Who We Are:

We are women, we are wives, we are mothers, and we are open to life. This is our way of standing by one another, learning from each other, and leaning on Christ our Savior.

Nov 20, 2011

Best DYI Infant - Toddler Toy

A Fabric Squares Wipe Dispenser.

Yes. If you haven't already caught your curious 1 year old, or mommy playing 3 year old with all the wipes on the floor yet, you may.

I LUV when I find really simple projects like this, especially when a 1yr. old or 3 yr. old has fun with it...for hours. Nice.

What a genius idea for a fabric squares wipe dispenser....heck would make a great Christmas or birthday gift ; )

So for all those baby wipe swipers out there - this is for you!

For step by step how-to click here

Oct 12, 2011

Darkest Time of Parenting...

This article is a GOOD ONE! Ever heard the phrase "the tunnel of parenthood"? One More Soul recently posted on the perceptions of parenting and why so many choose to sterilize after two kids because of the sometimes brutal physical demands of parenting... and it hits the nail on the head! Short and sweet read - please take a peak at this article.

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Sep 12, 2011

Six Reasons to Have Six Kids

This is a cute and clever post and you can read it here.

Sep 7, 2011

What have you DONE...

For your Marriage today?

I think Fulton Sheen nailed it when he said marriage goes through three stages: the blissful honeymoon moment, followed by a “crisis” moment that leads to a deeper and more satisfying intimacy.

Lately I've read two Catholic magazines that have asked this question, "What have you done for your marriage today?" Isn't that a refreshing change other than the same old grocery isle headings "New positions to make him crazy for you." or "Fives signs he's cheating."  Well let's chuck it up for Lucky, Vogue, Ladies Home Journal, Glamour, and all the bubble gum prints out there who are providing America with marriage failure techniques 

Last week, I found out a friend's marriage is in crisis because of marital infidelity. It struck my heart, I couldn't sleep that night because it troubled me deeply. Something like that effects so many people, not just the couple, but the whole church and society suffer with them.

Marriage truly takes so much work. I feel like I can't really give any advice - because I haven't been married that long. I look to my parents who celebrated 30 years in July and my grandparents who celebrated 72 YEARS two weeks ago. (Holy cow that's a long time.) Both of those marriages and many others I've seen seem to have much in common: They work on their marriages with as much passion as our work outs and as much  careful planning and investing as our bank accounts.

Truly, it is our life's greatest work, apart from working on our souls, and because we are held accountable for getting our spouses to Heaven.

The Helps...
I've been gathering and collecting some marriage resources as I've come across them:

1.  "40 Day Challenge"
During Lent, the Extrodinary Moms Network got facebook fans to join the "40 Day Challenge" It is a compelling project for spouses based on scripture and writings of the late Fulton Sheen. AWESOME!!

2. "Love Dare" Something similar from the somewhat cheesy but good message movie, Fire Proof. 

3. So I was in the dark that the U.S. Conference of Bishops made strengthening marriage a top priority for 2008-2011. I'm a little late in getting in on the memo, but there have been some great helps out there, one being this website: http://www.foryourmarriage.org/ 

4. Lastly, some small print publications have had some great articles on marriage as well. This is from LeCristo ,  with poignant and practical advice for marriage:

"...the work of dedicating time to Christ is no small task. On all sides intrudes the din of electronic gadgetry, leaving folks voice-mailed, text messaged and tweeted to numbness. No wonder so many people find it hard to have an interior life of prayer and reflection. Without the ability to be alone with one's thoughts, it is harder to lift one's mind to God during the course of a day. This presents a danger. For 'where people no longer perceive God.' Benedict XVI said in his Letter to Seminarians last year, 'life grows empty; nothing is ever enough.'

Imagine how much harder it is for spouses to find time for silence and for each other. The daily demands of supporting their families and maintaining a household could tax the stamina of a Navy SEAL. All the more reason why spouses need to disconnect from the world and spend quiet time together. And couples shouldn't feel guilty about making time for themselves. Ideally , not even children should claim all of their parents' time, to the point were mom and dad no longer have time for each other.

One of the most important witnesses that married people give to their children and to the world is precisely their dedication to each other. (Wise is the adage, by the way, that says the best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother."

The union between spouses also has a profound theological value. Marriage witnesses to the relationship of Christ and his bride the Church. With good reason St. Paul exhorts husbands to "love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her" (Ephesians 5:25). The Apostle presses the point a few verses later when he writes that 'the two shall become one flesh. This is the great mystery, but I speak in reference to Christ and the Chruch' (vv 31-32).

We are used to thinking of religious and consecrated people and priests as a special witnesses to Christ. But married people too share this role, through the day-to-day unity they live.  Their witness helps to lift everyone around them. They can make their love incarnate, as it were, not only through their children but through the devotion and time they lavish on each other.

Strong marriages help to keep the awareness of God present in societies. Spouses can do their part by simply spending time with each other. It takes effort, but it is doable. It means turning off the TV and the cell phone and the computer and going a walk together. It means making time for a "date night" away from the kids. It means drawing the line on meddling in-laws. It means, in short, no feeling guilty about wasting time together.

Time has a way of standing still when two people in love spend time together. It is that suspension of time, so to speak, that gives the rest of us a glimpse into what eternity is like. and what it will be like to spend eternity with the God of love."  - Fr. Edward McIImail, LC

Simple, practical, and always good to hear! What are some things that you do with your spouse to "work" on your marriage?

Aug 30, 2011

You Can Never Afford Them

I just love when I find articles like these....witty, real, and motiviating.

A two minute read on National Catholic Register by a funny dude with 5 kids...here.

Aug 25, 2011

Men of Honor

So I read this on my dad's facebook page yesterday and wanted to share. Only by the grace of God did he have his Father's example of being open to life and then I in turn had my father. It is crazy to think that if one didn't I would not be here and nor would my kids! 

In reflecting further, I noticed how much they were both men of prayer. My dad was a spiritual leader in my family (leading a rosary or praying after Mass) maybe because his father was. What an impact it had for generations. Let's pray for more good men!!

