Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I'm Not Afraid of My Fertility (Anymore)

I used to have it all planned out - I'd get married right out of college and have kids right away, reaching the magic number of 4 kids (considered a "big" family these days) by the time I was 30 so that my future husband and I could have time to travel and enjoy our retirement once they had all moved out.

So young. So materialistic.
Then I got married to a man starting his 2nd year of law school, and we decided that kids right off the bat just didn't make sense because we'd be so poor - 2 years seemed an appropriate time to wait to have kids, give ourselves time to "enjoy being newlyweds" (ohhh how many times do I hear that phrase and chuckle inwardly now?), and find some stability.  A job, a house with a yard, and then babies.  It's what we're taught is the logical progression of things, right?

Our timing. Our convenience.
Being a good Catholic couple, we learned NFP, started charting months before the wedding, and figured out which days we needed to be abstinent to postpone pregnancy for now.  Being an excited newlywed couple, we played with fire and got closer and closer to the "danger zone" that is the fertile window in a woman's cycle, and, not surprisingly, wound up pregnant 4 months into our marriage.

NFP didn't fail us - we broke the rules.  That much was clear!  We managed, had an awesome baby, and ended up having #2 when the first was about 18 months old.  Cool.  Our timing - we knew exactly what we were doing and were actually trying for a baby this time.  And maybe now we'd aim for more like 6 kids?  We'll see.

We wanted to aim for a little more spacing between #2 and #3, so I was definitely anxious about when exactly my cycles would return...  Exclusively breastfeeding and co-sleeping work well for us though, and I wasn't fertile again until she was over a year old.  A month later, we decided to go for it and try for #3.  Goodness, but it was easy enough for us to use our knowledge of NFP to achieve pregnancy!  High five to us!  And #3 would be a breeze - we already had a boy and a girl, this wasn't exactly new territory.

Oh, how cocky I was.

If you've been reading here for a while, you've probably read the story of how we found out we were expecting twins.

2 weeks before we went from a family of 4 to a family of 6.
And you can probably imagine that at this point I was rather terrified of just how many kids we were probably going to end up having.  We had #1 when I was 23.  #2 when I was 24.  #3 when I was 26, and 11 minutes later #4 was born (clearly we had to work a little on that spacing!).  You can imagine all the Duggar jokes were flowing!

So at this rate, by the time I was 43, we'd have at least 20 kids.

I was done.  I told my middle school students when they asked, "We are DONE!" (not my finest moment)

Andrew reminded me that that's not our decision to make, AND that it's not exactly a decision that should be made say, the day you find out at 30 weeks pregnant that you're actually having twins...

And lucky for my sanity, the whole co-sleeping and breastfeeding thing worked out again because my cycles didn't return until the twins were 14 months old.  But that fear was there still - if we got pregnant now, would we end up with twins again?  HOW in the world would I manage another set of twins when the first was so hard?  Would we EVER have a low-maintenance child?  I was scared, miserable, and terrified of getting pregnant again.  I told Andrew, sobbing, that I just didn't think we could do it right now.  I was so, so, SO scared.

And then, I don't even know what happened (well, prayer and a whole lot of grace, that's for sure).  Within the next month the anxiety was gone (although the fear of another set of twins stayed until that 20-week ultrasound...), and I felt like God was really calling us to pursue another pregnancy.

Well on our way to becoming a family of 7 - 11 weeks pregnant? 

And that's the beauty of NFP, see?  One month in the past 5 years we have made the decision to abstain in order not to conceive.  Because even though I wasn't charting, I knew my fertile signs (which have gotten clearer and clearer throughout the years, HELLO ovulation pain!) and was educated enough about my body that I didn't have to live in fear of a pregnancy that wasn't in our timing.  But even if it HADN'T been in our timing, God knows better.  

Somehow my heart has been softened - I'm no longer counting down my fertile years, fearfully anticipating just how large of a van we're going to need by the time I'm 40...  At this point?  I think it's likely we'll have somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 kids.  And it really helps to see real life moms who have done it (my grandmother and my aunt among those), and real life moms who would give anything for a house full of children but have been blessed with none, or one, or any number fewer than what their heart longs for.  Children are not a commodity, nor are they a burden, and our culture of convenience seems to have convinced us that they are both.

Because NFP isn't about a set number of children, or having the most babies ever, or having each baby exactly two years apart, or comparing your grave reasons for abstaining to your neighbor's grave reasons, or getting cranky at EVERYONE who has ever scribbled temperatures on a chart because they're interfering with God's plan.  It's about being open to the children God chooses to bless you with, and not putting any artificial barriers between your marriage and Him.

