Blackberry red, chubby and dimply

Back when we were daydreaming about our month in San Diego, Chris brought up the idea of Disneyland as a possible adventure. My desire to go to the happiest place on earth with Conor was pretty much zero so I told him that he could take Ryan. Then we searched ticket prices and found out that the place of happy is also insanely expensive so we nixed the idea faster than you can say supercalifragelisticexpialidocious (I just typed that out and then looked it up to see if my spelling was correct and hey! day made). 

However, the other day my sister-in-law's mom called with the news that she providentially had access to two free tickets to Disneyland! As a result, most of day was a second child date day, just me and Conor. 

My favorite part came after a morning of him putzing around the yard while I worked. He was just done, done, done with giving me space both physically and mentally so I wisely decided to put the pen down and replaced the pen with a sweet boy who now has a neck. 

What to do became the question, and blackberries were the answer. I grabbed a medium size metal bowl for myself and a small metal bowl for his tiny hands with which he promptly began making a clammer. I let him walk and sometimes he kept up, but sometimes he fell behind with his feet shuffling on the dirt path simultaneously quickly and slowly. "Bay-ees! Bay-ees!" he chirped announcing what we were going to pick. When he wasn't chirping, he would purse his lips in a smile. 

We arrived at the blackberry bush that unfortunately has grown better on the neighbor's side of the fence, and he started plucking the berries somehow surprisingly. Two black ripe berries for every red unripe berry. He's either a genius or colorblind. Judging from the fact that Chris vehemently argued recently that our inarguably brown couch was black, possibly the latter. Conor's pursed lips were blackberry red with impatient evidence and his chubby, dimply hands matched. 

It was a good time. Maybe I'll make some blackberry cobbler tonight. 

Arbonne Giveaway!

I've mentioned many times that I have been plagued with dry skin my entire life. I've tried pretty much everything under the sun: Eucerin, Aquaphor, olive oil, almond oil, Bag Balm (this is still the best thing I've got for my psoriasis), and I even went through a phase in high school where I would keep a tube of Neosporin in my purse for the cracked skin on my hands, which was definitely more than a little bit weird. When a kind blog reader, Samantha, who is a wife, mom to three, and an Independent Consultant for the health and wellness company, Arbonne, reached out to me to see if I would do a review and giveaway, I said yes for three reasons - 1) I love offering giveaways to you! 2) I love helping moms provide for their families and 3) my crazy, crazy skin was thirsty for a new product to try. 

You might have heard about Arbonne from friends or Facebook, but the company offers skincare, cosmetics, nutrition and baby care lines. All of their products are gluten-free, vegan, free of paragons, phthalates and artificial fragrances so if you have a lot of sensitivities in your family, they've got you covered. Their goal is to combine the best of science and the best of nature to offer extraordinary products. From speaking with Samantha and listening to a talk she sent me, their consultants love what they can offer and what they do. 

Samantha was extremely patient with my indecisiveness and less than desirable response time to her emails, but I am incredibly pleased with the Arbonne Shea Butter Hand and Body Lotion. And this is the first product I've tried where Chris actually genuinely loves the scent! My skin is still smooth and moisturized hours later, and there is no greasy feeling at all, which can be a problem I've found with most well-moisturizing products. Samantha also sent me a few samples, and the cooling foot cream worked wonders on my post-winter feet which are really embarrassing to take out in public. 

Want to be able to try some Arbonne products? Samantha is generously offering a giveaway to win a product worth $50 or less from Arbonne! Simply visit the Arbonne website, peruse and muse over what you'd want, and then come back here and comment telling us what would be your pick. 

Gooooooood luck!

Five is greater than ten

I was musing to Chris the other day that these may be the trenches with sparing moments of peace, but this is also a pleasant and peaceful time in our life when we aren't living according to school schedules and sport schedules and the like. I dream about having older children, but I'm realizing I'm not ready for them. I want to hug this loud yet slow time something fierce ... most of the time, of course. 

Here are some of my favorite things that I would be sad to forget about this spring when our oldest is only three. 

When we finish something up, I say, "Okay, I'm going to count to ten and then we are all done." Ryan always protests, "No! Count to five!" 

We ask Conor where his eyes are, and he sticks his finger up his nose, smiles and says, "Eyes! Eyes! Eyes!" 

Conor used to say, "Buuuh-bee!" for baby, and I already miss it. 

It's rare that Ryan can climb into the car without shouting, "Wait! Can I pick you a flower?!"

When Conor can tell I'm kind of feeling blah or that he might be in trouble, he'll scrunch his face up and repeat, "What?! What?!" He knows I think it's funny, but he doesn't know what he is saying.