Happy 97th Birthday to my Dad Pete Zuniga! I am truly humbled by the great life and example this man has given me. Lived through the great depression raising his seven younger brothers and sisters after his dad passed away when he was a kid. Raised 13 of his own children, buried two of his other children. Loyal husband, dedicated father, skilled worker in all areas, talented musician, and most of all a humble man who gave God all the glory! We were always the last family to leave church on Sunday....we watched and waited for Dad to get off his knees! If I could fill half his shoes in my lifetime I would be blessed.

I love this man!


Jul 28, 2011

Kristi's Thoughts...

I really wanted to share this recent post from my good friend Kristi. She always has incredibly beautiful reflections that challenge me spiritually.  Check out Kristi's blog here.

"I remember so clearly that last summer at this time I was in a crazy panic because soon I would be having another baby. Gabriel took up all my time and left me no time for anything else. I was exhausted and could not even begin to comprehend how I would stretch myself to love one more person. Since I was induced with Anthony and knew when I would be leaving Gabriel behind to welcome another soul into the world, I think I rocked Gabriel that night longer than I ever had. He fell asleep in my arms and after laying him in his crib I sat next to it and cried, scared at what the future held. I prayed that God would give me the grace to multiply my love much like His love can do for all of us. When Anthony arrived, it was so. I was still able to spend time with both of them. They continued to tag team me with naps, be occupied when the other needed something, and almost instantly fell in love with one another. It was so beautiful.

As I was walking them home yesterday from the pool in our totally awesome double stroller, Gabriel was chanting, "Chunky Monkey" over and over while Anthony kept busting out laughing with this amazing giggle. I realized in that moment, that not only did God give me the grace to continue to love Gabriel just as much, but now Gabriel has a brother who adores him, loves him, and gives him his full attention as well. He was blessed with his sibling. It's an amazing gift and grace to have a sibling.

I was asked again today how many children I want. I am always so stuck with the answer to that. If I told you how many I want, you may think I am a crazy person. But, God may never give me any more either. Each moment in God's will is so different. His will for me one day, one week, one month, or in one certain year may be totally different than the next. I honestly can never see myself saying, "Alright, that's it. I don't want anymore." (That's the beauty NFP has given my heart as well). There is an openness to allow God's love to act and it's so freeing. So, I am not sure, still, how many children I want. I just know I desire them. And I especially desire them in those moments of grace when God shows me what a gift my children are, not only to me, but to one another. It is impossible for the love to remain the same. It multiplies over and over again. I just love it." 

- By Kristi

Jul 21, 2011

If You Give a Mom a Muffin

Read this once and thought it was humorous. Just thought I'd share...

If you give a mom a muffin, she'll want a cup of coffee to go with it. She'll pour herself some. Her three-year-old will spill the coffee.  She'll wipe it up. Wiping the floor, she will find dirty socks. She'll remember she has to do laundry. When she puts the laundry in the  washer, she'll trip over boots and bump into the freezer. Bumping into the freezer will remind her she has to plan supper. She will get out a pound of hamburger. She'll look for her cookbook. (101 Things To Make With A Pound Of Hamburger.) The cookbook is sitting under a pile of mail. She will see the phone bill, which is due tomorrow. She will look for her checkbook. The checkbook is in her purse that is being dumped out by her two-year-old. She'll smell something funny. She'll change the two-year-old. While she is changing the two-year-old the phone will ring. Her five-year-old will answer and hang up. She'll remember that she wants to phone a friend to come for coffee. Thinking of coffee will remind her that she was going to have a cup. She will pour herself some. And chances are, if she has a cup of coffee, her kids will have eaten the muffin that went with it.

by Kathy Fictorie
based on "If you Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff

Jul 10, 2011

Meet Danielle: New Monthly Feature - NFP Women

We are Paul (29) and Danielle (28) Klinker and we have 3 girls; Rose (4.5), Ava (3), Madeline (22 mo) and baby girl #4 on the way. Paul and I have been married for 6 years as of June 4th. We both grew up mostly in Carmel, IN and now live in Louisville, KY.

When did you first hear about the Church’s teachings on NFP and contraception? Did you always know about it or was there a time that you heard about it for the first time?From as far back as I can remember, I had heard the term NFP from my parents and as I got older, they explained to me what it was all about. I also learned more about contraception in high school and college and the more I learned about it, the more I was turned off by it. Then when Paul and I got engaged in college, we took a class taught by the Couple to Couple League at Purdue to learn more about how to use NFP. It wasn’t until then that I learned all the details of how, when, and really understood why we use NFP.

Likewise, was there a moment when you decided that you would use NFP in your marriage or was it just understood that that is what you would do?
It was always understood that NFP is what I would use in my marriage. It was what the Church and my family expected of me and it was the only pro-life option, so to me there was nothing else to consider. I knew I needed to find a guy who felt the same way because I wasn’t willing to compromise on the issue. Luckily God sent a wonderful, like-minded guy my way…I couldn’t have asked for a better life partner.

Did you have any fears about using NFP? If so, what were they?
I think in the beginning of our marriage, Paul wondered if NFP would really work for us. I have irregular cycles, so it is harder to predict the fertile/non-fertile times. Also, before we took an NFP class, Paul thought NFP meant having as many kids as you possibly could and that made him nervous. Over time, we have both come to understand and appreciate the beauty of God’s plan by using NFP.

How has using NFP positively influenced your marriage?
NFP has definitely strengthen our marriage by keeping communication strong and consistent, keep our relationship God-centered, and teaching us to fall in love with the small things about each other during our fertile times instead of only focusing on physical intimacy. It helps us keep everything in perspective and fully trust in God’s Divine plan.

What has been the greatest challenge?
NFP is definitely no walk in the park. The greatest challenge for us when using NFP has been determining the fertile and infertile days in my cycles because they are often very irregular. Because of our uncertainty, the time of abstinence can seem to last forever each month, which every couple knows can be very difficult at times.

What would you say to a couple who is considering using NFP rather than artificial forms of birth control?
I would explain the beauty of NFP…the beauty of using your body’s natural signs of fertility, (instead of using artificial means…aka contraception), and being open to the will of God to plan your family. I would share how much it has strengthened my marriage by keeping communication strong, keep our relationship God-centered, and teaching us to fall in love with the small things about each other during our fertile times instead of only focusing on physical intimacy. I would explain how NFP helps us to see children as a blessing not a burden and to appreciate the beautiful gift of fertility that is so easy to take for granted.