And in the process, you just might find you're not quite as terrified as being "that huge family" as you used to be.

I know that there are many, MANY families for whom NFP is a true cross, due to cycles that are difficult to interpret, postpartum craziness, etc.  I hope you'll join me in praying for all those families who are faithful to church teaching even when it would be "easier" just to resort to artificial means.

If you, like me, have been terrified of just how "fast and furious" these blessings have been piling up, please know that it gets easier, and it gets better, and that sometimes all we can really do is trust and pray!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Quick Takes: Finally Friday!

--1--

It has been quite a week!  I think we're finally back into the swing of things after some seriously crazy days.  Just...  Potty training twins is not for the weak (or pregnant?).  And teething twins?  Also not for the weak.  And apparently John Paul turning 5 injected him with some extra disobedience for a few days, but I think he's mostly better now.  I was certainly not at my best, though.  So yeah, when I'm feeling cranky at the universe, blogging is not a good idea!

--2--

And with that, I present to you:


Kids shucking corn!

I hope we live somewhere with enough space to grow corn some day - not only is it tasty, but it takes them sooooo long to shuck it and they love doing it, and it gets them out of my hair when I'm trying to make dinner!

Also?  Peeling garlic.  And picking leaves off of herbs.  I was seriously kicking myself the other day when I cut a ton of basil for pesto and sent them all downstairs to watch TV without putting them to work taking all the leaves off for me!

Why did I have these kids, after all?

Rookie mistake.

In other news, lemon basil makes the most delicious pesto you will ever taste.  Plant some!  It grows SO fast and is super-easy and you will love it.

Love, me.

--3--

Elizabeth would spend the entirety of every day outside if I would let her.


Which I would be okay with, especially since the weather has been gorgeous lately.


Only problem?

ALL THE MOSQUITOS.  And she is an absolute magnet, and the bites make her miserable :(  I still need to remember to spray the bug spray *before* we go outside (we have this bug spray, which works well as long as I don't wait too long to use it...), because the poor thing is so bitten up and still too young to really obey the "don't scratch and they won't itch" command.

--4--



Mary Claire, on the other hand, seems to be entirely left alone by the bugs.  Lucky.  She makes up for it by STILL eating dirt when she's out there.  Seriously, 20 months old, still eats dirt.  Ridiculous.  We have this garden bed in the picture above that is the worst and we can't grow anything in it, so I just decided to let the kids go to down digging and "planting" and such.  I bought some fake dinosaur bones and they've been having a blast!  But yeah, it's kind of nasty and dirty because John Paul keeps spraying the dirt with the hose...  I think I might send Andrew for a couple bags of sand to keep the mud at bay!

--5--

I adore Cecilia's imagination.

She came out of her room after nap time the other day wearing this getup:


It's John Paul's purple chasuble, his purple stole around her head, and a stuffed dog and stuffed bear shoved down the front and covered with a wash cloth.

Me: Cecilia, what are you wearing?
Cecilia: Mom? Nuffin' excitin'.
Me: But why are those animals stuffed in your outfit?
Cecilia: I just needed to carry dem.

So there you have it.

She also spent a looooong time setting up a very elaborate birthday party for her pet, Lisa (all of her animals tend to be named Lisa or Rachel.  These are also her imaginary names when she's pretending to be somebody who isn't from a book.)  She lined up all the animals, made a cake, and invited John Paul (who had been digging in the mud all this time).  They were even happy to have their nap early because they were so excited to play birthday party during quiet time!

However, the addition of a boy to the situation means the game very quickly morphed into a new game called "Dinosar Explorers" which involved a looooot of stomping and yelling.

Gender stereotypes much?

--6--

Oh!  John Paul turned 5!


Most notable part of the day?  They were all going crazy and fighting over one of his presents, so I locked them all in one room and locked myself in another so that I wouldn't go totally crazy on them...  And when I came out, they had gotten out and John Paul had veeeery carefully skewered a bagel and hung it on a pretend clothesline in the playroom.

I just about lost it, it was so funny and weird.

--7--

Have you been closely following the maxi dress saga?  Okay, not really a saga...



It's perfect.  Well, it's too long.  I'm washing it and drying it to see if I can shrink it, but it shouldn't me too hard to hem if need be.

