cried like a baby about it.)  I had been thinking about signing up as a consultant for awhile and figured I would finally do it after we were fully settled in after the move, however, there is currently free shipping on the new consultant enrollment kits and thought I might as well just go ahead and take advantage of it.  You'll be seeing some giveaways and information in the future (after I settle in), but I just wanted to share in case you were in the market for some new hair accessories or interested in taking advantage of the free shipping and becoming a consultant as well!  You can find more information on my website here.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Guest Post: The care and keeping of single ladies

If you're anything like me, your Facebook feed is full of good news: babies, engagements, marriages, vacations....

You're most likely either one of the people posting the exciting things, or someone wondering when you'll get your turn at excitement.

I am a single girl. I am the oldest child in my family. There's not going to be any babies soon unless I have them. I just graduated from college, and lots of people are getting married. One of my good friends has a kid that's almost a year old.

...and I'm just working in a small town wondering when my life is going to start.

I am one to talk because I'm still struggling with these things, but I have some things I want to tell single ladies like me, as well as soon-to-be married or newly married women as well.

To the single ladies: 

When I say these things, remember I still need to work on this. I need people to shout these things at me and pound them into my head. I've never so much as been on a date for (St.) Pete(r)'s sake, yet I have married friends and friends who have kids. But here's some things I want you to know, and things I wish I could know myself:

1. You're not your mom, roommate, best friend, or the girl who sat next to you in biology. Just because they got married when they were your age does not mean you have to. My mom was married when she was my age, and on her way to having her first child (me). What was right for her is not always right for me! Own being unique, despite how much you'd like to be like everyone else.

2. Don't whine and complain on social media. Vent to a friend or in a journal. Most importantly, vent to God. He's the one in charge, remember?

3. Don't torture yourself by pinning wedding ideas and nursery decor or thinking of baby names. Nothing is worse than knowing you can't have something. That's why diets fail so much! Focus on what you do have. I'm a big fan of writing three good things/things to be thankful for every day in a journal, no matter what kind of day you had. Sometimes one of the items is "I'm thankful I did not get hit by a bus today." You know what? That is FINE! I'm really happy my spine is intact today!

4. Find someone you can talk to openly about your feelings, but someone who won't be condescending or let it turn into a big pity party. I have a friend who I can rant to and watch chick flicks with, which is great some of the time but not all, and I have a friend who lets me rant, doesn't judge, and then asks me questions to get to the root of the issue. Find these people! Find your chick flick buddy and your helper.

The bottom line: be thankful. 

To the taken ladies: 

1. Be sensitive to others' feelings when posting on social media. You have a right to be excited, but think of the different people who are reading your posts. Instead of posting over and over about what your wedding food and decor is, leave some room for surprises. Get your guests excited to celebrate your day, and be excited to celebrate it with you. Examples of excited, but considerate posts would be "I'm happy to announce that boy proposed! We're hoping for a fall wedding and we can't wait to celebrate this new chapter with our friends and family!" or "Working on designing the nursery. Having a rough time on the paint color. I'm just eager to put the beautiful and thoughtful gifts from my shower into the place baby will live!" Get the gist? Yes, you're excited, but always show that you're thinking of others and be thankful for the people in your life.

2. If some of your close friends/family are single/childless, make sure you spend time with them even after baby/marriage. Don't always bring husband/baby to coffee dates. At your wedding, make the bouquet toss the least humiliating as you can. Don't necessarily pair your single bridesmaid with the single groomsman; pick someone friendly. I was paired with a groomsman at a wedding who was married, which was way less awkward than if the bride had paired me with her single brother. My aunt has been particularly good at all of this. She's only 8 years older than me and I was heartbroken when her now husband proposed. I thought I was going to lose her. Even though she lives hours away, she always makes it a point to have one-on-one time with me as well as leaving time for me to have some quality time with her kids.