 How do you handle the topic with family and friends? Is it ever an issue? How do you handle criticism about the Church’s teachings?
Luckily NFP has not been much of an issue with our families. We actually have wonderful support from our families who also use NFP in their own families. What a blessing to have people to keep us accountable and to be an example of happiness through doing the will of God!

We do have many Catholic friends who also use NFP and many other friends who do not. When most of our friends who use contraception hear that we use NFP and are open to more children, they often look at us like we are crazy and then comment something like, “Oh, I definitely couldn’t have any more…2 (or 1 or 3…hardly ever more than 3) are enough for me!” People definitely call us crazy and can’t image why we would consider having a 5th or 6th child. I don’t take it personally, but try to respond with something like, “God won’t give us more than we can handle” or “siblings are the best gift you can give your children.”

Could you share one or some of your favorite moments with your children as well as the difficult ones?
Some of my favorite moments of my girls are when I catch them happily playing “Mommy and Baby” all together. They will walk around with high heels on and whoever is playing mom will tell everyone else what to do. Even my 22 month-old will get into character as the baby and crawl around on the floor and pretend to cry, calling her sisters ‘Mommy.’ I love to watch them use their imaginations and enjoy each other’s company. Or when we are in public and one of them gets hurt or is shy, the other takes their hand or hugs them, immediately bringing comfort. These are the moments that prove that siblings really are the best gifts you can give your children.

We are often quite the spectacle on our trips to the grocery store. On more than one occasion I have had one child in an infant carrier, a child in the front of the shopping cart trying to climb out and a child in the back of the cart almost completely covered with groceries. Food is often dropped or broken…it seems like a miracle if we make it through the whole trip without making some kind of mess. I try to keep them occupied with snacks during our trip (half of our groceries end up opened before we even pay for them), but by the time we have gotten everything that we need, an hour and a half has passed, the girls are hungry and tired and at least one is crying inconsolably as we go through the checkout line. Everyone is staring at us and some are offering to help me in any way that they can because I am sure I look like a pitiful mess. Although these moments are embarrassing at the time, we do what we need to in order to get through them and I am sure one day I will look back and laugh.

May 24, 2011

How Many Kids Do You Want?

Oh THEE question. A seemingly lighthearted, fun question that is asked by young girls to each other everywhere as they sit around at a sleepover and girl-talk. I say seemingly because once you actually get there (to having those kids, that is) all-of-a-sudden it is a much more weighty question. And that is just one big reason why I LOVE natural family planning. NFP doesn’t make this question any less important or even give you the “right” and “easy” answer; it actually drastically changes the question all together. Instead of asking “How many kids do I want?” like you would ask yourself “How many purses do I want?” you learn to integrate the idea of children into a more central part of your life, into your vocation. Children aren’t purses, accessories that you can add to your lifestyle as you choose or as the size of your closet allows. And NFP teaches you that in a very real way.

NFP teaches you to value kids as lives you are bringing into the world. This is the way you grow as a person, as a married couple, mature in your vocation, grow closer to God, and help others grow as well. NFP, when boiled down to the basics, is really a lifestyle that simply means: I will trust God to show me where my vocation will take me.

There is no way to know what you need and no way anyone should or could have to know exactly what is needed to get them--or their husband or children--to where they need to go: ultimately heaven. What we do need is for God to help us figure that out as we go. Marriage changes a person so much. Even someone who has wanted to get married forever, and has felt called to that forever, is changed in ways they can’t imagine or anticipate. The same goes for getting a certain job, entering the priesthood, or any vocational call. And this also applies to having one child, two, or ten. You’ll never know until you are on your deathbed that the number of children you had is the amount you needed. Only God can see that. I wouldn’t want to wait until that day and find out I was wrong because I did not trust in God.

But people and culture today have all kinds of answers and non-answers to this question about the number of kids for them. Here’s a few I’ve run into and took note of lately, in no way a complete list.

I was at the dentist and had one of those really chatty dental hygienists. You know the kind of person who talks right through the appointment and since you have those tools in your widely propped open mouth all you can say is “uh huh” to answer? She started talking about how she had two kids, but then always “felt” the need for one more. Then when she had her third awhile later (after hmming and hawing for a few years) she just “knew” she was done. She said, “You’ll just feel like it is right to be done. That feeling that you just know your done having kids.” …etc. Hmmm, I thought. Is this the same as that feeling when you find your wedding dress? So she (as I’m sure a lot do) relies on a “feeling” for how many lives get to be created through her. Feelings are always so accurate too. ;) Now, don’t get me wrong, feelings sometimes do lead to correct thought, but especially as women, I think we have to balance those feelings with thought and ground them in prayer. NFP gives us that foundation.

I saw an interview with Tina Fey written out in an article online. She was describing how she agonized over the decision on whether to have a second baby. Would it end her career? Would her first child be ok? Is it the right thing to do? Ultimately she decided she would get pregnant and was happy with her decision. But how many people (who don’t get that “feeling” of being done) agonize like this? Is it right that one should carry that responsibility completely on her shoulders? If you don’t trust and follow the lifestyle of NFP it would be hard not to get sucked into an anxiety-ridden black hole of trying to figure out the reasons to have or not have a child. True peace and happiness can only result from letting that go - giving up the control - because at the end of the day, is anyone ever completely in control anyway?

On a TV show, “Pregnant in Heels,” the woman on the show details the process of her and her husband trying to use IVF to have their second child. She is an emotional roller-coaster as I can imagine I would be as well. It’s honorable that she desires to have a child. But, she goes on to say something along the lines of “Despite the extreme hardships of doing IVF and then having an ectopic pregnancy, we will keep trying it until we get pregnant because my husband and I feel very strongly that we will work as hard as we need to in order to bring our family into the world.” It seems she has this vision of a child waiting for her on the other side of heaven to come and get him. Whether this soul is there or not, she’s willing to fight for this “right” to have a child. In this case, fertility is a right, not a gift. Fertility becomes a part of a person that should be controlled for the desired outcome; which, in this case, is to bring a child into the world naturally or not. On the other, but not dissimilar side, are couples using birth control trying to control their “illness” or “burden” of fertility.