Conor's version of jumping is basically doing a vigorous squat.

Ryan's excuse as of late is, "I'm just really exhausted." Sounds like he has lived around a first trimester mother.

Conor points to my knee and chest, "Babyyyyy!" And my chest. And his potbelly, too.

Whenever we see an airplane up high in the sky, Conor shorts, "Ay-pay!" and Ryan guesses, "Look mom, that airplane is taking someone to see family!"

If Ryan talks about me to Chris, he'll declare, "Dad, MY mom said ..." or vice versa. If he really wants our attention, he knows to up the ante to bellowing, "KATWINA WOSE!" or "CHRISTOPHER BWAKE!"

I've mentioned multiple times that the combination of Conor's temper and his volume is quite astounding, and that this book was one of the boys' Easter presents that we've read numerous times in preparation for the arrival of our August Baby. Now when I'm asking Conor for the eleventh time to stop screaming, Ryan objects exasperatedly, "Mom, Conor is cwying because that's how babies talk and let us know what they want!" 

Greetings from the land of purple trees

Sometimes things align, and you get to do crazy things like stay in California for most of the month of May. 

Things can be specified as:

--- your job allows you to work from anywhere

--- your husband has over a month until any commitment at home

--- your job also allows your husband to pick up hours while on break so you can both work remotely

--- direct flights available from South Bend to Phoenix for $83. Yes, direct, and yes, eighty-three dollars! 

--- you have the most amazing neighbors in the world to take care of your home while you're gone

--- your brother-in-law and sister-in-law have the comfiest couch to crash on that happens to be in Phoenix

--- Costco allows for you to be able to rent a car from Phoenix to San Diego for $20+ (just make sure that you rent the car from the correct airport, unlike yours truly)

--- your husband's break conveniently overlaps with the time when you want to be on the West Coast to be on goddaughter watch

--- May is when all of the jacaranda trees in San Diego royally trumpet with their purple blooms as you drive in

And so because of all of that, I can say greetings from California for one whole month!

All Aboard

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This is really long. Everyone always says that people don’t want to read long things, but I'm not everyone. I normally want to read long love story posts and long NFP posts, and I want it all in one place. So maybe take breaks if you aren’t like me.

I’m not going to get into the teachings on NFP because you can find those very eloquently written about in many forms whether they be encyclicals or blog posts. I don’t intend any of this to end in debate. I hate confrontation. This post has been in my drafts for months and my mind for longer, but I was finally inspired to share by this post to finish it and press publish. As you read, remember that this is our ongoing relationship with using NFP, not everyone’s. However, I feel like there are more practicing couples out there that would resonate with some straight talk.

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"All aboard! All aboard!" Ryan kept bellowing from atop an upside down white laundry basket. 

He had recently woken up which, of course, began the domino effect of his being up spurring his baby brother being up spurring me being up. We were up!

"All aboard!"

I asked him, "Are you a conductor?"

"No. I'm just a kid saying. 'All aboard!'"

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We knew and currently know the beauty of the teachings behind NFP. When we were engaged, there was never any question if we were going to use NFP, but there also wasn't any question if we were going to wait or not to expand our family of two to a family of three. We were going to wait. Sure, I'd daydream about having our babies the second we got married, but that just wasn't in the plans. 

Two years. Yes, two years. Two years would give us plenty of time to pay a good chunk of student loans off. There was no way we could afford children while paying off students loans at first. Plus, we were already going against the grain by tying the knot, and I couldn't imagine ruffling more feathers by putting eggs in the newlywed nest. 

But, I didn't do anything about it until four months or so before the wedding. This demonstrates that the gravity of our financial situation maybe wasn't as grave as we thought. 

I finally saw a flyer at my school for NFP classes and went by myself. I really was actually by myself because I was the only person beside the teacher who showed up, and Chris lived almost two hours away at the time. Fortunately for the kind teacher, NFP was already going to be the way for us, I didn't need any convincing. She had been teaching for decades, and her material showed it. She taught using slides. Not PowerPoint slides. Real, click, click slides. The rest of her outdated materials are beside the point. What I heard from her that came from her well-intentioned heart, was that NFP would be easy. The idea wasn't that abstaining would be easy, but that the science of it would be easy. It was the same thing I heard from every other couple I had asked. Just temp and check throughout the day and chart and you will be able to tell when you ovulate! What a blessing! 

(I want to put it out there that I am not a good example if you do really do have grave reasons to avoid pregnancy and need to be diligent about charting and avoiding. Find a teacher who works for you and begin at least six months before your wedding. It's never too early to learn NFP. I'm pretty adamant about teaching our daughters someday about NFP once they reach maturity and raising our boys to know that NFP takes two people. There is nothing dangerous about knowing more about how a woman's body works - Chris might claim there's something distinctly dangerous about NOT knowing how it works). 