3. Wait before you break big news. One of my closest friends broke it to everyone that she was engaged on Facebook. We were close enough that I should have gotten at least a text. Make lists: who should get a phone call, who should get a text/email, and who can find out on Facebook. I did this when I got my first job (my biggest news of my life so far), and it worked great.

The bottom line: be hospitable. 

Sarah is a 22-year-old convert working at a small town daily newspaper in Pennsylvania.  You can find her at The Elizabeth Project.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

12 Reasons We Don't Use Contraception

12. Because a healthy bodily function should never be suppressed.  I was probably 20 years old and had taken birth control for 7+ years before I found out how hormonal birth control (pills, patches, rings, etc.) works.  Hormones are released into the body to prevent you from ovulating.  If you don't ovulate, you can't get pregnant.  However, not much is known about the effects of stopping ovulation for long periods of time.  It's naive to think that you can stop an entire organ system from function properly for years and expect that there are no effects.  No organ system of the body is completely independent, so purposely impeding a healthy system from functioning the way it was meant to can't be healthy for the body as a whole.  And to think, I was taking birth control to regulate my cycles.  Instead, I was stopping them altogether.  I would love to hear the logic behind that one.

11. Because women should not have to bear the burden of birth control.  For some reason, contraception (and the blame if it doesn't work correctly) tends to fall on women.  Yet, men are responsible for 50% of every pregnancy.  A decision regarding contraception should be a mutual decision and should never put the burden on the woman.  Hormonal birth control has many side effects from mood swings and headaches to death from blood clots.  Not all women may experience these, but I believe that there are many women who do and don't even realize they are the result of their birth control.  Or they don't think there is another way.  Women are always the ones that bear the brunt of these side effects.  My husband loves and respects me, and therefore my body, and is not willing to have me risk my health for the family planning decisions we jointly make. (Notice the title is why WE don’t use contraception.)

10. Because I buy organic.  Although we can't always afford hormone-free meats and dairy, we buy them whenever we can.  Why is this?  Because these hormones are not healthy!  Hormones are sometimes necessary to treat diseases, but they also come with risks (including cancer).  Doctors have to carefully weigh the benefits and the risks to determine whether a patient should be treated with hormones.  But fertility is not a disease.  Again, it is a normal, healthy bodily function.  It does not make sense to me to take on the risks of hormones without the benefits of treating a disease. 

9. Because I recycle. While there is always more I can do to decrease my impact on the earth, I try to be as environmentally-friendly as possible.  Synthetic hormones from birth control pills contaminate the water supply.  Condoms sit in landfills, possibly forever.  Both obviously use energy (and emit pollutants) in the production and shipping processes.  People argue about how big of an environmental impact these have, but regardless of how small it might be, by not using either my sex life is not contributing to pollution at all.  

8. Because the only thing that belongs in my uterus is a baby. Just say the words, "perforation of the uterus", and you won't see me near a IUD ever.  Apparently, 1 in 1000 women experience perforation of the uterus due to an IUD.  That doesn't sound like very many but since the IUD is most popular form of birth control in the world, this isn't happening to just a handful of women.  Lets put it this way: if  those were my odds for winning the lottery, you bet I would be buying as many tickets as possible.  One woman has to be that 1 in 1000, and it could just as well be me (or you).  Even if it doesn't poke a hole in my uterine wall, IUDs can increase menses bleeding and cramping.  In addition, 2-10% of IUDs are expelled on their own, meaning that women could be having sex unknowingly without any form of birth control. 

7. Because I'm thrifty.  (Cheap, stingy, frugal, call it what you will...) I don't believe in paying for something that you can get for free.  Don't tell me that the government or insurance agencies provide birth control for free.  Maybe there is no upfront cost to me, but there is a cost.  You pay it when you pay taxes.  When your insurance premiums go up.  It's also possible that birth control is costing the country in the long run by requiring more money for medicare and medicaid to treat the various long-term effects of birth control.  Very few things are ever really free.