On another TV talk show, an actor who had a couple of children was asked if she would be having more kids. Her answer came quickly and harshly (trying to be funny in a very over-dramatic, overly compensating way), “I’d rather [graphically do something to my uterus] than have another child.” How sad, I thought, as the audience and hosts laughed loudly in a “oh I understand” kind of way. She tries to feel better about her decision for the amount of children by playing it off as “my body seriously couldn’t handle that AT ALL.”

One more example. I recently asked an engaged acquaintance of mine (a non-practicing NFPer) if her and her fiancĂ© had ideas of having children soon after getting married. (Trying to word it as politely and politically correct as possible since I don’t know her well.) Her response was quick. She mentioned something about definitely not wanting kids until at least 30 and then she’d have two. She said she had two in her family growing up and so did her fiancĂ©. End of conversation. No further thought. That’s what she was used to and there’s really no other reasons needed in her mind, I guess. Not only is having kids in a completely separate sphere than getting married for her, it’s also something that she wouldn’t open up to, consider, or question, out of what seems like fear of the unknown.

I think I can be an example of misunderstanding this concept as well. Before I was married (as a person who knew they would do NFP) I would respond to the question “How many kids do you want?” with a very (typical) Catholic answer: I am open and want to have a big family. Maybe 5, 8, 10. I would always throw out a large-ish number. My future husband and I would see families in church with many kids and I would flirtingly and excitedly look over at him and say “we could do seven” or however many they had. Now, that wasn’t a wrong answer per say, but I had no idea how much I would learn after I actually started my vocation to married life and being a mom.
Many people would imagine that now after I know all the work that actually goes into having kids, I would look back on my pre-motherhood self and say, “Wow, she didn’t know what she was saying…I can’t have that many!” But instead I just realize that you can’t put a number down, big or small. Having a family is not a fantasy-world, whether you dream of having lots of kids or none, either way you are trying to control something not meant to be controlled.

Now (only three years and two kids in with hopefully many more of both to learn from to come) when people ask that question about the number of kids, I realize how utterly impossible it is to answer that with a number or even a short answer really. A child cannot be planned. I can’t look into the future and see what any part of my life will look like so why should the amount of children I will have be apparent? Each child comes with a set of so many of life’s variables so each one has to be taken as it comes. Of course I am open to a big family, but in the end I hope and know that God will give me what is right. (Although some days I struggle with having this faith more than others.) I can talk about having lots of kids and prepare for what that would mean, but in the end I’m going to keep living my life each day to keep overcoming my many flaws and being ready for what God asks.
Among many, many things, my first child taught me flexibility. She stretched me to give, give, give, things I never thought about giving. She forced me to learn to live more like Christ did. I couldn’t have learned those things unless I had her exactly when I did. My second child taught me joy. He taught me to live in the moment more, to appreciate and have gratitude. And these kids are only 2 years and 7 months old respectively. I am so thankful for what their lives have already accomplished; simply by being.

Connecting ourselves to God’s will for us is really the goal of life. It’s the “why” of everything. NFP is the tool that makes a marriage into a vocation and lets us communicate with Christ to learn His will. By devoting oneself to prayer and keeping an ongoing conversation between spouses, as well as any spiritual advisors, we can be sure we are doing what we need to be open to the gifts of life.

Helping us answer and rework the question of “How many kids do you want?” is just one reason why NFP leads to holiness and happiness.
- Written by Joanna Milroy

May 17, 2011

Catholics and Contraception

This article was in the National Catholic Register last week. In case you missed it....

A new study finds that most Catholic women use artificial birth control. Pastors respond about how they share Church teaching on marriage and family with the people in the pews.

NEW YORK — Most Catholic women use artificial contraception, according to a new report issued by the Guttmacher Institute.
That’s the research group allied with Planned Parenthood, the target of a fierce campaign by pro-life advocates and House Republicans to defund the “family-planning” organization.
The fresh data provided by “Countering Conventional Wisdom: New Evidence on Religion and Contraceptive Use” has been disputed by some pro-life critics, but it confirms what Church leaders call a decades-long failure to transmit the prophetic teaching of Humanae Vitae .
Yet the damning statistics haven’t discouraged parish priests from experimenting with new arguments and methods to encourage Catholics to embrace Church teaching on contraception.
Inspired by Blessed Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body, and a growing awareness that Humanae Vitae’s prescient wisdom has become even more valuable, priests use homilies, pre-Cana sessions and the confessional to foster enthusiasm for this countercultural teaching.
“When the Pill was approved [by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration] in 1960, people were told it would make everything better,” noted Msgr. Edward Filardi, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Bethesda, Md. “So, one of my openings is this: Let’s look at the promises and see how many were actually fulfilled. The Pill was supposed to strengthen marriage and family life, and instead it’s astounding to see what has actually happened.”

The Guttmacher Institute’s study was released last month, as Planned Parenthood’s allies on Capitol Hill sought to de-emphasize the organization’s commitment to abortion services and characterize it as the nation’s chief provider of contraceptive services and health screenings for poor women.
Asked about the timing of the Guttmacher report, Joerg Dreweke, a co-author, said the study had been in the works for over a year, well before the GOP targeted Planned Parenthood, but after the passage of the health reform bill. Asked to identify the funding sources for the report, Dreweke responded in an email: “The study was foundation-funded. It was neither funded by Planned Parenthood nor the federal government. The foundation wishes to remain anonymous.”