I half-heartedly starting charting using a computer program, and I was as stumped as my sophomore self in macroeconomics. My mind was mostly preoccupied with what our honeymoon would be like, fun or not, and every new day charted seemed to contradict the previous day’s forecast for fun or not. With a generous estimate, I had maybe three full charts completed before April 2, 2011. But, oh well, I was told that it was going to be easy so I naïvely thought it would take care of becoming easy on its own! We were totally good was my stubborn thought. 

Our honeymoon consisted of alternating between having the time of our lives and shrugging bewilderedly at the signs of the day.

I remember someone strongly telling us on our honeymoon to wait two years to have children, and I completely agreed, definitely. We were going to wait.

Then I remember being home in Chicago a couple weeks later and venting to Chris in our room that I had no idea what was happening and that we could be pregnant. That thought - that possibility I let gestate in my mind suddenly became something that I wanted. It was kind of like the moment I realized I had a crush on Chris. I didn’t know I liked him until I realized he might not ask me to be his date, and I didn’t know I wanted a baby until I realized there might not be one. I realized I wanted to be a mother right then, but damn it, wasn’t NFP supposed to be easy?

Chris told me that if we were pregnant, it would be wonderful. That would be a gift - but also that the odds were incredibly low. We weren’t intending to try, but we always knew our intimacy was open to God’s plan.

His words soothed me and they are some of the most favorite words he has ever spoken to me, but as the week went on, there was that tug-o-war I had planted in my mind. I want a baby, but I’m supposed to make NFP work – I can’t be a part of another "'What do you call people who use NFP?' 'Parents!'" joke.

 NFP didn't make us parents. The birds and the bees made us parents.

And then April 29th came. It was the 35th day of my cycle and the longest cycle I had had before the wedding that had been charted was 35 days. I watched the Royal Wedding in the wee hours of the morning, and that night the test turned positive pretty much before I could say wee. That’s a slight exaggeration, of course.

I was ecstatic to be pregnant. But there was that tug-o-war! At the same time, I was also mortified to be pregnant. To my mistaken mind, our honeymoon souvenir meant that I lost a victory for NFP. Easy NFP that is already such a hard sell. I felt horrible that I was going to deter couples from even considering it.

When I told all of my friends we were having a honeymoon baby, I’d follow up each time with a quick plea, “But make sure you tell everyone that we didn’t follow the rules! We knew we were open! NFP does work, we just didn’t really use it correctly!”

Thank you, God, for that.

Thank you, God, for not giving us our plan.

Thank you, God, for showing us that there doesn’t have to be a one hundred percent success avoidance rate for NFP to work.

Thank you, God, for showing us that, bottom line, NFP is about life.

Thank you, God, for giving us our honeymoon souvenir.

Thank you, God, for giving us someone who is half me, half my husband, and all yours. Thank you for giving us our son.

A honeymoon baby seems to have made us more daring because we are more at peace with a plan that isn't our own. I can tell you that if Ryan hadn't been born, Chris wouldn't be chasing our dream in grad school right now. He would still be working a lucrative, cut-throat job that made him miserable. 

We have learned that for us at this time of life, NFP is fittingly more like a dare than a promise. I dare you to trust me. Now, I’m more of a truth girl, but I’m going to keep choosing dare.

Once Ryan was uncorked, we knew that we wanted to him to have siblings so Conor was planned. Well, he was loosely planned. This baby just made us laugh. I’m already brainstorming what method will be employed after this little girl or boy. My planning ahead shows that we aren’t considering jumping ship.

But that doesn’t mean it is easy.

NFP is gold, but NFP is hard.

Attempting to learn NFP while nursing and walking in the fuzzy cloud of newborn mom brain for months was, no wait, will continue to be agony.

At present, our reaction when we look at my charts the majority of the time would be most accurately and almost most bluntly described as, "WTF WTF WTF." 

However, we choose to be here. I personally don’t feel enslaved to Church teaching, I feel free, humbled and pretty damn lucky.

But how can we fix the marketing? How can we enhance how NFP teachers and users communicate the stunning difficulty to those dipping their toes into the waters without scaring them away? That, yes, NFP is beautiful, but often the beauty really starts to shine and grow after sifting through the grit. I don't have answers for those complex questions, but I know that I can start by being honest about its beauty and its cross when couples come to me asking questions.

It’s been over four years since I saw those blue lines cross, and I still cringe at my attempts to defend NFP rather than fully and unabashedly celebrating our newest vocation. Is Ryan a lost victory for NFP? No, he is just a soul saying, “Lead me home!”