6. Because I like to be in control.  I know what you are thinking, "If you like control, wouldn't you like birth control?"  Hormonal birth control is the opposite of control.  Like I mentioned above, birth control prevents ovulation from occurring.  But birth control doesn't always work, either because you forgot to take a pill, another medication interfered, it just doesn't react with your body the way it should, the pharmaceutical company messed up, or another reason entirely.  If I relied on hormonal birth control and it failed,  I would have no idea I was ovulating, and thus would unknowingly be taking a gamble that may result in pregnancy.  I want to know when I'm taking risks of getting pregnant instead of trusting someone else with my fertility.

5. Because nothing comes between me and my husband.  Not even condoms. Sex between a husband and wife is not meant to have a barrier between it.  Women can only get pregnant a week or less out of the month, so most of the time a couple is using condoms to prevent pregnancy, it's unnecessary.  When they do use condoms during fertile times, they actually aren't that effective.  The efficacy of condoms with typical use is only around 85%.  That statistic includes condom use throughout a woman's cycle including the times of the month when women were infertile and couldn't get pregnant anyway.  If you're using it specifically during fertile times and the condom does fail, you are much more likely to get pregnant than the overall efficacy rate suggests. According to the FDA compliance rules, 1 in 250 condoms is allowed to be defective within lots that are approved to be on store shelves.  Do you want to take the risk that your condom is that 1 in 250? 

4. Because knowledge empowers.  I deserve to understand my fertility.  If I'm suppressing and changing it, I don't know what is actually going on with my body.  Birth control can mask the symptoms of serious conditions or hormonal imbalances.  It's not a surprise that many women go off birth control wanting to get pregnant only to be blindsided by the fact that they have fertility problems.  Problems that could have been caught and treated if they had noticed they weren't ovulating regularly, weren't ovulating at all, were having extreme hormonal symptoms or pain, etc.  Even contraception options that don't suppress ovulation (such as IUDs) still disrupt the uterine lining, often contain hormones, or hamper a women's natural cycle in another way.  In addition to helping diagnose medical problems, knowledge of her own body can empower a woman.  Fertility is not a disease or burden that needs to be suppressed, but an incredible process that is part of the health and beauty of womanhood. 

3. Because while I like to be in control, I recognize that ultimately I am not.  God is.  I can't write my reasons for not using contraception without referencing my Catholic faith, but I want to point out that this is only one of twelve reasons.  Many men and women of various faiths that allow birth control as well as many with no religion at all have chosen alternatives to contraception for non-religious reasons.  Initially, it was my faith that led me away from contraception, but even if we were to leave the faith (don't worry, chance of that is slim to none), I've since learned so much about the negatives of contraception and the advantages of the alternative that I'm certainly not going back.  As a Catholic I believe that love (and the physical manifestations of it) should be free, total, faithful, and fruitful.  Contraception prevents sex from being total (by rejecting the spouse's fertility) and fruitful (by separating sex from the reproduction).  That's not to say that couples should only have sex with the purpose of procreation, just that procreation should not be completely severed from the act.  Read more about the Church's stance here

2. Because I'm pro-life.  You may be tempted to lump this together with "religious reasons" but I assure you this is separate.  There are atheist pro-lifers and people of all religions that are anti-abortion.  If hormonal birth control fails to A) prevent ovulation and B) block sperm from the egg by thickening cervical mucus, then it's third line of defense is preventing the fertilized egg from implanting into the uterine wall.  This makes it an abortifacient.  Life begins at conception (when the sperm and egg meet, the fertilized egg is a living organism with the complete DNA of unique human being).  The main question of abortion is not when life begins, but rather when meaningful life, life that is worthy of protection begins.  I believe a human life has meaning and value at the moment of conception and therefore do not support anything that prevents that life from obtaining what it needs to survive.  IUDs are also anti-life.  IUDs agitate the uterine wall, inhibiting implantation.  If you do become pregnant while using an IUD, there is a greater risk of ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage.  Even during times when I hope to postpone pregnancy, I would not want to do anything to harm my child if a pregnancy does occur.