Catechetical Approach
As the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops joined forces with pro-life groups to block federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the Guttmacher report targeted the discrepancy between the high level of contraceptive use by Catholic women and the legislative goals of religious organizations like the USCCB.
Asked about the report’s focus on contraceptive use by Catholic women, Dreweke stated: “The USCCB has been heavily involved in advocating on public policy related to contraception for many years, including most recently the IOM [Institute of Medicine] process to determine women’s preventive health services that should be covered without cost sharing. Therefore, it makes eminent sense to examine the actual contraceptive behaviors of the women on whose behalf they claim to speak.”
In fact, the disparity between official Church teaching and the actual practices of self-identified Catholics has been the focus of several recent surveys that partisan groups have used to challenge religious opposition to life issues, as well as same-sex “marriage.”
Michael New, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Alabama, notes that many such surveys “don’t take into consideration frequency of church attendance. The Guttmacher report addressed that issue.”
Catholic attitudes and practices on social issues matter, said New, “because after Roe v Wade the Church was the one institution of any consequence to condemn abortion. Not every Catholic believes in Church teaching, but the Church itself still has influence.”
An effective catechetical approach to Humanae Vitae, then, will likely have far-reaching consequences for the broader national debate on the morality of abortion and contraception. But parish priests in the trenches say they must proceed with prudence as well as courage, educating their flock about the value of natural family planning, for example, while fostering a reexamination of the “contraceptive mentality.”
Evidence that rising use of contraception has paralleled a steady increase in marital breakups and unwed pregnancies gives people pause, said Msgr. Filardi, who tells couples that just 5% of married couples who use natural family planning will divorce.
Given the widespread ignorance regarding Church teaching among engaged couples, parish priests find that their own counseling sessions are more effective when they are part of a larger, diocesan-wide effort to address the meaning and purpose of human sexuality in an integrated manner.

Confessions and Homilies
Father John Evans, the parochial vicar at Holy Cross Church in Batavia, Ill., appreciates the fact that his pre-Cana sessions build on the catechetical framework provided by the Diocese of Rockford, which mandate natural family planning instruction and theology of the body seminars for engaged couples. “They have already been presented with the Church’s teaching, and I use that as a springboard for further discussion.”
For the most part, Father Evans finds engaged couples to be “very open. When I emphasized the health complications that can come from using contraceptives, one young woman told me, ‘I would never put such a horrible thing in my body.’”
During confession, however, Father Evans confronts a more complicated reality: “I hear people struggling to live the challenge of an authentic marriage open to life. I encourage them to keep trying. Since they are talking to me about this, they know it’s a sin, and they are trying not to do it. In Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI expresses compassion for couples trying to live this teaching, and he acknowledged that it was difficult to do. He also said it would take time for people to understand and absorb this teaching.”
For most priests, spiritual counsel during confession and pre-Cana sessions offer an ideal context for exploring this sensitive issue, while Sunday homilies on Humanae Vitae yield unpredictable results. Some pastors who address the subject will be treated to the spectacle of an angry parishioner leaving the Church.
“The Church Fathers warned that when you preach the truth, it hits a certain individual like a missile. It hurts because they need to change, and they won’t do that because of a lack of trust,” said Father Stanley Stuglik, an associate pastor of St. Catherine of Alexandria in Oak Lawn, Ill., a Chicago suburb.
Father Stuglik has turned to the theology of the body to help him develop and hone his message.
“Our late Holy Father — a profound philosopher and theologian — set out to provide a more compelling theological rationale for Humanae Vitae. He teaches that our bodies are made to be relationship, and we are not made for ourselves alone. When married couples contracept, they say, ‘I give all of myself but my fertility.’ When we limit ourselves, it can’t be a total self-gift, and it hurts the marriage.”
Theresa Notare, assistant director of the natural family planning program at the bishops’ conference, has noticed a “mini-explosion” of catechetical programs that showcase the theology of the body.
“Today, when people look at what is true in their own life, personal experience is the focal point. Pope John Paul II took on the Church’s consistent teaching on human sexuality, marriage and responsible parenthood and cast it in modern language and incorporated modern sensitivities,” Notare observed. “All of this was presented from an extremely positive, uplifting perspective.”
Now, pastors can make use of an array of theology of the body initiatives, from correspondence courses to iPhone applications, designed to bring the late Pope’s groundbreaking insights into the lives of ordinary Catholics.
The U.S. bishops have welcomed this development and showcased John Paul’s teaching in their recent pastoral letter on marriage.
“This is a slow revolution, but it’s happening, and the bishops recognize it, too,” said Notare. “Despite budget cuts, the bishops want the theology of the body to be taught and natural family planning instruction to be provided.”

Register senior editor Joan Frawley Desmond writes from Chevy Chase, Maryland.

May 5, 2011

Confessions of a Naturalist

It's a popular trend to have "confessions" lately. There's the song "These are my confessions" by Usher. (There was a time in my life when I did listen to Usher, ok, I'll be honest I think I still have him on my Ipod sadly). Then confessions are in the movies, "Confessions of a Shopaholic" or "Confessions of Teenage Drama Queen."

It must be innate in us to reveal what is deep within.

Anyways....The Confession Part:

I've had an epiphany and it took about a year in the making. It all started with a minor little hang up I had, a paranoia really, about getting pregnant right after having a baby. I would gawk at stories or relatives who would be expecting when their baby was only three or six months old. It would shock me. I couldn't wrap my brain around it. "Please, please, don't let happen to me" I would say.
I couldn't understand how someone could handle it or I thought maybe they didn't know how to practice nfp. Jesus very kindly and gently has shown me otherwise.

I didn't get pregnant right away after my second. Quite the opposite. I could NOT get pregant. I lost visual signs of fertility and tried hard for nine months. So, at some point my prayer changed from "Please God don't let me get pregant right away" to "Please God, let me have another baby."

One night, after another failed attempt, I thought it could be very possible that I may be trying for years and started to cry. My husband gently asked, "Wait, I remember you crying because you thought you were going to get pregnant...and it's funny you're crying now because you can't get pregnant" ....let's just say more crying ensued.

I laugh at myself now, but those feelings were very raw at the time.

The Way God Worked On Me:
There were nights when I would lay in bed and a slight brush of panic would make my heart skip fast as I wondered if I would ever be able to have more children. I've heard many many stories of people having their first two or four easy and then never again could they concieve. Was this me? I wondered how long I should wait before getting help from a doctor. With every period, I thought about what my life's purpose would be if I could only have two? I envisioned be occupied with six or eight and I couldn't rework that life plan in my head. I grew up with 10 other siblings so the thought of life with two is foreign to me.

Truly, on a small scale, I say small, because I am expecting now. On a small scale, I felt briefly what it is like to live with a pain of not being able to have children. I'm sure my grief was only a splinter of what some women go through and I can not imagine what a heavy heart they carry. It was bittersweet to hear my sisters share their joy of getting pregnant. I thought about how lucky they were.

On the other hand, a year before, I got hung up on what "natural" spacing meant - in terms of the number of months and years. Getting pregnant with a newborn was a stubling block for me. I, without asking or going to God for guidance, didn't want to get pregant when I had a six month old because, in my mind, that was too soon.