But it has TONS of room for my belly, and it's such a nice, airy material, and it can be dressed up and dressed down, and it's even prettier in person than on the internet!

The kimono?  Not so sure...  I'll take pictures soon and hopefully you can help me decide if I should send it back or not!

Check out more quick takes at Conversion Diary!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

WIWS: Maternity Inspiration

I was looking through my albums from last summer's pants-free challenge and trying to get inspiration for outfits using what I already have - here's some of what I came up with this week:


Shirt: Forever 21 - an awesome staple that I wear all the time, although it just got retired for the remainder of this pregnancy! (similar, similar)

Skirt: Old Navy Maternity, from my last pregnancy (similar regular, similar maternity)

Same shirt last summer, not pregnant:


Contrasted with 22 weeks a year later:


And this outfit is almost exactly one I wore last year (minus the belt):


Shirt: Uniqlo (similar, not maternity)
Skirt: Gap (not maternity, on sale today!!!)

Same outfit last summer, not pregnant: 


Here's what I wore to Mass with the kids today:


Shirt: J.Crew Factory (not maternity) via ThredUp
Belt: Banana Republic via ThredUp (similar)
Dress: Motherhood Maternity (old - from my pregnancy with John Paul!) (similar non-maternity)

Similar outfit from last summer:


There's one thing I'm certain of, looking at all these pictures:

1.  Pregnancy makes me look shorter than I am.
2.  When I'm not pregnant, I look way skinnier than I feel...

I took John Paul and Cecilia to Mass and found out just how much John Paul actually listens to the homily...  Father was preaching against contraception, and he pipes up, "Mom, what's contraception???"
"I'll tell you after Mass."
"But what IS it???"
"It's when someone puts chemicals into their body to try not to get pregnant." (not exactly, but just trying to get him quiet)
"I would make that against the rules!"

And thankfully that was as much of the conversation as we had to have...  Not ready to go there with an almost-five-year-old!  Thankfully Cecilia just sat quietly and snuggled me for most of Mass.  She DID want to know why the babies weren't coming, so I promised her that next week we'd all go to Mass together.  I think we might finally be ready, since the babies are less crazy than they used to be and John Paul and Cecilia are (mostly) better-behaved.  Pray for us?

John Paul went up with me to receive communion and, as always, tried to receive, but didn't freak out when I pulled him away, and just loudly whispered, "I received Jesus in my heart!"

So there's that, too!

Linking up with Fine Linen & Purple for What I Wore Sunday - go check out more Sunday style!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Why I Worked, Part 3: A Job, Finally!

Part 1 here, Part 2 here

When last we met (to talk about THIS at least), I was unexpectedly (although really, unsurprisingly...  NFP has rules, people!) pregnant, working 4 jobs, and had been applying for teaching jobs for nearly a year with no luck.  My most recent interviews were in school districts that were both about an hour away, and I never ended up hearing back from either of those schools.  And at this point in the year (November), either somebody was going to have to get sick or get pregnant for me to have a chance.

Well, as luck might have it, I got another call for a position open at a school only 5 minutes from our apartment!  And it was a middle school (my favorite)!  And it was actually full-time!  And the teacher was pregnant and didn't want to return after her maternity leave, so I would actually be under contract, not just substituting!

And I was convinced that I was out of luck again.  Because really, what had I learned from all these interviews?  That nobody wants to hire a wet-behind-the-ears new graduate with no experience outside of student teaching.

Morning sickness was bad.  I was puking more times than I could count every day.  I was starting to get things under control by the time my interview rolled around, only to wake up that morning feeling worse than ever before.  Apparently on top of the morning sickness, I had also caught a stomach bug!  Hooray!

But I had to go to this interview.

So I puked probably 10 times, squeezed myself into the new suit I had bought weeks before John Paul was conceived (I think I was about 10 or 11 weeks pregnant at this point?), and did my best on the interview.  Days later I actually got a call - the job was mine!

Luckily my due date wasn't until a few weeks after school was out for the summer.

What an exercise in trust, huh?  And I certainly needed it - I was so cocky about the fact that I was so qualified that I'd get an awesome teaching job right off the bat.  And we'd obviously postpone kids for a couple of years so Andrew could finish law school, and that would be no problem, right?

If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

16 weeks pregnant

Things went a lot more smoothly at that point, although it wasn't exactly the cushiest teaching job...