1. Because there is another option. Look, I'm not crazy.  I realize that there are many women with reasons to postpone or completely avoid pregnancy.  However, there is a way to do this and avoid all the nasties I listed above.  Natural Family Planning (NFP) is effective for postponing pregnancy.  There are various methods of NFP, but each of them have a few things in common. They use the natural signs of fertility to identify when a woman is fertile.  Avoid sex during those days to postpone pregnancy.  Have sex during those days to get pregnant.  It is NOT the rhythm method.  It IS scientifically proven (even surprising those who don't agree with the Catholic Church's reasoning behind it)It does have a learning curve and requires self control (but this is not a bad thing! Practicing self control is good for you!), but it's completely doable!  Here are some of the other benefits of NFP:
  • Works with a woman's fertility.  Does not change or suppress it.
  • No hormones!  All natural!  Nothing in my body that doesn't belong.
  • No side effects.  Women do not have to take on the health risks of family planning.  And in fact, the decisions (and difficulties) of family planning are mutually shared, often bringing couples closer.  
  • Speaking of nature, it has little to no impact on the environment. (I say little for nitpickers' sake, because some methods require a little bit of equipment - thermometer, ovulation monitor, paper for charting, etc. than may end up in a landfill someday, but the waste is negligible.)
  • Depending on the method, it is generally cheap or free. (Again, depending on the method used, there may be a bit of equipment involved.)
  • It gives you knowledge of your cycle, so you can identify if you have any fertility or other hormonal problems, and you can see just how amazing a woman's body is on its own.
  • Because it puts control of your fertility in your hands.  While instructors might help you read/understand your charts, you are ultimately in control and make the decisions.  You do not have to have blind trust that a company or doctor know what they are doing. 
  • It uses the natural cycle of a woman's body as designed by God to postpone pregnancy without severing reproduction from sex.
  • If a pregnancy does occur, there are no side effects (death or otherwise) on the resulting fetus.
  • It can be used to prevent and achieve pregnancy.  In fact, when women have difficulty conceiving, doctors have them chart their cycles to figure out when they are fertile, make sure they are ovulating, etc.  If you decide to get pregnant, you can start right away!

Interested in learning more? Check out for information on the different methods, links to other resources, and a directory on NFP instructors.  For testimonials from real women using NFP, check out the Women Speak on NFP series at Carrots for Michaelmas.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sponsor Spotlight: The Hydrangea Hut

Did you ever wish you had more time for the things you love?  Maybe you're working all week and don't have a chance to catch up on your favorite TV shows, read the latest bestseller, or hit the beach whenever you like.   

In my case, enter The Hydrangea Hut.   Ever since I became a mom, my son has been my full-time job.   Although I miss my classroom and my students, I wouldn't trade my time with my little one for anything in the world.   

Luckily, I also love to craft.

 For years, I've been sewing, knitting and "crafting," everything from seasonal wreaths to Christmas decorations to hair bows for little girls.

Nowadays, I feel like I finally have a little more time to pursue one of my passions.  I started The Hydrangea Hut earlier this year as a way of sharing my love for all things crafty with a wider audience.  I make everything from bows and tutus for little girls, to bow ties and custom-made onesies for little boys.  I enjoy receiving custom orders, and it's a lot of fun to design an item with the customer's wishes in mind.  Even if I've never made the item you want, I'm always up for a challenge!

I also want The Hydrangea Hut to be mom-friendly in particular.   I know what it's like to be running around doing 100 things at once, with limited time and a budget to boot.  I will not only customize your order, but work with you on price, too.

I provide domestic and international shipping, and I'm reachable by email at   You can also find samples of my work on Etsy ( and on Facebook (  

Come check out the shop - I'm looking forward to customizing your next order soon!

Look for Mandi's review of a bow from The Hydrangea Hut and giveaway next week!