I found myself many times, post baby phase, to wonder what the catechism means when they say natural family planning allows for the "natural spacing" of children. You hear a wide range in nfp circles, "It mean's no spacing", "It's 2 years" "It's when ever you stop breast feeding" "It's three years and three months".  I saw too, that what feels natural to me could feel unnatural to someone else and vice versa.

I got so hung up on what the right number of months or years spacing means in the church or hung up with my own ideas of what is natural to me. I think both are wrong because I could be making that very delicate decision without God and thinking about what merely feels comfortable to me.

I realized it was obviously not up to me because God had something different in mind. Life is not in our control. I couldn't make a new life in me no matter how hard I tried. But if and when that ability to conceive is up to me, it is another area of CONTROL I need to hand over to God.

After two novenas, one to St.Joseph and one to St.Therese, we conceived baby number three. On the nineth day of my St. Therese novena, I was at a dinner party out of town. I wasn't suppose to go and only decided to last minute. Sure enough, as we were gathered in the host's backyard, a single rose was blooming on a bush. I wasn't looking for a sign, I just wanted to be at peace knowing I had prayed and God had heard my prayer in whatever way He chose to answer.

A few weeks later, the pregnancy test was confirmed. I had tears of joy at finding out God allowed us to have another baby.
Slowly, God helped my heart to understand, through the painful and gentle process of having to wait for a child, that He doesn't care about the number of months your children are spaced apart, he cares whether or not your heart is is open and ready for what HE wants. He wants a heart that trusts Him, that doesn't hold back because of selfishness, superficial reasons, or want of control.

Practical Part:
This will play out differently for each couple, some will have theirs back to back and other couples will have big gaps and hopefully, each according to God's will for their marriage.  I think therein lies the task of each soul and each couple who sincerely want to be open to life and be faithful to the teaching of the church: we have to take it honestly and humbly before God each month. If we are sincere in following God's will, than each families numbers and spaces will be as different as the stars.

Mar 21, 2011

A Plea to Pastors---Birth Control, NFP, and the Pulpit

I didn't realize it's been over a month since the last post. I'm currently trying to put together a great team of writers and guest writers so that the posting can be more consistant and regular.

This entry however is from my husband, an unlikely guest writer since he's pro NFP only 20 days out of the month and usually curses it the other ten ; ).

This "Plea to Pastors" is a three part series that will be published in our local Catholic Diosesan newspaper. It came about from the need to try and ask Pastors to speak about NFP in their sermons since it is often times a silent subject.

Feel free to use it in your own parishes if you need to - Can anyone else relate or has found other solutions that work well?

A Plea to Pastors ---Birth control, NFP and the Pulpit

The symptoms were visible. The sickness was evident. The tests now complete. Sarah took a deep breath and shifted side to side in her chair as she waited in a small room at the cancer hospital to hear the diagnosis. In a short time, the doctor gracefully entered into the waiting room, closed the door behind him, adjusted his glasses and held his clipboard in front of him. “Well…Doc, hit it to me straight,” Sarah blurted out. “Is the tumor life threatening?” Her mind raced with obnoxious anxiety as the doctor paused for what felt like an eternity. “Does he know and is afraid to tell me?” she wondered. “Is the problem worse than I had originally thought?”

The doctor leaned forward, relaxed his clipboard, paused, and then confidently explained, “We removed the tumor, and I am sorry to tell you that it is indeed cancerous, but there are ways to help.” “How bad is it?” She quickly interjected, as a tidal wave of emotions poured through her body. “What do I need to do to overcome this? Please, doctor, tell me what the next steps are and what I need to do to live healthy again.”

After a clear and thorough explanation from the doctor, Sarah sighed, “I understand, and thanks for telling me what I needed to know…my life now depends on it.” The doctor spoke back softly, “This is not a fun part of what I do, but I am here for you and will do everything in my power to help save your life.”

This sensitive situation is a common occurrence that many doctors face when telling patients their fate. They are often burdened with the difficult task of handling the serious life issues of many individuals. In the same measure, what difficulty and intimidation the priest must feel in being a doctor of souls; a mission from God to explain the teachings of the Catholic Church to hundreds, maybe thousands of people. In some respects, this mission would be extremely rewarding to see the hearts that are touched and souls that are saved; while at other times, emotionally draining, watching many leave the church for various reasons.

From the seats of the pews, we, the Catholic body, wait on our “doctors”, our “moral specialists”, to lead a clarion call on serious moral issues, especially in regards to the difficult moral teachings of contraception. We need a thorough, clear, un-vague, tell–it-like-it-is message--- from the pulpit. Please teach us about NFP, explain to us why contraception is gravely immoral. Show us the beauty of the Church’s teaching on this matter and how it correlates to the spiritual life. Please tell us how contraception is an abortifacient and what to make of the staggering statistics that indicate roughly 94% of our Catholic flock currently use artificial contraception. Please educate us often about the theology of our bodies and be with us every step of the way. We need your guidance. We are praying for you.

Feb 2, 2011

For Those of us "In Diapers"...

I follow the blog Frugal Wife=Wealthy Life and it gives some very savvy money saving tips and strategies that I was never really concerned about until having kids...or having a husband rather ; )  

I thought I'd share this post because she lists ways to cut cost of diapers drastically! I'm still considering buying cloth since those have improved and can save tons as well...we'll see.

A Very Long Post About Diapers
You know those horrendous baby calculators where they estimate that you'll probably need to sell your corneas in order to afford the first year of having a baby? I hate those. Mainly because seeing the $10,000 for the first year about gave me heart attack.

Also, because it
estimates $72 per month for diapers. I cannot say for certain because my records are, sadly, not this good, but I would venture to say I have not $72 PERIOD on diapers. And my baby is six months old. Besides this, I have a good 350 diapers in her room right now in her current size, plus an additional 600 diapers in the next size up. (And, no, I don't change her diaper only twice a day or something horrifying like that).

I am firmly convinced  that diapers do not have to cost you a fortune. Last spring, Merrick compared the cost of diapers at different stores and said that the cheapest diapers were to be found at Costco or Sam's Club. And that's true if you just want to buy a box of diapers and be done with it. Those diapers were priced at $0.14 per diaper (and that's for the newborn size, which is generally the least expensive).