See, I had inherited a choral program from a very nice lady who seemed to attract some of the less-than-savory characters in the school to her choirs.  For example, one of the groups I taught started out with two of the kids on long-term suspension, one of them (a girl) for smashing another girl's head into a locker and giving her a concussion.  The other one, a boy, had such anger issues that I had to send him out of my classroom one day for throwing a chair across the room.  The girl with anger issues also very frequently complained in class about how racist all white people were, and how slavery was all our fault and we should be apologizing to her for everything we made her ancestors GO through.

So that was fun.

Then there was the time some kids ratted on some other kids in the class for going to McDonald's after school before they had a rehearsal.  They thought I was the one who had snitched (like I really cared? Hardly.), and at the prospect of their punishment (not being able to go to the dance), one of the girls told another that she was going to punch me in the stomach and kill my baby.

So that was cool, too.

Honestly, it was a good place to be for a first teaching job.  My standards stayed low, I worked with some really tough kids and got good experience in those types of situations, and I learned how to work with choirs that had absolutely no training.

I took my 6th graders to Festival (or Assessment, or whatever they called it at that point), and they were pretty terrible but scored higher than any group at that school had for years.  That's how low expectations were.

The position was kind of a revolving door - two teachers before, a group had gone to Festival and performed an original song with a rap section that made fun of a rival school, including profanity.  They got a IV.

37 weeks and looking large
Meanwhile, here I was hugely pregnant with John Paul, and just holding on until the last day of school, at which point I would drive up to Northern Virginia to be with Andrew while he finished up an internship and we waited for John Paul to be born.  And everybody kept saying, "So you're not coming back next year, right?  You're going to stay home, right?"

Um.  Husband in law school.  Zero income.  I'm coming back to work.

And honestly?  I wanted to.  I mean, I wanted to stay home with my kids eventually but just one newborn and me?  I didn't think I could do it.  And when John Paul was born and I got a taste of life with a newborn?

"Newborns nurse every 2-3 hours"  HA!  Not him.  Every 30-45 minutes?
It sounds terrible, but I was really glad I had signed that teaching contract.

Andrew had a year left of law school, at which point we'd see where he found a job.  But for now, I was ready to return to the same job in a new year, with students who actually signed up for my class and not just an "easy A."

Coming up: my 2nd year teaching, moving for Andrew's job, not finding a job again, having Cecilia, finding a job, having the twins, getting pregnant with #5 and quitting teaching...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Kimonos? Are those a thing?

So I was about to press the button and actually add the maxi dress I decided on to my cart a few days ago, when Andrew came along and made a disgusted face at the picture...

Because paisley, apparently.

But Facebook came to the rescue and you guys convinced me that even though he hates the pattern, I can still buy the dress.  So thanks for that!

But then comes the whole "Free shipping over $50" thing and, well, there's gotta be SOMETHING else I need, right?

I joked about a romper.  And then I checked out the romper section and remembered that I had seen a lady at Mass a few weeks ago who was SERIOUSLY rocking a jumpsuit a lot like this one  and, well, I may have been converted.

But alas, they don't make jumpsuits for pregnant ladies.  At least not at Forever 21.

And I don't think I could take myself seriously in a jumpsuit...

And then I remembered this kimono post that I read the other day, and realized that this is actually THE PERFECT article of clothing for a pregnant woman!

Shapeless!

No belly!

Perfect for post-partum, too!

Patterned and quick-drying to hide spit-up!

Plus the designs were reminiscent of  this shirt that's about to get retired due to my increasing girth, and that's a niche I'd like to keep filled because I loooove it...


I narrowed it down to three (which I can't seem to embed images of for some reason):

1. Paisley Kimono (which I would absolutely wear with that see-through lace top) (NOT)

2. Boho Kimono (don't you love that name?)

3. Patchwork Floral Kimono (CROP TOPS!  Perfect for every pregnant mama!)

And ultimately went with #2 in blue because:

1. Blue.  It's what I wear.

2.  Machine washable.

3.  Booty coverage!  I always end up with lines showing in my pencil skirts and prefer to have booty coverage when I wear them anyway, so I'm excited for the long length.

BUT DISASTER STRUCK!!!  It's sold out in every size.  I'm devastated, needless to say.

But I went back and decided on #3 because of all the reviews stating "bum coverage" as a positive.  And I doubt I'll need to wash it that frequently, so maybe I can handle the hand washing...  Or just machine wash anyway.

I added this belt to push it over the $50 edge (and shopped through ebates to get a whopping $1 back!) and in 4-9 business days you can bet I'll be blogging those new clothes!
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