I try to spend less than $0.10 per diaper and I really am happy if I can get them for more like $0.05 or less.

This is totally possible if you follow deals at drugstores and stock up when there are killer sales. I keep an eye out and have some friends who alert me when they find good deals and so I've been able to do quite well.

Let tell you about one such good deal that you can probably do right now (I got 228 Pampers Size 2 diapers for around $7 - I paid less than $0.03 per diaper).

Amazon sells diapers for around the same price as big box store (around twenty to thirty cents per diaper, depending on the size and brand). But if you sign up for Amazon Mom, you get 15% off. Then when you choose your diapers, sign up for "Subscribe and Save" (the option is on the right, just below the regular "Add to my Cart" button) and you get another 15% off. Now you're talking more like fourteen to twenty cents per diaper.

And then, here's where you can really rack up your savings. Right now, many parenting magazines (Parents, Parenting, American Baby) have coupon inserts for either $10 off any Amazon Mom order or 20% off any diaper order (and this is 20% off the full list price, not your discounted price). Best of all, you can combine them, so I used both a $10 off coupon and a 20% off one. And Amazon had a bonus coupon for Pampers last week that brought my price down even more.

Plus it all ships for free. One of my friends bought Pampers Newborn Diapers yesterday for $10, making hers about five cents a diaper. Another pregnant friend of mine (expecting twins!) ordered Huggies Diapers for around eight cents apiece. 

As if my mega-cheap diapers weren't enough, every time you order something through Amazon Mom and do Subscribe and Save, you get a month of free Amazon Prime (which means all Amazon products ship for free with no minimum purchase).

My box of diapers arrived today at my front door. It was a glorious moment.

Check your pediatrician's office or your own stack of magazines for these coupons. Or ask a friend (I got my 20% off coupon two days before it expired from a friend who wasn't going to use it).

And then bask in the cheapness of the diapers (and don't forget to cancel your diaper subscription before the next batch ships, if you're so inclined - although even without a coupon, many of the diapers are only about $0.12 each. Not bad).

Jan 25, 2011

What Abby Johnson Saw at Planned Parenthood

via National Catholic Register
Former Planned Parenthood Director Reveals the Lies
Share by Tim Drake Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Abby Johnson
Last night, on the eve of the release of former Planned Parenthood director Abby Johnson’s book Unplanned, she revealed during a webcast what she had witnessed during her eight years of volunteering and working with Planned Parenthood in Bryan, Texas. Over 21,000 people listened to that webcast. In 2009, after witnessing an ultrasound-guided abortion, Johnson resigned her position and became pro-life. She is planning to come into the Catholic Church this coming Easter.

What was it that you saw that October day that caused your change of heart?
I had never seen an ultrasound-guided abortion before. They’re not standard procedure because they take a few extra minutes. To the best of my knowledgeit was the first time it had happened at our facility.
I was called in to help. My job was to hold the ultrasound probe on the woman’s abdomen so that the physician could get a view inside the uterus. I got everything ready. When I looked at the screen and heard them say that she was 13 weeks pregnant, on the screen I saw the profile of a 13-week-old baby in the womb. I had seen thousands of ultrasounds before, including ultrasounds of my own daughter Grace, who is now four. In that instant, I had a flashback to my own ultrasound of my daughter when I was 12 weeks pregnant. In that instant, I realized what was about to happen and what I was about to witness.
As I was trying to get it together and talk myself back into it, I recalled all of the things I had said for so many years to justify abortion – all the things that I thought I believed deep down in my core.
When the abortion procedure started, I saw the child begin to move away from the abortion instrument and recoil. The child knew that it’s life was in danger. Before that moment, I had never even considered that the child in the womb felt pain or felt anything for that matter. Planned Parenthood had always told us that the fetus had no sensory development until 28 weeks.
I needed to believe that to continue to justify abortion. I was surprised, shocked, appalled and disgusted at what I was watching. I felt betrayed because I couldn’t believe that this company that I had believed and trusted in had lied. I didn’t want to believe it, but was looking at it so clearly. The evidence was in front of my face. The abortion started and in just a few moments, the screen was black, and the abortion was complete. In that moment, I knew that my life was going to have to change. I knew that I couldn’t walk out of there the same way that I had walked in.

How did you end up working at Planned Parenthood?
I grew up in a wonderful, conservative, pro-life family. We were in church every time the doors were open. I was involved in the youth group and was a good kid in high school. I remember in high school saying that I was pro-life, but if you would have put me up to a debate on abortion, I would have lost because it wasn’t something we frequently discussed.
When I went to college, during my junior year, I attended a volunteer fair. What caught my attention at the Planned Parenthood booth was the hot pink. It was my favorite color, and the Planned Parenthood booth was drowning in hot pink. I went over to the booth and there was a sweet woman there. She asked me what I knew about Planned Parenthood. I honestly didn’t know a thing.
When she told me that Planned Parenthood offers free testing and exams for men and women, I thought that was sweet. Who wouldn’t love Planed Parenthood? When I started volunteering, she later told me that they offered abortion services. I told her I came from a prolife family. She said she understood that tradition, but that if abortion were made illegal, thousands of women would die from back-alley abortions. She said that their goal was to make the need for abortion rare. Since I had never considered both sides of the issue, I was pretty easily taken in.

As you moved into a paid position and later management, you began to see another side to Planned Parenthood, didn’t you?
When I was volunteering, I had gotten hooked in because Planned Parenthood said that they wanted to reduce the number of abortions. Yet, through my own experience contracepting, having two unplanned pregnancies, and twice having an abortion, this didn’t make sense. When I started working there in 2005 as a paid employee, almost all of the women who I counseled were contracepting, yet were having abortions. It didn’t make sense to me. It didn’t seem like their goal of expanding the use of contraception was reducing the number of abortions.
They wanted us to increase the quota of surgical abortions that we were providing, so that we had a certain number of abortion clients every month. They were increasing that number.
They also wanted to, and were going to offer, medically-induced (RU-486) abortions many times a week by offering something similar to tele-medicine. In true tele-medicine, the patient has a conference with the physician, but in what they were doing, the patient had no contact with a physician.
This was disturbing to me because there are many possible complications. I had lived through nearly every complication with my second abortion, so I was nervous about these women who were choosing this without any physician counsel.
We had no physician on-staff to help them. If something went wrong, the women would either have to go to the emergency room, or drive two hours away to Houston. If they were septic or hemorrhaging, two hours could be too late.
Yet, Planned Parenthood wanted to increase abortion by this method.
It was disturbing that they wanted to constantly up the abortion numbers at our facility, when I had originally been told that it was all about decreasing the numbers. Now that I was in management, I could see their real intentions.
Planned Parenthood receives a lot of government funding. Last year, it received more than $350 million in tax money. They are willing to take a loss in their family planning business because of the profit they make in abortion. We could see that in our budget every year. Our family planning budget was in the red, but the abortion business was way in the black. That was troubling because I thought we were a non-profit. When I asked about that in our management meetings I was told over and over again that non-profit is a tax status, not a business status.
I was involved in the Consortium of Abortion Providers, a sub-group under Planned Parenthood. They would use a map of the U.S. with dots to show all of the Planned Parenthood facilities. Let’s say that all of the non-abortion providing Planned Parenthood centers had green dots, and all of those that provided abortion had red dots. Their specific goal was to turn every green dot into a red dot. They wanted to expand every non-abortion providing Planned Parenthood into an abortion providing Planned Parenthood.

What do you have to say to those who are currently working in the abortion industry?
I want you to know that there is a peace and a joy that you can have too. Right now, you don’t have it and don’t know what it feels like. I thought I had that. I thought I was a happy person, but I was a conflicted person. I thought I had joy, but I was a person living a dysfunctional life who was constantly on the defensive.
You’re probably embarrassed to tell others what you really do. You don’t have to be embarrassed any more. It’s shameful to take the lives of other human beings. You don’t have to be in that shameful environment any more. You can come to a side of the fence where there is compassion, love, and healing. That’s what we want to help you find – that peace and that joy.

Jan 4, 2011

New York Times: The Unborn Paradox

Op-Ed Columnist

The Unborn Paradox

Published: January 2, 2011

The American entertainment industry has never been comfortable with the act of abortion. Film or television characters might consider the procedure, but even on the most libertine programs (a “Mad Men,” a “Sex and the City”), they’re more likely to have a change of heart than actually go through with it. Reality TV thrives on shocking scenes and subjects — extreme pregnancies and surgeries, suburban polygamists and the gay housewives of New York — but abortion remains a little too controversial, and a little bit too real.

This omission is often cited as a victory for the pro-life movement, and in some cases that’s plainly true. (Recent unplanned-pregnancy movies like “Juno” and “Knocked Up” made abortion seem not only unnecessary but repellent.) But it can also be a form of cultural denial: a way of reassuring the public that abortion in America is — in Bill Clinton’s famous phrase — safe and legal, but also rare.

Rare it isn’t: not when one in five pregnancies ends at the abortion clinic. So it was a victory for realism, at least, when MTV decided to supplement its hit reality shows “16 and Pregnant” and “Teen Mom” with last week’s special, “No Easy Decision,” which followed Markai Durham, a teen mother who got pregnant a second time and chose abortion.

MTV being MTV, the special’s attitude was resolutely pro-choice. But it was a heartbreaking spectacle, whatever your perspective. Durham and her boyfriend are the kind of young people our culture sets adrift — working-class and undereducated, with weak support networks, few authority figures, and no script for sexual maturity beyond the easily neglected admonition to always use a condom. Their televised agony was a case study in how abortion can simultaneously seem like a moral wrong and the only possible solution — because it promised to keep them out of poverty, and to let them give their first daughter opportunities they never had.

The show was particularly wrenching, though, when juxtaposed with two recent dispatches from the world of midlife, upper-middle-class infertility. Last month there was Vanessa Grigoriadis’s provocative New York Magazine story “Waking Up From the Pill,” which suggested that a lifetime on chemical birth control has encouraged women “to forget about the biological realities of being female ... inadvertently, indirectly, infertility has become the Pill’s primary side effect.” Then on Sunday, The Times Magazine provided a more intimate look at the same issue, in which a midlife parent, the journalist Melanie Thernstrom, chronicled what it took to bring her children into the world: six failed in vitro cycles, an egg donor and two surrogate mothers, and an untold fortune in expenses.

In every era, there’s been a tragic contrast between the burden of unwanted pregnancies and the burden of infertility. But this gap used to be bridged by adoption far more frequently than it is today. Prior to 1973, 20 percent of births to white, unmarried women (and 9 percent of unwed births over all) led to an adoption. Today, just 1 percent of babies born to unwed mothers are adopted, and would-be adoptive parents face a waiting list that has lengthened beyond reason.

Some of this shift reflects the growing acceptance of single parenting. But some of it reflects the impact of Roe v. Wade. Since 1973, countless lives that might have been welcomed into families like Thernstrom’s — which looked into adoption, and gave it up as hopeless — have been cut short in utero instead.

And lives are what they are. On the MTV special, the people around Durham swaddle abortion in euphemism. The being inside her is just “pregnancy tissue.” After the abortion, she recalls being warned not to humanize it: “If you think of it like [a person], you’re going to make yourself depressed.” Instead, “think of it as what it is: nothing but a little ball of cells.”

It’s left to Durham herself to cut through the evasion. Sitting with her boyfriend afterward, she begins to cry when he calls the embryo a “thing.” Gesturing to their infant daughter, she says, “A ‘thing’ can turn out like that. That’s what I remember ... ‘Nothing but a bunch of cells’ can be her.”

When we want to know this, we know this. Last week’s New Yorker carried a poem by Kevin Young about expectant parents, early in pregnancy, probing the mother’s womb for a heartbeat:

The doctor trying again to find you, fragile,

fern, snowflake. Nothing.

After, my wife will say, in fear,

impatient, she went beyond her body,

this tiny room, into the ether—

... And there

it is: faint, an echo, faster and further

away than mother’s, all beat box

and fuzzy feedback. ...

This is the paradox of America’s unborn. No life is so desperately sought after, so hungrily desired, so carefully nurtured. And yet no life is so legally unprotected, and so frequently destroyed.

Read article NY Times Article here.